Monday, November 7, 2011

What I learned from a 30-day primal challenge that I didn't already know

As I have told you before, I eat almost entirely paleo/primal anyway. This challenge was, for me, mostly a deprivation of booze, a little dark chocolate and protein powder. I didn't go into this with hardcore grain addictions, and dessert, by and large, is not a temptation for me.

So, smart guy, why'd you bother, you might ask, or, more particularly, did you actually learn anything?

I did. I learned a lot. Here are a few of those things, in no particular order:

1. "Eat like a predator, not a prey," a line I wish I thought of, but J. Stanton wrote it first. It means, pretty simply, don't snack. Eat big meals, fill up on good fat and I won't need to snack. Barring unforeseen circumstances, like large gaps between meals, I always found that to be true. I also found that if I needed to snack, something small like a Larabar would usually do the trick. But a paleokit will always do if a Larabar is not enough.

2. Plan ahead. Yes, we all know we need to plan ahead on meals, but plan ahead about the timing of those meals too. If I know I am going to have an eight-hour span between meals because of work or whatever, I put a paleokit or a Larabar into my car. The no-snack rule is not a religion. It's a guidepost. Sometimes I am going to need to break that rule. When I do, I need to have good food around to fill the gap. I may never need to go to Wawa again, except for gas and coffee. (For you non-midatlantic readers, Wawa is a convenience-store chain that dominates our neck of the woods).

3. None of this is a religion full of absolutes. The most important thing is for me to listen to my body and chart my own course through paleo/primal in a smart way that works for me. How my food choices make me look, feel and perform is the key.

4. In complete contradiction of #3, Here is an absolute rule: I shouldn't eat gluten. Ever. But if I do, take responsibility for my own actions. Man up and admit the mistake and move on.

5. Black coffee is no big deal. At this point I may even like it, tastewise, better than with heavy cream. The caffeine-acceleration properties of heavy cream and the good diesel-fuel fat are another story, though. So I will likely go back and forth on that.

6. But watch the dairy. If I have a cold, dairy, especially heavy cream, makes things awfully snotty. Rule #3 again. Listen to the body.

7. Paleo/primal is hard if you don't make sure certain staples are well-stocked in your fridge. Jamie and I are fortunate to have a freezer that is full of meat. Not having that option doesn't mean you should copout and make Chef Boyardee one night. It is critical to keep the fridge stocked full of the stuff we eat the most.

8. Websites and podcasts have taught me that, from a healthy-vs-unhealthy-omega-content perspective, grassfed beef and lamb are better for you than the high omega 6s of chicken and pork. It doesn't mean no chicken or pork --variety is good-- but it means beef and lamb are more common on our table than chicken or pork.

9. Fortunately, I also learned that my two favorite meats are grassfed lamb and beef.

10. Bacon is a lousy protein source. It is, however, a great condiment.

11. Food rotation is a good idea, just to see a comparison point with how I feel on a particular food versus how I feel when I don't eat it for a bit. So, as mentioned earlier today, I am dialing back on eggs for the first time in a long time, just to see. For the same reason, I need to rotate even more vegetables into our lives. We eat a lot of asparagus and broccoli. But the appearance of more squash and other veggies has been a good thing that needs to continue.

12. Canned wild-caught salmon is a great easy protein source and the best way to get valuable omega 3s. It is also awesome to have around when I forget to make enough other food.

13. Coconut milk with fruit may be a permanent substitute for pre-workout protein powder. That's an ongoing experiment, however. Again, how it makes me feel and perform is the key, and, based on today, it seems pretty great.

14. Bone broth is high on my list of things to make very soon, and then keep making for its amazing nutrients and the huge boost it gives your immune system.

15. Post-workout good carbs from sweet potatoes, white rice or plantains are essential for me, especially after CrossFit. They help me maintain good weight and body composition, and they just plain make me feel better. Recovery is everything. You don't get fit at the gym. You get fit properly recovering from the gym.

16. Proper insulin management has reversed my numb fingers caused by Raynaud's. When I drink in the future, I need to drink "smart" -- making sure I don't do it on an empty stomach -- or symptoms will return. And smart drinking may keep acid reflux at bay too, because that disappeared this month as well. Actually, in terms of insulin management, the same thing goes for fruit consumption. I can handle pre-workout fruit better than fruit at any other time. So eat it then.

17. I don't ever need to have an energy drink again. Oh, I probably will sometime, but not often, and I will hate myself for it because coffee is so much better.

18. As important as nutrition is, sleep is more important than anything. Remember that line about recovery? Sleep is when you recover the most. A bad night's sleep probably means I should skip CrossFit the next day.

There are probably a few more things, but that is a pretty comprehensive list, and a hell of a lot longer one than I ever would have anticipated. I thought I knew most of what I needed to know about paleo/primal eating when this all started. But, really, there was so much more.

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1 comment:

  1. Thanks for chronicling your journey. I enjoyed reading your thoughts and insights.