That’s right folks. We’ve done the unthinkable on a bike tour, we’ve gone Paleo. Not just Paleo, but full-on first 30 days of Whole30. Now before you think we’ve gone crazy from too many miles on the bike, or think, what the heck is all this weird jargon?…hold your horses people. I’ll get to answer both of those questions!
First off, what is Paleo? Here is an excerpt from one of my most favorite and easy to read books, “It Starts With Food” by Dallas and. Melissa Hartwig:
“Before we go any further, let’s debunk some myths about the Paleo diet. First, it’s not about recreating the existence of cavemen. No one wants you to go without electricity, hot showers, or your beloved iPhone. And yes, cavemen didn’t always have a long life span, but that’s not because of their food choices—it was more likely the lack of antibiotics, the abundance of predators, and harsh living conditions. Second, it’s not a carnivorous diet—the moderate amount of high-quality meat is balanced with tons of plant matter (vegetables and fruit). Third, the fat you eat as part of a Paleo diet will not clog your arteries because fat all by itself is not the culprit in that scenario. (Really. More on that later.) Finally, the diet is not carb-phobic; it’s 100 percent sustainable from day one, and it’s really not that radical—unless you consider eating nutrient-dense, unprocessed food radical. Which, in today’s microwave-dinner-fast-food-low-fat era, might very well be the case.”
Now I bet you are thinking, “Okay, okay, I think I remember hearing about the whole Paleo thing, but what the heck is Whole30?” I told you to calm down. Are you drinking too much coffee again? I’m getting to that next already geez! Okay, here are the rules of Whole30. Keep in mind that this refers to the first 30 days.
“NO: Do not consume any of the following foods or beverages for the duration of your Whole30 program.”
Added sugar of any kind, real or artificial. No table sugar, maple syrup, honey, agave nectar, Splenda, Equal, NutraSweet, xylitol, stevia, etc. Read your labels, because food manufacturers sneak sugar into products in ways you might not recognize or even imagine.
Alcohol. In any form, not even for cooking. (And it should go without saying, but no tobacco products of any sort, either.)
Grains. This includes (but is not limited to) wheat, rye, barley, oats, corn, rice, millet, bulgur, sorghum, amaranth, buckwheat, sprouted grains, and quinoa. This also includes all the forms in which wheat, corn, and rice are added to our foods: bran, germ, starch, and so on. Again, read your labels.
Legumes. This includes beans of all kinds (black, red, pinto, navy, white, kidney, lima, fava, etc.), peas, chickpeas, lentils, and peanuts. No peanut butter, either. This also includes all forms of soy—soy sauce, miso, tofu, tempeh, edamame—and all the ways soy is sneaked into foods (like lecithin).
Dairy. This includes cow’s, goat’s, or sheep’s milk products such as cream, cheese (hard or soft), kefir, yogurt (even Greek), and sour cream, with the exception of clarified butter and ghee. (Keep reading for details.)
White potatoes. If we are trying to change your habits, it’s best to leave white, red, purple, Yukon gold, and fingerling potatoes off your plate. There’s a world of new veggies waiting for you to make room for them!”
You are probably wondering at this point, “So what the heck CAN you eat?” Just one last excerpt from that same wonderful book:
“YES: Feel free to include these foods as part of your varied healthy-eating plan.
Clarified butter and ghee. Clarified butter and ghee are the only dairy products allowed. Plain old butter is not, as it contains milk proteins.
Fruit juice as a sweetener. Some products use orange or apple juice as a sweetener. We have to draw the line somewhere, so we’re OK with a small amount of fruit juice as an added ingredient.
Certain legumes. Specifically, green beans, sugar snap peas, and snow peas.
Vinegar. Most varieties of vinegar, including white, balsamic, apple cider, red wine, and rice, are allowed. But vinegars with added sugar or sulfites, and malt vinegar (which generally contains gluten), are not.
Processed foods. Minimally processed foods like canned coconut milk, applesauce, tomato sauce, chicken broth, or canned olives are all acceptable—but avoid anything with MSG, sulfites, or carrageenan: these additives all have potentially nasty side effects.”
Now you really think we’ve lost our minds right? Nope. There’s a few really great reasons we are doing this. It’s part health, part performance, part aesthetics and part experiment. The health part is based on extensive research on processed foods causing depression, amongst other mental health disorders. I also have hypoglycemia and this type of diet keeps my blood sugar balanced and therefore I have loads more energy throughout the day. The performance part is based on reading articles about cyclists who have gone Paleo, which is a very new concept, and have had great success. This is really also part of the experiment because it is such a new idea. It does take a little while for your body to adapt to using fat as fuel, rather than carbs, but once it does, you are burning strong all day long! Aesthetics. I have leaned out big time in the past as well as put on muscle from this type of diet. It works. I was quite displeased during my first 5 weeks of bike touring to see my body putting on some weight and my body fat increasing. How many cyclists or endurance racers out there have always wondered why men seem to barely be able to keep on the weight while women remain…well, a bit chubby? I’ll debunk that for you more adequately later in another blog, but for now we will stick to my solution and some important details. I ate whatever I wanted in the beginning. Lots of carbs for fuel. I felt crappy. I finally got myself back off gluten 11 days ago and I have already lost 4-5 lbs and I feel way better. The biggest reason though, is the proof that this type of diet can help or completely take away depression and anxiety symptoms. Another good read is Grain Brain. We are doing this in hopes to be another successful case study. Our plan is to include this type of healthy eating in our future non profit programs.
We are on day 14 of our Whole30, and we will continue to give updates on how it’s going. It’s not easy in any way. Cravings are raging, but we are holding strong. We both have terrible sweet tooths and this will take care of that, eventually. This is the best time on our tour to get this done. Most of our days will be shorter, and we can take more rest days when needed. Wish us luck!