If you had to label our nutritional recommendations, I suppose that the Paleo diet aligns best. These are general guideline on how to eat, we realize everyone is different and modifications can be beneficial in certain scenarios. Below is a brief outline of a much larger conversation we'd love to have with you about your diet.
The Paleo diet consists mainly of: Meat (beef, pork, fish, fowl), vegetables, fruits, nuts and seeds, while omitting grains, legumes (beans) and dairy. Our bodies were designed to be fueled by foods that are not processed, modified, or changed in any way.
Thus, eat lean meats, nuts and seeds, vegetables, some fruit, little starch and no sugar. Eat quantities to sustain energy levels and activity.
This statement generally leads to the calorie debate.
Calories… Let’s just get this off the table.
The current accepted philosophy surrounding obesity/weight gain is that individuals consume more calories than they are burning and thus gain weight. This is the calories in/calories out theory. You may have heard this referred to as the "energy balance" theory.
So, what is a calorie? In physics, a calorie is the energy needed to raise the temperature of 1 gram of water 1 °C. Unfortunately, the laws of thermodynamics to not hold true for metabolic rates in humans.
The problem is, no one knows the true rate at which they burn calories, ie their resting metabolic rate. There are for too many factors to consider for most people to accurately calculate this number. Factors like lean muscle mass, height, weight, VO2 max, daily activity level, etc effect this calculation. Not to mention, no one can accurately calculate the calories they are consuming. The current model for calorie consumption calculation is based on best guesses at types of food consumed and the size/and or weight of the food they are consuming. So…if you don’t know exactly how much you are burning, and you don’t know exactly how much you are consuming how can you calculate the difference between the two to determine your overall weight loss or gain?
There is a way to incorporate this loose philosophy to aid in your dietary progress but it takes a lot of fine tuning. More importantly, we want to focus on the quality of the calories you are eating versus the quantities.
To further challenge conventional wisdom…
You are going to have to reprogram your mind. Fat is good, correction…the right fat is good. Omega 3 fatty acids and SOME saturated fats will become your body’s main source of energy. The “Lipid Hypothesis” was first developed by a man named Ancel Keys in the early 1940’s and in its essence the hypothesizes states that consumable fats correlate to increased rates of obesity, coronary artery disease, and heart disease (including heart attack and stroke). In its most basic form this seems logical. However, over the course of several decades and countless studies, the science to back this up has not been found. Unfortunately, this hypothesis was adopted early on by the FDA, and actually led to the formation of the AHA (American Heart Association), even before any real science backed it up. Thus, because it was adopted by the powers that be this “logic” has become “common knowledge”. To even challenge this notion sounds preposterous.
From this hypothesis, the recommendation for the Standard American Diet (SAD, no joking that’s the recognized acronym) was formed. The recommendation is a low fat and high carb diet, as carbs are fat free. However, the recommended carbs are processed, high fiber, grain based. Here’s the problem…this diet has been prescribed to us, the community at large, for over 55+ years. In that time we have seen dramatic increases in obesity and diabetes (to include juvenile obesity and diabetes, both almost nonexistent less than 100 years ago). What if we challenge the conventional “wisdom”.
For more information we recommend you check out the following.
• CrossFit-Gary Taubes: Why We Get Fat on YouTube
NOW, let’s discuss food and how our body handles it…
Grains- Promote fat storage by raising insulin, cause inflammation, compromise digestion (damage microvilli), and interfere with immune function. Roughly 80 percent of your immune system is in your gut. Contrary to what the SAD (Standard American Diet) says grains are of little to no nutritional value. That’s ALL grains, even the cleverly marketed “multi-grains” and “whole grains”.
Legumes- Beans, like grains, cause systemic inflammation and irritability. Inflammation in the GI tract can cause a wide range of symptoms from bloating and nausea, up IBS (irritable bowel syndrome) and Crohn's. Many autoimmune diseases and food allergies are linked to inflammation. Despite the small amounts of protein and fiber found in beans, they are more harmful than good.
Dairy- Avoid all dairy except grass-fed butter (that’s butter from grass fed, steroid and hormone free cows). Replace with unsweetened almond milk and unsweetened coconut milk. If you must have cheese, eat only cheese that is aged 6 months or more. Again, grass-fed is preferred. Casein is the primary protein in milk and is difficult for most people to digest. In fact, as humans we need particular enzymes present in our bodies’ to aid in milk digestion, and people stop producing these enzymes around the age of 4-5 years old. It has been suggested that the majority of the population (80-90% of adults) are to some level lactose sensitive/intolerant.
Fats- Good quality fats will become a main source of energy once you remove grains and legumes from your diet. Good sources of are those from ghee (clarified butter), Coconut Oil (make sure it is unrefined), olive oil*, nuts/seeds, avocados, almond butter, and/or grass-fed butter (ie Kerrygold brand). Eating too little of fat will cause your energy level to decrease and your fat metabolism to slow down. Eat fat and protein at every meal.
*Do not cook with EVOO as the heating process disrupts the omega 3 to omega 6 ratio
Nuts/Seeds- An excellent source of healthy fat, and as a bonus they also contain protein and some carbs. They are the perfect snacking option. The best choices are walnuts, almonds, and cashews. Purchase them in bulk from the produce section to cut costs, and avoid getting them from the “snack aisle.” Peanuts are actually legumes and should be avoided.
Meat- A main source of nutrition in a Paleo is meat, red meat in particular as it contains optimal amounts of creatine and the best ratio of amino acids, which are necessary for building lean muscle. Grass-fed is preferred. If the cows are fed grain, then you are eating grain too. Meat in general is a dense source of nutrients and should be eaten at every meal. If you eat deli meat try to buy Boar’s Head or Applegate brand. Don’t forget about poultry, when eating these proteins the dark fatty meat and the skins are a must. Last but certainly not least…eat fish! A variety of fish, white meat or red meat, on a regular basis will give you the healthy fats and protein you need.
Complex carbs (bread & pasta)-When eaten, complex carbs are broken down into the simple sugar (glucose). Insulin is released from the pancreas as a way to process the glucose to your cells to be used as immediate energy or to the liver to be turned into triglycerides that will be stored as fat and used for energy later. This process causes quick spikes in overall BGL (blood glucose levels) and subsequent quick drops in BGL, causing the constant see saw in feelings of being satiated(full) and hungry that is commonly associated with high “carb” diets.
Vegetables (real carbs)- Eat a variety of vegetables, seasonal are best as they contain the highest amount of micronutrients. As a rule, fresh are best*, frozen are alright, and canned as a last resort. Fibrous vegetables like broccoli, spinach, kale, cauliflower are best for fat loss. Starchy potatoes like sweet potatoes and butternut squash can stall fat-loss goals. However, for those involved in a high volume training program, these can be beneficial for endurance in work outs and are particularly beneficial post high volume training days. Most of us are not on the same level as elite athletes and should eat these starchy veggies in moderation.
*fresh vegetables are best when farm to market times are reasonable. In remote areas sometimes frozen vegetables are better as they flash freeze produce after harvesting and thus lock in nutrients. However, most vegetables do not withstand flash freezing well so variety is limited.
Fruits- Berries and apples are the best fruits for fat loss. Bananas are OK when eaten in moderation, the greener the better (within reason). Those brown spots are sugar spots and the sugar content actually rises the older they are. As a rule of thumb, stick to 2-3 pieces of fruit a day at most. For the first 30 days do your best to steer clear of citric fruits, such as oranges, pineapples, and grapefruits as they are very high in natural sugar. You can add those back in later.
Drink- lots of water. Coffee, unsweetened tea, and mineral water are acceptable alternatives.
What are Cravings, and why do you have them?
Our brains/bodies are programmed to primarily seek out three flavors in nature, salty, sweet, and fatty. Each one found in nature provides a certain dietary necessity for us to function and thrive. Salt is an essential electrolyte needed for basic functions of living. Sweetness generally signals a fruit is ripe and ready to eat. Lastly, fatty flavors lead us to nutritionally dense sources of food, meaning we can eat less and get more. These flavors all trigger dopamine responses in the brain and elicit feelings of satiety and satisfaction. The problem is, as food science and manufacturing has evolved they have exploited the way are brains are hard wired. They have created super salty, ultra sweet and extremely fatty flavors. We have become so over run with these “food like” products that foods found naturally seem bland and boring. The cravings you will most likely experience will be your body screaming for more of what it has been come accustomed to. There is a certain amount of detoxing you will go through and the symptoms will vary from person to person. Generally, irritability and lethargy will affect most people early on. Just remember, every time you cheat your body will likely knock you back to day 1.
General Shopping Guidelines
• Buy organic/grass fed when possible.
• Shop the perimeter of the grocery store, avoid the inner aisles.
• Do not buy/eat anything in a box, pre-packaged being the main culprit here (Including store bought salad dressing. Most contain soybean oil, sugar, and artificial ingredients as the primary ingredients).
• Read ingredients (ex. Some nuts are cooked in various kinds of vegetable oil and many items labeled “healthy” are far from it)
• If it’s got a “Heart Healthy” logo, it’s probably garbage.
• Think about how what you eat affects your mood and body.
• You can reprogram your body in 30 days if you don’t cheat. Your body prefers burning fat over carbohydrates.
• 80% of your body composition is determined by how you eat. Insulin is the “master hormone,” it is responsible for transporting nutrients and hormones through the bloodstream to target cells and organs.
• A grain based diet causes excess increased insulin production which inhibits fat metabolism, disrupts hormone and immune function, speeds up aging, increases atherosclerosis, and promotes systemic inflammation and autoimmune disease.
• Keep in mind, the 1st week is generally the most difficult, but after that you should start to feel better and this will become much easier. You are learning a new way to eat and to fuel your body properly. I challenge you to shift your thinking to consider food as fuel only. Eat only what is beneficial as a normal practice. Cheat meals are psychologically effective and can help you stay on track for the long haul. Best of luck, and remember we are here to help you along the way.
Synopsis: Diet as it relates to fitness
Fitness in 100 words by Greg Glassman, Founder of CrossFit:
Eat meat and vegetables, nuts and seeds, some fruit, little starch and no sugar. Keep intake to levels that will support exercise but not body fat.
Practice and train major lifts: Deadlift, clean, squat, presses, C&J, and snatch. Similarly, master the basics of gymnastics: pull-ups, dips, rope climb, push-ups, sit-ups, presses to handstand, pirouettes, ﬂips, splits, and holds. Bike, run, swim, row, etc, hard and fast.
Five or six days per week mix these elements in as many combinations and patterns as creativity will allow. Routine is the enemy. Keep workouts short and intense.
Regularly learn and play new sports.