40 Days of Lent: The “Rutger Paleo Angle”

07 Feb
( a quick note from Andrew: we are lucky enough to have Rutger as one of our new Crossfit trainees. His past as a chef, and his love of paleo means that we will be able to offer you some real paleo insights in the run up to, and during, the 40 day  Crossfit Lent challenge)
Taking on the 40 day paleo challenge is a great way to get to know your own perfect diet. Simplify your diet down to only the purest and most nutritional foods. After 40 days you can experiment with reintroducing foods, one by one. Only then will you have a clear personal experience of what food works well for you and what foods you would rather stay away from.
There are many different definitions of the paleo diet floating around, but for the 40 day paleo challenge I like to propose a diet that eliminates all suspected neolithic agents of disease. This is along the lines of recommendations in Loren Cordain’s latest book – The Paleo Answer , the Whole 30 challenge , Robb Wolf’s book  and Kurt Harris’ Archevore diet
Neolithic agents of disease are substances that were not part of the human diet until the agricultural revolution 10.000 years ago and are suspected to play a key role in the development of allergies, auto-immune disease, cardiovascular disease, hormonal imbalances and more. We are talking here about grains, legumes (beans & peas), dairy and vegetable oils. Eliminating these food groups is the foundation of the paleo diet.
It would also be a good idea to use the challenge to reset your body’s metabolism by avoiding sweeteners of any kind, alcohol, coffee and chocolate. This might seem overly strict, but giving your body a break from these overly common stimulants and relaxants will give your body the chance to find it’s balance again.
For people that have indication that they might have allergies I would also recommend to cut out nuts, seeds and fruit. This might seem impossible, but would only help you to eat properly instead of binging on nuts as many new paleo eaters tend to do.
I personally look forward to take the challenge as I have some minor skin irritation and some body fat to get rid off. Of course, this is more fine tuning for me than a complete overhaul. Before I started eating paleo I had severe hay fever that forced me to stay home to be tired and miserable for one month every year. I also suffered from severe panic attacks, sometimes in public places, but often in bed waking up in the middle of the night unable to breath, sweat pouring out of my skin and thinking I was going to die. After a month of paleo eating the panic attacks were completely gone and last summer I haven’t had any hay fever symptoms.
It’s obvious that I gained a lot from switching to a Palaeolithic style of eating. For you the gains might be smaller, like faster recovery, better body composition, better sleep or maybe something else entirely. It’s not easy, but it is effective, not unlike CrossFit. There is only one way to know what cleaning up your diet can do for you and the 40 day challenge is a great opportunity to experience it yourself.
During the run-up to the challenge I will write more posts on how to make the most of your challenge, how to eat well and make it practical.

23 thoughts on “40 Days of Lent: The “Rutger Paleo Angle”

  1. its about time that someone made it clear that Paleo isn’t about stuffing loads of nuts down and cheat days.

  2. a good point on cutting down nuts… but my question is how do you keep yourself from getting hungry and keeping the energy levels up? I get hungry every 2 hours and I struggle with finding a good paleo snacking solution.

  3. @allan
    First of all, ensure you eat enough protein with every meal. You will also notice less and less cravings as your body gets used to a new way of eating. I can personally go very long without eating and often skip breakfast as part of an intermittent fasting strategy. I’ll write in an upcoming post about the benefits of IF.

  4. I’m pretty scared about this 40 days of Paleo. My diet is so far removed from Paleo it’s going to be a huge stretch.

    I will need some kind of snacking substitute otherwise my energy levels and work will suffer. The ones that spring to mind are:
    – Nuts
    – Dried fruit
    – Fruit
    – Vegetables (raw carrots etc)
    – Jerky
    – Hard boiled eggs

    Are there any other suggestions?

    And Rutger, don’t worry, I will be eating A LOT of protein….

  5. you can meet Rutger at class, or at the 1st paleo party on the 3rd march ( free sign up in the class schedule).. apparently, you can make crisps from curly kale……

  6. @Cian

    As you pionted out in your comment, your diet is very far removed from Paleo. I assume this means carbs, gluten, etc. All these things actually make you more hungy more often. You’ll be surprised how steady your energy levels will be on a clean paleo diet.

    As far as the snacks:
    – Nuts: Not more than 2 handfuls a day and keep it varied. Macadamia’s are best.
    – Dried Fruit: Think of it as high fructose candy.
    – Fruit can be eaten plenty if weightloss is not an issue, otherwise 1-2 pieces a day.
    – Vegetables: All you can eat
    – Jerky: Amazing, unfortuntely haven’t I coma across a paleo friendly brand in UK, gotta make your own then
    – Hard boiled eggs: Great for most people. It is one of the more common IGg allergies, so go easy on it.

    Hope this will help.

  7. Rutger – what brands are paleo friendly? I have a gang of american friends this month. Also, can we get something straight? When you say ‘cutting out carbs’, you dont really mean ‘cutting out carbs’ since there appear in spades in the all-you-can-eat veg. Right?

    Cian – I have been gradually removing bad carbs, and consciously thinking about the composition of each meal so that it seems to includes about the right amount of carb/fat/protein. So far it has not been a big deal since I have been far from strict and cheat on a regular basis. However, I have noticed that I am quite able to miss a meal now and then and not notice, whilst at the same time maintaining high energy levels. I am a massive foodie – so I am very keen to ensure that I don’t begin to look at food as just fuel – I need to find a balance. I don’t want to find myself eating paleo meals out of tubes or vac pacs because they look disgusting!

  8. @alex: best not to think of it in terms of carbs, paleoists mean carb in terms of grains/cereals/bread/starchier vegetables. You can go beserk and eat as much lettuce as you like. Byproduct of this is your overall carb intake goes down because you have to eat a lot of vegetables to eat a large percentage of carbs.

    @cian: my view would be if your diet is totally different before trying paleo, you should pretty much fill your boots snack wise with all the options you described. That might be quite a significant change in itself.

    More generally/at all: the diet seems to correspond quite well with crossfit so if that’s your main form of exercise or even your sport then you can be strict. Where it really doesn’t fit very well is where crossfit is not your main sport, and you spend hours a week running/playing football/boxing training. The carb deficiency becomes much more of an issue.

  9. @Pat – I get it – was just looking for clarification. I think its misleading to say ‘cut out carbs’.

    Also, from what I understand, there can be a good fit with endurance sports – you just need to adapt it. Anyway, I suppose it depends whether or not you are talking paleo, Zone or paleo zone?

    My 18 stone American friend lost 6 stone zoning/crossfitting and ran a 3.45 marathon without changing the basic zone principles. All that in one year!

  10. @ alex yep- quite right. But you need to adapt it so much it’s no longer paleo or zone really. I’m talking more in terms of people who would classify themselves as competitive runners etc aiming for good times rather than people who just want to get round in one piece.

    Actually- i could see zone being a better fit than paleo for runners

    I’m ill at the moment an write this with a giant box of tropicana on my desk. Probably not paleo 🙂

  11. @Alex M
    This is a good brand for jerky in the US:

    I agree that cutting out carbs is somewhat of a misnomer. Cuttind down on starch would be more appropriate. Of course I suggested that cutting down on nutrient-poor, high glycemic starchy foods would stabilise energy levels.

    A paleo style of eating is definitely possible for endurance or other high level athletes. Follow Robb Wolf’s podcast for inspiration or wait for Loren Cordain and Joe Friel’s updated Paleo Diet for athletes which should be coming out soon, I heard.

  12. hi rutger…. could you comment on potato v sweet potato, and things that grow under the ground like carrots, swede and turnips

  13. @Rutger- think paleo for athletes is out now, can find on amazon. In a nutshell, it advises eating more starchy carbs, eg yams and sweet potatoes, on heavy training day, ideally pretty soon after you train. Generally 100g per hour. Also advises more fruit, and suggest there may be a benefit in adding in some dairy. Like I said, quite different

  14. @Pat: “Actually- i could see zone being a better fit than paleo for runners”

    You think a severely caloric limited diet would be better over an all-you-can-eat high quality food diet for an endurance athlete!?

    Zone is great…for people who have the time, patience, precision and need to lose a lot of fat. For performance you begin to see athletes doing the Zone, whilst multiplying their fat blocks by ridiculous numbers such as 10, 20 etc. which then begins to defeat the essence that the Zone preaches…

    @Rutger: Good, solid advice. Would be careful on the “cutting out carbs” type chat, this is where people begin to think Paleo is a totally low-carb diet when in fact it is not. Your revised comment of “cutting down the starch, high glycemic (and refined) foods” is much better!

  15. @Si-I wouldnt recommend either paleo or zone for a competitive endurance athlete, aside from restricted periods where said athlete needed to lose weight before commencing a more intense training phase.

    For a more recreational runner I’d recommend zone over paleo because it doesnt restrict certain foods that are really helpful for runners. Running can actually be an appetite suppressant so some might find it easier to eat a small zone style meal than a massive plate of paleoesque produce

    Just my view though

  16. @Patrick
    Can you give me some examples of restricted foods in the paleo diet for runners? They way I see it is that high mileage greatly increases inflammation, so any inflammatory foods would be off the table. Sugar and starch might provide a lot of energy, but if it’s at the cost of slower recovery and possible injury it’s worthless.

    Also I was talking about an upcoming revised edition of The Paleo Diet for Athletes, not the current 2005 edition. A lot of new research has been published since then and I’ve heard the new book will be much more paleo in it’s approach to nutrition. More fat, less carbs.

  17. @Pat: I wouldn’t recommend Zone or Paleo for competitive endurance athletes, but a basic Paleo template is a great way to start and will get rid of foods that increase inflammation and improve performance etc.

    You say Zone doesn’t restrict certain foods, that’s true but if you want to eat non-Paleo foods on the Zone it severely punishes you by heavily restricting the amount such as pasta (1 block = 1/4 cup), rice (1 block = 3 Tbs) and bread (1 block = 1/2 slice). If you want performance, you need calories to support it (the higher quality, the better) and the basic Zone cannot offer much of that as it is pretty restricted.

    I’ve seen studies that say running is both an appetite stimulant, and an appetite suppressant, so I can’t really comment on that!

  18. interesting comments that exactly mirror why most people have the wrong diet.

    For our lent period challenge, the zone and paleo are ideal: For those who cannot get to these ideal diets there will be lots of mini self set target… eat a bit less bread, crossfit 3 times a week, add fish oil, cut down on booze. But as greg Glassman specifically pointed out, endurance events (and sumo wrestling events) are right out on the margins of fitness. I totally accept that if you need to run 25 miles you need a different diet from a Crossfitter who works really hard for less than 1 hour and a sedentary office worker. Unfortunately, “normal” people often look at diets for endurance athletes and mistake them for healthy, so you have office workers sucking carb gels!

    Once Rutger has given us a bit more info on how to prepare for the fast approaching Lent challenge thats aimed at “most of us”, ill ask him to do a thread on paleo for endurance athletes.

    Great feedback and ideas

  19. @andrew i think you hit the nail right on the head. those mini targets in line with zone/paleo/crossfit performance might be a good base for this challenge… especially for us ‘normal’ people.

    I’ve already shifted my diet such as having 2 cups of coffee a day and reducing the sugar content (I actually enjoy a cup without sugar now), more meat, reduced starch and trying to have more veg.

    tweaking it a bit more is probably the hard part. ie 1 cup of coffee a day, no bread or rice (Filipino’s eat rice breakfast, lunch and dinner so this is a tough one). i think of myself as a ‘healthy’ eater, but not healthy enough (i do go for the occassional mcdonalds every few weeks).

    looking forward to more comments and articles around this topic though!

  20. @rutger yep i’m talking about the older book not the new one. So if the new one is different etc then we are probably talking at cross purposes. The premise was that you need a lot more carbohydrates than most people on the paleo diet to perform and recover optimally in endurance events. They recommended supplementing with things like potatoes

    Here’s a good summary of the studies on no/low-carb and endurance performance:
    http://www.nutritionandmetabolism.com/content/1/1/2 (wfs)

    Basically: ok for recreational training. Not ok for competitive training.

    If the new book/research now recommends replacing carbs with fat as you say, the evidence doesn’t really support replacement of carbs with fat for performance-oriented diets. Sorry.

    I am not saying that endurance training and the optimum diet for endurance training are necessarily a good thing overall for health by the way.

  21. @Allan – you are right, this is fascinating.
    @Rutger – thanks for the link to the jerky. Seems they are sold out of most stuff though
    @Pat – looks like there is quite a lot of scientific research into higher fat diets for endurance athletes. It seems that it is way more complex than a simple linear relationship between exercise type and food intake. I enjoyed this article which seems well researched, but annoyingly does not list the references at the end.

  22. Wow….this is fascinating. I found one of the papers referenced. I red the into and the abstract but you have to pay for the rest.

    Who has access to this at Crossfit EUROPEAN JOURNAL OF APPLIED PHYSIOLOGY AND OCCUPATIONAL PHYSIOLOGY Volume 69, Number 4, 287-293, DOI: 10.1007/BF00392032?
    “These results would suggest that 2 weeks of adaptation to a high-fat diet would result in an enhanced resistance to fatigue and a significant sparing of endogenous carbohydrate during low to moderate intensity exercise in a relatively glycogen-depleted state and unimpaired performance during high intensity exercise” I want to read more!

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