Eating Style: Clean Eating to Dirty Paleo

When I started this blog, I was predominately a “clean eater,” you know… Tosca Reno style. Then I did a trial eating protocol that included removing: wheat, gluten, or grains. It wasn’t a huge change as I wasn’t a huge bread eater anyhow, besides, I thought at the time, it would be temporary right.. just a trial..

It wasn’t like I was having noticeable issues regarding my digestion, if I did they weren’t terrible, however, now that I’ve mostly eliminated grains from my diet, I certainly notice a lot of changes for the better.

I’m sure those around me appreciate those changes as well as I’m no longer as gassy. (yeah, I said it)

Now I am in transition, trying to describe how I align with my current eating style. I’ve spent the last few weeks going through various plans, checking off the do’s and don’ts to see where I fit in.

I’m not sure why labeling an eating style matters to me, perhaps due to the groups I converse with. Groups who spend a lot of energy tearing apart plans to discover how they come together:  from planning to implementing. Still, at the end of the day, no matter what the name of my style, organic locally grown foods are eaten as much as possible and meats are locally grown field raised too.

I was a clean eater but first.

What is Clean Eating exactly?

It is more of a lifestyle than a diet, you’d be eating close to the earth or foods closer to its natural state, consuming little that is processed or nothing with an ingredient list full of chemicals.

So if not a Clean Eater, what other options are there and why the change?

The process started because I wanted to take advantage of nutrient timing: or utilizing our body’s hormonal cycles to better influence muscle growth and repair, also to manipulate a higher percentage of fat loss. (More on that later, because I know you want to know)

Before I go into deeper detail, as I’ve mentioned before, I read:

  • Good Calories, Bad Calories
  • Clean Eating
  • The Renegade Diet
  • Carb Back Loading
  • Carb Night Solutions
  • ETP or Eat to Perform


If I am no longer eating clean,

What other options are there?

I’ve currently been Eating to Perform

This eating style is also endorsed, or closely followed, by the Crossfit group. This eating style has you calculating your total daily energy expenditure (TDEE) and slowly brings your daily intake up to what your body needs to support your activity. By following their coaching, your body will adjust it’s metabolism and build healthier muscle tissue. This additional muscle tissue assists in the burning of bodyfat while at rest and allows your body to be more efficient at switching between the following internal energy systems:

  1. Phosphagen (immediate source)
  2. Anaerobic (somewhat slow, uses carbohydrates)
  3. Aerobic (slow, uses either carbohydrate or fat)
  • Eating to Perform: The eating style includes all foods you and your family like and normally eat. What it does is utilize timing and your activity around eating certainly items when optimal. When first starting the program you slowing adjust your daily intake to meet the prescribed macro-nutrient suggestion, remain consistent for at least 3 months, and then a PFFL (performance focused fat loss) is used to lower bodyfat percentage.
  • Eating to Perform dieters don’t eat: Nothing, they eat all the food!!
  • How does this fit into my style?
    Restrictive diets are easy to follow or maintain over the long haul, which is why most people fail at diets. Being able to eat with family and friends is a welcome relief. Of course if there is the timing piece as it relates to your physical activity, aka weight training, as resistance training is a component of the program. The other piece I really enjoy, other than the PhD nutrition expert support, is they utilize both NEAT and LISS to accomplish fat burning. (NEAT = non excercise activity thermogenesis and LISS = low intensity steady state) Their Facebook group has a zero tolerence for negative banter about yourself and others; which is a welcome relief.

What about the Paleo Diet?

The eating style, endorsed by the Crossfit group, is trending at the moment, but what is it? Loosely, it is an eating style that many believe to mimic how our “caveman” ancestors might have eaten “back in the day.”

  • Paleo Dieters eat: Lean proteins, fruits and vegetables, healthy fats from: nuts, seeds, avocados, olive oil, fish oil and grass-fed meats.
  • Paleo dieters don’t eat: grains or dairy (milk, cheeses, and yogurt), processed foods, sugars, legumes, starches, and alcohol.

I’ve been reading a nicely written post (with adorable graphics) by Nerd Fitness, “The Beginner’s Guide to the Paleo Diet,” which does an excellent job at breaking down the specifics if you want to read more about Paleo Eating.

  • How does this fit into my style? I’m on board regarding the items on the allowed list, however I had reservations about not consuming legumes or dairy. yogurt and cheeses are something our family enjoys often, any eating plan that hates on peanut butter won’t fit in at our house. There isn’t a specific macro breakdown for the eating plan and it varies depending on what you are trying to accomplish: i.e., muscle growth, fat loss, or general well-being.

Okay, so I’m not exactly Paleo… now what?

Mediterranean Diet?

This is a an eating plan around traditional nutritional patterns of southern Italy, Greece, and Spain known for good heart health and longevity, which created an interest in their eating style.

  • Mediterranean dieters eat:

Fruits and vegetables, beans and nuts, healthy grains, fish, olive oil, small amounts of dairy, and red wine.

  • Mediterranean dieters eliminate:

Processed foods, limited amounts of red meat (only twice a month), and only two meals a weeks of fish or poultry.

  • How does this fit into my plan:

A diet of 50% carbs, which is on the higher end, would fuel my workouts but as an active fitness person I feel I need more protein than this plan has to offer. If I manipulated the macros it might work for me, otherwise the ideals of the plan look great. I’m not much of a wine drinker or a fruit eater, so this type of eating doesn’t seem to suit me at all.

Could it be, Gluten Free?

Could I simply be a gluten-free clean eater, that would make planning a lot easier, but what is a Gluten Free Diet? Simply stated, it is an eating plan that removes products that contain gluten from wheat, barley, rye and other grains.

  • Gluten Free Dieters eat: meats, seafood, legumes, eggs, dairy, fruits and vegetables. Grain substitutions are: amaranth, arrowroot, buckwheat, corn/cornmeal, flax, quinoa, rice and many other gluten-free flours from things like coconut, rice, almonds.
  • What Do You Eliminate?

Foods containing gluten. This includes malt, barley, bulgar, semolina, spelt, rye and wheat.

  • How does this fit into my style: Other than the obvious modifications in cooking, this is an easy change to my eating style as I am not a big bread eater. To do this successfully I would need to modify the majority of my recipes as I go along.  Nutrient timing would still be a viable option with this plan as well, of course it wouldn’t include GMO substitutes.

What about Atkins?

I’ve never considered the Atkins Diet, it sounds like a lot of work to figure out the phases. It is a low carb styled eating plan that focuses on proteins, fats, and fibers. Perhaps I should get over my preconceived notions and take a look..

  • Atkins Allows:

This changes slightly with each phase but: meat, seafood, dairy, eggs, vegetables and fats/oils at first; legumes, fruits, nuts, and some grains as the phases progress.

  • What you eliminate?

Phase one: no fruits or grains

Phase two: add in fruits and juices along with nuts and seeds.

Phase three: Starchy vegetables

Phase four: legumes and grains.

  • Does this fit my plan? With Macros like: Protein: 65% Fats: 35% and Carbs only 5%, I’d be in a constant mental fog going that low carb. Based on my TDEE of 2280 (more on that later), 5% would equate to less than 30 grams of carbohydrates daily and certainly be ketogenic. I’ve just completed 90 days of ULC, during that time I was less that 30g of carbs a day, I barely knew my name and often lost track of what I was doing in the moment. While you could run the program short-term, It wouldn’t work as a long-term eating plan.

Then there is South Beach?

The South Beach Diet offers three phases of the eating plan, which is like Atkins somewhat in that the plan has phases, the first phase is rather regimented, then things relax as the next two phases cycle into place.

  • What Do You Eat?

Phase One: meat, vegetables, legumes, dairy, nuts and seeds.

Phase Two: Whole grains, fruits, starchy vegetables are added back in.

Phase Three: Includes the above, adding more grains and sweets.

  • What Do You Eliminate?

Early on you aren’t eating grains, starchy vegetables or sweets, but they are added back in over time.

  • How does this fit into my plan?

It really isn’t an eating style at all, more like a short-term diet plan without any nutrient timing or long-term plan for health. I’m not fully aware of how it comes together, but it doesn’t sound like it would be effective once the starches and sweets are added back in toward the end of the plan.

Finally, the Zone?

It seems The Zone Diet is a 40/30/30 (C/P/F,)  plan balances the consumption of protein and carbohydrates in specific ratios in an effort to reduce cellular inflammation. Dr. Sears believes you can’t store fat and burn fat at the same time, his diet aligns your eating to keep the fat burning higher. A google search seems to pull up a lot of Cross Fit sites quoting the Zone as this particular group embraces this particular plan.  In fact, I believe that the Cross Fit environment teaches the Zone Diet to their followers.

  • What Do You Eat?

The Zone Diet isn’t about eating either “low-carb” or “high-protein,” instead by balancing protein, carbohydrates and fats, it is believed you can control the major hormones– insulin, glucagon and eicosanoids using the human diet.

Allowed foods:

• Lean Natural Protein

• Low GI Carbs

• Fat

  • What Do You Eliminate?

No grains, breads, pasta, rice, and other similar starches

  • How does this fit into my plan?

This plan is fairly close to how I currently eat, one that I feel I should investigate further to determine how this could fit into my plan. Perhaps the combination of Paleo and this plan might  be the best answer for me, I need further research before embarking on that eating plan.

I guess at the current time I am eating:

(As of Jan 2014 I am back to eating a healthy balanced diet of 40% carbs, and 30% each of fats and proteins. For more details on sport and fitness nutrition please contact me)

Jan 2013 to September 2013: Dirty Paleo!!

How did I come to the title of “Dirty Paleo? It was the fact that I am really loosely following the paleo diet now, with the exception of occasionally eating legumes, dairy, and some starchy vegetables.  I identify with Paleo eating style over South Beach, the Zone, or Atkins and I’m not eating in phases.  Another interesting point, which I got from a performance nutrition site, is that I only follow Paleo 80% of the time, the remaining 20% of the time I am foot loose and fancy free, eating intuitively.

Researching this blog post has really opened up my eyes to the variations to these eating styles, it made me think hard about how my current style could fit into each one of them.  Being physically active and a weight trainer requires more attention to my nutrition than most people would think is normal, which is why I spent the time researching this project.

While I am eating “Dirty Paleo” at the moment, it is with variation of Carb Back Loading (a nutrient timing plan) and a plan that really focuses on increasing your calorie intake to be closer to what your daily energy needs are.  In my next post I will go over how I determine my daily expenditure and what happened when I suddenly went from my average of 1500 calories a day to well over 2000.

What about you, my readers, where do you fit in? 

I’d love to hear which plan you feel you are eating under or are more of an intuitive eater and whatever happens happens…

Do you struggle with gaining muscle or losing weight? Have you been on the dieting roller coaster, are sick of spinning your wheels and want to get off? If you’d like the support of hundreds of participants, Phd nutrition specialists, and me as your coach; check out Eat to Perform Science Lab for more information.

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2 Responses to My evolving eating style: Clean Eating to Eat to Perform

  1. Laurie says:

    Unfortunately, I only know base points to any of the “eating plans” and know that I have issues craving carbs……. I don’t know what works for me, because my activity level and exercise is far from consistant. I have gone Gluten free, which was really done to help curb my carb consumption. BUt, I have doubled up on other starches…. as in I eat MORE rice items, more potato, and veggies that turn to sugars (no corn though)……….. So, I have a job to tackle! I love reading your blog and posts, and hope to be able to gleen from it and put it into use. I just joined a gym (to swim) a week ago, but have only made it there twice………… I’m working on it!

  2. […] my last post I discussed various eating style options; that post was written to detail various approaches to eating styles I’ve done or […]

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