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Type “paleo diet” into google and you’ll find countless threads talking about it and most have a very strong opinion towards it. Some of these sites quite literally say it is the “healthiest way to eat,” while others talk as if it poison for every ounce of your being. Very few of these sites present pro’s and con’s and an informational approach. Hence my approach, an attempt at an unbiased review pointing out pros and cons so that the reader can decide and not be told the answer. Of course to do this, we have to first decide what the paleo diet is.

The concept of paleo from a branding standpoint is to mimic the diet of the caveman. Now of course, there is heavy branding going on and getting caught up in the specifics of this is missing the point. Essentially the diet is based on eliminating processed foods, grains, and dairy. It is a high protein, low carb diet attaining protein mostly from animal sources. Veggies, oils, nuts and some fruits are included in the diet. For the purpose of this article, we will leave it at that as getting too in depth with specifics will only cause arguments. Based off this definition, let us look further at some of the pros and cons.

Essentially the diet is based on eliminating processed foods, grains, and dairy.

Essentially the diet is based on eliminating processed foods, grains, and dairy.

Pros:

  1. Focusing on food- this diet gets you to pay attention to what you are putting in your body on a daily basis. It provides accountability and a map for eating. It encourages the avoidance of processed foods and aims for whole, organic foods. This is definitely a step up from the SAD (Standard American Diet) that is prevalent today. If everyone in the country took this step we would be a much healthier country.
  2. High Protein Low Carb- Want to cut weight? High protein low carbohydrate is the way to do it fast and effectively. Most athletes will follow that simple concept in sports nutrition at some point and be successful in certain ratios.
  3. Great Option for certain health conditions- Lactose intolerant? Celiac’s Disease? Gluten Sensitivity? Paleo has you covered as you are not eating Dairy or Gluten.
  4. Not your standard diet- I love that there is no calorie counting and Paleo is a sustainable dietary lifestyle versus a “diet”. It is something a person can embrace without having the likelihood of huge ebbs and flows due to difficulty of food choice availability.
  5. Group Mentality- The CrossFit community has really embraced Paleo. It practically comes packaged in some Boxes (CrossFit Gyms). Have a community supporting diet and lifestyle can be a very good thing and making it easier to stay on track.

Cons:

  1. Inflammation- High animal protein equals elevated inflammation in the body, period. There is no way around it, no arguing it. If you eat a diet that is high in animal protein you will increase inflammation via arachadonic acid pathways.
  2. Dehydration- With a high protein diet you will need more water. Drinking lots and lots of water can help with this, but more often than not, markers will show up on a blood panel such as an elevated ESR (inflammatory marker).
  3. Global Impact- High animal protein equals a heavy impact on the planet. It is estimated that about 18% of human caused green house gases come from live stock production. That is a huge global aspect to think about when you are considering eating meat with every meal.
  4. Not for everyone- There is the obvious, Vegans and Vegetarians will not be on board with this diet. There are also health conditions that would not benefit from a Paleo diet. People with inflammatory conditions such as arthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, ect or those with heart conditions. There are much better options for these individuals. This directly counteracts number 3 of the pros so I would say it is pretty balanced in this case.
  5. Excuse to indulge on meat- As a health care practitioner I have seen many patients that operate under the theory that Paleo means eat bacon all day, every day. They will look at paleo as a solid reason to offset any hope for a balanced diet. This can be argued for other diets as well (in fact I made a similar argument in a vegan diet blog). Balance is key with food.
  6. Elevated Cholesterol- Eating a diet where often every meal contains animal protein can have a negative effect on cholesterol. Many Paleo eaters find themselves on a high protein, high fat, low carb diet which can lead to an increase in LDL, decrease in HDL and increase in total cholesterol. In the event that an annual blood panel shows a negative increase in cholesterol, perhaps the Paleo diet should be reconsidered, especially in those with a genetic predisposition to elevated cholesterol. Interestingly, there are some studies performed that show people that switch to the Paleo diet actually have an improvement in Cholesterol levels. One study showed a decrease in LDL of up to 22%. The reason this is in the “con” section is it also shows the inconsistency of the diet standards. The Paleo diet can vary so much as to what is eaten, therefore sometimes having a positive effect and sometimes having a negative one. As mentioned in number 5, if the Paleo Diet is not well balanced, then is can be hazardous (as is the case with many other diets).

There is a brief synopsis of Paleo pros and cons. Part 2 coming soon will be a look at the Paleo diet from an East Asian Medical perspective. Don’t forget to subscribe if you want to check it out! What are your thoughts regarding the Paleo diet? Sound off below!

False Grip Gymnastics Rings

I work with CrossFit enthusiasts regularly to help them improve specific gymnastic skills

 

As a hand balancing instructor, I work with CrossFit enthusiasts regularly to help them improve specific gymnastic skills. As a Bellevue acupuncturist, I see CrossFit enthusiasts with injuries some avoidable, some not.   Regardless of my relationship with the athlete, I’ve learned they enjoy taking their health and fitness seriously and want to reach their full potential. To help do that, I have compiled my top 3 tips for the Crossfit athlete.

Prehab– CrossFit can be very hard on the shoulders. In order to continue to train injury and pain free, consider a prehab routine. In the case of Crossfit, strengthening the core, rotator cuff and periscapular muscles should be considered.  Check out the video to see some great exercises that can help keep shoulders healthy and prepared for the stress that a good WOD can put on them.

Periodization– Creating a cycle of intensity in your exercise program helps achieve goals and improve the overall quality of said program. This is especially true if you compete in any CrossFit competitions, but works great for every CrossFit enthusiast. If you look at any professional athlete’s training program you will clearly see periodization.  It is an annual plan to layout goals, how to achieve them, and how to do so without getting avoidably injured. It is not written in stone and can be modified to meet an athlete’s individual needs. If you take baseball as an example, these athletes have a clear off season. This does not mean they sit on the couch and eat chips though. The professional athlete will utilize the off season to work on specific skills and to maintain overall health. During spring training season, they take sport specific time to get ready for serious competition. As spring training comes to the end, official season begins. This is when there is constant training and a high level competition occurring. This shows a clear annual training plan for these athletes and it keeps them at their best.  So how would this look for a CrossFit competitor?

If we break down skills of CrossFit into three aspects; gymnastics skills, weight lifting, and high intensity cardio, then periodization will be easier to implement. Most CrossFitters I work with tend to have a preference for a specific area, which from a competitors stand point can come back to bite them. Having a planned approach can all skills will be addressed to be well rounded. A good plan can also prepare the athlete for a competition. For example, take a certain competition, say the CrossFit Open, and make it the main event of the year. Planning that time to be a physical peak would be great to focus on. Divide the rest of the year into cycles where skills are focused on in divided sections. An example is to focus on gymnastic skills such as muscle ups and handstand walks for a few weeks, then switch to a focus on weight lifting for a few weeks followed by cardio skills (i.e. double unders). When working on specific skills, it doesn’t mean that is the only thing you do during this time, just that these skills will be the focus. Continue to rotate these during your off season. Perhaps two months before the Open, enter your own “spring training” where you begin to combine the skills you work on in a way that directly mimics how the Open competition will be. This is a good time to even check out other local competitions or encourage your gym to have an in-house competition. As the Open gets closer (about a week before,) taper the workouts down and take some rest days. The skills have been trained, mimicking of real life challenge has been performed, so taking some time to ease off will be very beneficial. Rest, prevent injuries, and prepare mentally. This will allow you to enter the Open fresh, trained and ready to PR!

Recovery– I could probably write an entire book on recovery, but some important aspects to ensuring an adequate recovery are:

Stretch– All too often people want to get in and get out with a workout. They will slam out a new personal record on the WOD, then get out of the gym to get on with their day. Taking just a few minutes to work on flexibility will not only help with recovery, but improve one’s overall skill level.

Sleep– Something people often neglect is rest. The body needs adequate sleep to work on recovery. When we sleep, we enter a parasympathetic state (rest and digest). The body gets a chance to relax and focus on repairing the day’s work. Personally, before sleeping is when I like to take my herbs and supplements tailored to recovery. I tend to think of sleep as my time to prepare so that tomorrow’s work out can be even better than today’s.

Nutrition– The best way to ensure the body recovers, is to make sure it is adequately nourished. This can be accomplished with a combination of good whole foods and quality supplementation. If you look back at our blog about supplements for athletes, it will give you a small intro into recovery supplementation. As far as diet goes, one simple tip is to be sure to get protein within 30 minutes after a workout. Protein is the building block for muscles. Feed the body protein and it will get to work on healing everything that is torn down during a workout.

Health Team– There is a reason they are called health care professionals. Take the time to have a team that is familiar with your health goals. This can be a Naturopath focusing in the nutritional aspects, an acupuncturist that focuses on sports (like the one’s at Pins and Needles!) helping manage pain and keeping muscles healthy, and a massage therapist to keep the kinks out.

 

Implementing these three tips into your life can really help improve athletic ability within CrossFit. Be sure to take the time to speak with professionals (health care and coaches) to reach your specific goals. If you have specific questions please feel free to leave a comment or contact us! And don’t forget to subscribe to our blog for more great tips!

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