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Monday
Aug272012

Paleo Diet Update - 45 Day Report

It’s been 45 days since I overhauled my diet to a much more strict Paleo regimen, so I figured it was time for a check in to not only assess how things have been going, but share my key learnings as well. 

Overall, the diet (or “eating lifestyle” as some would say) has worked very well for me.  Like anything else, I have made a few mistakes here and there (some minor, some major) but those mistakes have led to more research, asking more questions, and has been key to finally hitting somewhat of a sweet spot.

As I mentioned in the previous post, I have basically eliminated the “healthy” carbs like oatmeal and sweet potatoes.  As a grain, oatmeal has no place in a Paleo lifestyle however sweet potatoes can be fine in moderation, or used selectively if one is a highly-active athlete (think CrossFit or endurance/triathlete).

As written in Robb Wolf’s book, I have limited my fruit intake to one serving per day.  This used to be a banana (pre-workout) or an apple, but those are higher sugar fruits so I have maintained strictly blueberries as my fruit serving, usually as an after-dinner dessert.

Key Mistakes:

1 – Not paying enough attention to protein sources

For years I have kept turkey meatballs from the grocery store as a part of my weekly shopping menu. They are ready-made and convenient, plus they are easy to track when counting calories. When discussing my energy levels with the group at my CrossFit gym, one smart girl questioned whether or not these turkey meatballs contained enough protein.  I checked the ingredients list (red flag: too many “ingredients”) and among the first few elements were enriched wheat flour, and bread crumbs. Same was true for the ready-made turkey burgers I was getting from the store. 

I didn’t eat a single one of them from that point on, and committed to cooking more legitimate and wholesome ground turkey.  Eventually I added protein sources like lamb, bison, and organic grass-fed ground beef.

2 – Not getting enough fat.

This probably should have been #1, as it is the single biggest key so far in making sure that my workouts not only have enough fuel to be sufficient, but can make improvements.  One article helped clearly illustrate for me just how important dietary fat can be in the absence of dietary carbs.  The metaphor I would use is that if the body is a fireplace or grill, protein can be burned for energy (like wooden logs or charcoal).  Dietary or muscular protein can be converted into glucose (fat cannot) but dietary fat is the kerosene or lighter fluid needed to help ignite the process.

One of the single worst CrossFit WODs I’ve had came the morning after doing a horrible job in getting enough fats into my meals.  My performance that day was so sluggish that even I had to laugh and make jokes with one of our coaches after it was done.  But even through the brutality, I had learned a crucial Paleo lesson – if you want to be an active individual, getting enough dietary fat is of maximum importance.

What am I eating?

A standard day’s eating looks something like this…

Breakfast: 4 scrambled eggs + ½ avocado

Mid-morning: ½ avocado + 4-5 pieces turkey bacon

Lunch: 8oz ground turkey or lamb + vegetables (mixed greens, asparagus, broccoli, etc) with LOTS of olive oil. May also add ½ avocado if training later in the day

Mid-afternoon: repeat of lunch, with ½ avocado

*If there is a training session scheduled later (usually 5:30 or 6:30pm), the last bite of the mid-afternoon meal goes down no closer than 2 hours before my WOD begins. Through trial and error I have discovered this is the window of time when my body can completely digest a solid meal and be ready to train without issues.

Pre-CrossFit WOD: 5-6 tablespoons of coconut oil and/or almond butter

*Taken usually 90 minutes before I train, this has become a great way to top off my energy stores heading into an intense training session.  It usually takes 45 minutes before my body feels the energy surge from something being ingested, but I allow an hour and a half due to fat being slower digesting/loading than fast-acting sugary carbs would be.

Post-WOD: Protein shake + amino acids

Dinner: Rotisserie Chicken + vegetables

*If still hungry close to bed time I may down 1-2 tbsp of almond butter and half a protein shake.

 

Thanks to the above, my energy levels have never been better.  While I am tired at points from the intense training, I no longer have the sleepy energy crashes I would get at my office desk after polishing off one of those giant 32oz smoothies that I loved so much.

I’ve also lost an inch from my abs (read: gut) and waist since a measurement 5 weeks ago.  People claim that I look leaner, and I do seem to fit better into shirts that were too tight before I started. I have also lost 8 pounds since I first began.

As previously mentioned, I’ve tried almost every dietary philosophy out there.  This is the first time I have experienced success in all phases (workouts, body composition, scale weight).

Some say that this diet is too restrictive, but personally I am enjoying the fact that grocery shopping is very simplistic since I know exactly what to buy. There is very little guess work.  There is also no time spent worrying about portion control as one would on Weight Watchers or similar philosophies.  Lowered carbohydrate eating (with an assumption of a reasonably-active lifestyle) allows a person to take in a greater volume of food than they are typically used to, as the body metabolically processes protein, veggies, and good fats differently (read: more efficiently) than heavier foods like grains, dairy, or lots of sugars.

Needless to say, things have gone very well thus far in the first 6 weeks and I am excited to see what happens both in-terms of bodily changes, and my CrossFit training as things continue to get dialed in. 

I don't foresee abandoning the Paleo lifestyle any time soon, and look forward to another check-in or status update a couple months from now.