In the Parkour and Freerunning community there are so many people worrying about what to eat to aid their training and to better their life. Well, let’s face it, you are out training and you walk past a McDonalds and there have been a fair few times you pop in and end up getting the “Super Wowzer Deluxe” meal. This is something I am guilty of, and is a problem within the community.
So, what diet do should you follow? There are so many! Paleo diet, Vegetarian, Vegan, Pescetarian, Fasting etc etc. With traceurs like Tim Sheiff taking the Vegan approach there are lots of people following the “famous” people in Parkour. So let’s cut out what’s popular and focus on each of the most talked about diets and take out what’s good and leave what’s bad.
Veganism is a great way to detox from poor quality meats that you are used to, as well as the dairy that can cause digestive problems for many people these days. The idea is that you eat nothing that has come from animals and use nothing that has come from animals.
People follow this diet for two main reasons; to be healthy, and to be kind and reduce the amount they contribute to the slaughter and poor conditions of animals. Both great reasons. However, eating foods like Soy isn’t particularly good for you. (1.&2.) First of all there is a huge percentage of Soy that is genetically modified to allow the bean to last and to grow exactly how the farmers want it to. The second point is that Soy is a legume, and when legumes are picked or drop from the plant, they enter a self-protective state. They excrete toxins to protect the bean from insects and the elements so that it can sprout another plant. So eating legumes in this state will not do you any favours. The best way to eat a legume is in its sprouting phase or when it’s fermented. In the sprout phase the bean has released its goodness to promote growth, and when it’s fermented it grows good bacteria or probiotics that help digestion. Don’t, however, eat soy beans raw, they are poisonous! Eat things like Tempeh which is a fermented Soy that is high in protein and can reduce cholesterol.
When farmers plant crops, they clear large amounts of field or forest to do so. This kills animals and insects or forces them to re-home. When the farmers use machinery on this land and spray chemicals this also kills insects and kills any animal that gets caught in the machine. I would say that you kill more living, moving beings doing this than a respectable meat farmer, but I cannot be sure or prove this.
Paleo, AKA The Caveman Diet, is where you only eat things that you are able to pick, catch and find. The theory is that we are ancestral to the caveman, and the caveman did not grow or farm anything. I’m not sure if our bodies are the same as they were 150,000 years ago, but Wiki says we differ in DNA to neanderthals by just 0.12% (3.).
The good thing about this diet is that it encourages you to eat things that nature makes available, such as cabbages, strawberries and basically anything grown above ground level. Legumes and beans are discouraged as per the reasons above in the Vegan section about Soy beans, but you can find out from a Paleo perspective more using the link in the appendix number 4. Paleos also discard grains which I personally think is a pretty good idea as gluten and starch rich foods really are not going to do you any favours…but they are tasty. Gluten, or more specifically, gliadin is pretty harmful to a lot of people as it’s a protein that isn’t easily digested. In fact, the digestive tract thinks it’s a bacteria that shouldn’t be there and will attack it. If you are a coeliac then it will cause your digestive system to attack itself and cause damage to your intestinal wall. There is a reason that so many people these days need to go on gluten-free diets!! (5.)
Fasting is where you do not eat for certain periods of time. This can be hours each day, or days each week, or even days in a month. It’s up to the individual.
The reason behind fasting is that when you don’t eat for around 8 hours, your body starts using the glucose stored in your liver as energy. Once this is depleted your body starts using fat, then after most of that is gone, your body starts using protein stored in your muscles. Obviously you do not want to get to the protein usage stage as this leads to things like anorexia and your body is basically eating your own muscle, but everyone fasts in some way. When you sleep and your food is digested you enter the glucose stage, then you will enter the fat stage before you wake and eat breakfast to give your body more energy to use.
Fasting, if over-used, can lead to all sorts of problems in the liver, kidneys and muscles (6.)
The Obvious Truth
The reason I’ve used these three diets as examples is because they are the most popular diets in my experience and because I’ve tried all of them. Some I’ve tried for a week because they just did not make me feel right at all, but some I’ve tried for months.
You want the obvious truth? Well here it is:
- Eat a varied, balanced diet.
- Eat natural foods, not processed.
- Eat seasonally (eat things that are grown naturally around the current time of year).
- Sprout or ferment beans and legumes.
- Don’t focus on protein too much, you’ll get it anyway.
- Eat more vegetables that fruit.
- Eat grass fed, free-range cows.
- Use local, truly free-range chickens for eggs, but I would, personally, avoid eating chicken itself.
- Use the best parts of these diets and create your own.
- Use a heart-rate monitor to see what foods positively and negatively affect you. (Number 6 in useful links below).
It is the hard but honest truth. If you want to truly be healthy then you have to do your research, but don’t over-think. Find out when certain fruits and vegetables naturally grow and incorporate them into your meals, but source organic and local produce. Find farm shops in your area, find out where they get their meat from and where it’s slaughtered. Go to these places to see the journey of your food. If you want the best fruit and veg you can get, GROW YOUR OWN! It’s obvious!!
The main points are to know and care where your food comes from, eat ethically and responsibly and eat the food when and where it naturally grows. You cannot beat the greatness of nature. If we all went back to no technology and no shops, we would have to be smart enough to grow our own food and strong enough to catch our own meat. This is natural selection, this is how species die out or how they become dominant. Human beings incredible brains mean that we have now manipulated our surroundings so (in the west) we have far more food than we consume, we then waste the rest. It’s why we are lazy and sit more than we climb. Traceurs move in the way our bodies were naturally designed, so the best diet? The natural one that our bodies were designed for.
I know that eating right seems hard, but once you find the right places to buy your food from, you are well on your way to becoming more healthy. The thing is, if you didn’t care about what you eat you wouldn’t be reading this, so you have the motivation to actively seek the knowledge.
Please find links to information on the topics I’ve discussed in the appendix below. I have also added a “useful links” section. These links take you to some websites, YouTube channels and videos that change the way you think about food. Create a bookmark folder in your browser called “Food” and then add everything you find to that. Every time you lose sight or forget, just go back and check some stuff out again.
As with all things that you find on the internet; take them with a pinch of salt. This article is no different. These are my opinions and this is my outlook. If you like your pills and shakes and believe that it’s going to make you live better and for longer then go ahead. I do not want to tread on anyone’s toes or annoy people, I’m just trying to help people see through the large corporation’s advertisements and give them the tools to make their own choices. Please feel free to comment and give me more knowledge, correct me, or share your opinion.
Good luck on your new journey!
2. https://www.bulletproofexec.com/ This guy is called Dave Asprey. He is a bio-hacker and finds scientific ways to “upgrade” yourself. He has a lot of evidence for his research and is highly credited for his work. I drink his Bulletproof coffee and it’s very tasty, but i’m not sure how much it has actually upgraded me.
3. https://www.youtube.com/user/LondonRealTV This is my favourite YouTube Channel. Brian Rose finds really interesting people to interview and some of them are mentioned above. It’s not all about sports and nutrition, but you’ll find some gems.
4. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=00jbG_cfGuQ This a cool video to show how ATP is made. It will give you a good idea of scale. Do I really need to be calorie counting? Do I really need to be eating so much glucose? Watch it a few times for it all to sink in.
5. http://wellandgood.com/2013/08/09/7-fermented-foods-you-should-be-eating/ Just a good idea of fermented foods that you can start exploring. Put some goodness in your gut and you’ll get goodness out.
6. Grab one of these: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Polar-Bluetooth-Heart-Sensor-iPhone/dp/B007S088F4/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1421582822&sr=8-1&keywords=polar+h7 then type into your app store on your phone Ben Greenfield. Choose the NatureBeat app. This does cost. Alternatively, just download any app that reads and summarises your heart rate variability. You can test your heart rate a minute before you eat, then half an hour after, then an hour after eating, then an hour and a half after eating. This will then give you data that the app will process and output into information for you.