Tag Archives: athlete

Learn Olympic Weightlifting with Diane Fu

Learn Olympic Weightlifting—Diane Fu | stupideasypaleo.com

This week only!

Strength training and building muscle mass is so important for all of us, not just high-level athletes, but what if you don’t have your own personal coach? Meet me at the bar(bell) because I have the perfect thing to help you get started with weightlifting.

Weight training has done incredible things for me: I’ve gotten stronger and leaner, improved my balance and coordination, and—most surprisingly—become so much more confident. Today, I’m introducing you to my friend Diane Fu.

I met Diane a few years ago at the CrossFit Mobility seminar, and it was clear that she was not only an incredibly amazing athlete, she’s also fantastic coach. Diane posts so many helpful tips regularly on her Instagram page, and she teamed up with Cody to create this video-based training program.

Diane’s one of the best Olympic-style weightlifting coaches in the country and this week, I’m sharing this awesome program that she put together. Click here for a free preview!

This bundle is a 4-phase video-based training program to teach you the foundations of Olympic style lifting and ramp you up to lift fast and strong. Whether you are a CrossFitter looking to polish up your form or an Olympic weightlifting enthusiast, this plan will take the unknown out of your training and give you all that you need to add strength, speed, coordination, and flexibility to your lifts and to your performance.

The folks at Cody are offering you a super sweet deal—36% off!—this week only! Now you can get coaching from one of the best out there. Click here to learn more!

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Learn Olympic Weightlifting—Diane Fu | stupideasypaleo.com Have a question about weightlifting or strength training? Leave it in the comments below!

Do I Need to Eat Post-Workout Meal?: Ask Steph

Do I Need to Eat a Post-Workout Meal? | stupideasypaleo.com

(Want to submit your own question to be featured on Ask Steph? Submit it via the contact form, and use the subject line “Ask Steph!”)

Adam C. writes:

Steph, I’m wondering if you can help me figure out if I need to eat a post-workout meal? I usually train 3 times a week at CrossFit, and I hike once a week. There’s so much confusing info out there!

Adam C.

Adam’s question is an incredibly common one, and something I hear a lot over at The Paleo Athlete Facebook page and after folks read The Paleo Athlete. Let’s break this down.

Nutrient Timing, Simplified

For the purpose of Adam’s question, I’m going to simplify this discussion. You can really go crazy with PubMed and Google Scholar, digging into the primary literature about pre-, intra-, and post-workout nutrition. My aim here is to provide a summary of the most salient points.

Eating protein and carbohydrate after training serves two main purposes. First, consuming protein means you’re supplying the necessary amino acids for repairing muscle (via a process called muscle protein synthesis). After muscle is worked in training, microtraumas must be repaired. Protein that is dense in the branched chain amino acids (BCAAs) is preferred, and that looks like meat, seafood, eggs and for some people, whey protein. (Click here to read my stance on whey.) For a complete list of BCAA-rich proteins that are compatible with a Paleo approach, click here.

Second, eating carbohydrate in an insulin-sensitive state helps replenish your main glycogen (stored glucose) tank: muscle. A smaller amount of glycogen is also stored in the liver but is not the primary source tapped into when you train hard. Consuming a carbohydrate that is rich in glucose after training is important, especially when said training is intense and / or long. What does that type of carbohydrate look like? Starchy vegetables such as sweet potatoes, white potatoes (click here to read my stance on white potatoes), plantains and yuca provide the most nutrient bang for the carbohydrate buck. For a complete list of carbohydrates that are compatible with a Paleo approach, click here.

It’s worth mentioning here that post-workout meals are best when they don’t contain fat (or contain very little). Why? Fat causes the stomach to empty slower which is counter to the point of the post-workout refuel. Save the fat for your three square meals a day.

How soon should you eat protein and carbs after your workout is over? That’ll be covered in the next section.

The Issue of Frequency

So, we’ve established that consuming protein and carbohydrate post-workout is important for recovery. But how soon after training do you need to eat it? Is there ever a time when you don’t need to eat post-workout?

When trying to help individuals determine if eating a post-workout meal is right for them, I always come back to this one factor: frequency. How often are you training and more critically, how much time do you have between training sessions?

Let’s compare two hypotheticals.

Adam trains 3 times a week (MWF) at CrossFit and hikes once a week, typically on Sunday. In Adam’s case, he has a full day to recover and refuel between each training session. Even though his intensity is high on MWF, he has time to replenish with regular meals. His Sunday hike, while it goes for a couple hours, is low on the intensity scale. Unless Adam is trying to aggressively gain mass, it’s unlikely that he will suffer from lack of a post-workout meal.

Contrast that to Lauren who trains 6 times a week (Tu-Sun). She’s a competitive cyclist who includes long rides on the weekends and interval training during the week. Also, two days a week she strength trains then goes for a ride, including intervals. On Fridays, she trains in the afternoon after work, and Saturday morning is a long ride with her club team. She takes Mondays off. Lauren is training far more frequently than Adam. She’s working out on back to back days, doing some double sessions, and including intensity in her training. Someone like Lauren would be wise to eat a post-workout meal not only from a caloric standpoint, but also to provide the substrate for recovery. Specifically, her Friday night post-workout refuel is really important because she’s got less than 12 hours between sessions.

It’s worth mentioning that Adam, while he trains, is not really interested in being a competitive athlete. Yes, he wants to improve his lifts and his benchmark workouts, but CrossFit for him is fun and a way to stay active. He’s not really driven by performance. Lauren, on the other hand, is training for some large national-level races and has specific performance goals. It’s an important distinction to make, because, as a performance-driven athlete, Lauren really needs to pay attention to her post-workout nutrition, sleep and recovery practices more than Adam.

To summarize, the more frequently you train (especially if those sessions include intensity and / or are back to back), the more important it is to eat a post-workout meal. And, when you’re training the next day, it’s generally best to eat a post-workout meal.

When and What to Eat Post-Workout?

If eating a post-workout meal (because you’re training frequently and performance is a priority), eat as soon as possible once training is over. If the workout was particularly intense and you’re drooling and sweating all over yourself, let your body relax a bit and get closer to a parasympathetic (rest and digest) state before trying to shove some food in your mouth. For most folks, 15-30 minutes after the workout ends is a good window, though some sources will say 15-60 minutes.

I don’t think it’s worth arguing about 30 minutes, but I will caution you against the following: You’re training like Lauren and waiting a few hours to eat anything. Remember, her schedule includes a high frequency of training. Getting nutrients in as soon as possible is her best bet.

What to eat is relatively simple: something with protein and carbohydrate. The options here depend a LOT on your lifestyle, time demands, food tolerances and personal preferences. Some people like leftover meat and sweet potatoes. Some people lean toward protein shakes with added carbohydrate for convenience. (Remember, supplements are not nutritionally superior to real food.) If you are trying to lean out a bit, I recommend avoiding liquid foods like protein shakes and sticking to solid foods.

The best way to find what works for you is to test it out and make some notes in your training log about what you ate, when you ate it, and what your recovery and performance are like. Click here for a list of protein and here for a list of carbs to get started. Shameless plug: My ebook The Paleo Athlete goes into a lot more detail about how much to eat (and the theory behind all this), and my upcoming cookbook has 100 recipes specifically for performance-minded folks (and it’s on early bird sale pricing from Amazon and Barnes and Noble right now).

How much to eat varies a lot and depends largely on things like body size and activity level. Click here to see some fueling tables, but please know that you’ll need to test things out. There’s no way I can possibly give specific recommendations for as wide and varied a readership as I have because I don’t know the details of your training and life. My best advice is to start with a modest amount of protein and carbs and track your recovery and performance data. Write down how much you ate (roughly, don’t be a crazy person carrying around a food scale) and when. Write down how you felt in training, if you felt recovered, etc. If you notice that over time you’re not performing well, it may be time to bump up your post-workout protein and / or carbohydrate.

For example, I might eat a chicken breast and half a sweet potato about 30 minutes after I train. If I do this for a couple weeks and notice that I feel really sluggish, sore and generally not recovered, I might bump it to a whole sweet potato. Then, I’ll stick to that for a couple weeks and note any changes.

Hopefully this has given you the tools to evaluate whether or not a post-workout meal is necessary for you.

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Do I Need to Eat a Post-Workout Meal? | stupideasypaleo.com

What do you usually eat post-workout? Leave your answer in the comments below.

When Cheap is Actually Good

The Paleo Athlete Kindle Buck Sale | stupideasypaleo.com When I was about 21, I bought a car for $500. It was a beat up, white Plymouth Acclaim with maroon interior, and it sounded like a two-pack-a-day smoker when it ran. Sure, it got me back and forth the few miles between my college dorm and my job as a cake decorator at a local supermarket—how’s *that* for someone who was totally sugar addicted?!—but I knew its low sticker price was too good to be true.

As is with most things that are cheap, it was only a few months until the transmission seized, and I was sans ride.

From that point on, I’ve been a firm believer in the mantra, “Nothing cheap is worth buying.” Whether it’s food or books or even cars, I’ve held fast to the idea that you get what you pay for. When I see a deal that’s too good to pass up, it means I usually walk on by. That’s why I hemmed and hawed for quite a while about what’s going on today until midnight.

Yep, here’s something that’s cheap AND good.

Today, June 18, 2014 and today only, you can get the Kindle version of “The Paleo Athlete” for a buck. One smackaroo. Practically pennies. So cheap you’ll think you stole it. And once the clock strikes midnight tonight, just like a proper Cinderella, it goes back to its regular Kindle price of $9.99.

It’s never been on sale before, not in the 6 months since it was published, and it’ll never be on sale again. So, if you’ve been eyeing it or going to Amazon and hovering over the “Buy it now” button, today—no, right now—is the time to get it. If you don’t have a Kindle reader (I know I don’t), the folks at Amazon have made it really easy to read ebooks by making free reader apps for virtually any device—except flip phones. Time to enter the future, my friend!

Why does “The Paleo Athlete” rule? It teaches you how to eat Paleo for performance. If you care about getting stronger and faster, having better endurance and being able to not just make it to the end of your training session but smashing it, this book is what you’ve been waiting for. Or, if you care about being Happy, Healthy and Harder To Kill™—someone who’s ready for the zombie apocalypse or the White Walkers beyond The Wall—this book is for you.

You won’t have to walk around with a calculator attached to your hip, logging in points or calories or macros or blocks. Blah. You don’t have time to do that. Instead, I teach you the what and why so you can adjust your nutrition to virtually any performance goal or training scenario. Learn how to prep for competition day, too, and get 30 recipes to get you started and on your way.

Sound good? Good. Cheap but definitely one of those rare moments where it’s worth every penny. All 99 of them.

Get “The Paleo Athlete” Kindle version right now for a buck!

Offer expires June 18, 2014 at 11:59 pm PT, Cinderella-like.

Gelatin: Not for Post-Workout Recovery

Gelatin: Not for Post-Workout Recovery | stupideasypaleo.com

Gelatin is not a good protein choice for post-workout recovery.

Now, let me note, gelatin is great for some things (click here to read), but I’ve noticed a disturbing trend lately: bloggers recommending gelatin as a source of post-workout protein. This is not only misguided, it’s just straight up wrong. Yes, gelatin has amino acids, but when you look closely, there are some reasons it can’t substitute as a proper protein source for post-workout recovery.

What’s the Issue?

Gelatin is a type of protein obtained from animal connective tissue and is rich in collagen. You know how when you cook a chicken and refrigerate it in the pan and there are jiggly meat juices at the bottom? That’s because of gelatin.

It’s got lots of two amino acids—protein building blocks—called proline and glycine. Keep those two names in mind for a moment. These amino acids are considered non-essential which means our bodies can manufacture their own supply. Adding gelatin to your diet—be it through bone broth or gelatin supplements—can certainly have benefit to the digestive system and to your joints (click here to read more), but it’s relatively useless at building muscle tissue because it’s so low in branched chain amino acids.

And that is a problem.

Building Muscle is the Name of the Game

When you train, you incur microscopic damage to muscle tissue, and the goal of protein intake in your post-workout nutrition (and frankly, the rest of your diet) is to provide substrate to begin the rebuilding it. If you want to be fancy, this process is called muscle protein synthesis (MPS).

Here’s the rub: The high proline and glycine content found in gelatin are not helpful for MPS.

Rather, a special subcategory of amino acids called branched chain amino acids (BCAAs) are the ones most important to MPS. Leucine, valine and isoleucine are the three BCAAs—so termed because of their non-linear structure, and they’re found in most abundance in animal protein sources. One other key: The BCAAs are essential which means they can’t be directly manufactured by the body, unlike proline and glycine.

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Putting It All Together

To maximize muscle repair and growth—important processes for all athletes regardless of sport—adequate intake of nutrient-dense dietary protein from animal sources provides the best bank of the amino acids needed for these mechanisms.

Yes, you can get protein from plants but it’s far less dense and you’d have to eat far more food volume to get enough. Not to mention, plant sources of protein lack B vitamins and other critical nutrients that are readily available in animal sources.

Gelatin, while it is rich in amino acids, does not contain the ones needed to build and repair muscle, and athletes need to make wise choices in the post-workout window; eating gelatin instead of meat, eggs, seafood or even a supplement such as whey protein is not one of them.

Get my free PDF of source of dense protein sources for athletes.

To read more about the importance of protein for athletic performance and how much to eat, check out my ebook, The Paleo Athlete.

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Trading Sleep for Training? Why It’s Not Worth It.

Trading Sleep For Training? Why It's Not Worth It. | stupideasypaleo.com

Are you trading sleep for training time? Find out why it’s a raw deal.

Be honest. How many times have you woken up earlier than you should have to train? I know I have. Weekends used to prime time for long rides when I was racing bikes, and even early Saturday morning CrossFit training used to drag me out of bed too soon. On many of those occasions, I didn’t go to bed early enough to get 8 hours of sleep—the amount I need to feel my best—and heading out for a training session with less than 6 hours of shut eye was common.

Turns out, even though my nutrition was on point, lack of consistent sleep was hurting my training. Rest, recovery and sleep are even more important than the hours logged on the trails or in the gym, and if you’re robbing Peter to pay Paul, you’re selling yourself short. If you care about your performance, keep reading.

A Simple (?) Equation

Want to train at your best? You need optimal fuel (nutrition), physical stimulus (training) and recovery time (active recovery, rest and sleep) in the right balance if you want to maximize performance. Eating poorly for the demands of your sport? Expect eventual plateaus or backslides in performance. Training too much or too little? You’ll either slip into overreaching or overtraining or the physical stimulus (hormetic stressor) won’t be great enough to see gains.

These aspects of athletic training and performance are pretty well understood in theory (though the exact implementation can be elusive) but it’s the sleep, rest and recovery pieces that athletes often neglect. Can you get by on suboptimal sleep for a while? Sure. How long? Depends on you and the other stressors going on in your life but eventually, it will catch up with you. As any dedicated athlete knows, suffering declines in performance, desire to train or getting injured can be devastating to a season, and if any of these are preventable by a commitment to better sleep, it’s a worthwhile pursuit.

If you’re sleeping less to train more, it’s time to rethink that strategy.

“…But What About That Guy At My Gym / My Training Partner?”

“He only sleeps 5 hours a night, and that guy is a beast!”

He’s also not you. You don’t have the same life, the same stressors, the same genetics. And, you may not really know exactly what’s going on below the surface of his beastly exterior. Sure, he might be able to do it, but the assumption that you can (or should) because he can is folly.

Need more convincing?

Recent research shows that even one week of sleep deprivation may have important negative implications on gene expression (i.e. how genes are turned off or on). In one study, the experimental group that slept for just under 6 hours a night—compared to the control group which slept 8.5 hours a night—had genes related to normal circadian rhythms, stress, inflammation and metabolism (among others) turned on or off when they shouldn’t have been. (Source)

These are certainly important physiological processes to keep on an even keel for everyone, but athletes in particular can incur significant physical / psychological stress and inflammation. Rest, recovery and sleep are the critical yin to all that yang. During sleep—and its different phases—the body undergoes physical and psychological restoration. That’s the good stuff that you need.

Is 8 the Magic Number?

I don’t know exactly how many hours of sleep you need to function at your best, but my general rule of thumb is at least eight on a daily basis, and if my training is particularly punishing, that number becomes sacred territory. During the day, I take steps to prepare for restful sleep, and in the evening, I’ve developed a routine to help settle me down.

(Note: If you train in the late PM, that extra cortisol bump can make it hard to wind down. Develop a solid routine around bedtime and do what you can to train as early in the afternoon as possible.)

Some things I do to ensure kick-ass sleep:

  • Eat a protein-rich breakfast. This is standard for me, but getting enough amino acids early in the day provides substrate for serotonin, which is later converted to melatonin, the hormone that ramps up in the evening to help put you to sleep.
  • Stop drinking caffeine before noon. I’m somewhat sensitive to it but in general, the earlier I stop caffeine, the better I sleep.
  • Go to sleep at a consistent time each night. The earlier, the better.
  • Develop a bedtime routine that helps me wind down, and start that at least 30-45 minutes before I want to be asleep. Rushing around like a crazy person at 9:45 and expecting to be lights out at 10…not so great.
  • Limit blue light exposure (from TV, computer, phone, etc.) as much as possible at night. Do what you can. Look into getting f.lux (free) or amber glasses. Read a book instead of catching up on Instagram or Facebook while you’re lying in bed. (Please, no hate mail.)
  • Make sure my room is dark and cool. Cavelike is what you’re after.

My Challenge to You

Don’t train unless you’ve had at least 6 hours of sleep. If you find you’re missing more days than you’re actually training, it’s time to evaluate why you’re not getting the rest you really need.

Need more help with training? Check out my ebook, The Paleo Athlete. (There’s more about sleep in there, too!)

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Trading Sleep For Training? Why It's Not Worth It. | stupideasypaleo.com

How much do you sleep? Do you notice a difference in your performance when you sleep more? Leave a comment below.

Crispy Italian Chicken Thighs

Crispy Italian Chicken Thighs - The Paleo Athlete | stupideasypaleo.com These Crispy Italian Chicken Thighs have become one of my favorite dinners during the week  because it’s so simple. I’m really excited to share this one with you because it’s one of the brand-spanking-new-shiny-out-of-the-box recipes from my upcoming ebook, The Paleo Athlete.

To get the skin really crispy, make sure it’s really dry before you put the chicken in the oven. If you’re lucky enough to have a convection oven, you’ll want to use that setting. Can’t find bone-in chicken thighs? You can use boneless, but cut the baking time down by about 5 minutes.

Make this a complete meal by throwing on some veggies as a side dish, and you’re good to go. I like the skin-on thighs because they stay moist in the oven. If you can only find skinless, you can wrap the thighs in bacon before you bake them…winning. As an extra bonus, I save the chicken bones to make stock in the crock pot.

Ingredients for Crispy Italian Chicken Thighs

Directions for Crispy Italian Chicken Thighs

  1. Preheat the oven to 400°F (200°C). Line a baking sheet with foil or parchment paper.
  2. Mix the garlic powder, red pepper flakes, oregano, and salt in a small bowl.
  3. Place the chicken thighs on the baking sheet and dry the skin well with a paper towel. Flip the thighs over so the skin side is down.
  4. Sprinkle evenly with half of the seasonings – garlic powder, red pepper flakes, oregano and salt. Flip over and season the other side.
  5. Bake about 25-30 minutes (in a convection oven) or 35-40 minutes (in a regular oven) until the thighs are cooked through completely.

Change it Up

  • Use curry powder or your favorite spices instead of those listed.
  • For skinless thighs, sprinkle with smoked paprika, salt and pepper, then wrap in thinly sliced bacon (recipe is here).
  • For double crispy goodness, these can be reheated by: adding a spoonful of your fat of choice to a cast iron skillet and crisping both sides until golden over medium heat.

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Crispy Italian Chicken Thighs - The Paleo Athlete | stupideasypaleo.com

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Is Whey Protein Paleo?

Is whey protein Paleo? | stupideasypaleo.comIs whey protein Paleo?

“No whey. Whey.” Gets confusing after a while.

Is whey protein Paleo? | stupideasypaleo.com

Kinda reminds me of these guys (I’ve just dated myself).

Perhaps one of the most common questions I get from athletes is whether or not they can use whey protein if they’re Paleo. It’s used by so many people for training and competition, and it’s heavily marketed to athletes for recovery. Why is it such a darling? It’s relatively cheap, digests fast and is convenient.

Let’s explore this question because the answer isn’t purely cut and dry.

The short answer: no.

The long answer: it totally depends on your context whether or not it could be part of YOUR Paleo.

First, we’ll deal with the arguments against and then, the arguments for.

Is Whey Protein Paleo? Argument #1:

Whey protein isn’t Paleo because it’s a dairy product.

If we want to be dogmatic about it then yes, whey protein isn’t Paleo because it’s an isolated fraction from cow’s milk.

Milk is a complex brew of protein, fat, sugars and growth factors. After all, milk exists in nature to make baby mammals grow…fast. The protein components are many, but the two most well known are casein and whey. Casein is slower digesting while whey protein is broken down faster in the gut (part of the reason it’s used by athletes for recovery nutrition).

Folks with lactose intolerance sometimes don’t react to whey protein like they would to something like milk. Why? Most whey protein supplements are isolates, meaning they’ve been separated out from the rest of the milk components.

Even so, if you are strict Paleo, whey protein may not pass your test simply because it’s a component of dairy (even though the casein, lactose and other components have been stripped away).

Is Whey Protein Paleo? Argument #2:

Whey protein isn’t Paleo because it’s processed.

If you’re doing your best to avoid processed foods, then whey protein is probably off the list.

As described above, milk must be processed and treated to obtain the isolated whey component. Then, it’s usually sweetened (even with “natural” sweeteners like stevia) and may have other stabilizers or preservatives added.

Is whey protein even food? I’d argue no. It’s a component of food. A macromolecule if you will, consumed in isolation and devoid of the rest of the package it naturally comes with.

You can’t get anything from whey protein isolates that you can’t get from real food (read: meat).

Is Whey Protein Paleo? Argument #3:

Whey protein isn’t Paleo because most brands are made from low quality milk.

If you define your Paleo on a food quality basis, it’s easy to get confused here.

Some companies, including the brand of whey I use (when I use it) advertise that the cows their whey comes from are grass-fed. Sounds great and appeals directly to the Paleo crowd, but let’s examine this for a second.

When cows are fed on grass, the real benefit is in the fat component of the dairy (or meat). Grass-fed cows produce more vitamin K2 in their milk, more conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) (reference) and a better ratio of anti-inflammatory Omega-3 fatty acids to pro-infammatory Omega-6 compared to their grain-fed counterparts (reference).

While that’s all well and good (and one reason I only eat grass-fed butter or ghee…go Kerrygold!) guess what? Whey protein is virtually fat free. That’s right. You get little direct nutritional benefit from buying a pricier grass-fed whey protein isolate.

Now, is there indirect benefit? I’d argue yes. If you are concerned about how the animals that produce your whey protein are raised or you want to invest your money in a smaller company that aligns to your personal philosophies, that’s perfectly fine. But grass-fed whey really holds no superiority from a protein perspective.

Is Whey Protein Paleo? Argument #4:

Whey protein is okay for Paleo athletes because nutrient timing matters.

Yes. Nutrient timing matters when you’re training hard. The demands some athletes place on ourselves is very high with back to back to back training sessions on consecutive days and (relatively) little rest. If your athletic goals are great and you’re asking superhuman things of yourself with the amount of beatdown you’re giving yourself, getting recovery started ASAP after your training session is critical. 

This means a solid post-workout refeed of protein and carbs is critical for most athletes. You’ll also generally need more calories / energy than someone who is sedentary. Want to gain muscle mass? That’s right. You’ll need to take in more protein than someone just wanting to maintain theirs.

As a result, many athletes who are otherwise “Paleo” take whey protein because it’s faster digesting than a chunk of meat, releasing amino acids into the bloodstream quickly and making them available for muscle protein synthesis (reference). On the other hand, does spiking the concentration of amino acids quickly (which then falls quickly as it’s used for substrate), provide as much benefit as a slower-digesting protein (which then provides substrates for muscle protein synthesis for more hours to come)? 

Drinking your protein (or calories for that matter) is also easier than physically chewing them so folks trying to mass gain or take down more calories may find whey protein shakes easier to handle. I regularly eat 1 gram protein per pound of bodyweight and even that is not an easy task for me. [Side note: this is why I often discourage people from taking in liquid foods if they’re trying to lose fat or improve body composition.]

Is Whey Protein Paleo? Argument #5: Using whey protein doesn’t make you “not Paleo.” It just means you’re using whey protein.

When you’re first starting out eating Paleo, you really need to do thirty days of strict eating to figure out what (if any) sensitivities you have to different foods (I recommend something like a Whole30). If not, you’ll never know. To this end, many Paleo books and websites advocate a hard-line, strict approach, even eschewing basic things like salt. Pretty extreme. Others are really liberal…cakes and cookies for days. 

Why do strict Paleo advocates give whey protein a red light? It 1) isn’t a whole food; 2) isn’t as nutritious as whole food; and 3) may cause reactions in folks who are sensitive to dairy. It’s not because they want to be jerks or go against conventional wisdom. 

Ultimately, it’s up to you to decide what’s right for you based on your goals and context and if it fits into your version of Paleo or not. If you end up using whey protein, that’s your decision. You haven’t “failed at Paleo” or upset any imaginary Paleo gods. And as far as the Paleo police, you know how I feel about that.

If you’re trying to lose fat or not trying to gain muscle, my general advice is that you don’t need whey protein shakes. In fact, nobody needs whey protein. Period. It’s a factor of convenience, really. 

What about me? Have I used whey protein?

Yes, at different points in my training I have used whey protein for convenience’s sake. When I was training for CrossFit Regionals, hitting demanding workouts 5 days a week, I routinely used it. I definitely had a bit more muscle mass (maybe the whey protein helped?) than I do now, but I’m also not in competition season now. The photo below is me competing in May 2013…my peak event for the year (admittedly, I look pretty jacked). I also knew full well that there isn’t anything in whey protein that food can’t supply.Is whey protein Paleo? | stupideasypaleo.com

Right now, I’ve switched gears to include more weightlifting and less CrossFit and while I continue to build strength, I don’t feel I need whey protein as my training demands aren’t the same as they were back then. In October, I wanted to see if I could PR my back squat while taking no protein supplements. On a three week Smolov Jr. program plus only whole foods, I put 4 kg on my all-time one-rep max, ending up with a 130 kg back squat.  

Bottom line:

You don’t need whey to get strong. You can get all your nutrition from real, whole foods. If you’re not an athlete, I strongly recommend against it.

If whey fits your athletic goals, you may decide to use it…even if you’re Paleo in all other aspects. Know why you’d use it. After all, knowledge is power.

Like what you’ve read? Sign up below to get a free chapter from my upcoming ebook, The Paleo Athlete.

Is whey protein Paleo?

 

The Whole Athlete Seminar: Where Health Meets Performance

Whole Athlete Seminar

BIg news coming your way…I’ll be hitting the road in early 2014 with Dallas Hartwig of Whole9 to present a new seminar: The Whole Athlete: Where Health Meets Performance. We’re super passionate about helping competitive athletes and weekend warriors alike to perform at their best while staying healthy and enjoying quality of life.

Whole9’s regular nutrition seminars always cover information that anyone can apply to sport (like reducing systemic inflammation and how to approach post-workout nutrition), this seminar will be unique. We’re going to be specific about how to help you maximize performance.

Whole Athlete Seminar

The Whole Athlete: Where Health Meets Performance

While Dallas and I could fill up countless hours with content, we’re going to do our best to put it into one full-day seminar, covering:

  • Why athletes need to address nutrition first and foremost
  • Paleo nutrition for sports, during training and on competition day
  • Nutrition “hacks” – which to use (and when) and which to ignore
  • How to optimize lifestyle factors to make you healthier and better at your sport
  • Goal setting – determining what really matters to you, and creating the right plan to make it happen
  • Balancing nutrition, sleep, training, and recovery so that your hard training actually pays off
  • Dealing with injury – physically and psychologically
  • How to know whether you need more or less training to keep progressing
  • Detailed sleep recommendations – how to improve your sleep to improve your performance

Whole Athlete Seminar

The Whole Athlete Event Calendar

The first scheduled Whole Athlete event is a special one, held in partnership with one of the country’s top strength and conditioning facilities. At the request of Mike Rutherford (Coach Rut) of Max Effort Black Box (MEBB), Dallas and I will be presenting our Whole Athlete seminar in Kansas City, KS on Saturday, January 11, 2014.

Register here (and register early) for the Kansas City event.

Dallas and I are currently reviewing incoming seminar requests, and plan to schedule additional dates and locations for early 2014. If you are interested in hosting your own Whole Athlete event (or you think your gym should), email Whole9 at workshops@whole9life.com.

Whole Athlete Seminar

Dallas received a BS in Anatomy & Physiology from Andrews University in 2000, and an MS in Physical Therapy in 2001. He became a Certified Strength & Conditioning Specialist in 2003, and has since accumulated many health and exercise-related certifications, including RKC-certified kettlebell instructor, and Certified Sports Nutritionist through the International Society of Sports Nutrition.

He co-owned a strength and conditioning facility with his wife Melissa until founding Whole9 with her in 2009. They have since turned Whole9 one of the world’s premier Paleo-focused communities, and their site and original Whole30® program have grown to serve nearly a million visitors a month. In 2012, he co-authored the New York Times bestselling book It Starts With Food and founded his functional medicine practice, mentoring under one of the most respected practitioners in the country, Dr. Daniel Kalish.

In his free time, Dallas snowboards and mountain bikes, travels both for fun and for Whole9 nutrition seminars, and is always in some stage or another of growing a (mostly) respectable beard.

Whole Athlete Seminar

I’ve been a friend of Whole9 for several years. In 2011, I was appointed one of the first Whole9 Envoys. Later that year, I founded Stupid Easy Paleo.

Twelve years of science teaching experience, an extensive science background (Bachelor’s in Biology in 2002 and Master’s in Education in 2007), a certificate in holistic nutrition, and an unabashed love of tasty Paleo food combine to fuel my passion for Stupid Easy Paleo. I went Paleo in early 2010, and it didn’t take long until I decided I was never turning back.

Eating clean, nutrient-dense foods has fueled me both in life and as a competitive CrossFitter, mountain bike racer, and runner. I launched Stupid Easy Paleo as a way to help spread the word about how to make simple, tasty recipes to help people in their quests to just eat real food.

Are you interested in maximizing your athletic performance for sport? What questions or topics would you like to see us tackle?

Five Things You’re Overlooking in Your Quest for Abs

abs 3

photo: Richwell Correa Studios


As an athlete who’s eaten Paleo for almost 4 years, it’s my passion to help others learn to fuel themselves with nutritious Paleo foods and still perform at a high level. To that end, expect to see a lot more from me about how to put good quality fuel in your tank…because we all know you can’t put 87 octane in a race car and expect it to do great things, right? (You’ll still see all the other good stuff you’ve come to rely on me for like easy recipes, free resources and DIY tutorials…so if you’re not an athlete, I’ve still got you covered).

On that note, what you came to read about: abs. Look in any mainstream women’s health magazine, on billboards, and on television and all you see are abs. “Lose weight. Get abs. Find happiness,” is the fantasy being sold and sometimes the cost is greater than you’d think.

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the image being sold

Let’s get one thing straight before we start. If you want to have visible abs, you’ll need to decrease your body fat. No amount of crunches or sit ups will reduce your body fat percentage enough to start seeing abs. This percentage body fat to see a “six pack” varies for everyone, but for females it’s somewhere in the vicinity of 15% and males, 10%. This is considered very lean and usually requires discipline with clean nutrition and / or training to maintain. For some females, getting too lean is also a recipe for hormonal disregulation and amenorrhea. Not good.

However, lowering body fat (16-20% for females, 10-15% for males) for overall health is a good thing. How actively you pursue cutting fat past that is going to depend on some combination of dedicated nutrition and training.

While I can’t tell you if the pursuit of abs is the right thing for you or not, I can point out some things you may be overlooking if you’re hellbent on a chiseled midline. Let’s start with food.

1. Abs are made in the kitchen: nutrition is King.

Chateaubriand Steak

Nic Taylor via Compfight

If you want to reduce body fat, cleaning up your diet is a must. You can’t out-exercise a bunch of junk that you’re eating and hope to get leaner. Okay, there are some people who seem to be able to do this effortlessly – and we all hate them for it – but if you’re someone who isn’t that “lucky” (let’s not talk about all the other markers of poor health that person could have despite being lean), you’re going to need to pay attention to what goes in your pie hole. If you’re eating crappy, processed food, simply cleaning things up and sticking to a general Paleo template is a good first step. Moderating fat intake is also a factor for most active people trying to lose body fat. Read more here.

On the other hand, if you’re starving yourself, severely restricting calories, or eating a very low fat diet, this could be working against you as well. Being in a chronic hypocaloric state (hypo = below), is a stressor that increases cortisol…and that is one of the known causes for increased abdominal fat. Being sure to include adequate protein, lots of veggies and some fruit (if you’re trying to lose a lot of body fat, consider looking into a ketogenic Paleo approach) and an adequate amount of  healthy fats is a general formula for improving body composition. Of course, rarely is it ever *just* that simple, which leads to the second point.

2. And if nutrition is King, sleep is Queen.

Many Things can't live Without Such as 

عبدالرحمن بن سلمه via Compfight

If you’re trying to get all your nutrition and exercise ducks in a row, but getting fewer than 8 hours of sleep a night, you’re missing a huge piece of this puzzle. To sum it up, chronically undersleeping whacks out your hormones…and that’s not a good thing. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition published a study (here) that concluded that lack of sleep could be causing people to gain weight. Why? Less sleep can slow your metabolism, raise your cortisol (hey, there it is again) and cause your appetite to increase. It also disregulates ghrelin and leptin, hormones which essentially tell you that you’re still hungry. You can see where this is going.

Just getting horizontal for 8 hours isn’t enough. The quality of your sleep matters…a lot. Making your bedroom pitch black and reducing blue light exposure at night (by not staring into the bright screens of laptops, phones and TVs…I realize this may go over like a lead balloon) can go a long way to improving sleep quality and getting cortisol and melatonin regulation back on track. Blue light screws with melatonin. Melatonin puts you to sleep.

Do you absolutely have to be on the computer at night? Try installing a free program like f.lux to minimize blue light emission or get a pair of these sexy amber glasses like Nom Nom Paleo wears – she works the night shift AND still manages to get enough sleep.

3. Find other ways to work your midline stability, like squatting and swinging kettlebells.

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Me, training the low bar back squat

If you’ve worn your tailbone raw from sit ups, it may be time to start working in some other exercises to strengthen your abdominals. Believe it or not, I’ve got visible abs without having done a single sit up (see points 1 and 2) in the past oh, year or so. I had a cyst above my tailbone that made any sort of sit ups or crunches excruciatingly painful so they were a no-go. I did, on the other hand, do lots of squats, cleans, kettlebell swings, overhead presses, Turkish get ups, etc. Challenging the midline to get stable is pretty damn effective for strong abdominals compared to isolation moves like sit ups.

Oh, and if you’re sacrificing sleep and clean eating at the expense of working out more, more, more don’t expect to cheat the system for long. Priority list: nutrition >> sleep >> then exercise.

4. How much of a six pack you have depends a lot on…genetics.

recuerdos de verano

jesuscm.com via Compfight

Gosh, this one can be a bubble burster which is why I put it toward the end. While there’s not a lot of primary research to support this claim, it just makes logical sense that the patterns of body fat deposition on your person vary from other people. I carry most of my body fat around the upper arms and my butt / thighs, for example. Please don’t misunderstand me. Can you get lean enough to have a visible six pack even if genetics aren’t on your side? I’d argue yes, but at what cost? If the solution is to spend your time frantically counting macros and obsessing over it, then maybe it’s not worth the pursuit of the “perfect” midsection. Only you can decide that.

So often, the body types we idolize are 1) airbrushed or 2) of folks at the most elite level of sport. When you see athletes at the CrossFit Games, completely shredded to bits, with 8+ packs, what you’re not seeing is the story behind that body…the discipline, the sacrifice, the training, the injuries. For some, the ripped physique is a natural by-product of the training but I guarantee that at that level, any athlete you ask won’t cite “a hot body” as their prime motivator. Food for thought which leads me to…

5. There are many other ways to gauge your health and fitness levels besides the visibility of your abs.

You probably knew this was coming. Abs are not the only measure of your health (or for that matter, your self-worth).

What else is there to focus on if getting abs at any cost isn’t your priority? TONS. Get yourself on the road to health if you’re just starting out. If your body fat is very high, consider dietary intervention first, exercise second. Track blood markers of health and disease. Keep a mental note of your sleep quality, mood and energy levels throughout the day. What’s your mental clarity like? How about your skin, hair and nails? If you’re physically active, consider doing some benchmark workouts, then testing them on a semi-regular basis to track improvement. These are just a few things to consider. For an extensive list of other ways to measure your health, check out this article.

What do YOU think? Leave a comment below.

Confident athletic woman with sixpack abs posing

Sources:

ChrisKresser.com, How Artificial Light is Wrecking Your Sleep, and What To Do About It

American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Short sleep duration increases energy intakes but does not change energy expenditure in normal-weight individuals.

MarksDailyApple.com, Robb Wolf Answers Your Paleo Diet Questions, Robb Wolf

Paleo for Women, How Extremity Can Make Even the Best Diet Fail

RobbWolf.com, The Real Deal on Adrenal Fatigue, Diane Sanfilipo

ThatPaleoGuy.com, Why Do We Sleep?

Whole9Life.com, Science is Hot: Fat Loss Edition, Mathieu Lalonde

30 Paleo Post-Workout Carb Refuel Recipes

carb refuel If you’re a Paleo athlete, you need to replace carbs post-workout for good performance in the long run. And no, I’m not talking about a tray of coconut honey-caramel chocolate-drizzled Paleo pizookies after each workout.

If you’re already well-versed in carbology (I made that word up), feel free to skip down to the lip-smacking recipes below. If not, keep reading for a short primer on carbs.

[*Note, folks who are interested in fat loss or are more sedentary likely don’t need as many carbs those who are physically active people or athletes. However, you may need to play around with your carb intake to dial it in for your activity level.]

Athletes doing endurance-based or glycogen-depleting high-intensity workouts (like CrossFit, kettlebells, HIIT, etc), are prone to going too low carb because they forget to refuel with carbs post-workout (or they think Paleo is supposed to be no / low carb for everyone). If you’re a power athlete, you may want to play around with carb-cycling as another means of getting your glycogen refuel.

yam v. sweet potato

But how many carbs do I need? This will vary depending on many factors, so the best answer is to experiment. A very broad guideline for athletes is 50-100g in the post-workout window (ideally as soon as possible after the workout’s over).

The best source of carbs? Starchy veggies like sweet potato / yams, winter squash like butternut, root veggies like parsnips, etc are good options. This chart from Balanced Bites shows the carbohydrate content of several vegetables per 1 cup. The top 3 carb bang for the buck? Cassava (raw), plantain and sweet potato.

What about white potatoes? They tend to be vilified in Paleo, but when peeled (to avoid lectins and glycoalkaloids), they’re a great form of starch. If you have good body composition and are insulin-sensitive, you may want to try rotating them into your PWO refeed.

What about fruit? Starchy veggies contain, well, starch (chains of glucose) compared to fruit (the basic sugar of which is fructose). Glucose is more efficient at replacing the glycogen you’ve used up from your muscles during exercise. Fructose is preferentially broken used by the liver, not the muscles. Is this to say you can never, ever eat fruit? No, but it may be best to eat it post-workout, and it’s better to reach for a starchy veggie if you can.

What about safe starches like rice or tapioca? Rice is technically a grain (and therefore not “Paleo”) and while not perfect, for some folks is a decent alternative to rotate into their post-workout nutrition strategy. Tapioca is essentially starch (not a grain) so it would be Paleo and therefore acceptable. What’s not good about safe starches? They are pretty nutrient poor compared to equal volumes of their starchy veggie counterparts.

Notable comparisons (per 100 grams):

Sweet Potato

86 Calories

55 mg Sodium

337 mg Potassium

20 g Total Carbs

283% of daily value Vitamin A

4% of daily value Vitamin C

Rice

130 Calories

1 mg Sodium

35 mg Potassium

28 g Total Carbs

0% daily value Vitamin A

0% of daily value Vitamin C

I’ve collected 30 scrumptious recipes containing starchy veggie goodness into one place for you to browse and grouped them by the main veggie component.

Sweet Potato / Yams

5 Autumn Veggies (and Ways to Eat Them) from Jules Fuel

BBQ Pork Stuffed Sweet Potatoes from Primally Inspired

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Apple Cranberry Sweet Potato Bake from Stupid Easy Paleo

Slow Cooker Chorizo Mashed Yams from Rubies and Radishes

Sweet Potato Apple Pancetta Hash from Gutsy By Nature

Sweet Potato Brussels Sprout Hash from Nicky in the Raw

Sweet Potato Disks

Sweet Potato Chips from Hollywood Homestead

Sweet Potato Disks from Yuppie Farm Girl

Sweet Potato Fries from Hollywood Homestead

The Easiest Way to Make Sweet Potato Hash Browns from Real Food RN

Turkey Sweet Potato Pie from Beauty and the Foodie

Yam, Celery Root & Bacon Hash from Rubies and Radishes

Hard Squashes 

Butternut Squash Shephard’s Pie from Primally Inspired

Delicata Squash Soup from A Girl Worth Saving

Fall Harvest Chicken Soup from Primally Inspired

Rosemary Balsamic Butternut Squash from Stupid Easy Paleo

Plantains

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Homemade Jamaican Banana Chips from Nourishing Time

Mashed Green Bananas from Nourishing Time

Plantain Fries from Hollywood Homestead

Puerto Rican Style Plantains (aka Monfongo) from Beauty and the Foodie

Sweet Plantain Buns from Stupid Easy Paleo

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White Potatoes, Yuca, Beets, Tapioca

Oven Roasted Yuca Fries from Real Food

KosherEasy Skillet Potatoes from Real Food Outlaws

Roasted Chicken with Potatoes, Kale and Lemon from Gutsy by Nature

Rosemary Garlic Roasted Potatoes from Stupid Easy Paleo

Simple, Candied Beet Chips from Jules Fuel

Slow Cooker Baked Potato Bar from Health Home Happy

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Tapioca Flour Paleo Bread from Strands of My Life

Dessert-ish

Plantain Skillet Brownies from So Let’s Hang Out

Sweet Potatoes with Cinnamon and Coconut Sugar from Real Food Outlaws

Pre- and Post-Workout Fueling Summary for Athletes

Pre Post Workout Venn 2.0 More on this to come soon, but here is a simple diagram to help you remember general fueling recommendations for pre- and post-workout nutrition.

In short, for a pre-workout meal, stick to protein and fat while the post-workout window – ideally within 15-30 min of finishing your training – should focus on protein and carbs. Both have protein in common. If you’re into performance, adequate protein is a must.

References: Robb Wolf, Whole9