As a Crossfit enthusiast, Paleo diets are often part of the gym culture. In fact, almost all CrossFit affiliates run Paleo-inspired diet challenges for their members throughout the year.
My gym has about two per year and I generally participate just for the camraderie and to hear about what’s hard for people when they’re on such a strict diet regimen. I also like seeing my gym friends shrink before my eyes. For example, on the last challenge, we had members who lost upwards of 20 pounds…and they’re still as lean as ever and it’s been about four months since our last challenge ended.
I normally eat a very plant-based diet that’s often short on protein and overflowing with carbohydrates. I like going on a more Paleo approach twice a year because it makes me focus on eating two things I often skimp on in my diet: veggies and lean protein like fish, poultry and beef. When I’m not thinking about what I should be eating, I automatically revert back to eating too many processed carbohydrate-rich options that aren’t considered nutritional all-stars. Things like crackers, sweets, lots of bread, cereal and cereal bars. They’re easy, I love them and it’s just too easy for me to overeat ’em. Since any variation of a Paleo diet cuts out most grain-based foods, even though new evidence suggests that ancient man did eat some grains, I’ve found it’s the easiest way for me to get my
While there are numerous approaches to a Paleo diet, my gym focuses on avoiding grain-based foods, dairy products, sweets and most processed foods. During the challenges, which are normally 40-50 days, I’ll eat fairly strict Paleo for the first half of the program, but then I’ll add back some Greek yogurt and skim milk and whole-grain cereals for the last 20 days.
Other athletes often ask if my performance suffers because I’m eating less carbohdyrates on these diets, but from my experiences, I’ve only seen improvements in my training.
Right now, my niece and fellow RD colleague, Kelly Plowe, MS, RD, and I are following a the Whole Athlete Challenge from Crossfit LA. She had her body fat measured at the start of this 40-day diet challenge and she’ll have it measured again at the end. I’ll report back on how it worked out for her. While I didn’t get my body fat measured before we started, I did take my percent body fat with my TAnita scale and measured my biceps, waist, thigh and hips. I’m hoping to lose an inch or more from my waist as part of the challenge.
How Paleo Can Improve Your Diet
What I gain from Paleo eating is realizing how many extra calories I eat every day from carbohydrate-rich snacks like cereal, toast, cereal bars and candy. For me, carb-rich foods are so readily available, satisfying and comforting it’s really hard to restrict them. However, when I don’t eat them at all, I suddenly eat a lot more fresh fruit, dried fruit (dates are my new BFFs), veggies, hard-boiled eggs and nuts. All of which are healthier choices than my cheese and crackers or cereal bars.
I also enjoy planning and food preparation that eating Paleo requires. I have to think about meals at least a day in advance and it forces me to cook a lot more. I’ve enjoyed learning a lot more dishes with eggs, beef, chicken and fish. I used many recipes from Everyday Paleo and I found more ways to love cooked veggies, including my own kale chips, roasted veggies and even grilled greens.
8 Smart Paleo Principles
I’m not suggesting that anyone follow a strict Paleo diet, but there are some core principles of eating Paleo that can provide health and nutrition benefits.
* Eat whole, natural foods instead of those that are highly processed
* Enjoy plenty of fruits, vegetables, nuts and limit refined grains and sugars.
* Increase consumption of omega-3 fatty acids from fish, fish oil, and plant sources
* Avoid trans-fats and limit saturated fats by eliminating fried foods, hard margarine, commercial baked goods, and most packaged and processed snack foods.
* Substitute monounsaturated and polyunsaturated (ie, olive and canola oils) fats for saturated fats
* Increase consumption of lean protein, such as skinless poultry, fish, wild game and lean cuts of meat.
* Avoid high-fat dairy and fatty, salty processed meats such as bacon, sausage and deli meats.
* Hydrate with water.