the spaz of fitness has arrived

To Paleo, or not to Paleo… Also, PRs!!!!

In Food, Training, WOD on June 18, 2012 at 4:19 pm


Let’s talk food. I’ve been avoiding the topic of nutrition even though it comes up in a lot of fitness blogs because… I haven’t the slightest clue what I’m doing. But perhaps just as this blog provides a (hopefully somewhat) interesting perspective of a fitness amateur, I can offer my own little baby steps towards figuring out proper nutrition. Ironically, my mother’s a dietitian. But perhaps that’s the root of my confusion. The problem with nutrition is that so much of it is theoretical, so much data is case-dependent or just not at all properly researched (strangely, nutritional studies aren’t well-funded), and there’s just so much conflicting information out there. Just as a simple example, my own mother adheres to a rather conventional, conservative nutritional approach and counsels me to ingest .6g of protein per pound of bodyweight– which is drastically lower than the 1g/lb we see around most powerlifting websites, and then entirely on the opposite end of the spectrum from some “advice” I see on the CrossFit forums, which insist that you really can’t get “too much” protein. Besides, if I only ate .6g of protein per pound of bodyweight, I think I’d have difficulty reaching enough calories to sustain my activity…

Compound that with my family’s terrible digestive history. My father has an awful case of IBS (as do several members of my extended family). I remember numerous nights growing up when my parents woke me because one or the other had to be taken to the hospital. Both my mom and dad have been hospitalized for procedures on their digestive system. So it’s a almost a little natural that I assumed digestive discomfort was a part of life. However, my problems really struck after I graduated college. Living in New York City, I was working 18 hour days, not making nearly enough money, and more stressed than I was willing to admit. On a daily basis, I had a hard time keeping food down and I was pretty much uncomfortable for six months straight. That condition, coupled with the fact that my meals were consumed almost entirely on the go or between/during waitressing shifts, composed of the cheapest items at the bagel shop down the block from the restaurant where I worked… I went from “overweight” (so my doctors told me) to significantly underweight, losing possibly over 30lbs in fourish months. I eventually had to fly home to see a gastroenterologist where I was scoped and diagnosed with IBS as well as treated for a digestive infection.

Then came my first year of graduate school. I was taking 3-4 prescription-strength pills a day just to feel normal, and even then I couldn’t quite sit through all my seminars without a lot of abdominal pain. I started “cleaning up” my diet with fewer and fewer processed foods, cooking most of what I ate, and eating lots of small meals rather than structured large ones. Finally, I got to a point around six or seven months ago when I started going pill-free! Even so, about one week out of every four, I experience flare-ups. And even though every day’s significantly more bearable than they used to be, none of them are what I’d characterize as “normal.”

My doctors have suggested several possibilities including fructose malabsorption and gluten intolerance (though I tested negative for celiac, thank god)… they’ve suggested elimination diets to find my actual “trigger” foods, but I’ve stubbornly avoided this because, already with my lactose intolerance and the growing list of things I know give me trouble, I hate the idea of cutting more things from my diet. But… I’ve finally reached a point where I’ve decided that this isn’t a normal existence and regardless of expense and convenience, I’d rather go through 30 days of truly “clean” eating and figure out if I can live without so much discomfort. (I should note that by… “IBS” and “discomfort” I don’t mean a little bit of tummy trouble… I mean tummy disasters…)

So… even though I roll my eyes a lot a lot a lot at the paleo diet (particularly some of the assumptions of “ancestral” health as if we were incapable of evolving or developing/discovering better ways to survive than our natural state…), something it does do is eliminate a lot of typical gut irritants. And… let’s face it, my gut is irritated. Actually, it’s downright pissed. Okay, it’s a flaming, raging bitch.

My problem is actually that I’ve tried going Paleo before (and did feel significantly better, digestive-wise), but I must have done it wrong because I wasn’t gaining strength. I finally started seeing strength gains when I introduced cereal to my diet but I’ve cut it again because it was tearing my digestive system apart (and since replaced it with sweet potatoes and roasted chestnuts and the strength is still going up so yay!). Anyway… I intend to be smart about it this time (hopefully). I’ve borrowed The Paleo Solution from a friend, and a copy of It Starts With Food is on its way to my apartment. I spent several days tracking my calories (which I’ve also been too lazy to do up until now) partially out of curiosity and partially because I know I want to sustain that intake even as I drop food groups because I’ve been seeing solid strength gains with the amount I’ve been eating. In the past three days, my lowest day was ~2150 cals, my highest around 2760. What’s entertaining is, if you use a standard weight-loss tracker to calculate your daily intake, it asks for your height and weight, and then it yells at you for eating way over maintenance calories :p.

Anyway… I also actually buy food in bulk, so I’ll still have lots of non-paleo things to finish off (waste-not!)– particularly three jars of peanut butter and significant amounts of garbanzos… soy… tofu… but I’ll try to moderate it and won’t buy more once I finish… Also I’m not sure if I’m going rigidly “whole paleo”– whatever that is (I suppose I’ll find out once I read those books…), but I’m going to pay significantly more attention to what’s in my food and try to eat mostly whole foods. If I don’t feel better, I’ll be even more strict about it, if I still don’t feel better then I’ll go back to eating the crap I want to eat because it doesn’t matter… if (*knock on wood*) I feel miraculously better, I’ll start experimenting with “contaminants” one at a time to figure out what’s actually irritating my gut so I know what to avoid and hopefully won’t have to keep myself on such a limited diet for the rest of existence.

Anyway… there’s your TMI briefing on my whole digestive history. Now about the lifting heavy things! New squat 5-rep-max yesterday, new deadlift 5-rep-max today (1.7x bodyweight for five… my goal is to have a 2xbodyweight 1rm soon…) Despite the fact that my strict pull-ups and ring dips numbers went down after the vacation, they’re coming back very quickly, so I’m relieved that seems to be a temporary drop. Today’s WOD was a fun one, so I thought I’d share:

15 min AMRAP:

10 Handstand Push-Ups

10 Sumo Deadlift High Pulls

100m sprint.

As much as I hate to admit, the 1pd is starting to feel too light for SDHP. I hate admitting this because it means soon I should go up to 1.5… ;p.

Also, I hit a snatch PR on Sunday. Gettin’ beastly. Somewhat. Maybe a mini-beast? 🙂

  1. Good luck with Paleo! Paleo Solution is a book that changed my life.

    • Thanks Nick! I’ve been a skeptic for so long (especially after a lifetime of a dietitian’s advice about whole grains, etc etc…) but I’m willing to try anything at this point.

  2. […] hopefully I won’t spend too much time talking about food, but that last post opened up a whole can of worms for me. I read The Paleo Solution in a single afternoon, and then It […]

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