Monday, March 22, 2010

Modern Paleo Journey

By Jeff

First a bit of personal info. I just turned 40. Married with 2 young children. I work as a Mechanical/Software Engineer for a large company. My family and I are relocating to Greenville, SC this summer from upstate NY. I have been a lifelong athlete, mostly in golf (single digit handicap when I play) and tennis (4.0ish). I played college Rugby as a wimpy but speedy back (wing and outside center).

Before diving into Modern Paleo living I was never much overweight, but suffered from Diseases of Civilization. Myopia, numerous cavities, cancer (bladder) to name a few. I got sick 3-4 times per year. I got especially grouchy around meal times where I couldn't control my anger at times.

After getting to 203# (at 6' 1") I decided I was not going to be the 200#+ guy and starting making some changes. I started jogging 3 times per week and added one day of upper body lifting and hated every minute of it. I began eating less and with less dietary fat as well. After 2 years or so I dropped to 188# and was around 16 percent body fat but lacking muscle tone.

I stumbled across Art Devany's Evolutionary Fitness essay in Feb 2008 and was so convinced I changed my eating and fitness patterns immediately. I was at a point where I was ready to mix things up from my boring workout routine anyway and his material is extremely compelling. I began reading Art's older blog posts, Mark's Daily Apple, Whole Health Source, Free The Animal, Conditioning Research, Healthcare Epistemocrat, PaNu and many others, implementing or experimenting with many of the ideas contained in their postings.

Many of the annoying parts of my life disappeared within 2 weeks, particularly the grouchiness. I lost 10# in the first 5 weeks and got down to 174# and 9% body fat within 6 months. 6 months after that I was 182# with 8 percent body fat, where I finally started having some muscles. I fasted 3 times per week including 2 dinner to dinner fasts. I never believed I could fast due to my previous grouchiness, but once you are ketoadapted it is quite easy. I used to get the random pimple around my wife's time of the month (anyone know why?), but that stopped. I have not been sick in over 2 years. I never get grouchy anymore. I feel and look better than when I was 18. My sleep has also improved. I never experienced any of the negative effects mentioned by other Paleo bloggers. The only bad thing was 3-4 weeks of random leg cramps.

My wife had equally positive results after griping about the lack of pasta for 5 weeks. Since I am the family cook she was left with little choice about what was for dinner. When her size 6 clothes stopped fitting she realized I might be on to something. She is now somewhere between a size 0 and 2 and weighs what she did when she was on the college tennis and crew teams, but she is now more muscular (but not bulky).

Here are some details & thoughts:
  • Food: For food we eat primarily meats (fish, pork and chicken included) and vegetables. We have evolved to eat more and more meats bought outside the grocery store. We are lucky to have good grass fed/finished beef, pastured eggs, and naturally raised local pork and chicken at farms and farmers markets. I also get raw milk from a local farm for our kids. Eating Paleo with properly raised animal is more expensive but I think it is worth it.

  • Supplements/Augmentations: For supplements I take cod liver oil on days when I can't eat the clean food I make myself. I take vitamin D on days I can't get out in the sun. I also supplement with Iodine since I can't get good marine food often enough. I don't take the supplements for super health, but rather to replace in my diet that which I can't get access to readily.

  • Exercise: For exercise I have evolved to a Body By Science (BBS) style of lifting. I started doing Devany pyramid sets(15/8/4) 3-4 times per week. I changed to do plyometric and explosive training for a while. I read Body By Science after injuring myself doing overhead presses and dead lifts explosively. I was VERY skeptical about a slow motion, infrequent, one set to failure workout since I bought into the functional training idea and the thought of lifting slow sounded the opposite of functional. The book explains why functional training as an idea is faulty and I had personal experience with some of the examples in the book(road jogging after a winter of treadmill jogging). Others totally disagree, but for me I am not sure it matters. I am not going to ever be a pro athelete. My current thought is functional training is essentially inefficient. I tried BBS on a whim and understood it immediately. Slower was way harded than anything I had done before and it took me 3 days to feel back to baseline. Since then I have done weekly workouts with Jeet Kune Do, sprinting or other brief, not to failure lifting in between on occasion. I have gotten stronger each week for 10 months. I struggled a bit early on with training in the high intensity style too often, but other than that it has gone extremely well. As a bonus, while moving to SC I get to do my workouts with a trainer at Ultimate Exercise, McGuff's facility. BBS style training with a trainer is even tougher than BBS on my own with my wife.

  • Barefooting: I am avid about barefooting. I have 4 pairs of Vibram FiveFingers but go completely barefoot whenever I am able. The new Trek model is tame enough to wear to work, but I still get a lot of stares. I also walk at lunch without a shirt (for sunshine/vitamin D), drawing some strange looks from time to time. All my working out is done either barefoot or in my FiveFingers. I get bugged so often that I had the company send me cards to hand out.

  • Experiments in Mass Gain: Since reading some body building books last summer I decided I would try to gain 10# more muscle. I added raw milk and overate quite a bit on purpose, particularly using eggs and meat. This was a mistake. I am now on my way back down to the 182# that I am comfortable with after going as high as 190# and 12 body fat. Overeating in my case doesn't work to add mass other than fat, or at least in combination with my training current training methods. I am now happy at 185ish and below 10 body fat. I simply stopped overating and dropped most of the dairy. Based on a recent post from Dr. Davis I may be dropping most of the other dairy I have left.

  • Blogging: I consider myself a 4th (5th?) tier blogger and mostly use my blog as a way to capture my thoughts and document my workouts for the dozen or so that are interested. I do some level of coaching, guidance, and promoting of Paleo like ideas, but from a humble, epistemocratic perspective.

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