The Paleo Diet is all the rage currently, especially in the crossfit community. The premise of the paleo diet is that our prehistoric ancestors never had an obesity problem– They survived off the land and fueled their bodies appropriately enough to be strong enough to hunt dinosaurs, build rock caves, yada yada. Theoretically this sounds great, high protein, lots of veggies, doing as the Neanderthals did, but I believe it has its flaws. First, you’re telling me that a caveman would have had cows for beef–but would not have drank their milk?? That caveman would have found a peanut plant and shoved their noses to it because its a LEGUME? AND you’re telling me, that caveman would have put coconut oil, almonds, and cocoa powder into a rock bowl, mixed it all together, and made “Paleo Cookies” ? Maybe these caveman (whom we are made to believe) were all ripped with shredded 6-packs because the fat ones with horrible genetics were the first eaten by dinosaurs? Oh anyway, I’ve tried this diet and I do not recommend it for athletes. I am just one person, everyone is entitled to their own opinions, and I’m sure there are many people that disagree with me.. But my argument is Athletes need carbs! Carbs are your main source of energy! When I was going strong on a paleo diet for two months my workouts suffered. I was moody and irrationally emotional. I would do anything just for a bowl of oatmeal in the morning. I did not look any different. I wasn’t gaining muscle mass, and I certainly did not feel any better. So I decided that enough was enough.
Don’t get me wrong, I do absolutely agree with the thought of avoiding processed garbage and switching to whole and natural foods.. but placing beans and oats in the same category as candy bars is a bit ridiculous. The paleo diet is great for someone in need of extreme weight loss that lives a sedentary life. Cutting the processed foods from their diet will cause fat loss and make that individual feel better. But, as for athletes that train multiple days a week with a fast carbohydrate metabolism–potatoes and rice will provide energy, not make you fat.
Above is an example of when I was on a paleo diet. (And depending on how strict paleo you are, you may not even consider sweet potatoes and green beans allowed) During the time I was paleo, I did not log my food, worry about calories, or even think about my macro nutrients. All you’re supposed to worry about is consuming natural foods–that don’t include dairy, legumes, or grains. First of all, 2630 calories is way too many for me if my goal isn’t bulking. The appropriate calories needed to maintain my bodyweight is 2250. Secondly, 170f OF FAT?! WITHOUT A CHEAT MEAL?! Again, if my objective is to maintain or cut weight–this is not appropriate. Fat should NEVER be your highest macro, even if you are trying to bulk.
I put IIFYM, or “If it fits your macros” and clean eating together in this post because that is what I do– I eat very clean, bodybuilding-type staples the majority of the time, and on occasion, when I’m having a craving I am able to “fit” a treat into my macros. I realize these are technically two separate diets, but I’m putting them together as one– get over it. IIFYM gets a lot of negative feedback because people have the idea that people use it to solely survive off of crap like poptarts and oreos. If you actually balanced your macros out, sure, you can have these treats. BUT, you have to eat pretty darn clean the remainder of your meals to make them FIT while still having calories and meals leftover for the rest of the day. Yes, in order to have junk food “allowed” without technically “cheating” on your diet, you have to work the numbers. That means, I ate very clean all day– egg whites, cottage chicken, chicken, veggies, you know , the works– I now have left over carbohydrates and fats that I am allowed.. SO, I can eat whole wheat toast with avocado, or I can have a treat, like a poptart or cookies! Unlike the paleo diet, there are no restrictions.
This diet is a lot healthier for your mental sanity once you get past the measuring and food logging part. Being too restrictive with a diet could lead you into a diet roller coaster of diet and binge eating. This diet is great for providing your body with exactly what it requires for the goal you have in mind–whether bulking, cutting, or maintaining weight. Below is an example of my day while counting macros and following an IIFYM diet. You will notice the majority of my meals are clean, but I was able to add in Oreo Cookies as a treat!
“But Rachael, what if one were to follow a paleo style of IIFYM” Honestly, this would probably be the best scenario, but it would be tough! Cutting out all processed foods and filling your macros with whole and natural foods– you would definitely reap the health benefits! You would need to eat A LOT of vegetables and sweet potatoes to fill up your carb allotment, but it could be done. I personally can tell you that I will not be giving it a try. As I mentioned above, knowing how restrictive the paleo diet is, I wouldn’t be able to maintain and would spend my days feeling guilty about “cheating” on my diet with a bowl of oatmeal. The less stress the better when it comes to healthy eating and diets. You are less likely to end up on the diet roller coaster!