Why the Paleo Diet?

Paleo Diet

The Paleo Diet is based on lean meats, seafood, fresh fruit, fresh vegetables, and omega 3 sources of fat; leading to ideal body weight, optimum health, and peak athletic performance.

The Paleo Diet is an approach to eating that is high in soluble fiber, antioxidants, vitamins, phytochemicals, omega 3 and monounsaturated fats, and low glycemic carbohydrates. Eating foods that we are genetically adapted to, those that adopt to this approach are naturally lean, improve their athletic performance, and experience relief and a decrease of symptoms from metabolic-related and autoimmune disorders. This “diet” was not designed by a “diet doctor” but instead Mother Nature’s evolution and natural selection. You can’t get more natural and “real” than that when we talk about eating “real” foods.

This is NOT a high protein, low carb, high fat diet allowing unlimited consumption of artery clogging, health degrading foods such as cheese, bacon, and butter. There is no place in a healthy nutrition plan to “overdose” on saturated fat. Saturated fat continues to prove negative consequences resulting in obesity, high cholesterol and lipid levels, and increased risk of syndrome X disorders.

Those following the Paleo Diet are shown to be generally free of the signs and symptoms of chronic diseases such as obesity, high blood pressure and dangerous cholesterol levels.

What’s with the sugar, glycemic index and glycemic load?

 

The Paleo Diet includes unlimited fruits and vegetables. We NEED carbohydrates as they are a important macronutrient. We do NOT need overly processed breads, pasta, granola bars, sugar packed cereals, and “energy bars”. Energy comes from calories and fruits, vegetables, protein, and monounsaturated fats contain calories which units of energy. Pretty simple. Processed carbohydrates generally have a much higher glycemic index. The higher the glycemic index in a food source, the greater rise in blood sugar and insulin levels. Excessive insulin and blood sugar levels result in the diseases known as Syndrome X … obesity, hypertension, dangerous cholesterol and lipid levels, type 2 diabetes, among others. Are you starting to understand how this cycle keeps returning to the common dominator? Highly processed engineered foods are hurting our health.

 

G.I. Disorders

The high soluble fiber content will improve most diseases of the gastrointestinal tract. I can speak from experience here. I have some G.I. issues which stem from a pancreas that does not function optimally. Could this have come from poor nutrition early in my life? Could it have to do with some trauma that my body has been through stemming from a serious cycling accident, and/or surgeries to follow. We are not sure. However, I have noticed an increase in energy and less G.I. distress when I have limited overly processed foods and concentrated on eating a “clean” diet comprised on lean protein, fruits, vegetables, and small amounts of monounsaturated fats.

 

Inflammation

The high omega 3 fat content recommended in the Paleo Diet will help decrease inflammation within the body. Here to I feel I can speak from experience. As an endurance athlete and competitive runner, training increases inflammation. There are days where I am training 3 hours or more and inflammation increases regardless of preventative measures. It is the addition of omega 3 fatty acids that decrease inflammation. Be conscious and aware that omega 6 fatty acids increase inflammation. Omega 3 fatty acids can be found in; salmon, flax, seeds, nuts, and olive oil.

Glycemic Index vs. Glycemic Load

It’s not about the glycemic index as much as it is about the glycemic load. The glycemic index is the ability of a food to acutely raise blood sugar levels. The glycemic load is represented by the glycemic index of a food multiplied by the carbohydrate content in a given ammount of food. To simplify this, watermelon and white processed Wonder bread have similar glycemic index values. However, the glycemic load of watermelon is dramatically lower than that of the Wonder bread. One would need to eat multiple pounds of watermelon compared to 1 serving of Wonder bread to get the same blood sugar increase result. The glycemic load is more accurately related to the effect of insulin response than the glycemic index. It is the effects of the glycemic load that predisposes us to obesity and chronic disease.

An approach for those looking to lose weight AND those looking to improve athletic performance.

Adopting a lower carbohydrate and higher protein approach creates metabolic changes in the body’s systems. The most notably metabolic change is the increased utilization of fat by working muscles.

 

There are 2 primary sources of fat. Intra-muscular triglycerides are fat stores directly within the muscle. The second source are free fatty acids in the bloodstream and from stored fat in adipose tissue. The the typical “western diet” where nutrition is composed with over consumption of overly processed grains enzymes are reduced within the system. The reduction of enzymes limits fat stores to be broken down and utilized during exercise. Therefore you are not allowing yourself to burn fat, only the processed carbs that you are over consuming. Similar to beating your head against a brick wall with no luck on breaking down the wall and achieving your desired results.

With dedication to the decrease in over processed carbohydrate diet, your body becomes accustomed and results in the increased efficiency of stored fat breakdown and utilization for energy.

How will this help your athletic performance?

Your blood sugar levels remain stable throughout your workouts and races, you become more efficient and utilizing energy, and there fore you metabolic system can handle the result of training and trauma without breakdown of tissue and immune system function. Pretty simple.

I highly recommend the book, “Paleo Diet for Athletes”. This book was written by Dr. Loren Cordain and world renowned coach, Joe Friel. The book provides detailed information on how endurance athletes can improve performance, recovery, and health by eating a slightly modified version of the Paleo Diet.


Ending Note

As many of you know, I have spent more years of my life than not; refusing to eat meat, existing on processed carbohydrates, and have had what has been known as “a hard headed” approach to what I felt I needed from food. A year ago I eliminated gluten from my diet, dramatically decreased dairy consumption, and started to increase protein from sources such as fish and eggs. Eight months ago I had major spine surgery, 2 weeks ago I ran a 3:16 marathon… in between I have been running plus/minus 50 miles a week… without proper nutrition, this would not be possible. I will continue to only improve my sources of fuel for my body and hope that I can shed some light on what has gotten me to this level of knowledge.

 

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3 thoughts on “Why the Paleo Diet?

  1. Great article Cristin,
    I’m going to get the book. I eat and take supplements very similar to what you describe as I too believe I can’t starve the body of proper nutrition. I also have read about the athlete’s bodies need for saturated fat to process the calories into energy and muscle. I am not afraid to indulge in some of those comfort foods because of that. I would like to understand why this diet stays away from that concept. I have had blood tests that show all of my blood fat levels to be in the healthy, extremely low risk range. However, I probably have more body fat that I would like. Doesn’t everybody?? lol
    Thanks for sharing,
    Dave

  2. Pingback: Why Paleo? | CrossFit Hood River

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