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The Whole 30 Experience

We completed the whole 30 challenge last week.  I wanted to do the nutrition challenge because a) Ill do nearly anything with the word "challenge" in it and b) getting ready for a race in mid-March and thought cleaning up my diet couldnt hurt.  I did not have a weight-loss goal for this challenge.  When I saw the challenge listed on the crossfitstrong site, I told my wife that i was going to do it.  After a day or 2 of her questioning why I would want to put myself through that - she agreed to do it with me.  This was very key in my ability to stick with it and not be miserable.

To help describe the experience, Ill start with a quick background on my diet and training going into the whole 30.
  • Generally a pretty healthy eater.  I dont eat fast food, limit deep-fried anything, eat a fair amount of veggies and fruit, etc.
  • Ive been running consistently for the past 7 years and have been doing Crossfit since October.  I am currently training for a trail marathon in mid-March.
  • 9 out of 10 days I was having 1-2 glasses of wine, beer or whiskey after work / with dinner
For me, the 30 day challenge broke out into a few different phases:
  • Days 1-3: Starving my Ace Off - For the first 3 days I was ravenously hungry.  As a runner, I am used to a high-calorie diet and rarely let myself get hungry.  I was eating nearly all day long (nuts, fruit, etc.) but I guess my body had not adapted yet to getting calories primarily from non-carbs, so I was constantly hungry.  My wife and I were also still figuring out our routine of frequent grocery visits, menu planning, etc.  No other major side-effects for me other than being hungry.
  • Days 4-15: Cruise Control - This was the easiest time of the challenge for me.  I was in a routine, my body had adapted some to the changes, my energy levels were good and I was enjoying the new foods.
  • Days 16 - 25: I Love it, but is One Glass of Wine Really Gonna Kill Me - At this point, I totally believe in the diet and am generally enjoying it - but I am also starting to get tired of the rigidness of the challenge.  For example, not being able to have a glass of wine at a client dinner or not being able to eat a couple of my favorite foods (sushi rolls, pizza after a long run, etc.).
  • Days 26 - 30: Im Gonna Miss It - By this time, Im in the final stretch and there is no doubt Im going to make it through the challenge.  In fact, I actually started kind of regretting the end of it and wasnt as excited about the little "list" of foods I was going to re-introduce.  
The things I missed during the challenge:
  • Creamer and Splenda in my coffee (or getting a latte)
  • Wine 
  • Sushi Rolls with Soy Sauce
  • Pizza and beer after long runs
Since the challenge ended, Ive essentially stayed on the general diet with only a couple of exceptions:
  • Ive had wine 2 times with dinner
  • I had sushi rolls with rice and soy sauce
  • I had a small portion of risotto with my sea bass at dinner on Saturday
I plan to stay on it, but also to enjoy some of my favorite foods on occasion.  

To me, the benefits of doing it are:
  • Lost body fat (lost weight in general - probably about 8lbs)
  • Higher energy levels throughout the day
  • Sleeping better
  • Better athletic performance (crossfit and running workouts have been great for me)
  • Fun - it has really been run and forced my wife and me to be creative with our cooking and ingredient selection.  The result is a lot of great meals that we wouldnt have otherwise tried.
Ive told several friends, family and co-workers about the program and have 4-5 others who are trying it now.  

One interesting theory Im testing is what re-introducing carbs back just prior to athletic events does.  Since Christmas, every 2 weeks Ive done a benchmark treadmill workout where I set the incline to 10% and run 8 miles as fast as I can.  The first time, it took my 92 minutes and 30 seconds and I was exhausted (I equated it to racing a 1/2 marathon all out).  Two weeks later (a few days into the nutrition challenge), I ran the exact same workout in 91 minutes and thought that was a great improvement.  Two weeks later, I ran that workout in 88 minutes and was thrilled.  Last Sunday morning, after completing the 30 day nutrition challenge but then having the small portion of risotto on Saturday night, I did the same workout in 81 minutes and 45 seconds (6:15 faster than 2 weeks before and over 10 minutes faster than 7 weeks prior).  Ive run enough to know that that type of gain didnt come from running alone.  I credit the combo of running, great crossfit coaching and this whole30 diet.  What I want to test is whether re-introducing the complex carbs the night before a hard, endurance workout is highly beneficial.  Over the next several weeks leading up to my race I plan to test the theory by doing whole30 diet during the week and then eating a small portion of complex carbs the night before my weekly long/hard runs.  If my performance holds up that way then Ill do the same for the race.  I definitely dont plan to carb-load in the traditional sense.


Viewing 1 - 6 out of 6 Comments

  • DeveneyW 02/15/2011 08:36:03

    @Slexy-funny you bring that book up, Jake was telling Linz and I about it on the way home sunday and we started glancing through it on his IPAD....some good info in there!  Linz just ordered the book for both of us to read on vaca....looking forward to learning more helpful tips!

  • DeveneyW 02/15/2011 08:34:53

    Justin-great blog and awesome work on the time improvement on your treadmill experiment!  This def is motivating for me to keep going on my version of whole 30.  It seems as if everyone has the same consensus about feeling so much better during the workouts.  Keep up the good work buddy!  
  • marlam 02/14/2011 17:16:29

    Great Blog Justin – Please keep us updated on your experiment and I can’t wait to see your results from your upcoming race!

  • MikeB 02/14/2011 12:13:21

    Good stuff Justin!  Congratulations on completing the Whole 30 challenge!
  • AlexisR 02/14/2011 11:24:38

    This is really interesting. Keep me posted on this. I am very curious about your results.
    I just started reading a new book recently that you may enjoy. It's bizarre, but interesting and this guy likes to test theories, like you.....
    The 4-Hour Body by Tim Ferriss
  • CodyR 02/14/2011 11:24:19

    This is great information Justin.  Thanks for posting.  I'm interested in hearing what happens with your experiment.  Keep us posted.


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