Thursday, 21 February 2013

The Paleo Diet – What’s it all about?

Gaining more and more popularity these days is the Paleo Diet (also referred to as the caveman diet, the primal diet, or paleo 2.0); and for good reason.

Although everyone’s different, and what works for one person may not work for another (I’m sure you can think of an example of someone who’s had success with a diet that just didn’t work for you), this diet pre-dates all of the modern “diets” that tell you to cut back on fat, increase your carbs, decrease your carbs, increase protein, increase fat etc etc.

The Paleo diet looks back at how we’ve evolved. What were we eating for the hundreds of thousands of years that we were evolving into who we are today?

Through common sense, studies of other primate diets, study of fossils, anthropological accounts of modern-day hunter-gatherers, and examination of our own biochemistry, this diet whittles it down to the only options we would have had available to eat during our evolution.

The Paleo diet cuts out any foods that wouldn’t have been available to us – anything processed, grains, dairy, refined sugars, and foods only made available to us through agriculture.

Instead, it focuses on the ONLY foods that would have been available – fresh meat, seafood, seasonal fruits and vegetables, nuts and seeds.

Now although we are all different, common sense tells us that eating the way we’ve evolved to eat will be optimal for our health, all of us. Put simply, you’d have a hard time getting fat if you stuck to just those foods that were available to us 10,000 years ago.

So the Paleo diet focuses on real foods, and avoids any and all “modern” foods that have only been around since the introduction of agriculture and modern processing techniques.

The emphasis is on lean meats, and fresh vegetables; along with some fruit, nuts and seeds (which would have been available during certain seasons).

By eating the way we were designed to eat, your body will function optimally. Feed it the right fuel and you’ll have more energy, think more clearly, lose weight if you’re overweight, gain weight if you’re underweight. Everything works as it’s supposed to.

Not only will eating this way strengthen your immune system, but cutting out the toxins and stresses of modern foods will also make you less susceptible to illness; meaning you won’t get sick as often, and if you do, it won’t be nearly as bad because your body can deal with it efficiently.

There’s a reason this diet is gaining momentum, and it’s because it makes sense. Anyone following the dietary recommendations laid out in this plan will see great results, not just in terms of weight, but body composition and shape, health, energy levels, resistance to disease, and general well-being.

I strongly advise anyone with an interest in improving their health to take a serious look at the Paleo diet and give it a try. You won’t regret it.

Bear in mind that since we are all different, once you’ve got the basic principles down, it might be worth tweaking the meal proportions and timings to suit your individual needs (this is where the protein/carb/fat ratios come into play). But to begin with, focus on eliminating all non-paleo foods, and eating only the foods that were available to us since the beginning.

Basically there is no one, perfect diet that will suit everybody, but it’s my belief that there are still underlying principles that are true for everyone, and the paleo diet covers these principles perfectly. Cut out the crap, and eat real food.

Wednesday, 20 February 2013

Are you exercising but still not losing weight?

I see this all the time; people training hard, but still carrying excess body fat.

This could be down to the type of training you’re doing, and if you’re training at a low intensity, or just sticking to traditional cardio (running, cycling, aerobics etc.) then this could well be the case, but more often than not, it comes down to your diet.

You can’t out-train a bad diet

If you really want to get results from your training efforts, then you really need to be taking care of your diet. This doesn’t mean eating less (calories are, for the most part, irrelevant), it means eating better.

If you’re eating anything that your body sees as a toxin (sugar, alcohol, processed foods) then what isn’t excreted will be stored… in your fat cells. Our bodies are amazing in that they can deal with the huge array of insults we throw at them every day - stress, poor quality food, germs and bacteria, pollution etc., but there is a limit to how much they can deal with and process/excrete before they start to fall behind. That's when the excess toxins get stored and layers of fat build up.

Eat more toxins and your body stores more fat. Eat no toxins, and your body can start to break down and release the stored toxins (from your fat). So they key here is to eat healthy foods that won’t toxify your body and lead to storing more fat (even if they’re “low-calorie”!).

We need a toxin deficit, not a calorie deficit, to lose weight

These toxic foods also tend to be acidic in nature, causing your body more stress to counter the acid and retain its ideal pH level. This will also lead to fat storage, low energy levels, and osteoporosis.

In short, you need to give your body a chance to release stored toxins by (ideally) eliminating, or at least reducing the toxic load on the body. This means cutting out sugary and processed foods (and drinks), alcohol, cigarettes, and any intolerances or allergies (N.B. wheat and dairy are two VERY common intolerances that you may well not be aware you have. You can find out by simply eliminating them from your diet for 30 days and then testing your reaction when you re-introduce them).

Eat plenty of vegetables and low GL (Glycemic Load) fruits such as tomatoes, avocados, grapefruit, kiwi, plums, and berries, and ensure you get plenty of good fats to help protect your cells from acid damage. 

I recommend you only cook with coconut oil, and use extra-virgin olive oil cold (i.e. in salads), and include flaxseed, eggs, fish, avocados, nuts and seeds in your diet.

Once you reduce the amount of toxins you're consuming to a level below what your body can deal with, it will start to release and filter out stored toxins, and weight (fat) loss will follow. It's at this point that any increase in exercise will accelerate the process.

If you want help with either training or diet visit my website