Thursday, August 26, 2010

Paleo update

Paleo Update

I haven't written about Paleo in a while, but I just wanted to assure everyone that I'm still on board with it and loving it. I've been doing strict Paleo for a year and 4 months now, and hopefully my continued enthusiasm will abate the skepticism that tends to arise around such a big departure from our culture's nutrition norms. In other words, Paleo might seem crazy, but it's not a fad, it works, it makes sense, and it will last.

In addition to sticking with it, I've done more tweaking, like a bit of carb cycling (nothing measured, just occasionally throwing in a higher carb week for performance or a lower carb week for health/leaning out), switching to mostly grass-fed meat, and adding in some supplements - Vitamin D and magnesium. Plus paying attention to other lifestyle factors like sleep and rest days.

I've said to several people that there are many different interpretations of Paleo that can work. People set their priorities, amounts, proportions, and variety according to their own needs and the balance they can strike. And that of course can change over time. Here's a little insight into my current implementation of Paleo.

Things I'm very strict about:
  1. Gluten. I am very careful to eat no gluten at all. I even ask at restaurants if their salad dressings contain gluten. Gluten makes me sick, even just a tiny bit.
  2. Other grains. I don't even want them, so why bother?
  3. Dairy. I used to allow myself a bite of cheese now and then, but now I am very careful to avoid any dairy except for heavy whipping cream or butter (which are pure fat and so don't have lactose or casein). Some dairy does work for some people. It just causes too many problems for me.
  4. Legumes (unless they're mostly pod, like green beans or okra) and potatoes. They have lectins, which are major gut irritants. I'm not messing around with that.
  5. Artificial sweeteners. You'll never ever see me drink a Diet Coke. Ick. Artificial sweeteners don't even taste like food, and they spike your insulin just like real sweeteners do and add to sugar cravings without giving you any fuel. To me, there's no point.
Things I allow but keep in check:
  1. Sugar. Sugar is sugar. It doesn't matter if it's honey or agave or brown sugar or white sugar or raisins or an apple. Your body treats fructose a bit differently from glucose, but one is not clearly superior to the other, they just play different roles, and you don't want too much of either. I do stay away from corn syrup because it grosses me out and it's grain-derived. And chances are if something contains corn syrup, it contains preservatives and soy and all kinds of crap that I don't want to eat. But if a bbq sauce has some brown sugar in it or I buy dried cherries with some sugar added, I don't freak out, I just keep the portions small.
  2. Nuts. Many people go "nuts" with nuts when they first switch to Paleo. But they have some things in common with legumes, and they're a very dense source of fat, so more and more I've been hearing people say they won't eat any nuts. I think there is still a place for them, so long as you don't go overboard or make them your primary source of fat. I try to stick to more macadamia nuts and walnuts, which have a higher omega-3 to omega-6 ratio, than almonds and cashews.
  3. Wine and tequila. Wine is actually pretty low in fructose compared to fruit juices. I mean, some people will down a big bottle of orange juice and won't touch wine, and that doesn't really make sense. Again I just try to be sensible with the portions. Tequila is not grain-based, and a serving or two never gives me a problem. And it's a fun taste to cultivate.
  4. Sweet potatoes. I studiously avoided these for a year, and just a few months ago added them back in. They're great for replenishing muscle glycogen stores after a workout and provide an alternative to fruit for dense carbohydrate sources when you're cycling a bit higher carb. Again, small portions are key.
I'm not saying this is the "right" way to do Paleo. But it's what works for me. I can sustain it, be happy, and feel good. And it's not set in stone - I'm sure I'll keep reading, research, experimenting, and tweaking!



Benjamin said...

Hi Amy, ever since I got a costco membership, pistachios and almonds have become the default snack. It's easy to eat too many. I still do, but I dialed back the proportions by a lot. Just a handful a day seems about right.

I agree--it's not a fad or trend, but a way of life. Now if I could only get my family in on it... but as Rob Wolf says, "it's like pissing in the wind." Maybe I'll burn the audio version of Vegetarian Myth or something.

Anonymous said...

Nice run-down on your diet, Amy. I have found paleo to be completely sustainable. I'm only at about five months but I feel like I'm just getting started!

I'm still eating cheese and sporadically some full-fat milk and so far it's been okay. I do notice that during weeks where I limit dairy (milk and cheese, and cream, not butter or full-fat greek yogurt) I feel a little leaner, so it's probably a good idea to keep those items sparse, at least while I'm leaning out.

miked said...

Ben, how's paleo working out for you now that you've been doing it. I know you're much more of an endurance athlete than me. Just wondering how you're fueling yourself for your long rides.

Bluescaptain Joe said...

Big vote of confidence in Paleo, and thanks to my big sister. I've dropped about 20 pounds since mid-June, when I started. I feel more satisfied by eating now. Also, telling people "I've bought 10 pounds of bacon this month, and that's how much weight I've lost" is intensely gratifying. Best part? I don't even miss beer anymore. All I remember about beer is the headaches, the gut-aches, and the GAS! Good god, if you have gas problems, try paleo! Gone!

Benjamin said...

Mike, so far so good! I've been getting bored on rides longer than 30 miles, so I keep them under two hours and just bring ice water. I'm more aggressive on climbs and my pain threshold is improving. I wouldn't think about drinking 72 oz of Gatorade now. I keep some Justin's on hand in case I get wiped out before I get home. There's a century coming up in a few weeks, so maybe I'll do the 50-mile course and see what happens.