Thursday, September 1, 2011

You've Got Questions....I've Got Answers

Thank you all for the questions that you submitted, here is the first round of answers - please feel free to continue to post more and I'll pull them through into a future post.

Laura - Hey, I've got a question for ya! I have been doing a 21 day challenge of strict paleo and while it's been going really well, I have found that I am craving gum. I can't seem to shake this and have been giving in to it. I am chewing like 6 to 8 pieces of gum a day. I am assuming it's because I am craving sugar? Thoughts?? -- Melinda
Melinda - gum even through it's "sugarless" contains artificial sugars and sugar alcohols - these sugars still have the same effect that regular sugar has on your body - it spike insulin and causes an inflammatory response.  I'm not sure if gum is hitting your sugar craving but it could be.  If you really want to  be to the letter on the strict Paleo I would recommend cutting the gum since it has the sugar and sugar alcohols.  So what can you do instead of gum - if you're looking for something minty and clean - a Paleo substitute would be to chew on some mint leaves (I happen to have an excess of mint growing in my garden so that is really easy for me to get).  You could also try brushing your teeth or rinsing with mouth wash - that might give you the minty hit and help tell you that you're done eating.  Instead of having gum, try drinking some more water or having an unsweetened tea.  Check in with yourself and see if you're actually hungry.

What are some less guilty cheats/treats. When/how should or can they be incorporated. - Megs

Megs - first it depends on who you are and what your goals are when and how to incorporate treats into your normal food.  If you're happy with your current weight, body comp then you'll be able to incorporate things like treats.  If you're looking for Paleo Treats - sticking to things like fruit are "least guilty" and doing something simple that feels a little more like a traditional treat.  I like to make my version of a Paleo fruit cobbler - I heat up blueberries with a tablespoon of almond butter and some unsweetened coconut flakes, mix it up and it turns out to be delicious.  As for some other treats, there are a few Paleo Dessert Books out there - but it's important to remember that Desserts, even in Paleo-land are still sometimes foods.  They are things to enjoy on occasion and in moderation and not daily.  Check out Nikki Young's book Paleo Sweets or try the Primal Palate's cookbook which also includes a lot of delicious sounding desserts as well as quite a few listed on their site under their recipe tab!

What separates the elite crossfitter from the good one? Is it a super strict diet? Working out everyday? Twice a day? What separates a Froning and Spealler from the average crossfitter? – Dan

Dan - Great question, I think genetics might be the first thing that separates the elite from a good Crossfitter.  I think it's individual to each person too, but dedication is definitely key - dedication to training, food, sleep, and overall lifestyle are consistent things in the elite athletes.  As far as workout type and load, I think the elite guys and women are all VERY STRONG.  Each athlete does their own thing - it was rumored that Spealler was doing 3 workouts a day for training up until the games.  Elite Crossfitters do every workout with a purpose, they don't go to the gym and do whatever is on the board or is programmed that day.  They are working on strength, areas that are their weakness, and they are definitely not doing the long "sexy-metcon" that most Crossfitters really love to do.

When not on a strict paleo diet (meaning you will allow for non-paleo food and drink every once in a while) and you are out at the bar, what is the best alcohol to drink that is not wine? – Mike Fab

Mike - even strict Paleo diets include the occasional alcohol indulgence - unless you're doing a specific challenge or have chosen not to have alcohol be part of your food, having an occasional drink is part of a balanced Paleo life.  So what to get when you're at the bar...the best Paleo-friendly alcohols to drink are clear and non-sugar based - so stick with a vodka, tequila, or whiskey. If you're not planning to order it on the rocks, try a vodka soda or Robb Wolf's famous NorCal Margarita - tequila, club soda, and lots of lime.  Beer is made from grains and loaded with sugar, so not a very good Paleo choice.  Wine is better since it's grain free, but is still high in sugar, and yes is not always what you want to be drinking at a bar!

How about portion sizes of the different macro nutrients. Obviously a 200lb guy needs different portions compared to me [much smaller, 5'2" lady]. As do someone in maintenance, weight loss/gain. - Megs

Megs - the Paleo/Primal model doesn't have a set macro nutrient ratio like other diets do - and unfortunately this is another one of those it depends on who you are, what your goals are, and what works for you question.  If you're looking to lean out, you probably want to limit your carbs a bit, if you're a very active athlete you probably need to eat more fat, protein seems to be a personal thing some people do well with more, and some do better with less.  A good starting place on portions is to think about protein being the size of your fist (the size of your fist is smaller than the size of a 200lb guy's fist), fat filling your hand if you were to open it, and veggies to fill up 2 hands together.  Start with that and then see how you feel - are you full?  are you still starving? and then play with a little more or less fat, protein, veggies, adding fruit, etc until you find what works for you.  Once of the reasons that eating a Paleo diet is sustainable is because you don't need to weigh and measure, your body will tell you what you need and how much you need - you just have to trust it.  If you're not seeing the results that you want, they you need to start writing down what you're eating and take a look at it from a common sense perspective - yes common sense is still used in Paleo-land.  If you're eating a pound of cashews a day, 3 lara bars, and a pound of fruit and aren't seeing any weight loss you need to start tinkering with the quality of the Paleo foods you're eating and to dial back things like a ton of nuts.

A guideline for someone training for another sport (tri, hockey, running) and crossfitting. I.e How to balance the two to avoid losing strength and not over training or getting injured. - Megs

Megs - this is a great question and one that I think a lot of athletes at Crossfit King of Prussia mix - being a Crossfitter and doing another sport.  What I've learned in Crossfit is that less is often times more, you can sub your sport specific workout with a Crossfit workout for anything that is "junk mileage" or "easy run" or fill it in the "cross training" blank.  You can also use Crossfit as a speed workout or tempo run.  Crossfit is great for building strength, increasing lung capacity (especially if you're doing the CFE workouts) and for general improved fitness. 
I'm glad you included the balance part because that is very important - it depends on your other training load and your personal recovery time in addition to your food, sleep, and stress levels.  Over training is very easy when you're following a training plan for another sport and then adding Crossfit to it - you need to be careful to plan rest days and respect your rest days and most importantly listen to your body's cues.  If you are so sore you cannot walk, don't go to heavy squats if that's what's on the agenda at Crossfit, if your are noticing nagging sickness that's another sign that you need to dial it back.
It's triathlon season for me, so I dial my Crossfit back to 2x per week and try to go on the strength days if I can work it into my schedule since I'm getting more than enough met-con through the bike rides, runs, and brick sessions (bike to run).  I've found this combination works best for me, ironically I need to plan the rest days more than the training days to make sure I'm giving my body enough time to recover.  When I'm following a training program I take out things like 4m easy run, 10m easy bike and replace those workouts with rest or Crossfit.

Dealing with the frustrations of being or feeling like you are at a plateau with strength, body fat, etc. Some things to try or other ways to look at it and maybe you aren't stuck or going backwards. - Megs

Megs - Plateaus stink and are discouraging, and they are usually long - hence why they are called plateaus.  If you have stalled in your progress you need to mix it up and try something new.  Address the issue by re-evaluating both your workouts and your food.  Maybe your workout schedule is too tough, and the stress you're putting on your body is causing a release in cortisol which is not letting you lose your extra weight - so you need to dial it back a little bit.  Maybe you've fallen into a routine and need to try something new, adding cross training or sprints, or maybe you've lost your intensity and need to amp up what you're doing a bit more.  From a food perspective, it could be taking that final step and removing something that's iffy from your diet (e.g., dairy) or it could be adding something back in and seeing if that helps you run and perform better. 
To avoid being discouraged, try to focus on how far you've come and all of the positive things you've accomplished and most importantly don't give up.  It's not uncommon to get lots of strength gains at the beginning of a workout program and then have weeks and months go by until you get another PR.  If you find yourself going backwards, use that as a jump start to move the needle back in the direction you want to be going in.

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