Our CrossFit box is running a 30 day nutrition challenge and even though we hosted an information session with Q+A, there are always going to be questions about the Zone, Paleo, gluten free, and what “no sugar” actually means. One of the questions that has come up is “What can I drink on the Paleo Diet?” When you take away people’s soda and beer, they want answers! So here’s a line up of Paleo-friendly beverages!
I actually wanted to put this first because some of you might think fruit juice is ok since it’s made of fruit. If you actually take a look at Tropicana Pure Premium’s product label, you’ll see that a serving of orange juice contains 26 grams of carbohydrates and 22 grams of sugar. And that’s just for an 8 oz. serving which you are probably doubling since no one drinks just a serving size. If you are doing the Zone, you just consumed 3-6 blocks of carbohydrates (no more carb sources for the morning or even day!) not to mention the high sugar content. Fruit juice (even if you juice it yourself) basically hits your system with a huge dose of sugar and there is no fiber there to slow the process. Not a great choice for keeping your blood sugar and insulin levels steady.
In terms of the approved liquids, we might as well start with the obvious. Take more in if you are doing hard workouts and sweating a lot, but be cautious of people who say you need to drink enough to be peeing every 5 minutes. There are a lot of “experts” on hydration, but very few can agree on anything. Since I don’t consider myself an expert, I’m going with the vanilla answer of “if you’re thirsty, drink more.” If you are eating Paleo or Primal aka consuming real foods, you are getting a good deal more water through your food compared to a SAD (Standard American Diet).
My good friend and health coach, Laura Pappas, showed me this trick: water + _____ = homemade flavored water, where _____ can be mint, lemon, lime, cucumber, strawberry, or any other fruit/veggie or herb that you’d like to flavor with your water. Just cut up a couple of lemons and stick them in a pitcher of water. Even if you refill the pitcher, the lemons should still give enough flavor to last you a week or even more. As you transition away from a SAD diet, your taste buds will change and you’ll pick up on the subtle flavors of real food. Feel free to combine some of these too – Cucumber +lemon + mint = delicious! Buy an infuser bottle and take your flavored water on the go – no more Crystal Light!
A flavored water that is popular amongst CrossFitters is coconut water from brands such as Zico or VitaCoco. This is a good substitute for drinks like Gatorade and Powerade, but should be used in certain situations like after a tough workout, especially after longer, aerobic based workouts or runs. Coconut water is a good way to replenish electrolytes, but comes with a decent amount of sugar as well. So don’t go reaching for coconut water at every meal, but feel free to use it in place of Gatorade.
COFFEE & TEA
Ah, my lifeblood. While I know I can (and have) hold myself from coffee for a week+ with no withdrawal symptoms, it’s really just too delicious to keep out of my life. Coffee and tea are fine on the Paleo Diet as long as you’re not having it with creamer, sugar, milk, etc. “But black coffee is so strong!” you say. Well that’s the point! If you don’t like coffee for the caffeine or the taste, then you were probably more attracted to the 3 sugar packets that you put in your coffee and just fooling yourself. Personally, I have a collection of coffee devices at home: burr grinder, Aeropress, French Press, Nespresso Pixie machine, but I’m also not afraid to ask for a Venti Black Eye from Starbucks (20 oz. coffee + 2 shots espresso). Ok, maybe I do have a problem!
Take away my soda, fine. Even take away my sugar in coffee, I’ll deal. But take away my alcohol?? Before you light the torches and grab your pitchforks, let’s say this is a grey zone topic. While doing a challenge, I really do think to get the full benefits of “cleansing” yourself (I hate that word, but you understand what I mean), you should abstain from all alcohol. And no, you can’t use the “but red wine is supposed to be good for me!” excuse. Keep it out and see how you feel. THEN and only then, you may reintroduce alcohol following some guidelines:
-BEER – in general, stay away from gluten. So this includes most beers – sorry hipsters, your craft beers are probably making you sick. (and not just from drinking too much)
-CIDER – has become more popular and I wonder if it’s because many people are identifying as “celiac” or “gluten intolerant.” Whatever, the case, cider is a better choice due to the gluten free nature, but some contain more sugar than others.
-WINE – is usually fine, but also know it’s loaded with sugar. Better than beer because of the lack of gluten.
-HARD ALCOHOL – runs the gamut: some like tequila are gluten free while others are made from grains (whiskey, bourbon, scotch, gin, and many vodkas unless it’s made from potatoes). Personally I will either drink red wine or the classic Norcal Margarita, made famous by Robb Wolf: tequila, soda water, and lime.
At the end of the day, just know that you don’t drink alcohol to make you healthy, you drink it because it tastes good and it makes you feel good (briefly).
Overall, people wonder what they can drink besides water, but for the most part, the answer is: water! The same people wonder what they can eat on the Paleo diet since so many options have now been eliminated. While that may be true, just imagine a life where those options like soda, cake, and Coco Puffs were never there to begin with. Instead, imagine a life where we grew all of our food and either had to hunt or forage for it. That’s the idea of the Paleo/Primal diet and that’s why your choices may seem limited. Give it 30 or more days though, and you’ll see some dramatic changes to your body, mental state, and athletic performance.