Q. Nancy, should I go on the Paleo Diet? I’m an avid fitness exerciser who wants to eat healthfully and take good care of my body.
A. I am sure many readers will think that I am “old school” by not jumping on the Paleo and anti-carb bandwagons, but I do pay close attention to the science regarding how to best fuel your muscles and your mind. The Paleo Diet, in my opinion, is unbalanced, unsustainable for more than a few years, and may well trigger binges on cookies and treats. The Paleo Diet is not the best food plan for active people.
I am a bigger advocate of eating a balanced variety of wholesome grains, lean meats, protein-rich beans and legumes, fresh fruits and veggies, and lowfat dairy. I teach my clients how to choose a winning variety of foods (and nutrients) from all food groups in a pattern they want to maintain for the rest of their lives. Paleo dieters, in comparison, have to “cheat” and “blow their diets” if they want to eat something yummy like pasta, bagels, birthday cake or holiday treats. Not a good plan or mindset. My clients learn how to incorporate some treats into an overall well balanced diet.
Many folks go on the Paleo Diet as a way to eliminate junk food and “bad carbs.” The hype about “bad carbs” should actually be targeted to overfat, underfit majority of Americans. Because you are athletic, you should get at least half of your calories from fruits, veggies and grains – the wholesome, quality carbs that fuel your muscles and invest in your good health. With well-fueled muscles, you can then train hard, lift heavy weights, and feel great.
Your food plan can also include some sweets and treats. Your overall diet should be 85-90% “quality calories” and 10-15% “whatever”. Some days “whatever” is blueberries, and other days “whatever” is blueberry pie with ice cream. No need to feel guilty for having a little dessert from time to time as long as you routinely eat a foundation of wholesome meals.
For more information on how to choose a sustainable, high quality sports diet:
Nancy Clark’s Sports Nutrition Guidebook