This is a guest post by my pal and fellow pimp, Hammer, on the Paleo diet and his workout regimen. I really like edgy stuff when it comes to training and lifestyle engineering. This definitely falls in that category. Read more at Hammer’s blog.
Over the last month and a half I I’ve been on a “paleo diet” which is designed to mirror the nutritional profile of our ancient ancestors in the Paleolithic era. It’s a program I put together for myself based on information from three books: Good Calories, Bad Calories; Body by Science; and Eat, Stop, Eat.
The Idea Behind Paleo
The idea behind the Paleo diet is that until 10,000 or so years ago, carbohydrates and beans essentially didn’t exist in our diet. Despite the fact that our diets have changed significantly since then, our digestive system has not changed. Evidence supporting this includes the fact that only in the last 50 or so years have we finally caught up to the size of our Paleolithic ancestry. This affects our health, and case studies over the last 150 years of hunter gatherer societies indicate that there was no cancer, diabetes, obesity, tooth decay, or really any other forms of modern disease until the integration of sugar, beans and grain.
I started in on Paleo to aid in muscle building and cutting fat, but knowing what I know now about disease, I decided to integrate it into my lifestyle permanently. I committed myself to putting on muscle mass and trying to achieve a “golden ratio” body, with shoulder to waist circumference proportions of 1.6:1. Now for those of you who don’t know me, I am 6’2″ and in the 150 lbs range, so I’m thin and putting on weight is difficult. I wasn’t always this way, but I had some serious health complications for most of my teenage years and into my early 20’s up until about two years ago when I had some major surgery that fixed my problems. Often, when your body is operating at a diminished capacity, it will release hormones that break down muscle mass to make it easier for the body to survive despite sub-optimal health conditions.
The idea behind using a Paleo diet combined with a high intensity program and intermittent fasting for muscle building is mostly hormonal. There are a number of important hormones that are released in the bloodstream that causes muscle to grow, the most well known of which are testosterone and growth hormone + IGF-1. Insulin, which is known for dealing with blood sugars, also has a side effect of acting as a trump hormone for all of these good hormones, effectively neutralizing them as they interact. Estrogen also has this effect, particularly on testosterone, which is why beans are bad news. Short term fasting has the opposite effect, as the body releases up to 6x the testosterone and growth hormone levels of baseline to protect muscle mass as it breaks down fat. It should also be noted that peak performance is achieved in a fasted state, which is in line with the idea that pretty much all animals hunt when they’re hungry, not when they’re full, and humans are no different.
Training & Diet
I work out once a week on Tuesdays after work. I do a “Big Five” workout, which consists of a horizontal push, a horizontal pull, a vertical push, a vertical pull, and a pressing motion with the legs. In my case this means chest press, seated row, shoulder press, pull down, and leg press. The cadence is a slow controlled movement taking five seconds in each direction with a weight heavy enough that you can keep this up for about 90 seconds until muscle failure in the positive direction. I can spend all day going into the why, but the simple answer is that you need to engage all of your muscle fibers from your low order slow twitch fibers to your high order fast twitch fibers, and then you need to give yourself ample recovery time (fast twitch fibers take anywhere from 6-20 days to recover depending on degree of inroading and genetics.
My diet is also very simple, but it’s different from what anyone recommends anywhere so you’re going to have to cook every meal for yourself if you try it. Here are the principles:
- Protein is good.
- Fat is good, as long as it is in a ratio of omega 6 fats to omega 3 fats of 4:1 or less. It’s important for cell repair and as a result muscle building.
- Carbs are bad, and the more refined they are the easier to digest they are, and thus the worse they are for you. This also includes drinking carbs in the form of fruit juice or non-diet soda.
- Beans are bad, as they alter hormone levels, particularly reducing testosterone and increasing estrogen.
- Vegetables are alright, because despite being carbs, they are pretty indigestible.
- Frying is good, but the oil used must have a high boiling point as oils like vegetable oil (soy) or corn oil will turn into trans fats
My diet consists of the following:
- High calorie protein shake for breakfast made with a can of coconut milk, three scoops of whey protein isolate (chocolate), and some melted butter (grass fed)
- Grass Fed beef, maybe a 15 oz steak purchased from Grassland Beef. Beef and other red meats that you buy in the grocery store are grain (corn) fed and have a ratio of omega 6s to omega 3s of 20:1, which can cause a huge number of problems and is a big part of why people had problems on Atkins
- Chicken breast, with fat added back into it using grass fed butter
- 6-12 eggs, organic vegetable fed eggs high in omega 3s fried in grass fed butter
- Organic, vegetable extracted multivitamin from Nutralite (Amway product)
- 36 hour fast after my shake on Monday morning until after my workout on Tuesday night
- One cheat day a week where I can eat whatever I want, including sugar, popcorn, pasta, white rice, etc on Sunday (furthest possible from my workout). This isn’t necessary and actually probably hurts my results at least a little but it is necessary for me to maintain my sanity. Compliance is the most important part of any dietary restrictions, and while some of it is a will power thing, if it’s too difficult to comply with the diet should take some responsibility.
I started out at 158 lbs on November 1st when I started this diet, with a 31” waist and 39” shoulders. In the first week I dropped about 10 lbs, most of which was water (carbohydrates retain 2.5 ml of water for every gram) but some of which was also fat. I now weigh an even 150 lbs, with a 30” waist and 40” shoulders. My strength has gone up substantially, and I am lifting roughly twice the amount of weight now as I was lifting when I started.
There have been a lot of other changes though, unrelated to weight or muscle mass:
- My energy level is far more stable. I don’t have the post lunch “ugh I need a nap” feeling and can easily go all day without even thinking about eating if I’m occupied enough.
- Hunger is different. Most people never experience real hunger, they merely experience blood sugar withdrawal. It’s actually a major problem in our society as being in a fasted state is very healthy for the body. Some say that the effectiveness of the “Mediteranean Diet” is mostly due to fasting, which is not accounted for in the research. The cultures of Cyprus and other Mediteranean islands where this diet came from are orthodox Christian, and as a result of their religion there are 100+ days a year where they are on some form of restricted diet or fasting.
- I retain far less water. I drink three liters of water or so a day to aid in muscle recovery, and it all goes right through me. Carbohydrates cause the body to retain sodium, which then retains water. Cutting out carbohydrates negates the effect of sodium on your water retention. For every gram of carbohydrates that you eat, you retain about 2.5 grams of water.
- I sleep through the night much better. The caveat to this is that I need to stop drinking water at least an hour or so before going to sleep otherwise I have to go to the bathroom.
- I’m colder. I have very severe Reynaud’s Syndrome so it’s very difficult for me to keep my hands and feet warm. On a paleo diet, it is even more difficult. I suspect this has to do with water retention, as water has a high specific heat, and thus moderates your body temperature in the same way that oceans moderate the temperatures of coastal cities.
- I was sick, but I wasn’t. I had a persistent cold going into this diet and while it didn’t totally go away, most of the symptoms did. What had previously manifested itself as a cold with a chronic cough and constantly feeling tired turned into this new semi-cold which was just a sore throat and nothing else. Cough was gone, nasal congestion was gone, lethargic feeling was gone, and there was no fever.
- Cuts heal more quickly.
- Hair is healthier and less oily. I have long hair and while I rinse it in the shower every day, I only shampoo and condition it once every two days. That has gone down to once every three days because I just don’t need to. Additionally, while some hair used to come out of my head every day in the shower (women can relate to that), hardly any comes out anymore.
- Blemishes are all but gone. Because of my long hair, I have a continuous problem of pimples on my forehead. They are usually not noticeable because they are covered by my hair for the most part, but they bothered me, and now they’re pretty much gone.
- Breath is better. Not that I ever had bad breath, but now it really just doesn’t get bad even over the course of an entire day. Tongue is much more pink as well.
- Acid reflux is no longer an issue. I have a dilated esophageal sphincter, and reflux used to bother me at least once a day and sometimes more often. This doesn’t happen anymore, except on my cheat days.
- Sex drive is way up. Erections are generally more full, and when I take a girl to the jazz café the size and velocity are both significantly increased. No word on taste.
- Feeling of guilt if I cheat on a non-cheat day. This is less about the diet as it is about what I know to be true about modern disease and cancer, but if I eat carbs when it’s not a designated cheat day, I feel bad about it. I am convinced that the disease I had when I was younger was as a result of a genetic marker plus a high carbohydrate diet, based both on what I’ve read and the fact that my sister has a disease that has the same genetic marker and pretty much had the same pasta and rice diet (I was and still am a very picky eater and pasta, bread or rice with a side of meat was the best way to describe my diet).
So there you have it. Those are my results. I plan to stay on this regimen indefinitely, and for the first time feel like I have a good chance at not getting cancer despite all of the toxic drugs that I am on and have been on in the past to handle my health issues. I recommend that everyone adopt a paleo diet, particularly if you would prefer not to get cancer ever or would like to get ripped like Jesus.
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