Ok. I admit that this post has a ton of information. But instead of editing or paraphrasing any reader’s results (that just wouldn’t be fair!) I’ve included it all. Pick a participant or two and read them as case studies. This is just a small sample of the people that are taking the challenge (we receive inspiring emails everyday) – those that are kind enough to send in their weekly updates for your enjoyment and edification. So take a look, share your thoughts, help fellow participants through the challenge and/or hit me and other Apples up with a question in the comment board.
Participant 1: Nkem
The following is the update of my second week going primal. More details can be found on my blog: Christmas Goat
- 97% Compliant to Primal Blueprint nutrition (I took 3% percentage points off for having cream in my coffee daily). I ate nothing processed at all and stuck to vegetables and low glycemic fruit such as strawberries.
- Average caloric intake per day: 1712
- Macrobiotic percentage breakdown: 66% fat, 22% protein, 12% carbohydrate
- Average carbohydrate per day: 66g
Once again, due to work constraints combined with low energy levels and in conjunction with “woman monthly issues”, my workout for the week was pretty light
- Monday: Bodyweight drills (25 mins total)
- Tuesday: Muay Thai (90 mins total)
- Wednesday: Rest
- Thursday: Muay Thai (90 mins total)
- Friday: Rest
- Saturday: Run for 25 mins + Muay Thai for 120 mins (145 mins total)—Not a good idea!
- Sunday: Walk 35mins/Run 10 mins (45 mins total)
Once again, without trying that hard I went from 232lbs (July 8th) to 229lbs (July 14th) for a total of 3lbs lost in week 2. That is 12.5lbs lost in two weeks of primal living. Now that’s crazy…..
I don’t know what the hell is going on here, but I like it! What’s crazier is that I’m not even trying all that hard. My cravings for sweets and carbohydrates are almost non-existent but for some strange reason has been replaced by a craving for almonds.
I have had low energy levels in the evenings these last two weeks. It took every ounce of willpower and determination to make it to my Muay Thai sessions on Tues and Thurs. The good news is that by the end of the week and for no apparent reason, my energy seemed to start picking back up. I didn’t increase my carb intake either, it just happened and I welcome it. I am hoping that I’ll be fully adjusted to primal living by the end of primal week 3.
I hope everyone is doing well on their challenge.
Stay tuned for week 3
Participant 2: Alexandra
I’ll call this one: More Info Than You Probably Wanted to Know
I’ve for some time been living some version of the Paleo and/or low-carb way of life. I’ve been working out in some form since before high school (if you count sports). I was a gymnast, played softball and volleyball, and generally was active (riding bikes, walking around). Needless to say, I grew up when kids could still be kids. I’m not that old, but I’m not that young, either. I’m 35, 5’1″ and right now weigh 113.6.
Weight – 114
Fat – 21.5%
Waist – 27.5 in
Thigh – 18 in
Hips – (I believe this was an inaccurate measurement) 33 1/8 in
Weight – 113.6
Fat – 21.5%
Waist – 27 in
Thigh – 17 3/4 in
Hips – 32 1/4 in
Based on the measurements, I don’t think there was much real gain or loss. Goals are 107 lbs with 17-18% BF.
I know PB isn’t just about numbers and looks, but I still have goals 🙂
I’ve attached my eating schedule  from the last three days. I also noted on July 10 that I was feeling fat and bloated. I postulated that I might be eating too much food (same as on attached sheet). I have not been able to get sleep as I should. I cannot stay asleep. I have had this problem for years.
On July 9th I set three personal records lifting weights (Squat, Push Press, Dead lift). I’ve mostly been following the Crossfit workouts, however I think these are a little too intense for me, and that I should not exercise at the intensity I have been so many days in a row. I need to take the PB low and slow exercise and rest ideas to heart. I’m just so used to pushing every workout to the limit.
Unlike some other participants (as noted on Charlotte’s site), I have not really craved carbs (maybe because I already was low carb), and I have not “binged” – unless you consider an extra 2 TBSP of nut butter a binge. I believe that grains are bad for us, thus I am starting to think of them as “poison” instead of “fuel.” (Oh, just a note, I rendered my own lard this weekend!)
I am frustrated because I’m stuck at this weight and BF – I have been for months – and truly for years with little movement despite working out and changing my nutritional habits (mostly low-carb, but I’ve tried others). PB/Evo/low-carb is the only thing that keeps my blood sugar in check. Otherwise I get hypoglycemic (non-clinical) with full on shakes, lightheadedness, confusion, etc. I don’t miss that at all. But PB/Evo/low-carb/Crossfit has not moved me toward my goals. I’m obviously not just talking about the last two weeks, of course 🙂 I don’t expect miracles.
I don’t find it THAT difficult to stick to the eating plan (as noted, I’m eating dairy as a conscious choice). It is the sleeping and exercising changes that seem to be the hardest for me, for reasons explained above. Thanks for a great site with great information.
I tracked some of my days on fitday. Here’s the average for those days (about 6 days). This doesn’t include my dinners (I only track during the day at work). Dinner is generally meat and veggies. I’d say usually a 400 calorie meal. Sometimes I’ll eat a tablespoon of almond butter to get a little “dessert.”
Participant 3: Kara
I went camping this weekend and the first thing my sister in law said when I pulled out a salad was “You’re not going to eat healthy all weekend are you?” I did end up eating a few marshmallows and a few alcoholic beverages around the campfire, but other than that it was just meat, veggies and nuts. I also did a very strenuous hike which led me to decide that I need to increase my exercise intensity during the week, because my fitness level isn’t where it was last summer. As soon as the weather turned nice, I decided I wanted to focus on outdoor exercise and skip the gym. I have been doing a lot of walking, yoga and playing (kayaking, hiking, tennis on the weekends), but no intense strength training. I think I’ll start hitting the weights two times a week again. As for results, my weight has held even this week, I am fluctuating much less than usual. I haven’t had any fatigue or intense cravings because I was already at around 80% with the Primal eating habits before the challenge. No IBS problems have been triggered, which is a relief. My blood sugar levels are considerably more stable, meaning I don’t get moody or shaky or dizzy when I’m hungry and I am able to resist eating my husbands candy. I have been doing one or two 17 hour fasts per week (skipping breakfast) which I don’t think I would ever have been able to do before cutting out sugar and grains. All in all, the results are good, but I am always looking at ways to improve. I’ll keep making adjustments (this week more strength training, less fruit) and let you know how it goes.
Participant 4: Rachel
So week 2: my weight is down, about three pounds although I wasn’t trying to lose weight, and I don’t need to. It’s interesting, actually, because the only thing that has changed is the composition of my diet, not my caloric intake. I have been journalling what I eat for three years, and I weigh almost all of my food, so I have a pretty accurate idea of how much I eat. So I know that my calorie level has held steady. I have continued to cut out all grains, although I occasionally have one 20 cal piece of hard, anise flavoured candy after dinner. My morning rountine now is a protein powder shake with frozen strawberries, unsweetened cocoa powder, and water, and some hazelnuts. Lunch is a big salad with walnut oil (LOVE IT) and canned salmon, or left over meat from the night before. Dinner is more veggies and some protein, with lots of nuts and avocado as snacks to add fat. I’ve been cooking with coconut oil and love it. I also use butter on my veggies (particularly broccoli). I do, like Charlotte from The Great Fitness Experiment, allow myself one Fage Greek Yogurt a day with dinner, but I have stopped putting Splenda in it and now I sweeten it with fresh berries. I am continually amazed at how satiated I feel, and at how much I’ve cut down my Splenda use, which was a major goal for me! I do miss cheese, though.
My arms are actually seeing some definition, which is amazing, because I have been lifting for the last year without seeing much result. Now if only I could do the same with my abs… According to my Tanita (who knows how accurate this is) I am sitting at 15% bodyfat, which I’m very happy with.
Participant 5: Brian
Week 2 comes to a close with only one fall off the primal wagon. A hamburger without a bun just ain’t a hamburger (LOL). Dropped another 2 lbs, down to 166. Upped my carb count up a bit at the start of the week as I had been feeling a bit lethargic. Wether it was just in my head or not it seemed to help. I will slowly try dropping carbs down more in the next week. Will also up the fats as I do so.
On the good side my normal voracious food cravings are quite a bit less. One of the bad things about being a telecommuter is that the fridge is only a downstairs walk away. The difference now is that fridge has far less crap in it, so even if I do snack, more out of habit then need (still working on that), the quality of food is much higher.
Workouts have been every other day, much higher intensity then in the past. I find I sleep much better the nights I workout, which is nice. BTW, whoever invented the burpee was one evil sob. 🙂
Have to say, I find it much easier to stick with this, knowing others are doing the same. The fact that progress is being made and I generally feel much better every day helps as well. I’m a former pasta-holic, eating myself in to a carb coma on a regular basis, and waking up the following day with crazy pains in my side and feeling like a bloated tick. It is fan-frickin-tastic to move away from that. The lethargy had me worried at first, but hearing that is fairly normal helped me press through.
Thanks again for the great site and all the info. Woo!
Participant 6: Branden
Here are my notes for week 2…
Summary: Starting weight: 172 pounds End weight: 164 pounds Lowest weight: 163 pounds Exercise total: 78 running miles Count down to marathon: 2 weeks (from end of week)
After suffering through a few workouts last week as my glycogen levels in my muscles quickly depleted I decided I needed to add in some additional carbohydrates to fuel my workouts. With exercise a high priority for me this week (3 weeks out from goal marathon race) the post on primal athlete compromises for athletes came none too soon. To handle the increase in volume and intensity this week I increased the amount of fruits (raw and dried) and also added a cup of oatmeal to some of my post-recovery meals. Allowing myself to consume carbohydrates during exercise and in the hour immediately after only allowed me to be able to back up for the next day’s run workouts.
My typical week while training for the marathon includes many sessions which are either intensive and/or long (up to 2.5 hours) which requires the increase of carbohydrate intake during the period of exercise and in the critical period for glycogen refuelling (first hour)
Doing a quick search on the internet and calculating my energy expenditure I settled on a post-run carbohydrate intake strategy of around 0.8-1g C per pound of bodyweight (about 130-165g). Also during my longer, more intensive sessions (e.g. 2.5 hour long run with the last 50 minutes at marathon pace) I consumed sports drink at 15-30 minute intervals for the duration of the run
After my long Sunday effort (which went phenomonly well and helped redefine my marathon goal race pace) I ate a variety of fruits only (dried and fresh) and felt fantastic all day. The high lasted all the way into bed that night.
Total 78 miles
Monday: 10 miles w/ 3-4 miles @ marathon pace (mp)
Tuesday: 25 miles (3:05)
Thursday: 6 miles w/ 3x3min hard + 6×20 sec sprints
Friday: 8 miles w/ 4 miles @ mp // 3.1 miles hard
Saturday: 6 miles easy
Sunday: 21 miles w/ 7 miles @ mp (marathon pace test run
Before sunday’s long run I had a lowest weight of 163 pounds but after the long run and post-run food and drink consumption my weight climbed back up to 164 pounds (2 pounds down from last week/8 pounds lighter than starting weight)
Diet and energy wise I feel like I have hit the right pattern at the moment with my endurance and activity requirements. After my marathon race in two weeks I am really looking forward to seeing how I can improve my diet in this area to only take in what I need. I have some epic long mountain runs (40-60 miles) coming up and I am going to experiment with taking in higher quantities of protein and fat and only rely on carbohydrates from natural sources like friut.
Participant 7: Jeremy
The nutrition side of my diet started like this:
Doing well with not eating the carbs, about the same as the week before. I eat a salad for lunch every day, and have been eating meat and chicken along with a vegetable for lunch. I am doing well staying away from soda and refined sugars.
The Gym was the next step in the process:
This is my 1st week at the gym.
Day 1) A timed 320 calorie burn on the treadmill with a slight incline (2.5). Again, I am walking 3 min. running 5 minutes until 320 calories were burned Upping the speed of the treadmill.
Day 2) 2X8 Squats 50lbs 3×10 curls 40lbs walk 30 min. pushups 10
Day 3) A timed 330 calorie burn on the treadmill with an incline (3.0) I have found this to be a bit of a challenge and I am tiring faster because of the incline.
Day 4) anaerobic workout day!! I again I walked the same outdoor stairwell up and down three times instead of twice, This took about 55 minutes to complete, and I am completely wiped out by these stairs.
Day 5) 10×3 pushups sitting incline press 3×10 abs machine 2×20
Day 6) off day
Day 7) I went surfing for an hour and a half. Also walked on the beach for about an hour
I am now weighing about 212 lbs. down from 217 lbs. the running has gotten to be much easier with less stress on my chest from last week I have noticed. I upped the incline on my running because I found that it burned calories faster than no incline or a little incline. Doing pushups has gotten a little easier this week with the weight loss. I am still a little sore in my chest muscles and arms, but this is welcomed because I know these muscles were dormant for some time so the soreness is letting me know that these muscles are “waking up” if you will.
Summation of the week:
Again, blood sugar levels have been a little crazy making me dizzy, but I am starting to notice the weight come off of my thighs now and that is a welcome loss and my upper legs were a little to heavy and uncomfortable when wearing my jeans, but now I am comfortable, I still need to loose in the thigh area, but I am comfortable.
Participant 8: Bradford
Starting Weight: 268lbs
Meals: Still mainly salads for lunch. Added nuts as a snack in the afternoon. More grilled meat (chicken, flank steak, etc.) for dinner. I tend to burn everything, need to improve upon that. On Friday I finally cooked a full fledged recipe I found on Mark’s Daily Apple: Chicken Curry with Spinach . The ingredients cost me $80, but that was mainly weird spices I didn’t have (cardamom, coriander, cloves, etc.), so next time it’ll probably be cheaper.
Tuesday: 18 minutes elliptical. 30 minutes upper body weight lifting
Wednesday: 28 minutes elliptical. 10 minutes core exercise
Thursday: Ran 192-step staircase twice
Friday: 30 minutes elliptical. 30 minutes core, upper, and lower body exercises
Sunday: Walked around town, baseball game, park with friends, low impact
Monday: 192-step staircase 3 times!
Avg Calories: 1300
Avg Carbs: 31g
Calorie Breakdown: 58% Fat. 8% Carbs. 34% Protein.
Ending Weight: 265lbs (3 pounds lost)
Ups and Downs:
Running up and down the stairs became much easier this week. Though I tried some actual real running (as opposed to an elliptical machine), and I my shins felt like they were going to explode after a few minutes. I’m going to avoid the actual running until I shed a few more pounds just to avoid shin splints.
Participant 9: Wee One
I came late to the Primal Challenge party and decided to give it a go starting on Monday of this week so this is just my 4th day trying to live Primal.
A bit about me. I am overweight and have about 50 pounds to lose to get to a normal BMI. I also am gluten intolerant and have a history of eating disorders that are no longer an issue but something I’m still dealing with in the sense that I think I have a pretty screwed up metabolism. When I started the Primal Challenge I was already avoiding grains pretty much with the exception of some whole quinoa and brown rice on occasion. I try to avoid processed food for the most part but in my effort to lose weight I have recently been battling a bit with depriving myself to much only to bounce back with a binge of junk food. I have learned that increasing my Calorie intake seems to help and lately I have also realized (with the help of my husband) that sugar, particularly refined sugar, makes me crazy. Really crazy. I’m taking about paranoia, lack of sleep, sudden inexplicable rage, all sorts of crazy mood swings. I’m a graduate student so I have a lot of stress and pressure going on and I have just finally accepted that I really only feel like myself without sugar. I decided to give going Primal a try.
What does the Primal Challenge mean I’m trying to do? I’m eating less carbs, mostly by avoiding all foods with any trace of processed sugar in it. I have had some fruits, mostly a serve or two a day but I’m being really sparing with that compared to my usual fruit intake and I’m trying to keep it to apples and berries. I have done some reading that suggested that eating a serve of carbs before bed but several hours after eating a protein rich meal can help with serotonin levels and I believe this might be an issue for me. It does seems to be helping me sleep sounder though I’m not falling asleep easier. I’ve got some Green and Blacks organic 70% cocoa chocolate (YUM It is my favourite) stuck away in the cupboard if I really need a sweet hit but so far I’ve been doing okay in that department. I haven’t been using artificial sweeteners with the exception of some splenda in my current brand of protein powder. Anticipating some issues beating sugar cravings I’ve been trying to eat lots of protein and quite a bit of fat. I’ve been around 60% fat and 11 to 15% carbs and 25% protein for the last 4 days and I’m feeling good.
I’ve also been trying to drink more water and find that I am ridiculously thirsty since I started this (any suggestions on why this might be?) I took up running in April and since I’ve been getting a lot of benefit from that I was reluctant to stop. For the challenge I have decided to walk as much as possible. So far I’ve been doing between an hour and an hour and a half of walking a day and each day I do a slow plodding climb up a really steep hill (walking home from work). I did go for a run yesterday at lunch but kept it to 30 min and ran slower than usual. It left me feeling great and I think for the most part my heart rate stayed fairly low. I would be doing weight assisted pull ups and dips, push ups and kettlebell swinging for resistance/interval training respectively but I hurt my hand this week and need to wait for it to heal so the focus is walking. Oh, I’ve also added a cup of regular non decaf coffee back in the morning. I find that it really powers me with energy but I’m also feeling a bit “wired” and “on overdrive” and thinking that might be from the caffeine so I’m thinking of limiting that to days when I need a boost.
My appetite has been good and energy levels really constant. I’m eating probably between 50 and 100 grams of carb a day and I’m averaging around 1600 Calories a day. I noticed today coming up that hill that my legs are feeling sore and a bit low on power but I might just be adjusting to the lower carbs and the new metabolic demands/pathways. I’ll see how it goes and will have a maybe a bit more rest this weekend with longer but flatter walks if the weather cooperates. I’d like to do another slow run this weekend of around 40 min and very very slow. I may go to Yoga tomorrow but will wait to see how the hand feels. This is more exercise for me than usual but I’ve been working up to it since about April. I’m not craving sugar at all or feeling deprived of carbs. I’m wondering if it is because I’ve decided for this first week to just be as liberal with fat as possible. Lots of butter, coconut milk and full fat cream, also steak and eggs. Ultimately I will want to back up a little on the fat, especially the cream and up the cruciferous veggies in particular but I’m still getting quite a bit of that per day. I just didn’t want any excuse to crave carbs this week and I figured that liberal fat might pave the way for success there. From here on in I will continue to tweak. NO problem with regularity. LOL lots of veggies takes care of that I guess (mostly chard and cabbage and broccoli) and fitday says I’m getting a lot of fiber.
Earlier in the week I had a bit of heartburn but I ate quite a bit of sugar on the weekend before I started this and so I’m wondering if it might have been a little of hang over from that. That and the feeling that I’m a little bit on overdrive are really the only negatives and the overdrive might just be the caffeine (my heart has been palpitating a little in the evenings too and I suspect that is a caffeine thing but I was soooo loving the nod to coffee, oh well… can’t have everything gotta listen to the body). I know a big thing to improve would be to get more sleep and I’ll keep working on that one.
Since Monday I have lost 3 pounds and this is 3 pounds that I’ve been struggling with since the beginning of June. I’m happy to see them go and hope that this trend will continue for a while as long as I keep walking and eating fewer carbs.
One request to all the primal wise folks. I have a dessert potluck and a regular potluck to go to in the next week. These are often slim pickings when you are looking to avoid a lot of sugar, processed carbs and need to avoid gluten. Any ideas on what to bring to these two potlucks. At least if I make something that I myself can eat I know I won’t starve and everything else is a bonus. I’m really curious for the dessert on since it has to be a dessert that non primal folks won’t really look strangely at. I’m thinking that I must be able to figure out a way to base something on coconut milk but I’m not sure where to go from there. For the regular potluck I might just roast a chicken stuffed with lemons and garlic and herbs.
If you would like to read more about my experiences with this check out my blog at Wee Little Me
Editor’s Note: Check out these recipes for your potluck, Wee One –
All MDA Recipes 
Participant 10: Charlotte
I’m officially halfway done with the Great Primal Experiment . Actually halfway plus ONE. Which is important because I am counting every day on this sucker. I still don’t like eating meat. I still miss my morning oatmeal and dark chocolate. But hey, I’m loving all the veggies and I’m not at all constipated. (What? You don’t care about my bowels?)…
Editor’s Note: Charlotte has decided to discontinue the Primal Health Challenge. Click here  to read about about her difficulties with week 2, and be sure to see Mark’s words of advice and encouragement that follow.
Participant 11: Kyle
Editor’s Note: Here is a late entry from reader Kyle.
After reading the entries you posted today, I was inspired to update you on my own progress.
Background: I started going primal about four weeks ago. Until then, I’d been eating fairly low-carb and pretty healthy if I do say so myself, but I reduced my extremely high fruit intake, upped my veggies, and eschewed the last of the processed foods I was eating.
Here are my starting stats:
BF%: 13-15% (that’s an estimate)
Diet: I eat lots of meat and dark greens, broccoli, squash, etc. I also eat a good amount of raw nuts and have gotten my fruit intake down to anywhere from 0-2 servings per day. My ratios this past week have been around 50-55% fat, 35% protein, 10-15% carbs. I eat absolutely no processed foods, no grains, and no legumes. Dairy consumption is the occasional nibble of raw, aged cheese. I’ve also started eliminating protein powder from my diet. Almost there. For my salads, I use balsamic vinegar and sometimes olive oil. Eggs are a huge part of my diet as well.
I’ve also been doing intermittent fasting about 3 days a week. I really love it. It’s not easy for me, as formerly, I was eating no less than 6 FULL meals a day and sometimes more, so psychologically I love to eat. Nevertheless, it’s geting easier and easier to skip breakfast and not eat that pre-bedtime meal.
Mistakes: I’ve only had one major hiccup, and that’s when I flew home to Louisiana to visit my family. I ate Primal for most of the time (though a little more calories than usual), but when my mother cooked gumbo, my all-time favorite food, I had two bowls (made from flour and oil and rice). I also ate a few forkfuls of hash browns one night. I did all this voluntarily, not because I was tempted. I’ve never experienced temptation to the point that I cheat over the past month. The mistakes were political in nature. My one problem that might persist is beer. I really love good craft beer. I was able to go days in a row without it at times, and usually have no more than one brew per day, but twice over the past month I’ve gotten drunk to the point of puking (at least puking negates a little damage, right?). I need to control that a little better.
Workouts: I train Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu 2-4 times a week, which is a workout in itself. I also do strength and conditioning as designed by Ross Enamait, who has several great books with programs to follow. It’s a pretty intense training schedule. For the S&C, I do 4 days (with a few two-a-days) then rest 1, then wash rinse repeat. Sometimes BJJ comes on a rest day but I still count it as having rested. I’ve noticed slightly lower energy levels lately as I’ve gone from around 100g carbs a day to 50 or 60g. I chalk it up to my body trying to overcome some past insulin resistance that’s making it harder for me to access fat as an energy source. I just push through it.
Improvements: I’ve noticed significant improvements to my body overall, and especially over week 2 of the PB Challenge. Despite occasional low energy, my strength and conditioning has improved remarkably. Especially my conditioning. I never gas out at BJJ anymore. Even the more advanced guys tire out long before I do. Day to day, I feel lighter and healthier. No food-induced depression. When I get enough sleep, my mind is sharp and alert. I often walk places I’d formerly drive because I feel like I have excess energy to burn.
Here’s my new stats:
BF%: 10-11% (again, this is an estimate. I can see some abdominal definition for the first time ever, though.)
Avg calories: 1700-1900/day
Goals: I want to get my BF% around 8% and I want to weight in the low 150’s so that I can easily cut to 149 for grappling tournaments and 145 for MMA fights. Any advice is welcomed.
A Must Read for All Participants: Making the Switch to Primal Living in 6 Easy Steps