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Paleo Challenge Day 2: Smart Shopping

Jan 2, 2012 – Day 2
Breakfast: mixed greens, omelet with avocado and salsa
Workout: squats 5x170lb / 5x195lb / 9x220lb, cleans 5x10x75lb
Post-Workout: Roasted turnips, Thai red curry chicken with broccoli/cauliflower
Dinner: Chorizo and Brussels sprout hash
Future baby chickens consumed: 5 (14 total)
Sweet potato body count: 0 – more on this later.
Inhaler puffs: 1 (3 so far this week)

After a hearty breakfast (I’m trying to time the preparation/devouring of this and cut it down to 10 minutes so I can do it everyday before work), I started my free Monday on a mission to grab pounds and pounds of sweet potatoes to fuel my workouts. I’ve tried to lift heavy with a lower-carb diet, cutting out everything besides leafy/cruciferous veggies. It killed my performance, and augmented post-workout soreness. Just saying, if you’re active and athletic, maybe some root veggies after a lift ain’t that bad. And then my worst Paleo nightmare came true. NO SWEET POTATOES. None. In the entire store.

I was a desperate man. I checked the frozen food aisle for pre-cooked chunks. Nada. I read the ingredients on a bag of sweet potato fries. I think sweet potatoes were the third ingredient listed. Dang it. I ran back to the produce section, Googling “paleo-friendly root veggies” as I side-swiped shopping carts left and right. Something with a lot of safe carbs (in the 50-60g range after a lift, or 1/2 gram per pound of lean body mass), but without a devastating glycemic index (like regular potatoes). In case you’re curious, the consensus on sweet-potato substitutes is: butternut squash, pumpkin, turnips, beets. I went with the turnips. I cut them into bite size pieces, tossed them in sesame oil, salt, and red chilis, and went to Nom Nom Paleo for guidance.

I ended up with this concoction, not too bad, but still with the kind-of bitter radishy aftertaste you expect from your good friend the turnip. Those are cinnamon-toasted pecans on top. I’ll give it a 3/5.

Smart shopping: another thing I learned on my grocery run is that *everything* has sugar, and many things that you would not expect to have corn syrup or corn starch in them actually do. Like chicken stock. I know, I know, the true paleo way is to kill your own chicken and make your own stock out of its carcass, but I like the convenience of a nice rectangular box. The only stock I found *without* sugar or corn starch/syrup was from Kitchen Basics. They have a whole line of gluten-free, allergen-free stocks, that are only sweetened with what I hope is a negligible amount of honey (which I told myself was OK this month, especially after certain indoor physical activities).

Salsa is yet another sugar trap to avoid. So is pasta sauce. I kind of like the idea of making my own un-pureed tomato sauce for veggies or spaghetti squash, so I usually don’t buy it. But as far as salsa goes, Whole Foods 365 brand is mercifully sugar-free, but most other brands have some cane juice or sugar in them. We’re probably splitting hairs here, and it’s probably less sugar per serving than what most people put in their morning coffees, but if I’m going to do this 30-day challenge right, I’m going to be strict with it. So, bye bye, sugar, in all your insidious disguises. Oh, also, most commercial guacamole has nearly as much soybean oil as it does avocado. Make your own or buy it from Whole Foods.

Weightlifting on the Paleo diet is a matter of some delicacy. Enough carbs to refuel your muscles, but not so much that you overproduce insulin and cause inflammation. Too little and you’re going to feel beat-up for days after a heavy training session, too much and you might start storing fat. I’m keeping it simple. One potato after a sprint interval session, two after weightlifting. We’ll see how it goes. From past experience, being on a Paleo diet for just a few days gives you unbelievable energy and stamina and speeds your recovery. I like to think of it as bathing your muscles in the right kind of hormonal soup.

The Jim Wendler program (or the 5-3-1 program, as it’s also known), is what I plan to work with most of this year, to get some long-term strength gains and keep my conditioning on point. Not wanting to give away too much (the poor guy *did* write the book and deserves to profit of all the trial and error he endured), the lifting sessions use lighter weights than you would usually train with, and builds up to one all-out set of fairly heavy ‘compound lifts’ per session, 3-4 days a week. He also encourages sprint interval training 2-4 days a week, either uphill or with a weight sled. Maybe with my girlfriend slung over my shoulder, if she’ll let me. I’m excited to see my progress, especially how quickly I see results with a clean diet and no pesky asthma.

Tomorrow: how I fell in love with chorizo.

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Discussion

2 thoughts on “Paleo Challenge Day 2: Smart Shopping

  1. Rutabagas are a good substitute for sweet potatoes and you get way more VOLUME! 5 ounces of sweet potatoes (pre-cooked weight) is 33.8 carbs but you get twice as much rutabaga for the same amount of carbs. Helpful when dieting.

    If your goal is fat loss while maintaining muscle then skip the potatoes after intervals. Post work out carbs after strength training (lifting) sessions only.

    Posted by Debbie | January 4, 2012, 4:11 am
    • Never tried rutabaga before. Worth a shot. Thanks for the idea! And I’m still not sure what I’m going to eat after my sprint training. I’ll probably try one approach half the month, and another approach the second half, then compare my recovery time, soreness, fat loss, improvement, etc.

      Posted by cortisolfiles | January 4, 2012, 10:40 pm

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