For the past 27 days, I’ve been involved in the CrossFit Salem’s “Food as Fuel Paleo Challenge.” Me and about 40 of my favorite crossfitters have been religiously posting the food that we’ve been eating in a note on Facebook with the goal of becoming more aware of the food that we put in our bodies. Each of us put $20 in the pot and those of us who stick with the challenge for the entire month of March will split up the money in the at the end of the month. I think at best I stand to make about 5 bucks on the dealâ€”but that’s OK by me.
Although the main focus of the challenge was to become aware of what we are putting in our mouths on a regular basis (hence the food journal), we were also encouraged to “eat as paleo as possible” during the month. And since I’ve been keeping a food journal pretty much full time for the past three years, I really dove into the paleo aspect. Secretly, my goal was to achieve 90% paleo during the challenge, and I’m fairly confident that I achieved this goal.
What is the Paleo Diet?
The main concept behind the paleo diet is to eat the foods that were available to a caveman (lean meats, vegetables, healthy fats) while avoiding the foods that weren’t available to him (grains, legumes, dairy, sugars, alcohol).
One of the premises behind the paleo diet that really intrigues me deals with the evolution of man as it relates to the evolution of food science and agriculture. One argument in favor of the paleo diet states that a modern human hasn’t evolved much from earlier hominids. Similarly, the genes that regulate the digestion of the food that we eat haven’t evolved to efficiently digest the modern diet that most of us are eating these days. In other words, the evolution of food science and agriculture has far outpaced our own evolution.The result of this mismatch is seen in the rising rates of obesity, diabetes, heart disease and other metabolic disorders.
I’m not a nutritionist, nor am I an evolutionist, but this argument really does make sense to me.
So how has the month gone? Pretty darn well!
grains and alcohol
I’ve successfully managed to avoid grains and alcohol for sure. I’m not much of a drinker anyway, but this month I haven’t had a drop. I’m sure a few servings of grain have snuck their way into my diet (bites of pancakes here and there for example) but I haven’t consumed one serving of bread, pasta, or rice during the entire monthâ€”honestly I don’t miss them at all.
In the legume department, I’ve done a really good job of eliminating all the beans. This has been hard because I love me some beans and haven’t really figured out why they aren’t paleo approved. More on this a bit later. One legume I haven’t been limiting is peanutsâ€”especially peanut butter. I love that stuff, can’t get enough of it, and haven’t been able to find an alternative nut butter that I like as much as good old PB. But I have been eating only the good stuff, no added oils or sugars, just peanuts.
Here is where things get a little bit sketchy for me. I’ve done a really good job of avoiding dairy. I’ve had no milk or cheese and very little butter since March 1st. But I have been eating a fair amount of protein powder that contains the milk proteins whey and casein. And I still miss my glass of milk with dinner.
My sugar consumption has also been pretty good. I haven’t had any sweetened beverages, added sugar to any of my foods, or consumed any candy other than 88% dark chocolate this month. However, I have been using high sugar energy gels during my long runs and I did make one trip with the family for frozen yogurt (a total dairy bomb with sugar on top). But hey, nobody’s perfect, right?
Many people have asked me why I’ve been trying this diet this month. They can’t fathom that grains or legumes may be bad for you. They can’t comprehend that eating as much meat as I’ve been eating can be a healthy thing. These concerns are understandable based upon how ingrained certain food groups are in our culture. To be honest, the amount of information available about the paleo diet is staggering and I haven’t read all of it yet. But I have read some and generally buy into what the research says.
But how do I feel? How has my body responded?
- In a word, “FANTASTIC!”
- My sweet cravings have mostly disappeared now that I’m no longer addicted to sugar.
- My body feels great.
- I’m noticeably leaner in the midsection.
- I’m stronger at the gym.
- My energy levels are more consistent throughout the day.
Even though I’m happy with the results of this experiment, I still have some unanswered questions about the paleo diet. I need to research more on legumes. I need to find out more about which “paleo man” this diet is based on and whether all paleo people ate similar diets. Weren’t there some differences based on the geography of where they lived? How do these differences play into the evolution of our genes? These are all tough questions to research, but I’m intrigued to find the answers.
For the most part, I feel good enough to continue to “mostly” eat this way for a while now. I may try to incorporate a few legumes, and the occasional serving of dairy. Also, I’d like to get my blood drawn to see how much all this animal fat has changed my cholesterol and triglycerides, just to make sure I’m not a walking heart attack.
The paleo experiment was a success. I’m definitely glad I tried it and it’s really accomplished its major goal of making me more aware of what goes in my mouth on a routine basis. I’ve never been so in tune with the food that I eat, and that can’t be a bad thing. I’m sure my diet will evolve over the next few months, but right now I’m pretty happy where it’s at.