Many of you have been writing in asking questions about the Paleo diet; how it works, what you can and can’t eat and whether or not it’s a good fit for you. In this article, I will be giving you a simple breakdown about the specific foods that are allowed and the ones to avoid when you’re following the Paleo diet, as well as a few sample pre-workout and post-workout meals to get you started on the right track!
What is a Paleo Diet?
Paleo, also know as the “Caveman Diet”, has been circling around for several decades, and with so many people trying to find a nutrition program that they can stick to and enjoy, Paleo has made a big comeback in recent years, especially in the fitness industry and for those looking for a dietary program that allows them to eat more protein, versus the old-fashioned high-carb diets, or other high protein, low fat (no-fat) diets.
What’s On The Paleo Menu?
YES to Meat: Beef, turkey, pork (including bacon, ribs), chicken thighs, chicken breast, veal, lamb, eggs (both chicken and ostrich).
Seafood: Tuna, salmon, shrimp, lobster, halibut, clams, bass, tilapia, shark, snapper, trout, swordfish, sardines.
Nuts: Almonds, walnuts, Brazil nuts, pistachios, hazelnuts.
Vegetables: Avocado, asparagus, arugula, spinach, broccoli, celery, sweet potatoes, yams, any type of leafy green, red cabbage, artichoke.
Fruits: Eat in moderation (1 serving a day maximum). Berries (including strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, boysenberries), melons and pomegranate are all considered fine and they are really good for a pre or post workout meal.
Oils/Fats: Cook with real fats. When cooking Paleo meals, it’s acceptable to cook with lard or animal fat. Coconut oil and olive oil (including virgin) will work and butter is actually on the acceptable list (even though it’s dairy).
Foods To Avoid on a Paleo Diet
No Processed Foods: You generally can consider processed foods anything in the deli section, as well a cold-cuts, luncheon meat, hot dogs, ham, turkey, chicken slices and anything that you would make a quick sandwich out of (not that you can, as bread is on your no-no list). Remember, if a caveman or cavewoman didn’t catch it in the wild, it’s officially on your “Not To Eat” list!
No Sugars: When it comes to sugars, just say “NO” and don’t try to work around it or rationalize why one form of sugar is better than another. Whether it’s pure cane sugar (yes, cane is a plant), pure honey, organic, or some type of sugar by-product, just remember that sugar, is sugar, is sugar, so just say no!
No Grains: This includes all forms bread, rice, pasta, cereal (both hot and cold), oatmeal, quinoa, and anything listed as gluten-free along with sprouted grains. For example, anything man-made (packaged) that has to be cooked in water to soften is a big no-no.
No Legumes: Peanuts, peanut butter, beans (including refried beans, kidney, pinto, red, navy and butter), peas, lentils.
No Dairy: This includes milk, cheese, yogurt, from any animal (cows, goats, etc.), including believe it or not, ice cream (LOL)!
No Alcohol: This includes sugary mixers, beers, wine, wine coolers and beer.
Wow, that was a big list and not even a complete list of foods on the “Do and Don’t” Paleo food list. But as we’re mainly concerned with Paleo, in terms of pre and post workout meals, modifications have been given, except to note that alcohol is never approved.
I don’t want you to think that eating Paleo is too difficult or too limited, but I would like for you to think of it this way, if a caveman or cavewoman (hunters and gatherers) were not able to catch it, pick it off a tree or find it in the ground, it’s not on your list. And for those of you that are mentally trying to get around this concept, it means no protein or meal replacement shakes or powders either (since they are artificial)!
When it comes to your workouts, eating Paleo should not cause any adverse side effects. However, just to be on the safe side, if you’re not sure if you should start eating Paleo, please consult with your physician and let them know that you’re starting a new nutritional program and what is involved so your doctor knows and it’s in your files.
With all that being said, here are some ideas for your pre-workout and post-workout meals. Keep in mind, these are before and/or after your workouts so you want to keep your meals light and not heavy, especially your pre-workout meal.
Paleo Pre-Workout Foods To Eat (30-40 minutes before a workout)
- Eggs whites.
- Scrambled egg whites with veggies.
- Small piece of chicken with nuts.
- Handful of nuts (avoid peanuts).
- Yams or sweet potatoes are not only a great post-workout meal, but they can also give you a little pick me up before your workout.
- 4 ounces of any source of protein (chicken, fish, turkey or beef ) will do you well.
- Pick a light meal that won’t make you feel heavy and weighed down before your workout.
Paleo Post-Workout Foods To Eat (20-45 minutes after a workout)
- Egg whites
- Wraps (chicken, beef, pork or turkey) that are wrapped in a green leafy vegetable.
- 1/2 chicken breast with a 1/2 yam or sweet potato.
- Egg whites and a small yam.
- Egg whites with a handful of nuts.
- Chicken salad (chicken, egg whites, romaine lettuce or spinach, balsamic vinegar and bacon).
- Turkey wrap (ground turkey or turkey burger) wrapped in romaine lettuce or cabbage leaves with a small handful of baked yam fries on the side.
Tip: Bake your food (yams, sweet potatoes, chicken) on Sunday and separate them into smaller containers. You can also eat 1/2 a yam or sweet potato as a wonderful snack or slice them up along with a little olive oil and bake them for some delicious yam/sweet potato fries!
Trainer note: When starting on a Paleo Diet, monitor your workout intensity. Some have experienced feeling light-headed or dizzy during the first few days or weeks. When journaling your workouts and your nutrition, document how you’re feeling before, during and after your workouts so you can keep track.
There are many wonderful variations that you can use, so feel free to experiment with different foods and meals that are on the acceptable list and let your taste buds go crazy! Also make sure that you drink plenty of water throughout the day and especially before, during and after your workouts so you can stay fully hydrated.