Paleo Challenge

Have a question, success story, or something to share about the 30 Day Paleo Challenge, Building a Paleo Plate, recipes, encouraged foods, or more? Let us know in the “Comments” section below, or email

Eating By Macro. The Best of All Worlds.

admin : December 28, 2014 6:40 pm : Paleo, Paleo Challenge

Contributed by Coach Jason

This is the first in a series of posts in support of the Elite Athletic Development | CrossFit Arlington Heights Performance Fueling PrescriptionRegister for the program today!

The athletes who train at Elite Athletic Development | CrossFit Arlington Heights are committed to achieve their maximum potential. The adult and student athletes who train here are working hard to improve their “Fran” time; increase a 1RM Deadlift; cut time from a 5k, half-marathon, or marathon; change body composition; reduce or eliminate prescription drugs for blood pressure, cholesterol or Type 2 diabetes; or any number of other physical and performance goals. Regardless of the goal, one thing remains true: proper fueling is key to attaining success. But what is “proper” performance fueling?

There are no “bad” or “good” foods in the EAD | CFAH Performance Fueling Prescription … just the “right” foods for your nutritional needs.

The Good. The Bad. The Ugly. The Numbers.
The desire to achieve athletic success and the confusion behind the role nutrition plays leads many to eat only so-called clean, good foods and avoid bad foods at all costs. The premise seems simple enough … except there is no objective set of scientific criteria used to define clean foods. And there is zero data or evidence that a certain food or group of foods — clean or otherwise — will help you lose fat or perform better in the gym, or cause more fat gain or delay fat loss outside of the excess calories it has provided. Also problematic in the good foods / bad foods approach is that it leads many people to an unhealthy relationship with food and a lifelong battle to sustain athletic performance or body composition success. The most important factor in any nutrition plan is THE NUMBERS.

Eating By The Numbers.
The EAD | CFAH Performance Fueling Prescription was created exclusively by certified nutrition educators for our athletes to help them build a fueling strategy unique to their body composition and training goals. The PFP is the antithesis of traditional New Year’s Resolution plans based on scarcity and deprivation, and “good” or “bad” foods. Instead, the PFP is designed to ensure athletes abundantly consume foods they enjoy in and that will help them look good and feel better. The PFP is a by the numbers fueling strategy, and inspried by the practice of flexible eating.

Flexible Eating.
Flexible eating is a scientific approach to nutrition and plate composition that relies on nutritional values, not food types. There is strong empirical evidence that supports the ideology that NUMBERS MATTER when it comes to athletic performance, body composition, and optimal health for athletes. In this approach to nutrition planning, energy intake in the form of calories is closely regulated as energy input and output is the basis behind body weight and performance. Monitoring macronutrients (Protein, Fat and Carbohydrates), micronutrients (vitamins and minerals), and fiber levels are also vital when using a flexible eating approach and are accounted for in terms of a certain number of these each day. While using this approach, no foods are off limits or restricted. If a food fits within your personal set of goal numbers, enjoy it! The practice of inclusive versus exclusive meal planning fosters a healthier and more sustainable approach to nutrition. The EAD | CFAH Performance Fueling Calculator is a simple tool to help our athletes determine the optimum mix of macronutrients to support their training, performance and body composition goals.

What Flexible Eating is NOT.
Although there are no foods that are off limits in this approach to meal planning, food quality is still critically important to proper fueling. Flexible eating is not an excuse to see how many cookies and donuts you can eat … but it doesn’t mean that there isn’t room for such foods in moderate amounts during any given day! Food quality in flexible eating is determined specifically by the numbers in any given food … not obscure and subjective beliefs about food types. Working within a set of numbers designed specifically for your individual needs, you will discover that in order to reach the right number of Protein, Fat, Carbohydrates, and Fiber, you will enjoy a variety of nutrient-dense foods that one would normally associate with healthful eating.

Jason graduated with honors from Benedictine University with a degree in Pre-Med / Nutrition and Biology, and will enter medical school in the coming months. A self-proclaimed nutrition nerd, Jason is a CrossFit Level 1 Trainer and nationally licensed EMT-B. Read more about Jason.




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Paleo Challenge l Winter 2014

: December 23, 2013 1:58 am : News, Paleo Challenge, WOD


Could there possibly be a better way to kick off 2013 than by investing 30 days to improve your health by eating “clean”? We think not.

Welcome to the Elite Athletic Development l CrossFit Arlington Heights 30 Day Paleo Challenge, Monday, Jan. 6 – Tuesday, Feb. 4. Join your fellow athletes as they commit to eat ample protein, tons of vegetables, some fruit, and plenty of good fats. Absent from the Paleo Plate? Grains, dairy, legumes, soy, peas, corn, green beans, sugar, honey, maple syrup, agave, artificial sweeteners, sugar alcohols, processed foods and alcohol.

Email to register, or visit the EAD / CFAH Facebook Page and RSVP on the 30 Day Paleo Challenge Event Page.


30 Days Paleo Down. Now What?

: January 29, 2013 9:54 pm : Paleo Challenge, WOD

Contributed by Coach Karen

What will you eat for breakfast when the EAD / CFAH Winter 2013 30 Day Paleo Challenge concludes in less than 175 hours?

Will you join more than one-third of Americans who drop anchor with the Cap’N and pour a bowl of cold cereal? Are you more likely to grab a bagel, toast, muffin or pastry? Maybe you’ll go back to skipping breakfast. Or – dare I suggest? – your first post-Challenge forkful February 6 is no different than the thoroughly planned and carefully considered choices you’ve made since January 7?

Research suggests grass-fed beef -- a mainstay on the Paleo Plate -- has up to 10 times more beta-carotene, three times more Vitamin E and three times more omega-3 fatty acids than grain-fed beef.. Grass fed beef has lower levels of unhealthy fats, a lower level of dietary cholesterol, and no hormones or antibiotics. Image courtesy of Q7 Ranch / Mother Hen Poultry.
Research suggests grass-fed beef — a mainstay on the Paleo Plate — has up to 10 times more beta-carotene, three times more Vitamin E and three times more omega-3 fatty acids than grain-fed beef. Grass fed beef has lower levels of unhealthy fats, a lower level of dietary cholesterol, and no hormones or antibiotics. Image courtesy of Q7 Ranch / Mother Hen Poultry.

Thirty days of eating clean and green is a great start, but it’s not really enough. Consider how long you’ve unconsciously consumed calories, with little regard to how the food was chemically treated, processed and handled before it hit your plate. For most of us, we’ve lived far longer with mindless versus mindful eating, which is why I encourage you to continue to build meals and snacks brimming with nutrient-dense and energy-enriching foods to fuel your performance-based lifestyle.

Wednesday, Feb. 6 – the first post-challenge day – will be no different than the previous 30 for many EAD / CFAH athletes; they will remain steadfast Paleo eaters. The very thought of adding grains & legumes, dairy, starchy veg, sugars and processed foods invokes an involuntary shudder, and perhaps a bit of bile for these folks. Some participants will jump off the Paleo wagon with abandon and chalk up the past 30 days to another life experience. Some will opt to eat Paleo 80 percent of the time, and reserve 20 percent for planned, mindful variety. And yet others will devise some variation of all of the above. There is no right answer for everyone, but you owe it to yourself to take time to make a conscious choice about how you will eat going forward. I strongly encourage you to maintain the key elements you learned, practiced, and (perhaps) perfected over the past 30 days, including:

  • Avoid diet sodas; non-nutritive / artificial sweeteners; high-fructose corn syrup; foods with added sugars; partially or fully hydrogenated fats & oils; refined grains; processed foods; drive through / fast foods; ground & composite meats (like sausage) made from unknown / factory sources; packaged foods with ingredients you can’t pronounce or have no idea of their purpose; artificial preservatives & colors; glutamates
  • Eat a hearty and well-rounded breakfast
  • Fuel training with appropriately timed pre- and post-WOD food choices
  • Select grass-fed beef, free-range poultry, wild caught seafood
  • Shop the perimeter or the grocery store
  • Choose nutrient-dense, dark leafy greens, and nutritional multi-taskers
  • Judiciously read labels
  • Research nutritional information when you eat out, and boldly call off less-desireable ingredients at restaurants
  • Plan meals with vigor & intent
  • Ban “clutch & crutch” foods – the ones that may fill a temporary emotional need or satisfy a habit but make you feel icky – from your pantry
  • Consider what you eat, eats –pay attention to what you put in your body, and how your body responds.

Next Steps, Part 1.
Over the next few days, take stock of what feels different after eating clean and green since January 7. Grab a piece of paper and a pen, take five minutes and write down everything that comes to mind:

  • How you feel overall
  • Changes you’ve noticed in your relationship with food — how you sleep, how you shop, how your body responds to food, and more
  • The absence of symptoms that you previously accepted as “normal”
  • Comments people have made about the changes they’ve seen in you
  • What was easy, what was challenging, what surprised you
  • Compliments you’ve received, and more.

Then take another five minutes and really read the list. Aloud. Let it wash over you. Celebrate what you’ve accomplished. And then plan your next steps.

Welcome Back?
As tempting as it may be, don’t hit the breakfast or lunch buffet February 6. Many of you have shared with me near miraculous health improvements since eating Paleo. If you load up your plate with grains, legumes, dairy, sugars & processed foods, you’ll never know which foods — if any — trigger your body’s inflammation cycle, complete with aches & pains, belly bloat, sinus congestion, embarrassing gas attacks, constipation, diarrhea, headaches, “brain fog”, mean streaks / mood swings, and more. Instead, consider the following food re-introduction process:

  • Introduce each of the known inflammation-provoking foods – grains / gluten, eggs, diary, nightshades – one at a time, and in that order.
  • For four consecutive days, add one meal that includes the potentially-offending food; then for three days remove the food. If you have any reaction (The Inflammation Cycle), you’ll know that food group is one you should continue to avoid.
  • For the seven-day cycle, pay close attention to how your body — and those around you — react. Did you need to unbutton your pants after eating the plate of pasta? Is your nose stuffy after drinking coffee with cream? Did anyone suggest you were a bit moody? Is your sleep suddenly restless? Do you feel sluggish during training? These are signs that the food may not be your friend.
  • Do not overlap the food groups – re-introduce only one food per week. Food sensitivities or intolerance may rear up immediately, or it may take a few days for you to notice.
  • If you’re eating Paleo to combat an auto-immune issue, you may want to stick with it for an additional 30 days.

Next Steps, Part 2.
Be sure to take time to complete the Post-Paleo Challenge Questionnaire, break out the scale for the first time in 30 days (as if I needed to remind you to do that!), take your measurements, and snap the post-challege photo.If you completed the Paleo Baseline WOD, be sure to repeat the WOD Tuesday, Feb. 5.

Please submit your Pre- & Post-Paleo Challenge Questionnaire so I can complete an analysis of the changes experienced by folks who committed to the challenge. Didn’t make it the full 30 days? That’s okay … submit the paperwork anyway, along with a note as to why you opted out. Everyone who completes and turns in the pre- & post-Challenge Questionnaire will be entered in a drawing for three classes added to their account.

Keep Me Posted.
If you opt to continue eating Paleo in any form, check in regularly with me, and feel free to continue to ask questions — how you fuel has a direct impact on how you perform during training and throughout your day.


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Goin’ Crazy in the Nut House.

: January 22, 2013 12:09 am : Paleo Challenge, WOD

Contributed by Coach Karen

Nuts — without question — are the “go to” snack or recipe ingredient for most participants in the EAD / CFAH 30 Day Paleo Challenge. Munch walnuts to quell a craving. Grind almonds for pizza crust or Paleo treats. Sprinkle cashews on stir fry. Toss macadamia nuts in a smoothie. Eating Paleo for many turns the kitchen into a veritable nut house. That makes Week #3 of the 30 Day Paleo Challenge the perfect time to question the craziness and consider cracking the attraction that’s making you go nuts.

It may be time to evaluate nut consumption if the past two weeks include the change "Here a nut, there a nut, everywhere a nut, nut nut."
It may be time to evaluate nut consumption if the past two weeks include the chant “Here a nut, there a nut, everywhere a nut, nut nut.”

Nuts are nutritious, satisfying and convenient little gems. They’re fiber-rich, and a great source of monounsaturated fats, which have been shown to reduce low-density lipoprotein or “bad” cholesterol, while increasing high-density lipoprotein or “good” cholesterol. But they’re calorie-dense, and high in lectins[1], phytates[2] and other enzyme inhibitors[3]. They can quickly push more nutritious foods off your plate, and, of most interest, are rich in polyunsaturated fat and pro-inflammatory[4] Omega-6 fatty acids.

Nut or Butt? Calories in nuts come primarily from fat, and those calories tally quickly as you snack ‘em by the handful, or incorporate them in breakfast, lunch and dinner recipes. Consuming too many nuts could negatively impact body composition changes. Robb Wolf, EAD / CFAH 30 Paleo Challenge mentor-at-large and Paleo expert, targets over-zealous nut consumption as a key barrier to fat loss.

Empty Satisfaction? The grab-and-go nature of nuts is dangerous when you’re tired, overwhelmed or under-supplied. A bag of nuts or jar of nut butter—plus a comfy couch and favorite TV show—offer an attractive alternative to shopping and preparing a nutritious meal. Nuts also drive satiety, or that satisfied feeling of fullness, making it easier to leave the kale and other nutrient-dense offerings behind.

Skew You. Tipping the Omega-6:Omega-3 ratio is likely the most adverse impact of habitually eating nuts. Nuts tend to tilt to pro-inflammatory Omega-6 fatty acids, so eating too many drive you away from the desired 4:1-5:1 ratio of Omega-6s:Omega-3s.

Seek Equilibrium. Building a Paleo Plate is a great start to establishing Omega-6:Omega-3 equilibrium. But it takes work. According to holistic living expert Chris Kresser, the average American consumes 9 percent of total calories from pro-inflammatory Omega-6 foods. With no change in Omega-6 consumption, that equates to eating 11 ounces of wild-caught salmon every day to just keep pace.

Kresser says a more realistic approach to creating Omega Equilibrium is to increase consumption of anti-inflammatory Omega-3s—say three 4-ounce servings[5] of wild caught salmon weekly—and decrease Omega-6 intake to approximately 3 percent of total calories by eliminating processed and packaged foods, and conventionally-raised poultry and pork; limiting restaurant meals; and mindfully munching nuts … essentially following the EAD / CFAH 30 Day Paleo Challenge. Other options to increase Omega-3 include enjoying Grassfed Beef and Omega-3 eggs.

Mark Sisson of Mark’s Daily Apple fame has a simple approach. “What drew our ancestors to nuts – the caloric density and the fat content – is what makes them ‘dangerous’ to modern man. It makes sense that we easily snack on them all day, because our ancestors probably gorged themselves on nuts when they were available. We should eat them, too, but it’s important to stick to reasonable, evolutionarily realistic amounts.”

If nuts have been more like a healthy condiment in your meal and snack planning during the first two weeks of the EAD / CFAH 30 Paleo Challenge, keep up the great work; bonus points if you pick nuts high in saturated fat and low in polyunsaturated fats like Macadamias, Cashews and Hazelnuts. However, if nuts have been more like the main course, it is time to make an adjustment.

Food for Thought. Would you go batty if you gave up nuts for one week? Comment.

[1] Lectins are carb-binding proteins that can stick to the lining of the small intestine and trigger a host of problems. Foods high in lectins are at the top of the “Avoid” or “Moderation” lists during the 30 Day Paleo Challenge – grains, legumes, soy, dairy, related oils, nuts and members of the nightshade family.

[2] Phytates are antioxidant compounds found in whole grains, legumes, nuts and seeds that can bind to, and slow absorption of, certain dietary minerals. You can soak nuts overnight in water with sea salt to leech the phytates. Drain the water, spread the nuts on a baking sheet and dehydrated for 8 hours in a 140-degree oven; cool and refrigerate.

[3] Enzyme inhibitors bind to enzymes and decrease their activity, potentially disrupting digestion and absorption.

[4] The typical American ratio of Omega-6-Omega-3 fatty acids 10:1-20:1, a contributing factor in increased rates of Cardiovascular Disease, Type 2 Diabetes, Obesity, Metabolic Syndrome, Irritable Bowel Syndrome, Inflammatory Bowel Disease, Rheumatoid Arthritis, Asthma, Cancer, and more (see The Inflammation Cycle).

[5] Based on a 2,000 calorie diet.


Paleo Performance Fueling Tips.

: January 18, 2013 11:25 pm : Paleo Challenge, WOD

Chase the link to learn more about Paleo Performance Fueling Guidelines.

Contributed by Coach Karen

What a difference a week makes.

The number and fervor of the “I-can’t-believe-(insert testimony)-after-eating-Paleo-for-just-12-days” anecdotes far exceed even a passing mention of food cravings by participants in the Winter 2013 EAD / CFAH 30 Day Paleo Challenge.

Ask anyone fully on-board with eating clean & green since January 7 and they’ll regale you with tales of deeper sleep, brighter eyes, clearer skin, better and more consistent (ahem) evacuation, boundless energy, less belching, a flatter tummy, and more. Nothing like a bit of success to squelch the Week #2 doubt of “Can I make it for 30 days?” Ask challenge participants that question as they head in to Week #3 and they’ll answer “I’ll never stop eating this way!”

Most challenge participants are beginning to recognize that building a Paleo Plate is about abundance, not deprivation. Diets and calorie restriction deprive the body of nutrients and energy to function and perform, and deliver a “skinny fat” aesthetic. Eating Paleo fuels performance while you train and throughout your day, and drives desired and sustainable body composition changes.  That’s why the scale is banished during the 30 Day Paleo Challenge (and dare I say, beyond …). The metrics we track  have much more to do with gains in strength, power, muscular endurance, and overall athletic performance; improve these, and you will achieve your dream “look.”

Week #3 is the perfect time to fine-tune your Paleo Performance Fueling. EAD / CFAH 30 Day Paleo Challenge mentor-at-large and Paleo expert Robb Wolf this week released a series of charts that help decode what, when and how much you eat based on your goal: autoimmunity, endurance, strength & power, or fat loss.

If you’ve participated in one of the EAD / CFAH Performance Fueling Nutrition Workshops, or met with me one-on-one, you’ll find great symmetry between my recommendations and Wolf’s charts, and the protein and calorie guidelines won’t phase you. Some of you, however, might be shocked by how many calories you should take on board each day. If your jaw is slack and you gasp as you read the calorie guidelines, please don’t panic; contact me and we can walk through the necessary progression to increase your calorie count. Please don’t dramatically increase or decrease calorie count overnight. Let me say that again. If you currently take 1,500 calories on board each day, but you should be closer to 2,800, the calorie increase is gradual over weeks, and possibly months.

Take a moment to review the charts, assess how your current fueling syncs up, and contact me with any questions or concerns.

FOOD FOR THOUGHT. Has anyone tried to derail your progress since you started eating Paleo? If so, how did you handle the situation? Post your “Comments”.


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The Inflammation Cycle.

: January 11, 2013 7:13 pm : Paleo Challenge, WOD

Contributed by Coach Karen

One of the more popular questions posed this week — “Why eat Paleo?” — is not really the question folks want answered. Five days in to the EAD / CFAH Winter 2013 30 Day Paleo Challenge, what folks really wonder is “What did I get myself into?” and “Can I make it for 30 days?”

It isn’t surprising that folks question their choice to eat Paleo based on the dramatic change required to eat real food instead of desert for breakfast. Shop for, cook and eat veggies with every meal. Try new herbs and spices. Scrupulously read labels. Cook and cook and cook some more. Break-up with processed and empty-calorie foods that bring comfort, assuage fear, calm nerves, fill voids, satisfy routine and feed habit. Withstand loving — and not-so-loving — critique and commentary from family, friends and co-workers. Acknowledge the harsh reality of how absolutely awful they ate pre-challenge. Make conscious choices about the foods they eat, instead of grabbing whatever is handy. And, learn more about the food chain, and how what you eat eats can negatively impact your health.

As Week #1 of the EAD / CFAH Winter 2013 30 Day Paleo Challenge winds down, first-time and returning challenge participants should begin to find relief from headaches, food cravings, crabbiness and the sense of loss over “go to” foods. The sugar and carbohydrate cravings should subside, and the underpinnings of a new, healthy relationship with food as fuel for performance begins to undermine mindless, habit-based or emotional-crutch eating.

Yes, you really can make it 30 days of eating clean and green. Don’t let a moment — and it truly is just a moment — of discomfort sway you from your long-term goal of establishing a sustainable, healthy way to fuel performance, in the gym and throughout your life.

When it comes to the larger question of “Why eat Paleo?”, one of the more compelling reasons is to reduce low-grade, chronic inflammation. Several area orthopedic surgeons and rheumatologists say their first line of defense when working with patients suffering from chronic joint pain is to prescribe an inflammation-free diet for 30 days. The diet excludes all foods known to start and sustain the The Inflammation Cycle. Sound familiar? The foods enlightened docs ask their patients to sideline — instead of automatically prescribing meds — match the foods EAD / CFAH Winter 2013 30 Day Paleo Challenge participants opted to leave behind until Tuesday, Feb. 5.

Download a copy of the Inflammation Cycle. Click on the link below.

Eager Achiever Paleo Challenge participants — those who started before January 7 — have already begun to chart improvements in one or more of the signs of inflammation. If you asked them prior to removing the inflammation-provoking foods from their diet if they had a sensitivity to any foods on the list, they would’ve categorically said “No way”; that would not be their answer today. Take a look at the The Inflammation Cycle chart. Recognize any of the signs of inflammation in yourself? If you’re like most people, you will. Stick with eating clean and green, and imagine what you might learn about yourself between now and February 5.

Food for Thought. What was your experience — good, bad, indifferent — during Week #1 of the EAD / CFAH Winter 2013 30 Day Paleo Challenge? Post your thoughts in the “Comments” section.




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