Paleo Diet – an update
You may recall that in February 2011 I started on a new eating plan - following the Paleo Diet.
It kinda went to the pack when the big quake hit Christchurch on Feb 22. I managed to stay more or less grain and sugar free, but ate heaps of processed foods.
Some may well ask why I went off the eating plan. Well it’s simple – with no running water, or power, so it was MUCH easier to eat some spare protein bars, or drink things like UpandGo (a pre-made breakfast drink) than prepare food. While traditionally neither of these foods is ‘bad‘ for you, they are far from paleo, breaking what is my view is one of the most fundamental tenants – more FOOD less STUFF. Enuf excuses though. That lasted about a week, and then I slowly got back on it.
In this post I will cover
three four things:
- An update on my eating plan and the results
- An update on my exercise regimen (both immediately post earthquake, and more recently)
- My results
- A reminder about what paleo eating is based on, and where I think MANY paleo writers get it wrong
1) My Eating now
As outlined above, I have gone back on the paleo diet (or as I have explained before, I prefer to call it an eating plan).
I have followed a reasonably strict routine. What I am strick on is:
- No intentionally eating grains (including bread of course) of any kind, so no pasta, bread, flour (baked goods), pastry etc
- No intentional legumes (including peanuts) of any kind (I regard grains as a no go and legumes as an avoid)
- Lots of veges – and as much raw as I can.
- I eat lots of meat – good quality meat, including fish.
- Moderate amount of nuts and eggs
- A BIG focus on cutting down on sugar (it’s evil remember!)
What I am not super strict on:
- If I suspect there is trace amounts of flour (or similar) in something as a small ingredient, and I otherwise would eat the item, I go for it
- If I go to a friends place for dinner I don’t say No to anything other than bread. If they are serving pasta I would just tell them in advance I don’t eat it. But otherwise (almost) anything goes, and just don’t intentionally pile on anything I wouldn’t normally eat if I have the choice
- I drink wine. Mostly no more than 1 or 2 glasses in a day.
- I’ll eat root veges like kumara and carrots. Some say this is a no-no. I do agree no to potato (for reasons specific to potato)
- I have eaten desert one or two times in the last month that was sugary (and processed)
- I eat some dairy – mainly cheese in things like salad. How could anyone say no to halloumi cheese?
I want to be clear I do not worry about fat intake, nor do I worry about carb intake for that matter (although my total carb intake would be low by most standards). I do focus on keeping sugars down (nothing natural about that), and eating food, not stuff.
I was in South Africa for a week – and lucky the hotel I was in for 4 days had an AWESOME buffet breakfast. So when I was there I made good use of it. Got up at 6am (which was really like 4pm for me), and went to the gym, showered then went for breakfast. Ate HEAPS of bacon and eggs. Also ate steak and/or mince, and bacon. Then some yogurt, and some more bacon. If I had room I ate some more bacon. 1-2 cups of coffee too.
Normally I eat a couple of eggs for breakfast (now I am home) and for lunch have a salad (pre-made from home, or just bought from somewhere I know has them – even Subway works for that), and throw on some extra meat. Dinner is some nice meat, plus veges – either pre-cooked (like roasted veges, cubed), or a salad, or a combination of both. And when I say salad I mean NICE salad. Stuff like cashew nuts, halloumi cheese, chicken breast, grilled capsicum (olive oil works super well here since its lowish heat), bree or camembert, salmon (poached, grilled, smoked – any way is good), some super fresh lettuce etc. That reminds me of another point – I am no longer grazing (ie eating 4-5 meals a dfay). I eat 3 main meals. Of course I will eat whenever I am hungry, but this is more around the 3 times a day now, not 5.
Oh, and I drink less coffee (because i don’t feel like drinking as much)
2) My Exercise Now
Since Feb 22, most of the gyms in Christchurch have been closed. So for a over two weeks any resistance training was problematic. Three weeks later I started back 2-3 times a week (a combination of training out of a small city based club, and using clubs when I traveled). I am back to a semi-regular pattern, of 3, sometimes 4 gym sessions a week.
By comparison I used to train 5 times a week – 3 heavy weight training days, two light, and 2 days off (in a row). My regular week now would be 3 heavy days, sometimes 1 light workout and 3 (sometimes 4) days off (at least two in a row).
I continue to train with a 10 minute high intensity interval training (HIIT) routine at the start of most workouts on a rower (20 second bursts, followed by 40 seconds of rest) x 10 (3 of which are warm ups – so its really only 7 that are full on). Then 45-50 minutes of resistance training. Mainly compound exercisers, and normally train to failure in the majority of sets. I do lots of exercisers that engage the core (like squats) but no crunches or similar.
3) My results
In the last month I have trained less, and eaten more (a lot more), but been quite focused on WHAT I eat.
- I feel great – this is probably the best result of all
- An unintentional benefit: I have now the best body composition I have ever had. Around 10% body fat (at that level I have abs showing), and have actually built a few kg of muscle in the last month.
- I get to eat HEAPS of cool foods. I don’t feel like I sacrifice a lot – I guess I could say I wouldn’t mind bread with olive oil before a nice dinner out, but if I had a choice of that or bacon, or say that or halloumi cheese, then bread gets the kick anyway
4) Where I think many Paleo writers get it wrong
When doing the initial spiel about paleo, most paleo books or blogs start by explaining it all about eating how we used to eat – for hundreds of thousands of years, before we settled down and started to consume grains and such like about 5-10 thousand year ago. Many go to great lengths to explain how eating meat enabled our brains to grow, and how, in particular, having high density foods (calorie wise) was a good thing for us in evolutionary / section terms. They also explain how grains aren’t all they are cracked up to be, and how sugar is just unnatural (even modern day fruits if quite unlike how most fruit used to be). Some of the more scientific writers go on to explain that many of the nutritional concepts that we think are gospel (low fat is good for you etc) are just wrong, and in fact only really came around in the last 20-30 years (what’s fascinating to me is that the low fat modus-operandi has been around slightly longer than the obesity epidemic – coincidence?)
So far so good. Except many then go on to say when choosing meat, we should choose low fat. Ummm, why? Where did this come from? What’s paleo about that? In fact what’s paleo about cut out animal fat or even cut out saturated fat? I think many writers didn’t read their chapter one when they wrote chapter five! There is NOTHING inherently good about low fat. Well let me rephrase that – all other things being equal lower ANYTHING can help with weight loss, but focusing on fat as something to always cut off (or out) is flawed and un-needed. Weight loss, while the goal of many, should now be assumed as the goal of every person on an eating plan. And moreover, as I have said many times (and may paleo writer go on about this at length) if you want to eliminate one thing from your diet and get amazing results (including weight loss) – eliminate sugar (especially fructose and anything like high fructose corn syrup). If there is one thing to focus on when looking at fat: look at the omega 6 to omega 3 ratio in your diet.
So I want to finish on a positive and say what Paleo eating is:
- It’s eating more FOOD and less STUFF
- It’s a return to eating what we are (as humans) designed to eat: Lots of veges and meat, moderate amounts of fruit (esp berries), nuts and eggs.
- Eliminate eating food that we aren’t designed to eat (and/or ones that try to not be eaten) such as grains, legumes, potatoes
- Exercise Paleo (think Paleo = how we used to do it thousands of tears ago) too – short bursts of intense stuff, (gym is excellent for this!) followed by lots of rest
- Focus on little or no (if you do the above this will happen naturally, but keep an eye on it anyway – especially if you aren’t being super strict)
Black and White Version: For me the paleo diet has been a great success. Together with paleo exercise, it has given me a great feeling, awesome physical results, and I get to eat lots of tasty food.