Marks Daily Apple
Serving up health and fitness insights (daily, of course) with a side of irreverence.
21 Feb

Performance Up! Inflammation Down!: Professional Baseball Pitcher Goes Primal and Sees Immediate Results

It’s Friday, everyone! And that means another Primal Blueprint Real Life Story from a Mark’s Daily Apple reader. If you have your own success story and would like to share it with me and the Mark’s Daily Apple community please contact me here. I’ll continue to publish these each Friday as long as they keep coming in. Thank you for reading!

Dear Mark,

My name is Greg and I am a 25 year old professional pitcher in the Marlins Organization. People don’t often associate professional athletes with poor health, but I was constantly considered a “bad-bodied left-handed pitcher.” The tag was placed on me and I accepted it. Just never wanted to change since it hadn’t affected my performance on the mound (or so I thought). This story really starts more in my high school years.

I was a mindless eater constantly shoving down granola bars, rice, pasta, etc.. I was always a little pudgy, never fat (by American Standards) but definitely not skinny either. When I was in high school, I was given medication for acne (Acutane) and in college I was diagnosed with depression (funny how that happens) and was on the medication for a while until I finally decided one day I would stop. My mood was always up and down and I found every day a chore to wake up. I was constantly sore and in pain. At one point I thought I was bipolar as well. As a pitcher I was blessed with the ability to throw from the left side (a commodity in baseball). That meant appearance wasn’t that important to my game, just performance (I had no idea they would go hand in hand). I had surgery my freshman year of college on my elbow (wonder why) and after that, I ballooned up to a dismal 220 pounds at 5’10” (that is the definition of obese). I was still capable of pitching at an extremely high level even though I had become extremely injury prone (gee I wonder why…) and as I found out, the early stages of Type 2 diabesity (my fasting glucose was 95!!!). After having a fairly good college career I was picked up by the Marlins in the 18th round and pitched well my first two seasons with them.

I was constantly trying to manage my weight and would do so not by dieting, but by logging hour after hour on the dreaded elliptical thinking that burning off what I ate was the solution to weight loss. In the end, it just made me more sore and I saw minimal (if any) results. This year, I got hurt in spring training and spent the first part of the year on the disabled list. After I had got off the disabled list, I still didn’t feel right. It was in the bullpen in Fort Myers that one of my teammates mentioned a diet book written by Tim Ferriss; it sparked my interest. He told me that in no way was this style of living sustainable in-season, because “primal food” availability was a huge issue which would make it difficult (I found out later this was a cop-out). I was determined. We stopped at a local shopping mall and I picked up the book and immediately started reading. Within the first 20 pages, I became a believer in his system.

I was still eating legumes as a carb source. I had cut out all processed foods, and “complex carbs” (except legumes of course). This was a big step for me (it was like I was addicted). Within two weeks in the middle of the supposed “dog days” of July, my pain had gone away. Elbow inflammation was constant for me. I was taking 2-3 anti-inflammatory pills per day just to get by. The dosage went from 2 to 1 til finally I wasn’t taking any before games.

Whenever we stopped, I would always walk to the nearest grocery store (sometimes it wasn’t so near), usually a Publix, grab a container of spinach, some sort of nut butter, nuts, a bag of jerky or cans of tuna, and I would be good to go for our short road trip. When fast food restaurants were our only options I wouldn’t eat (I was doing IF before I knew what it was!), or I would order my burgers without buns with extra lettuce or an egg white McMuffin, hold the muffin. Paleo didn’t have to be perfect for me. I considered myself an excellent hunter gatherer given my circumstances. Despite the weird looks I got from my teammates I was doing quite well. It certainly was difficult to get through Minor League life without eating granola bars, wonder bread and soy infused potato chips, but I managed through.

The pounds started evaporating off of me. I traded in my size 40 baseball pants for a size 34, and by the end of the season they were starting to fit very baggy. More than that, I saw incredible strength gains and my recovery post workout was unbelievable. My next day soreness was pretty much gone. After a while, I noticed my mood had become level, no sugar highs or extreme lows and I was thinking clearer on the mound – a great asset to have when having to troubleshoot what pitch to throw. I just felt more pensive on the mound and felt more in control mentally than I ever have.

Greg - 2013

In early August, I started reading your blog and cruised right through The Primal Blueprint and I finally cut out the beans (the definitive guide put a definitive ending to that!!). Immediately I noticed my skin cleared up and I saw an amazing difference in my skin clarity. By the end of the season, I had got my weight down to 195 pounds (not bad for starting the year at 211) all while living on a bus and in hotels around Florida, cutting down my inflammation and getting stronger by the day. In a time when the heat of Florida makes people feel run down and weak, I was getting stronger. This was a huge step for me and it lasted throughout the year. I wanted to try to get a date for you on when I started the paleo diet, so I went to the minor league baseball website and found it was in July in Fort Myers. I know this because that was the last time I gave up a run all season… I had pitched two months of scoreless baseball and the one thing I changed was my style of eating (maybe it does affect performance – could it be a coincidence?).

Greg

I haven’t been doing this diet for as long as most people who post on here, but I look back and I am merely a shell of myself. I still have a small layer left that I want to get rid of. I went from a tight fitting size 40 to a 33.5 waist (let’s just say I bought a couple belts). I know that if I continue to eat this way over the long haul it will be gone. I have lost another 5 pounds since the end of the season, almost effortlessly, and I look forward to continuing this lifestyle throughout my career and throughout my life after these kinds of results. I think it would be really really dumb of me to quit! I will do blood work this month and can’t wait to see how many numbers have changed since last year. My fasting glucose was 95… I am sure that’ll change!

I am sure that I will give up a run next year; probably a lot more than a run. It is part of the game. But I know that I may have increased my shelf life in this game and definitely in life. I went from a 25 year old who looked like he was 50 to a 25 year old who looks like he is 20! I’ve only been paleo/Primal for 5 months and have already seen unbelievable results. I am looking to shake that tag “bad-bodied left-handed pitcher” even sooner. I thought I would keep the Primal Blueprint diet my little secret, so I could have an edge on everyone, but I think it is important for everyone to know just how beneficial this could be at improving their lives.

Greg - Before and After

Greg

You want comments? We got comments:

Imagine you’re George Clooney. Take a moment to admire your grooming and wit. Okay, now imagine someone walks up to you and asks, “What’s your name?” You say, “I’m George Clooney.” Or maybe you say, “I’m the Clooninator!” You don’t say “I’m George of George Clooney Sells Movies Blog” and you certainly don’t say, “I’m Clooney Weight Loss Plan”. So while spam is technically meat, it ain’t anywhere near Primal. Please nickname yourself something your friends would call you.

  1. way to go glad to see it works for the pro-athlete as well as us avg joes

    N.Lockard wrote on February 21st, 2014
    • Right, I’m loving this new wave of athletes and sports organizations adopting the Paleo/Primal way of eating and seeing huge improvements in their stats because of it. Hopefully this will translate to more people going Primal because their fav athlete inspired them. #TheMovementContinuesToGrow

      Chika wrote on February 22nd, 2014
  2. Greg– Great “fast pitch” about going primal! Your ERA is awesome and inspiring.
    I hope you’ll send another update after a few complete games!

    Pastor dave Deppisch wrote on February 21st, 2014
  3. Sweet! Way to go, Greg! It’s worked wonders for me too in regards to my hip pain. If only I could convince my younger brother who runs Cross-Country in college to do the same… Both my parents and he still definitely believe that a high amount of carbs from bread and pasta are essential to his performance.

    Christian wrote on February 21st, 2014
    • If your brother does need carbs then potatoes or kumara (sweet potatoes) would be a better choice.

      Paul in Australia wrote on February 21st, 2014
  4. Thanks for sharing your story! Hopefully it will get easier for you to eat primal on the road.

    Bjjcaveman wrote on February 21st, 2014
    • This is something I’ve had to work through over the past 9 or so months (the life of a consultant). I do bulletproof coffee whenever I’m at home for those healthy fats but on the road I bring a tub of superfood greens powder and a bottle of mct oil. That way I can get in the greens and the fats no matter where I am….Great story and I’ve already forwarded it off to those friends who are on the fence.

      BFBVince wrote on February 21st, 2014
  5. Looking for good, whole foods does feel like a hunter-gathering exercise. Another baseball player – SF Giants Hunter Pence – has also been profiled locally for following paleo. Ended up with a good year as well.

    Don B wrote on February 21st, 2014
  6. I love when professional athletes turn primal! Keep it up!

    Dr. Anthony Gustin wrote on February 21st, 2014
  7. Usually don’t watch baseball but if I see the Marlins playing on the TV at a restaraunt or something I’ll cheer for you! Awesome results!

    Best of luck from a fellow left-hander!

    Jacob wrote on February 21st, 2014
  8. Inspirational! Thanks for sharing.

    Kelly wrote on February 21st, 2014
  9. Greg congrats on your success. It’s impressive that you managed to do it while living on a bus and in hotel rooms, not easy. Best of luck with your career!

    I remember a news article about pro basketball players doing a cow share. It was presented as if it was something normal people didn’t do. It helps having pro athlete likes you draw some attention to alternative ways of eating and acquiring food.

    Keep it up!

    Luke wrote on February 21st, 2014
  10. Great story. Being in South Florida, I had to google you and found a blog from a year ago when you were talking about living with pain while playing the game. What a sea change! Best wishes in the new season!

    Colleen wrote on February 21st, 2014
  11. Great job Greg. Welcome to the clan. Any chance of you signing with the Dodgers? Would love to get Kersh and Greinke on the bandwagon.

    Nocona wrote on February 21st, 2014
  12. My fasting blood sugar 6 years ago was 99, doctor barely mentioned it. Id put on 30lbs since then and waking up it was always bove 110, 113 and hour after wakeing. Im down 10lbs right now and wake up at 87, cut out all wheat, refined carbs and sugars does wonders.

    Brandi wrote on February 21st, 2014
  13. Great job! I am wondering what kind of workout routines you are doing now?

    Your fasting glucose of 95 is actually within what’s generally accepted as the normal range. You may find that it goes up with a low carb diet, see the link below for an explanation. Mine actually went up from 95 to 105 after a year paleo while at the same time all my cholesterol and triglyceride numbers improved very dramatically. I used to have large swings in energy levels before/after meals but am now far more even keeled than ever before, there is no way I am approaching diabetes. It would probably be more revealing to test your hemoglobin A1c (HbA1c), that figure should show improvement.

    If you google it you will find some explanations for this, here’s one:

    http://chriskresser.com/when-your-%E2%80%9Cnormal%E2%80%9D-blood-sugar-isn%E2%80%99t-normal-part-2

    Bayrider wrote on February 21st, 2014
    • Agreed…95 fasting BG is in reg normal range. The h1Ac is the more vital number to pay attention to.

      Chika wrote on February 22nd, 2014
  14. This is so cool! Way to go Greg! Would be great if you could talk to kids about nutrition.

    Andrea wrote on February 21st, 2014
  15. As an LC eater, I would suspect you may not see a lot of improvement in your fasting BG if it was high to start with. You may want to test post postprandial with a standard food dose (white rice) to see what you get 1, 2, 3 hrs later.

    dlunsford wrote on February 21st, 2014
  16. Awesome job Greg! I wish I would have known about this way of eating and exercising when I was playing college volleyball! I’m passing this on to my little brother who plays competitve hockey! Thanks for the inspiration!

    primalpal wrote on February 21st, 2014
  17. I love sports and have had a long love affair with baseball, going back to 1975. I’m a life-long Dodger fan but don’t always root based on geography; i follow good character guys (and gals); for instance, Peyton Manning, Warrick Dunn, Chauncey Billups, Ray Allen, Tony Gywnn, Cal Ripken). I don’t know if living primal makes for good character (Dexter seemed to be eating primal, at least for breakfast) but I tend to think those who do are conscientious about their own health, often thinking of how it affects others around them in their circle of family and friends, disciplined, and willing to sacrifice. Thanks Greg for the story – it’s always good to be reminded professional athletes are people too and not just somebody for disgruntled fans to take their respective frustrations on someone else. You have a new fan.

    Jeff F. wrote on February 21st, 2014
    • <3 Cal Ripken <3

      Merry Mac wrote on February 21st, 2014
      • I’m named after Cal

        Ripken Holt wrote on February 24th, 2014
  18. A Primal/Paleo diet is a great way to reduce inflammation, but it might not always work. I had considerable pain in the neck, shoulders and trap muscles that became pretty debilitating at times and even caused problems with my hips. I ate Paleo and tried everything out there to decrease what I thought was chronic systemic inflammation. Nothing really worked. One doctor said I might have fibromyalgia; another one said it was nerve damage. Knowing my own body, I considered both diagnoses to be horse manure and kept looking for answers.

    Turns out that a lot of people “store” stress and tension in the neck, shoulders, and back, particularly if you habitually sit hunched over a computer with the shoulders rounded forward and pulled up toward your ears. The muscles can become tightened and locked up more or less permanently. I found this out at a small, unassuming rehab clinic located in an athletic club.

    A technician at this clinic used low level laser (also known as cold laser) on the muscles of my shoulders, back and neck. The tightness and tension disappeared almost immediately. So did the chronic pain, stiffness, and occasional spasms. (Sometimes more than one treatment is needed.) Now I’m careful to stretch frequently and I try to get massage therapy for those problem-prone areas once a week.

    Shary wrote on February 21st, 2014
    • I should point out that low level laser therapy and LED light therapy are not the same thing. LED light therapy is much weaker. Low level lasers are available for purchase online but they are expensive. A professional strength model will cost upward of $4,000–more if you get a portable unit. A used one can run $2,500 if you’re lucky enough to find a demo.

      If you plan to buy one, do your homework. learn the difference between LED light therapy and low level laser. I also own an LED light therapy device I bought a few years ago, and frankly, it’s pretty worthless. Skip the cheapie devices that sell on Amazon for a few hundred bucks; they will be too weak to penetrate the tissues of the body deep enough to do much good.

      Shary wrote on February 21st, 2014
    • Please got look at Esther Gokhale’s Authors@Google talk too! I’ve had SUCH success with my “hours at the computer” posture — SO much improved (too bad for my chiropractor!). I’ve bought her book too, which is amazing! (Helped me talk a friend out of back surgery for sciatica!! He is also doing much better!)

      Elenor wrote on February 22nd, 2014
    • First time in years I’ve heard (read) someone mention the cold laser. I was part of a clinical trial back in 2004. At the time it was only approved for carpal tunnel, but I was being treated for severe lower back pain due to three bulging discs. After being offered an epidural, and seeing the price tag, I opted for the cold laser: one of the best choices I ever made. 5 treatments later, I was standing up straight with no pain (actually after 4, did one more for the sake of any residual inflammation), and better than that, no recurring pain, ever.

      On the post topic, it’s a shame that eating whole foods is now an alternative lifestyle…

      Da Big Shoe wrote on February 25th, 2014
  19. You’re not kidding about looking younger! Fantastic and very inspiring!

    Siobhan wrote on February 21st, 2014
  20. Greg,

    Awesome read! I hope you make it to “the show.” The positive results will help keep you committed to this for life style – it certainly does me.

    Grok On!
    JR

    JR wrote on February 21st, 2014
  21. Awesome job Greg! Feels good to live healthy!

    Hispanicgamer wrote on February 21st, 2014
  22. It seems like a lot of athletics live in constant pain. Your remarkable story shows how going primal gets rid of pain AND improves performance. Can’t get better than that! Congrats.

    Linda A. Lavid wrote on February 21st, 2014
  23. I love reading stories like these. Just shows that “standard” eating and believing all the standard advertising that’s thrown at us is bad for us and makes us unwell. Going primal is a way to remove a lot of the drag on our bodies and allow us to have the sort of health and vitality for which we were made.

    Peter Whiting wrote on February 21st, 2014
  24. Greg did you notice that your “man boobs” are gone too? (funny how that happens…)

    oxide wrote on February 21st, 2014
  25. Greg, very impressed by your story, but even more by your generosity in sharing this.

    Dwight wrote on February 21st, 2014
  26. Nice one. A great example. :)

    Onge wrote on February 21st, 2014
  27. Great story! Very interesting to hear about the journey to primal from a professional athlete. Keep Grokking on and good luck in your baseball career!

    Tina wrote on February 21st, 2014
  28. Greg, do the whole Paleo community a huge favor when you continue to increase your scoreless innings streak: promote the Paleo diet. Great work! Earned success with dietary changes in difficult environments.

    Michael B wrote on February 21st, 2014
  29. What a wonderful way to totally promote this lifestyle. It obviously works for athletes, but I love that it works for us not-so-athletic types as well. It’s just a general, all-purpose way to live for optimal health — both mentally, emotionally and physically.

    Thank you so much for sharing your story: good grief, how could we possibly ignore all the benefits you’ve gained??!!

    Thank you so much for posting your story, and when I see your name in the sports news I can say, “Hey! I know who that guy is!”

    PrimalGrandma wrote on February 21st, 2014
  30. I agree with Dwight above, nice of you to share the “secret.”

    Vanessa wrote on February 21st, 2014
  31. “bad bodied” is a horrible label :-(

    tigerchik wrote on February 21st, 2014
    • Agree, “bad-bodied” is awful. Not anymore! I love this story.

      joey wrote on February 22nd, 2014
  32. Looking good! It is amazing how much inflammatory response diminish or disappear.

    Colleen wrote on February 21st, 2014
  33. Great story! As a baseball fanatic and now a primal fanatic (having recently implemented a 21-day challenge–and I am NOT looking back!), I sure hope to see more and more ball players going Primal, especially since they often are role-models for younger kids. Can you imagine an entire generation of little leaguers going Primal because they’re favorite players live Primal??? In the immortal words of Harry Caray: “Holy Cow!!!”

    David wrote on February 21st, 2014
  34. I hope more athletes follow suit and Paleo/Primal will become the norm not the fringe way of living.

    PaleoDentist wrote on February 21st, 2014
  35. hmm … okay, have lurked for a while. Great results! I love the nagging injury going away.

    Probably showing my ignorance, but what is wrong with a fasting BG of 95? I thought that was good / normal?

    C wrote on February 22nd, 2014
    • I found this website to be most helpful: http://www.phlaunt.com/diabetes/index.php
      Although not diabetic, I’ve been working on my carb addiction since “Carbohydrate Addicts” came out in the ’90s. Primal living definitely helps!!

      Paula wrote on February 22nd, 2014
  36. Wolf whistle! You look great, and I hope that this lifestyle will help your career and let you live injury-free for years to come.

    superdeluxe wrote on February 22nd, 2014
  37. Good for you Greg! You look great. Bet of Luck with the Marlins.

    Some earlier commenter mentioned Hunter Pence, an SF Giant, who’s proving to be a Lou-Gehrig sort. Here’s an interesting piece of some of his quasi-paleo experiences:

    http://www.sfgate.com/giants/ostler/article/Hunter-Pence-s-smart-diet-is-food-for-thought-5257539.php

    Perhaps you could share more tips with him, Greg. From the article, its clear that he shouldn’t fear fat.

    Mike Sheldrick wrote on February 22nd, 2014
  38. Greg, feel free to carb load with whole wheat and other modified grain products the week before you ever get the call to take the hill against the Phillies (can you tell where i’m from?). Also, don’t forget to hydrate with any number of artificially flavored and mass produced sodas…all week..with abandon…

    Thanx.

    bigmyc wrote on February 22nd, 2014
  39. Keep it up forever!! You will make old bones and live a healthy late life too….an be able to play with your grandkids. Your old habbits would probably have lead you to a limited midlife of foot ulcers and medication all those things that go with metabolic disorder. We done!! You look fantastic and not the typical picture of an American we Kiwis usually see. The sad thing is that we Kiwi’s are now looking more and more like Americans as we follow the ASD………….go primal!!!!

    Dianje wrote on February 22nd, 2014
  40. Greg, would u do all Chicagoans a favor and share ur story with Derrick Rose? I’ve been saying for a while that if his docs and trainers could get him to change his lifestyle and go primal he would definitely see a huge difference in his joint health and even his skin. Pretty please?

    Shelly wrote on February 23rd, 2014

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