Monday, January 23, 2012


FOOD: It is a love/ hate relationship.

I grew up in a family that knows good food, loves good food, makes good food and eats a lot of good food!!!!!

Let's start with my Mother's spaghetti... although full of delicious vegetables and sometimes, if I request, is made with whole wheat noodles... the portion size is larger than my actual head. Now, this is not my Mothers fault, because we dish our own pasta... But, I just can't help it. When Mom makes her spaghetti, you have to take advantage of it. Always.

 My Dad's famous BBQ ribs. One slab is just not enough... and anyone who has had them can defend me when I say that once you start eating them... you just can't stop. End of story.

I must not forget to mention my Grandmother's cheesy, meaty and delicious mastacholi (that I make her cook for me the second she comes and visits) ... and my MomMom's cheese and cherry blintz's. Both my guilty pleasures.

Oh yeah, my Father's breakfasts. Reason enough to sleep at home on the weekends to wake up to this. It is full of chocolate chip pancakes, greasy meats and portions of syrup and butter that would make the healthiest person in the world have a heart attack. I'm always the first one at the table (My brother Alex, soon to follow)

My main reason as to why I can't eat like this:

1) I am 5 foot 4- built with a petite frame. Every pound shows. I was not blessed with the genes where I can eat whatever I want and not gain a pound. Instead, I was blessed with brilliant taste buds that enjoys the best of the best and a lot of it. I would not change it for anything!!! So besides for not wanting to be overweight in general... my thought process for more motivation is... the lighter I am (with strength), the faster I go in the race. Stay fit and healthy.

2) Eating these foods on a regular basis is just not healthy. Plain and simple. In the long run, this will hurt me and damage my health. In terms of training, just a regular portion of my Dad's breakfast, for example, can set me back big time by not giving my muscles and my body the correct vitamins it needs.

3) Sure, I can eat more of this when I am doing hard workouts and not see any weight gain... but every choice comes with a consequence. The consequence of eating these foods with high carbs, high fats and large portions while in training: no energy. I feel lazy, full... (I call it a "food baby")... and extremely un- motivated.

Somewhat like me when I eat the way I wish I could eat... 
A 'clean diet' is the only way I found that my energy is at its highest, my endurance is at its strongest and my strength is at it's peak. There is only one diet that is the actual ancestral human diet, mimicking the way humans and species habitually ate 10,000 years ago.

The Paleo Diet

Also known as the Primal Blueprint Diet, Paleolithic Diet, Caveman Diet, Stone Age Diet, or the Hunter- Gatherer Diet...

Now, I am not going to bore you with the history or try to sell you on this diet. It is not for everyone. It is hard to follow, not very realistic, but it does in fact work. Therefore, to give you a better understanding of why I follow (try to follow it) and why most athletes who follow it, stick to it...  I will lay out some basic facts:

"As much as I want" foods: (ORGANIC)

  • Fish
  • Grass- fed pasture raised meats
  • Veggies
  • Fruits
  • Roots
  • Nuts

"No way" foods:

  • All grains (breads, cereals, etc.)
  • Legumes (beans, peas, etc.)
  • Dairy products (milk, cheeses, anything made with milk)
  • Salt
  • Refined Sugar
  • Processed oils (or anything with processed oils in it)
  • Alcohol of any kind

Main Argument for the Paleolithic nutrition: modern humans are genetically adapted to the diet of their Paleolithic ancestors. People who follow diets similar to the Paleolithic hunter- gatherers are largely free of diseases of affluence (diseases due to lifestyle in modern society... in this case eating and diet... as an example, fast food is bad for you, therefore causing one to be unhealthy). 

In short... according to The Paleo Diet For Athletes: A Nutritional Formula for Peak Athletic Performance, written by Loren Cordain (PhD) and Joe Friel (MS), there are 4 base reasons as to why this diet works for endurance athletes. 

1) Branched- chain Amino Acids (BCAA)-  

Diet is high in protein, which is the richest source of the branched- chain amino acid. BCAA's are different than other amino acids that collectively make up protein in that they are potent stimulants for building and repairing muscle. Lean meats and fish provide approximately 30 more grams of BCAA than whole grains supplies the body in a single serving. By consuming lean protein (BCAA), athletes then rapidly reverse the natural breakdown of muscle that usually occurs after a hard workout, thereby reducing recovery time. Then, the obvious happens, that you are able to have a more intense training workout during the next session. Awesome.

2) Blood Acidity Vs. Alkalinity-

All foods during digestion, report to the kidney as either acid or base (alkali). The typical American diet is net acid producing because of its high reliance upon acid- yielding grains, cheeses and salty processed foods. An athletes body is more prone to blood acidosis because of all the exercise. Therefore, in order to prevent muscle loss, the need for fruits and veggies is higher in order to reverse the metabolic acidosis produced from the typical grain- and starch- laden diet. The Paleo diet conquers this science with flying colors. 

3) Trace Nutrients-

Fruits and veggies are rich sources of antioxidant vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals. Paired with lean meats (zinc and B vitamins), the body will have optimal immune- system functioning. The refined grains, oils, sugars and processed foods that are usually staples in every day living, and even staples for some athletes.... basically take away from all of these nutrients. A healthy athlete who is cold free can train harder and perform to higher standards. YAY!

4) Glycogen Stores-

Possibly being the most important next to the BCAA reasoning, the highest goal of any athletic diet is to maintain high muscle stores of glycogen. Glycogen is a body fuel absolutely essential for high-level performance. Protein is not a source for making muscle glycogen, nor is fat. Dietary starches and sugars are body's number one source for making muscle glycogen. 

It is known that with branched- chain amino acids, glycogen synthesis by muscle occurs most effectively in the immediate post exercise window. Replace the pasta and starches that most athletes lean towards, and get nutrient- dense fruits and veggies that are needed to promote muscle growth and boost immune system. Eating breads, pastas or heavy starches will only discontinue all the work you have done by knocking those out previously therefore taking away all the vitamins in your muscles and replacing it with processed chemicals. Just eat more of the healthy carbohydrates and vitamins through lean meats and veggies. 

Now, this all may seem ridiculous. 
No bread...
No dairy...
No pizza...
No chinese...
No.... everything I love?

There have been thousands and thousands of studies in all areas and there is no doubt that this diet method changes performance of endurance athletes. The issue is... it is not realistic. It seems easy... doesn't it? Cut out everything but meats, veggies and fruits (in a nutshell).. and keep it organic.

Alex likes to make fun of me, because I used to think Caveman still existed...
... Right? No. Not easy. Think about it... there is temptation everywhere food wise, hard to go out and socialize because alcohol is not allowed and in addition, the foods at social functions probably aren't permitted AND everything you eat on this diet must be lean and organic.

 I am sure if I was an Olympian, I would make it work... but I'm not. So, I do my own form of the Paleo diet.

Problem with not following it directly: I don't see the results I could see if I followed it religiously. You only see full results if followed perfectly and for a long period of time. The first three weeks when I started following this diet as a guideline about 10 months ago were the hardest, as my body went through withdrawal of what it was used to. I lacked the energy I needed to train, I lacked the strength and so on. I cannot expect to start it a month before the race for example, and see results. It does not work like that. If anything, it would hurt me and other athletes who did this.

Therefore, since I know it is not realistic for me to follow it 24/7... I just don't go overboard. So, instead of torturing myself completely by following this to the max... I settle for feeling better than I would if I didn't follow it at all.

My 4 Main Guidelines:

  • I cut out grains for 2 of the 3 meals of the day. When I do have grains (bread), it is whole wheat and in MODERATION. Meaning, if I am having pizza (which I try not to do, but I'm guilty of loving it too much to give it up)... I order whole wheat crust and have 2 slices and then a salad, instead of 4 slices. If I am out and order hummus, I ask for cucumbers instead of pita slices... and so on. 
When I cooked pizza, Jackson joked around by saying my portion size was the size of his finger....
 (I ate more than this, I swear)
  • I do not have dairy, unless, again, it is a pizza and I'm splurging. I use replacers such as Coconut Milk, Almond Milk, Coconut Yogurt, Dairy- free butter, etc. Since I cannot eat cereal, not having milk is not a big issue. When baking or cooking, my recipes are either Paleo or dairy- free, therefore using replacers anyway. When dining out, I try to avoid anything that may be made with milk. Again, when exceptions are made... I do it in moderation. 
  • All snacks are Paleo approved. If someone is having something you aren't allowed or shouldn't have... have an alternative on hand. 
Chips and Dip versus Veggies!
  • No Alcohol. This is tough. In social settings, in celebrations and on weekends... to wind down I love a good glass of Red. I try to keep this to a minimum unless it is "date night" (Once a week with Jackson) or a special occasion. Again, in moderation. 
Before Workouts to Fuel:

  • One hard boiled egg an hour before (2 eggs if it is longer than an hour and half workout)
  • Piece of fruit (apple or banana) 30 minutes before
  • 1 small Coconut Water between 30 minutes and one hour before. 
The hard boiled egg gives me protein and energy, while the fruit hydrates me and makes my stomach feel more full. The Coconut Water (which Jackson will claim was his discovery... and my brother, Alex does not agree with...) allows my body to have natural sugar and carbohydrates for energy, in addition to the natural electrolytes, therefore hydrating me even more.

After Workouts:
  • PROTEIN! Natural protein within 30-45 minutes of my workout. 
    • Chicken breast, fish, another hard boiled egg, natural lean lunch meat... 
  • Water, water, water! 
The tricks I've learned:
  •  Lean lunch meat ready to go in the fridge, which serves as a great post- workout meal or an on-the-go snack.
  • Cook chicken breast at the beginning of the week (or lean meat of your choice). That way, when you go to grab something in the fridge, you have that right there to create a small snack or a larger portion for lunch or dinner. 

  • Have fruit readily available. I am known for keeping grapes out on the counter (my Mom always had this out). Grapes are easy to pick at and are a quick replacement for any other "snack" i would rather grab, such as chips or crackers. 
  • Do not buy anything not Paleo approved. If you don't have it available to you, you won't eat it!!!
I make cookies for Jackson, so that he actually WANTS to come over... but then he eats them all (as do I)... post-its do wonders!
  • Cook instead of going out. If you cook, like in any diet, you are more likely to eat healthy. If you go out... AVOID ITALIAN at all costs. 
  • Stay hydrated. Less likely to get hungry. 
  • If you are hungry and know that you are hydrated... EAT. Your body is hungry for a reason and needs nutrition. Just keep them approved Paleo snacks or meals and in good portion sizes!
My New Best Friend: 


A slow cooker is the best way to get healthy meals that taste great, with very little work!  

You can throw anything in a crock pot. Chicken slices, breasts, whole chickens, beef cubes, ground beef...  anything in the world you can think of, can be put in a crock pot. The flavors soak with one another for 8 or 4 hours and it comes out DELICIOUS. For me, I put it in the beginning of the day and by the time I get home, I'm set to go. 

Some of my favorite recipes:

Slow- Cooked Chili 

2 Red onion, chopped
2 pounds of lean ground beef
3 tablespoons chili powder
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 (28 ounce) can organic diced tomatoes
1 (15 ounce) can organic tomato sauce
1/2 cup beef broth
1 tablespoon garlic (I add a bit more)
1 Red Pepper
(I like to add 2 (8 ounce) can black beans... NOT Paleo approved)
  • Cook beef in a pan until browned.
  • Drain beef pan, pour cooked beef into crock pot
  • Add other ingredients 
  • Set to 8 hours on low.
  • Enjoy. 

Slow- cooked Beef Stew

1.5 lbs of beef stew cubes
(2 medium sweet potatoes- cubed- NOT Paleo approved, but best if you want potatoes)
1 medium onion
1 bag organic baby carrots
1 garlic clove, minced
14 oz can low sodium diced tomatoes
1 cup frozen spinach (optional)
2 tbsp toasted sesame oil
4 celery stocks, cut into 2 inch long pieces
1 tbsp basil
1 tsp oregano
1 tbsp italian seasoning
1 tsp thyme
1 tsp cilantro leaves
1/4 tsp chili powder
1 tsp sea salt
1 tsp ground pepper
1 tbsp coconut oil

  • Place beef in crock pot with coconut oil
  • Mix seasoning in small bowl and sprinkle over beef
  • place all other ingredients in on top of meat
  • Mix
  • 8 hours on low
There are hundreds of crock pot recipes, Paleo approved. Each time I make a new one, I will post it from now on!!!!!! :) 

Another great one that is one of the best:

FISH TACOS! (Jackson's Favorite)
Jackson Cheats and puts cheese and sour cream.

1 pound of boneless and skinless tilapia fillets, cut into 2- inch pieces
1 tablespoon of coconut oil, pepper
Fresh Lime Juice
Fresh salsa (tomatos cubed, diced onion, cilantro... very easy!)
2 Avocado, cubed
2 cups Shredded cabbage or lettuce
Tortillas (NOT Paleo approved)
Head Bibb, iceberg or romaine lettuce (to wrap instead of tortillas)
  • Heat broiler, with rack in highest position. Place fish on rimmed baking sheet, drizze coconut oil, pepper and a little lime juice.
  • Broil fish until lightly browned on top; 5-10 minutes until flesh opaque on top. 
  • Divide fish evenly on tortillas/ lettuce, add avocado, lettuce/ cabbage, salsa (and I add hot sauce)

My Favorite Sources:

1) Paleo Comfort Foods by Julie & Charles Mayfield
This cook book gives more enjoyable, every day foods using alternate ingredients for bread and cheeses. For example, they have a meatloaf without bread crumbs, or fried chicken with Almond flour, etc. For someone who loves greasy, home cookin'... this is my favorite!

2) The Paleo Diet by Loren Cordain, PhD
This one is a bit more bland with your basic "chicken and veggies" recipes, but is a great starter and definitely the easiest ones for someone to cook up quick!

There are also tons and tons of recipes online, but I have found to be cautious of the ingredients. Some people are more relaxed about what they eat than others... if you want true Paleo dieting recipes... be sure to buy the books!

All in all, this diet is terribly successful to the point where you want to throw everything Paleo you have in your fridge out the window because you're so mad at it for working so well but tasting so... healthy. In all honesty, yes I crave the junk still, but it feels so much better to eat a 'clean' diet the next day. Pizza tastes great going down, but not during a 3 hour bike ride the next morning. 

Right now, I follow my guidelines I laid out above. About a month out, I will cut out all alcohol no matter what and bread ONLY for one meal a week. My nutrition will be doubled in protein and my carbs by way of starches and grain products cut back big time.

... can't wait.

Goal: Get the boys on board with the Paleo diet... and Alex on board with Coconut Water!

More to come! Sorry if this seemed rush, the whole entire thing got deleted last night...  I am NOT finished :) Wednesday will be a continuation of the Nutrition topic! So much more to say!!! :) :)

Never Give Up-


"You can have results or you can have your excuses. You cannot have both." - Unknown


  1. Shana,
    Sweet looking chili and Crockpot stew!
    Even a Cave Man would like that.
    Question: Where are Milano Cookies on the Paleo food pyramid?

    1. I will make one or the other at home for everyone soon! .... Milanos are not included in the pyramid. That would be on the "No way" column. :(

  2. Great read Ali,it"s a great heck of a regimen to follow, but i do love my carb's, wouldn't kill me to try it for a month, + 1 yeasty beverage won't set me back too much ----I hope. T.

    1. Yes, it stinks... but it works! Cheating is OK... I think last time I saw you, I had a beer and a pizza.... oops!!!!!

  3. this is my favorite post yet!!! Great photos, also......please make over my fridge to look like yours!

    1. Glad you liked it! That one was for you!!! More coming for the AM in addition to this, on Nutrition!! XO