I have been CrossFitting for over three years now and most of that time I've been on some form of Paleo diet. At times I have been in stellar condition and able to perform at a high level. I am, however, a guy which means that I love to lift heavy, and I have a tendency to become obsessed with the slow barbell lifts at the expense of everything else. I rarely eat junk, but I do have a near weekly cheat day, and at times I have drunk a pint of heavy whipping cream on a daily basis. I tend to cut CrossFit down to about two work outs a week, and I often cherry-pick those; they're going to be short, heavy, and quite likely barbell-centric. None of this is really bad, but all of it is far short of perfect. It makes me strong, people ask me where I work out, and while no-one says, "dude, you're jacked," no-one says I'm fat.
In early July, 2011 I decided to enter the July 31st USAPL power lifting meet at the Colorado State Games at 181.75 pounds. I usually walk around at 185 pounds, and I was shocked to find that I had crept up to 194. It's not hard to take off 13 pounds in three or four weeks, but I am much more accustomed to take off 5 pounds in a week. There was, coincidentally, a twelve week fat loss contest at work purportedly with a more than $1,000 prize to the winner, so I thought I had adequate incentive to hone my diet for three months and see how much fat I could strip. Additionally, the inaugural Colorado CrossFit Master's Open competition would occur immediately after the fat loss contest, so I thought I might as well go all in and see how much I could improve my conditioning in the same three months.
Here is where I started:
|7/10/11 Powerlifting Faileo James - those could be abs|
Body fat by four site pinch test: 17.5%
Body fat by consensus: 12-13%
"Cindy" score: 14.433 rounds
2,000 meter row: 7:26.0
What I attempted to do for three months:
1) Follow John Welbourn's dietary recommendations for fat loss - strict Paleo diet, no fruit, no dairy, 15 calories per day per pound body weight, 25% protein, 25% carbohydrate, 50% fat.
2) Lift four days a week hitting the squat, dead lift, bench press, and press.
3) CrossFit four times a week with two entirely random WODs and two cherry-picked WODs designed to hit my weaknesses, notably all body weight movements and time domains exceeding 15 minutes.
4) Do a second work out on the C2 erg.
What I actually did for three months:
I ate absolutely nothing forbidden. If I want to seriously do anything, I have to make it very easy on myself, so I ate only the following foods: ground beef; chicken; yams; squash; eggs, sardines; coconut oil; various green leafy vegetables. I entered the nutritional data for all of these into a spreadsheet and tracked my daily intake of macro nutrients and calories. In ninety days, I never got this absolutely right. I tended to do okay on the fat, but usually had too much protein at the expense of carbohydrates. I never had less than my body weight in grams in protein, as I made absolutely sure to hit this number every day no matter what else happened. When I started, I noticed my calories were way too low, and over time I moved them to the target number and eventually beyond. I chose not to be hungry. Often on Thursday, dead lift day, I would program a met con involving high-rep, medium weight dead lifts after my lifting, and I would develop a ravenous appetite. By the time I gave up tracking calories on Thursdays, I was well over 3,000 while my target was around 2,500.
I was perfect with my lifting. It's easy to do what you're already good at.
I started out hitting four WODs a week, but after several weeks it was becoming clear to me that I was not recovering. I was at least smart enough to realize continued pushing would make me regress, so I backed down to three a week.
Over time, my second rowing work out degenerated into a very low intensity affair due to my inadequate recovery. I love the erg, but here again I realized I over-reached and entirely quit the attempt at a second work out.
To summarize, I did a fantastic if overly ambitious job of planning, and while I fought to the best of my ability, I fell well short of what I targeted as perfection. Now of course this is subjective, but I honestly believe I came very close to doing my best. Yes there were days when I could have pushed the WOD harder or passed up the extra 150 grams of ground beef and I failed to do so, but there were not many of those. To be honest and not merely ego saving, I think I did an excellent job of adjusting my programming and eating on the fly. My over-riding principal was to listen to my body and quash all the attempts, which I damn well knew I'd make, to be an idiot and push too hard.
Here is what happened in twelve weeks and a few days:
|10/16/11 CrossFitting Paleo James - six evident|
|10/16/11 CrossFitting Paleo James - twin pythons and who knew the trapezius has striations?|
Weight dehydrated: 174.5
Walking around weight: 180
Body fat by four site pinch test: 12%
Body fat by consensus: 7% (when building a consensus, find people who already like and support you.)
Body fat by hydrostatic test: 8.1%
"Cindy" score: 16.756 rounds
2,000 meter row: 7:08.4
mustache: still perfect but now seductively lustrous probably from the dietary fat
Twelve weeks is really not a long time to make such a dramatic change. I had fun the entire time and enjoyed my self imposed discipline. I did have a very high motivation level for various reasons. I wanted to win the fat loss contest and the money, I wanted to have a respectable showing at the Master's Open, and as a CrossFit trainer and affiliate owner I though it was time to quit being lazy, practice what I preach, and show my clients the synergistic power of CrossFit and Paleo.
It can be seen that all those are external motivations, and I think that it was critical that I also had a high degree of internal motivation. To be succinct, I was disgusted with my previous half-hearted efforts at everything besides lifting, and I wanted to quit effing around.
I did what I set out to do, and it was Awesomeness cubed.