In a recent CC post, Max discussed his movement from a strict “Paleo” diet to becoming more flexible with food based on a variety of factors including food availability and what the effects of specific foods are on his body (acne, upset stomach, etc.). Both of us are athletic and we workout regularly, both using CrossFit and olympic weightlifting workouts. So I wanted to give you guys my point of view on the Paleo Diet, as it is very similar to Max’s.
So, as a review, I was introduced to the Paleo and Primal lifestyles in high school by my trainer Blair O’Donovan (shoutout to Blair!!). What it really was for me was cutting out the candy and dessert and eating more veggies and less bread. I struggled through high school to find the right fueling system for my workouts, but generally used sweet potatoes as my post workout carbs. For a while, that did just fine, But as I got older, grew bigger, grew hungrier, I was hungry during the day and after dinner. While I definitely felt healthier and looked healthier and more fit, as I transitioned into college and my workouts got more demanding and more intense, I needed to change the way I ate.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m extremely grateful for Blair, who broke down my diet to the bare bones and allowed me to figure out what worked for me as time went on. It’s not like I wanted to change my diet to eating only candy and cookies now. I needed more fuel and found that putting in more carbs around my workouts was what I really needed.
Fact–I’m a college student, so like I’ve said in many previous posts, food options can sometimes be less than desirable. It would be ridiculous to say “Oh well, I can’t eat strict Paleo, Caveman food, so I’m not going to eat at all.” Instead, it would make more sense to be flexible based on what the options are in the Dining Hall day-to-day. I still live by the JERF (Just Eat Real Food) motto, but if I had to choose between meat that was grain-fed or no protein at all, I’m going with the meat. End of story.
Second, I consider myself an athlete; I work out 6 days a week and to be honest, I was not really feeling energized on less than 100 grams of carbohydrates per day. After doing some of my own experimenting with the Harris-Benedict Equation I figured out that I should really be taking in 300+ grams of carbs per day to successfully fuel the level of activity I participate in. I did a little tweaking and figured that just about my sweet spot is right between 275 and 300g of carbs per day, depending on how active I am that day/week.
If you wanted to be strict Paleo and fuel to that level of carbs, you would have to eat about 15 medium sized sweet potatoes. Multiply that by 6 days of exercise per week and you’re looking at 90 sweet potatoes per week. That’s 4680 sweet potatoes per year! By rough calculation, you could be looking at spending more than $500 per year on sweet potatoes alone strictly for yourself!!
Could you imagine having to down that many sweet potatoes in one sitting?? Well I can’t. And on top of that, sometimes I wanted a faster digesting carb because I had just worked out and needed to fuel quickly. So I needed to figure out a better way to fuel. Enter J.E.R.F.A.L.O.C. and Eating to Perform.
The acronym is a mouthful, but it makes sense to me. Just eat real food and lots of carbs. Might sound a little silly, but I found it necessary to maintain the high level of performance I was seeking in the gym, pool, and on the track. If you’re not an athlete, don’t follow this, but if you do CrossFit or triathlons or any other form of intense exercise, you need to be fueling right. That’s where a system like the one below came into play for me.
Eat to Perform
This is pretty simple. The phrase literally means eating to fuel your chosen activity. On the simplest level, everything you put into your body will either be stored as fat or used for energy. If you’re fueling correctly and using the right foods to fuel your body at rest and during exercise, you will see massive energy improvements and performance improvements as well. Eating to Perform is just one phrase for what is generally pretty simple. To be an athlete (competitive or not), you need energy. Energy doesn’t come from thin air–so eat your carbs!!
What kind of workouts are you fueling? What has your experience been with a low carb diet and fueling that activity? Share your thoughts below.