I was terribly skinny as a child. My cousins and siblings made fun of me for being fragile. When I played football in elementary school they thought I’d burst into pieces on any given hit. They weren’t wrong. Up until middle school, I was a twig.
Then something happened in my early teenage years. I gained the wrong type of weight. I stopped playing sports and started eating the Standard American Diet. You know the one. Cereal for breakfast, sandwich for lunch, potatoes, rice, and meat for dinner. I never considered my diet as the culprit for the weight gain. In fact, I believed my diet was healthy. Everybody was doing it.
I don’t want to exaggerate and paint the wrong picture. I was not obese. I did not get made fun of as the token fat kid. I looked normal in my oversized hand-me-down clothes. I just was not happy with how I looked coming out of a shower. I shied away from pool parties and visits to the beach with friends. This is something most teenagers deal with. I didn’t do much about it. Why? Because I didn’t know what to do. So I did the next best thing, ignored it.
College turned out to be a similar experience. I had no direction in how to solve my problem. But, I made great friends with a group of guys who made going to the gym a priority. A consistent exercise regimen helped. I became more solid and less squishy. I spent four years trying to out-run and out-lift a steady diet of wings, pizza, and beer. I was spinning my wheels.
Then something incredible happened towards the end of college. I started to read for fun. Up until 2010, I read for school assignments only. Even then, I was a paid subscriber to SparkNotes, CliffsNotes, and other similar services. I have no shame in admitting what got me hooked to reading either: The Harry Potter series. I crushed all 7 books in a month. Best story ever told.
Back to the point. I realized, reading a good book is like downloading new software into your brain. If you don’t have access to someone with a success story in your current predicament, reading a “how-to” book can bridge the gap. The summer before senior year, a good friend recommended Tim Ferriss’ Four Hour Workweek. I took his copy and read it. Then I bought my own copy and read it again, taking notes and highlighting along the way. I was so intrigued. Not only by the content of the book but the ease in which it was available to me. I was curious. I began to make a list: What else do I need to learn about?
Right around the same time, Tim Ferriss was releasing his second book, Four Hour Body. The subtitle reads, “An Uncommon Guide to Rapid Fat-Loss, Incredible Sex, and Becoming Superhuman”. How could I not read that? So I did, twice. Within six months, I lost 30 pounds. Here’s the kicker, I did not lose ANY strength. I was benching, pressing, and pulling the same weight as before, if not more.
About a year later, I started CrossFit. Like most people, my first year of CrossFit was PR after PR. The growth you see in the beginning is amazing. Then it plateaus. Every extra pound on the snatch takes about a month of practice. Going from kipping to butterfly pull-ups takes weeks of ripped hands and frustration. Going from single unders to double unders takes patience and lashes on your arms and legs.
In this period of stagnant growth, I realized my diet had not changed. I was still eating to lose weight. I had expressed my concerns to the coaches. This is when the owner of my gym recommended a book called The Paleo Diet For Athletes. She knew, from experience, my diet was not conducive to the work I was putting in at the gym. Someone else recommended I read The Zone Diet. This book goes into detail about how macronutrients (protein, fat, carbohydrates) effect our bodies. The CrossFit community leans toward eating Paleo quality food in Zone quantities. CrossFit Impulse wrote a great article explaining how to eat Zone.
I spent at least 4-6 months eating a strict Paleo quality and Zone quantity meals. I looked and felt great the entire time. Then the initial excitement wore off. It became a hassle to ensure the macros of each meal adhered to the rules of the Zone diet. Furthermore, it became difficult to eat as much as I needed to eat. The calories on Paleo carbohydrates are nonexistent. The amount of broccoli or asparagus you need to eat to balance 3 eggs is… just annoying.
It was around this time I began to dabble with Bulletproof Coffee as my pre-workout meal. I broke fast with Bulletproof Coffee for 2 months before I decided to read The Bulletproof Diet . The premise is like Paleo with an emphasis on consuming copious amounts of high-quality fats.
Through all these resources, I’ve come up with a guideline for my personal diet. I’ve listed my “rules” below.
- Roughly 2,000 calories per day – got this figure from MyFitnessPal & Ruled.Me Keto Calculator
- Use MyFitnessPal To Track All Meals
- Avoid Dairy & Gluten (Choose Dairy Free Gluten Free options whenever available)
- Avoid added sugars
- Limit Fruit Intake (one serving per day or less)
- Increase Veggie Intake (carrot, cucumber, spinach, kale)
- 1 gram of protein per pound of lean body mass per day – Currently @ 135 pounds of LBM
- Less than 20 grams NET carbs per day (net carbs = total carbs – fiber)
- Rest of calories come from high-quality fats (Brain Octane Oil, Grassfed Butter / Ghee, EVOO, Nuts, Seeds)
- One epic cheat day per week (Saturday). Must be so gluttonous, I feel ridiculously guilty and can’t fathom cheating for at least another 7 days.
- The first half of the day looks like pancakes or waffles for breakfast and a sandwich for lunch.
- The second half of the day looks like pizza for dinner and donuts for dessert.
- Do a protein fast one day per week to reduce inflammation (Tuesday).
- Do an Intermittent Fast once per week (Thursday).
- Ideal: Last meal at 8PM the night before. Have a Bulletproof Coffee for breakfast. Start eating real food around 2PM. Stop eating real food around 8PM. Some wouldn’t consider this IF (the window is too big / I’m drinking BPC for Breakfast), but it’s simple and it works for me. Which means it’s a step in the right direction.
These criteria are subject to change based on my goals. It’s good to have a set of rules to adhere by. However, if I go to an event where the food doesn’t satisfy my criteria, I’m not going to starve myself. I strive to make the best choice available to me in any given situation. That might mean Thursday unexpectedly becomes Cheat Day because I decided to go out to watch the game and have wings, burgers, and cookies at a buddy’s place.
What do your “dietary rules” look like?
Let me know in the comments below!