I think the sign of a good diet is whether or not it has evolved, even just a little bit, from when you started it.
When you first start a diet, you should stick to the guidelines laid out as strictly as possible because that way you know if the principles work.
But most of the time the guidelines laid out by that other person, aren’t perfect for you. So either you end up giving up on the diet OR you start evolving the diet to better work for you.
I started out doing the Primal diet as Mark had it laid out. But slowly I made my own changes.
At first apples and almond butter were a staple snack to replace the apples and peanut butter I had been eating. Now….I can’t even remember the last time I ate them as a snack.
At first I also didn’t eat rice and potatoes. I ate nuts and fruit and vegetables as my only carbs. But then when I wanted to really cut body fat, I stopped eating as many nuts (actually I basically only eat macadamia nuts now) and started carb cycling with rice and potatoes.
Recently though, I haven’t eaten any potatoes. Instead I’ve had a very little bit of white rice and homemade corn tortillas. Although corn isn’t recommended in Primal, I’ve found that having tacos with corn tortillas as kept me from really cheating otherwise. And my energy levels have felt great, my workouts have been intense and my body composition has actually improved.
I also used to eat a lot more cheese when I first started Primal. Slowly cheese became more of a treat and less of a staple. I no longer need the cheese each day to keep me sane.
That is really what experimenting with your diet is all about – staying sane while being healthy.
You don’t want to deprive yourself of something you love to the extent that you complete give up on a healthy lifestyle. Remember the 80/20 rule – perfection is only required 80% of the time to reach your goals.
You need to find what works for you.
How many carbs do you need? Do you crave sweets or can you not live without your cheese?
All diets can and SHOULD be adjusted to fit YOUR needs.
How has your healthy diet evolved since you started it? What changes have you made to keep yourself dedicated to an overall healthy lifestyle? What do you allow in your 20%?
Carbs – To eat or not to eat…
Isn’t really the question.
What you should actually ask yourself is, “Where should I be getting my carbs from?” and “And how many should I eat on any given day?”
You need some carbs. How many you need exactly is dependent upon the activities you are doing.
Especially when I was lifting and doing very little cardio, I found that I felt best when eating relatively no carbs.
Now that my workouts are more cardiovascular, I find that I need to eat more carbs than before.
BUT that doesn’t mean that I’m gorging myself and pasta and stuffing myself with all of those simple sugar power gels and drinks. You don’t need to “carbo-load” they way that people often do.
Anytime I need to fill up or replenish my glycogen stores, I eat whole,natural, unprocessed and unrefined carbohydrates.
I’ve always gotten a large portion of my carbs from veggies. Now that my body is craving more carbs with the increase of aerobic exercise in my circuit training, I’m finding that I’m craving more fruits and even occasionally some white rice and potatoes.
I’m sure some of you will be surprised by the fact that I said WHITE RICE over BROWN RICE, but my stance on “whole grains” is an issue for another post.
The point of this post is that you do NEED CARBS. You just don’t need to eat pasta, oatmeal and bread to get what you need.
Honestly, depending on your level of activity, your body may be satisfied if you just eat some nuts and veggies. If you workouts are intense and you are doing more cardiovascular activities, you may find that you deplete your glycogen stores more and that you crave more carbs after your workout. Fruit is a great way to get some extra carbs because fruit also contains essential vitamins and minerals.
And if you need quick acting carbs to replenish your depleted stores, potatoes and white rice, yes white rice, are a great way to get the carbs you need.
How many carbs you need exactly is dependent on YOUR level of activity. Not what your friend or neighbor or trainer eats.
Too many carbs can lead to fat retention and the “carb belly.”
BUT consuming too few carbs can also hinder your progress. Sometimes you need to eat a few more carbs or “carb cycle” (high carb and low carb days) to get off that last little bit of fat or to enhance your performance.
So experiment. Take a look at your diet. Have you been severely restricting carbs but are struggling to get off that last little bit of fat? Has your performance lagged? Have you failed to lose any fat?
Your carb intake, or the types of carbs you are consuming, may have something to do with it.
Every day I hear the lies of conventional wisdom perpetuated and sometimes I just want to scream. Here are some things that I’ve heard recently that go along with conventional wisdom that are complete and utter BULLSHIT.
Piece of Conventional Wisdom: Women shouldn’t lift weights because heavy lifting will make them bulky.
Conversation (about six months ago):
Me: So what diet, or how much protein, do you think someone needs to add more muscle if they are lifting heavy?
Nutritionist: Why are you lifting heavy?
Me: Because I want more muscle and I want to be stronger. (I think I had an expression of “That is such a dumb question! DUH to get strong and add more muscle!”
Nutritionist: But you don’t want to get bulky do you? If you lift too heavy, you may get bulky especially if you are taking in a ton of protein.
Me: Uhmm…I still have chicken legs and I eat a ton of protein and have been lifting heavy for a while. I want to get rid of my chicken legs…
Nutritionist: Well I wouldn’t lift heavy as a woman. I do lots of cardio.
Me: (I left the room.) End of conversation.
REASONS THIS IS BULLSHIT: Let’s get one thing straight right now…LIFTING HEAVY WON’T MAKE YOU BULKY! If you can’t accept this…you are on the wrong website. I’m not even going to take the time to list all the reasons why this is incorrect. If you need me to refute this piece of conventional wisdom just read about any other post on this blog. Or just take a look at this picture…Is this a big bulky woman? I’d hope your answer is no….
Piece of Conventional Wisdom: You need to eat breakfast and you should eat 3-5 small meals a day. And you definitely can’t work out on an empty stomach.
I tried intermittent fasting a few months ago and really liked it. I told people about it. The common reaction I got was: “You won’t be able to lift as much on an empty stomach or you will run out of gas. Your workouts will be hurt because you haven’t eaten.”
Lots of people also said there was no way they could do it. They said they NEED breakfast. They DON’T NEED breakfast. They are just conditioned to want it.
REASONS THIS IS BULLSHIT: To date, I’ve had some of my best lifting days and workouts on days when I’ve fasted till after I workout. If you want more proof that intermittent fasting works, visit LeanGains.
Piece of Conventional Wisdom: 45-65% of your daily calories should come from carbs.
Conversation (When people find out that the only carbs I eat on occasion other than cheat days are fruits, vegetables, and potatoes.)
Person: I could never give up bread! And I need carbs to get through my workouts and to refuel afterwards.
Me: But on most diets you have to give up something. With other diets you’ve managed to give up “bad” foods like fatty meats. If simple carbs, like white bread, is bad and bacon isn’t, why can’t you just switch what you give up.
Person: But you need carbs to function. The food pyramid has carbs on it.
REASONS THIS IS BULLSHIT: Ok for one, most people aren’t working out hard enough to really NEED carbs. And if you are doing crossfit intensity workouts, add in potatoes and such and you will be more than fine.
For two, it is never easy living life the healthy way. Of course there are outside temptations, but really you’d rather eat bread than butter and bacon? I don’t know…butter and bacon for bread seems like a pretty good trade-off to me…Plus, doing something that will make you healthier makes sacrificing bread seem very worthwhile.
If you want more information about letting go of carbs and why you DON’T need them, visit Mark’s Daily Apple.
Piece of Conventional Wisdom: Bacon and butter are not good for you. High fat diets will raise your cholesterol higher and that is bad. Use vegetable oil or low-fat substitutes instead.
Conversation: There have been too many conversations about this with everyone around me. But the usual I hear is: “Dude all that saturated fat is so bad for you.” “You know that is going to raise your cholesterol? You really should use margarine instead.” “You cook with duck fat? You should use vegetable oil instead.”
REASONS THIS IS BULLSHIT: Usually when I hear these things, I become speechless because I don’t even know where to begin explaining how wrong they are.
I would just love for one of these people who say this to me to provide me with a study proving I’m wrong (a study that I can’t prove wrong). Of course they never do yet they question me (and I’ve actually done the research not to mention discussed the research with other people, such as Ryan, who’ve done even more research).
I mean I challenge anyone to bring me a study that definitively proves that fat is bad for you and that processed crap like vegetable oil, margarine and low-fat substitutes are better.
Here is my proof that fat is good and all that other CRAP is bad:
Mark’s Daily Apple
Good Calories, Bad Calories
For a full list of evidence, visit the UCLA Ancestral Health Symposium.
Oh and something that really pissed me off today….Denmark has put a tax on foods with saturated fat. This list of taxed items even includes olive oil. Does anyone else think there is something wrong with this? Check out the Time Magazine article on it.