Monday, February 23, 2009

Paleo-Zone - An Experiment on yours truly

"There are no bread trees or pasta bushes." T.S. Wiley in Lights Out

I came across the Paleo concept when i first got into Crossfit It's all right here, pretty simple. Paleo means to eat only foods a caveman would have access to. So, no beans,rice,wheat (bread/cereal), corn,potatoes,dairy, sugar, alcohol, or "processed" foods. For 4 weeks I ate only meat, fruit, vegetables, raw nuts, and eggs. I cheated a little, beer, coffee (w/milk), protein bars and drinks for convenience. My logic was - this can't be a "diet", it needs to be a lifestyle - something permanent. I would not be infinitely strict (although, with time if find myself getting stricter). Supposedly, this was a cholesterol lowering diet. My father and grandfather both suffered from heart disease, both had open heart surgery. Was I destined? I had my blood checked after 4 weeks. Total Cholesterol/HDL was the lowest it had ever been in 6 yrs of testing. Triglycerides were actually UNDETECTABLE - 1st time in ~ 10 yrs. WTF? I was actually eating eggs, red meat, apple slices fried in bacon fat! Was it so simple? Why didn't my doctor tell me? This needed further investigation. I read all i could - Neanderthin, Enter The Zone, Protein Power, Good Calories Bad Calories, Lights Out and talked to Crossfit NSC trainers - Jason "J-Dogg" Highbarger, Dan Grant, Robin Boose - to learn of their experiences. This was too logical. I had to do an experiment on yours truly.
The Experiment: For 12 weeks i would eat Paleo and exactly control the proportions in order to get 1 gm protein per lb of lean body mass and insure 30-30-40 - % calories from protein, fat, and carbohydrates respectively. AND i would not take my Lipitor!

I made a spreadsheet and looked everything up on If my ratios were not within 3% of target, i adjusted proportions. I did not follow zone blocks because i thought that was too dumbed down - too many approximations/assumptions. My experiment would be "exact".

The results: After 12 weeks of Paleo-Zone and no Lipitor, my Total Cholesterol / HDL was 239/82 = 2.9 About 6% lower than it had been, on average, for 4 years while on Lipitor and 35% lower than my base line before Lipitor while on a "healthy" diet. My HDL, @ 82 mg/dl, was 27% higher than it had been, on average, over the previous 6 yrs - and i've always exercised a lot and "watched" my diet. HDL is the "good" cholesterol. Most shocking, my triglycerides were "undetectable" on 3 separate measurements. My body fat decreased from 13% to 7%. These are the quantifiable differences. Subjectively, i just plain felt GOOD. To be fair, it wasn't a perfect experiment. I started crossfit just before the Paleo Zone diet - most likely a positive influence, but i've always been very active. I adjusted the fat content of my diet mid-stream because I was losing weight too fast and my lean body mass started to suffer. Lastly, because my weight was not held at a constant, I cannot isolate the effects of bodyfat vs diet. However, in total, the results were astounding to me and at the last 6 week checkpoint, I was losing body fat (1.6 lbs) while gaining muscle (2.5 lbs). This brings me to the purpose of this Blog. Paleo foods are plentiful, but not necessarily exciting. There is naturally less variety compared to a standard Western diet. On the bright side, this makes shopping REALLY easy - literally, you avoid 90% of the supermarket. To keep it interesting though, you need to be creative. In addition, you need to pay attention to the "math" if you want to eat in zone proportions. I don't know HOW important the zone proportions are but I believe it's a good starting point. I spent a lot of time balancing my meals and I continuously spend time making them interesting. So, the goal of this blog is to share with you recipes for zone balanced paleo meals. For you Zoners, my meals are about 5 blocks. Scale appropriately. (for non-Zoners, read Barry Sears book Enter the Zone - it's worthwhile reading). I'm a little lazy - I wash all my cloths together, lights darks, cotton, wool. I cook the same way. So these meals will be "easy". Not every meal is an adventure - you'll see some basic stuff but that's just so you can get an appreciation for proportions and see what's been working for me. I've always been comfortable with cooking - I was a cafe cook in the summers while in college, and have cooked for myself my whole life, and I like to experiment with foods - ask my kids. They'll tell you about "Steve's Surprise". I hope you're surprised how tasty Paleo cooking can be..
Feedback - don't let me sit here all by myself ;-) If you follow this blog, try the meals, and post your comments! My goal is to offer a new recipe once/week minimum with a simple prep description and pictures.
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  1. Steve, this is really inspirational! I have been on the "fence" about starting a strict paleo diet. Your cookies were my first real taste of something paleo (thank you for leaving them out on the counter at CrossFit NSC over the holidays). I have tried on two separate occasions to bake them, but mine sucked in comparison. You definetly have a flare for cooking.

    I am signed up for Robb Wolf's nutrition cert this April at CF Central. I think it should be informative, but I am really stoked that you started this blog. Thank you for sharing your experience. Man you are dedicated. Nice work here dude, I look forward to stopping by often.

    Eric Sanders

  2. I appreciate the feedback Eric and i want to encourage you! It shocks me that the general population does not know about this stuff - i guess there's more money in selling drugs than books/seminars on Paleo eating.....Hope you enjoy Robb's class - was eyeing it myself. Steve

  3. Steve, I love this, I'm excited to see more of your recipes!

  4. can i get a copy of the speadsheet you created?

  5. Fireman Rick - Yes you can. It's in excel. Does that work? email?

  6. Is this a Paleo Spreadsheet? Can I get a copy?
    -Fireman John

  7. I've been doing Paleo for 2 months now with a little bit of a break over the holidays. I was getting a bit bored with it because I was strictly doing meat, veggies, fruit, nuts, egg whites. I'm so excited to see your recipes and discover that we can add some variety.

    My husband and I both crossfit and my performance is much improved and I'm down 12 pounds in the 2 months with the paleo/zone. I don't really have anymore weight to lose, so I'm going to be less restrictive on my calories.

    Thank you again for the ideas. I'm excited to try the celery root hashbrowns and see if my 4 year old will eat them. His diet has been the challenge. Were making progress, but it's slower.


  8. Great Kim! My kids love the hash-browns. That's gonna be a slam dunk! Try making them in coconut oil. Eat Well! Steve

  9. Hello! I am a month into the "Caveman Power Diet" which is pretty much the same thing as the Paleo Diet, it has a few changes, but ultimately it is the same idea. I have been searching for recipes and Paleo/Caveman friendly food ideas - this is great! Thanks!!!!

    Also - I have a friend that had heard that the Paleo was bad if you had high cholesterol - I have been loving this way of eating and the recipes and I forwarded him the link to your site!


  10. Hi, I'm a type 1 diabetic 30 year old in the UK who's healthy/well controlled and super into sport. Only been a diabetic for a few years and taking diet ever increasingly more serious as time goes by.

    In short love the blog and your collection of recipes, your super passionate about what you do and I'll be reading and trying out all those healthy/tasty food ideas as I start to follow the paleo with a bit more conviction!

    Also interesting to read about your drop in cholesterol, as a type 1 I'm more predisposed to highier levels and bad ratio's

  11. Hi Steve, I am an 18 year old who has been crossfitting for over a year and dabbled in zone and paleo eating. I tried to email you but my computer won't connect to your email link. I eat basically only paleo foods (with the occasional whey protein when no other protein is available) and I just read Enter the Zone and Mastering the Zone in January and have been trying to stick to the blocks (though I never actually calculated for myself. I assumed about 4 blocks) and while I've seen some improvement (I went from 16% body fat to 12%) I would really like to get my body fat % into the single digits. Can you give me some advice? Thanks

  12. Hi Ben - try e-mailing me at

    ... glad to help you.

  13. Steve,

    Wow. Your experience sounds a lot like mine. I have a family and personal history of hyperlipidemia. I started CF in August at age 48, and Paleo in Ocober (increasingly more strict, but still with some cheats. I also really do a good job with eliminating grains and getting most of my protein from wild game/pastured meat sources.)

    In November, had my lipids tested in October 283/60HDL/214trig./ Doctor put me on Crestor 10MG.

    Since Aug., thru CF and Paleo, have lost maybe 30 pounds of fat (while gaining 5-10 pounds of muscle) and feel great. Having lipids re-tested Friday. Eating all this fat freaks me out, but I can't argue with what I see in the mirror and others say.

    Hope to get off the meds permanently. No longer have to take Prevacid for reflux at all. Also finding that I just don't like how drinking or eating sugary foods makes me feel anymore. Very liberating!

  14. Fantastic John! If you don't mind, publish your new lipid numbers here. Curious to see what your triglycerides do. You will naturally get more strict as your body becomes less used to neolithic foods and you feel more and more like dog poop when you eat the stuff ;-)