Whole May Recap
May was a month where a group of us from CrossFit Palo Alto all committed to doing the Whole30 nutrition program. This is my recap—what worked, what didn’t, what’s next.
What is the Whole30 program? Whole30 is basically a very purist approach to what I think of as the “Paleo Diet.” I think of Whole30 as a nutrition program as opposed to a diet, as it seems much more ‘a way to eat for optimal nutritional benefit,’ than it is ‘a way to count calories/lose weight/look better on a beach.’
You can learn more about the details of what the program is here, and there are numerous resources around Eating Paleo, with my hands-down favorite being NomNomPaleo.
To summarize the Whole30 program in 30 words, I’d describe it like this:
- Lots of lean meats
- Lots of vegetables
- Lots of water
- Eggs, Coffee, and some fruits
- No Bread, Pasta, Grains, Rice
- No Legumes or Soy
- No Booze
Eat like this for 1 month.
So this was my May 2012, and what follows is my perspective on the experience.
The early adjustment was challenging, but I got to the other side relatively quickly. The first few days were an adjustment, no question. I had been eating a relatively healthy, paleo-styled diet prior to the WholeMay, with two notable exceptions: (1) I would drink a beer or two a night or two per week; and (2) my nutrition at dinner was pretty lax, often having rice or bread or whatever.
WholeMay got me laser focused on those two holes in my diet, and the first few days were a little difficult, but I got through them. By around day 8-10, though, I found that I had adjusted though, and I didn’t really think about having a beer or bread or whatever. So a tip I’d give people who think about Whole30 as a program is that having a solid nutritional base is definitely helpful in getting through the adjustment.
Once my body adjusted, the clear-headedness and sharpness of focus really became apparent. By around day 10, I started noticing that I felt a lot more focused and clear-headed day-to-day. Hard to describe specifics here, just that I noticed what I’d call clear-headedness. Better focus, sharper, etc.
Also once I adjusted, I found the program pretty easy to stay on. Again, by the second week of this, the habits felt pretty well formed and it wasn’t that hard to keep on them.
This definitely changed the way I think about (and eat) food. I think because I saw such an improvement in my mental energy and sharpness, the baseline that the WholeMay established has become hard to get away from. This past weekend, my first off of WholeMay, I called a bit of a Mardi Gras weekend, where I ate whatever I wanted basically.
This I thought was good to do, because it caused me to realize very clearly how bad poor nutrition makes me feel. I’m basically heading right back to Whole30 precepts, as eating crap makes me feel like crap.
In several fitness areas, I saw big improvements; some remained flat. Murph time: 10 minute improvement. This year all pushups were full/Rx style; last year, at least half of the pushups were from the knees. Also, this year, pullups from Green band, last year the Black.
50 Situps: 10% improvement in time. Was 2:00, did 1:40 on June 1.
50 Pushups: 10% improvement in time. Was 4:40, did 4:00 on June 1.
500M row benchmark remained flat, as did 2000m row. Deadlift also remained flat.
Also, I found that I lost a little more than 5 pounds during the month. This wasn’t really a focus.
So all in all, I count the experience a great success. I eat better, I definitely feel way better, and I’m seeing improvements physically that I’ll want to extend. After a brief Mardi Gras relaxation of constraints, I’m right back on it, for the simple reason that I feel better.
With that, here are the tips I found that I’d share as they really helped me out…
- Crystal Geyser Water was a savior—I drank these by the truckload. These are sold at CostCo, and I went through cases of these. Not sure why—helped with hydration, and also kept me from being tempted by either booze or something sweet. Loved CG.
- NomNomPaleo iPad App. I made Sweet Potato Fries, Curried Chicken, and Cauliflower-based fried rice from the iPad App recipes. All were knockout crazy good. The Curry Chicken and Fried Rice may well have been one of the best 5 meals I’ve ever cooked. NomNomNom.
- Shaved Coconut Flakes for snacking. If need to take edge off, having a handful of Shaved Coconut Flakes totally did the trick. Some Whole Foods carry this in a bulk trail mix section. I buy about a quarter pound of and keep around.
- Support group. Trish and Tim at CrossFit Palo Alto did a great job by creating a private Facebook group where people doing this program could support each other. This was great. Really helped to have people sharing recipes, challenges, and successes.
- The 5 minute gourmet salad. One trick I built that worked great was building fast, but interesting salads. E.g., I’d sautee a bunch of really nice mushrooms and onions in Ghee, and then I’d throw them into a salad of lettuce/spinach. Usual dressing was a simple vinaigreette—olive oil, vinegar and usually some dijon mustard (from trader joes). Put a bit of grilled chicken on this and you’ve got money in the bank.
- Ghee, how I love thee. Once I was told that clarified butter was ok to eat, holy moses, what couldn’t you cook? Total godsend.
- Guac. Make some, throw in fridge and pop onto almost anything—can never go wrong with some guac. Filling, tasty, and healthy.
So those were my tips on what was a good month. I’ll admit I wasn’t successful 100% of the time on WholeMay—I’d say I had probably 3 days with material failures, but all in all, this was so much better than I’d ever done before, that I count it a big step forward for me.
Now that I’m jumping back onto the nutrition program, I’m starting to think about some of the things I want to do fitness wise as next challenges and steps to take… Nothing committed but things I’m thinking about…
- Tough Mudder in Tahoe this September
- A triathlon of some distance, and more broadly, getting more dedicated to swimming
- Picking up tennis—try and learn new sports
Would love to hear others’ experiences retrospectively on the WholeMay and what’s next for folks.