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The Two Types of Paleos

Fresh off a glorious extended food porn weekend in New Orleans (take home message – Commander’s Palace is worth every penny), the last thing I want to see is another scoop of gelato, slice of pizza, or Hurricane. I’m ready for a week of clean lifting and clean eating. Recently, I’ve been reading some articles by Nate Miyaki, a nutrition expert of sorts who makes some interesting points about how diet should mirror the function that it’s used for. Not everyone is going to work well with the same macronutrient ratios.

Which brings me to the two types of Paleos: those who do a lot of anaerobic activity (lifting, sprinting) and those who don’t. The Perfect Health Diet, which encourages 100-150g carbs a day from veggies, fruits, and starches, is great for the low-impact healthy lifestyle. Walking a lot, eating a strict diet, nothing too strenuous. Their muscle and liver glycogen stores stay relatively stable, as long as they get their maintenance carbs. They can eat a fair amount of fat (50% of their calories) and keep nice, stable blood sugars. I’d recommend it to my mom, my aunt, and any friends who aren’t gym rats.

But not me, not any more. And I’ve been learning this the hard way. For the past year or two, I’ve been lifting heavy, making occasional gains in strength with minimal improvements in body composition, and I’ve blamed a lack of dramatic results exclusively on my penchant for cheating (chocolate, ice cream, bourbon) and my age. But maybe my diet’s been wrong all along.

As a 3-day-a-week lifter, my body is constantly in recovery mode from the last lift. And recovery demands quickly available amino acids to rebuild muscle and glucose to refill glycogen stores, stimulate growth factors, and get ready for the next lift. My average day would consist of 150g protein, 100g carbs, and 100g fat. And sometimes more fat than that. That’s 2000 calories, but put in the wrong macronutrient bins, according to Miyaki. What I should be doing is keeping the calories at 12/lb lean body mass for fat loss (so 1900), protein about 1g/lb lean body mass (so 160g), fat at 20% of caloric intake (so 380/9 = 40g), and the remainder is starchy carbs (200g).

So that’s my new plan. On lifting days, have breakfast/lunch adding up to 30g protein and 20-30g fat, do my rice-and-protein shake after lifting for another 50g protein and 70-80g fat-free carbs, then load up with a pound of lean-ish meat (90g protein) and 2-3 cups rice or 2-3 potatoes for another 100-150g carbs. Back off on the butter, olive oil, and coconut milk. A tablespoon or two with dinner, to get the starches good and flavored. And something similar for rest days, maybe inching up the fat and inching down the carbs (but not by much).

If you haven’t done so yet, go to natemiyaki.com and see if his ideas click for you. His story of eating low-carb for years and staying “skinny fat” from the unnoticed strain of regular weightlifting definitely hit home.

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