During a recent conversation with Matt, Charter Oak CrossFit’s nutritionist, about overall health, an idea was posed that I decided to turn into a personal challenge.
Follow a modified Paleo diet, dubbed by Matt as a “Primal Diet”.
See if following a modified diet to reduce potential food allergens, optimize nutrient density, and generally reduce systemic inflammation could improve my mental clarity and performance and cause favorable metabolic shifts in energy utilization.
This “Primal Diet” would follow the traditional Paleo format: eat meat and vegetables, nuts and seeds, some fruit, little starch, and no sugar… with a few modifications (thus “Primal Diet” vs. Paleo). The reason for this challenge, besides doing it for the experience, was to see how a change in diet would effect the way I feel. I am not looking for weight loss or gain, and with such a short duration nor am I doing it for longevity or performance (at least not yet). My goal in this challenge is to simply see how I feel and to evaluate how my mind and body react to a shift in lifestyle.
Paleo normally says no to legumes (beans). Beans contain phytates (phylic acid) and lectins which can bind to nutrients and prevent their absorption. They can also cause intestinal inflammation. However, if the beans are soaked, like most canned beans are, then these molecules are abated. For this reason, I opted to keep beans in my diet.
Peanut butter, while not considered Paleo, is also still in my diet. I have opted to eat the natural kind where the only ingredient is, you guessed it, peanuts. The concern is the same as with all other legumes, but when the peanuts are roasted prior to being blended into delicious peanut butter, some of that pesky phylic acid is reduced.
Ultimately, legumes are a good source of protein, carbohydrates, fiber, and fat. They are also considered to be a highly satiating food, which means that for relatively low calories they make you feel fuller longer. For me this is great because I am a notorious snacker.
For the purpose of my 1 month challenge, I have decided to take the “NO SUGAR” part of the Paleo diet very seriously. Although things like raw honey and 100% pure maple syrup are Paleo, they’re out for me during this one month period. I am also limiting fruit because of its sugar (even though natural) content. This tweak is more of a “just because” and unlike the previous tweaks to my diet, this one is actually more limiting.
Breakfast is pretty consistent: 3-4 strips of nitrate free bacon, 3 eggs, and either a whole avocado or “wholly guacamole” single serving (easy for traveling to the gym or firehouse). Lunch is some form of meat, a whole bunch of vegetables and maybe some form of bean. Dinner is similar to lunch with the substitute of a starch, usually sweet potato in place of the bean product. So far the only fruit I have consumed has been bananas, which pairs very well with my natural peanut butter as a snack.
As I am writing this, I am starting week two. Week one was fairly easy. I made sure to binge eat of all the Girl Scout cookies I ordered and had a pizza the weekend before I started, so when Monday came, I was excited to start. To be honest, this way of eating is not too far off from my normal eating habits. The big changes are eliminating some of the starches I normally eat like rice, corn tortillas, and white potatoes. The other big change is dairy. Before this week I would have told you I did not eat a lot of dairy, but after just one week, I realized that this is not true. Half & Half in my coffee at work, cheese on my homemade tacos or parmesan on something have been staples in my diet that were wiped out this week. I also had to eliminate my treats. Although I eat health 99% of the time, I would treat myself ever now and then, whether it be a donut with coffee, or sneaking a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup with my wife after dinner. That treat once or twice a week is something I already miss!
Overall I feel great. My workout performance has stayed consistent despite this week’s diet change. I feel like I have more energy throughout the day and don’t hit mid-day lows which used to occur every now and then. I also feel like I have been able to focus more with better memory recall. It’s just the first week and all in all, its going great and I am looking forward to seeing how the next week goes!