Older Faster Stronger: The Cavemam Diet

This is the first thing I did on my road to super fitness.

Lost 10 pounds in five weeks. Super-charged my energy and health. Didn’t count a single calorie. And developed a new delicious way of eating that feels as if it will stabilize my weight for life.

When my nutritionist/personal trainer Kirsten Bedard suggested doing a version of the paleo diet, I may have grunted, intentionally disparaging our ancestral heritage. No grains? No dairy? Are you kidding me? As a menopausal marathoner, I figured those two major food groups were exactly what I needed. Plus, I had just finished writing a book about sustainable, local and organic foods, and now I was supposed to go pre-agriculture?

“Just try it for two weeks,” she said.

I tried to get my family doctor to say going paleo was crazy. He didn’t. Nor did a sports physiologist and a sports medicine doctor I consulted. “It’s the way we were meant to eat,” was their common response.

That was four months ago.

Except for one or two meals a week – I’m not a fanatic — I have eliminated virtually all processed food, sugar and grains from my diet, and my only dairy is a tablespoon of Greek yogurt and two tablespoons of cottage cheese over a breakfast bowl of fruit. My meals consist of all the veggies I can eat (though not much corn or white potatoes); fruit; protein in the form of meat, fish and eggs; and good fats such as avocado, olive oil, flax and nuts (though not peanuts). My carbs come from vegetables and fruit, which pack a lot more nutritional punch per calorie than high-glycemic grains and rice. And with my menopausal metabolism slowing down yet heavy marathon training to fuel, I need excellent calories not junk calories.

Kirsten warned me that I might feel a bit wonky in the second week as my brain grew accustomed to its new chemistry. I felt fantastic, like I was super charging my system on micronutrients and vitamins. Before paleo, I had crashing fatigue nearly every afternoon, yes, about an hour after eating a sandwich. Now my moods and energy stay high – and steady – throughout the day. And the deep muscle soreness I experienced after a hard long run has abated. Next day, I am sufficiently recovered — and keen even — to do a major strength-training session for my legs and some kick-ass core work. Paleo experts say the diet aids in muscle building – perhaps my stunning new glutes can be Exhibit A and B in that case.

I did learn (by getting very light headed) that supplemental glycogen loading is required to fuel hard workouts longer than an hour. Kirsten recommends a “timed release” of carbs by taking a power bar or gel before and fueling with gels or sports drinks during the workout. As I’m not a fan of processed food, I’m still experimenting with alternatives – two majool dates stuffed with almond butter sustains a hard 90-minute interval training session.

I’ll talk about the science and application of paleo a lot more in my book, as well as my most excellent paleo stools. But for now, no more disparaging comments about Neanderthals. Call me Cavemam and I’ll take it as a compliment.

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3 Responses to Older Faster Stronger: The Cavemam Diet

  1. Alison January 22, 2013 at 5:54 pm #

    I love this post! I’ve been hearing a lot about the growing popularity in the Paleo diet, or versions of it in the past year… but mostly through other blogs or other online media – never from someone I actually see on a regular basis. You have been looking great and I’m glad to hear that you’re feeling great as well! Thanks for sharing :)

  2. Mike January 23, 2013 at 9:16 pm #

    “I have eliminated virtually all processed food, sugar and grains from my diet, and my only dairy is a tablespoon of Greek yogurt and two tablespoons of cottage cheese over a breakfast bowl of fruit. My meals consist of all the veggies I can eat (though not much corn or white potatoes); fruit; protein in the form of meat, fish and eggs; and good fats such as avocado, olive oil, flax and nuts (though not peanuts).”

    It doesn’t sound like you’re doing anything extreme here, just the diet that nutritionists have been advising to do for decades. Only this “healthy” diet fails to grab media attention because it doesn’t have a trendy name. Although you’re limiting your carbs, at least you recognise that you DO need high-GI based carbs for training.

    “I did learn (by getting very light headed) that supplemental glycogen loading is required to fuel hard workouts longer than an hour. Kirsten recommends a “timed release” of carbs by taking a power bar or gel before and fueling with gels or sports drinks during the workout.”

    Well that IS your body’s requirement for carbs, but rather than extracting them from high-GI sources, have a banana, or a slice of dark rye with peanut butter. This is where

    The problem is that everybody wants something “instant” these days. Complex carbohydrates take a little bit longer to break down. That’s this “crash” people refer to, but because of the way the modern trendist is programmed, we say “well i’m not instantly feeling better the second I eat this, there must be something wrong with me”. There’s not, that’s just the human body doing it’s thing.

  3. Melissia Leidy June 16, 2013 at 12:51 am #

    Proponents of this diet argue that modern human populations subsisting on traditional diets allegedly similar to those of Paleolithic hunter-gatherers are largely free of diseases of affluence,and that multiple studies of the Paleolithic diet in humans have shown improved health outcomes relative to other widely recommended diets…’.*

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