I recently started exercising again (I’ll be doing endurance, weights, and sprints). My lungs are pushed to their limits, so I need to be on top of my game everyday. To accomplish this, I became much more strict with my diet. Not everybody has to be as strict though. This below is the diet I’d personally do to maximize casual sports performance, reduce inflammation, and be overall healthy without cutting down too many foods. Disclaimer: I’m not a nutritionist.
Processed foods and ‘weird’ ingredients: None. Not even gluten-free processed foods.
Grains: None, except for white, or fermented/sprouted brown rice (you can do it at home, or buy it from Amazon, TJ’s also brought some in recently too!). Have such rice only up to one or two meals per week. Grains that aren’t allowed include: all types of wheat (and they are many), rye, barley, corn, oats, millet, sorghum, fonio, and others.
Pseudograins: None, except for soaked quinoa, up to once a week (I personally do none at all, irritates my gut). If you can avoid quinoa though, do so. Especially the red quinoa, is very problematic, as it cross reacts with gluten. Also avoid buckwheat, flax, hemp, chia and amaranth seeds (amaranth green leaves are ok to eat) etc.
Dairy: Fermented-only, e.g. European style full-fat yogurt (TJ’s), cheese, sour cream, home-made full-fat goat kefir (or at the very least full fat plain kefir from the store). For plain milk, you go for unsweetened almond milk, but avoid it if you can, these ready-made almond milks are very processed with additives (you can make your own though).
Eggs: Pastured-only from Whole Foods or Farmer’s market (or at the very least, free-range organic). 7-10 eggs a week are ok (cholesterol from eggs is a myth).
Nuts & Seeds: All are ok except peanuts, but they have to be raw, and then soaked (each kind of nut has different soaking times, look it up online). After draining them, these nuts & seeds keep up to 3 days in the fridge. Eat these only up to a small handful a day.
Flours: Almond, coconut and a bit of tapioca flour is permitted only in a few, special occasions in the year. Avoid all these “paleo gluten-free desserts/breads”. These don’t really exist in this diet. Raw desserts with fruits and raw honey are ok.
Legumes: All are ok except soy and its byproducts, but they have to be soaked in water for 24 hours before cooking them in high heat. Check out lentils carefully, they tent to have barley and small stones among them. Gluten-free tamari soy sauce is ok to use (the only soy product allowed). Have legumes up to twice a week.
Fats: Coconut oil, avocado oil, olive oil, grass-fed butter, animal fats. Don’t restrict these healthy fats. Instead, avoid all trans-fats and most vegetable seed oils (particularly margarine).
Veggies: All, including white potatoes and other tubers/roots. 2/3s of what you eat daily in weight, should be veggies, and some of it should be raw. Include many kinds of new veggies in your diet, even the ones you never had before (e.g. sorrel, raw young garlic etc). Also eat fermented foods almost daily, e.g. unpasteurized kimchi, sauerkraut, water kefir.
Sea vegetables: Yes, from parts of the ocean that are clean. A tablespoon of various types of seaweed, daily (prepare it yourself to ensure they’re gluten-free, or get a GF one from Costco).
Fruits: All in season. Juices are not permitted. Smoothies are permitted, but the whole fruit goes in it, not just the sugary juice.
Fish: All, particularly the fatty & smaller ones (low in mercury). They all must be wild. Best options are wild Alaskan salmon and wild sardines with bones (canned ok).
Shellfish: All. They don’t have to be wild. Canned are ok too. If they’re in vegetable seed oil, strain them, and add lemon. The most nutritionally-dense shellfish is oysters.
Meat: All, but only wild or pastured/grass-fed (3-4 times a week). Seafood in this diet is the primary source of protein, get seafood daily!
Offal: All, from pastured animals, once or twice a week. Liver twice a month. Heart has lots of CoQ10 and PQQ, which is great for mitochondria support.
Sugars: None, not even artificial. Some local, raw, unfiltered honey is permitted in RAW desserts (or added in gelatin-based but otherwise raw desserts). Organic brown sugar is permitted only if you’re using it for your water kefir (the kefir bacteria will eat it up during fermentation, so sugar is not an issue in this case). Don’t use honey in water kefir (honey kills the kefir bacteria).
Salt: Yes, Celtic sea salt. Avoid Himalayan, because while it’s otherwise very healthy, it’s also very high in fluoride (a little known fact).
Spices: Yes, particularly turmeric and ginger. Avoid ready-made mixes of many different spices, because these tend to have wheat fillers.
Bone Broth: At least 1 cup, daily (reheated and drank as-is, or used in soups). Slow-cook it for 24 hours with filtered water, pastured bones, 1/4 of a lemon OR 1 tablespoon of apple cider vinegar, and celery/carrots/onion only at the last two hours of the cooking process. Keeps up to a week in the fridge in jars, or up to a month in plastic bags in the freezer. Bone broth will keep your joints and knees healthy during exercise.
Coffee: Avoid all caffeine. It’ll take you two weeks to become free from it (drink less and less every day). Expect withdrawal symptoms, like headaches.
Teas: Herbal-only. Best are chamomile, and particularly Greek Mountain Tea (found in Mediterranean stores only).
Alcohol: If you have to party, rarely have some cider, or some wine. Particularly avoid beer at all costs because of its gluten.
Vitamins: The modern food and water don’t provide as much nutrition per weight as they did in the paleolithic times. Take D3 with breakfast, and get its level up to 80 ng/ml (test yearly to make sure you don’t overdose). Magnesium 2-3 times a week, 20 mins before bed. CoQ10 Ubiquinol 3 times a week, and K2-Mk4 2-3 times a week (lunch time). B1 only once or twice a month, with dinner. B12-sublingual or other vitamins only if a blood test reveals that you’re low. Take Zinc once a week — if you’re not eating oysters weekly. Avoid multi-vitamins.
Drugs: Avoid NSAIDs, steroids and other drugs that aren’t absolutely essential for your health condition (always with your doctor’s approval).
Water: Lots of it, but with no fluoride added (so avoid most tap water, particularly in the US).
Regarding GMO/Organic: for some veggies/fruits it makes sense to get them as non-GMO and organic, for others it doesn’t. It depends on the kind of veggie/fruit we’re talking about. There are lists about this topic online.
Breakfast, after exercise: 1 egg, kimchi, tablespoon of seaweed salad, reheated baked sweet potato with butter on it, a reheated cup of bone broth, fruits. The sweet potato will refuel you.
Lunch: Seafood (I usually open a shellfish or sardines can for lunch) with green veggies or salad, cheese, and fruits or smoothie.
Snack: Chamomile, or almond milk, or home-made milk kefir, or a handful of soaked nuts/seeds.
Dinner: Seafood or meat/offal with veggies and 1 cup of starches. Also, salad, and fruits or yogurt with berries.
Regarding the mentioned starch at dinner time: use only for the days you exercise. For example:
Mon: Beans (soaked)
Tue: White Potato
Wed: Brown rice (sprouted)
Thu: White Potato or parsnips and other starchy roots
Fri: Lentils (soaked)
Sat: Quinoa (sprouted) or white rice
On Sundays, presumably the only day you don’t exercise (change it around if you are), go lower in starch:
Breakfast: Just a smoothie.
Lunch: Semi-starchy roots (e.g. carrots, beets, rutabaga, turnips), along the rest of the lunch.
Snack: Bone broth, or herbal tea.
Dinner: Green veggies (low carb), along the rest of the dinner.
This is a lower carb diet compared to the western diet, but it’s not very low carb, and it’s definitely not ketogenic. Don’t count calories/carbs. Just eat as much as you need, and have enough of the right fats (don’t skip them).
Fuel with more starch than usual for two days before an official race/game.
Get recipes using approved ingredients, here (minus the non-raw desserts & breads shown there, but plus the soaked legumes/quinoa/rice).
For pasta lovers, this is your pasta from now on. I personally prefer these over real pasta (especially the one made out of zucchini). Other gluten-free pastas are acceptable if needed be, but only if their single ingredient is rice.
For pizza lovers, there are options, but none taste authentic I’m afraid. I’d suggest some rice-based pizza dough, in very special occasions only. My husband and I found that the best-tasting of all is the “All Against the Grain” pizza, found in some large supermarkets, although other brands now make GF pizza too, with rice as the only grain ingredient.
You need to be sleeping by 10 PM and wake up in the early morning to be out in the sun with skin exposed. You need the D3 and UV from the sun from the early morning, when the sun rays aren’t as harmful, due to the sun angle. The right circadian rhythms and the sun are quite probably more important than diet above for health!
How to do this cheaply in the US: veggies/fruits from Asian/Mexican stores, and the Farmer’s Market. Costco for seaweed salad, kimchi, organic ground beef. Trader Joe’s for raw nuts, canned sardines, canned Alaskan salmon, canned oysters. Dollar Store for other canned shellfish. Asian stores for shellfish, rabbit, duck gizzards, wild white fish. Pastured meat/offal/eggs is going to be expensive no matter what (although most goat/lamb is pastured in the US, find it in Mediterranean shops at acceptable prices).
You’ll do worse before you do much better in your athletic performance. It’ll take 3-4 weeks to adjust to this diet. During that time you will also be detoxing from sugar, gluten etc, so it’s to be expected that you will under-perform. But when that part is done, you should get much better than before, and quickly.