How many avocados can I eat in a day? How much red meat? How many uses for coconut oil do I have in my kitchen (and do I get bonus points for putting it in my coffee?)? These are all questions from the mind of a Paleo eater. I say “eater” and not “dieter”, because we all hate the word “diet” by now as well as everything it implies: restriction…perfection…control. And I use the word “Paleo” because it has become the mainstream label for the high fat, low carbohydrate way of eating that has taken hold in many corners of the world, not least of which is the endurance sport world/Tim Noakes fan club (see yesterday’s post about Prof. Noakes and his discoveries.)
The question at the very core of every athlete’s search for the right way to eat is: what will make me perform at the top of my ability, and feel good doing it? I heard today on a favorite podcast of ours, Paleorunner.com, an interview with trainer Debbie Potts that when she used to compete in triathlons following a carbo-load session, she would often vomit off the side of her bike and think to herself, well, I guess I just didn’t need those calories. Honestly, not such a misguided thought, especially while competing in such a mentally and physically taxing sport. But upon further thought, a body in motion should not have to vomit out unneeded fuel to stay in motion. So – and this is for those of us who are finding out one way or another that carbohydrates are not tolerated well or perhaps aren’t the best fuel source for endurance exercise – maybe the answer is FAT. It’s called Metabolic Efficiency and it refers to improving your body’s ability to use fat as fuel. Yes, it is possible, and it might even be the most optimal way for your body to operate under stress (i.e. exercise). And once that warm, satisfied feeling of self-discovery has washed over your body, you might feel another question arise: …so where do I get all the FAT?
But pasta is just so easy! And bagels!! And cookies!!! Does this mean I need to grill a burger every time I want a snack? And only ever have Slim Jim’s to take with me in my bag/purse/car? Well, only if you want to. One of the exciting things about high fat-low carb eating is the change in hunger signals. Fat and protein increase satiety, to begin with. Second, the blood sugar swings. Let’s avoid those at all costs. So, eating this high fat diet might actually change your relationship with food – ever wake up in the middle of the night, during a high volume training season, famished and sleepily in need of a bowl of breakfast cereal? Our bodies have a lot more fat stored on them than carbohydrates (specifically 80,000 of fat to 1,500 of carbs, give or take), so you’re hard-working, calorie-torching body will be able to make it through the night without running out of fuel to keep your organs working while you sleep. If you shift your macronutrient load from carbohydrates to fats, you’d do well to note how often your body gets hungry, the intensity of that hunger, and the timing.
A sample Trimax meal plan (an alternative to the Ironman eating plan, which – no offense to the great Ironman – seemed a little grain heavy at breakfast):
Breakfast: 3 eggs with sliced 1/2 avocado (in a rush? Hardboiled eggs and any portable veggies: carrot sticks, grape tomatoes, 1/2 cucumber)
Snack: Celery with almond butter (don’t go too crazy with the nut butters – keep it to 2 tbsp)
Lunch: Green salad with tons of veggies and seeds (sunflower! hemp! pumpkin!), plus protein of choice (i.e. grilled chicken, turkey, salmon, hardboiled eggs, etc)
Snack: Handful (or two) of berries
Dinner: Grass-fed beef or bison with steamed kale and mashed cauliflower (use coconut oil or grass-fed butter in your faux-tatoes!)