Monday, March 21, 2011

Day 32-35

So I've been a bit behind on my blogging.  The end of the challenge has taken a bit of wind out of the motivation sails.  I've kept up with my workouts, but I must admit that I've made a few more diet transgressions that I would have liked. Without further ado, here is an uber update to lump together the last four days:

Thursday (Day 32)
I only made one diet slip up today, but it was a big one - Cinnamon and Brown Sugar Pop-Tarts.  So good! Other than that, today was a planned rest day so that I could take on the baseline workout on Friday well rested.  Friday is also the day for a Paleo Potluck that the gym is planning.  I found a recipe for Paleo chocolate truffles and I made a huge batch of them.  I made four varieties in all: dark chocolate pecan, dark chocolate almond, orange and dark chocolate, and dark chocolate peppermint.  Who cares if I was up past midnight making them.  They taste incredible and although they are Paleo-ish, I'm sure they still have plenty of calories. 

Workout: Rest Day
Food Journal:
Breakfast: Chicken & Apple Sausage, Scrambled eggs
AM Snack: BBQ Baked Lays
Lunch: Qdoba Naked Salad with Chicken & Guacamole
PM Snack: Cinnamon and Brown Sugar Pop-Tarts
Dinner: Shrimp Wrapped in Bacon
            Green Beans
            Mixed Green Salad with Tomato and Mushrooms
Evening Snack: Raisin Bran cereal and Milk 
Midnight Snack: 3 chocolate truffles and milk (I had to make sure they turned out o.k.)

Friday (Day 33)
Today was a day of field testing and I fared well until the final hours of the testing.  That's when the pizza that the team ordered for lunch started calling to my hungry belly.  I ate two slices :(.  After work I stopped by the gym and redid the Crossfit Baseline workout since my Wednesday performance was off.  The good news was that I completed the WOD in 3:45 which was a huge improvement from the start of the challenge.  After the workout, we attended the Paleo Potluck where I overate a bit and had far too many Paleo truffles.

“CrossFit Baseline”
For Time:
Row 500m
40 squats
30 sit-ups
20 push ups
10 pull ups

I did the Crossfit Baseline today in 3:45 (33 seconds faster than at the start of the challenge). The form on my pull-ups could have been better.

Food Journal:

Breakfast: 2 bowls Raisin Bran cereal w/ milk, 1 slice of toast
AM Snack: Leftover Shrimp Wrapped in Bacon
Lunch: Mixed greens salad with tomato, mushrooms and avacado
PM Snack: 2 slices of pizza
At Party: Strawberries, Grapes, Pineapple, Rotisserie Chicken, Asparagus, Pork Tenderloin wrapped in bacon, Paleo Chili, too many Paleo Truffles

Saturday (Day 34)
We ended up leaving a car at the gym when we went to the Paleo Potluck last night; so I decided to run from my house to the gym before the 10AM workout.  The total run was just over 7 miles and it took me about 57 minutes.  It was very hilly in a few sections but I had my fancy new iPhone and Nike+GPS running app that kept me grooving the whole time.  The rest of the day was spent cleaning the house so I'm sure I burned several more calories in the evening.

Workout: 7.1 mile run in 57 minutes ~ 8:10 min/mile pace
-Buy In-
Overhead Squat Skill Work
Ten rounds of:
  • Run 150 meters
  • 7 Chest to bar pull-ups
  • 135 pound Front squat, 7 reps
  • 7 Handstand push-ups
-Cash Out-
30 GHD Sit Ups

I completed this WOD in 21:13 not Rx’d.  I did 95lbs on the front squats because my knee was bugging me a bit and I used a box for the HSPU’s. My pull-ups were very legit, though. I had a rough time on the GHD sit-ups as my lower back started hurting after the first few.  I ended up finishing the sit-ups on an Ab-mat.

Food Journal: 
Breakfast: Eggs and ham
Lunch: Tuna Salad, Paleo Truffles
PM Snack: 1 bowl Raisin Bran cereal w/ milk, 1 slice of toast w/ crunchy PB
Dinner: Brussel Sprouts w/ Bacon and Country Green Beans w/ Ham

Sunday (Day 35)
Nothing like a 17 mile run though the windy hills of Pittsburgh to start your day.  I ended up waking up a bit late and didn't have time to prepare the sweet potato hash that I've been using as pre-long-run fuel.  Instead I had a bowl of Kashi Go-Lean and a piece of toast with almond butter.  I must admit that I felt energetic throughout the entire run.  I was glad when we reached the finish line but I could have gone another 3-4 miles today without too much pain.  After the run one of my buddies was kind enough to host a pancake breakfast at his place.  There were even several Paleo options: sausage, oranges, bananas, eggs.  I stayed pretty well within the Paleo limits, but I did end up trying two small silver dollar pancakes before departing.  After the run we took a family trip to Soergel's Orchard and got some more produce and a bunch of apples.  I also downed a decent sized container of apple cider because I was feeling dehydrated from my run.  It is a fun place to visit.  In addition to the orchard they have a small petting zoo where I was able to introduce Annabelle to some goats, a pony, some sheep and a gigantic pig.  A good time was had by all.

Workout: 17.1 mile long run in 2 hrs and 30 minutes ~ 8:45 min/mile pace
Food Journal:
Breakfast: Kashi Go-lean, Milk, Whole wheat bread, almond butter, OJ
Post Run: Orange slices, half of a banana, 5 breakfast sausage links,  2 eggs, 2 pancakes
Afternoon Meal: Apple Cider, 1/2 slice of supreme pizza
Evening Meal: 3 slices of Ezekiel Bread with Sunflower butter and Apple butter, 2 egg omelet

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Reflections on the first 30 days:

This post is primarily to provide information to anyone curious about trying this diet/lifestyle.  I'm not claiming that your results and experience will be similar to mine, but I'm not trying to sell anything so you can trust that my reflections are candid and honest.  I've had a lot of questions from friends and family that were interested in adopting this diet, so here is my take on my experience thus far.

The positives:
One of the nice things about this diet is that you get some pretty immediate results as your body is adapting.  I dropped 7 lbs in the first week and kept if off the remainder of the challenge.

You know it is bad when there are certain pairs of jeans that you avoid putting on.  After the holiday season I noticed that some of my clothes were getting a bit tight around the waistline.  I ended up losing two inches off my waist and now even my skinny jeans fit comfortably.

Although yesterday's benchmark was a bit disappointing, I think it was the result of non-dietary factors.  Overall I've noticed considerable improvements in several exercises from presses to pull-ups.

I know this probably sounds silly, but I've become an expert at cracking eggs.  No more shell fragments in the bowl.:)

The negatives:
Let's face it, this diet is very restrictive.  Unless your family and friends are all gym rats and are following a similar menu, there will be many sources of temptation in social settings.  You will get a lot of people that are curious about why you are eating what you are - sometimes to the point of being almost confrontational.  There will be moments that you will need to choose between sticking to the diet or enjoying important life experiences.  Lucky for me, there wasn't anything major going on for these thirty days, so I was able to stick to it.

As an endurance athlete, having enough fuel to burn is critical.  After the first week of the challenge, I had a few awful distance workouts.  I'm not sure if it was because I was adapting to the new diet or because I wasn't eating enough.  Regardless, I continually felt better after the first week of the challenge.

Sticking to this diet will require a time investment.  It takes time to plan our your meals and go shopping.  Many of the best recipes require fresh ingredients that you will not likely have on hand without prior planning.  Generally the prep times for the meals wasn't any longer than for non-paleo meals. I also found that cooking and dining at home for most of the challenge resulted in many more dishes to wash.

Expect to spend slightly more on groceries especially if you are seeking very high quality proteins.  Wild caught fish and grass fed beef are often hard to come by and you pay a significant premium for them.  I'm not saying that you can't eat Paleo on the cheap, but your menu will be much more restricted.

Dining out Paleo style is a bit pricey (sorry, no sammiches) and it is always a bit hard to tell what you're eating without sounding like the Gestapo (what is that cooked in? What is in that sauce? Is that all natural?  Is any sugar added to that? etc.)

Things I would have done differently:
Although my vegetable intake was significantly higher on the diet, I think I could have done better.  Being the winter time there isn't really an abundance of yummy fresh vegetables here now - not that that is a very good excuse.  Next time I think I'll focus on having about 5-6 servings of veggies per day and not plan my meals around the proteins as much.  I also found eating veggies at breakfast time to be nearly unpalatable - I'd sneak some salsa or peppers and onions into eggs, but that was really all I could stomach.

I probably didn't eat enough during the first week, hence the dramatic weight loss.  I assure you that my body was telling me I was full so I wasn't feeling terribly hungry during that time.

Around week two I began consuming too many nuts.  One of the richer foods you can eat on the diet is nuts.  They seem to always taste pretty good and work well for snacks or desserts.  They also have a pretty high caloric content and in moderate quantities can be rough on the digestive system.  I think one of the reasons my weight loss plateaued was because I started eating them often after the first week.

Towards the end of the challenge, I started to get really tired of drinking ice water at every meal.  Sure I'd have some tea every now and again, but I drank mostly water.  Near the end of the challenge I started squeezing a lemon wedge in my ice water (just like one of dem fancy restaurants) and I found that much more enjoyable to drink.

Over the course of the challenge, I think I ate more than the recommended amount of eggs.  I would easily go through a dozen eggs in a week. Most of this was from eating them at breakfast. I found them delicious and filling but I probably could have benefited from more variety.

Remaining Questions: (I hope to have answers to these soon)

If I switch to a less restrictive Paleo diet, will the results I've obtained start to erode?Will my blood-work come back and show my cholesterol through the roof?

Day 31:

Wha-wha-what?  31 > 30. What gives?  Well as you might have inferred from my previous post, since I'm going to be continuing the diet for another few days, I've decided to keep the blog going as well - at least until I get the results of my blood work back.  That way I can present an honest and candid assessment of the diet including its impact on my body chemistry.  Since I made it through the entire challenge I'm allowing myself a day of slight leniency.  Although I did stray from the diet just a bit today, I didn't end up getting the pizza that I so crave :(.

Despite the extension, I do think it is a good time to post some pictures and current results, so here goes...

Metrics:Weight: Before 186.5 lbs After: 180.0lbs
Body Fat: Before 13.5%  After 10.5%
  Chest Before 40"      Chest After 39"
  Waist Before 35.5"   Waist After 33.5"
  Hips Before 37"        Hips After 36.5"

Note that in both the before and after shots, I am not "sucking in"or flexing or anything like that.  I wanted the pictures to be as natural as possible and keep the results honest.
Left = Before, Right = After
Left = Before, Right = After
All in all I've definitely toned up on the diet.  The profile picture probably shows that the best. But I can tell when I look in the mirror that there isn't much flab left :).  I've also noticed that any old pants with a 34" waist size don't fit me any longer.  All pairs with a 32" waist fit very comfortably.


-Buy In-
3 Rounds:
10 Lateral Burpees
20 Double Unders
“CrossFit Baseline”
For Time:
Row 500m
40 squats
30 sit-ups
20 push ups
10 pull ups

So the results on this workout were supposed to get better over the course of the challenge.  Sadly, mine did not (4:18 vs 4:28).  I attribute this to three things:
  1. I was well rested the first time I did this WOD, this time it has been over a week since I've had a quality rest day.
  2. I attacked the rowing way too hard.  I did the first 250m in under 45 seconds.  This killed me for the rest of the workout.
  3. The buy in for this WOD was much more exhausting than the one for the original baseline.  Lots of burpees = fatigued chest muscles.
I'm going to tackle this on Friday after a rest day and see if I fair any better.

Feeling a bit bummed after the baseline workout, I opted for a Tempo Run to get some aggression out.  I did a fast five miler in just under 39 minutes - about a 7:35 pace.

Food Journal:
Breakfast: 2 eggs (scrambled)
                1 1/2 Chicken & Apple Sausage Links
AM Snack: 1/2 BBQ Chicken Breast (I was craving protein, okay?)
Lunch: Wendy's BLT Chicken Cobb Salad
PM Snack: 1/2 BBQ Chicken Breast
Post Workout: Protein Shake
Dinner: Sauteed Spinach and Mushrooms
            Salmon Patty
Dessert: Small Bowl of Kashi Cereal
             3 Bite-size chocolate hearts that my awesome nephew gave me for Valentine's Day that I could finally eat guilt free

8.5 hours

Day 30:

Today is the official last day of the challenge.  It has been an interesting experiment and one that has had some pretty remarkable results.  In order to see how much the diet has impacted my body chemistry, today I scheduled a physical so that I can get my blood work done.  I have a reasonable baseline for my cholesterol, triglycerides, glucose, and blood pressure from when I picked up some life insurance right before Annabelle was born.  My appointment is 8 days from today so I've decided to allow myself a slice or two of victory pizza tomorrow and then I will be back to sticking on the diet until the exam.  This only seems fair in the name of science :)

As far as foods today, I tried a new breakfast recipe: Chicken and Apple Hash.  This seemed like a good choice because I had some leftover chicken that was on the verge of going bad within the next day or two and I have been enjoying Chicken & Apple Sausage for breakfast for a great many days throughout the challenge.  The recipe was simple: dice the apple, shred the leftover (already cooked) chicken, cook in skillet with almond oil, add a dash of cinnamon when it is warm throughout and the apple has gotten a bit soft.

Dinner tonight was not terribly adventurous, I had some frozen salmon fillets thawing in the refrigerator as well as some nice fresh asparagus.  I decided to "bread" the salmon in a crust of almond flour and fresh herbs (thyme, rosemary, parsley) and spices (black pepper, garlic powder).  For the asparagus, I made more use of the fresh herbs.  I lined the asparagus up on a baking sheet and drizzled the spears with olive oil. I then dusted them with fresh herbs, a bit of kosher salt and pepper and let them roast in the oven.

You might be able to guess who helped eat the asparagus

Final Results:
Metrics and pictures tomorrow.

-Buy In-
Squat Clean Skill Work
Squat Cleans  135/95
Ring Dips
-Cash Out-
Muscle Up Progression

I completed this workout in 10:00.  I intended to use 105lbs for the weight, but I accidentally cheated and used only 95 :(.  Ah well, it was still a good workout so I can't complain.

Food Journal:
Breakfast Chicken & Apple Hash (you thought I was going to write Sausage, didn't you?)
               1/2 Mango
AM Snack: Leftover Acorn Squash Dessert 
Lunch: Final Remains of Paleo Pulled Pork
           1/2 Mango        
PM Snack: Carrot Sticks
Dinner: Salmon

8 hours

Monday, March 14, 2011

Day 29:

Today was an early day due to work commitments and daylight savings.  I peeked at the Crossfit workout just after I got out of bed and decided it would be best to tackle it in the evening.  The workout involved a 5K run for time.  Since I had just run 15 miles yesterday, even a few additional hours of recovery time were important before tackling this one.

Breakfast for two - if you look closely you might find one of our cats

Food-wise it was an anticlimactic penultimate day for the challenge.  The only burst of excitement was a bit of dessert I made using an acorn squash.  Since I'm not a huge fan of butternut or spaghetti squash, I was a little leary of using an acorn squash.  But I bought an acorn squash for this challenge and I was determined to use it.  I adapted a few recipes I found online and actually came up with what I would consider to be a winner.

1 Acorn Squash
1 tbsp Almond Oil
1/3 cup of Chopped Pecans
1 tbsp Almond Butter
1 tsp Cinnamon
1 tsp Vanilla Extract

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Cut squash into quarters and remove seeds and membrane. Brush almond oil on meat of the squash and place each quarter onto a baking sheet meat side down.  Bake for about 30 minutes and flip so that the other side of the meat is down.  Remove squash from oven and separate the meat from the skin.  Place the meat in a bowl and combine with remaining ingredients.

Take a Good Look at My Nuts

The result was sweet and filling.  It could be enjoyed as a breakfast or as a dessert.

-Buy In-
3 x 8 Reps Of Back Squat, Front Squat and Deadlift
Run 5k
-Cash Out-
30 Med Ball Cleans

I held a pretty nice pace considering yesterday's long run.  I finished in 21:48 which was a nice 7min/mile pace.
I know I'm a bit behind on these, but at this point we might as well wait for the big finish.

Food Journal:
Breakfast: 3oz. Ham Steak
                2 eggs (scrambled)
                1/2 Apple
AM Snack: Leftover Paleo Pancakes
Lunch: Chicken Salad and Mixed Greens
PM Snack: Macadamia Nuts
Dinner: BBQ Chicken
            Deviled Eggs
            Acorn Squash Dessert

8 hours

Day 28:

I started today off with a long run.  The last two long runs were extremely smooth because I woke up early and had a decent breakfast before starting the run.  Not only was today was daylight savings, but since brunch plans dictated an early finished I started the run at 7:30AM.  This was not conducive to an early rise and proper fueling.  I hastily ate an orange as I raced out the door to meet a running group. 

I completed the run with a group from our neighborhood running store: Fleet Feet.  My intent was to run a solid 15 miles but a slight navigation error had me do about 13 and once I realized my error I ran an additional two by myself.  There was a pretty nice turnout for the run and although several people were running different distances, the courses were all intertwined so one always had a sight line to a fellow runner gutting it out on the hills of south Pittsburgh.  The run was well supported with a few water stations along the route.  This was really nice because I usually either carry my own water or go without.  I'll definitely join this group again whenever I need to get my run in early. 

Unfortunately brunch plans were canceled because one of our friends came down with the plague, so we decided to have some lunch with my brother, his wife, and my super awesome little nephew.  One of the more useful strategies in keeping a Paleo diet while not missing out on social activities is to invite people over to your place.  That way you can prepare both some Paleo food and some non-Paleo food.  We had some leftover Paleo BBQ sauce from earlier in the week so the menu plan was the following: BBQ Chicken breasts (Paleo sauce for me, homemade Dr. Pepper BBQ sauce for everybody else), brussel sprouts and bacon (Paleo), steamed broccoli (Paleo), and corn bread (not Paleo).  This worked out quite well for everyone although I must confess, the sweet and spicy Dr. Pepper BBQ was calling to was the corn bread.

Dinner was a simple dish of homemade chicken salad served over a bed of mixed greens.  One of the fun experiments with this dish was making our own mayonnaise - something I've never tried before.  The result was a little bit scary - far more yellow (from the olive oil) than store bought mayo - but it tasted fine and I haven't gotten sick yet.  A second adventure for me this evening was trying deviled eggs.  I've never been a very big fan of mayonnaise and the fluffy whipped yolks always gave me the heebie-jeebies.  I don't care how much paprika you sprinkle on them, it is still yolk and mayo.  The lovely wife, however, is a fan and we are considering taken these to an upcoming Paleo-Potluck so it made sense for me to give them a try.  They weren't too bad.  I wouldn't say that I'm eager to eat them again right away, but my mental wall against them is starting to crumble.

Two days to go in the challenge and I'm going to miss it.  Not the actual diet: I've decided to continue the diet in a less restrictive form after the challenge is over.  I'm going to miss jotting down daily notes on life, thoughts on fitness and nutrition, and aspirations and goals.  I've been kicking around some ideas and I suspect that I'll continue journaling in one form or another after the challenge is over.   Looking back at these thirty days several years from now will be quite humorous, I reckon. Perhaps years from now Annabelle will read through this and get a good chuckle from her old man.

13 mile run with a short rest and then an additional 2 miles

Food Journal:
Pre Run: Orange
Post Run: 2 Chicken & Apple Sausage Links
                 3 eggs scrambled
                 1 Apple
Lunch: Paleo BBQ Chicken Breast
           Roasted Brussel Sprouts w/ Bacon
           Steamed Broccoli
PM Snack: Orange
                  Macadamia Nuts
Dinner: Chicken Salad on Mixed Greens
            Deviled Eggs

7.5 hours (stupid daylight savings :p)

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Day 27:

The last weekend of the challenge has started and I chose to begin the festivities with a double workout.  I started by doing a six mile trail run and followed it with an infamous Crossfit WOD known as "Fight Gone Bad".  At the completion I had an awful side stitch and was left gasping for air - but it was the nice kind of pain.  The kind that reminds you what you are capable of accomplishing.

One of the additional rules that the gym has instituted for the challenge allows competitors to acquire bonus points.  This week's bonus was to try a protein source that you have never tried before.  I chose something that I've been curious about for a while, but a little afraid to try: sardines.

I felt a bit like a hobo when I opened this can...get your hands off of my gunny sack!

I opted to buy two tins, the first were skinned and boned fillets and the second were some strange package from Spain whose contents were vaguely specified.  After the workout that left me exhausted, I opted for the skinned and boned fillets.  As I warily opened the can, I quickly discovered that the cats would love to help me consume them should they not be to my liking.  I tried one fillet by itself and actually found it to be quite tasty.  It was a lot like tuna but with a milder flavor.  I served the rest in a salad of mixed greens and tomatoes with a lime vinaigrette. 

They taste a lot like tuna, I swear!

The weather was absolutely beautful today.  It seems that it has done nothing but rain and snow for the last 4 months but today was warm (about 60 degrees) and sunny.  We ended up running a lot of miscallaneous errands today including going to the grocery store.  It was a bit weird because I was faced with buying some food items for after the challenge.  For the last 30 days trips to the store involved going to two departments: produce and meats (with the occasional trip to the interior for canned or frozen veggies).  It is pretty astounding how many aisles are devoted to completely processed foods.  If nothing else, the challenge has opened my eyes to that fact.

Ran 6 miles @ 8min/mile pace
-Buy In-
Group Med Ball Warm Up
“Fight Gone Bad”
Wall-ball, 10 ft target (Reps) 20
Sumo deadlift high-pull (Reps) 75
Box jump (Reps) 20 Inch Box
Push-press (Reps) 75
Row (Calories)
All movements are performed for 1 minute , moving from one to another. After all five movements are completed, a 1 minute rest is taken. 3 Rounds are to be completed.

I completed the workout with 284 reps.

Food Journal:
Breakfast: 2 poached eggs
                  3oz ham steak
Post Workout: Whey Protein Shake mixed with water
Lunch: Sardine salad
Dinner: Roasted Turkey Breast
              Grilled Veggies
              Grapes, Pineapple, Melon
Late Snack: Cashews
                    Celery with almond butter

9 hours - I'm not sure I can afford to keep this up