Diet is probably one of the most confusing, frustrating, inconsistent aspects of a combat athlete. Everyone has a personal opinion based on any number of factors, and it is very, VERY, difficult to sift through the bullshit out there to find the "truth" if such a thing actually exists. Any given day we are inundated with a plethora of information about what foods cause what diseases, and what foods are good for you. These lists seem to change and shift any given week (think of how many times the authorities have flip-flopped on the quality of eggs, or alcohol), and if you are like me, you really have to question ANYTHING the government has their grubby little fingers dipped into!
I recently viewed the film "Food Inc." which is one of the better documentaries I have seen in the past years. Regardless of your thoughts on diet, meat, and the effect our consumption on mother earth, this film is required viewing. Not only shedding some light on how mass production has created such a health epidemic in our country, but it also showcases the sad lack of respect we have for the marrow of our fine country, the local farmer. Here is a clip:
I recently competed at the 2009 No Gi World Championships, and decided to cut weight so I did not have to fight big mofo's on the mat. I wanted to fight in the 215# and under division (I believe it was 203-215#). I overshot my goal and fought at 205 the day of! I was not weak nor tired, but note to self...next time an extra 8#'s would be good!
So some people have been asking me how I lost the weight, and more importantly, how I lost the weight while not making myself weak.
First of all I stepped up my BJJ as well as my boxing and started training my ass off. But diet certainly was a factor. I have been more aware of my diet since I have been about 24-25. I started to get more in touch with my body and how it reacts to certain foods, and basically did not follow a certain diet per se, but listened to my body and did what I thought was common-sensical.
Tim, one of my teachers, has been researching diet and the human body since he was 11 years old. He is one of the more intelligent, well read, people that I have ever met and again Tim has a very common sense approach as well. Tim is a huge advocate of the Paleo Diet (two websites that offer overviews of such a diet are Paleodiet.com and thepaleodiet.com. I offer these sites simply as a general reference for those who are unfamiliar with such a diet), which very basically says to consume meat and veggies, and pretty much nothing else.
I am not strict about the Paleo diet, but as time has progressed (IE. I have grown older) I have been more and more diligent in this approach, and overall I feel better. And really that is my goal; feel better, live cleaner, and get better performance from my body. I do not concern myself with how I look, or how fat I am. I train daily, some days 2-3 times a day, so I get plenty of exercise and can "work off" anything I put on. I understand many of you do not have that luxury, so I hope some of this information can help you with maintaining the image you want, losing fat, and living a better life. I should note that I am NOT a doctor nor anyone you should take advice from on any level, so I present this simply for informational purposes only. Consult your doctor before trying anything, if you believe in doctors. I do not have the luxury of having health insurance, so I listen to my body and try my best without the knowledge of western medicine.
Though it is thick, and rather academic, "Good Calories - Bad Calories" by Gary Taube is one of the best resources out there, and lays to rest the low carb vs. low fat controversy. This book has over 100 pages of citations, where Taubes has read and referenced every medical report and paper published on the subject since the late 1700's! I have heard there is an "easier to read" version coming out soon. I have not read the whole thing, but read excerpts while staying with Tim in LA last week. Certainly something I need to add to my bookshelf.
Another great resource is Paleonu. Kurt Harris is highly educated and offers some great information for those curious about changing their diet, and his site has lots of invaluable information on it. I offer one of the basic lists to start off with when changing your diet below:
PaNu - A modified paleolithic diet that can improve your health by duplicating the evolutionary metabolic milieu.
How do you do it?
Here is a 12- step list of what to do. Go as far down the list as you can in whatever time frame you can manage. The further along the list you stop, the healthier you will be. There is no counting, measuring, or weighing. You are not required to purchase anything specific from me or anyone else. There are no special supplements, drugs or testing required.*
1 Eliminate sugar (including fruit juices and sports drinks) and all flour
2 Start eating proper fats - Use healthy animal fats to substitute fat calories for carb calories. Drink whole cream or half and half instead of milk. 3 Eliminate grains 4 Eliminate grain and seed derived oils (cooking oils) Cook with butter, animal fats, or coconut oil. 5 Get daily midday sun or take 4-8000 iu vit D daily 6 Intermittent fasting and infrequent meals (2 meals a day is best) 7 Fruit is just a candy bar from a tree. Stick with berries and avoid watermelon which is pure fructose. Eat in moderation. 8 Eliminate legumes 9 Adjust your 6s and 3s. Pastured (grass fed) dairy and grass fed beef or bison avoids excess O-6 fatty acids and are better than supplementing with 0-3 supplements. 10 Proper exercise - emphasizing resistance and interval training over long aerobic sessions 11 Eliminate milk (if you are sensitive to it, move this up the list
2 Start eating proper fats - Use healthy animal fats to substitute fat calories for carb calories. Drink whole cream or half and half instead of milk.
3 Eliminate grains
4 Eliminate grain and seed derived oils (cooking oils) Cook with butter, animal fats, or coconut oil.
5 Get daily midday sun or take 4-8000 iu vit D daily
6 Intermittent fasting and infrequent meals (2 meals a day is best)
7 Fruit is just a candy bar from a tree. Stick with berries and avoid watermelon which is pure fructose. Eat in moderation.
8 Eliminate legumes
9 Adjust your 6s and 3s. Pastured (grass fed) dairy and grass fed beef or bison avoids excess O-6 fatty acids and are better than supplementing with 0-3 supplements.
10 Proper exercise - emphasizing resistance and interval training over long aerobic sessions
11 Eliminate milk (if you are sensitive to it, move this up the list
12 Eliminate other dairy including cheese- (now you are "orthodox paleolithic")
If you can do step 1, that is about 50% of the benefit and alone a huge improvement on the standard American diet (SAD) By about step 6 you are at about 75% , by step 9 about 80% and at 10 you are at 99% for most people.
Here is the skeleton of the theory:
Insulin is a phylogenetically old hormone. It is a biological messenger that in excess, is metabolically saying the following to your tissue and organs: "Go ahead and store energy, and go ahead and mature, reproduce and die." Excess insulin in humans is linked to diabetes, Alzheimer dementia, metabolic syndrome, obesity, coronary disease and cancer.
We did not evolve under conditions of insulin excess. Food was intermittently available and not superabundant like today. Scarcity and famine were frequent everywhere until recently in evolutionary time. Preferred foods were available year round and dense in calories and nutrients. Animal products, including organs and bone marrow of mammals, fish, and invertebrates (insects) were the preferred foods, supplemented by edible plants (not grains) until the dawn of agriculture. Fruit was seasonal and not yet bred for maximum sweetness. Food was eaten less frequently, had lower carbs than the typical American diet which is about 60%, and was supplemented by often involuntary periods of intermittent fasting and lower calories overall.
We are not adapted to chronic hyperinsulinemia.
We are also not adapted to eating grass seeds, to which we have been significantly exposed for only about 10,000 years. They contain molecules that are specifically designed to discourage consumption, as well as other problematic chemicals.
The diet is not about eating exactly what "cavemen" ate, or killing your own food. It is solely about duplicating what I believe are the key elements of the internal hormonal metabolic milieu that we evolved under from especially less than 1 million years ago to about 10,000 years ago. This is likely to be achieved not by eating specific things, but more by not eating specific things.
Calorie restriction is a severe, uncomfortable way to have low insulin levels and if calorie restricted (starving) your insulin levels can be reasonable even if your carb percentage is high. However, with calorie restriciton you can get muscle wasting, fatigue and weakened immune function. In animal models, calorie restriction increases longevity substantially. Remember the metaphorical message of insulin? It says, "Mature, Reproduce and then Die". This message is attenuated by having low insulin levels.
Is there another way to live in a world of abundant food without being hungry all the time, yet avoiding the risk of immune dysfunction associated with eating grass seeds that cannot even be eaten without mechanical processing and cooking ?
Yes, you can work your way down this list.
Check the website occasionally for more details - I will elaborate as time allows - or you can post questions in the comment section of the blog.
* This is not medical advice. I am confident this is the healthiest way to eat based on currently available science. However, if you have any serious medical condition that requires treatment and in particular if you take medication for diabetes, thyroid disorders or autoimmune diseases, make dietary changes only in consultation with your physician. Your medications may need to be adjusted, as you may well need less of them!
Again I do not buy into all he has to say. I like fruits, but have been trying to limit them since they are full of sugar. I have switched over to Coconut Oil for cooking, but have done so recently so I cannot offer any insight into its effects yet. For instance though I am not an advocate of fasting. I train too much, too often to fast.
Keep in mind that moderation of moderation is key. Do not cut out everything, and allow yourself to "cheat" once a week. Eat whatever you like, do not fret about it on that day or two. Ease into changes such as these. You will be surprised how addicted to sugar or grains you are, and eventually after cutting such things out your body will no longer crave them, and if you do eat them your body will let you know what it thinks about the fuel you are giving it.
I have met, befriended, and pissed off many vegans and vegetarians over the years. I live in veggie heaven (Seattle), and came from New Mexico where it is quite popular too. Back home in Ohio we slaughter and eat vegetarians as we are mostly "meat & potato" folk;)
Again, many things factor into such personal choices and I am not "anti" anything though I do not prescribe to such a diet.
I have linked a great read on the myths of being a veggie here by Stephen Byrnes who is a ND and RNCP. Though lengthy, I like Byrnes because he is common-sensical and does not "dis" being a veggie. He simply lays out the facts.
The one argument for veggie type diets that I can see is the treatment of animals. It does disgust me how we slaughter and process meat on all levels! If it were up to me these aspects would be changed immediately. But not all things are that simple. As a society we have moved away from the hunter - gatherer lifestyle, and are now dependent on buying processed, easy to get/cook meat at supermarket's. How many of you have ever slaughtered an animal from start to finish? I feel for such deplorable conditions, but in the end I am at the top of the food chain and I am hungry! Hopefully the cow/chicken/pig will have better kharma in its next life.
We have strayed away from this approach to our diet, and are now dependent on others doing such things for us. We have grown, population wise, to the point of saturation! Too many people on too small of a planet, consuming more than we are producing. We are no longer in touch with our local farmers / community, and are now dependant on getting food shipped in from long distances which requires certain preservatives and chemicals that are just not part of our natural diet.
I think these resources are valuable starting points and I encourage you to check them out and see if you cannot try even the first 2-3 levels above. I think you will be surprised at the outcome.
Also build a healthy environment around you. If your friends / associates are lazy, overweight, and in general enjoy a shitty diet...guess what... you will not progress out of this lifestyle. It is hard, requires discipline and work! Do not stock munchie foods that are unhealthy for you. If you smoke weed try to have healthy snacks around the house to munch on. Eating an apple is MUCH healthier than a Snickers bar! When I get the munchies I will not seek out shit food, but if it is in the house I will eat it (damn Reese's PB cups!).
In the end you must enjoy life, so do not take any diet too seriously. Allow yourself to cheat and have fun while maintaining a healthy body, mind, and spirit. I like beer. Sure I cut out the frequency I drink when training hard, or trying to cut weight. But I still have it. I love food of all kinds so I am constantly trying new things and enjoy eating and cooking. I use healthy alternatives if I have the choice, and do not fret about meals to the point of stress. Also remember just because it is on your plate, does not mean you have to eat it all! Moderation in moderation.