Sunday, 20 September 2015

Jump Start Your Paleo Nutrient in 30 Days

07:52 Posted by Dhaval Bhandari
There comes a time in most athletes' training lives when they realize they can't out-train a crappy diet. Whether it's lagging performance, getting a bit softer around the midsection, or a string of injuries that won't go away, there's usually something that causes people to grasp the idea that food matters. In this article, I'll share my top tips for jumpstarting your paleo nutrition in a month and giving yourself a food makeover. As always, consistent dietary change over a long period of time is the best way to make positive shifts that will build a stronger foundation for performance.


Excess sugar, pro-inflammatory industrial seed oil and low nutrient-to-calorie ratios are the hallmarks of the processed junk food that's in your face every time you walk through the supermarket. The first step to jump-starting your nutrition is to eliminate these foods and swap them out for more nutritious options. As someone who's testing themselves with more physical activity than a sedentary person, you need the right macro- and micronutrition to not only fuel your performance but also allow for proper recovery. You need to build muscle and other connective tissue, combat inflammation and refill your fuel tank. If you're subsisting on a diet of protein bars, candy, chips and other junk, you may be getting calories, but you're probably seriously lacking in the micronutrition department.

And while things like shakes and bars can be convenient ways to get a bit of food down the hatch when you're in a pinch, they shouldn't take the place of real food on a regular basis. For 30 days, avoid sugary drinks, candy, protein bars and meal replacers, frozen meals and anything that has a long ingredient list with things you can't identify or pronounce.


If you're eliminating processed foods, what the heck are you going to eat instead? How many times a day should you be eating? While there's no single answer that works perfectly for everyone, start with three full meals a day: breakfast, lunch and dinner. (And no, coffee isn't breakfast.) If you can't make it at least three or four hours after eating without feeling low on energy or the gnawing of hunger in your belly, increase your food intake at meal time. Grazing all day keeps your digestive system constantly working and results in everfluxing blood sugar. Plus, having to always eat or snack requires more food-prep time and planning.

For each meal, include protein, carbs and fat. The most nutrient-dense sources include meat, seafood and eggs; veggies (including starchy veggies) and fruit; and healthy sources of plant and animal fats, respectively. Start with a 5- to 6-ounce portion of protein, then fill your plate with veggies and add an occasional piece of fruit. Finish with some healthy fat like avocado, coconut, ghee or olive oil. Of course, body size and activity level will dictate how much you're eating, but this will give you a good template to start with. If you're training fairly often, include starchy vegetables such as sweet potato, white potato, yucca and plantains, particularly in the post-workout period.

Not only will these foods provide the necessary macronutrients, they're dense in antiinflammatory compounds and micronutrients like vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals that are vital components of a truly healthy diet. The key to eating three square meals for most people is being prepared, which means meal prepping. I recommend taking one day a week, and preferably a day off, to do a large batch of cooking that'll give you options for the first half of the week. I like Sunday for this.

That way, you can reach into the fridge for some sweet potatoes, shredded meat, hard-boiled eggs, roasted veggies and other convenient foods when you're just too busy to make a meal from scratch on a weeknight. Then, do a smaller meal prep later in the week. I usually do this on a Thursday. You'll have a few things on hand so you're not tempted to call for takeout if your fridge is bare.


Many athletes I consult with under-consume protein chronically. Additionally, many of them are eating very few calories relative to their activity level, employing a restrictive "dieting" mentality either purposely or simply because they're unaware. While some sports, such as powerlifting, have specific bodyweight requirements, even these athletes must be careful to not drastically reduce their intake and run the risk of hormonal dysregulation. The long-term implications of this include muscle loss, decreased performance, low testosterone and accumulation of body fat, just to name a few.

Barring any pre-existing conditions such as kidney disease that would severely limit protein intake, a good range to start with is somewhere between 0.8 and 1 gram of protein per pound of body weight. This helps support recovery from training, including the muscle protein synthesis that accompanies it. Muscle has endocrine characteristics and is able to affect the properties of tissues other than itself. Put another way, building muscle mass helps improve body composition and losing weight.

If you have no idea how much protein is enough, I recommend weighing and measuring your intake for at least three days. Plug your intake into an on line tool or app such as MyFitnessPal, and get a sense of how much you're really eating. You may also want to estimate your basal metabolic rate (BMR), which is the baseline caloric expenditure for your body to simply keep itself running. If your total daily caloric intake is significantly lower than your BMR, it's time to increase it.

It's not necessary to log your caloric or macronutrient intake long-term. Don't get "analysis paralysis" by becoming neurotic about tracking consumption or be tricked into thinking it's an exact science. Just get a general idea to figure out if you're seriously under- or overeating or if things are about right. Remember, the more active you are, the more energy you require, so if you're training, your daily intake will be higher than someone who's sedentary. Once you have a baseline, fill your plate with nutrient-dense foods, and learn your body's signals for hunger and satiety.

Eating protein at breakfast is especially important because it provides the building blocks for producing serotonin and consequently, melatonin-the hormone that helps put you to sleep at night. (That's why I said earlier that coffee is not breakfast. If you only drink butter coffee in the morning, add protein to it.)


The number one question I get is, "What should I eat post-workout?" If you're training regularly, especially at higher volume or intensity, eating a post-workout meal can really help jump-start recovery and improve your performance.

First, let's understand what protein eaten post-workout does. It's a source of amino acids that will help repair muscle. There are about 20 amino acids, and three of them are really important in the post-workout period: leucine, valine and isoleucine. They have a branched structure and are thus named "branched-chain amino acids" or BCAAs. They matter because they're the ones specifically used by your body to make new muscle tissue in a process called muscle protein synthesis.

The BCAAs are "essential," which means the body can't make them on its own, so they have to be obtained from the foods you eat. Yes, there is protein in plant-based foods, but you'd have to eat a lot of plant material to provide you with the BCAAs you need for recovery. It just so happens that animal products such as meat, poultry, seafood and eggs are dense in BCAAs. When you're planning a post-workout meal, be sure to also include carbohydrates. Their function (which is different from protein's) is to replace the glycogen-a long chain of stored glucose-that your body uses during training. If your exercise included highly intense, intervaltype training or endurance activity, you've significantly tapped into your glycogen stores. Post-workout is also a period of generally increased sensitivity to insulin. When you eat carbs, glucose enters the bloodstream, and the pancreas releases insulin to move that glucose into your tissues, including muscle. Adding protein to your postworkout mix also allows you to take advantage of that increased insulin sensitivity, bringing amino acids into your muscles.

The best type of carbohydrate for post-workout is one that's rich in starch. Your body digests starch into glucose, which directly replenishes muscle glycogen. Fructose, the sugar found in fruit, goes directly to the liver for processing first. That's why fruit isn't an optimal choice for postworkout carb refueling. Some fruit has a higher concentration of glucose, such as pineapple and banana, so those are better options if you must eat fruit instead of a starchy veggie.

In general, a good ratio of carbs to protein in the post-workout meal is 2-to-1. If you plan to eat about 30 grams of protein, then you should aim for about 60 grams of carbohydrates. Try to keep your post-workout meal lower in fat. Healthy fats are an important part of a sound nutrition plan, and they're great for helping us feel fuller longer, but they also slow gastric (stomach) emptying. That, in turn, slows recovery. Again, this is an important guideline to follow when your training frequency is high, because time matters more.

Let your body come down out of a sympathetic, aroused state after training and then eat your post-workout meal as soon as you can. This is especially key if you plan to have another training session later that day or perhaps the next morning. In other words, the sooner your next workout, the more important it is to be expeditious with your post-workout meal.


When jump-starting your nutrition in 30 days, eliminate processed foods; eat three nutrient-dense meals with protein, carbs and fat each day; get a handle on your protein and overall caloric intake; and eat a post-workout meal of protein and carbs. This will help you fortify the foundation that will support our longer-term training goals.