Going Primal – One cyclist’s experiment with the Primal Blueprint

My cycling sabbatical has given me a great opportunity to tryout the Primal Blueprint. The Primal Blueprint is a set of simple instructions (the blueprint) that allows you to build the strongest, leanest, healthiest body possible, taking clues from evolutionary biology (that’s the primal part).  You can get more info here, but basically the 10 rules are:

  1. Eat lots of animals (beef, chicken, pork, fish, etc.)
  2. Move around a lot at a slow pace
  3. Lift heavy things
  4. Run really fast every once in a while
  5. Get lots of sleep
  6. Play
  7. Get some sunlight everyday
  8. Avoid trauma
  9. Avoid poisonous things (this includes processed foods, high fructose corn syrup, etc.)
  10. Use your mind

Today I’ll focus on my change to a Primal, or Paleo, diet. The Primal plan calls for:

  • Lots of vegetables and some fruit
  • Meat & eggs
  • Healthy fats – including nuts, certain oils, etc.
  • Dairy is OK in moderation, but go for full-fat versions.

Notice what’s missing? Grains. Grains in all forms – no wheat, corn, rice, pasta, etc. This means no bread, cereal, Clif Bars, etc. Legumes are also prohibited – so no peanuts, soy, black beans, etc.  Everything should also be as fresh and organic/grass-fed as possible. Nothing you eat should come out of a box, have added chemicals, etc.

As a cyclist, my diet was VERY carb-centric and I thought this transition would be tough. After almost 3 weeks on the diet I can say that the transition has been easier than I expected and I feel GREAT! What differences have I noticed so far?

  • My energy levels are much more stable throughout the day. I no longer get that tired, sluggish feeling around 11 (pre-lunch) or 2 p.m. (post-lunch). I also have more energy when I get home from work.
  • I now have zero digestive issues (no upset stomach, cramps, gas, etc.). This used to be a regular problem for me and it’s vanished.
  • Less inflammation. I have lots of nagging, chronic injuries (especially in my shoulder and neck). Even while working out more, and with heavier weights, I’ve had fewer flare-ups on the Primal diet.
  • Better sleep. I sleep like a rock now through the night and I wake up feeling good, not tired.
  • Body composition. I’ve added a few pounds of muscle, while losing a little body fat, in just 3 weeks.

So what does a typical day look like for me on the Primal Blueprint diet? Below is a typical day:

Breakfast

  • Coffee with half and half
  • 4 egg omelette with half a sliced avocado and some salsa
  • an apple

Lunch

  • A “big-ass” salad. Lots of different veggies, some nuts, maybe some bacon grease or olive oil with balsamic vinegar for dressing. Additionally, I’ll normally slice up whatever leftover meat we have to through in. I love my primal salads.

Dinner

Some meat with grilled veggies. An apple for dessert.

Snacks

  • Couple handfuls of nuts during the day
  • A protein shake at night after dinner. I normally put the shake in the freezer to give it the consistency of pudding or ice cream (depending on my mood).

Below are the stats for my typical Primal/Paleo day:

You’ll see it comes out to about 2,500 calories (which is right where I should be assuming I work out for an hour or so). The fat number would probably scare most people, but that’s part of the plan. You’ll also notice that my total carbs is pretty low (~115 grams) without really “restricting” carbs. When you eliminate grains & processed sugars, it’s pretty easy to eat a low-carb diet. Let’s compare these numbers to a typical day on my “cycling diet”.

First, a day when I go for a 2 hour ride (typical weekday):

Here I’m eating almost 4,000 calories. However, the really “wow” numbers are the 7000 mg of sodium and the 600+ grams of carbs (almost 300 of which come from sugar). In fact, I had more carbs during my breakfast than on a whole day or Primal/Paleo eating. Your body needs more carbs when you are doing high intensity endurance activities, but that still wreaks havoc with your insulin response system and other biological/digestive processes.

Now let’s look at a day when I go on a 4-5 hour ride (typical weekend day). Keep in mind this includes a convenience store stop mid-ride to refuel.

HOLY CRAP! Almost 6,500 calories and 1,200 grams of carbs. I actually needed to consume this many calories to maintain my weight when doing an 80-100 mile ride, but that’s still a ton of stress to put the body through.

Thus far . . . I’m a believer. I feel great and don’t miss any of the stuff I’ve given up.  I’ll do a follow-up post on some of my experience with Primal fitness.

6 responses to “Going Primal – One cyclist’s experiment with the Primal Blueprint

  1. You might enjoy this podcast interview with Robb Wolf that deals with Paleo and CrossFit for triathletes.

    http://triswimcoachonline.com/tri/interview-with-robb-wolf-podcast-24/

  2. I am very interested in seeing how this progresses as you get back on the bike.
    How do you fuel (in this diet) your body for a long effort at aerobic levels, with some anaerobic thrown in?

  3. Pingback: Cycling (training and racing) on a Paleo Diet | Texas Tailwind

  4. One recommendation, be mindful of your omega-6/omega-3 ratio. This is a very important part of the puzzle because most of the animals eat grains in America. Therefore their fat is badly tilted in the omega-6 direction. This leads to inflammation and other annoying problems.

    Mark recommends supplementing with omega-3 DHA and to keep the omega-6 around 6g a day. Not always easy.

    I have been primal for about a month and have noticed a lot of my old chronic pains ease up. Still there, still annoying and still hurt, but less so.

  5. Love the post. What website/software did you use to track your diet?

  6. Love the post! What software/website did you use to track your diet?

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