We’re not in the business of telling you what to do (I guess we are, when it comes to weight on the bar or burpees). What I mean is this – when it comes to food and how you feel, no one knows your body and your life and your history better than you do and NONE of us can care about the state of things MORE THAN YOU CARE. Below, we offer information about a lot of things you can experiment with to feel/look/perform better. We’ve divided these into different “levels,” hopefully to make things a little easier to wrap your head around, but it’s up to you to figure out what you want to focus on for the duration of your journey with CF915. If you eat Subway for lunch and McDonald’s every night for dinner, and you want to commit to cooking all your food, that’s a great place to begin (Level 1 – eat whole, fresh real food!). If you already make your food at home but you’re still eating a lot of sandwiches and oatmeal, perhaps consider starting at Level 2 and replacing those with less refined options. Already eating a pretty “Paleo” diet but maaaaybe the beer sneaks in and every weekend you have a cookie or some candy? See how it feels to really, without slips, drop sugar and gluten for an entire month.
Here’s what Whole9 thinks about the idea of 30 days of commitment.
Certain food groups (like sugar, grains, dairy and legumes) could be having a negative impact on your health and fitness without you even realizing it. Are your energy levels inconsistent or non-existent? Do you have aches and pains that can’t be explained by over-use or injury? Are you having a hard time losing weight no matter how hard you try? Do you have some sort of condition (like skin issues, digestive ailments, seasonal allergies or fertility issues) that medication hasn’t helped? These symptoms may be directly related to the foods you eat – even the “healthy” stuff. So how do you know if (and how) these foods are affecting you?
Strip them from your diet completely. Cut out all the psychologically unhealthy, hormone-unbalancing, gut-disrupting, inflammatory food groups for a full 30 days. Let your body heal and recover from whatever effects those foods may be causing. Push the “reset” button with your metabolism, systemic inflammation, and the downstream effects of the food choices you’ve been making. Learn once and for all how the foods you’ve been eating are actually affecting your day to day life, and your long term health.
WHAT DOES FOOD DO? HOW DOES IT MAKE YOU FEEL?
- Insulin and Glucagon (video)
- Sleep, Cortisol, Testosterone, and Growth Hormone
- The Truth About Fat (a video, hint: it doesn’t make you fat – and yup, saturated fat may not be as bad as we thought)
WHAT IS INFLAMMATION? WHAT DOES IT HAVE TO DO WITH BODY COMPOSITION?
A basic definition of Paleo. (the truncated version of the below)
For those of you who want to skip the details and get right to the WHAT CAN I EAT PART: a Quick Start Guide.
AN ORDER OF OPERATIONS FOR QUELLING INFLAMMATION – start at the top, work your way down. The more you avoid certain things at the top, the closer you are to knowing what happens when your body is recovering at its best. The more you your body recovers, the better you feel and the better you are at achieving any number of life and performance goals that are important to you.
Level 1. Focus on eating REAL, WHOLE, FRESH FOODS.
The less that your body has to work twice as hard to recognize and “dissect” a food intro pieces it can handle, the more likely you are to digest it easily and therefore not waste energy or valuable defense mechanisms in dealing with a food. Here’s a more thorough blurb on “whole foods” as a foundation of a healthy diet. What are whole foods? Check out this list or, take a cue from many a paleo grocery shopper and stick to the perimeter of the grocery store: eat nothing from a box or package – that is, if it doesn’t have a face, or if you literally can’t imagine growing it and eating it yourself, you probably shouldn’t be eating it in the first place.
Level 2. Avoid all PROCESSED, REFINED FOODS.
AVOID GLUTEN: if there’s one thing that I would actually BEG you to try if you never have, it would be to give up gluten in your diet. If you must know why – there’s a whole HOST of actual reasons…(the below scratches the surface) but if you don’t need to know why, just DO IT and see what happens.
- Why is Gluten Bad? – from a woman who lifts a LOT of weight and loves cupcakes.
- A very concise guide on what gluten is, where it shows up, and how to know whether or not you may be sensitive to it.
- 11 ways Wheat and Gluten can damage your health.
- If it absolutely kills you to think of life without bread, first of all, no one’s forcing you to do anything, secondly, it’s not like you’ll never be able to have bread and it’s also not as if suddenly all desserts are thrown out the window.
- A more “manly” look at Gluten from T-Nation author, Mike Roussell.
- The Grain Manifesto from Whole9 Life, a well put together explanation of why most people who care about you and know enough about gluten, don’t consider cake a very nice birthday present at all (well-meaning, but yes, misled).
- Much more information on Gluten from Mark’s Daily Apple, along with links to threads on related topics.
- Gluten and Autoimmune Disease, Autoimmune Diseases, grouped together, are the third largest cause of death in the U.S.
AVOID SEED OILS: seed oils are processed at extremely high temperatures which causes them to oxidize and become highly inflammatory once digested. Saturated Fats are actually some of the most stable fats you can digest. The more stable the fat, the less likely your chances of incurring cellular damage as a result of having ingested it. No, you shouldn’t start swigging bacon fat, but yes, you should begin to examine the truth behind what fat is and how too much of it can create a caloric binge, too little of it can cause the hormones that are most responsible for keeping you well to rebel, and the wrong kind altogether may just be the principal cause of heart disease in our nation today.
- Why is vegetable oil not the best option?
- Paleo Guide to Fats and Oils. A quick look and something great to print out for your fridge.
- So what CAN you cook with? PLENTY – check it out.
- The Definitive Guide to Fats from Mark’s Daily Apple. Along with MANY other helpful examinations of our thoughts as a nation on Fat.
- Why are whole seeds not as potentially harmful as seed oils? Oxidization.
- Check out the process by which canola oil (often championed as being one of the “healthiest cooking oils because of its low level of saturated fat”) is made. The smoke of the oil is actually oxidization happening – NOT GOOD.
- The Bacon Manifesto from Whole9.
- The Butter Manifesto from Whole9. – and no, that doesn’t mean all of you will be avoiding butter!
- Why You Got Fat (a youtube video from the movie, Fathead) – and no, fat that you eat does not magically become fat on your body!
- For More on How Fat effects Mood and a Host of other Common Disorders, check out Dr. Emily Deans.
AVOID CHEMICAL SWEETENERS: Once you’ve eliminated things that are potentially pretty harmful to your gut as they are, it’s time to take a look at your sugar intake (and by extension, your insulin levels). As weird as it sounds, fake sugar is the first step. If you’re reading this with a can of diet coke in hand, fear not: people have lived through where you are to where you can be – and they have not suffered for it.
- Artificial Sweeteners aren’t even a big hit with the Mayo Clinic.
- Heartburn, GERD, Gut Issues, and what Artificial Sweeteners, and FRUCTOSE (yes, the sugar in High Fructose Corn Syrup but also present in all Fruit) can do.
- A breakdown of many sweeteners specific to their “active ingredient” and why they can and do effect insulin.
AVOID SUGAR: This is a tough one, but be aware that sugar can take many forms: glucose in vegetables, fructose in fruits, lactose in milk, etc. Weening yourself off of a constant stream of sugar (note: it’s not that we NEVER want you to have a sweet thing in your life!) may be the hardest thing you’ve ever done, but in the end, it MUST be done for optimal health, and is something that MOST of you will find entirely fine after the first few weeks of struggle, and HUGELY relevant in the fight for feeling and looking your best.
- What is insulin resistance? a video by Robb Wolf. Why does sugar withdrawal happen? Why do sweet potatoes suddenly taste SO sweet when you’re not dumping 15 sugars in your coffee(s)?
- The Definitive Guide to Sugar from Mark’s Daily Apple.
- How Sugar can Suppress Your Immune System, I’d be willing to bet this is REALLY why we get sick around the holidays!
- What does all of this have to do with diabetes?
- It could be a really great idea (for more than just lean body composition purposes) to lay off the fruit. Learn more here – and yes the video linked in the article is FOREVER long, but it is actually REALLY fascinating if you have the time.
- Sugar, Sugar, Sugar – how sugar hides in your foods, from Whole9.
- Sugar Tantrums – your body is going to do EVERYTHING it can to get sugar because it’s the EASIEST fuel we burn, don’t let it happen!
Level 3. EAT TO SUPPORT DIGESTION/GUT HEALTH.
The following three food groups are ones that you may not even REALIZE are giving you trouble until you try to eliminate them. IF you’ve gotten rid of all the other stuff we discussed above and you’re still having trouble, consider the following (ESPECIALLY if you have an autoimmune condition):
AVOID LEGUMES: It’s at the end of the list because it’s not the END of the WORLD if you eat peas. In fact, you may feel worse after eating brussel sprouts than you do after eating peas… but that’s a WHOLE other ballgame. If you have come this far and you are curious about what being at your best is really like, the BIG legumes are below.
- The Legume Manifesto, from Whole9. Including SOY.
- Read it and weep, the Peanut Manifesto.
- What’s the matter with nuts anyway? from Chris Kresser.
- Beans and Legumes for the Curious Vegetarian – from Mark’s Daily Apple.
- Why do lectins HATE me? I LOOOVE them – from Mark’s Daily Apple. (Lectins are the active ingredient in most legumes that can trigger an inflammatory response in the body).
- Soaking and Sprouting Legumes, if you were going to have them and if you were going to make the time.
AVOID DAIRY: For those of you who were fortunate enough to be able to digest lactose, I congratulate you on being able to have fun at various dairy-ridden parties as a kid. Many of you, are in my camp, and find that dairy, no matter which way you swing it, isn’t your friend. If you’ve come this far you’re used to the idea of just trying things to see if they help, KNOWING in full that you can keep putting heavenly full fat grass-fed cream in your coffee for years to come should you choose to do so.
- The Definitive Guide to Dairy, from Mark’s Daily Apple.
- Dairy and Insulin, from Mark’s Daily Apple.
- Dairy, a perspective from Chris Kresser – this one is slightly different than the above.
- The Dairy Manifesto, from Whole9 – they are, on the whole, a lot more strict about this mainly because they aim to give their audience the highest in restrictions if they lead to the most return from an autoimmune perspective.
- On the more practical end, from Loren Cordain, one of the foremost researchers on “Paleo”, the Adverse Effects of Milk
- And, from Dr. Kurt Harris, a kind of rebuttal to Cordain’s response.
- From CaveGirlEats, on Synergy. Many differ in opinion on the matter of dairy and “paleo”, but what works for YOU is what’s best for you. Ultimately, there is no one solution for everyone, and anyone who tells you different is selling something.
AVOID NON GLUTEN GRAINS: Once you’re good on living a life without gluten, you can move on and attempt to examine whether or not some of the non-gluten grains are a good idea. Most find that a few are ok, and many are not.
- Rice – the lowdown on this is that most are fine to digest it, and some even NEED it in lieu of potatoes, and other commonly “ok” paleo dense carb sources… if a lean body composition is your primary goal you may want to examine your intake – that said, here are some helpful thoughts:
- Corn – Corn is Not a Vegetable from Mark’s Daily Apple. Super-sweet, super-modified, and pretty devoid of any substantial nutritional content, corn just isn’t worth it. It’s not the devil, but it’s not really worth TRYING to include in your diet for any reason at all.
- Alternative to Grains: including a question about quinoa, and the fact that being healthy does not always equate with being “low carb”, healthy carb choices are important for many athletes!
Level 4. Support blood sugar regulation – aka, how MUCH should I be eating?
It’s true that it’s really hard to overeat real, whole foods (who cracks out on carrots and chicken breasts, after all) but at some point, whether your goal is to lean out or get big, you may need to start playing with the amount of food you’re eating at every meal.
- There are some details about how to determine body fat here, along with some suggestions on just how much you need. Basically, it’s .8-1g of PRO per pound of LEAN (NOT TOTAL) bodyweight, at least 50g of FAT a day – and sometimes more -, and anywhere from 100-150g of CHO today depending on your size/activitylevel/goals.
1. Meat Consumption vs. No Meat Consumption. No matter who you are or how you eat, I can pretty much guarantee you there’s a very good chance that you could do better: more protein of some kind, less sugar in some way, more high quality meat in more meals, and/or less cooking with oils that irritate you and cause your recovery to drop. Here are some thoughts from those wiser than I:
- An entire podcast about whether Red Meat is “bad” for you – Chris Kresser.
- One vegetarian’s perspective on doing “Paleo” without meat – yep, you read that right.
- Some thoughts on specific morally based food restrictions from Robb Wolf – (video).
- Meat and Colon Cancer, how studies on topics like these work – thoughts from Robb Wolf (video).
- Really everything you need to know is right here! – from Chris Kresser.
- Really helpful podcast, PART 1. PART 2. PART 3.
- Robb Wolf Meal Plan Shopping Guides – for all KINDS of people, all KINDS of options.
- If you’re feeling like you’re going to be bored with your food – check out the FOOD MATRIX.
- 15 Delicious Lettuce Wrap Ideas – from Balanced Bites
- All kinds of options that you can make without much trouble at all – from the Primal Palate.
- This olive oil makes ALL salads DELICIOUS.
- If you think you’re going to be stuck at any point in time without a meal that will suit you – try these great snack ideas from Whole9Life.
- Paleo on a Budget Ideas – a bunch, including one about involving a CSA in your life. CSA season is about to come to a close but we’ll talk a lot about these next spring!
- A slew of very cheap, very easy, very tasty paleo meals. – as a start.
- A kind of narrative comparison of a typical American diet week of eating vs. a Paleo diet week of eating – hint: it’s not REALLY that different.
- Can be VERY useful, but should not be attempted as a beginner. ’Nuff said. EAT YOUR FOOD KIDS.
- Here’s a great breakdown on why this is a sensitive topic, from Robb Wolf.
- You HAVE to train. And hard. And in some cases, more frequently or harder than others. You HAVE to eat, most likely WAY more than you’re currently eating…and usually liquid (whey protein included, and straight up dairy for those who aren’t sensitive to it) and in some cases, you have to stop eating sometimes, and then eat a WHOLE lot. The trick is, you ALSO have to rest – only just enough, but not too much. Yup, mass gain is VERY tricky – but it CAN be done!
- Clean Mass Gain from Whole9 – get ready to eat tapioca!!!
- Robb Wolf’s experience with Mass Gain
- Choose your training WISELY(read, STOP chasing the sexy metcon) – you may be the way you are, but be patient, start by learning what to do for 40 days… and BIG things will happen over time (from Eric Cressey – these before and after shots are AMAZING.)
- Can you be leaner, stronger, and faster at the same time? It depends on where you’re starting from – but this is an interesting account from Jocelyn Forest.
- Obviously a frequently asked question! – Balanced Bites
- Paleo and Calcium – with the added mention of bone broth – one of the MOST important parts of any GOOD DIET in my opinion!
- On Supplements. – Chris Kresser – a super-comprehensive post.
- The Coffee Manifesto from Whole9 – not something you HAVE to do, but MAYBE something you could live through trying if EVERYTHING else is going pretty well.
- A personal observation from Melissa Urban on life with caffeine vs. life without it – for FOUR (yup) FOUR months.
- Coffee = Black. (and here’s how to live through it) Yup. If you’re on your fourth week of the challenge, there’s a very good chance you’ve nixed the sugar – AND, the cream. You can definitely do that for 7 days!
- Coffee, Chocolate, Alcohol – ingredients, and Pros and Cons of each!
- Is all chocolate created equal? – from Mark’s Daily Apple.
- For those of you who want to live with other cream options on the regular – Coconut Milk Creamer, and Bulletproof Coffee.
- Choose Your Booze and Alcohol Consumption – from Mark’s Daily Apple.
- The Truth About Alcohol, Fat Loss, and Muscle – if it’s coming on Summertime – you NEED to read this. Testosterone’s a BIG deal and this is not going to say what you think – I guarantee you!
- Drinking on the Paleo Diet – from Robb Wolf, a video.
10. How do I fuel appropriately for workouts and after? The real answer is that it really depends on the time that you train and what your goals are. Here are some good places to start:
- If you are training and feeling extremely sluggish while training, say, in the a.m. or after work, there’s a good chance that you might need to have something small and carb-ey before training – your work output should be better because of this. Good examples of easily-digested, pre-workout food would be a coconut water – (my FAVORITE is TasteNirvana which can be found at this store on Walnut in the VERY back, in a green glass bottle), and, if you’re not worried about fructose in general for body composition purposes, something simple like a banana works as well. If you’re not off coffee for other reasons (see above), it’s not a bad idea to have a bit before training – green tea works as an alternative to this too.
- Fasted Training, though often thought as being the exact opposite of what you’d want to do, can be an awesome tool for body composition. We run sessions that work particularly well for this in the morning on Tuesday and Thursday (our Conditioning only sessions). These are sessions that range in intensity and volume but are generally low enough in volume that if you wanted to, you could attend regular classes later and still be good to go on the strength portion of your training. If you are just recently acclimating yourself to new habits in eating or in training, fasting should NOT be the first habit you start and should be limited to only one day a week at first.
- Generally, if you don’t mind the sluggishness of a morning or an after work workout, this is all you’ll need: BCAAs will greatly assist in your recovery ability, especially if you are not training in a “fed” state. You should be slightly hungry before you take them and then train. If you don’t want to wait for the TrueProtein kind, you can always walk to VitaminShoppe and get some. 10g/5-10g (M/F) 15 minutes both before and after your workout. IN WATER. They will taste bitter. It’s worth it. Try using crystallized lime or lemon to mask the taste. More info on BCAAs is here – they are NOT animal derived, but are chemically created amino acids (the stuff that makes up protein and aids in muscle metabolism, growth, etc.)
11. What is SEX WITH YOUR PANTS ON? Read this. You’ll understand.