My Experience with Nutritional Challenges (Part 1)
Over the past few years, I've been apt to try out different nutritional challenges. Since becoming a CrossFit member myself almost three years ago now, I notice just about every box hosts a six or eight week event in which they'll promote healthy living by doing a variety of challenges. Mostly with a baseline WOD - and several weeks of cutting out processed carbs, sugars, dairy and other food items. Followed by doing the same baseline WOD.
One of my favorite things about CrossFit, is the focus on high quality nutrition. You can't be at your best if you're not fueling your own success. *Watch the video down below.*
As most everybody now knows, healthy eating is not just a fad, but is down to a mere science. People know what is good and bad for them to eat, but availability of certain foods, prices and convenience are huge hinderers to what we are able to put in our body.
Anyway, it's always nice doing challenges like this, they help you lose weight and hyper focus you on what you're putting into your body.
Having been a member of two boxes now; Commonwealth CrossFit and now CrossFit Southie - my first challenge at CWCF was the 'Paleo Challenge.' An eight week foray into eating only lean meats, some nuts, very little fruits and no sugar, dairy or processed carbs. And there was a few key takeaways I learned from doing this in 2015.
P.S. Going in cold and cutting carbs, sugars and dairy is rough (at first) on the digestive system.
- Eating Paleo in todays world requires a lot of time, energy and knowing where to shop.
- Meal prepping is huge. You've got to dedicate time to planning ahead. Especially if you work a regular 9-5 job.
- You are your own worst enemy. In a world filled with processed carbs and an overload of sugar in just about everything we eat, you've got to have the mind power to say, 'No.'
- Eating paleo takes time for your body to adjust. It's like your car switching fuels from regular unleaded to diesel. The transition is not smooth.
- The first two weeks of going 'Paleo' caused me massive headaches (due to withdrawals from processed carbs and sugars)
- Eating Paleo can be quite expensive. I was eating twice the amount of food (due to my body needing protein to rebuild and also use for daytime fuel).
- Shopping for paleo friendly foods is time consuming. Knowing where to go and what to eat is key.
- Knowing how to cook a wide variety of foods is also clutch. Mixing and matching was always a recipe for success.
- Lastly, once you were over the 1-2 week transition period, there was no more headaches or daytime crashes. My body and mind were smooth sailing.
- I had longer amounts of energy to burn. It was more consistent (think cruising along the highway at 70 mph, as opposed to being in stop and go traffic).
- I actually lost weight, despite eating twice as much meat and vegetables (and spending 2.5x as much on food).
Overall, from doing the baseline WOD (workout of the day) twice last year at CWCF, (once before the challenge, once after) I noticed my aerobic exercise ability (endurance, speed) went up greatly. I was able to run faster, for longer and cruise through a semi-heavy workout.
That being said, I lost almost 12 lbs of weight over a six week period. Down from 220 lbs to just over 208 lbs. I also lost 2% body fat during that time, from 13.8% to 11.7% body fat. Not bad, but also not desirable for an already lanky 6'4" semi-athletic person.
The fact of the matter was, I was eating more - and losing weight, losing muscle mass. So I had a very tough time convincing myself that the Paleo Diet was for me. At the rate I was burning through cash, shopping at Whole Foods and Trader Joe's, I easily began to understood why so many people flush nutrient-lacking foods into their bodies on a daily, weekly and monthly basis.
It's convenient and cheaper to eat shitty. That's why most people do it.
Was I eating Paleo wrong? Maybe, but I still thought I was getting enough fats and lipids to maintain my weight and muscle mass. Turns out, I wasn't. Eating Paleo was great, I did feel better, but my friends and family noticed a weight loss in me (which I didn't want) which is when I slowly eased back into eating carbs, dairy and other added sugar foods.
The transition after those six weeks was satisfying. Eating candy, dairy, ice cream, pizza, bacon, popcorn - you name it, felt great....that is when those added sugars hit my palette. I'll spare the details about the after effects, but my stomach didn't quite take to all the shit my mind was ready to ingest.
FINAL TAKEAWAY: I have the utmost respect for anyone who eats paleo or even super clean. As it is, I try to eat 90% clean during the week. Sticking mostly to the following foods:
- A plethora of vegetables (kale, asparagus, broccoli, green peppers, peas, green beans etc.)
- Chicken, beef, turkey, salmon
- Sweet potato, brown rice
- Almonds, Chia seeds and Whey Protein
And I think that's what it takes, consistency. Obviously there's a few times where I'm not hitting near 90% consistency in my diet (I give myself Saturday after a WOD to have a cheat day for a 24 hour period) but the one thing I'll tell you is that my body realizes it when I'm not feeding it correctly. And at the age of 27, I've begun to notice a serious difference when I'm eating right - and when I'm eating wrong. For most, our bodies are the best indicators of what we're doing, right or wrong - and I think getting enough sleep, exercising everyday and eating correctly are some of the best things we can do for ourselves in terms of health, longevity and wellness.
P.S. Alcohol is one thing my body is most definitely susceptible to, but I tend to have the same conversation with myself just about every Sunday morning...'Why did I drink so much last night?!"
I'll follow-up with another post about my experience with the latest six week challenge from CrossFit Southie. You can search on Instagram for #CFSnutrionalchallenge for more info etc.
If you have questions, comments or concerns, shoot me an email and let's talk.
P.P.S. Tony and I area gearing up to lead our, 'Northern Italy + Switzerland' trip. I'll hope to see you on them of course!
Check our Trip Calendar below and let us know if you're interested!
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