Thursday, August 15, 2013

Book review: The Paleo Coach by Jason Seib

I'll start with a warning: I love this book so much that my only fear about this review relates to my potential inability to convey to you just how *much* I love it.

Jason Seib owns a strength-and-conditioning gym in Clackamas, Oregon. He also is a co-host (with Sarah Fragoso) of the Everyday Paleo Lifestyle and Fitness podcast.

Most importantly, he has written the perfect companion piece to the more science-y paleo tomes that are out there: you know, like The Paleo Solution by Robb Wolf.

I won't tell you this is the first paleo book you should buy. It's not. That honor belongs to Mr. Wolf's meisterwerk. But it sure as hell is the second.

I have been going on for a while here about how your eating and exercise plans should match your goals. If you want to make the CrossFit Games, your nutrition and exercise needs to be completely different than that of the average person who is interested in health, longevity and maybe the added, fairly-common, goal of fat loss.

If you are one of those regular folks -- the people just trying to live long, be happy and live inside a body that you are proud of and content with, Jason Seib has written the (second) book for you.

Yeah, read The Paleo Solution first. It is the owner's manual of the movement, and provides with all the super-science-y reasons why you should principally eat animal protein, vegetables and good fats. Do what Robb Wolf tells you in that regard.

But then what? I know from my involvement with paleo challenges at the CrossFit gym where I am a member that it is the rare person who is perfectly content after switching to paleo. Yeah, body comp and energy levels are always better, and, invariably, the participants rate themselves higher on the "looks good naked" scale. But, fairly often, fat loss doesn't quite get to where they want it to be, and they grind and grind away at whatever their workout routines are with less-than-desired results.

Enter... The Paleo Coach.. This book is written for those everyday folks looking to lose fat and feel great. The dietary component is too easy: eat paleo. But, Seib warns brilliantly, all paleo is not the same. If you subsist on 13 watermelons and a jar of Costco almonds every day, guess what? You are paleo! Congrats. You are also likely fatter than you want and inflamed as hell from over consumption of fructose and Omega-6s.

"But I am eating paleo!!" you exclaim. "What the hell?!?"

Seib goes into just enough (but not too much) detail about why what I call Paleo By the Numbers -- simply eating from the "good" list and eschewing foods on the "bad" list -- isn't enough. Rather, "smart paleo" is the dietary key to fat loss. Eat meat, vegetables and good fat, but too much in the way of alcohol, fruit, nuts or paleo "treats," and your fat loss may very well stall, or even reverse.

And then he gets to exercise, and this part is where I think he most skillfully takes a flamethrower to convention -- in this instance the mindless, self-defeating grind that constitutes so many exercise routines that are out there.

Whether it's chronic cardio or too many CrossFit metcons a week, Seib rails against exercise that is actually overstressing the person into excess cortisol production that defeats fat loss. As Seib says, do that stuff if you really love it, but understand that it isn't promoting health, longevity or fat loss. The exercise component to optimizing those items is simple: heavy lifting two to four times a week, sprinting (or sprint-style metcons) two or three times a week, and long walks every day that you can.

And really, the exercise part of the book is huge in terms of importance. I know more than a fair share of CrossFitters (and I am a CrossFitter myself, so don't think I am bashing CrossFit) who are going so hard each week -- four to seven metcons a week, and not, by any means, mostly "sprint" ones of, say, ten to 12 minutes -- that they are tripping themselves up and stressing themselves out. And high stress does not equal fat loss. It equals cortisol. Yes, you really can exercise too much, and in the wrong ways, and so many people are doing it.

High stress also doesn't promote good sleep, and the necessity of solid, restful sleep of at least seven hours a night is another theme of Seib's book. Although -- and honestly this is about my only regret about this book -- I wish he did a little more to highlight the theme of meditation as the key to stress relief, you know... the one that you see me going on about here fairly often, and that Seib has picked up on in his recent podcasts with Sarah Fragoso.

But, non-emphasis on meditation notwithstanding, overall the whole sleep/food/exercise focus here is a brilliant reminder that you have to go after this health-and-longevity/fat-loss approach in a smart, multi-faceted, coordinated effort.

Seib also highlights the amazing success stories of some of his clients. Particularly noteworthy to my female friends who are still checking the scale compulsively is the tale of Deb who went from something like a size 16 to a size 4 and didn't lose a pound. She just got awesome; that's all. Seib's resulting anti-scale diatribe is a keeper, as are his tips not to paleo-evangelize to the unconverted (it just causes fights), his paeans to rest and recovery -- particularly making sure you only work out when you are rested, recovered and ready, not when your calendar tells you to -- and his ultimate goal of "health and fitness by rote."

Since I finished reading this book, and I *just* finished it, I have already recommended it to three women in our gym who are looking for an extra edge on fat loss. It is the best paleo *lifestyle* book out there. I won't pretend it's the only paleo book you should ever buy, but it is the one that, so far, best integrates all the components -- sleep, food and exercise -- into one near-perfect recipe for health and longevity. Get it.

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