Tag Archives: nutrition

Flavors of Paleo

I’ve mentioned before that Paleo is not a cookie-cutter nutrition (and lifestyle) plan. We all need to find what works best for us and follow that path. People new to Paleo – or complete strangers to it – may not be aware of all the options, though. So, I’d like to take a moment and provide a brief description of what I think are distinct “flavors” of Paleo, and list some available resources:

Basic Paleo
This is the starting point for most of us. It’s as simple as eliminating grains, legumes, and dairy from one’s diet, but there are several sidenotes to that, such as removing vegetable and seed oils as well as sugar. For further information, check out the following:

  • Robb Wolf’s book and site. His book is easy to read, but you may need to keep notes as it’s packed full of technical details. You can find a multitude of helpful articles, as well as his excellent podcast, at his site.
  • Loren Cordain’s books  and site. Although The Paleo Diet is a must-read, it is a rather controversial book, and Loren has revised several parts of it in more recent blog posts. I’d suggest starting out with The Paleo Answer instead.
  • Melissa and Dallas Hartwig’s book and site. Their Whole9 program is what got me into Paleo. 🙂 When I first came upon their site and read the instructions, I beat a hasty path out of there – it looked impossible to implement (and people may have the same reaction to any entry-level Paleo plan). A year later, I decided to read their book, and everything they were suggesting finally clicked. It is an excellent read, detailed but approachable. I gave the Whole9 a go and to my surprise discovered it was far easier than I thought it would be.
  • Nora Gedgaudas’ book and site. A challenging read, probably more appropriate for people who want to delve deeper into Paleo.

Paleo for Specific Conditions
The basic Paleo guidelines are good enough for most people to play with, but if, for instance, you suffer from an autoimmune condition, you may need to add some restrictions. Some examples include removing nightshades (tomatoes, potatoes, eggplants, peppers, etc.), sources of FODMAPs (onions, garlic, etc.), or eggs from the diet. Consider consulting with a Paleo/Primal physician to help with this:

If you want to discuss a Paleo approach with your current physician, you could read and pass along Diane Sanfilippo’s book as it provides nutrition plans for several conditions. You also can find a multitude of articles, recipes, etc., and her podcast on her site.

Paleo for Weight Loss
Although I consider obesity a medical condition that should be dealt with as such, I thought I’d give it its own section since a lot of people (myself included) come to Paleo for the express reason of losing weight. I’d like to point out, though, that Paleo is not a weight loss plan. Weight loss is a side effect as the body is allowed to work its way towards a healthy, balanced state.

You could be following a basic Paleo plan and losing weight without further intervention. If that doesn’t work for you, you may need to cut back a bit on carbs to egg your body on. This doesn’t mean aiming for a zero carb approach. A general approach would be to first try to limit fruit consumption to no more than 2 fist-sized portions per day. If you stop seeing results (assess primarily your body fat percentage and the fit of your clothes before obsessing over the number on the scales), restrict your starch consumption to post-workout meals only.

You can find more on most resources mentioned in this post, but might want to particularly check out:

  • Gary Taubes’ books. Although not strictly Paleo, you should get at least one of them. They are both very enjoyable to read (or was that just me?) despite being long. The shorter, easier read of the two is Why We Get Fat.
  • Stephan Guyenet’s blog for an alternative, high-carb approach.

Always, the key point is experimenting and finding what works for you.

Paleo for Athletic Performance
Although now popular mostly in CrossFit circles, Paleo has been promoted for a while among endurance athletes by top trainer Joe Friel (you can follow his blog here) with the support of Loren Cordain (check out their book).

If you’re into general fitness or a strength-based sport, Robb Wolf’s blog has more appropriate resources. You can also find an excellent nutrition plan for athletic performance in Diane Sanfilippo’s book.

Other Approaches
As long as you don’t have any sensitivities to dairy, you could try going Primal. This is a variation allowing the infrequent consumption of fatty and/or fermented dairy in small quantities. Check out Mark Sisson’s awesome site and books. Mark Sisson’s and Robb Wolf’s sites are probably the biggest hubs of Paleo/Primal activity, so be sure to bookmark them and subscribe to their feeds.

Another possible approach is Paul and Shou-Ching Jaminet’s Perfect Health Diet, which allows the consumption of both full-fat and/or fermented dairy and white rice. Check out their site and book (revised version) for more.

This isn’t meant to be an exhaustive list, but I believe all the essentials are here. If there’s something you believe I’ve missed that should absolutely be mentioned, feel free to point it out in the comments.

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Paleo and Yoga: How do they connect?

What do you think of when you hear the word “Paleo”? If you’re a stranger to the lifestyle, a stereotype or two might come to mind: hunter, violent, eating raw meat… What about “Yoga”? Perhaps something along the lines of Lululemon’s Shit Yogis Say ad pops to your head? How representative of your attitude and lifestyle is any of that? Not much, I’d wager. So, let’s take a deeper look.

Why go Paleo at all? Maybe you have an autoimmune condition that you’ve heard Paleo can help with. Maybe you haven’t been diagnosed with anything in particular and don’t experience any striking symptoms (after all, you’re supposed to feel like crap half the time, right?), but decide to give it a go because you’ve heard it can help you feel and perform better. Anybody out there on Paleo to lose weight? 😉 Or maybe you’ve a locavore using Paleo to take your nutrition to the next level.

Whatever your reason for going Paleo may be, I think the common denominator is balance. I’m not talking only about balance within our bodies – although health and body comp are all good – but about balance with our environment as well. There’s a lot of talk in Paleo circles about sustainability and I think this kind of awareness is crucial to ensuring a future worth living. In addition, Paleo promotes psychological balance through the concept of play. When was the last time you played?

Balance is also what Paleo has in common with Yoga. Yoga emphasizes balance in the body and mind, and to some extent balance with your environment. If you’re thinking of yogi-pretzels and wondering how contorting yourself like that can promote balance, bear with me: you adapt your Yoga practice to your specific needs and goals, just as you would tweak Paleo – it’s never cookie-cutter.

I’d like to make one thing clear at this point, though: Yoga is not a workout system. It can be used as such, but it’s incomplete. Yoga can help you build cardiovascular and muscular endurance (through flow sequences), flexibility in your muscles and joints (the average chair-bound individual has no reason to worry about becoming overflexible), some muscular strength (how many people do you know that can do arm balances off the bat?), and even hone your sense of balance, coordination and proprioception, It will not help you build explosive strength or other anaerobic skills – although it will probably help your body deal better with the stress of building said skills. So, what is Yoga really about?

Well, the whole point of Yoga is to prepare you physically, energetically (I’ll come back to that), and mentally for meditation. Depending on your approach, you might start your session with a flow, such as Sun Salutations, move on to standing poses, slow down with floor poses, and settle down in Shavasana before sitting in meditation. Notice that you start by moving the body and then progressively slow down to the point of stillness. All the while, your breath follows the activity of the body, and since you need to keep your breathing under control, your mind (ideally) is engaged with that task instead of your to-do list. Ultimately, this helps us deal with stress, but also serves as a kind of self-therapy session (I’ve briefly touched upon it in this post), thus promoting psychological and emotional balance. In short, Yoga helps us connect with ourselves and become more aware, which is then reflected in our relationship with our environment, including our social circle.

I mentioned how Yoga prepares us energetically for meditation. This is the physical kind of balance that Yoga provides by stretching, compressing, and twisting the body in order to activate specific pressure points. It’s the same principle used in acupuncture: our life force (qi or prana) runs along pathways in our bodies (meridians or nadi) and is controlled by energy centers along the spine (dantian or chakra), but sometimes it becomes stuck and we need to intervene to help it flow smoothly again. If you’ve never done acupuncture, I know this may sound woo-woo, but thankfully, you don’t have to believe it to benefit from it. Just go ahead with your practice, making sure you focus on the breath, and spend a few minutes just sitting quietly after you’re done (it’s a great way to reduce stress after all :)).

So, far from being mutually exclusive, Paleo and Yoga actually share similar goals and, I believe, complement each other nicely. If you’re into one or the other, how about doing a Paleo-Yoga combo 30-day challenge?

Is going Paleo your New Year’s Resolution? Tips for a smooth transition

So, you read up on it and decided it would benefit you to switch to a Paleo lifestyle. Most sources suggest going cold turkey for 30 days and seeing how you feel/look/perform. However, this may be easier said than done, especially after the holidays (I’ll be honest with you: it can be a bumpy ride even under perfect conditions). So, here are some tips you can use to make things easier on yourself.

Right after the holidays, you’re probably on sugar overload, so Priority #1 is taking care of that. During the first week, remove anything that tastes sweet, except fruit, from your nutrition. This includes: white/brown sugar, honey, fructose, stevia – all sorts of sweeteners, whether natural or processed – and anything containing such ingredients. In short, if it tastes sweet, don’t eat/drink it! The only exception is whole fruit (not juiced), but limit them to 2 pieces per day. You should feel okay after going 1 week sugar-free, but if you need more time in this phase, feel free to take it.

After that, it’s time to eliminate grains, legumes (i.e. beans), and dairy. Depending on your body, choose the most damaging food group and remove it from your plate first. Every 1-2 weeks, eliminate one more group until you are eating 100% Paleo. If you have other sensitivities – to food groups such as FODMAPs or nightshades – get rid of them in a similar manner.

In my case, for instance, I don’t eat legumes anyway, so I ignored them, and I’m not lactose intolerant, but I am sensitive to grains. Therefore, the latter was the first thing to go for me after getting rid of sugar. I still ate cheese for a while until I felt ready to eliminate it.

If you transition this way, by stages, you probably won’t experience any withdrawal symptoms. However, if you’re feeling spaced out, lightheaded or dizzy, your body may need more salt, more carbs, or more of both. So, add a baked sweet potato and a little bit of salt to your plate, and enjoy 🙂