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If you read my first post, hopefully you’re still working on trying different foods to see how they affect your body. Some foods are going to feel awful right away—others might need some time before you see the adverse effects. But the question remains…once you have a good idea of what to eat and what not to eat, how do you implement it in a sustainable way?
This is where the 80/20 rule comes in. The basic premise is to keep 80% of your foods Paleo, reserving 20% of your diet for the other “Neolithic” food your body can tolerate. In other words, continue to load up on the meat, veggies, nuts, and fruit, but feel free to add in a little dairy for a snack or perhaps some beans and rice with a meal. The idea is to make these foods accents or supplements to the main portion of your diet.
Why 80/20, you ask? Well, in most cases, it’s the best balance of “sustainable” and “healthy.” Of course, you might see better results if you stay away from legumes or pass up the bread at the dinner table, but it certainly won’t make life better. Allowing yourself to indulge in Neolithic foods on occasion will make it easier to stick with the diet for the long haul, and it will foster a healthy relationship with food. A diet that’s too strict for an extended period of time will lead to feelings of deprivation and frustration, and ultimately to falling off the wagon.
In addition, adding in extra foods may actually help you achieve your goals, especially if you’re looking to improve performance and actually gain weight. Much of the work we do in CrossFit (short duration, high-intensity training) depletes glycogen stores, which help your muscles engage in activity. So adding in some additional carbs (especially post-workout) can actually help refuel the starving muscles and allow them to continue at peak levels.
As much as possible, try to keep that 20% devoted to whole foods your body can tolerate. It’s okay if every now and then that 20% includes a slice of pie or some ice cream, but for the most part keep it to better choices. Also, try to keep the quality of the food high. If you’re craving chocolate, for example, don’t just buy a processed candy bar—purchase some rich organic dark chocolate. Think of the French: they indulge in sweets with almost every meal, but they keep the portions small and make them with the highest quality ingredients. The food should be the best of the best, so that you really feel like it was “worth it” afterwards.
In the third and final part of this series, we’ll take a look at the sliding scale of these “cheat” foods to determine the best options and healthiest substitutions.