30 Day Challenge: Q & A Paleo-style & Links to Learn More

Posted on May 22, 2011


3 weeks into this, and I’m fielding more & more questions from you readers, so I wanted to put some of the most common ones up here so we can all be smarter together! 🙂 Let’s learn!

Q: Have you been tired from eating so much less carbs? Don’t you need carbs to feel energized? 
A: Carbs certainly come in handy when needing a quick boost to your blood glucose levels (think: sugar buzz when you’re a kid). But your body has the ability to create use-able energy from both fat & protein, it just doesn’t get trained to do so when we’re stuffing a piece of toast in at breakfast, a serving of fruit in at 10am, some tortilla chips at lunch (or worse, a sandwich, bah!), then rice at dinner. Those are all carbs, yes, but the more helpful carbs for “clean-burning fuel” are vegetables & low glycemic fruits (like berries).
And as for me, some days, I’ve felt a little tired around 3pm, which is my normal ‘slump’ time with cortisol per my ASI Test. When I’m on-point, my lunch is not too large with veggies basing it as the carb source, that way, at 3, I can do a snack that I try to set up as fat, with some protein, and a little starch. It works for me, some of you may be thinking, “what the hell now I have to organize the quantity of each nutrient in descending order?” No, you don’t, but I’ve got a background in science, so I look at food that way – you’ll learn what works for you by trying a carb-y snack like a banana & nut butter, or a fatty snack like jicama & guac, or a protein snack like a few slices of deli meat with berries & seeing which makes you feel best & most energized as the day wears on. On my heavy training days, I add extra starch around my workout with a sweet potato, yucca, or banana.

Q: Is honey/molasses/butter/name-a-food “Paleo”? 
A: Sometimes/Sort of/yes-ish…here’s the deal. Your food quality is most important. It’s doing you no favors to be taking in food that isn’t high quality, use-able nutrients. So buying honey in that little bear mold is less good than buying raw honey. Buying your mass-produced molasses is not as good as getting organic, blackstrap, B grade, or higher. Buying Smart Balance is a bad thing (it’s not butter anyways, buy the real, unprocessed stuff).
So quality is key – but then you must consider where you’re at on the plan. If you’re in the 30 Day Challenge, there is no sugars, no dairy allowed. That means no sweeteners, ahem honey & molasses, and no butter. After the 30 Days, you need to decide if you can tolerate butter, in which case, get the good stuff, or get ghee – clarified butter. Then you need to consider, why am I sweetening my food/beverage? Am I doing it every day? Why am I making baked goods that call for sweeteners? While baked goods have their place, banana muffins made with honey are not a part of a daily diet that leads to optimal health. It’s a slippery slope with the sweet stuff. You’ve got to be mindful of the foods you intake…you get into trouble when it’s a little sweetener in your coffee, honey on your greek yogurt (bad Paleo eater! dairy is casein filled!), a bit of dark chocolate in the evening, etc. I’ve told you how strong my cravings for just a bite of ‘something sweet’ were so far this 30 Days, and I consider myself healthy to begin with!
As for “is food  (x) Paleo”…let’s not get caught up in semantics gang. What falls into the “Paleo” category of eating is any food that has been around since the Paleolithic era, and is eaten in a nutrient combination similar to that of our earliest ancestors (fair amounts of protein & fat, less of carbs). If it’s a processed food, it does not fit into the Paleo plan. Period. If it’s a sweetened item besides fruit, pay attention to how much you’re having. If it’s got grains, dairy or legumes in it, it’s not Paleo – our ancestors did not eat those foods, and those foods all contain anti-nutrients that wreak havoc on your body – while your body is dealing with that junk, it’s not running at optimum function!

Q: This all sounds regimented & boring. I want to live!
A: Dying a slow, Rx-med filled life sounds much worse to me.  Food is one of the best treatments for your body. It can fuel your cells, your systems & your taste buds. Or it can kill you. Take your pick. And while nobody wants to be the poopy-pants at the party not taking part in the celebratory dessert or cocktail, there is the 80% rule that Mark Sisson preaches about so well. If you’re getting it right 80% of the time, the other 20% will come out in the wash. But you can’t invoke the 80% rule all the time! Shoot for getting it right 100% of the time, and then, the special occasions, the times when you’re stuck & there’s no other option (pack snacks next time), the time when you’re going to go with the flow & hit up the bar/ice cream shop with your friends, those are the 20% you accept as ‘part of life’. You don’t freak out, you deal with it, make a good choice at the next meal, & move on. 

Q: Yeah, but I don’t have any immediate reactions to gluten or dairy when I eat them. So I’m fine, right?
A: Sorry, you’re not fine. There are over 300 symptoms for gluten intolerance reaction, many of which you’d never associate with something you ate. One that has struck a chord with me?  Infertility. Maybe because I’m the one who will someday carry a child (with any luck & good health). Or because I’ve known plenty of women who’ve struggled with fertility – but the further I read & learn, well, the more convinced I become that I’ve got to have my nutrition house in order before a kid is part of the deal.
Not all fertility issues fit into the food-related category (blocked tubes/”old” raw materials/etc), but remember, inflammation in your body is creating problems for any system it wants to, including your baby-making stuff. A baby takes all its nutrients from the mother while growing, and splits the genes from mom & dad. Just as you want the best for your kid when they are out, you want the best for them when they are ‘in’ too…but most of us don’t think of that. It’s not the persons’ fault for creating that hostile growing environment, you only know what you know, right?…but if you’re not fully healthy, you think all your parts are going to be fully healthy? It’s tough, and I have to hand it to everyone I know (and those I don’t) who deal with fertility issues. I want to control as much of that as I can- with ALL health issues, I want to control what I can – and would want as much for my friends & family. If eating well could help the process along in any way, then it’s worth doing, in my opinion.
To wrap this answer back around…you’re not “fine” if you consume gluten (all grains, really) or dairy. See this post for more on that. Or this one.  

Q: My head is spinning! Everything “Conventional Wisdom” has taught me seems to be wrong! Where can I learn more about all of this?
A: Be ready to learn learn learn my friend! Here’s my top list of resource sites, it would behoove your health to get over to these guys asap to get your learn on.

1. Robb Wolf’s site, podcasts, & book – Highly worth your time to review his podcasts – stream them to your phone while driving! – they are sorted by topic, so you can look for what you need most first, but I guarantee you’ll find yourself circling back to listen to them in their entirety as they are generally hilarious. His forum rocks as well. And the book as 30 days of meal plans in it. That’s a win/win/win!
2. Mark Sisson’s site: Mark’sDailyApple.com– lots of recipes, articles on living Paleo (not just eating that way…hint, chilling out is one key piece of Paleo, I suggest you learn all about how to fit that in your life!)
3. Loren Cordain’s books, papers & articles on his site – The man who brought Paleo eating to all of us by doing the research & breaking down the results he found into use-able nutrition & lifestyle guidelines. If you’re smarty-pants type who likes reading research papers, his are where it’s at. He also co-wrote “Paleo for the Endurance Athlete”, an important read if you’re going to take Paleo & any endurance event on this year. He’s also got some great papers on his site on the basic stuff like fish oil, fruit, sugar & carbs.
4. The team over at Whole 9 consistently put out good stuff on all things Paleo. They wrote this article that struck a chord with me on ‘what is good food?’ ”
5. If you’re on Twitter, you really should be following @robbwolf @chriskresser & if you’d like, @kgalliett & @dw431, as we are posting Paleo whatnot everyday.