The Paleo Challenge at Crossfit Templar began on 10/13/12 and the choices were simple, 3 months or 6 months? You would BodPod at the beginning and the end and you would complete a benchmark Crossfit Total and a benchmark WOD that would each be re-tested at the end of the time period. No food journals, just eating Paleo and working out. The only other stipulation was the first 30 days were to be Whole30 approved (so really strict!).
It was really a no-brainer for me to get involved in the challenge, as I had been eating Paleo since January 2012, when I first started Crossfit, and I decided to give it the full 6 months. I was not necessarily in the challenge to win, but to give myself a reason to stay on track and see what I could achieve during that time.
I decided to set a few goals after the first BodPod on 10/13 when I weighed in at 200.967 lbs, 9.1% body fat, and fat free weight of 182.611 lbs (I am 6 ft 3 inches tall). It was my first experience in a BodPod for body fat testing, with my only previous experience being caliper testing (not overly accurate in my opinion). I was surprised by the body fat reading of 9.1%, as I thought it would be higher than that. With that said, I now had some targets for the end of the challenge: Gain 10 pounds and lose 1% body fat. I knew it would be tough and I would have to change some things, but I was up for the challenge and I will tell you the results and how I got to them shortly. First though, I need to give a bit of background on myself.
I was always active and involved in sports growing up. As a kid, I played football, baseball and ran track. Once I got to high school, my sports became just football and track, as I was never all that good at baseball. I was fortunate to receive a full-ride scholarship to play football at the University of Kentucky where I was a 4 year letterman and 2 year starter at tight end. During this time, my weight fluctuated between 240-245 (in-season) and 250-260 (during the off-season). The concept at the time was pretty simple, eat anything and everything, workout, and play football year-round.
After five years of college football, and 12 years of football prior to that, I was pretty burned out on weight lifting and football in general. I ended up taking about a year off of physical activity, but continued to eat like I was playing football. My weight fluctuated between 230 and 240 pounds, which included less muscle and more fat than my playing days. Over the course of the next 3-4 years, it was an on-again, off-again cycle of exercise and eating “healthy” (or at least what I thought was healthy). I would start a routine, continue for a few months, and then “get busy” and stop. Part of the problem was finding something that I enjoyed doing, while also not having any competitive reason for going through the routines. During this time, my weight would go down as low as 220 lbs, while creeping back to 230-235lbs during the “off” times.
Finally, in 2009, I found something that kept my interest, Boxing. I had the pleasure of meeting a former professional boxer by the name of Gerald Reed, who trains MMA fighters and boxers. My wife and I began working out with him one day a week personally, and then took two “Boot Camp” type classes per week with him at the local globo gym. I loved the high-intensity, tough workouts that he created and it seemed to constantly change each time. I never actually boxed another person, but hitting the pads and flipping tires was a blast. I continued this type of training for about a year and half before making a move north to Minnesota for work. At that time, my weight was steady around 220 lbs.
When I arrived in Minnesota in the winter of 2010, I no longer had a trainer or program to follow, so I joined the local globo gym and started participating in some boxing classes they offered a few days a week. I never touched a weight while I was a member of the gym, and I was not consistent with even going to the gym. As my wife and I sat in our house on a cold snowy day in December 2011, we watched the Crossfit Games replay on ESPN 2. We had briefly heard of Crossfit in the past, but it looked like the exact thing we needed to get back on track. In January of 2012, we found the closest box to us, Crossfit Templar, and began a journey that is still going strong today.
When I first entered the Crossfit box, I was humbled. My weight was actually the lowest it had been since high school at 215 lbs, but I hadn’t lifted a weight in about 2 years, so there was not a lot of muscle in the 215lbs. I couldn’t lift more than a PVC for overhead squats, I needed a band for pull-ups and ring dips, and I was out of breath after the warm-up. I also nearly broke my neck trying to do a handstand against the wall, but I was hooked! The other thing that happened right from the start was a decision to commit to Paleo and change our lifestyle. Both my wife and I made a full commitment and we cleaned out the pantry and refrigerator to eliminate non-Paleo foods.
It took me a few months to start RX’ing some workouts, but I was losing weight and feeling good. Over the next 9 months, I was able to drop about 15 pounds down to the BodPod weight of around 201 pounds. I was eating Paleo consistently, but I knew there were some changes that needed to be made moving forward.
This brings us to the 6 month Paleo Challenge…
I will focus mainly on what I changed during the challenge, along with some aspects that I feel were important. I will also provide what an average day looks like in terms of eating.
The first thing I knew that needed to change was to increase my protein intake. Prior to the challenge, my afternoon snack would consist of a Lara Bar or an apple or some nuts. In addition, my post-workout food consisted of eating 5 or 6 prunes and that was it. To change it up, I began using Progenex Recovery, post-workout, mixing it with 12 oz of Coconut Water. For the afternoon snack, I began eating half of an Avocado along with a can of Wild Planet Pink Salmon. On my off-days, I would occasionally substitute a Progenex More Muscle Protein shake mixed with water and a handful of cashews or macadamia nuts.
I was doing a decent job the rest of the day in that I was eating protein at breakfast, lunch and dinner, however, I did decide to increase my egg intake for breakfast from 2 eggs to around 4 or 5. I also began drinking homemade Bone Broth; first in the morning, then I changed it to right before bed. Not sure if the time of day makes a difference, but it worked out better for me before bed.
In order to make sure I was getting enough protein and fats, I spent a little time toying with the Zone prescription, but never really followed it exclusively. I really just took the 5 block approach for my snack and each meal to ensure I was getting enough protein and fat at those meals. On most occasions, Dinner was well above the 5 blocks for both protein and fat.
In addition to the increased protein consumption, I also knew that my carb intake was too low. For the first 9 months of Crossfit and eating Paleo, I was not really getting enough non-vegetable carbs. I dropped body weight during that time and I increased my work capacity, but I felt tired in longer workouts and knew that I was not optimizing my performance. I added starchy carbohydrates for dinner, which basically consisted of Sweet Potatoes, and more recently Sticky White Rice. I will say that my carb intake is probably not as high as it needs to be, but I was still able to get good results.
I almost exclusively eat grass-fed meats, free-range chicken and eggs, and organic vegetables. I also try to buy locally for these items. My reliance on supplements is pretty minimal. I take some fish oil in the morning, along with a Vitamin D supplement and a multi-vitamin. Aside from those, the protein shakes are the only other supplements that I use.
Aside from the details of what I ate, I think the biggest part for me was the consistency. By no means was I eating strictly Paleo all the time, as I would occasionally indulge in some Pizza, some Ice Cream, some alcohol, etc. However, I made sure to keep it a once in a while thing, and tried not to over-indulge. In addition, I did not let it affect me the next day, as I would just go right back to my normal eating routine.
Consistency played a major role from a diet standpoint, but it was even more important with Crossfit. I was consistent with Crossfitting 4 or 5 days per week, depending on how my body felt, but more importantly I was consistent in holding myself to the movement standards of the WOD. I had no problem no repping myself if I didn’t meet the range of motion standards even if that meant it took me much longer to finish a WOD. I also worked to improve my technique. Overall, I think this helped lead to better gains and better performance over the course of the challenge.
In the end, a consistent approach to diet and Crossfit led to the following during the 6 month challenge:
- Body Weight increase from 200.967 lbs to 213.517 lbs
- Body fat decrease from 9.1% to 7.1%
- Muscle gain of 15.732 lbs
- Increased Crossfit Total by 75 lbs
- Decreased benchmark WOD time by 23%
I am looking forward to what the next 6 months will bring…