Part II: 9 Practical Tips from the Cavemen; But Don’t Go Ape About It.
Last week DIAKADI trainer Nate Miyaki discussed the main nutritional concepts of the Paleo Diet. This week in Part II of PALEO NUTRITION, Nate reviews the top tips of the Paleo Diet, but questions whether any one nutritional plan holds all the answers. Although he favors many of the tenets of the Paleo Diet, Nate suggests it is not what the Paleo Diet teaches us to eat, but what it teaches us to avoid that informs us the most. His goal, you will read, is to keep us on an information track that is organic and flexible for continual growth. He teaches us to develop honest goals personalized for ourselves and commit to be fit.
Let’s begin this week by reviewing the main tips we can take from Paleo Nutrition. Take mental notes:
- Eat lean animal protein. Go ahead, eat that grassfed, free range cow. Don't feel bad about it either, that's what we're meant to do. We have incisors for an evolutionary reason: to tear flesh from the bone, not to separate the marshmallows from the cereal bits in Lucky Charms. Nature is savage. We are savage creatures. The further we move away from that, and eat fake factory foods to try and compensate, the sicker and fatter we become. We should argue against unnecessary animal cruelty in the industry, but not that we should avoid eating animals all-together. Eat other lean meats.
- Eliminate almost all processed foods. Most processed foods are just a random combination of the following six ingredients: (1) Sugar (and/or high fructose corn syrup), (2) Trans-fats/hydrogenated oil, (3) High omega-6 vegetable oils, (4) wheat or flour-based starch, (5) refined salt, (6) artificial ingredients/sweeteners. None of those are good for you.
- Make natural plant foods along with the lean animal protein mentioned above, the foundation of your diet.
- Eliminate concentrated sources of fructose from the diet: Ditch the high fructose corn syrup, any processed food with fructose as a sweetener, sugar (which is 1 molecule of fructose + 1 molecule of glucose), fruit juice/smoothies, and dried fruit. A few pieces of whole fruit a day is fine, just don't go around like a chimp eating 50 bananas all day. At that point, fructose adds up.
- Eliminate trans fats/hydrogenated oils.
- Reduce Omega-6 consumption by eliminating vegetable oils.
- Increase omega-3 consumption via wild fish.
- Eliminate gluten-containing grains such as wheat, rye, and barley.
- While you're at it, eliminate most other cereal grains, including those damn, overrated whole grain products (breads and cereals).
BUT DON'T CALL ME A PALEO GUY
As you can see, I think there a lot of great principles we can take from Paleo-style diets. But we can't just end here, because I don't want to leave you with the false impression that I'm a true "Paleo-guy".
I definitely recommend applying certain Paleo principles, but my overall recommendations are drastically different. In my coaching business, I've learned that any dietary and fitness plan should be based on the individual’s needs and goals. They should be established, reiterated, and re-visited from time-to-time in order for it to finally stick and be of optimal benefit.
For example: starches like potatoes, yams, and rice are certainly not Paleo foods, but along with lean protein they are the foundation of my plan for anaerobic athletes. And they are there for a reason -- anaerobic fuel and anabolic effects.
You'll never convince me that an obese, insulin resistant, sedentary, office worker should be eating the same diet as a ripped, insulin sensitive, athlete.
Yet, that's what you have to believe if you buy into the dogmatic adherence to a “one-size-fits all system”. That may be fine for the programs geared towards the commercial masses, but I believe you are (or I'm going to make you) way more informed and smarter than that, so you can individualize your healthy nutritional and fitness program.
To me, the true value of a Paleo diet for an anaerobic athlete is more about what the diet REMOVES from an average person's plan, rather than the overall structure or macronutrient ratios of the plan itself. Why -- because 100% Paleo eating just doesn't account for variances in activity levels, individual metabolic factors, and the differences between average and elite/extreme physique or performance goals.
Modern refined foods as we discussed above like concentrated fructose/sugar, high Omega-6 vegetable oils, trans-fats, and gluten are wreaking havoc on our systems, body composition, and disease risk factors.
Removing those foods is a valuable health step for everyone -- EVERYONE -- overweight, lean, sedentary, athlete, office worker, iron warrior, and everyone and anyone in between.
I believe due to misunderstandings, a lack of true nutrition physiology knowledge, always rushing to extremes, and cultural tendencies to categorize and demonize (think back to the low fat era where beneficial fish oils, EFA's, and natural monounsaturated fats were lumped into the same category as trans fats and hydrogenated oils), several valuable physique enhancing foods (especially for strength trainers) -- namely non-fructose, non-gluten containing starchy carbs -- have been unnecessarily thrown out along the way.
Muscle glycogen is the human's version of plant, amylopectin starch, glucose is one of the oldest evolutionary fuels known to man, and a healthy body knows how to process and utilize it.
I believe an active athlete should be treated differently than a sick diabetic, but who knows man, I could be wrong?
I'm not satisfied just presenting you with a plan because I don't want you confused over the subtle differences -- which in turn leads to way more personal coaching and explaining than is necessary.
I'm not recommending pure Paleo eating just like I'm not recommending pure Sports Nutrition eating. I'm recommending a well-researched and informed blend that fits your needs and goals best...
I want you to understand why I think glucose polymers can be beneficial whereas concentrated sources of fructose can be disastrous, why saturated fats from natural animal sources can be better than polyunsaturated fats from processed vegetable sources, why pure amylopectin starch is less problematic than starch containing gluten or lectins. Otherwise, you can just take me at my word. But I don't think that's something you should do with anyone.
TYPICAL OVERWEIGHT PERSON TRANSFORMATION
Let’s examine a typical scenario as to why all carbs have been lumped into one category and demonized within our industry.
An overweight person following a typical American diet, 50% sugar, tons of trans fats, omega-6's, and gluten, decides to eat "healthy", usually starts with something like wheat bread sandwich with low fat mayo and cheese. This person is tired of being overweight, sick, and feeling like crap, and is finally motivated enough to make some changes. Somehow or another he/she comes across Paleo/caveman-style dietary recommendations.
He/she implements the plan to a T, loses a ton of weight, gets healthier, etc., all-in-all he/she does a great job. Awesome, can't complain about that. But now he/she has a religious-like devotion to the "system". He/she can't see anything, even scientifically researched and anecdotally proven principles, outside of the system. All carbs, regardless of the source, have become “the enemy”. For him/her, pure glucose polymers from rice or potatoes are no different than sugar, or gluten-containing wheat. After all, HE/SHE lost a ton of weight on a low-carb/Paleo diet.
What this overweight person doesn't realize is that commercialized diet plans and "systems" can't go into the subtleties of why dietary recommendations for obese, sedentary individuals should be different than for active athletes because:
- Programs that are going to be a commercial success generally have to be a one-size-fits-all plan. By claiming it works for everyone, everywhere dramatically expands the potential market.
- The average reader doesn't want, or can't comprehend the detailed science necessary to individualize a plan for themselves.
- Many lab rats and writers, "Just don't know, don't show, or don't care what's going on in the REAL training hood, G."
But deep down, an overweight person still knows he/she is not exactly where he/she wants to be. He/she is way better off than he/she was, but still is soft, lacks shape/definition, maybe still has that layer of belly flab. He/she knows he/she wants to make improvements, but is rigidly stuck in a system, a system that may very well be inhibiting his/her progress. Never mind that he/she is in a completely different space now. No longer obese, becoming active and athletic, targeted sports nutrition principles may actually be relevant and beneficial now. By losing weight and consistently strength training, he/she can dramatically improve his/her insulin sensitivity.
A few carbs may help this person build muscle, tighten up, boost metabolism, raise thyroid/leptin output, improve the free testosterone:cortisol ratio, improve the body, and even LOSE body fat. But this person may still have an overweight person’s psychology. Having a common fear --- the "I don't want to go back to being obese because of carbs" fear.
I get it. How? I've been there. Along with researching this stuff, I've followed the plans myself. I've followed the typical American diet, the strict Paleo diet, my current dietary recommendations, and everything in between. I've lived the practical side of it too.
The most important lesson is this -- you can't get caught up in a formalized, one-size-fits all system if you expect to find what works best for you, your current athletic state, and your current goals.
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