What Is Paleo?
By: Robin Amylon
I’m sure you’ve all heard that nutrition is the foundation for performance. In fact, nutrition is the base of the pyramid CrossFit founder Greg Glassman created, with met-cons, gymnastics, weight lifting and sport all being supported by it. What we put into our bodies greatly affects how we look, feel, and perform, but most athletes make nutrition secondary in their training. You all come to RCF 5th Ave consistently, ready to work, wanting to take it to the next level and hoping to set PRs, but if you are also consistently feeding your body junk, I’m sorry to break it to you, but that just isn’t going to happen. So what should we eat? There are a few ways of eating that CrossFit promotes: Paleo or the “Caveman Diet” and “Clean Eating”.
In the Paleo diet, foods such as fruits, vegetables, lean meats, healthy fats, nuts and seeds are recommended, whereas dairy, grains, legumes, processed food and sugar, starch and alcohol should be avoided. The idea behind this type of eating is that it causes you to burn fat for fuel decreasing body fat, avoids storing excess glucose as fat, helps maintain hormonal balance and decreases inflammation in the body, which can be caused by foods that are excluded from the diet. Paleo has some great aspects in that it promotes nutrient rich whole foods that are unprocessed. It helps to keep the body in homeostasis causing an increase in energy, nutrient uptake and overall health. It is also good for weight loss due to the decrease in caloric consumption and water retention associated with the absence of starch in the diet.
The Paleo diet is not for everyone however, and this is where “Clean Eating” comes in. Clean eating includes all of the foods Paleo does but is more flexible and adds whole grains, low fat dairy products and legumes. This type of eating is great for individuals who want to maintain or gain weight as well as those who can tolerate foods excluded in the Paleo diet. When choosing whole grains, as well as any other food, it is important to consume foods in as close to their natural state as possible. The more a particular food looks how it exists in the environment, the more nutrient dense it is. Also, make sure to rotate your foods and vary your choices. Eating the same thing every day can cause nutrient deficiencies in macro and micronutrients those foods are lacking. This is true whether you are eating clean or doing Paleo. In general, a diet that consists of a variety of meat and vegetables, nuts and seeds, some fruit, little starch and no sugar, with intake at levels that will support exercise but not body fat, is ideal.
Ultimately it depends on the individual as far as whether to do Paleo or clean eating. Each of you needs to find what works best for you. It is also important to find something you can stick to long term. This shouldn’t be approached as a typical “diet” that will only be followed until you reach your goal. If that’s your mindset then you’ve already lost before you’ve even started. This is not a diet, but a way of eating that should be sustained the rest of your life. So find a plan that you can realistically maintain. With that being said, I think it’s important to stick to the 80/20 rule. Life happens and things come up, so as long as you stick to your meal plan 80% of the time, you can allow yourself to indulge for the other 20% and still be ok. It’s ok to cheat every once in a while. What’s the point of increasing your longevity and quality of life if you can’t enjoy it and let loose every once in a while? In the end, everyone should consume a diet that is wholesome and includes a variety of foods from different food groups for the majority of the time. Just keep it clean guys!