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Primal Athlete Who Has Hit a Wall

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  • Primal Athlete Who Has Hit a Wall

    My name is Spencer and I am a 17 year old athlete who participates in highly competitive sailing year round.

    (Background Stuff, feel free to skip this paragraph)
    I've been following the Primal/Paleo lifestyle for about 2 years now, and it was going great in the beginning. The reason why I switched is because my mother started to get very serious with diet research, as she had her thyroid removed. She wanted her body to be as clean as possible for the operation, and as healthy as possible to live without her metabolism regulator (the benefits of the Primal lifestyle really show when a woman LOSES weight after having her thyroid removed). Me, being incredibly eager to lose weight and get in pristine shape for sailing, I hopped right on board. I lost 10 lbs initially, and everything was great, but the following 18 months I can't count as Paleo, as I was on and off mostly. I really became strict, however, when I got a serious staph infection in my finger, and was hospitalized for a week. I was put on extremely powerful IV antibiotics, and my entire gut flora napalm escapade consisted of 5 different antibiotics over 4 weeks. I had to be careful as to what went into my body, so I went all out Primal. This leads up to this past summer.

    I compete internationally in a small dinghy called a 420. The sport requires 3-4 hours a day of 140-160 heart rate exercise, as well as lots of agility and strength. This level of activity and intensity of competition goes on for weeks at a time, with a couple days of rest in between regattas (races). I need to the energy to compete like this for an entire summer with few rest days, I need high strength to be able to work the heavy sails, and I need to be 10 lbs lighter (Currently 165, need to be 155)

    My questions regard my sport, my energy, and my weight following the Primal lifestyle.

    Part 1: My question for my during competition lifestyle is: What do I need to be consuming/doing to give myself optimal energy during competition?

    During competition, my diet/fitness looked like this:

    - Wake up from 10 hours of sleep, 20 min jog, a serving of Athletic Greens

    - Breakfast: 3-4 eggs, 400g of fish or pork, a couple slices of cheese, a bowl of prunes in yogurt, bell peppers, tomatoes, and cucumbers.

    - Lunch: 2-3 turkey or pork slices rolled with cheese, 1 carrot, 1 cucumber, 1 bell pepper, 2-3 bananas, 1 apple , a couple of almonds (all consumed over 4-5 hours in between races)

    - Dinner: (any type of leaved vegetable I could find) grilled vegetables, prosciutto ham, tomatoes, lots of cheese, some walnuts or sunflower seeds, a main course of steak or fish, and a bowl of fruit salad.

    - I would consume about 6-8 liters of water a day, depending on the heat and activity level.

    - Small note: I drank excessive amounts at the end of the regatta parties (3 times) and had 5 ice-cream cones over the duration of the summer.

    I was able to maintain a weight of about 161 throughout the summer and my energy level was never as high as my team mates (granted, I've never really been a high-energy person, kinda why I'm posting this now) and I want to be giving the Primal lifestyle a good wrap with the sailing community! The other thing is that I eat like an animal, I sometimes feel overfed, but most of the time I feel satisfied.

    Do I need to be consuming less or more carbs? Should I convert to complete ketosis? Am I not consuming enough or am I consuming too much of one thing?

    Part 2: My question for my off-season lifestyle is what should I be doing to give myself optimal energy for my workouts to get lean and strong and lose 10 lbs worth of adipose tissue.

    My off-season lifestyle

    - Wake up after 7-8 hours of sleep

    - Breakfast: Protein shake with raw egg, 20 grams of organic whey protein, supergreens, carrots, kale, spinach, coconut milk, and either raw cocoa powder or homemade yogurt

    - Lunch: Salad (spinach and lettuce), 2 hard boiled eggs, a couple slices of turkey or ham, tomatoes, olives, cauliflower or broccoli, carrots, and sometimes organic guacamole

    - Cross country: About 7 miles of total running

    - Dinner: A lot of whatever my mom makes (always organic, always fresh, always low carb)

    I have decided to cut out all sugar (including fruit) and as many high carb foods as possible to make my weight manageable and to heal my gut lining as well as possible. I'm still running into the problems of low energy and excess adipose tissue (10 lbs too heavy).

    I have tried everything from counting calories, to eating potatoes and fruit, to exercising like a maniac, and nothing has been able to get me down to a steady 155 lbs and have high energy. I am fit, but I am not athletically lean.

    If anyone can answer just one of my questions, I would be very grateful.


  • #2
    Hey Spencer, i'm 18 and i can relate to what your saying. I lift weights heavy 4 or 5 times a week, and like you i've never really been an energetic person. I've always been really athletic, always competing in sport, but i never really feel as energetic as my friends. What has really made a difference for me is Intermittent Fasting. I have never had more energy before in my life before i tried this. I eat usually on 20 hours fast 4 hours eating ratio, but you could do anything from 16-8 to 20-4 and probably have similar results. I would also suggest this for weight loss too, as no food can interupt the fat burning which occurs during the day. When sailing, you might want to up yours carbs to 100g a day (preferably after your race) to replenish glycogen, and this might help you perform better.

    But i really think you should try the intermittent fasting, it has worked wonders for me.


    • #3
      What is your height? You could still be growing.

      Why are you running while competing? Seems a bit overkill.

      Lift weights in the off-season. Experiment with what macros work best for you, we can't tell you. Be sure to take time off to allow your body to recover as well.


      • #4

        I have tried fasting, but I don't think quite that regularly or that pre-meditated. If I ever felt full, I would just not eat for a day. Does it work by not eating for 20 hours and then eating consistently for 4? Also, how often do you fast?

        Also, would going into ketosis allow me to manage my weight better while keeping my energy supplies high?


        • #5

          I am done growing for the most part. I'm 5' 11" now, and my physician thinks I will reach 6' gradually by the time I'm 21.

          And the reason why I was running was to warm up and free my mind, my coach recommended it. I've always thought that might be a big part though.

          Thank you!


          • #6
            Yea for example what i usually do on a day would be wake up around 9, then head to the gym around 4 then come home and eat my daily calories from 6-10. Pretty simple. If i was trying to lean up a bit i would eat 500 calories under my Normal calories. I usually do this everyday as i am most energized when i haven't eaten. If you were in ketosis you might feel more energized maybe, but it just depends on you as a person. To be honest it seems like you already may be in ketosis because it doesn't look like you're eating a lot of carbs.


            • #7
              Right, I'm going to try the fasting. I think I'll start with 16-8 and work my way to 20-4. I'll go based on how I feel. Thanks


              • #8
                Good stuff, i hope it works out for you, good luck in your races.
                Last edited by Lukey; 09-02-2012, 04:52 AM.


                • #9
                  So how is it working out for you?


                  • #10
                    I tried it for a day. I made sure I was trying as hard to be in ketosis beforehand. I woke up at 6:30 with very little energy, and I really didn't gain energy until 10. I felt great until about 1 when my energy dipped again. (I was doing yardwork from 9am-2pm) my energy came back up again around 2:30 and I started cross country practice around 3. I had plenty of energy, and ran 7 miles with no cramps or energy dips at all. I got home at around 5pm and started eating then. I went high fat, low carb, lots of protein, and went crazy. My stomach didn't feel great, and I can probably attribute that to cramming in too quickly, as I was ravenous. However, I wan't able to keep trying this, as my mom (also a paleo enthusiast) forbade me. She said that I would stress my body too much with the combination of frequent and significant fasting and athletics every day. She mentioned how my cortisol levels would be raised and I would start to store more calories than usual. I would also end up eating my parents into bankruptcy, by only eating at home.


                    • #11
                      Think critically about the paleo diet and your answer lies there. Ancient primates from a few hundred thousand years ago and longer weren't primarily meat eaters, they were mostly vegetarians. Some tribes began to eat meat. Humans eventually became omnivorous in order to survive in different places.

                      Fast forward to agriculture and while we made it so that more of us can eat instead of starve, we eventually made it worse so that people would get fat and sick. The reason for the problem is access to too much calories in all sorts of forms including both sugars and oils. Water doesn't make you fat, but as soon as you add sugar to it and make it into cool aid, it will. Potatoes don't make you fat either, until you fry them in oil and make them into french fries. Its all about calories.

                      Generally, foods in their natural form don't make you fat because you can't eat enough of it to make you fat. Fruit can't make you fat, because you can't eat enough of it. But as soon as you remove all the fiber and make juice out of it, you can consume way too many calories and get fat.

                      The same thing goes for meat. Generally speaking, most meats don't have too much fat. Fish, chicken, and most wild game, its all lean. Buffalo in nature is much leaner than farm raised cattle. There is a big difference. The same probably goes for pigs.

                      Also realize that in places where inuits eat mostly real fatty animals such as seals, this is the exception. They don't have plants available so they get most of their calories from fat. They have to in order to survive. Also, look up pictures of eskimos and you will realize that they are fat. Because fat has a ton of calories in it.

                      Similar to how when we put way too much sugar in our foods and get too many calories from it, the same can happen with fats. Our ancestors didn't have constant access to farm raised animals such as cows and pigs. They couldn't have 85% lean beef; instead they'd be eating wild buffalo that was more like 98% lean. They also wouldn't have had cheese or butter (which has a ton of fat in it) because hunter gatherers weren't herding animals. And lastly, they wouldn't be adding olive oil or coconut oil (that which has a ton of extra fat in it) to their foods because such foods require processing.

                      Also, there really is no need to demonize carbs. Your muscles are fueled by glycogen, that which mainly comes from broken down carbohydrates. Fruits and potatoes will give you a lot of energy and you really can't eat enough of them to make you fat, because they make you feel full before you have eaten too much of it. Here's a good way to look at it. If you only ate potatoes for carbs and ate them until you felt stuffed a few times per day, you would have only eaten probably less than 150 grams of carbs and say 500 calories from the potatoes. That's not that much. It can't make you fat.

                      So that's the thing. You do need carbs in your diet. I had to learn this the hard way years ago. I did a low carb diet without paying attention to calories. It only worked ok. The eventual result was stalling on my weight loss, losing energy, and a loss of performance in sports.

                      Keeping carbs in your diet works; you need it, but you can't be an idiot about it. Pastas, bread, drinks, juices, candy, it all has way too many calories in it and will make you fat. Fruit and vegetables, including potatoes, won't. It will give you the energy you need and make you feel ful. But it won't give you so much that it makes you fat.

                      So I guess the main thing with all of this is you need to keep things simple. You need more carbs than what you are currently getting, that way you will have energy for your sport. But you also need to drop the calories so that you can lose the fat. Here's how I would go about it:

                      1. Get your carbs from sources that are highly satisfying and low in calories. As a staple I'd go with potatoes. Peppers are also good for flavor and vitamins, but probably don't provide enough calories. Citrus fruits are also very filling too, and low in calories.
                      2. Get your proteins from lean meets such as fish and maybe chicken. It has enough fat in it, but not too much. While the fat in whole eggs is good for you, egg whites can be a better choice temporarily while trying to lose weight.
                      3. You already got enough energy from the carbs. And you also got enough fat from your meat. So don't add anything "extra" for fats such as cooking oils, cheese, etc.. Eliminate all of that.

                      Also, I don't think I'd recommend fasting during your season, because you'll need the energy with that much of activity. But you can get away with it during your off season and you probably should considering the fact that you aren't burning as much calories during that time period. So here's kind of how I'd do it:
                      1. During the off season, cut calories to lose the fat. But also lift weights regularly to increase strength. Lose the weight during this time period, instead of doing it when you are competing. That way you are already light as you want, and you can have more energy for your races.
                      2. During your sporting season, allow more calories, because you'll need it. And yes, you can probably get away with eating more of the tasty foods during this time period, because you'll be burning it all off. Keep an eye on the scale. If you find yourself gaining too much weight, cut back on the fats again.

                      One last thing to note is that eating carbs will naturally make you a bit heavier because your body converts it into glycogen and stores it in the muscles and liver. So you'll be an extra 5-10 lbs with carbs in your diet. You'll have plenty of energy that way and you will be stronger. But if your calories are low enough, you'll lose the weight in fat.

                      Good luck! I hope that made some sense and will be helpful.


                      • #12
                        There are so many wrong things with that post. First of all humans have been eating meat for over 2 and a half million years. They weren't mostly vegetarian, Eating mostly just meat gave humans the ability to evolve. Eating mostly vegetation places huge pressure on the intestinal tract, so getting the majorty of calories from the fat and protein gave the digestive system a break, and more calories were able to go to the brain. Eating meat allowed humans to move away from the forests and into areas were they wouldn't have been able to survive on just vegetation. So humans definately evolved on a mostly meat/fat diet.

                        Secondly, you told him to eat little fat and 150g of carbs. So he will only be eating 600-1000 with protein. So he definatelly needs fat aswell, if someone eats just carbs and no fat their blood sugar will rise and they will feel hungrier, not fuller. Carbs release insulin, and insulin stores carbs and fats as fat, so if he over-eats he will still gain weight. Insulin also stops fat from escaping from the fat stores, making it harder to lose weight. I do agree on eating carbs and fats, i eat atleast 100g of carbs a day, but still eat mostly fat and protein.

                        It seems like you are new to this, or just guessing with a lot of that information.
                        Last edited by Lukey; 09-08-2012, 07:25 AM.


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by Lukey View Post
                          First of all humans have been eating meat for over 2 and a half million years. They weren't mostly vegetarian, Eating mostly just meat gave humans the ability to evolve. Eating mostly vegetation places huge pressure on the intestinal tract, so getting the majorty of calories from the fat and protein gave the digestive system a break, and more calories were able to go to the brain. Eating meat allowed humans to move away from the forests and into areas were they wouldn't have been able to survive on just vegetation. So humans definately evolved on a mostly meat/fat diet.
                          Humans evolved "from" plant eaters and became omnivorous. And even if we did need more calories from fat percentage wise, that doesn't change the laws of thermodynamics. If you eat too many calories you get fat.

                          Originally posted by Lukey View Post
                          Secondly, you told him to eat little fat and 150g of carbs. So he will only be eating 600-1000 with protein. So he definatelly needs fat aswell, if someone eats just carbs and no fat
                          I don't recall ever recommending to only eat carbs. You get plenty of fat from fish and other meats. And as already mentioned, calories count. So during a cut, one would be retarded to add extra fat from processed sources on top of that.

                          This is not to mention the fact that fasting is a perfectly safe method for fat loss. And the science supporting it debunks the belief that there could be some sort of perfect macronutrient ratio.

                          Originally posted by Lukey View Post
                          if someone eats just carbs and no fat their blood sugar will rise and they will feel hungrier, not fuller. Carbs release insulin, and insulin stores carbs and fats as fat, so if he over-eats he will still gain weight. Insulin also stops fat from escaping from the fat stores, making it harder to lose weight.
                          Protein also stimulates insulin, a hormone that you actually need. And your pancreas only secretes too much if you eat too much. An example of abuse is when you eat candy, made from simple sugars that you can digest real quick before you are full, and so you end up eating too many calories and storing it as fat. Even if your insulin went too high from such foods as potatoes, which I doubt because its hard to eat too much, insulin will drop when you go into the fasted state, GH will rise, fat loss will occur, and blood sugar will stabilize.

                          Originally posted by Lukey View Post
                          It seems like you are new to this, or just guessing with a lot of that information.
                          I've been around long enough to know what works. Calories count and they always will. You can't go on adding "extra" calories in concentrated form into your diet and wonder why the fat isn't coming off. It's a dead end road.

                          Just to give an example of how this works, last year I was doing a rather low carb approach. For carbs, I'd eat some raw fruits and vegetables earlier in the day, and maybe one sweet potato at night. For protein I'd eat about a lb of meat or sometimes include eggs. My fat loss stalled for a few weeks, until I came up with a better idea. I stopped cooking with oil and eating cheese and what do you know, I started losing weight again.


                          • #14
                            Ripped, I do agree with your thesis on the availability of fats and the ease of which it is to over consume calories when eating fats. Doing things such as diving into nut-butters and eating bowls of dairy will stall weight loss process any day. However, as I found out by watching some videos on ketosis, putting yourself in that limbo zone between 50g and 150g of carbs will give you energy problems and cause foggy-headedness. You guys are technically both saying the same thing, except Ripped is pointing out the dangers of making fat your main source of energy, calories tend to be too readily available when looking for fatty foods to consume. Fat-focused diets can work, as long you are careful not to consume excess calories.

                            I have been doing a lot of research, and this is what I have found to be my main obstacles, some that I find are very key in this whole process.

                            1. Over complication and obsession
                            - On this whole journey of losing weight, I am finding myself jumping from program to program. I found myself cutting so many things out that I would aimlessly wander the kitchen and eventually caving into something. (My biggest "weaknesses" being those of high-fat content, nuts, nut butters, and dairy)
                            - I began to cut out all of the things that I believed I over consumed and that had high carbs, and that left me with meats, leaved vegetables, and coconut butter to eat.
                            - I also figured out that when I started on ketosis, I was basing my percentages on what I could see, and not by calories. I thus found myself consuming wayyy too many meats and dairy in order to get my fat levels high.
                            - I realized that it really sends my mind into a panic when I give myself so many guidelines, and then break them (something inevitable when traveling such a strict path)

                            2. Elevated cortisol levels
                            - The over complication of my diet combined with my lack of sleep, the stress of junior year and colleges, afternoon exercising, chronic cardio, and many other things contributed to giving me high stress
                            - These stresses elevated my cortisol levels, and have been leading me to have less energy and elevated insulin levels (packaging calories much easier)

                            3. Going too hard too soon
                            - I started off with no sugar. This evolved into low carbs. This evolved into an attempt to get into ketosis. This evolved into intermittent fasting (something deadly when cortisol levels are high).
                            - I have been trying to boil the ocean by combining all of these things. I wanted the perfect diet, of the most disciplined athlete, of the most stress free environment. I was jumping to the last level before clearing all of the levels before.

                            My solutions
                            1,3. To prevent myself from going into a panic, I'm giving myself 3 SIMPLE guidelines
                            - (1) No sugar of any kind
                            - (2) Fill up the bulk of my plate with vegetables
                            - (3) Avoid unnecessary calories (nuts and dairy)
                            - (3) Listen to my body (when I'm hungry, I eat, when I'm satisfied, I do something else)

                            2. Lower my Cortisol Levels
                            - I'm basically going to be following Chris the Kiwi's method (except for the running and the exercising early in the day. I do cross country and practice is after school)
                            - Here's his guide to lowering cortisol levels: Fat Loss And The ATM Approach to Cortisol Management Chris the Kiwi

                            Once I find myself eating normal, comfortable amounts and when my symptoms of high cortisol levels go away, I will start to embark on things such as intermittent fasting, cutting back on carb-high vegetables, and eventually starting to calculate calorie deficits to give myself that final edge.


                            • #15
                              I think you're on the right track with point #1, wanting to simplify things. And you can.

                              That's actually what I liked best when I learned about intermittent fasting. Because the science behind it debunks the old ideas that you have to eat 6 meals per day and be excessive compulsive about your diet in order to be in great shape. In reality, most sedentary people can do find with less meals and so can some active people such as construction workers. So unless you're so active that you're burning up all of your calories quick and then need another meal, there's no reason why one would HAVE to have a lot of meals per day.

                              To further simplify things I have also known people who regularly eat junk food and are skinny, healthy, lean, strong, and/or as little as 3% body fat. I used to think it was genetics until I learned how to diet down and drop the fat off and keep it off for life. I've also read about a story where a guy lost 80 lbs in 6 months eating McDonalds every day and a college professor who did a 10 week calorie restricted junk food diet to prove to his students that the only thing that matters when it comes to fat loss is calories. Check this one out:
                              Twinkie diet helps nutrition professor lose 27 pounds -
                              Take note that the professor was eating more healthy food prior to the experiment and afterwords showed a number of health improvements.

                              This stuff really blew my mind and had me thinking I'd been lied to about diet for years. You mean to tell me I can eat what ever I want and any number of meals that I want and still lose weight and improve my health? The answer is a flat out yes, but that doesn't mean that its the best thing to do.

                              Here's some factors I'd take note of:
                              1. You can eat junk food, but it typically has too many calories, it stimulates appetite, and it sometimes lacks some of the best micronutrients you need, so it probably isn't the best choice.

                              2. If you plan specific meals that are highly satisfying (and low in calories if cutting) you'll feel a lot better because it will fill you up and make you feel stuffed.

                              3. Life is what it is and as discussed in the book "The Warrior Diet", you need a plan that's flexible, a plan that you can make work according to any situation. As an example, I travel a lot and I need to find a way to make my diet work for me. And I do. I have no excuses. I'm not obese anymore like I used to be and I never will.

                              Earlier this year for example I wanted to drop 10 lbs, so I dropped the calories down real low. I was mostly eating peppers, chicken or turkey, some beef patties once in a while, and a little bit of cheese once in a while. I was getting the food free at work. Sunday was my only day off, so rather than having food in the house it was easier for me to just eat out. So on Sunday, I'd eat about 2000 calories worth of Burger King. The diet still worked phenomenally well and I dropped the 10 lbs within a month or so.

                              You see, the thing I am getting at is that you can eat what ever you want. But some foods give you more vitamins and minerals and would be a better choice if you have convenient access. Other foods simply make dieting a much more comfortable process.

                              The same goes for meal frequency. Bodybuilders started recommending more meals per day because its a sure way to make it easier to eat more for skinny guys trying to gain weight. Some how that got twisted around to where they were erroneously recommending to do it while cutting too. Most regular size people don't need that many meals and in fact less meals makes it a lot more comfortable while cutting. That is my experience. A few huge meals is what I like best and am the most comfortable with.

                              Special Note:
                              You aren't going to get sick and die, gain 500 lbs, turn into a diabetic, or go to hell if you eat ice cream once in a while. I can promise you that. I've probably eaten more ice cream over the last year than I did in an entire decade, and I'm 20 lbs lighter with improved health markers such as blood pressure.

                              I hope that helps.