Now, I will freely admit that my diet is the worst part of my training/fitness regimen. I just plain suck at eating right. Granted, I’ve done an okay job at cutting out fast food, but I still eat too many refined carbs and have a love affair with Pepsi. Over the past couple of years, I’ve read numerous articles, and been told by numerous coaches and fitness professionals that diet is the last frontier to performance. The crazy part is I honestly believe them, I just haven’t had the intestinal (pun intended) fortitude to commence a diet change.
Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve been voraciously reading anything I can about one of the recommended diets for functional fitness training. The Paleo Diet. One of the important things to realize here is that the word “diet” at the end of Paleo Diet does not connote “faddish eating regimen or program.” It is not a temporary solution. It is how we humans should eat.
Cliff Notes Version: Humans evolved over 2.5 million years eating lean protein, fruits, and non-starchy vegetables. It wasn’t until the agricultural revolution around 10,000 years ago that humans started to eat wheat/grain products, dairy, and starchy vegetables (corn, potatos, etc.) What this means is that our bodies have not “evolved” to eat the latter types of food. This is where you get the name of the “Paleo” diet from, as it espouses that we should eat the same diets as our ancestors who lived in the Paleolithic Age.
What this means is that you should restrict your diet to only lean meat (emphasis here is on the word lean** – no lamb, fatty hamburgers, etc.), fruits, nuts (not peanuts, those are technically legumes, think walnuts, almonds, cashews) and non-starchy vegetables (remember, all beans are legumes!). If a food required some kind of chemical/manufacturing process to make it, it is verboten.
The best part of this diet (or so the experts tell me), is that you can eat all you want. The logic behind this is that the lean protein and dense fruits and vegetables are much more filling, and will create appetite fulfillment. This is in contrast to the high carbohydrates consumed in the typical American meal, which create an insulin response in your blood that increases feelings of hunger.
College Level Version: For a more expansive, yet simple explanation of the Paleo Diet, check out “The Paleo Diet” by Loren Cordain. I also HIGHLY recommend reading “Good Calories, Bad Calories” by Gary Taubes. < --This book will rock your world as it regards common myths and misconceptions regarding high-protein and fat diets. Also, please check out this debate between Loren Cordain and T. Colin Campbell, as well as this paper published by Loren Cordain regarding counter-arguments to the Paleo Diet. This is some pretty intense reading, but it is well worth it.
Also, I was helped greatly in this search for information regarding the Paleo Diet by this website written and created by Robb Wolf. He seriously knows his stuff and is a top-notch athlete in his own right. Please check out his Paleolithic Solutions Podcasts as they are incredibly informative.
Remember, I’m not a scientist, or a doctor; although I did stay at a Holiday Inn Express last night. Do your own research before starting any nutrition program. With that being said, I am starting a 30-day paleo challenge this upcoming Sunday. If anyone would like to join me, or would like to talk more about the Paleo Diet, please feel free to shoot me an email.
**please check out one of the comments to this post, where Don Wiss points out that there are some practitioners of the Paleo Diet that allow for the unrestricted intake of saturated fats, as long as the animal providing them was grass-fed. Please check out his website for more info.