Monday, October 31, 2011

Primal eating challenge, day 23

Lemme guess.... Your Monday began with some vague griping about the day of the week, work, the weather, the boss. Mine began with checking the website and finding out we were deadlifting today. More reasons why CrossFit makes you happy. There is no lift so joyful as the brutal simplicity of the deadlift.

We did a weird rep pattern, though: 8,6,4,2. I got 315 pounds for four reps, but failed at 365 for two. I shouldn't be too bummed out about that. 365 is my current one-rep max. Frankly, with the end of a cold still bugging me and slightly less than perfect sleep last night, I shouldn't have been so bold.

Live and learn.

Woke up to the smell of a four-pound lamb roast in the crockpot in coconut curry milk.

Pre-workout: blueberries and almond butter. Black coffee.

Immediate post-workout: coconut water, a little sweet potatoes and apples. Sadly, it's the end of that combo until I make more.

Breakfast: the last two nights' dinner over eggs, plus bacon.

Lunch: The crockpot lamb, over greens, with sauerkraut. There was nothing short of amazing about this.

One pecan Larabar. Some almonds. A little grassfed cheese.

Dinner (pictured below): crockpot lamb, asparagus, butternut squash, acorn squash. Both squashes are flavored with cinnamon, grassfed butter, nutmeg and cloves. Jamie made this. Jamie rules.

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Sunday, October 30, 2011

A quick thought about "paleo making you more sensitive to gluten."

I have occasionally heard a complaint that eating primal/paleo seems to make a person *more* sensitive to gluten. You stay away from it long enough that a blast of gluten hits you harder than it ever did back in the fat/flabby/insulin-resistant/pre-paleo days. And, for some reason, this concerns some of us?

Try this on for size: a pack-a-day smoker lives it up one day and smokes two packs. He doesn't really feel much different. On the other hand, a non-smoker (or, if you like, a long-ago former smoker) smokes a single cigarette and feels like fermented ass. Would this lead you, the non-smoker, to the conclusion that maybe you should smoke more often?

See, I knew you'd get it.

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Or the sunnier version....

“We are born and we die.
No one cares, no one remembers, and it doesn’t matter.
This is why we laugh.”
--J. Stanton

Yeah, I like this one much better. It ends with laughter.

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In 100 years, barring something extraordinary, no one will know anything about you or care that you ever lived. Impermanence: It's permanent.

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Primal eating challenge, day 22

It seems that roadblocks were thrown in my way at every turn today: strange traffic doings, thanks to yesterday's strange weather doings (snow in October? Really?); simple conversations bogged down by weirdness; even the puppy is bizarre, barking at some phantom menace in the yard.

So we turn to the food for some sense of normalcy....

Breakfast: wild salmon, eggs and green peppers, plus black coffee

A lemon Larabar.

Lunch (on the road): Chipotle salad with carnitas, lettuce, salsa, guacamole, peppers and onions.

Some frozen peaches heated up with almond butter.

Dinner: steaks and asparagus on the grill. More sauerkraut too.

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Are you kidding me? We *just* got back from Berlin a few weeks ago, and now I learn that there is a paleo-only restaurant there called Sauvage!?!? More reasons to go back.

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Saturday, October 29, 2011

Halloween workout and the primal eating challenge, day 21

Today was our annual Halloween workout at CrossFit Aspire. The one day a year they tell you to dress like an idiot. I complied, quite willingly. It was easy: dreadlock wig/cap and a Bad Brains t-shirt. Ridiculous, but I loved it.

As for the workout, it was a blast:

Weighted Pullups in sets of 5 were the strength component (I got sets of five with 47 pounds in a weight vest that I was wearing, but when I went for 57 pounds, I only got a set of time) followed by a partner WOD! I love team WODs. And somehow, they let Jamie and me be a team. What we lack in strength in our 49-year-old bods, we make up for with ace planning. This was the workout:

10 Rounds – no setting the KB down
10 KB Swings
10 Goblet Squats
10 Burpees
10 Jumping Lunges

Your partner had to hold the kettlebell while you did the burpees and lunges (or vice versa). We just each took a round and alternated. Boom. It was fun, and more tiring than it may look.

Oh, and we all looked awesome.

This all prompted a lot of eating today.

Pre-workout: black coffee and a bowl of sweet potatoes and apples.

Post workout immediately: 16 ounces of Vita Coco coconut water. Nice.

Breakfast: More black coffee and then eggs, last night's lamb/veggies and bacon.

Snack while watching Nebraska take Michigan State to the woodshed in college football: almonds and a little grassfed cheese (my first dairy in days...feeling a lot better).

Lunch: more of last night's lamb/veggies, over greens with guacamole.

Some Morning Thunder tea, then some herbal tea while cooking. Missing a good Saturday night while-cooking drink, I am.

Dinner: Whole Foods chorizo with green peppers and spinach. And sauerkraut. I love sauerkraut, and it is so good for your digestion. This was the super clean stuff from Whole Foods. Some frozen blueberries too, heated up in microwave.

Three weeks down.

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Friday, October 28, 2011

Primal eating challenge, day 20

Breakfast: blueberries with almond butter, then eggs, spinach, paleo meatloaf and bacon. Coffee. Black.

Lunch: wild-caught salmon and guacamole over greens. Sweet potatoes and apples.

Best just-got-home-from-work snack ever: bacon and eggs dumped on sweet potatoes and apples. Oh my god....

More coffee. Black.

Dinner: grassfed ground lamb with curry powder and turmeric plus broccoli and asparagus. Oh, one Whole Foods fresh turkey sausage with sundried tomato, garlic and basil.

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The power of bacon

Interesting and nutritious breakfast (eggs, meat, spinach):

Becomes interesting, nutritious, sexy and awesome (the aforementioned plus bacon):

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Q: Will CrossFit help me beat this cold? A: I wish.

I hope I have made it clear that I love CrossFit. It has been (and continues to be) very very good to me. Along with dialing in sleep and diet, my focus on CrossFit as my principal fitness regimen over the last 18 months has done a hell of a lot for my body composition and overall fitness.

But CrossFit is intense and demanding. All the reasons it kicks my ass and whips me into shape are all the reasons why I am not at the gym this morning.

Why? Because of this damn cold I am fighting off.

My experience with exercise and a cold back in the pre-CrossFit days was pretty simple: if the congestion was "above the neck," I would exercise; if it was in my chest, I would back off and rest. But I have not found that to be a successful strategy with CrossFit.

It all gets back to "intense and demanding." When I am beaten down, particularly when I am on a sleep deficit from waking up coughing ten or so times overnight, going into the gym and doing, say, "Fran" or "Helen" even at my 49-year-old's pace, is not terribly advisable. (And no one loves Helen like I normally do). Even worse is cranking out something monstrous that takes 20 to 30 minutes to complete. The long workouts tax the immune system -- and when the immune system is down and out already, it's a recipe for staying sick even longer.

So here I am, sitting in the kitchen, cup of coffee (black, no heavy cream while I am sick) next to me, as I type away while my gym is blasting out a workout. I am going to take more Mucinex, eat well (day 20 of a 30-day challenge) and try and get a truckload of sleep tonight.

I hate skipping a workout that I otherwise intended to do, but it's a smart move. And it increases the chances that I will be there tomorrow morning, clad in a ridiculous "costume" (of sorts), ready for the Halloween WOD. Well, hell yeah.

Man, I hate having to be an adult....

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Thursday, October 27, 2011

Primal eating challenge, day 19.

If somehow this particular post is the first one of my 30-day-challenge posts that you are reading, fergodsakes start with another one. Today was, from a paleo/nutritional perspective, a little, er, carb-heavy. You'd swear I deadlifted.

We'll blame those sweet potatoes and apples. Jesus, they were delicious.

Breakfast: just a few sweet potatoes/apples followed by eggs scrambled with leftover paleo meatloaf, broccoli and spinach. Coffee. Black.

I was working from home today. Damn sweet potatoes began their snacky siren song at about 10:30 a.m. Now, I knew enough not just to eat a crapload of carbs by themselves, so I tossed in some paleo meatloaf. We will call that Snack #1.

Lunch: That Amazing Lamb, once again, over greens.

Took a short break from work and beat the hell out of the drum kit.

This made me hungry. Do you hear that? Calling me from the fridge?

Snack#2: exactly the same as Snack #1.

Dinner: the sad end of That Amazing Lamb, mixed with some paleo meatloaf (really), with spinach, and reheated all together in a skillet, with, just to relive last night, a fried egg dropped on top. Then, just to make sure I ate enough carbs today to kill the average person, I had some frozen peaches, heated up in the microwave.

The good part about today: no actual cheating on the challenge occurred, but I am going to try not to replicate this level of fruit/carb intake for a while.

The better part about today: Robb Effing Wolf tweeted my Raynaud's post. Really. Nice, huh?

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Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Primal eating challenge, day 18

It really has been the month of sweet potatoes, and there are more waiting in the kitchen to be cooked. The wonders of belonging to a local organic CSA....

I have been fighting off/with a cold that desperately wants to get jiggy with me and lodge itself in my sinuses, thereby becoming a full-blown bacterial infection. Fortunately, Mucinex is an effing wonder drug for preventing exactly that from happening, so I started taking it last night. I also realized that until I kick this cold to the curb, I need to shitcan the dairy. Despite all its grassfed fatty goodness, it is not sitting with me well while I am a snot factory. So, until these symptoms go away, I am going to have to get my fat from more traditional paleo sources. I like to think this strategy may enhance the effectiveness of the Mucinex, as well.

Let's talk about food.

Breakfast: I came downstairs to an absolutely overpowering blast of coconut-milk-curried-lamb goodness filling the whole first floor. 12 hours of That Amazing Meat Recipe (special lamb division) had, once again, spread its awesomeness everywhere, but lamb adds something extra to the mix. So I stuffed a couple hunks of that into my mouth, made those noises referenced in the last post, and proceeded to make/eat: eggs scrambled with sweet potatoes, the end of the Thai beef, and spinach. Plus, coffee. Black. Two cups. I may have also stuffed some more lamb into my gaping maw while preparing/packing my lunch. OK, forget "may." I did.

Lunch: That Amazing Lamb over spinach/greens with guacamole. A boatload of it. Oh, and an apple.

Coffee. DD medium. Black.

I don't mind black coffee at all. Sometimes I actually like it better taste-wise than with heavy cream, except for that amazing accelerate-the-caffeine effect that heavy cream has. I am missing *that* today, especially in my ass-dragging state thanks to sleep interrupted last night by several coughing fits. But the health effects today of my self-imposed brief heavy-cream moratorium have been pretty good. Heavy cream: sometimes it's good for you; sometimes it's snot.

Enough of that. Back to the food.

Dinner: I am writing this pre-dinner. So if we call an audible, I will edit later, but here is what I expect to eat: leftover paleo meatloaf, more of That Amazing Lamb, broccoli, spinach. The lamb is dripping with coconut-milk/curry sauce. I am hungry just thinking about it.

Postscript.... We never got to the paleo meatloaf leftovers because lamb, broccoli and spinach topped by a fried egg was dinner. Then I put three big pans of sweet potatoes and Granny Smith apples into the oven. Epic.

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World's easiest meat recipe, a.k.a. No, need to do this (special emphasis on sheep)

Meat is awesome. You knew that. Coconut milk is also awesome. It has medium-chain fatty acids that are the bomb. It has an amino acid that you otherwise could only get from human breast milk. Combine meat, coconut milk and curry paste in a crockpot, and oh wowzers.... Make that meat grassfed lamb and your wife may say to you what mine said to me, "I figured the lamb must be delicious because I heard you making orgasmic-y noises in the kitchen while checking the crockpot."


World's Easiest Meat Recipe

--Bigass slab o'meat, preferably grassfed, but you knew that. Using the cheapest, crappiest cut is fine. In fact, unless you have the resources of Bill Gates, I recommend it. You are gonna cook it so long that it could have the pliability of a Louisville Slugger when you start and it'll still come out buttery awesome.
--One can coconut milk. Buy the clean stuff.
--One small (4 ouncer from Thai Kitchen is clean and delicious and perfect-sized) curry paste (red or green...your choice. I like red better).

Do this:

--Heat up the coconut milk in a pan with the curry paste. It'll lose the chunkiness as you stir it.
--When the contents of the pan are silky smooth (this takes, more or less, like three minutes at most), put hunk o' meat in crockpot.
--Dump smooth silky saucy coconutty curry over it.
--Cook for 12 hours on low.
--Enjoy the awesomeness, preferably with vegetables that you cooked separately.

There is only one way to go wrong here and that is if you are an impatient little turd and cut short the cooking process. Buttery awesomeness -- the ultimate goal here-- can only be achieved by cooking the living bejeezus out of the meat, slowly.

And....if you want it all to be double extra perfect, use a lamb roast. I just did, for the first time, and it is several amazing levels better than usual.

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Sometimes you have to post a link

It's called "What the fuck is paleo?" and, as you may have guessed, it is not safe for the workplace. If you would like to read it, go here.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Primal eating challenge, day 17

Breakfast: eggs, sweet potatoes, broccoli, bacon, Thai crockpot grassfed beef, guacamole. Yes, again. Yes, it was just as good this time. Coffee with heavy cream. And then a second cup.

By the way, I think Richard from Free the Animal is off his rocker when he gets all wacky about multi-ingredient omelets. I love that site much of the time, but that rant seems a little anal.

Lunch: more of that Thai beef, greens, guacamole. A lot of beef. A coconut cream Larabar. It isn't a snack if it is part of the meal. One apple.

Coffee, DD medium, black.

Got home from work and ate some grassfed beef, grassfed cheese, blueberries and almond butter, and went to Costco where I bought a beautiful Aussie lamb roast that just went into the crockpot overnight in coconut milk and red curry paste.

Dinner: J made Everyday Paleo's meatloaf recipe (almond-flour, not grain-based) and asparagus. No brussel spouts, though. I do not like them, Sam I Am. Not at all. Sorry, Kate.

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Monday, October 24, 2011

Primal eating challenge, day 16

We did the "filthy fifty" today at the gym. I am not a fan. So let's talk food....

I cooked about five pounds of grassfed beef overnight for 12 hours in the crockpot in an organic Thai beef stock that I got at Wegmans. The stock was clean, except for white wine, so before I used it I texted the powers that be at the gym and got the answer I expected -- it's fine; there is no gluten (unlike if you cooked with beer, for instance) and the meager amount of alcohol cooks right off.


Woke up this morning and had some coffee and a bowl of heated-up frozen cherries with some heavy cream. I have to admit that after two weeks, I am missing my pre-workout protein shake with coffee and heavy cream. The fruit is ok but I am not getting quite the same bang for the buck at the gym out of it.

Breakfast was eggs, the end of the curried ground beef and veggies and some hunks of the new Thai beef, plus sweet potatoes. Added a little guacamole too. More coffee, more heavy cream.

Lunch: Thai beef, greens, sweet potatoes, guacamole.

Late afternoon: more coffee. Some almonds. A little grassfed cheese. Some blueberries. What the hell? That is a lot of snacking, but I guess the workout this morning brought an unexpected appearance from Mr. Hunger.

Went out and bought a fairly ridiculous "costume" for our gym's "Halloween" workout this Saturday. Then had dinner at Chipotle with Jamie: a pretty predictable salad of guacamole, barbacoa, lettuce, onions, peppers and salsa.

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Sunday, October 23, 2011

Primal eating challenge, day 15

Woke up and jammed a Larabar in my mouth and headed out the door with Ruby the pup, who really wanted/needed a long walk.

Breakfast: eggs scrambled with sweet potatoes, the leftover curried ground beef, asparagus, green peppers, broccoli, some leftover steak and bacon to make it all even better. Denny's cannot beat that skillet. Coffee with heavy cream (my only caffeine today.... Don't know why).

Went to 1 p.m. CrossFit.

Lunch: 295-lb sled drags and then a long metcon (20:38!) did a number on me, so I came home and ate a huge bowl of sweet potatoes, ground beef, broccoli and green peppers.

Then there was a bunch of yardwork and a bit of almonds and grassfed cheese for a snack.

Dinner: grassfed burgers (4) and asparagus on the grill.

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Saturday, October 22, 2011

Primal eating challenge, day 14

It's funny....I was doing fine with no alcohol, until J and I were out the other night, in a bar, seeing a band. The band we went to see, Wild Flag, were awe-inspiringly great. More on them in another post, but suffice it to say that they were so good that I didn't need any other distractions/amusement. But the opener.... snoozeville. J and I went exploring around the (new! awesome!) Union Transfer venue in Philly and there it was....the bar. Whoo boy....what do you do to amuse yourself when you are bored in a bar?

We drank seltzer.

With lime. Wait no....there were no limes. I like seltzer fine, but this seemed grim at the time. I wanted an adult beverage.

But we resisted and we made it through. And now it is day 14. From a booze perspective, day 30 seems a long way away, but I repeat to myself the mantra, stolen a bit from Whole9: "This is not hard. Cancer is hard. Wheelchairs are hard. No booze for a month is not hard." Then there's all that insulin/Raynaud's shite from my last post to consider once day 31 rolls around. Let's talk about food. Today's food.

Breakfast: last night's dinner -- coconut curry ground beef with veggies, over eggs. Coffee with heavy cream.

Out the door at 6:30 a.m. To get my younger son to a volleyball tournament in rural PA at DeSales U. This was a college tourney and he is on a high school club team that more than held its own in this thing. Pretty cool. Also pretty cool: planning food out in advance. I went to Wegmans last night and bought two seven-ounce packages of grassfed roast beef, mixed 'em up with some assorted olives from the olive bar there, and boom! Lunch. The boy is not paleo, so he chowed down on hoagies. (Take your judgments elsewhere).

I ate a lemon Larabar at some point this morning too.

Then there was coffee from a local Turkey Hill store. I am not sure if it's the turkey or the hill that they put in the coffee, but it was pretty lame and weird. Even black it was still lame.

The tournament went on and on and on, so I ate a Steve's Original Paleo Kit too. On the way home, at about 6:30 p.m., I grabbed a couple hard-boiled eggs from Wawa, and some more black coffee. And then, we arrived home at 8 p.m. or so to Jamie having cooked us grassfed steaks, sweet potatoes and asparagus. Nice.

That was a boatload of meat today.

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Me and Raynaud's -- a primal success story?

I have had Raynaud's for years but I didn't know it. I just thought that when I got cold, particularly when the cold came on suddenly -- like bare feet on cold kitchen tile on a fall/winter morning, or a blast of cold air through an open window, or (and this is classic me) running out to the car in 15-degree weather wearing shorts and a t- shirt because "I'll only be out there a second" -- that my fingers got numb faster than most people's. Then my brother told me a few years back that he had Raynaud's, with symptoms far worse and more easily-triggered than mine, and I thought, "Hey, that's what happens to me!" (albeit to a lesser degree) and then I learned a friend had it so bad that her fingers turn white and sometimes even blister. Yowch.

My symptoms have never been awful, just annoying. Numb, tingling fingers, and an urgent need to warm my core so good circulation returns -- or, better yet, never leaves if I take steps to actually wear warmer clothes before the chill hits. But I am a T-shirt guy. I am perennially underdressed by most people's standards because my core temp runs hot. I could sweat brushing my teeth. So, once the Raynaud's started appearing, it really fucked with my sense of what to wear. Suddenly I was putting on flannel shirts in the *house*, fercryinoutloud.

So I muddled along for a few years, and then, when I went mostly paleo/primal, I saw a marked improvement in symptoms. It didn't happen quite as often. I wondered why, and then heard Robb Wolf (who is getting enough positive mentions on this blog that he is going to need to start paying me soon) say that Raynaud's is "almost always a sign of some degree of hyperinsulinism." OK, so that makes sense; control your body's regulation of insulin levels through proper diet and things that are triggered by hyperinsulinism will begin to go away. Paleo/primal helps regulate insulin, so it should help. And, apparently, according to Wolf, the degree of your Raynaud's symptoms are nearly directly proportional to how poor your insulin regulation is.

But, and this is a huge but and kind of the point of all this blahlahblah, the symptoms never *entirely* went away until I started this 30-day challenge. In an experience akin to Dave H's (from our gym) when he learned that paleo meant no more acid-reflux medicine for him, about seven days into this challenge I realized that I had repeatedly been in situations where normally the Raynaud's would kick in to some degree, and....nothing. Wow. Most prominent was at our post-volleyball pigout on our back deck last weekend. There we were, chowing down on enough sausage to make your cardiologist cry and the sun started to go down and the wind kicked up and I thought, "Holy crap, here it comes....not." Not. At. All.

This quick-chill/no-Raynaud's scenario repeated itself a number of times over this past week. It's fall here and the days are still warm-ish, but it gets chilly as the sun goes down. Last year I would have had to take steps to stave off the chill or else pay the price in Raynaud's symptoms. This year....nothing. I walked out to my car at 6 a.m. today on the way to my kid's volleyball tourney, and spent about 10 minutes outside, cleaning out and loading up the car, clad in a t-shirt when it was 40 degrees (American, not Canadian/restoftheworldian) out, and .... nothing.

So what is the difference? I was already mostly paleo/primal when I started this challenge. The single biggest dietary change for me this month is .... (dammit) no booze.

So what's that mean? Booze fucks with your insulin regulation? Well, duh, yeah I knew that. That I can never drink again?

Hold on a minute. No. Nooooooooooo!

Or at least I hope not. As I told you before, there are two beautiful, shiny liters of duty-free Scotch whisky (Highland Park and Laphroaig, you may recall) stashed away waiting for me to finish this challenge. But I think I have serious thinking to do about when and how I drink. I need to think of a drink as a wallop of sugar water that, particularly if consumed alone, on an empty stomach, sends my pancreas into insulin-pumping overdrive. Insulin-pumping overdrive is not really the state in which to manage (or eliminate) Raynaud's.

So, smart guy, it's time to drink smart. No more just-got-home-from-work-and-think-I'll-have-a-drink drinks. Eat first. No, really EAT first.

And I like to think that is the solution. My Raynaud's was never awful, but I don't want my insulin levels imitating a ride at Six Flags. *That's* the real issue here. Tingly/numb fingers are a bullshit problem. But knowing that I am taking my pancreas on Mr. Toad's Wild Ride is a different story. I don't want to do that. I almost feel fortunate that I have Raynaud's lurking in the background, because its symptoms (or, preferably, the lack thereof) are a great barometer of whether I am properly regulating insulin. Otherwise I wouldn't know what havoc I was potentially wreaking.

What an instructive 14 days this has been so far. As a guy I rarely find myself quoting said, "Once in a while you get shown the light, in the strangest of places if you look at it right."

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Friday, October 21, 2011

Primal eating challenge, day 13

Breakfast: eggs, some more leftover lamb and veggies, bacon, coffee with heavy cream.

One cherry Larabar.

Lunch: salmon and greens with guacamole. One apple.

DD iced coffee, black.

Got home and had some grassfed cheese and almonds while I wrote that Robb Wolf/Mark Sisson post.

Dinner: cooked up three pounds of grassfed beef plus broccoli and green peppers, all in coconut milk and green curry paste. Lots of leftovers. Boom.

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CrossFit is awesome, but don't confuse it with life

I have this sticker on my car that says: "Eat. Sleep. CrossFit." You could mistakenly get the idea that  my life essentially consists of those three things. Nope. What it means is that those three things are how I stay fit to handle whatever the *rest* of my life presents me in the ways of fun or challenges.

If you want to get a 45-or-so-minute spiel on the general topic of how to stay fit for life, as opposed to how to make fitness just another obsession that amounts to "replacing one addiction with another," check out podcast #102 from Robb Wolf. In that episode, Robb has as his guest Mark Sisson, from Mark's Daily Apple. Mark is a 58-year old who looks and acts like a guy 20 or more years his junior. He is a former triathlete, who used to log up to 100 miles of running per week, consuming 1000 grams of carbs per *day* to fuel that level of training, until he retired many years ago, suffering from osteoarthritis, irritable-bowel syndrome and other ailments directly linked to his diet and overtraining.

 He realized that "chronic cardio" is "antithetical to health," and made changes to his food and lifestyle, all from the perspective of evolutionary biology, in order to reach the goal of being able to "achieve ideal body composition  and be happy and healthy and strong with the *least* amount of work and the least amount of pain, suffering and sacrifice."

But wait, you say, I am a CrossFitter! I am a savage beast who seeks pain and punishment and maybe even some good quality puking in pursuit of "elite fitness."


Sure, you *can* make CrossFit your life, but what Sisson is suggesting for most of us is using CrossFit -- or any fitness regimen that stresses high work output in short sessions -- as the fitness component of a sleep/food/fitness regimen (remember "Eat. Sleep. CrossFit," hmmmm?) that actually lets you spend more of your time doing *other* fun things as well.

Moreover, he tells us that "80% of body composition is determined by how you eat." I'd amend that to begin with the phrase: "After you get your sleep dialed in properly.... " And in fact, Robb Wolf says in this same podcast that the questions "Are you sleeping well? And are you eating well?" are the two most important issues for most people. Those are the items that set you up for proper recovery. Plus not overtraining. If you love CrossFit, by all means, do it. I do, but personally I love it a lot more at a frequency that allows me proper recovery.  That frequency is going to be different for everyone. Hell, I am 49 years old and I need a lot more recovery than I would if I were 30 years younger. Remember, as Sisson says: "Recovery is everything." What you want to avoid, he says, is an endless grind where you are overtraining to a point that you are not recovering, and in fact, are jacking up stress and cortisol levels. And that's going to be different for each of us.

And overtraining isn't the only evil. Sisson warns against turning diet and food choices into a one-size-fits-all dogma. Sure, a bunch of us at our gym are doing a 30-day challenge, but what about post-challenge? You know....the rest of your life? You may find that if your body composition is where you want it to be, you can up the amount of good carbs -- like sweet potatoes -- in your life. You might even find that a little white rice, post-workout, is a great source of recovery-oriented carbs. "But wait," you scream, "it's a graaaaaaaiiiiiin!" Lighten up, Francis. It all depends on what you are trying to achieve. As Sisson stresses in the podcast, if your goal is weight loss, you are going to want to avoid carbs more strictly than if you are happy with your body composition. (But always always always, avoid wheat, and anything else with gluten, he clarifies). The ultimate goal is to get to a body composition you like and maintain it with a diet that is "painless." In fact, Sisson says, "once you get the diet [and sleep] dialed in, you don't even have to train that hard." Of course you *can* if that's fun for you, but you don't *have* to. And if you *do* train hard, eat appropriately to fuel recovery.

In the end, for Sisson, it's all about quality of life -- dialing in sleep, diet and training in a way that lets you do other fun stuff. He likes to paddleboard, play ultimate frisbee and hike, but, he makes clear, "I hike because I want to hike, not because I think, 'Oh shit, it's Tuesday and I should be hiking'" as part of an exercise program. He trains formally three times a week -- two strength-based metcons and one sprint session. That's it. The rest is active play. And, of course, as I said, if your active play is CrossFit, that's cool. But it doesn't *have* to be. Don't turn CrossFit into a job. If you like doing other things too, do them. For me, the perfect week of "active play" is volleyball one day, drumming another and three CrossFit sessions. Maybe on another week, I will throw in an extra day of weight training or another volleyball day, or go beat the crap out of my drums again. And when I can, I want to go hike a kickass mountain every now and then too -- for fun, not "training." This is not "one size fits all." And it is definitely not supposed to be drudgery.

Sleep well. Eat well. Exercise enough to let you play well and not get injured. These are the lessons of Mark Sisson, and, for my money, you can't beat 'em. Now go listen.

(Listener note: you could skip the first ten minutes of this podcast and not miss much but introductory/background stuff on Mark, but it gets great from there).

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Primal eating challenge, day 12

No CrossFit today, but band practice tonight.

Breakfast: last night's amazing lamb and veggies with eggs and thick-cut applewood-smoked bacon. Coffee with heavy cream.

Lunch: (on the road) Chipotle salad, double meat (barbacoa) guacamole, medium salsa, peppers and onion.

Dinner: leftover lamb and veggies from last night. Coffee to make it through band practice. I am tired from all the rock last night.

Totally ate like predator, not a prey, today. No need for snacking because I stuffed so much in at meals. This plan worked all day until 10 p.m., when I got home from band practice and had a sausage, already cooked and waiting in the fridge, and some almonds.

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Wednesday, October 19, 2011


I find that when I get hungry in the morning between breakfast and lunch, I can almost always look to one culprit: I didn't eat enough at breakfast (duh), but specifically I didn't eat enough meat because, other than eggs, I relied on bacon as the primary protein source. If you look at my food log, you may see that I have made this mistake more than once recently.

Bacon is delicious. Bacon is awesome. Bacon inspires great art (I may have made this part up) and can cause a person to commit philosophy. Sometimes you love it so much you have contemplated naming one of your children (or pets) Bacon (or Baconita). But, really, look at the nutrition facts. It's a paltry amount of actual protein in your bacon. Use it to flavor something that already has enough protein, but if you use it as a stand-alone protein source, or even with eggs, but no other animal protein, you may find Mr. Hunger paying you an early visit.

Mr. Hunger is the enemy of the successful 30-day challenge. Do not fight him armed only with bacon.

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Primal eating challenge, day 11

Rest day from CrossFit.

Breakfast: hot Italian sausage, two eggs and broccoli. Coffee with cream.

Some more coffee (iced, black, DD) at 10 a.m.

Lunch: the final chapter of the liver/beef/veggies combo that I made last Thursday, mixed into a salad, with guacamole. Delicious, but a little repetitive at this point. I ate a righteous pile of it today, though.

More coffee at about 5 p.m., black, because we are going to see the band Wild Flag in Philly tonight *way* past our bedtime.

Got home and had a little Wegmans hot fennel salami with a little grassfed cheese and then made dinner: three pounds of ground lamb in a pan with curry powder, and mixed with greens sautéed in butter and asparagus. Oh yeah. Lots of leftovers.

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Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Primal eating challenge, day 10

Day 10! Wow. How'd that happen?

I am posting this at 9 a.m., post-breakfast, in anticipation of what I plan to eat.... Planning is everything. If there is more, or a change, I will add it later, but I am going full-throttle in multiple directions all day today until way into the evening, so now is the only time I will have to blog it.

5:30 a.m, pre-workout: bowl of almond butter and frozen blueberries heated in microwave. So good. Coffee with heavy cream.

Breakfast: I get home from my favorite CrossFit workout ("Helen") to find Jamie has made breakfast. Nice. Bacon with eggs and broccoli done in the bacon fat. Really nice. More coffee. More heavy cream. More awesomeness.

Lunch: no one else here will eat liver, so I am still making my way through this liver/beef/veggie combo, over greens with guacamole. Obviously, I am capable of eating the same thing over and over (guacamole, anyone?) but, I have to admit, I am getting a wee bit tired of this particular liver-y blend.

Dinner: Chipotle salad with guacamole (No! Say it isn't so!), a meat to be chosen at the time, maybe even double meat (mmmmm, double meat), ok definitely double meat, salsa, onions and peppers.

Sometime this afternoon, I am sure I will have some coffee. Black.

Postscript: this all happened as planned, except, starving after this morning's CrossFit workout, and having eaten too little meat at breakfast, I tore into a Steve's Original Paleo Kit (size:large) at 10:45 a.m. Wowzers. I wasn't hungry for lunch until 2 p.m. Oh, and the meat to be chosen at a later time at Chipotle was: barbacoa. Double size. Double awesome.

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Lessons learned....

1. That two-second break I just took between the last sprint and the kettlebell swings on Helen** just cost me a PR.

2. I could get pissed off about that, or I could just think: "Oh hell, it's a decent time anyway, and you really weren't feeling it today, so next time you will destroy this thing." Yeah, I'll go with that.

**Helen = three rounds of: 400 m run, 21 kettlebell swings (53-lb KB), and 12 pullups. My PR: 9:34. Today's time: 9:35.

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Monday, October 17, 2011

Primal eating challenge, day 9

Pre-workout: coffee with heavy cream, and cherries and plantains, microwaved in a bowl, with a little more heavy cream.

Breakfast (post-workout): leftover sausage, three eggs and broccoli, in a skillet. More coffee. I drowned my bad mood in caffeine. That's what we're supposed to do, right? It worked. OK, what actually worked more was foam-rolling the crap out of my shoulder.

Lunch: still more (a lot more, actually) of that liver/beef/veggie combo that was left over from the other night, over greens with guacamole. You know...the take-a-meat-salad to work trick. This kept me full all afternoon. I really loaded up. Oh and there was a medium Dunkin' Donuts black coffee in there too sometime this afternoon.

Dinner: grassfed steaks and asparagus on the grill, and Jamie's awesome butternut squash too. The boys were over and we feasted like kings.

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Paleo/primal does not necessarily mean smart

Conversation with myself this morning, post-gym: "Maybe, genius, if you're going to do toes-to-bar in a workout for the first time ever, you should try a few of them at non-workout speed beforehand, so when the workout starts and you plunge into it full-throttle you don't jack the shit out of your shoulder by using the wrong grip, and have to stop. And have I mentioned you are also a moron?"

OK, so I am my own worst enemy...*there's* a not-so-new lesson.

"You live and learn. At any rate, you live." --Douglas Adams

The post-workout foam roller is my pal.

Later... Perhaps a better mood and, most importantly, the food....

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- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Primal eating challenge, day 8

One of the things I love about eating this way is that you can eat a *lot* of food. If you stick with real food, no grains, etc., it is really tough to gain weight. This was the first day of the challenge that I didn't really snack at all, and didn't need to -- because I ate so damn much food at mealtime.

I won't call it anything as formal as "breakfast" because it was not formal at all, but in my first hour of being awake today I ate: a blueberry Larabar, a piece of that Wegmans black-pepper salami that we started in on last night, a bowl full of heated-up blueberries and plantains (cooked last night in a pan with grassfed butter and cinnamon), three-eggs/bacon/broccoli/asparagus/guacamole done all together in a skillet in a way that would make your typical Denny's weep in envy, and coffee with heavy cream. *That*, my friends, is quality eating. And it was just the first meal of the day.

Lunch: a big bowl full of the liver/beef/veggies mix from the other night, topped with a dollop of guacamole.

Played volleyball all afternoon at our place and then fed all the players with salad and sausages and sausages and sausages. I think I ate six of e'em: one chorizo, two sweet Italian, three hot Italian. Afterwards I feasted on some frozen peaches and cherries from Wegmans heated up with plantains and topped with just a bit of heavy cream. Amazing.

One other interesting fact from today: only one cup of coffee. I can't tell you the last time *that* happened. The power of primal living and a day of volleyball? Could be. Could be.

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Saturday, October 15, 2011

Primal eating challenge, day 7

Before the gym (a little more food than the usual pre-gym routine because we had a nutrition seminar at 9 a.m. and then the workout at 10, so I stuffed this in about 8 a.m....can't be getting hungry, y'know): fairly large bowl of coconut-curry sweet potatoes mixed with the liver/beef/veggies concoction from the other night and with one fried egg dropped on top of it all.

Eating so much pre-gym was a really good plan today. We got back from the gym over three hours later because there was such a boatload of people there for the nutrition seminar that the post-seminar workout was run in heats. was shortly after noon that I ate again, but we will call it breakfast: two eggs, a bunch of leftover grassfed ground beef and veggies from a few nights back and a righteous beautiful pile of coconut-milk sweet potatoes.

I love eating like this.

Lunch never quite happened. I was out mowing the lawn and took a break to stuff in my very first Steve's Original Paleo Kit. Wow. It's the best damn jerky I ever tasted combined with nuts and dried fruit in a way that I do not think I could replicate in my own kitchen. It was incredible and the large one was the perfect big-ass protein/fat snack.

Waiting for dinner to cook, I had some outrageous high-end black-pepper salami from Wegmans and a little grassfed cheese. Then it was yellowfin tuna and asparagus on the grill for dinner, followed by some peaches and cherries with a little heavy cream to make it fatty and awesome.

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A list of some paleo/primal resources

Our CrossFit gym did a nutrition seminar today as a lead-in to a gym-wide 30-day paleo challenge that pretty much mirrors my own 30-day primal challenge that I started last Sunday. Truth be told, I never would have started my challenge without the inspiration to do so from the trainers at CrossFit Aspire, so thanks for giving me the idea. I'm a week into this and I feel really really good.

As a payback for the good idea, and since paleo/primal is a new idea for some of you, I figured it might be helpful to point you in the direction of a bunch of paleo/primal-friendly sites that I visit pretty often. These aren't in any particular order, and, man, are there a lot more out there than just these. But every one of them has given me a good idea, or sometimes a whole lot of good ideas, whether it's a recipe, or a thought that maybe I should (or shouldn't) be eating a particular food. Some are wonkier/geekier/science-heavier and some not so much. And, undoubtedly, you will find some more to your liking than others. You'll also quickly learn that paleo/primal has a lot of different practitioners with slightly different ideas of how to go about all this. What all these sites have in common, however, is a commitment -- on their own terms -- to healthy living while feeling, looking and performing great.

So here goes:

Mark's Daily Apple -- by the author of "The Primal Blueprint" book. A good combination of recipes and advice, and, unlike some of these sites, always with a message that's delivered in a positive, non-doctrinaire way.

Robb Wolf -- Robb wrote "The Paleo Solution," which is, for my money, the one book you should read about paleo before any other. His podcast is great -- funny, self-effacing banter between him and strength coach Greg Everett and full of great info about the whys and wherefores of paleo/primal. The website is a little geekier/dorkier and, well, a little clumsy in its layout. Read the book. Listen to the podcasts. Once you do that, the site will make more sense. The FAQ is particularly great.

Whole9 (aka Whole30) -- Melissa and Dallas Hartwig provide great advice, great recipes and probably the purest, strictest and least alcohol/caffeine-friendly environment in the paleo world. I think this site is *perfect* for a strict challenge. They don't put up with any "this is haaaard" whining, and their advice is nutritionally spot-on. Once you are out of the confines of a strict challenge, you might find them to be The No-Fun Police to some extent, but I think they are probably just really nice, smart people who don't view their job as justifying your (or my) boozing or excess coffee consumption. I'd rather invite Robb Wolf and his Nor-Cal margaritas to a party, though.

Dr. Kurt Harris -- The site is a little archaic/haphazard. It has a weird, made-up name and its author  even disappeared (in a posting sense) for a few months, but somewhere beneath the not-very-glossy exterior is a passionate advocate of primal living who backs up his eating habits with good scientific reasons for what he does. As you delve into the site, you'll find his take on primal eating is a little different than the others  -- less emphasis on vegetables and macronutrients than many. But it's a worthy addition to your paleo/primal reading/surfing list.

Free the Animal -- Don't even think about going here if opinionated/not-very-politically-correct postings get you riled up. The author does not give a damn what you think of him, his site or his way of life. He will express his opinion without regard to anyone's feelings or sensitivity. But when he gets going on a righteous paleo/primal bender it is a thing of beauty. He laughs at vegans and openly insults soy-bomb vegetarians. But I love him most of the time -- maybe because he's a guy about my age who, like me, feels like he stumbled on the freakin' grail in terms of the way to eat and live and can't help but tell people about it. Lots of good stuff here, but not for the sensitive. -- This is the home of J. Stanton, author of a paleo/primal-based novel called "The Gnoll Credo" about a scientist who takes up with a tribe of primitives. I have the book on order and likely will review it here after I read it, but, whether or not the book is great (and I have heard nothing but praise for it), the website is a thorough, fascinating look into the science and day-to-day ins and outs of paleo eating. I have just scratched the surface of this one recently, but it's going to get a lot more of my attention in the coming weeks and months.

Cave Girl Eats -- A great recipe/paleo-health site run by a member of CrossFit Tribe in Pennsauken, NJ.

Steve's Original -- Speaking of CrossFit Tribe, one of the owners, Steve Liberati, runs this site dedicated to selling you paleo food that also benefits kids in need. The paleo kits, with jerky, nuts and fruit, are so delicious that I can't begin to tell you how much better they are than any jerky/fruit/nut concoction you might try to put together at home. Plus they benefit a great cause. Get some. And if you're a CrossFit Aspire member, you can get some at CFA.

Smart. Sexy. Paleo -- A blog run by an Aussie who is muddling her way through paleo/primal just like you and me, which is why I like it. It's real life by someone trying to look, feel and perform better.

Everyday Paleo -- So many great recipes by one of the trainers at Robb Wolf's gym. She's also way into being a mom, which I can't say makes me read the "how to make your kids' lunches paleo" articles because my kids are way past that stage, but if you are trying to feed kids paleo food, I can't imagine a better site. And the recipes are great whether you are feeding a family or just yourself.

Dr. Chris Kresser -- Warning: possible science-y overload at this site. Probably not the place to go when you first begin, but a great resource once you get really into it.

 And, not wanting to overload you with info, I think I'll stop there for the moment. Enjoy the web surfing, and i like to think that one or more of those sites will become a place you regularly visit for paleo/primal info.

Repost: "Why snacking makes you fat and weak."

I don't want to become mostly a source for links to other sites, but this article by J. Stanton makes me want to redouble my efforts to avoid snacking, and,if I do snack, to make sure there is protein and fat in the snack.

While we are on the topic of Stanton's nutrition articles, this one is a fine guide to why paleo/primal makes great sense.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Philly Cowshare!

All our beef is grassfed and all our grassfed beef comes from here. If you live around here, yours should too.

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Primal eating challenge, day 6

Last night after band practice: ate a banana and some almonds when I got home.

Today is a rest day from all forms of activity. I need it. Band practice kicks the crap out of my upper body.

Breakfast: three eggs scrambled with broccoli and bacon, plus a bit of Dubliner (grassfed) cheese. Originality is not my forte when I am in a rush to get out the door to an appointment. Coffee with heavy cream too.

One lemon Larabar. I usually don't get hungry between breakfast and lunch, but I think breakfast was too light on meat, hence the Larabar.

Black iced coffee from Saxby's. I could have been "that guy" who asks for the heavy-cream stash from behind the counter, but it wouldn't have been grassfed, so I passed on that.

A small nutritional tangent: by and large, I agree with Dr. Kurt Harris that heavy cream is an item for which it is slightly less important for it to come from grassfed sources. The reason? Most of us use so little of it that if the omega 3 to 6 ratio is less than optimal (i.e., too high in the 6s) it's not really a big deal. But for the sake of the challenge, I went all orthodox/hardcore and passed up the hc this time. This month, all my cheese, cream and butter comes from grassfed sources only.

Lunch (on the road): there's a Wegmans near where I had to go this morning, so I stopped in and bought seven ounces of already-packaged, grassfed roast beef and some olives and tomatoes at the "Mediterranean bar," and that was lunch. This lunch was a bit light in the carb department, I suppose, but nicely represented on the protein and good-fat side of things. Wegmans is awesome.

Got home from work and ate a few almonds and some grassfed cheese. Then decided I was still hungry so I had some frozen peaches microwaved to melt 'em a little. In light of breakfast today, I guess that snack might be a bit much on the cheese front, but it's Friday, in the middle of a primal challenge. The fact that there won't be any alcoholic beverages imbibed tonight is still a nutritional improvement from the typical Friday. So really, what's a little extra (really good) cheese, hmmm?

Dinner: grassfed steaks and asparagus on the grill. Shocker: I used some guacamole to liven things up. And then I had some blueberries for dessert.

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Thursday, October 13, 2011

Primal eating challenge, day 5

No exercise this morning. we have band practice tonight. Two hours of drumming is exercise enough for today.

Breakfast: bacon/broccoli/spinach/eggs scrambled. A little guac mixed in. Coffee with heavy cream.

Drank black coffee and a bottle of water at a meeting this morning while others jammed bagels and donuts into their mouths.

Lunch: last night's dinner (grass fed ground beef, veggies, spices), plus some of those coconut-milk sweet potatoes, all over greens with guacamole. One apple.

Dinner: liver, ground beef and chipped beef (about a pound of each), all grassfed, cooked in a frying pan with cumin and chipotle plus onions and red peppers, and, yes, a little guacamole. Lots of leftovers. I keep reading about the importance of eating offal sometimes if you want to get the full range of nutrients from your grassfed cow. It's good this way mixed with the beef -- keeps the liver-y stank down to a minimum, and is yet another opportunity to get some guacamole into my life.

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Wednesday, October 12, 2011

My political thought for the day

I have a lot of lefty friends who are 100% in support of the Occupy Wall Street protests and I hear noise from those on the right who think it's all a bunch of crap.

As usual, I think both sides are a little right and mostly really wrong.

I have been a politics junkie for a long time, and it seems to me that the "it's all your fault" fingerpointing in American politics has reached an all-time high. A vast majority of people think taxes should go up -- on someone else, but not on them. Similarly, large groups of people -- Occupy Wall Street on the left and the Tea Partiers on the right -- think that the financial problems in this country are all the *other* side's fault.

But reality seems to be, as it usually is, squarely toward the middle, and fault seems to be all around. Yes, it is absolutely ridiculous that hedge-fund guys pay taxes at a lower rate than others. And yes, unscrupulous bundling and selling of sub-prime loans took place. But, on the other side, a vast movement, mostly from the left, to get more people to become homeowners, often through Fannie and Freddie loans, means that an absurd number of people bought houses that they simply could not afford. Default and foreclosure was nearly a foregone conclusion from the outset of those loans, and that isn't just the fault of one side. The blame is on Wall Street and Main Street. And, really, if you want to eliminate the deficit, just let the Bush income-tax cuts expire on *everyone*, not just the rich. It wasn't the "rich" that principally benefitted from those cuts. We all did. Spread the pain around, and actually get a better result.

The Simpson/Bowles commission got it right by proposing a deficit-elimination approach that hit everyone a little for the benefit of all in the long run. Sadly, that sort of compromise seems to be on the minds of neither the "Occupiers" nor the "Partiers," who both believe it's all the other guy's fault.

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Caveat Emptor (a.k.a., if you're just here for the food, then don't read the other stuff)

I have a little extra blog traffic of late because of this primal/paleo food challenge that our gym is running. Cool. Welcome.

But just a warning, I have opinions on lots of topics, especially politics, that you may or may not agree with. I also sometimes use words that your grandmom wouldn't like. If you are easily offended either by those sorts of words, or by reading opinions you might not agree with, you would probably be well-advised just to read the food posts.

On the other hand, if a little quasi-libertarian-ish political thought, sometimes expressed in, er, impassioned language -- plus a little rock and roll, and lord knows what else -- doesn't get you all riled, read away, and enjoy yourself.

And thanks for coming by.

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Primal eating challenge, day 4

5:30 a.m., pre-workout: almond butter and blueberries, microwaved. Coffee with heavy cream.

8 a.m. Post workout immediate-stuff-into-my-mouth nomnomnom: pile of those sweet potatoes and apples from the other night.

Breakfast, half an hour later (hint: breakfast usually equals leftover dinner plus eggs): leftover andouille sausage plus three eggs and spinach. Oh yeah....and guacamole (there's a surprise). More coffee with heavy cream.

Lunch: salad containing mixed greens, one can of salmon (ingredients: wild Alaskan salmon and salt...that's it), coconut/curry sweet potatoes and guacamole.

Snack: Larabar (coconut cream...awesome).
Snack: sweet potato/apples. Yes, again. Oh, and some almonds, and a bit of Dubliner cheese. Yeah, we deadlifted today at CrossFit. I am effing hungry.

I may have to found "Guacamole and Sweet Potatoes Anonymous" soon. (Me: "Hi, I'm Steve." Group: "HI, STEVE!!!" Me: "It's hard to admit you have a guacamole problem, but I found myself speedballing guac and sweet potatoes yesterday in an alley behind Wegmans, and, well, here I am...." Group: "IT'S OK, STEVE!!!!" ....etc.)

Dinner: grassfed ground beef stir-fried with onions, peppers, garlic, asparagus and spices. Made it with four pounds of beef, so, even with the teenage son here for dinner, we will have leftovers.

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Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Primal eating challenge, day 3

We'll call today's theme: "sweet potatoes."

Woke up and ate some sweet potatoes that were cooked overnight in the crockpot in the coconut milk/curry that was left over from cooking the Thai beef yesterday, plus some of the sweet potato/apple combo that I cooked yesterday.

Took a two-mile walk with Jamie and the dogs (no CrossFit today),
then had a breakfast of: a few more hunks of sweet potato/apples and then three-egg omelet with spinach, bacon, and grassfed Dubliner cheese. Also had two cups of coffee before work, both with heavy cream. Wheeeee...I love caffeine.

Lunch: Thai coconut/curry beef, greens, guacamole, sweet potato. Yes, I put guacamole on Thai food. Sue me.

Snack: more sweet potatoes/apples.

Another snack: some grassfed cheese and some roasted almonds.

Dinner: greens sautéed in grassfed butter and spices plus andouille sausage on the grill.

I'll add onto this if I eat more, but, damn, that was a lot of food today... a lot of really great food.

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Monday, October 10, 2011

Primal eating challenge, day 2

5:30 a.m., pre-workout: frozen cherries and almond butter, heated up in microwave.

Breakfast: three eggs, leftover sausage, broccoli, guacamole.

Lunch (on the road): bigass Chipotle salad with carnitas, salsa, guacamole, onions, peppers, lettuce and white rice.

1 cherry Larabar.

Dinner: Thai coconut-milk/curry beef and spinach. (Beef cooked for 12 hours in crock pot with 1 can coconut milk and 1 small jar of red curry paste).

Beverages over the course of day: coffee (both black and with heavy cream), water, seltzer.

Currently in crock pot overnight: sweet potatoes, peeled and sliced, in the leftover beefy coconut milk/curry sauce.

Just cooked in the oven: sweet potatoes and apples. Note to self: use cooking apples next time. These ones kind of melted. Whatever.

Postscript: I couldn't resist....20 minutes after getting those sweet potatoes and apples out of the oven, I dove in and had a few. Not the best eating plan to jam in carbs just before bed like that. The score: deliciousness (but still within the parameters of the challenge) 1 - good sense 0.

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Protein shakes aren't primal/paleo

I woke up this morning and was about to engage in the usual pre-workout routine when I thought, "Riiiiiight. Protein powder isn't primal." Every day that I head to the gym, I drink a protein shake that consists of three shots of espresso, some heavy cream, protein powder and water. I see better results at the gym since I started doing that. All those things are just fine during a primal challenge, except the protein powder.

Read the label. There's a lot of stuff in there that you can't find in nature. There is nothing "clean" about protein powder.

So what's a not-so-young crossfitter to do? The protein powder is out the window during this challenge. What's the substitute?

Enter my son Kevin the trainer, who suggests the following: put a bunch of frozen fruit (no added sugar, no ingredients on the label except "fruit") in the microwave for one minute. Add some almond butter and microwave for another minute. Bask in the deliciousness.

It tastes incredible. But is it nutritionally sound as a clean substitute for protein-powder in a pre-workout setting?

I think it is.

When I look for nutritional information, particularly in an exercise context, the first guy I turn to is Robb Wolf. He has a website and a podcast that I am addicted to. One of the things I have learned from him and Dr. Kurt Harris is that excessive fructose consumption is bad, but that if consumed in the pre-workout window, particularly if the workout is something glycolytically demanding like CrossFit, fruit (hint: contains fructose) can be a great source of energy. If you hit your system with good clean fructose from fruit (note: that's "good clean fructose" ... put down the can of Coke and step back slowly) and then workout soon thereafter, your liver treats the fructose more efficiently/differently than usual, and converts it into glucose --  an energy source. This is especially effective if you workout in the morning because the glycogen stores in your liver are low after a night's sleep. More on all that here.

Additionally, the almond butter is a good source of fat and (some) protein, and, oh yeah, I am still drinking coffee with heavy cream along with this delicious almond-butter/fruit concoction. I love the bump that caffeine gives me in the gym, and heavy cream only accelerates that bump.

So, I think, thanks to Kevin that I just cleared another hurdle in this particular challenge. I may miss the protein powder enough that I eventually go back to it after the challenge is done, but I have a good substitute to get me through the 30 days.

Postscript: I really sucked today in the gym, but I *think* that has little to do with subbing out the protein powder and more to do with crappy sleep last night. Continuing note to self: sleep is king. CrossFit hits the wall at 100 mph without proper sleep. You can't "nutrition" or "exercise" your way out of a bad night's sleep.

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Sunday, October 9, 2011

Primal eating challenge, day 1.

Breakfast: three eggs, broccoli, Dubliner cheese, bacon, in a giant, beautiful skillet-y slurry.

Lunch: greens and spinach with guacamole and wild-caught salmon.

After playing some volleyball: a bigass salad from Chipotle containing white rice, shredded beef, salsa, guacamole, onions, peppers and lettuce. (You might sense a guacamole theme here).

Dinner: pork/garlic/herb sausage and asparagus on the grill plus some crazy great organic sauerkraut from Whole Foods.

Didn't have any "snacks" today, but with four fairly colossal meals there wasn't much need for that sort of thing. Eat like a predator, not a prey.

Beverages, over the day: coffee (with heavy cream), water, seltzer.

This blogging thing is, pretty clearly, gonna get dull really fast. Guacamole is, kind of obviously, my condiment of choice. Breakfast, you will soon see, is usually meat, veggies and eggs with either grassfed cheese or guac. Lunch is usually a salad with meat and guac. Dinner is meat and veggies, and yeah, sometimes guac too.

This really isn't rocket science. About the only thing I'm really going to miss for this month is the whisky and/or wine. I bought two bottles of single-malt whisky (Highland Park and Laphroaig, if you care) at the duty-free store at the Munich airport on Friday. As soon as I got home, I hid them in a closet so I don't have to look at them for the next month.

The 30-day Primal Eating Challenge

I've told you before about the way I eat: meat, veggies, fruit, good fats. Other than a little bit of white rice here and there, I don't eat any grains. It's usually called something like "paleo," and, when modified (as I do) to include some full-fat dairy, the going terminology seems to be "primal."

But you know how it is....a lot of us try to eat well, but sometimes we stray a bit. And then sometimes we do things like go on really cool vacations, and there's a little more alcohol in our lives than usual, and well....let's just say that my gym's decision to encourage all its members to do a 30-day clean-eating challenge is well-timed. Of late, particularly on a recent two-week jaunt to Germany (during Oktoberfest fercryinoutloud) I ate a bunch of things I usually don't -- bready things, beery things, more beery things, more bready things. We just got back from Germany two days ago and I am still a little sluggish to say the least.

So anyway, the gym version of the challenge starts next Saturday, but I decided to accelerate the schedule and start my 30 days right now.


So here are the rules: no grains, no legumes, no dairy, no alcohol. Eat meat, fish, eggs, veggies, fruit and good fat (almonds, avocado, etc.) Eat real food. No sugar. No processed crap. Those are the "paleo" rules. But here's the catch: if I follow those rules exactly as written, I will lose weight. I don't need to lose weight. I just want to clean up the minor mess from the minor dietary detours that I have taken in the last month or so. Really....I don't want to lose more weight. I have done that already. So here are my modifications, which morph this into a "primal" challenge,instead of a paleo one. All the above rules apply, except:
1. White rice is okay in small doses. It's just pure starch, and doesn't have the inflammatory properties of other grains (including brown rice). Simply put, for someone not trying to lose weight, a little white rice is harmless. And, like sweet potatoes (and white potatoes too, for that matter), white rice is a good source of clean post-workout, non-gluten-containing carbs.
2. Heavy cream, full-fat cheese and butter are okay as long as they are from grassfed sources. If they come from grassfed cows, those items contain wonderful omega-3 fats. You know...just like salmon. Again, this rule applies only if you are not trying to lose weight. And have I made it clear that I do not want to lose any more weight?

Honestly, this is not going to be tough. OK, I'll miss alcohol, but, otherwise, I already eat this way *almost* all the time. But the gastronomic detours of vacation have left me craving a cleaner diet. So, as I said, the gym challenge is well-timed and, to keep myself fully on the straight and narrow (and maybe offer a little encouragement to others who are doing the same challenge) I am going to blog the whole damn thing here. My plan is that if it goes down my pie hole in the next 30 days, you're going to read about it here.

So let's go.

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