Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Paleo Challenge: The Report, Part 1

I finished the 30-Day Paleo Challenge this week, re-starting it after the stomach bug caused me to resort to saltines on Day 5.  For the most part, I found it was very easy to do.

The Sugar Monster

After just a few days, my sugar cravings were completely gone. You might remember that just a couple of months ago I was craving sugar like a heroin addict looking for a hit. So to have it depart so suddenly, to be able to open up a cupboard and look at a pound of chocolate, or to dish out an entire pan of lemon bars to hungry teenagers and not have a single bit, that's pretty amazing, right? Well, I think it is. I've lived with the Sugar Monster my entire life. I remember walking to the store as a 12 year old to replace with my crumpled up bills of allowance money an entire quart of ice cream I'd eaten, so my parents wouldn't find out and get mad at me. How screwed up is that? I ate so much sugar, I had a yeast Army living in my body. I actually got thrush as a teenager and the doctor said that was so unusual he'd never seen it except in babies and seriously ill old people.

So the fact that this Sugar Monster was just {poof} GONE is amazing all by itself.

The Thyroid Horror Show

The next issue I was wondering about was my thyroid. One of the things that spurred me to take the Paleo Challenge was that my doctor had recently decided to lower my thyroid medication (possibly because the earlier switch to mostly Paleo made my thyroid actually start working again, hooray!). Whenever they muck with your medication, Bad Things Happen. Like you hair starts to fall out, you get incredibly cold, your skin gets scaly, muscles get achy, and you gain weight like nobody's business. The last time my medication got mucked with I gained 13 pounds in about three weeks. It's crazy. So this time when they changed my medication I watched all of this happen and decided that if Mostly Paleo was good news for my thyroid then 100% Paleo might just stave off the Thyroid Horror Show.

You know what? I was right. By the time I started on the Challenge, I'd reduced my medication (per doctor's orders) by 25%. I was already starting to experience some of the thyroid symptoms (very very cold for one thing) and had gained 5 pounds. But by a few days into the Challenge, it all stopped. Within a week I wasn't cold anymore, and my family was happy that I didn't have to roast them out with the heaters. My muscle cramps stopped. The weight gain stopped, and within three weeks I'd lost it all back to my regular body weight. Pretty powerful stuff.

No Carb Exercise???

Through it all, I've continued both aerobic and anaerobic exercise. I've run as much as an hour and a half on the trail with no carbs whatsoever (and doesn't that run counter to conventional exercise "wisdom"??). My typical pre-workout breakfast is a big egg-and-veggie scramble. No bagels, toast, or even a banana to get those carbs flowing. Post workout snacks are jerky, and maybe some carrots. For fruit I've mostly stuck to frozen berries that we picked last summer. I have had a few bananas and half an apple here or there, but no serious carbs.

So without fueling with carbs, I've worked out an average of 13.5 hours a week, with a low of 11 and a high of 15.5. I've done weights, crossfit, trail running, kickboxing, Master's swimming, karate, track workouts, and taught Karate Conditioning without feeling underfueled or under-recovered. In fact, my recovery is pretty amazing.

For instance, my Tuesdays  include an hour to hour and a half of Karate in the morning, then an hour long hike with my dogs at noon, two hours of Karate in the evening (which often includes bodyweight work like pushups, situps, squats), and Karate Conditioning at 7:00. By the time I get home, I've exercised for 4 - 4.5 hours, some of it very high intensity (like today included sparring matches). I wake up Wednesday morning feel fresh as a daisy.

In A Nutshell: The Wrap-Up

At age 44, having that kind of energy is, well, nothing short of miraculous. So that's the first installment of my Paleo Report: Sugar Cravings Gone, Thyroid Stabilized, Incredible Fueling for extreme workouts. I call that success.

Tomorrow: What did I eat?


Tri-James said...

Fantastic. I look forward to following your progress.

Kovas said...

So great you found something that works for you!

Marv said...

Sugar addiction- My Mother in the nursing home, gets all kinds of great chocolate sweets from visitors. Being a "stress eater" to begin with, all that great candy has always been too much to resist-until the last month or so. No refined sugar now, not even a bite..I am like a recovering alcoholic avoiding that first drink.

Robin said...

That's about the only way I can do it too, avoiding it all.

Kate Yoak said...

This is pretty amazing. I love hearing about people being surprised by their paleo successes. The sugar thing delights me too - I find deserts people around me looking so delicious and tasting sickly sweet now. :-)

Just found your blog for the first time! I am at http://cavekitchen.com . Good luck staying on track!