Finding my Optimal Diet

The importance of nutrition and the impact of food on our bodies is often overlooked and cannot be underestimated. I believe that the food we eat is responsible for at least 80% of the results we are after when it comes to health and athletic performance.

There is so much information out there about the best diet from paleo, primal, Mediterranean, vegetarian, vegan, etc. Additionally, some endurance athletes talk about thriving on low carb high fat (LCHF) diets while others say they do better with higher carbs. The tricky part with sorting through all this information is that we are each individuals and what is optimal for one person could be detrimental to someone else. There is much more to the food and nutrition equation than emulating the diets of others. There isn’t a question that a diet high in fruits, vegetables, high quality fats, meat from animals living on their natural diets and low in processed food is the right thing for everyone. But in terms of the ratios, what types of each, and the controversial topic of grains can almost feel like debating politics these days. As noted by her research in the book Paleofantasy, Marlene Zuk notes that each of our food tolerances have evolved differently. As a result, we each need to determine for ourselves what our optimal diet is.

Additionally, gut health and the microbiome are making more headlines and are one of the leading trends on the health scene right now. This isn’t a surprise when you consider that your gut determines what nutrients are absorbed and what toxins, allergens, and microbes to keep out. Our entire immune system is protected by a layer in our gut that is only one cell thick. If that barrier is damaged it can cause inflammation throughout the body. The bacteria in the small intestine have a huge job to do and are directly linked to our overall health. There are over three pounds of bacteria in our gut and too many of the wrong ones can also cause problems.

Therefore, I’m starting a nutritional quest to find my optimal diet and improve my gut health along the way. My plan is to adopt a less strict version of an autoimmune paleo diet in conjunction with Phil Maffetone’s Two Week Test. A true autoimmune paleo protocol eliminates all grains, legumes, dairy, eggs, nuts, seeds, nightshades, alcohol, coffee, and chocolate. The Two Week Test also eliminates fruits and sugar products (e.g., honey, agave, etc.) to help determine carbohydrate tolerance. Additionally, a gut healing nutritional protocol also recommends limiting FODMAP foods. After 2-3 weeks I’ll start adding foods and more carbohydrates back to my diet and note how I feel.

So…on the surface it basically seems like you can’t eat anything. But the list of options is a bit more expansive than it seems. It will just take proper planning. I am not going to eliminate coffee w/ heavy cream, grass-fed butter, eggs, nightshades and red wine but I do plan to reduce my intake during the test period. I am going to eliminate beer entirely. One of my favorite “get to know you” questions for people is if you had to give up either coffee or beer for the rest of your life…which one would you choose. Hands down I would give up beer over coffee 100% of the time.

In order to improve gut health I’m also going to take the following supplements:

  • Probiotics to help restore and promote healthy gut flora. The quality of probiotic supplements are all over the board. Since we are dealing with living organisms, I personally don’t trust the mass brands on store shelves because improper supply chain conditions can severely reduce the efficacy. I like the strains in the Primal Probiotics brand
  • Digestive enzymes to help break down food and improve absorption
  • Glutamine which is essential for the epithelial that line the small intestine
  • Herbal tea that is calming to the digestive system such as peppermint, ginger, and fennel/licorice.

Not gonna lie…this is going to be a challenging few weeks, especially from a social perspective, but I think figuring out what works best for my body long-term will be well worth it. The mantra of “no planning is planning to air” is going to be very applicable here. But let’s be honest, we can all handle anything for just two to three weeks.

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