This month I’d like to highlight (and challenge myself to) something that doesn’t get iterated enough by fitness and nutrition professionals.
Within the context of navigating an American diet, eating healthy (at least a majority of the time) is extremely difficult.
Inherently, it shouldn't be this way. No one forces you to eat the foods that you do. You put the fork to your mouth for every bite (that self-admission might be the first positive step towards fixing it as well). There are so many great, healthy options for food, including buying your groceries and cooking, restaurants with fast-casual options that fit almost any dietary restriction, and food delivery.
However, marketing tricks, food labeling, and the sheer convenience of unhealthier (albeit good tasting) options are overwhelming to the point of mass confusion.
So why did I choose Paleo and Intermittent Fasting?
First, I’d like to caveat all of this by saying I don’t necessarily think that Paleo is the best way to eat (for everyone). Veganism has the utmost importance to some. If you’re a professional athlete burning through thousands of calories a day, you may require a higher number of fast acting carbohydrates than Paleo might allow. If you’re trying to fight cancer in the body, the ketogenic diet holds a ton of promise.
Every person is different, and every person will perform optimally eating different types of foods. Don’t let someone bully you into thinking their diet is the best for you. What makes a lot of this difficult is spending the time to figure out what is best for you.
You might say, “well I just don’t have time to figure that out. I’m too busy as it is to find healthy food, much less perform diet experiments to figure what and how to eat."
I’m calling BS. If you don’t have the time to make your health the number one priority, something else in your life is suffering. Maybe it’s your mood, energy or physical performance.
A simple equation:
Better fuel = more energy = better output = more (active) hours in your day = best day(s) ever.
I’ll start with Intermittent Fasting because it doesn’t actually involve any food itself. Intermittent Fasting (without going into too much detail - Google it if you’d like to learn in more detail) provides a structure for when to eat. I use the 16/8 method (I only eat during an eight hour window, like 1-9pm), which I’ve found most effective for my body. John Romaniello provides a great starting guide for how and why IF works (read it here) if you want to go into further detail. I use it for two reasons:
- It decreases my reliance on needing to eat at specific times/intervals
- It provides hormone optimization for performance, like elevating HGH levels and creating insulin-sensitivity in the body (for those times when you accidentally eat a donut)
IF has allowed me to enjoy my morning coffee (I drink Bulletproof), with noticeable benefit to mental performance, as the only thing I consume until about 1pm. If I’ve got a busy morning or am traveling I no longer am in search of food like a bear out of hibernation. I find myself consuming less food overall, which is a great change from how much I used to eat.
Alright, so why Paleo?
More than anything else, Paleo provides three inherent challenges I’d like to try:
- No alcohol
- No dairy
- No gluten
Due to my current work schedule and energy requirements, I don’t drink much alcohol anymore. When I do, I like to make it count (margaritas in Mexico, for instance - ouch). I don’t eat much dairy, except for the occasional dose of goat cheese on eggs or slice of pizza. I don’t eat much gluten, except for the occasional slice of bread when a GF option isn’t available.
Why then would this be a challenge for me? It’s the principal of a zero tolerance policy that I really like. Any of those individually wouldn’t provide a big challenge for me. However, with all three at once I’m bound to arrive at a tough decision at some point.
The hardest part of sticking to any nutrition protocol is (the lack of) social support.
If your coworkers are going out to eat, you’ll have to be that guy (or girl) ordering a salad and water. How hard will you find it to just have one (or none) glass of wine or beer at the wedding you’re at? There is pizza delivered to your next meeting - are you going to sit there and say “I’m good” and not take some heat for it?
The only way you’re going to be able to field criticism for your life decisions (and get out unscathed) is if you already have a framework for decision making. You have a plan to say yes and no, when required. Tony Robbins said, “You get what you tolerate.” Don’t tolerate anything you don’t deserve, and that is an infinite amount of healthy energy to live your life the way you want.
At this point, I’m honestly surprised there aren’t Jolly Ranchers sitting in a jar on your way out of the dentist’s office. Sugar is EVERYWHERE, and we’re all addicted to it.
I like Paleo because of its focus on low sugar, non-processed whole food options as well as an increase to the amount of healthy fat as a proportion of overall food intake. It is low (and slow) carb, which keeps the body’s blood sugar levels in check. Even at the highest levels of human physical performance, you must earn your carbohydrates.
You don’t fill your gas tank if you don’t drive your car, right?
In an ideal scenario, the days you workout or require more work of the body you’d consume higher levels of carbohydrates. If your body doesn’t need the quick energy (e.g. if you’re sitting at your desk for 10 hours a day), then why are you feeding it fuel from those sources?
Here is the breakdown of Paleo food sources:
- Lean Meats
- Nuts & Seeds
- Fats (avocado, olive oil, MCT oil)
Here’s what I cannot eat:
- Processed Food
- Legumes (e.g. beans)
- Starches (e.g. potatoes)
Here is what I do know for sure - taking a month off alcohol, pasta, pizza, cheese, and anything cheap from a package or box will definitely do my body well. I’m aiming to decrease inflammation, increase energy, look good, feel good, and perform well.
I will be tracking my food intake, workouts, and energy levels via a notebook for the month of February. I will report back at the end of the month on how it went!
Happy living better,