Take a few minutes to read this. It’s about this paleo challenge thing. There may be a little bit TMI for some of you that aren’t friends with me or my manner of speaking frankly.
So, waaaay back, when CrossFit was just starting to gain steam in my old neck of the woods, my gym did a Paleo challenge. I had previously been doing a “green faces” diet, which is like paleo-lite (eat something that came from a “green” plant, and something that had a “face” (ie, meat) at every meal), but I hadn’t gone “strict paleo” yet. It was a similar idea, be strict, show up for your workouts, and so on. The challenge was one month start to finish. I still remember what I ate, literally every day of that month, because it was the same thing.
Breakfast – 3 eggs, 4 pieces of bacon, water, coffee
Lunch – a palm sized piece of some sort of meat (rotated between hamburgers, pork chops, chicken breasts, small steaks), the rest of a normal sized plate was filled with either broccoli or spinach, with about 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Water, maybe coffee.
Snack before the gym – about a handful of almonds, with 3-4 macadamia nuts mixed in, and 3-4 pieces of jerky.
Dinner – see “Lunch”, but with double meat on workout days, and no coffee.
30 days of this. No cheating. Doing CrossFit wods 4 days a week.
– The first 2 weeks suck. Seriously. Even with my warm up “green faces” diet, where I had drastically reduced my grain and sugar intake, I was not prepared for how crappy I felt. THIS IS NORMAL.
– You miss sugar, whether you realize it or not, HARDCORE. Basically, any carb = sugar. Grains = sugar. Dairy (to an extent) = sugar. Sugar = sugar. This makes you think you miss things like bread and cheese and sweets and everything else, but really your body is just craving sugar.
– These things are really your body adjusting from having completely jacked up insulin sensitivity, back down to normal levels that humans that don’t eat garbage 24-7 have.
– Magically, after the first 2 weeks, almost overnight, I felt GREAT. Energy levels were ramping back up, wods were feeling easier and faster, it was awesome. This is also, almost universally, typical of going paleo.
– I pooped on a freakin’ schedule. Same time, every day. I made no effort at all to encourage this, my body just decided and it happened. Also, completely normal.
– My “slightly upset stomach” that I thought I had for pretty much my entire life, which I attributed to just eating too much at one sitting, or something was too rich, or some other lame excuse, completely went away. My stomach didn’t hurt once for the entire month.
– The cravings went away after the first couple weeks, and you realize that primarily, food is fuel. Stop complaining about it, and eat your food. It’s like what your mom said when you were a kid, except now you have to enforce it on yourself.
– A single month of Paleo should be viewed as an experiment at worst, and a lifestyle change at best. More on that in a few.
– If you don’t eat your veggies, you are gonna be hungry, because they are mostly bulk that help keep you full (physically).
– If you don’t eat your fats, you are gonna be hungry, because they are mostly responsible for giving you that full feeling (mentally).
– Veggies + a couple tablespoons of butter or olive oil = you feel full, almost guaranteed.
In 30 days, I lost almost 30 lbs. I went from a slightly-better-than-when-I-started-CrossFit 253, down to a holy-crap-I-haven’t-weighed-this-much-in-years-225. All my benchmark wods had stayed the same or gotten slightly better, but that might have just been a coincidence. I felt great.
I won the challenge, I got a free CrossFit BWI hat, and many pats on the back and congratulations from my gym buddies.
Not to sound like a grizzled old man, but seriously, Paleo in 2014 is roughly eleventy-billion times easier than it was in 2009. I had no cookbooks, or help, or really anything to read about how to make it easier except Robb Wolf’s website and books. It was not easy or pleasant for the first couple weeks. It gets better. Don’t Cheat.
After the challenge, and I seriously seriously seriously cannot recommend this HARD ENOUGH, don’t just go whole-hog back into eating crap. This is an amazing chance for you to figure out what your body likes and what it doesn’t. If you haven’t been eating dairy for the month, be prepared for an unpleasant surprise. If you weren’t obviously lactose intolerant before, you might be now. All the things that make paleo great also help your body flush out all the stuff it doesn’t need. For some people, a month of no dairy can finally convince your body to drop those enzymes it’s been desperately clinging to since childhood that let you process milk semi-efficiently. Add things back in ONE AT A TIME. Pay attention to how you feel, both immediately, and over the next 24 hours. Going out and having pizza on day 31 is going to ruin this experiment. If your stomach gets upset, you won’t know if it’s from the grains in the dough, the dairy in the cheese, or the processed meats and everything else. If it feels fine in your stomach immediately after eating it, but then the next time you poop you notice a significant change in how your body dealt with that food, that’s another REAL STRONG HINT, that it’s something you might want to reconsider eating on a regular basis.
After the challenge, cheat. It’s cool, really. Even Robb Wolf, godfather of paleo, goes out for mexican once a week and eats tortillas and black beans. Just try to stick with the 80-20 (or better) rule. 8+ times out of 10, be good. The other times, eat what makes your taste buds happy. Just be prepared for those cheat days to possibly result in some gastro-intestinal distress.
Moreover, paleo isn’t a freakin’ religion. There are people out there that act like this is the ONE TRUE WAY, or other nonsense, and will give you shit for not being the most cavemen m’f’er that ever cavemanned. Yes, our ancestors probably ate something similar to this. Yes, we haven’t evolved significantly from those ancestors. Yes, our bodies are really good at doing this kind of diet. However, YOU ARE NOT A DAMN CAVEMAN. Having a beer, or a cheat day, or whatever you want occasionally doesn’t make you any less paleo than anyone else.
Lastly, if you are gonna be paleo, and lift weights, be prepared to spend a freakin’ fortune. I have done this. It’s expensive. It’s pretty hard to “lift big, eat big paleo” because your options for cheap, filling, high calorie, high protein foods are pretty limited. However, if you find paleo really works for you, and you wanna get your mass-season on and really get strong, ask me all about it and I can help.