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Just Tell Me What To Eat

It’s five days in to a brand new Paleo Challenge and I already feel a bit of difference. I got through a nasty cold without one bit of wheezing, which would have been impossible before. I can walk the mile-and-a-half to work without the least bit of tiredness. I’ve been squatting (240lb x5), benching (190lb x5), and hauling 20-lb bags of potting soil up ten flights of stairs. Speaking of which, ever since I quit CrossFit about a year ago, I’ve asked myself whether I would go back, or whether it would simply be a phase in my life that I enjoyed but would leave in the past.

I guess the questions are: 1) how much I want to spend, 2) how fit I want to be, 3) how much I miss the camaraderie, and 4) how worried I am about injury. 1 + 4 might be deal-breakers. I like lifting heavy weights for $45 a month and sprinting up hills for free. Is the extra $100-150 a month worth it in order to make some new friends and enjoy the shared sweaty struggle of Fran or 100 burpees for time? Or could I use the same cash for other pursuits like good food, cocktail parties, and luxurious vacations? Also, I’m not 27 anymore. One freak injury from an errant power snatch could sideline me for 2-3 months. Nope, I think I’m temporarily done with CrossFit, choosing instead to embrace my inner caveman whenever possible. Do ‘workouts’ that a  Neanderthal would do. Lift heavy things, walk a lot, sprint and climb and carry unwieldy objects. There’s a big round stone at an antique store nearby that I have my eye on. Not to purchase or anything. I just want to *try* and lift it.

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One of the hardest things about the Paleo diet is that while it’s structured and restrictive in terms of what foods you can eat, there are no real guidelines on calories and macronutrient ratios. And in truth, there are dozens of variations on the Paleolithic diet (from the tuber-loving Kitavans who eat about 70% carbs to the fat-dependent Inuits who never see significant carbohydrates in their daily lives). I guess it all depends on what your goals are, and what your activity level is. A Paleo diet in any form will probably keep you healthy and long-lived, free from chronic diseases. And sure, that’s part of why I’m eating this way. But I’m interested in being very fit, very strong, and looking fantastic in a pair of swim trunks.

A lot of people love The Zone. 40% carbs, 30% protein, 30% fat. Presuming that my average caloric intake would be 2500-a-day to maintain an ideal weight of 175 lbs, that’s 83g fat, 185g protein, and 250g carbs. That’s about 6-7 sweet potatoes a day. It seems like way too much carbohydrate load, unless I’m a football player or training for the CrossFit games and doing two WODs a day. Next.

What does Mark’s Daily Apple say? On different pages, they recommend 100-150g carbs for weight maintenance (50g-100g for weight loss) and 1g/lb of body mass protein in order to get stronger and build muscle. So 100g carbs and 150g protein (1000 cals) and 1500 cals of fat (167g). The Perfect Health Diet recommends at most 150g protein in a day for heavy lifters (our livers can’t handle much more nitrogen load), and encourages starchy carbs (100-150g a day, or at least, a total of 150-200g total of carbs/protein). Overall, they call for 60-70% fat in the diet, which falls in line with the MDA recommendations. So that seems to be a pretty good consensus.

How does it work in practice? Not as well as I would think. I’m definitely not eating 2 sweet potatoes (70-80g carbs) *every* day, only on my workout days. Maybe I need to do that more often. Or alternately, should I gorge on a double-dose of carbs on my workout days? Maybe 1 potato on rest days and 3 on lifting days. Sounds like an experiment in the making. Protein is easier. I eat 4 eggs in the morning with some nuts or bacon (30g), and 2 other big cuts of meat which are each 35-60g. A large chicken breast, a big salmon fillet, half a package of buffalo meat, a big pork chop. The fat intake seems to work itself out, but I do pour olive oil on all my vegetables, fry meat in lots of coconut oil or bacon fat, and snack on nuts, just to be extra-sure.

Next time: I get my mother to eat… slightly better.

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