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!
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.
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?).
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.