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Reflections on Whole30

by: Ross

The CrossFit 215 Whole30 ended on Tuesday night and I wanted to write some thoughts on the whole experience.

My Results:

I finished the challenge with the maximum number of points: a full 30 diet points (meaning that I never once cheated on the Whole30 program) and a full 30 exercise points (meaning that I worked out or did mobility/active recovery every day of the Whole30 program).

The biggest change I saw from Whole30 was a dramatic increase in my energy levels. I had way more energy throughout the day, and it was especially noticeable in the afternoons when I would ordinarily get sleepy. What makes this even more remarkable is that I undertook a huge reduction in my caffeine consumption during Whole30 (I went from 5 cups of coffee per day, to 1-2 cups per day) and I never experienced any of the lethargy/withdrawal so common with caffeine cessation.

My fitness levels went up (though I don't know how much of that was due to diet and how much was due to being active every day). I had 3 personal records in the gym (175 lbs overhead squat, up from 170lbs; 195lb thruster, up from 185lbs; and 17 rounds of Cindy, up from 16 rounds + 3 reps). I also improved substantially on my Whole30 Benchmark workout (For time: 500m row, 15 burpees, 30 wall balls 20lbs, 30 kettlebell swings 50lbs, 15 burpees, 500m row)--my time decreased from 10:55 to 9:11 over the course of the 30 days.

In terms of fat loss, I weighed 196 lbs before the Whole30 began, and one of my hopes was that I would get back down to the 190lbs that I weighed when I got married in July. I weighed in at 189lbs yesterday, so I'm right on target. I also look noticeably leaner and I'm comfortably down a belt loop. Weight loss was not a huge emphasis for me, and I didn't do any calorie restriction or try to eat less than a fully satisfying amount of food. Still, I viewed the 6 lbs weight increase from July to January as one quantifiable indicator of how I had let my health go, and it reinforces my confidence that I'm back in my pre-wedding state of health that my weight is in the right range now.

I also had my skin folds measured before the Whole30 to assess body fat composition, stress levels, etc. but I haven't yet had the chance to have them re-measured. I'm getting them measured tomorrow morning so I will update the post when I get the chance.

Plans for Post-Whole30:

A lot of people rush out and eat junk food after they finish the 30 days of "restricted" diet, but I don't plan to. Honestly, I didn't feel very restricted at the end. I was eating basically whatever I wanted to and not even really craving any non-Whole30 foods. I'm loving the increased energy so much that I'm loathe to go on a junk food binge and lose the benefits I've had.

Part of the idea of Whole30, however, is to reintroduce unhealthy foods to see whether they give you a reaction. I have so far tried one off-food since Whole30 ended. On Wednesday, I had a few buffalo chicken wings at a bar (I only drank water). While I didn't get the exact recipe, buffalo wings are usually deep fat fried in either peanut oil or vegetable oil and coated with a sauce consisting of butter and hot sauce. I also figure that some breaded items might be fried in the same frier, meaning that I might have had some trace exposure to gluten. I felt fine after eating the wings--meaning that butter, vegetable oil, and (possible) trace gluten don't give me any acute discomfort. Still, I didn't really get much of a kick from the wings--I genuinely prefer the paleo-style chicken wings we make at home.

At some point, I will re-introduce some things that are considered to be more problematic (e.g., bread, sugar, milk, cheese, etc.) to see if I have a reaction but I'm definitely not in any hurry to do that. I think I'll wait for an occasion when I really want to, rather than rush out to do it now when I'm not really feeling it.

As far as moving forward, I think I'm going to continue on with a paleo-style but not be quite as strict as Whole30 with preservatives (e.g., sulfites) or occasional dairy. I really like Mark Sisson's Primal Blueprint and I'm going to mostly keep with that, though I do think it allows more cheating than is optimal for me so I'm going to be more strict than he necessarily advises. One of my problems before was that I let the cheat meals build up, and I also didn't really keep track of the magnitude of the cheat meal. For example, eating half a sheet cake is a much bigger cheat than eating a little bit of grated parmesan cheese on your chicken. Because I was counting big cheats and little cheats equally as cheats, I had an incentive to make all of my cheat meals big cheats. I think that, instead, I'll allow myself an absolute maximum of 3 little cheats per week, with the option to trade 2 little cheats up for a big cheat. That way I'm limiting the possibility of my housing some serious junk food to only once per week. That said, the goal will still be to not cheat at all--I'm not going to treat the 3 little cheats as a quota that I always seek to fill. If the cheats start to get out of control again, I'm going to put myself on a stict Whole7 or Whole10 to get back on track.

Certain foods that I didn't care about before are definitely not going to be making their way back into my diet. Before Whole30, I was pretty lax about artificial sweeteners. I would drink at least one diet soda per day--sometimes more. I'm not going to buy diet soda any more (or any soda for that matter). Also, I used to put a little heavy cream in my coffee but I really became accustomed to drinking my coffee black during Whole30. I don't see any reason to have unnecessary dairy in my diet so I'll be foregoing the cream in the future.

Another thing that really helped me during the Whole30 was the increased amount of active recovery I was doing in and out of the gym. I definitely want to keep that up as I think it was really improving my progress. I focus my mobility work on my posterior hip and thigh (e.g., hamstrings) and I saw some major improvements in my flexibility there (for the first time, I can actually stand straight-legged and touch my toes).


I was really impressed and even surprised at all the beneficial results that accrued to me during Whole30. It's definitely motivated me to maintain better health habits in the future and it's given me a set of well-established rules that I can return to if I stray in those habits.



Whole30 Days 22-27

by: Ross

With Whole30 nearly done, this way of eating has really become instinctive for me. I was eating lunch with a friend the other day and he was having a pork barbecue sandwich (which I ordinarily would love) and I couldn't help but look at it strangely because it didn't look like real food to me.

I'm still in a bit of a routine in terms of recipes, but I did make two new recipes this week. The first was chicken soup. This was interesting for me because I've never actually made chicken soup that wasn't from a can. I boiled a whole chicken in water to make the broth and then I shredded the chicken meat and put it back in with a variety of vegetables to make the soup. It turned out to be really good, and really cheap--the chicken only cost $5 and the other ingredients were mainly carrots, parsley, and onions (all really cheap).

I also made a beef stew from the Paleo Comfort Foods cook book, which was really good (I forgot to take a picture).

I'm in no rush to have Whole30 be over from an eating perspective--I think I'm going to keep eating this way by and large--but I am really eager to be able to weigh myself, get my body fat measured, and take my after pictures so I can have the full picture of the results I've had.


Awesome Chicken Soup



Whole30 Days 19-21

by: Ross

I decided that I'm going to drop the time-entry meal journal format. It was getting a little boring, especially after I fell into a routine of making recipes I had already made before. I'll continue to post pictures of new recipes I make (I have two lined up for this week) and to run through the types of things I've been eating, but in a less formal manner.

So Days 19-21 have been great. On Day 19 (Friday) I mainly had leftovers from previous days for all my meals, plus I went to at CrossFit 215 where a few of us watched the documentary In Search of the Perfect Human Diet and had some of the healthy snacks that were laid out there (veggies with guac, some chicken wings, and I even tried some seaweed!). Even though I'm already very familiar with the science behind paleo nutrition, I found the film to be very informative. I would definitely recommend it to anyone who wants to learn more about ancestral health. For exercise, I worked out at CrossFit 215. The workout was the benchmark WOD, Cindy, which is 20 minutes of as many rounds as possible (AMRAP) of 5 pull-ups, 10 push ups, 15 air squats. My previous record on this was 16 rounds + 3 pull-ups. I achieved a personal record on Friday with an even 17 rounds. The push ups are my main limiting factor here. If I want to improve my score even more, I'm going to need to gain stamina with that movement.

Day 20 (Saturday) went great as well. I had some scrambled eggs  and an apple for breakfast, skipped lunch, and had dinner at the in-laws. They were gracious enough to make us a fully Whole30-approved meal--primal chili with roasted vegetables and baked sweet potatoes. Delicious. For exercise, I did some mobility work from Kelly Starrett's MobilityWod site, focusing on mobilizing my posterior thigh (e.g., hamstring, glutes, etc.).


Day 21 (Sunday) is today. I usually blog the day after it's already over but I already know exactly what I'm going to eat and I'd like to take the remainder of the day off of blogging. I had 6 eggs scrambled with an apple for breakfast again. I'm going to make coconut chicken curry for dinner (my favorite recipe). I'm feeling a little "under the weather" (I think the wife gave me a cold) so I'm going to take off of the gym again and do 30 minutes of mobility work from MobilityWod. Hopefully I'll feel tip-top tomorrow and hit the gym nice and hard to start off my last full week of Whole30.


Whole30 Days 15-18

by: Ross

Day 15 of Whole30 went well. Here's the run down of the day:

5:35AM: I got up and had my half-cup of black coffee and a tall glass of iced tea and a little bit of paleo chili

6:00AM: I worked out at CrossFit 215--front rack reverse lunges (4 sets of 5/leg; 95lbs-125lbs); single arm dumbell rows (8/arm) 50, 70, 70, 70; For time: 25 thrusters (75lbs), 25 kettle bell swings (50lbs), 25 burpees, 25 kbs, 25 thrusters. Final time: 9:35

7:00AM: sweet potato spears and a big bowl of chili

8:00PM: Big bowl of chicken curry

Day 16

5:35AM: I got up and had coffee and a little bit of paleo chili

6:00AM: CrossFit 215--3 8 minute AMRAPs, scored by number of reps completed. My score: 121, 82, 91

7:00AM: 2 strips of sugar-free bacon, 6 eggs scrambled, sweet potato spears (~1 sweet potato)

5:00PM: apple

8:30PM: taco salad with guacamole and salsa

Day 17

5:35AM: I got up and a little bit of taco meat and half-cup of black coffee and a tall glass of iced tea.

10:00AM: I worked out  at CrossFit 215--Strength work out was to establish a max thruster (I got to 195lbs--a 15lb personal record!); WOD was 15 minute AMRAP of 5 deadlifts (205lbs), 6 KB presses, 7 ring rows, 8 handstand shoulder taps. My score: 5 rounds + 18 reps

11:15AM: 2 Bananas + taco salad + salsa + guacamole

6:00PM: apple

7:30PM: slow cooker italian pot roast (yum!)

Day 18

5:35AM: I got up and had 2 cups of coffee black

7:00AM: breakfast was 1.5 bananas, 5 eggs, and a half-strip of bacon (I cooked 3 but I wasn't hungry for the rest of the bacon)

2:00PM: Big salad from the hospital cafeteria with grilled chicken and homemade balsamic vinaigrette

6:00PM: 1 hamburger "protein style"- lettuce instead of a bun topped with fresh veggies, no sauces

8:30PM: apple

Final Thoughts: I'm now more than half-way done Whole30! I'm definitely feeling awesome and it's starting to be really obvious that I"m leaning out. I'm very comfortably down a belt hole and I can see some more ab-action in the mirror. My performance in the gym has been improving as well: I've set 2 strength PRs since starting in overhead squat and thruster. I'm especially glad that my strength isn't declining, since I was concerned that weight loss might reduce my strength.

Since we're on our way out of Whole30, the wife and I had a discussion about how we want to eat after Whole30 is done. We decided that we want to closely adhere to Mark Sisson's Primal Blueprint way of eating, which is similar to Whole30 but a little bit more lenient on on some dairy. If we start to fall off on that, our goal is to re-introduce the Whole30 rules for a shorter period of time (say Whole10) to re-set and get back on top of a healthy eating plan.

My biggest concern right now with Whole30 is I don't feel like I'm eating enough. I think that without the carb cravings typical of a western diet, my body just isn't getting hungry. I've skipped lunch a few times this week because lunch time comes around and I'm just not hungry. When I look at my food log for the day, it doesn't seem like enough calories to fuel performance--I don't really know what to think about it.


Whole30 Days 11-14

by: Ross

Day 11 of Whole30 went well. Here's the run down of the day:

5:35AM: I got up and had my half-cup of black coffee and a tall glass of iced tea and 1 hard boiled egg.

6:00AM: I worked out at CrossFit 215--hand-stand push-up work and then 14 minutes, every minute on the minute alternating between 10s ball slams (40lbs) and 15s row sprint

7:00AM: Breakfast was  left-over paleo taco salad

4:30PM: Late lunch of Carnitas Salad with Guacamole from Chipotle

9:00PM: Dinner of Salmon Chowder

Day 12

5:35AM: I got up and had coffee

7:00AM: 5-egg mushroom omelet

3:00PM: apple, some raisins

5:00PM: grilled pork chops with a spice rub and oven roasted brussels sprouts (see pics below)

8:00PM: 40 minute hike around East Falls with wife and mobility work in my living room for active recovery

9:00PM: snacked on some baby carrots

Day 13

5:35AM: I got up and had three hard-boiled eggs and half-cup of black coffee and a tall glass of iced tea.

10:00AM: I worked out  at CrossFit 215--For time: 100 wall balls (20lbs), 90 double-unders, 50 deadlifts (185lbs), 500m row. Time: 19:35

11:15AM: 3 Bananas

4:00PM: ~10 Baby Carrots

5:00PM: Carnitas Salad with Guacamole from Chipotle

9:00PM: Coconut Curry Chicken

Day 14

5:35AM: I got up and decided to sleep in until 7:00AM

11:45AM: I broke fast on left-over Coconut Curry Chicken and some baby carrots

3:00AM: I was at a meeting which had some non-Whole30 snacks so I got two Lara Bars (Apple and Cashew) from my car to hold me over and keep me from feeling overly tempted

6:00PM: Paleo Chili for Dinner

6:30PM: Exercise: 45 minute hike with my wife and mobility work at home

Final Thoughts: Obviously I'm slowing down on blogging every single day as things get a little bit more routine. These last few days were still pretty easy, though you'll notice I cut out a few CrossFit workouts in favor of active recovery. I was starting to feel physically  tired and I thought I needed a little bit of a break. I'll hit the gym hard again on Monday.

I haven't felt very tempted by junk except for a brief popcorn craving on Friday. I did, however, have a really weird dream where I realized I had accidentally eaten cake (how could that be an accident?) and I was really angry with myself that I had broken Whole30. Luckily, I woke up and I was still Whole30 compliant!



Whole30 Days 9-10

by: Ross

Day 9 of Whole30 went well. Here's the run down of the day:

5:35AM: I got up and had my half-cup of black coffee and a tall glass of iced tea.

6:00AM: I did active recovery for 35 minutes at CrossFit 215--15 easy minutes on the rower and some mobility work focused on my shoulders and T-spine.

7:00AM: Breakfast was a combination of some left-over paleo chili and some left-over paleo taco salad

12:00PM: I fasted through lunch.

5:40PM: Left-over Coconut Chicken Curry (2 chicken thighs with lots of cauliflower in curry sauce)

9:00PM: Snacked on some almonds and raisins.

Day 10

5:35AM: I got up and had my hard-boiled egg and half-cup of black coffee and a tall glass of iced tea.

6:00AM: I worked out  at CrossFit 215--the work-out was 1 min row sprint (max calories), 2 min rest, 12 min AMRAP [15 power clean (95), 10 double-unders, 3 dips], 6 min rest, 12 min AMRAP [3 kettlebell swings (70lbs), 10 pushups, 15 double-unders], 2 min rest, 1 min row spring (max calories). My scores for the respective sections were: 20 calories; 4 rounds + 21 reps; 9 rounds + 7 reps; 25 calories.

7:00AM: Breakfast was 2 bananas and 2 salmon fillets

1:00PM: I snacked on an apple, almonds, and raisins

2:00PM: Left-over Coconut Chicken Curry (2 chicken thighs with lots of cauliflower in curry sauce)

8:00PM: 10 chicken wings (made by my wife)

9:00PM: snacked on more almonds and raisins

Final Thoughts: Well I'm one-third through the Whole30 and I feel great. I'm not craving any Standard American Diet (SAD) foods and, though I'm not allowed to weight myself, I think I'm slimming down a little--I'm comfortably down a belt hole and my gym shorts definitely fit a little more loosely. I feel like my performance at the gym is improving, I'm recovering more quickly, and my sleep is much better.

One thing I'm  concerned about is the nut consumption. I didn't even buy nuts the first week because I knew I would over-consume them. But my wife wanted almonds this week so I got them and I've been snacking on them way too much. Last night, I asked her if she could take all the almonds to work with her or "take them to work with her" (i.e., hide them somewhere in the house but allow me to continue thinking that she took them to work). Hopefully, this way she can have almonds when she wants them (she doesn't over-eat them the way I do) and I won't be tempted by them.

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Whole30 Day 8

by: Ross

Day 8 of Whole30 went well. Here's the run down of the day:

5:35AM: I got up and ate a little bit of leftover chili which my wife made on Saturday. Had my half-cup of black coffee and a tall glass of iced tea.

6:00AM: I worked out at CrossFit 215-- Hang Snatch (got up to 115lbs), 8 minutes to find a max Overhead Squat (got to 175lbs, a Personal Record (PR) for me--also, it didn't feel very hard and I think I could have gotten 185lbs up if the clock hadn't run out). The second workout was 3 rounds (for time) of row 30 calories, 30 kettlebell swings (50lbs). I (think) I finished that in 10:55.

7:40AM: I had sweet potato spears and more left-over chili for breakfast

12:00PM: Lunch was another big salad with grilled chicken and Caesar dressing

5:40PM: I had a "taco salad" (ground beef with taco seasoning, fresh salsa, guacamole)

6:15PM: There was a surprise dinner for my friend Larisa at Lolita. I made sure to fill up on taco salad so I wouldn't be hungry when I got there. Looking at the menu, the only thing I was sure I could eat was the guacamole, which I thought about getting, but I ultimately realized that I wasn't hungry and I just had my water.

9:00PM: Snacked on some almonds and raisins.

Final Thoughts: Great day. I was psyched about my PR on overhead squat and I'm looking forward to getting even stronger. Jennie (my wife) wanted me to get nuts at the grocery store on Sunday, so I got almonds, but I'm noticing that I am overeating them (as I suspected I would). I'm going to ask her to take them to work with her or at least say that she did and hide them from me.  Sorry, no pictures with this post--Jennie is doing some of the cooking this week and I'm not always there to photograph the work in progress.


Whole30 Day 6-7

by: Ross

Day 6 of Whole30 went well. Here's the run down of the day:

5:35AM: I got up and had a cup of coffee and a glass of iced tea with lemon. Did some computer work for a while

9:30AM: I had a breakfast of some left-over Italian Pot Roast and, in the car on the way to the gym, I had a cashew Lara Bar

10:00AM: I worked out at CrossFit 215--Strength was (alternating between exercises) back squat and chest-to-bar pull-ups (my weights for the squat were 155, 185, 205, 225). The second workout was, for time, 30 squat cleans (115lbs) followed by 500m row (I finished in 7:40). Immediately post-workout I tried one of the apple Lara Bars in the car.

11:30AM: I had 8 sweet potato spears.

1:45PM: Lunch was a huge plate of left-over Coconut Curry chicken (3 chicken thighs, a ton of cauliflower, and delicious curry sauce), which put me in the mood for some "rest and digest" so . . .

2:05PM: I had a nappy-nap for ~50 minutes

4:00-5:40PM: My wife and I went for a nice, long walk along Kelly Drive (part of our attempt to follow Mark Sisson's Primal Rule #3--Move Frequently at a Slow Pace). This actually tired me out a bit (it's a pretty steep hill getting back to my house from Kelly Drive)

9:39PM: A really weird thing happened tonight--I never got hungry for dinner. I figured, why eat when you're not hungry, so I went to bed.

Day 7

5:35AM: I got up and had a cup of coffee and a glass of iced tea with lemon. I left to do some quick work in the lab and then go to the grocery store to do this week's shopping.

8:30AM: I had a breakfast of 4 slices of sugar-free bacon and 5 scrambled eggs and an apple

11:00AM: I did the partner work out at CrossFit 215-- With my friend, Ryan, we had to do the following (we could alternate on the rep counts but we both had to do the runs together): 50 hang power snatch (75lbs), run 800m, 40 knees-to-elbows, run 400m, 30 hang power clean (95lbs), run 200m (with 20lb medicine ball), 20 burpee pull-ups, run 100m (with 20lb medicine ball), row 10 calories (each). We finished in 21:12 (though we would have finished a little bit earlier had we not completely missed the 800m mark and run past it).

12:30AM: I had 8 sweet potato spears and 6 chicken wings.

4:00PM: I snacked on some almonds and raisins (I'm trying to keep nut consumption relatively low, but I thought I could ease up on that once a week without too much negative effect)

6:30PM: I had dinner of the rest of the left-over Italian Roast Beef with the remaining vegetables that were with it.

Final Thoughts: Good day overall. I was a little flummoxed about the Lara Bars (which I was keeping in the console in my car in case there was a hunger emergency). All the ingredients are Whole30-approved but I was concerned that maybe they were paleo-ified junk food (depending on how you view them--nutrition bar or candy bar?), which is supposed to be against the Whole30 rules. At any rate, I was definitely using them as nutrition bars and I didn't think they were anything to write home about anyway--certainly they didn't make me want to eat junk food (I was more excited about getting home and getting at some sweet potato!). I was reading a post on the Whole9 Facebook page regarding a person who linked to a recipe for coconut flour crepes and they seemed to come down with the view that what counts as "paleo-ified junk food" (what they call SWYPO--sex with your pants on) can have some personal variability depending on what gets you really fired up to eat unhealthful foods (i.e., the crepes might not have been SWYPO for the person who made them, but for others they might have been so reminiscent of real crepes that they would have been). Overall, I think I'll continue with my strategy of keeping a few Lara Bars in my car console but eating them only rarely--maybe I'll pick up a few PaleoKits as well for the same purpose.

Another thing that really struck me was how I didn't get hungry on Saturday evening. I was told that eating Whole30 would lead me to feel real hunger only when I need food, rather than cravings being brought on by stark shifts in blood sugar. I wonder if I'm starting to "shift over" to only getting hungry when I really need food.


Whole30 Day 5

by: Ross

Day 5 of Whole30 went well. Here's the run down of the day:

5:35AM: I got up and ate a hard boiled egg with salt and drank a half-cup of coffee and a glass of iced tea (this will be a repeating pattern)

6:00AM: I worked out at CrossFit 215--The workout was, for time, 500m row, 15 burpees, 30 wall balls (20lbs), 30 kettlebell swings (50lbs), 15 burpees, 500m row. This workout is going to be the Whole30 benchmark workout which we will do again in 4 weeks to see if the 30 days of clean eating helped us make athletic gains. My time was 10:55.

7:40AM: I had breakfast of 8 Sweet Potato Spears (equivalent of 1 sweet potato) and left-over Salmon Chowder from Wednesday

12:00PM: Lunch was leftover Slow Cooker Italian Pot Roast from dinner last night.

4:15PM: I had a snack of 1 carrot and I was sleepy so I drank another cup of coffee

7:30PM: For dinner I had Coconut Curry Chicken (from the Primal Blueprint Cookbook)--It's my absolute favorite recipe (photos below). I even doubled the recipe so that I would have more as leftovers.


Final Thoughts: No major thoughts today. Eager for more tomorrow!


Too tempting--I forgot to take a picture until I was half-way through it!




Whole30 Day 4

by: Ross

[I actually posted this late. Day 4 for me was January 10th]

Day 4 of Whole30 went well. Here's the run down of the day:

5:35AM: I got up and had a half-cup of coffee and a glass of iced tea with lemon

6:00AM: I worked out at CrossFit 215--I did active recovery and focused on my hamstrings, which were sore from the "good mornings" I did in Tuesday's class

7:00AM: I had breakfast of 4 eggs scrambled, 3 slices of sugar-free bacon, and ~1 cup of broccoli

12:00PM: Lunch was another big salad with grilled chicken and Caesar dressing

4:15PM: I had a snack of one apple and two hard-boiled eggs with salt.

7:30PM: For dinner I had Slow-Cooker Italian Pot Roast (from the Primal Blueprint Cookbook; see photo below). It was delicious and there were tons of leftovers.

8:50PM: I had 4 Sweet Potato Spears (from the Paleo Comfort Foods cook book) as a snack

Final Thoughts: It was a good day. I was really pleased with the pot roast, which was a new recipe for me and included an ingredient, ox tail, which I had never cooked with before. I was also glad I went in for active recovery--this is an area of my fitness which I have been neglecting and I'm going to try to rectify that in the future.

Slow Cooker Italian Pot Roast

Sweet Potato Spears