The following is a guest post by long-time UA Oak Cliff member and fitness expert, Dustin Thibodeaux.
Questioning a 10,000-Year-Old Diet: What the Nutrition Communities May Have Overlooked
As a long-time athlete participating in multiple high school sports and Division I college baseball, I’ve tried it all when it comes to working out and dieting to improve performance. In my time in the fitness and health industry, I’ve seen trainers and clients alike try every diet fathomable. The latest to catch on like wildfire is the Paleo Diet.
The Paleo Diet has a very simple rule of thumb: “Don’t eat anything that wasn’t here 10,000 years ago.” That’s easy, right? Organic fruits, veggies, clean meats and fish, and no processed, chemically laden “modern” foods. But is it enough to eat food like it’s from 10,000 years ago? Should I not also live like it is 10,000 years ago? Not to say we shouldn’t drive cars, have AC in our homes, and do all the other cool stuff the twenty-first century allows us to do. But to what degree should we treat our bodies as if we were living 10,000 years ago?
My first question when someone tells me they’re on a Paleo Diet is, “Are you truly on a Paleo Diet?” Are you really eating like its 10,000 years ago? Are you eating local? Do you eat according to the seasons?
Up until 200 to 300 hundred years ago we didn’t, and couldn’t, travel like we do now. Neither could our foods. All plants, animals, and even humans developed natural rhythms that worked in concert with the four seasons. For instance, did you know that grains and nuts, which are in season during the fall, have enzymes that slow our digestive systems and help us to get fat? Why? In order to survive winter when there isn’t a lot to eat (if you’re living 10,000 years ago, that is). Did you also know that fructose, or fruit sugar, is often converted into cholesterol? Specifically, fructose converts into VLDL cholesterol, which helps to transport fat (from winter) to the rest of the body to use as energy.
More importantly, do you know why some foods will affect you differently based on your exercise habits or ethnicity?
For centuries, people from different parts of the world were built to survive different climates and eat foods for their specific needs. Subsequently, people come in all shapes and sizes depending on where they come from or how they exercise and eat. Look no farther than the difference between an Olympic Sprinter and an Olympic Distance Runner, or the difference between a man and a woman.
The big question is, “How do you want to feel or look?” If you lift heavy weights on a regular basis, you will need to take in more protein and fat to repair muscle. If you’re looking to maintain a leaner figure or participate in endurance activities like biking and running, carbohydrates are important.
Eating a diet that includes fall or winter foods will help to build tissue and add weight. For someone who is looking to build muscle, fight off the aging process, or recover from an injury, eating like it is fall or winter is a better way to eat. More animal flesh, quality fats and carbohydrate-rich veggies like butternut and acorn squashes are great.
If you’re interested in losing weight, speeding up the digestive system, or having more energy, a higher ratio of fruits and veggies will serve you better. Spring-like eating also explains why eating vegan or juicing can improve your health so quickly. Ten thousand years ago, after a long winter, we would have fasted and cleansed naturally just by eating what Mother Nature had available.
We need to remember that just like the seasons, there is always need for change. Balance is the key to everything we do. To truly be on a Paleo Diet, eating locally and seasonally is huge. Even if your “diet seasons” are comprised to a one-month or one-week rotation, it can greatly improve your health. A couple of days of fall, one or two of winter, three or four days of spring and then rounding it off with a few days of summer is a great way to maintain nutritional balance. We should create the same balance with our exercise and movement patterns as well. Lifting weights for a few days followed by a day of hibernation, then a couple of days of cardiovascular work, followed by some fun in the water and sun. I promise you’ll have more energy, a better body, and will be a lot healthier once you start eating and living like it’s 10,000 years ago.
Best of Health, Love and Luck,