James can be reached at TwinFreaks CrossFit, where he is an owner and trainer. James coaches barbell lifting classes and CrossFit classes. Contact him by email at james@twinfreakscrossfit.com or by phone at 720-204-2631.

Friday, September 30, 2011

Fat Loss: Quantity and Quality & etc.

Hello Canada!  I have no idea why I've had a spike in my Canadian readership.  Maybe you like me.  I like you for your English, Canadian English is my favorite, your physical beauty - yes I know you have other fine provinces besides B.C. - and your refusal to be us.

Yesterday I had a hydrostatic body fat test, and I can say with almost complete certainty that I am at 8.1% body fat.  The error will be based on how much air I couldn't force out of my lungs, the specific gravity of my fecal matter, and not much else.  In other words, my body fat percentage is 7-9.

This is sort of important.  Right or wrong, there is a common belief that for men fat loss awesomeness begins below 10%.  I can say now that I know how to get there.

This is sort of meaningless.  There's something comforting about having a number, but there's something approaching orgasmic about having a woman I find insanely attractive telling me I look good, and hearing the same, "you look good," from a CrossFit Games competitor I admire that I hadn't seen for a couple years.

I'd have to read through my blogs to remember how I've rationalized my motivation for leaning out, but I remember the truth now.  Just over two years ago I was CrossFitting heavily and seriously, and I realized I legitimately looked good; I didn't notice it happening, but one day I just wasn't the fat kid anymore. 

Life happened.  I never quit CrossFitting, but I didn't do it heavily or seriously.  In one of the worst episodes of my life, I had to work overnight for three months, and halfway through that nightmare my body demanded to be fed a high-sugar diet which lead to me gaining 24 pounds of pure fat in 12 weeks.

I found myself telling people about the "old days" when I had rippling abs.  Probably some people believed me and some didn't.  I get tired of people talking about the old days, and in a remarkable display of consistency I got tired of my own talking about the old days.

I decided to get ripped again.

I did.

I'd argue that quantification often isn't important.  Look good, feel good, perform well, have insanely attractive women tell you that you look good.  But it was good for me to figure out almost exactly where I'm at.  I know that my lean body mass is 165.5 pounds.

It's no longer ambitious or even stupid for me to try to weigh 165 and be a light weight rower; it's downright deranged.  I get to live inside my head and understand how I think.  I know full well why that idea was so appealing to me, but I also know I can have a perfectly happy life as a nightmare 181 pound power lifter and a recreational 'holy shit that guy tries really hard" rower.

That then is what I'm doing.  There is some unfinished business with the fat-loss contest at work and the Colorado CrossFit Masters' Open.  I'm going to coast to the fat loss finish without trying to drop more, and I'll be CrossFitting hard another two weeks.

My next lifting cycle will start next week, and I'm going to enjoy the hell out of it.  I screwed up my lifting training in terms of being able to peak for any of the remaining 2011 meets, and I'm not sure how to handle that.  I might compete to get more experience on the platform and with the understanding that I won't hit the numbers I'm capable of, or if I decide that's too much of an ego-killer I might go as a coach only.

Here's some stuff I know on Friday, September 30, 2011:

I won't always CrossFit as seriously as I do now.

I will never not CrossFit.

I will not always be as lean as I am now.

I will never really be fat.

I deserve to be paid for all I now know about how to eat.

I like to help people, so here is the important part of what I know for free:
eat as much high-quality food as you want
high quality means among other things, you'll have protein, carbohydrate, and fat
don't be scared of any of these
eating is - yes amazingly - pretty natural and hard to do wrong
skipping breakfast doesn't do a damn thing except make you have a later breakfast
eating carbs after 6 pm doesn't do a damn thing except make you eat carbs after 6 pm
thinking about what to eat when is icing on the cake stuff
I never ate exactly what I thought I should when I thought - that got me to 8.1% body fat
more than worth repeating, do not fear carbs, fat, or protein
grain does not make you defecate
fat probably does make you defecate

enjoy the process

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

I Already Know I can Row Slowly

I'm still a little mad, so let me try to diffuse my anger right now.  The moral of this blog post, if it has one, may simply be this: fuck off on the rower all you want, but please do it when I'm not around.

Lately someone rowed a 750 as a work out, not as a warm-up or a recovery, and after finishing in nearly five minutes told me how much fun it was.  In that situation, my full bluntness is going to come out, "you didn't do it right."  Now the person in question realized that perhaps I had a point, so we decided to row a brisker 500.  It wasn't great, but I was satisfied that the person at least bumped into pain if not embraced it.

I told the person that I can row a 500 in under 90 seconds, and that there is nothing fun about that.  The person told me there is no joy in my life.

Look, if you want joy, they have television and candy bars and heroin.  I've tried prescription opiates, and I think I'd do well on heroin.  But that's not what I do.

90 seconds.

I think this year I can do it in 85 seconds, and it's going to go like this: in December I'll try to prove that I can do it in 85 seconds, and at the 2012 Mile High Sprints, I'll make my best effort to duplicate my December time.  Last night with no warm-up I rowed a 250 at a 1:26/500 pace, and while that's encouraging it's largely meaningless.  After a 250, you'll be able to replace the handle, smile at the onlookers, and only then feel the pain.  Flat-out, 250-300 meters into a 500 is where you suddenly feel that you've left the crotch-rocket travelling 120 miles per hour and you're now into the barbed wire fence.  There is no joy in finishing 200-250 meters like that.

I've seen people embrace the pain, and that's beautiful, but rarely does anyone understand what maximal effort means.  Yes, I also didn't understand maximal effort for a while, and I wouldn't say my time in the pain zone was wasted.

But here's maximal effort.  You strap your feet into the stretcher without knowing or caring whether you walk off 90 seconds later or your corpse is carried off.  It's not fun, it's true that I can make myself sick thinking about it, and it's true that I'm doing no more than two a year.

There's no joy here.

There's no joy walking into work when it sucks, the bank when you're broke, even your own home when your relationship stinks.  You'll feel like shit and you'll walk like shit - bent over and knuckle-dragging.  When you remember what you do on the rower, you'll straighten back up and go another 200 or 250 meters, whether your max effort is 80 or 120 seconds.

I hate maximal effort 500's like nothing else.

I don't know what joy is.

Twice a year I know how the predator feels.  Keep your television, candy bars, and heroin.  My joyless life is perfect.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Work & Post Work Out Nutrition

Now I'm getting confused.  I can't remember if I'm seven, eight, nine, perhaps even ten weeks in.  I know that I'm three weeks out, and I know results equate directly with hard work.  The battery on my scale is low, but I step on it everyday since it only works correctly one day in three.  I work, today the scale worked, and I weighed 174.6 - through the sticking point.  So when I did "Christine" today, the body weight dead lift was not the formerly normal 185 but rather 175, which felt great.

Maybe the best thing about CrossFit is how it rewards hard work.  It may take weeks to drop ten pounds of lard, but your work in the meantime gets noticed.  If you work hard enough at the right time, you get to go to California and get free Reebok shit, but if you "only" work hard enough enough to start routinely hitting PR's I think the reward is even better.  If you can blast through a WOD, avoid the time wasting "bar stare," PR, then rip your shirt off and collapse heaving in a puddle of sweat, nobody says you were five minutes slower than the guys who get free Reebok shit.  No, rather they say, "dude, you're a manimal - you fucking killed that work out." Which feels great.

This all happens when you get serious.

Now when you get deadly serious, you have to approach eating the same way you approach working out, except that instead of five, ten, or twenty minutes of misery, you're doing this all day, everyday, for days, weeks, and months.  You follow the plan, and if the plan says you eat 855 grams of chicken, again, that's what you do.

That's hard.

And let me just say, when you avoid the "fridge stare," eat the last of the 855 grams, unclasp your belt, wallow to the futon and collapse, absolutely nobody is there to say, "dude, you're a manimal - you fucking killed that chicken."  Which is hard, again.

Post work out nutrition is important, and when you're leaning out, you don't get your favorite protein shake, milk, or cream.  Those all cause insulin spikes which make you fat.  No, you follow John Welbourn and eat real food, lots of real food.  Lots of the same chicken and yam in fact.

I'll be ecstatic when I stop trying to lean out and go back to trying to be awesome.  I'm not going to go insane, but for a few days, I'm going to eat however much I want of whatever I want.  ( My pancake source thinks ice cream may be overkill.  I should probably defer to her, but if I do it's going to be a half gallon of ice cream for breakfast the next day.)  I am, though, going to make a serious attempt to keep the real food post work out meal.

After the other CrossFitters go home or go to work, there's just the drying puddle of sweat, the memory of the dead lifts, and the chicken and yam.  And there's a moment of clarity.  The chicken and yam, you realize, make the dead lifts possible.  Here you do what you want.  I like to thank the deity of my choice, who may or may not be Almighty Evolution, for this miracle by which real food is turned into dead lifts, not fat.  I like to think that the chickens forgive me for not having the disposable income to buy them from the farmers who raise them responsibly - free, happy, and eating worms, and that the yams forgive me for having only enough money to have them chemically treated and shipped in dark trucks from Mexico.  In any case I thank Dieties and Yams and Chickens for Strength and Health rather than curse convention for disease and decay.

And it's still a pretty good world until it's time for the post-post work out meal of chicken and yams.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

CrossFit Dawns & Tangerine Dreams

I have learned that I can be wrong, even more frequently than I would have thought possible.  But I'm still sure that the world is reborn every night, and if you get up early enough you can see it while it's still perfect.  I look at the stars, or Venus if it's partially cloudy, the moon with yet more cloud cover, and despite cyclical depression, I will be happy to be alive in the temporarily perfect world.

The thugs will have been in bed for an hour or two while the cretins and sluggards will continue sleeping.  There are no asshole drivers at 5:15.  Sure you have idiot drivers, those who think that because they've never encountered a car at an uncontrolled intersection so early they never will, but because they're merely idiots and not assholes, there's no reason to scream, "Jesus fuck you fucking idiot."  A very calm yet assertive, 'fucking, Starbucks, motherfucker" will suffice.

For a few hours my brain will work.  Brutal insomnia notwithstanding, during 6:30 am Foundation classes I can talk about lumbar curves, while at 6:30 pm I have, more than once, pointed at my back and asked, "what do we call this thing?"

And I'm not the only one who has CrossFit dawns.  I'm on facebook around 5 am not to see who got drunk and laid and who only got drunk the previous night, but rather to make sure that Nicole Gibson at CrossFit Roots and Jonathan Sabar at Defy CrossFit are up and ready to go.  I don't get paid to do this, and until now no one knew that I do it, but it's part of the morning crew duties.

Then I have the 5:30 am people who come in.  I waited months for these guys, shovelling snow at 5:15 then sitting in the truck because it's much warmer than the gym and because nobody comes at 5:30.  But one eventually did and then another and at length the whole crew.

At 5:30 everything is perfect except my body which won't really want to anything until 7:30 at the earliest.  But sometimes I look at the crew.  I know that each of them can do thrusters and pull-ups without me watching.  And then, on a day like that, I have to do "Fran" at 5:30.

Now that I can see more of my body than bodybuilders can theirs with an x-ray, I'm officially pushing fat loss to the stupid level.  Actually I'm exaggerating, but if I flex my chest hard enough to cramp, I can see the bottom of my pectorals, which for me is uncharted territory.

Seriously, this is at least moderately stupid, and I don't recommend it for anyone.  As a trainer, I think I should know how to do it, and one time only, I will.  Later, always later, I'll blog about how I got stuck and what I'm doing to restart losing fat.  Suffice it to say now that I'm using aggressive techniques.

But if you're going to be stupid, at least be smart about it.  In an effort to spare muscle, I decided after research to start supplementing with branch-chain amino acids.  The thing with these, like all or most supplements, is that they have sugar and artificial flavoring.  True, if I take bcaa's only before and after work outs, it will take me a month to ingest the same amount of poison the average American gets at breakfast, but to me after eating absolutely clean for seven weeks that's huge.

I tried to hide the sugar under what I guessed would be the least offensive flavouring, tangerine.

At some point you might have adequate justification to take in a fake tangerine sugar bomb.

All I really want to say, guys, is that there must be a better time to experiment with that than after your 5:30 "Fran."


Friday, September 16, 2011

Master's Open Mental Preparation & Halfway

I'm not sure I'm counting correctly, but I think this is the third installment of the Master's preparation series. It was supposed to be the fourth, but I realized I realized I'm not an expert on recovery, the proposed third part. I can say only that I believe it's the most important part of training, and that I'm not sleeping.

I'm doing what needs done in this situation, excluding variables, but so far, nothing.

VP recently reported that I'm CrossFitting like I mean it, and I'm not sure if she made that up, or if she's repeating something I said in pre-preparation trash talking, but in either case I realize I now know what this means to me. The whole of my mental preparation and CrossFitting like I mean it is simply this: before I start a work out, I instruct myself to do my best, and in the event of any kind of mid-work out breakdown, I take two tenths of a second to ask myself if I'm doing my best.

The preliminary instruction part is pretty straight forward; I demand my best and I get it. I can tell you that tomorrow when I do Fight Gone Bad 6, whether I score 250 or 350, it will have been no less than I was capable of at that time on that day.

The breakdown part is more involved, but probably not necessary for the majority of people. If you've been around me for 60 minutes of CrossFit, you know that I could be described, charitably, as temperamental. If I don't like where the chalk bucket is, I want to kick it through the wall. If I don't like the knurling on the barbell, I want to roll it off the mats. If I don't want cheer leading, I want to scream, "shut the fuck up," and so on.

None of that, of course, helps with my power output. What I'm training myself to do, successfully, is to realize that nothing will ever be the way I want it to - and indeed why should it - and that my power output declines less taking two tenths of a second to regroup than it does righting the plyo box I would have bounced off the wall.

Last week was the halfway point in the fat loss contest, and my success in going from an estimated - by four site pinch test - 17% to an estimated 10% provoked some productive discussion about motivation. I'm going to admit there's a large and narcissistic component to this. If we have beaches in Colorado, it's probably too late to go to them, so the usual solution ( I think it was first proposed by IronSport Gym in Pa. ) is to provoke bar fights so that when you rip off your Affliction shirt, your washboard abs are prominently displayed.

That's not my style at all, but yes, I do spend way too much time praying the copy machine at work jams so I can rip off my shirt and clear that motherfucker.

Okay, that's fun. But really I do this because I can, and I take that as incontrovertible proof that you can too. If I play a small role in your getting the girl because of your assertive and aesthetic handling of the copy machine, that's pretty fucking cool.

Things I've learned in six weeks of hard work:

it's true; you can have results or excuses, not both

the hardest part of erging a personal best 2k is strapping into the stretcher and knowing that you're not getting back out for seven minutes or more

the most important part of erging a personal best 2k is saying, "today, motherfuckers, no excuses"

as soon as you can do 100 pull-ups, you have to do 100 pull-ups - tomorrow may never come and even if you're not cremated, it's customary to pose the corpse hands clasped on abdomen

for no reason whatsoever it can be decided that masters athletes don't have to do double unders - when you suck at double unders, doing your best means they stay in your warm up

for a while, over-reaching is a great training stimulus. don't be an idiot and dip into over-training, you're awesome, not immortal

some days you can't do shit. what matters is that you showed up, and trying but failing to do shit was your best that day.

it's possible to blow your calories and macros eating clean food - that just takes a kilogram of yams or 2 kilos of squash.

if you eat a kilogram of yams, it was probably dead lift and heavy metcon day. most of those frightening carbs got shoved into your depleted muscles, and if you wake up a half-pound heavier, it's probably a quarter-pound of perfectly usable glycogen in the muscles, and a quarter-pound of retained water that will be leaving soon enough.

when you do your best, you can cry because thirty people don't show up, or you can remember why you love the three who do.

forget the hookers and cocaine, Twinkies and Sprite, the pancakes will still be there

if you weren't going to drink the gasoline your Puerto Rican friend brought back from the island, it wouldn't be sitting on your desk. you're doing your best, and after the contest, win or lose, you can drink it in celebration. dipping into it now is going to fuck you over, but that's also your choice.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Losing, Quitting, and Hate me After You Lift 8 Tons

"You win some / you lose some / it's all the same to me" - Motorhead

Success can be incredibly motivating. As soon as I could move after PR'ing my 2k row, I did a nice little victory dance around the erg.

And then, at least after a few hours, I started to get mad. Certainly if I can row a 7:10, I can find 10.1 seconds in there somewhere and break 7. So I started studying in earnest for the next Mile High Sprints, which unless something changes are in early February, 2012. I was looking mainly for articles on pacing tactics when I stumbled on an article giving advice on how to handle dying in the middle of a 2k.

That's the kind of thing I file away in case I need it, but I don't actively try to remember it. I'm still convinced my problems are all mental, and if I find myself thinking during an erg test that I know what to do if I start dying, I'll believe that I'm dying, and I'll die. Nonetheless I do remember the first step in the author's suggested 5 step recovery plan, "do not stop."

And that's golden.

Failure can be incredibly motivating. At last year's Sprints, my - much too - high goal was to row a sub-7, my realistic goal was to PR, and my low goal was to avoid finishing last, none of which I did.

But I failed correctly. It's a known bad idea to try to watch the large monitor at an erg race, but I stole a glance to see what I needed to do to hit my low goal. Under 500 meters, I was a full boat length behind, so I did what needs to be done when you're losing; I attacked. I ended up losing by two seats, I couldn't stand up again for a few minutes, and I got enough motivation to start erging for 2012.

If I could have waltzed in there and rowed a 6:30, I'd have most likely moved on to four-square by now.

So you see, I think it's ridiculous that talk is circulating about quitting the fat loss contest at work now that we had a mid-point pinch test, and some people are forced to realize that they're behind. There are insinuations that I intentionally "bulked up" pre-contest, and that that is somehow cheating. I made it public knowledge that I was training for a power lifting meet and slamming a pint of heavy whipping cream a day, and now that I am literally working my ass off, that seems to bother people.

Is putting on adipose tissue by running a caloric excess with whipping cream while lifting heavy ass shit somehow wrong, while putting on adipose tissue by heavy-ass sitting and Cheetos is acceptable?

I pointed out to the group that no matter how fat has been gained, we all lose it the same way, and that as CrossFit Balboa likes to make very known, you can have results or you can have excuses.

So fucking hate me and quit. Hate me because you spend hundreds of dollars a month on caffeine and placebo weight loss supplements. If I expected a free ride to progress, I'd go back to drinking coffee. It costs less than supplements, it would make me even more erratic and unpleasant to be around, and it would even stain my teeth.

But I neither want nor expect the free ride. That's why last week, among other things, I dead-lifted over 8 tons and did 45 box jumps in 8 minutes.

So fucking hate me, or you could try moving 8 tons as fast as possible, and see if you don't get results like I do and entirely lose the desire to hate anyone.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

High-Perfomance Nutrition: Dialing in

In my last post I advocated the millions of years old fad, the Paleo diet. No, I don't know that it's millions of years old, but I do know any other diet has been around 10,000 years or so at the most. I'm busy getting lean while improving my strength and work capacity, so I won't waste time arguing if 10,000 years is long enough to adapt to eating corn flakes and Ding-Dongs.

From my experience what frequently happens is that people start the Paleo diet, and at some point go on a Paleo permutation diet. It's not uncommon for people like me who start out with ample adiposity to develop a deathly fear of carbs. I know that at times I've been in ketosis for weeks if not months, and yes, that leads to rapid and efficient weight loss. Problems really creep in when you look at Mark Sisson's carbohydrate curve and read various authors who point out, correctly, that there is no such thing as an essential carb. Finally, meat is just really good. It's not at all hard over time to eat meat and just sort of forget any vegetables.

So I was happily eating meat, telling everyone how great my diet was, and while not actually gaining weight except when I was drinking a pint of heavy cream a day, I was definitely not looking and feeling great like I did when I first went on the Paleo diet.

If it's not working, figure it out.

One of my real strengths, I'm sure, is knowing that I don't know everything. I decided to find an expert to tell me how much of what to eat, and it didn't take me long to decide on CrossFit Football's John Welbourn. It's a stretch to say I know John, but I did attend his CFFB certification, and I got a good sense of who he is and how he thinks. Now pay attention, this is important. I'm sorry I forgot where I read this and to whom it should be attributed, but here is a huge secret: only hang out with people who look for the truth, and distrust those who claim they've found it. The thing about John is that he wants to know everything, he knows what he doesn't know, and he goes looking for world-class experts to plug his knowledge gaps. He's a prodigious reader on nutrition and many other subjects but he regularly corresponds with Robb Wolf to make sure he gets it right.

Good enough for me.

Here's the short version of what John says about how to lose fat while maintaining strength and power: set calories at 15 per pound of body weight, eating meat, vegetables, and supplementing coconut oil as needed set the macros at 23-25% protein, 25-30% carbohydrates, and 45-52% fats.

So I got a kitchen scale and did that.

I figured out quickly that I tend to get way too much protein while also under-eating. The body, being smart, interprets this as a famine and tries desperately to hold or even accumulate fat deposits.

So I fixed it, mostly.

I tend to come in around 30% protein, 15% carbohydrates, and 55% fat which seems to be close enough to work.

I made this all ridiculously easy on myself, as I have to or I won't do anything. I eat only eight foods now: chicken, ground beef, sardines, yams, acorn squash, eggs, coconut oil, and green leafy stuff. I made a spreadsheet with the macro content of these, except for the green leafy stuff which would require two or three kilograms to make a difference, and enter everything I eat.

If for some reason you feel you need to eat more than eight foods, seven of which count, there are online trackers that will do all this. I tried the one at LiveStrong, but I had to quit when it castigated me for eating too many eggs.

Also, I don't believe in getting uptight about this stuff. As I keep tracking, my macros get closer to the targets, but they never quite get there and it still seems to work. And I have a rule against being hungry. I don't really have a cheat day, but on Thursdays, dead lift and heavy metcon day, I get ravenous, and I eat. I used to work at Abbondanza's Pizza which has the best retirement plan of any place I've ever worked: they still let me go in the kitchen and make whatever I want. So I do. This amounts to a bowl of spinach topped with handfuls of turkey, ham, bacon, sausage, ground beef, pepperoni, and onions and green pepper for good measure. Not exactly clean being some of the worst commercial meats, but not exactly dirty being at least Paleoesque. I'm not going to waste time programming my spreadsheet for a once a week gorge, but I'm sure I come in well over 3,000 calories.

I'm fully committed to fat loss until the contest at work ends in mid-October, and then I'll see if I really want to push my weight down to 165, but I'll take a one day break first. One of my friends has offered to make me gluten-free blueberry pancakes on or about October 18th, and I'll let her do it. I might even stack up twelve, put a Reece's Peanut Butter Cup between each layer, and dump a quart of whipping cream over the whole thing.

Until then, here is
The Only Dessert You'll Ever Need

1. Open your refrigerator and take out half a baked acorn squash. You should have this because you're eating acorn squash and you bake several at a time. It's one of the few good ways you can get enough carbs.

2. You can weigh the squash. At this point in my progress, I'm confident that unless you have a genetically modified monster, you've got 250-350 grams.

3. Scoop out the good stuff and put it in a skillet. I mash it into a cake. There's probably a tool for this; I use my hand.

4. Heat it. I flip it a few times, and I like to intentionally burn some of it. Carbon counts as a flavor when you eat eight thing.

5. When this gets uniformly heated, or has pretty burned areas - whichever comes first, crack four eggs in the skillet and scramble the whole mixture. At this point in my progress, I will bet that four eggs weigh 240-300 grams.

6. Just really stir the crap out of this so that the eggs are thoroughly cooked and you get a homogeneous mix.

7. Dump this in a bowl.

8. Put something more than a tablespoon of coconut oil on it. I don't have a tablespoon. I use a supposed coffee measure I found in my cupboard. Judging from my memory of what a tablespoon is, this scoop is about one and a half tablespoons.

9. Optional. Really it works great without this. Maybe you happen to have some butter around. Not a lot certainly because then you'd admit you eat nine things and you'd have to weigh it. Take enough butter to scare the shit out of your high-carb, low fat friends and then double it. Put this on instead of coconut oil. Actually I haven't tried both at once. It's probably heavenly.

10. Dump a lot of Cinnamon on top. Seriously, use much more than you need.

11. Enjoy while playing Internet chess or looking at your abs in the mirror.

I wrote this with my Internet Chess Club client running in the background. Mid-blog I got caught up in arbitrating a dispute in the 45 minute team league where I play and serve as a tournament director. This scrambled my thoughts like the eggs and squash above. This unfortunately is a lighter treatment than I had intended, so feel free to post questions to comments.

Monday, September 5, 2011

High Performance Nutrition: Foundations

People are motivated by widely differing things. I, for instance, don't care about longevity. If it were pointed out to me that my diet would leave me with type 2 diabetes in 20 years, or give me cancer, I'd remain nonchalant. I've had some outrageous fun, mostly in South America, and if I could train two or three years with Royler Gracie in Rio de Janeiro, hit a qualifying time for the C.R.A.S.H.B's and have Concept 2 fly me to Boston, and total elite in a USAPL meet, I'd die happy in three or five or ten years.

Perhaps it's my outlook on life that makes me wildly motivated by performance. However long I live, I want to feel and function well.

My problem a few years ago was that I seem to be lucky in that I can perform fairly well on a somewhat worse than standard American diet. I honestly don't remember what I used to eat, but I know it included donuts and protein bars, 31 grams protein, 31 or more grams sugar. Lifting a few times a week and training Brazilian jiu-jitsu seemed to override my diet. I was gaining strength and losing fat.

When I started CrossFit, I measured my performance against Mike D as we were at a similar level, and we tended to alternate WOD times day-to-day: usually the guy who went harder yesterday would come in second today.

At some point, probably one of those annoying 30 day challenges, Mike D decided to try the Paleo diet, and I decided not to. Two weeks in I was consistently beating Mike, and I did what I do in those situations: I laughed derisively and suggested he eat a few bowls of oatmeal. But at the three and four week marks, Mike was outperforming me consistently. Like everyone his body just needed a few weeks to adapt to metabolizing fat, aka diesel fuel, instead of sugar, and then he was off to the races.

I was at first reluctant to follow Mike because I thought the Paleo diet was both fanatical and faddish. Who the fuck doesn't eat donuts?

But once Mike showed me how much I myself might be able to improve my performance, I decided to give it a go. The possibility of performing better was enough to get me going. As a trainer, I've learned that's not true for many people. I don't know if I can do any better than paraphrase Robb Wolf. Try the Paleo diet for thirty days. If it doesn't work, Sprite and Twinkies will still be there. I've noticed too that some people are reluctant to try, citing conflicting studies on nutrition, or the lack of long reaching research into the Paleo diet. I don't get it. You have the ideal lab, your body, and in 30 days you can do a valid study of your own.

Remember, the Sprite and Twinkies will still be there.

Now sometimes, and this was the case for me, the Paleo diet stops working. This will almost certainly be your fault, and in my case it was my fault. In the next edition will look at trouble-shooting Paleo pitfalls. Until then, I want to explain that following the Paleo diet is idiotically easy. I can do it, you can do it. I'll leave you with an annotated recipe I actually made today, so you can see just how idiot proof this can be.

Paleo "Spaghetti"

First, get a bunch of ingredients. You can probably do this at a store, or better, a farmers' market. That's all too complicated for me. I did it like this:

1) Get as many awesome friends as possible. I'm extremely antisocial, and I was able to do this by getting involved in CrossFit.

2) Have one of your friends with extra vegetables drop off a bag containing spaghetti squash, tomatoes, and garlic. Some other stuff might help, but its absence doesn't hurt.

3) Stab the fuck out of the squash so it doesn't explode, and put it in the oven for an hour at 375 degrees. I really liked this part best because it seems like absolutely everything gets baked at 350.

4) Get on the Internet and look up some easy marinara sauce recipes. Don't worry, you're not going to follow any of them. Just get the gist of what's going on and wing it.

5) Chop the garlic and onion until you get bored.

6) You're supposed to have a sauce pan. I don't even know what that is so I used a skillet. You're supposed to put some olive oil in it. I didn't have any so I used coconut oil. It's probably not a big deal unless God really is Roman Catholic, and the Italian kind too.

7) You're probably used to turning the stove way up and power-cooking the fuck out of everything. Here you want to be really calm. Turn the stove on low and just accept you're going to get bored.

8) Put the chopped garlic and onion in the skillet. You should probably watch it. I played a few games of one-minute chess on the Internet in between stirring the mixture.

9) I was told to blanch the tomatoes and remove their skins. That's not the kind of thing I do. Fuck it.

10) Crush the tomatoes and add them to the skillet when the onions and garlic are slightly browned or I guess caramelized even.

11) Stir this occasionally, or just go back to playing Internet chess.

12) Realize there is no protein in this. Brown 300 grams of ground beef. It's important to measure the beef so you know how much protein you're getting. In principle you should have weighed the squash, but don't bother. I found out a kilogram of squash is going to give you right around 100 grams of low GI carbohydrates, so don't worry about it. You're having fun. You can weigh everything again tomorrow.

13) Remove the squash from the oven. It's possible that you're supposed to let it cool a while. This is where I find my extensive background in welding helpful. I have permanent scars on my forearms from molten steel. I'm not getting my ass kicked by a 375 degree squash.

14) Cut the squash in half and scoop out all the seeds. Then start scraping out the meat which really will look like noodles.

15) Dump the beef in the sauce. Dump the sauce on the squash.

16) Eat half of it now. Save half for after your 8,000 meter row.

I haven't eaten spaghetti in years, so I really don't know if this was anything like spaghetti. I know it was good, and it won't kill me.