Last night I had this awesome dream that I got a PR in a 5K without even training harder– two minutes faster than my most recent 5K. Wahoo! I was floating on air. I woke up with that warm-and-fuzzy feeling you only get whenever you’re having a wonderful dream that you never want to end (only me– haha). I think I had this dream for one of two reasons– one being that I’m considering running my first 5K of the year tomorrow morning and I’m pretty excited about it (not going to lie– it’s supposed to be cold outside tonight and tomorrow morning. I’m a pansy when it comes to running in the cold. So I’m playing it by ear like the pansy that I am). Two being that I fell asleep last night reading my newest book purchase– The Paleo Diet for Athletes by Loren Cordain and Joe Friel– which discusses the positive effects Paleo eating can have on athletic performance.
I bought this book a few weeks ago and haven’t had the chance to read it yet, but I decided to delve into it last night just to briefly discover what I should eat before my chilly-brr 5K tomorrow morning. If I can talk myself into braving the cold for it, of course.
Starting last Monday (2/18), I decided to try out the Paleo way of eating that I’ve been hearing so much about lately. It’s not a fad diet– like the Atkins diet or the Grapefruit diet– it’s a legit common sense way of feeding and nourishing our bodies. The Paleo diet is based on the principle that we as human beings have been given all that we need on this earth to properly fuel and nourish our bodies. We shouldn’t have to “process” anything or concoct our “food” in laboratories. Essentially, we should be eating foods that our hunter/gatherer ancestors ate. Those are the foods that our bodies were designed to eat. Our “caveman” ancestors ate what they were readily provided with– and they didn’t suffer from many of the health issues plaguing our modern-day society such as diabetes, high cholesterol, etc.
Basically, the Paleo diet recommends eating lots of lean meats, eggs, vegetables, and fruits. Grains (yep, I said grains) & starchy carbs, dairy, “bad” fats, legumes and sugars weren’t readily available back-in-the-day, so they should be avoided. There is no strict “definition” of Paleo– just these simple guidelines. And even they can be tweaked to the specific needs of each body.
I’ve been considering eliminating dairy from my diet for a while now for several reasons, but mostly because I’ve heard that dairy aggravates acne. I’m 27 years old and I still break out as much as I did when I was 17. It’s just plain embarrassing. I’ve been eating Greek yogurt every day for a long time now, so it was pretty hard to conceive of parting with it. I’ve also been noticing a lot lately that my brain seem to get “foggy” after I eat any type of grains– even whole wheat bread. My borderline-OCD Google-ing for things like “effects of cutting dairy from diet” and “gluten/grain intolerance symptoms can’t even think straight” led me to the Paleo diet. My first concern about Paleo was that eating a zero-grain diet would mean I wouldn’t have the energy to complete my runs and workouts. However, multiple sources claimed that eating Paleo actually gave them more energy for their workouts (leading me to the above book). This put my mind at ease and actually made me more curious about the diet. I figured eating Paleo seemed simple and promising enough, so I’d give it a try.
Let me tell you that I haven’t eaten “perfectly Paleo” for the past two weeks. I ate a good many peanuts, which are legumes, during the first week (figures the office would stock four jars of peanuts in the break room the week I decide to go Paleo– peanuts and any creamy variation thereof are my biggest weakness!!).
I went to a wedding last weekend with a limited menu, so I was forced (against my will, of course) to eat white potatoes. And a small piece of cake. And maybe a beer or two. It wasn’t my fault!! =D. But for the most part, my diet has followed the general Paleo guidelines.
I have always been a carb lover. Growing up, it was white bread of all kinds for me (bad). For the past few years, it’s been whole wheat bread (better). And, most recently, it’s been Ezekiel bread (best). I AM A GIRL WHO LOVES HER CARBOHYDRATES. I even took a job at Panera in college just for that reason. So when I heard “no-grain,” I immediately thought there was no way I could do ever do Paleo. I’m glad I didn’t throw the idea out right there, though. For me, Paleo’s saving grace is the fact that you can eat sweet potatoes. I LOVE sweet potatoes. You can do so many tasty things with sweet potatoes (check out my sweet potato fry recipe here). I figured as long as I could have my sweet potatoes, I could definitely get by on this way of eating.
Here are a few general observations I’ve made from my first two weeks of semi-Paleo eating:
Eating sweet potatoes, fruits, and vegetables for carbs has definitely seemed to keep me full during the day (no-grain concern #1) and given me plenty of energy for my workouts (no-grain concern #2). In fact, I’ve gone to spin class twice in the past two weeks, and I can honestly say those have been the best two spin classes I can ever remember having. And I’ve been spinning on-and-off for a few years now. I felt like I had so much energy and my muscles didn’t fatigue as quickly as they usually do. Now I’m really anxious to gauge my running-race performance on this way of eating (sounds like another post will be coming your way).
I also feel much less bloated and overall “yucky” since I haven’t been eating dairy. This is one aspect of Paleo that I didn’t skimp on this past week– I’ve had -0- dairy for two weeks. Not only do I feel great, but I haven’t had any new acne outbreaks. I’m not saying that eating Paleo for such a short time has “miraculously cured” my acne– my lack of breakouts could be due to other things as well– but there’s definitely hope in that area.
I do see a noticeable difference in my energy levels since I’ve cut out grains & dairy. I don’t leave work at the end of the day feeling drained. I’ve been able to stay up later and drag myself out of bed feeling much less tired in the mornings.
One other thing I’ve noticed since changing my diet is that my moods have much improved! This could be due to the diet itself or due to the fact that I have more energy– either way, I haven’t had a crabby or grumpy day in quite a while. That’s something I haven’t been able to say in a long time.
Overall, I can say that I haven’t been following a Paleo diet for long enough to make any 100% absolute observations, but I’ve seen enough improvement in enough areas to give me hope that this way of eating will have lasting, positive effects on my overall health and well being in the long term. I’m definitely planning on continuing, and I will be sure to keep y’all updated as time goes on.
Has anyone had any positive (or negative) experiences with Paleo??