Hey tribe, question for ya…
What motivates you to get to the gym everyday? Health? Strength and stamina? What about looking good in a bathing suit? For that matter, how about looking good naked? Bingo!
That’s totally ok.. It’s not a bad thing to want to look good. Appearance is a powerful motivator. Obviously it can be taken too far as with anything, but I think its fair to say that one of the biggest reasons we get our butts to class day in and day out, put ourselves through the wringer with exercise and diet is to make us feel more confident about our appearance.
We all have desires; career, relationship, personal, etc. Coming into this world to create the life we want and mastering one’s self is the code we get to spend our lifetime cracking.
That means what you choose to eat is just as important as what you choose to do for a living or how you choose to spend your free time. All too often I see members and clients alike showing up to workout with admirable consistency, yet remain physically unchanged after months, sometimes years of dedicated training.
A little subtle probing almost always reviles the answer; poor diet. Not surprising really, and theoretically easy to fix. However, we are creatures of habit, and despite our best intentions we all too often resort back to default patterns.
So, what do we do?
Given the undisputed evidence supporting a sound diet, first we need to get clear on what diet is going to best support our unique goals and body type. Next, we need to set ourselves up for success.
Don’t look at a new diet as a complete sea change that happens overnight. Otherwise you’ll be left with a formidable void that will no doubt find you in a moment of weakness elbow deep in a box of your favorite snack just days into your resolution.
Instead, think of crowding out the bad with the good. For example: Just commit to eating a salad everyday. Once that becomes the new norm try adding in a few extra glasses of water throughout your day. Once thats no longer a problem, incorporate eggs or a protein shake for breakfast, and Presto!
Within a few short weeks your new diet is in full effect with no trace of that evil void.
Once you’ve reached the basics of nutrition I just mentioned and are ready to take it to the next level, there are 2 diets in my opinion as a trainer for 10 years that have reigned supreme in terms of efficacy and overall heath.
Paleo and Zone
First, lets talk Paleo
In a nut shell (no pun intended) its meat, vegetables, nuts, seeds and some fruit. The idea being that we as humans did the majority of our genetic evolution during the paleolithic area where our hunter/gatherer ancestors lived mainly from tracking and eating plants and animals.
Makes sense, right? Especially when you consider how long evolution takes to make a significant change in a species and the fact that in parts of Africa there are still hunter gatherer tribes alive today.
In the book “Born to run” author Christopher Mcdougall lays out a compelling case that humans are in fact, endurance predators. With our unique self cooling ability to sweat combined with our Achilles tendon and nuchal ligaments which are mainly found on running animals, along with both type 1 & type 2 muscle fibers.
Type 1 being for long distance running and type 2 being for explosive sprints or “going in for the kill” as McDougall calls it.
A study in the Journal Of Applied Physiology Vol. 104 compliments this theory by showing the surge in hormones we experience while sprinting. Quadrupeds (4 legged animals) especially hoofed ones have no ability to self cool as they run and therefor can only run short distances before they must stop to recover, giving humans (or endurance predators) the evolutionary advantage when it came to tracking and catching them. We would literally run them to death.
In my opinion this diet works wonders for people looking to drop weight and get healthy. The biggest reason is because there are no grains or sugar which are arguably the biggest cause of our current health epidemics. Once you become “fat adapted” as Mark Sisson of Mark’s Daily Apple calls it, you turn into a fat burning machine.
However, I think even Sisson would agree that an “ultra low carb diet” under 100 grams a day, isn’t necessarily the best option for performance athletes. For this I would recommend:
The ZONE Diet
This ones a little trickier. It involves a calorie ratio of 40% carbs, 30% protein, 30% fat, eaten in portions called “blocks”.
Each block consists of 9g of carbs, 7g of protein and 3g of fat. The number of blocks you eat depends on your size.
All foods are categorized and its up to you to pick the type of proteins/carbs/fats you wish to eat and measure them out in proper potion sizes bases on the number of blocks you should be eating. You need a healthy foundation in task management for this one. However, if you are an athlete who’s exerting energy as fast as you’re consuming it, then this diet may give you the competitive edge you need to keep performing.
The reason I wouldn’t recommend the 40/30/30 ratio or “zone” diet unless you’re consistently training hard 4 or more times a week is because carbohydrates are fast energy, pure and simple.
Unfortunately our evolution hasn’t caught up to modern abundance yet, and therefor our bodies are still wired for scarcity. Meaning that as a survival mechanism we store that extra unused energy (carbs) as body fat until the day comes when we need it. The reality is that day rarely, if ever comes, but the stockpile keeps building.
The Ultimate Combo Zone AND Paleo (Zoleo?)
Personally, what works great for me is a hybrid between the two. I avoid grains especially ones containing gluten, but because I am a coach, athlete and inherently thin guy, I maintain a moderate level of carbohydrates in my daily diet. I keep it around 150 grams a day. Mainly from yams, rice and some fruit. I try to keep my protein levels north of 150 grams a day and eat all the nuts and vegetables I want.
If you look at ZONE and Paleo as dietary parameters, or a continuum of sorts, you can gage which direction to lean toward based on your exertion levels. For instance; If your goal is pure performance then you might want to turn your dial more towards Zone, but if you look at exercise a bit more casually, but want to stay trim then shifting your diet towards Paleo will be your best option. If you’re like me then you’ll most likely land somewhere in the middle.