I entered the Paleo challenge with my main curiosity and goal being
increased energy level. I think the winter has a lot to do with it,
but I found myself struggling to get out of bed in the morning, and
feeling very tired throughout the day. I wanted to see if a Paleo diet
and more sleep would make me feel better. The answer is definitely
yes, I feel like I have more energy, but I can’t be sure which factor
contributed more, the sleep or the diet.
Considering the fact that I’m basically diagnosed with OCD (by my
peers, not by an actual doctor), I didn’t have much trouble staying
strict through the competition. It was all about creating a routine.
Get my 8 hours of sleep, wake up and drink my water, go work out, eat
Paleo all day, foam roll before bed, rinse and repeat. The hardest
part was making sure I had the right foods available. Normally I
wouldn’t hesitate to chow down on whatever is available (pizza Friday
at the office, all my daughter’s leftovers like chicken nuggets and
mac and cheese, etc.), but the competition kept me from indulging.
Usually on Sunday I would prepare a bunch of chicken and sweet
potatoes and eat that throughout the week. I kept it very simple, and
rarely spent the time to whip up one of the more complex Paleo dishes.
Instead of excitedly looking forward to my meals, I kept reminding
myself to treat meals as fuel . One of my favorite quotes (I believe
from Benjamin Franklin, according to Google) is “Eat to live, don’t
live to eat.”
I would definitely recommend it to anyone to do the Paleo challenge.
Honestly, even if you didn’t follow the Paleo diet too strictly, there
are so many other benefits from the rest of the contest components. I
probably hadn’t had 8 hours of sleep since I was in college. The
competition forced me to turn off the tv, get off the
Ipad/Iphone/computer, and go to sleep. Drinking water (right when you
get up, as well as throughout the day), exercise, recovery, are all
going to contribute to making you feel better. That’s my advice for
anyone who says they won’t do the challenge because they can’t/don’t
want to follow the Paleo diet. It takes some effort to strictly follow
the Paleo diet, but if you are ok with giving up a point or 2 a day on
the nutrition side, I think it would be pretty easy for those afraid
As for advice, I would say be careful with the cheat meals. It’s a
slippery slope. I made a huge mistake by cheating on Superbowl Sunday.
Not only did I overindulge at one meal to abide by the rules of the
contest, I was in full on eating mode after that and cheated again
later in the day, which cost me a point on top of my freebie. After 2
weeks of doing really well, I feel like that binge day really set me
back. Maybe it works for some people, but if you have a tendency to
overdo it, I’d caution to be careful with the cheat meals.
It feels great to make it through the challenge, and it’s a bit of a
relief that I don’t have to be so strict with all the contest
components. I’m happy with the results as I lost weight and bodyfat,
but apparently I also lost a little muscle mass. I feel better, look
better, and did better on the Wod. I’m looking forward to adding back
in some not so Paleo foods (like white rice) to see if I notice any
ill effects, but for the most part I believe I’ll keep following the
Paleo way of eating.
Here is Danny’s write-up about his experience with the Challenge:
I spent a good amount of time and effort reflecting on my experience over the course of the past month, and I made sure to make mental notes on all the different aspects of life affected by a paleo challenge. My initial impression was like that of the many people who I told I was doing the challenge – they questioned how realistic it was to cut out legumes, dairy, grains, and everything that contains soy – this was going to be torture. I was convinced that the person who was going to win this challenge was the person who could endure the most torture and monotony.
Seeing as how I was not keen on suffering for 30 days, I made sure to spend the days leading up to the challenge researching as many paleo options – breakfast, lunch, snacks, dinner – to really get an idea of what my options were going to be.. My first two weeks consisted of lots of prep work for meal planning – Paleo baking (muffins that used avocado as shortening for instance), I used tons and created tons of recipes and really improved on efficient kitchen and time management. This was a crucial improvement considering I had to create so many things from scratch and the time constraints. As fun as it was to cook drastically different things every day, the constant prep work does gets old… I found that the work for snack food (paleo crackers and pate – duck liver is better than goose – not so gamey) got tedious and I resorted to carrots, celery, jerky in the last week. For the most part the food was great. I only messed up making mayonnaise… I can make soufflés, make perfect flan, and render chocolate… but I F*CK UP mayonnaise – WTF.
The most surprising things were what I missed and what was easy to give up. I thought that the bread and grains would be easy for me, and they were. I thought dairy would be hard, but using full fat unsweetend coconut milk really worked out… but in the end it was not hard. I substituted lard or coconut oil for butter, I discovered raw honey (amazing), and learned how to use baking soda/powder to mimic real baked good with almond flour and tapioca flour. Even with all this, I still could not kick the desire for peanut M&M’s – which is odd, because I rarely eat them. Then there is god damn diet coke. I must have tossed out maybe 12 DC’s that I would buy out of habit. I eventually managed to change over to sparkling water, but those were my only two real struggles.
My main take away is this – The challenge is psychological. Anything you want (chocolate – I made chocolate mousse with avocado and coconut sugar with a bit of raw honey) you can make without loading up on empty fillers, it just takes a little effort. I have decided to stick with this life style, but on an 85/15% basis. I like cheese and wine, but I will save that for special occasions. Same with apple pie (working on a recipe…), but I will hopefully keep dropping weight (9.8lbs and counting)
Body fat 14.9% to 11.1%
Tape measurements C:39.5in and W:35.5in to C:40in and W:33.5in
Benchmark WOD before:64 after:92
Congratulations to Craig who, in addition to showing great physical change, also had the second biggest improvement in the paleo WOD.
This is what he had to say:
It was an eye-opening experience in a few ways. It showed me and my family that I could challenge myself to a high degree and gave me new perspective on myself and how my mind functions under this kind of test, and more broadly, who I am.
About two thirds of the way through the challenge I was feeling almost euphoric about myself my life my goals, my future and my health. But at the same time I felt the pull to falloff – not work out – not push myself, take a deduction… kind of like being two thirds the way through a WOD saying “I did enough, I’m exhausted, I can back off now” etc. To follow through and give it my best to last nights sleep was awesome!
My “brand” has never before been about physical fitness and having a great physique. Seeing my body change and seeing how much more fit I am (skiing with my family for instance) has really changed this view of myself. I think for my family as well.
I can say, with utmost sincerity, that I have felt better in my life! I would recommend it to anyone (and have) because no matter where you are in the spectrum of fitness and dietary discipline, you can compete and show yourself an improvement.
Thank you for putting this challenge out there and pulling such a great community together at CrossFit Stamford
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