What if there was a diet where you could lose weight, increase your overall health, decrease your risk for disease, and increase your athletic performance where you wouldn’t have to read labels, weigh and measure your food, and just eat whenever you are hungry?
You’re probably saying to yourself “Oh yeah, that’s too good to be true!” Well, I guarantee that it’s real and am here to explain few rules that you have to follow to be successful. Don’t worry, it’s so easy, a caveman can do it.
A few months ago I became a certified CrossFit trainer. In the CrossFit world there are two diets the top CrossFit athletes swear by. They are the Zone Diet and the Paleo, or The Caveman, Diet. These were both selected because of their proven increase in workout performance during short, high intensity bursts of power. As a trainer I should be familiar with both, right? What better way to familiarize yourself than to be on it yourself?
I began with the Zone Diet. After figuring out how many blocks that I needed for a day and then breaking that down into all of my snacks and meals, I was excited and ready to begin. I lasted only 3 days before the busy schedule won over my time needing to weigh, measure, and calculate my blocks. I have spent enough time weighing, measuring, and calculating food in my many years of competing in figure shows. It is definitely not something I want to continue doing on a day-to-day basis when competing on stage is no longer my goal. Okay, so on to the next one.
Compared to the Zone Diet, the Paleo Diet seemed a lot easier. It is based on the eating principles of our paleolithic ancestors, the caveman. You eat basically that food found in nature that you could hunt or gather. Since this was a time before agriculture, a few rules apply; no dairy, no grains, no legumes, and no processed, sugary, or fake food. If it comes in a box, don’t eat it. If it swims, flies, comes out of the ground, or falls off a tree, it’s game. You eat when you are hungry and stop when you are full. No measuring, no weighing, no calculating! Wow, what a time saver!
There is a simple scientific theory behind the Paleo Diet. Farming, and the foods that are grown as a result of farming methods, hit the scene only 10,000 years ago. The human body, which evolved over millions of years, has not yet genetically adapted to processing of these foods. Additionally, many of these foods like bean, grains, and potatoes are inedible and contain high amounts of toxins without proper cooking. The cooking process makes these foods edible, but does not fully remove the toxic compounds before we ingest the foods. Here’s a quick list of foods that fall into the Paleo Diet
“Do Not Eat” list:
- Grains – Breads, pastas, cereals, noodles, and rice
- Legumes – Soy beans, peas, peanuts, and beans (all beans)
- Dairy – Milk, cheese, butter, yogurt
- Processed sugars – Altogether now…Duh!!!
Okay, that doesn’t seem TOO hard. Since I’m a competitor, I know how to eat “clean”, natural, whole foods. What about my Greek yogurt? What about my oatmeal? Oh my, what about my Kashi cereal? I started to get a bit cranky. Okay, okay, calming down I realize that I can do without my Greek yogurt and I’ve eaten enough oatmeal to last me a lifetime, but my Kashi cereal? That is my guilty, little healthy, pleasure. It’s got all natural ingredients, good amount of protein and fiber, and just enough sweetness to satisfy my sweet tooth. Anyone who knows me, knows that sweet tooth is my downfall when it comes to eating healthy and dieting. The cheat meal is my savior here. You are allowed 1-2 cheats a week and this can include anything on the forbidden list. I will have my Kashi and the world will be a brighter place.
From the book “Paleo Diet for Ahtletes” by Loren Cordain and Joe Friel benefits of the Paleo Diet include:
- Weight loss – Because it is a low carbohydrate diet. Low-carb diets outpace conventional low-calorie, low-fat, high-carbohydrate diets
- Fiber – This diet advocates whole foods that are naturally high in fiber. Fiber is not only a great weight-loss aid but also reduces the chance of constipation, helps lower cholesterol, also lowers your risk for coronary heart disease and diabetes.
- Allergens – Casein, found in milk, and gluten, found in wheat, are among the eight foods that account for 90 percent of food allergic reactions. The Paleo Diet eliminates both.
- Increased intake of branched chain amino acids (BCAA). Benefits muscle development and anabolic function. Also counteracts immunosuppression common in endurance athletes following extensive exercise.
- Decreases omega6: omega3 ratio. Reduces tissue inflammations common to athletes while promoting healing. This may include asthmatic conditions common in athletes.
- Lowers body acidity. Reduces the catabolic effect of acidosis on bone and muscle while stimulating muscle protein synthesis. This is increasingly important with aging.
- Is high in trace nutrients. Vitamins and minerals are necessary for optimal health and long term recovery from exercise. The most nutrient dense foods are vegetables and seafood. On average, vegetables have nearly twice the nutrient density of grains.
So how does it work out in real life? As with any diet, my first week eating paleo was a little challenging. Not having the foods I was so used to having caused me to think a little more when making my meal choices. Also, I noticed my energy level was down, so I had to revert to consuming more coffee to keep my usual pace. Then, there was my ever nagging sweet tooth. None of my foods deemed “paleo” seemed able to tame it. By the time the weekend came and I decided to have my cheat, I almost devoured a box of Kashi cereal in one sitting. I was not a happy cave girl.
Around the middle of the second week, something changed. I remember waking up and being excited to eat my spinach, mushroom, and avocado egg omelet with my orange and not pouting because I once again was not able to have my delicious cereal. I remember biting into that orange. The natural sweetness was almost overwhelming. It was as if I was cheating, because it was so sweet. I was also out of coffee, so I didn’t have my usual double shot espresso out of my husband’s fancy espresso machine. That was a blessing in disguise, because all day I was full of energy like if I had guzzled half a pot. This supply of energy continued throughout the week and I finally decided that I would only drink coffee when I was craving it. Speaking of cravings, I realized that I wasn’t being overpowered by that monstrous sweet tooth. The natural sugar from fruit was more than satisfying it. Huh…who would have thought?
By the third week, I was getting a noticeable amount of comments on how lean I looked. My weight had actually dropped to 135lbs. That’s what I like to call my “fighting weight”. This is the weight where I look lean, but still have enough strength to lift heavy. Since my last competition, over eight months prior, I had not been able to get back to this weight. I had been yoyoing around 140lbs and I just couldn’t seem to hold it lower. Wow! I am finally able to hold my weight without hardly trying.
For a few months now, when competitors and other athletes ask me for eating plans I simply say “Go paleo!” I feel like I’ve hit a gold mine discovering this diet. My weight is finally steady, the cravings are gone, and my energy levels stay high. Finally, no more measuring, calculating, or counting everything I eat. My physical performance has increased and I feel amazing. The health benefits make complete sense and the science is easy to explain. Eat the foods your body has been genetically designed to process and leave the rest alone. Simple. These coming holidays are a perfect opportunity to explore this new way of eating. Bring a new paleo style dish or desert to the party. It can still be delicious, I promise. Don’t worry you can still eat all of Grandma’s best deserts as cheats too. So, eat up. That caveman in you needs feeding.
Here is one of my favorites. Try this or experiment with your own:
- 16oz Almond butter
- 2 eggs
- 1c agave nectar
- 1 tbsp pure vanilla
- ½ c cocoa powder
- ½ tsp sea salt
- 1 tsp baking soda
Blend almond butter until smooth (microwave a little bit if needed). Add eggs, agave, and vanilla. Blend cocoa, salt, & baking soda. Grease a 9×13 pan and bake at 325 degrees for 30-40 minutes.
For more information and other recipes you can visit these great sites:
Originally posted: http://nojokelifestyle.com/wp/2011/11/20/slide-4-3/