Hello friends!

Some of you (if you follow me on Facebook or Instagram…which you should be, by the way: Find me at EatDrinkWOD for lots of food porn and dog pics) have seen a few posts about how I’m working on some self experimentation when it comes to food intake and inflammation. So what’s the deal? Let’s cut to the chase.

After years of playing around getting my own nutrition in order and doing what I can to help others, I hear a lot of the same thing.  People hitting plateaus or being unable to get rid of that last little bit of what they think it body fat, especially around the midsection. It took me a long time of eating well, 5/6 days a week to figure this one out but here it is:

I believe that for most people it’s not actually a plateau or body fat: it’s inflammation.

I wasn’t able to discover this until I eliminated my ‘cheat days’ for a while and finally saw/felt things change.

When we eat “clean” 5-6 days a week, then blow it out on the weekends with junk food and booze as many of us do, does the inflammation that this weekend party time exposure cause go away the very next day? I say no. I say it hangs around for the week, then you do it all over again the next weekend, reigniting the fire. What does this mean for your gut and perceived tummy fat? It never goes away.  You could have a distended stomach, a bloated gut, acne, rashes, nausea, sluggishness a whole list of inflammatory reactions that you believe to be chronic, but are simply the result of your “cheat days”.

You cannot out train shitty nutrition.

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I decided to test it out.

In order to really get an idea of how much a cheat day effects us, and how long it takes to get back to square one, I decided I needed to take a good chunk of time to really heal my cut and lean out a bit.  Total gut healing, plus less body fat means a blank canvas to see what kind of damage is really done on our Sunday Fundays.

We live in a world where we’re told we can have it all. We can do whatever we want, and some pill or diet fad will fix it for us. We can work out a little bit, do a couple of crunches, eat 100 calorie packs of cookies or whole grain pasta, and drink all the skinny-girl margaritas we desire and we’ll achieve our fitness and health goals. Once again, I’m sorry to always be the bearer of bad news: but that’s bullshit. The truth is that when you want progress, you need to buckle down. You need consistency. Sure, you can take another route, but it’s going to be a longer one. It seems we all want to perform better, get to our personal ideal body comp, lessen that body fat, get healthier…but none of us want to do what it takes to get there.

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After a bunch of internet scouring, I came up with my pre-destruction gut healing plan. I combined suggestions of Chris Kresser, Sara Ballantyne, Mark Sisson (really, just google ‘Gut Healing Protocol’ or ‘Gut Healing Protocol Paleo’ and you’ll find a ton of stuff) and others for the gut healing aspects, then looked at the Poloquin Group for leaning out ideas. Here’s what I ended up with. My lean out/heal your gut protocol:

Aim for 50-100g Carbs per day (closer to 50 on non-training days, 100 on training days)
60%+ From good fats
20-25%+ From Protein
1/2 Bodyweight in oz of water daily
8 hours sleep nightly

These ratios and percentages are based off of what I believe works best for me and what I have read is a good place to be for leanness with enough carbs for performance.  A high fat diet is required for a healthy gut, and quite frankly health in general…but that’s for another day. % may be tweaked based on feeling/performance as the three weeks goes on.

Foods to be avoided:
Grains
Corn
Legumes
White potatoes (only yam/sweet potatoes)
Diary (except butter)
Sweeteners (artificial/sugar….honey/maple syrup in small amounts)
Dried Fruits (Keep whole fruits to maximum 2x day)
Dairy
Alcohol (wahh)
Gums/Lectins (Guar, Xanthan, Soy, etc.)
All powdered starches (potato, tapioca, arrowroot, etc.)
Nuts (I had nuts week one, but found they caused gas and bloat – you’re welcome – so I removed them.)

Foods to add in for gut health:
(base is a Paleo/Whole Food approach with the following focus points added)
Fermented foods 3x a week (Kombucha, sour kraut)
Bone Broth (1 cup/day)
Vinegars
Starchy Veggies (aid gut flora)
More fish (instead of supplementing fish oil)
Tumeric
Cinnamon
Lots more greens
Gelatin Protein
(More) Grass-Fed Butter and Coconut Oil…Can you say Bulletproof Coffee galore?

*I am actually not a fan of tracking food. I believe that eating shouldn’t be that much work, and we should generally be able to eyeball it.  However, I think it’s important every now and then to make sure you know what you’re actually consuming and compare it to how you feel and perform so you can make adjustments. I don’t want to depend on a food tracker to make my meals. The goal is to learn how to build an ideal day on my own.*

I’ve also noticed that I often feel instantly bloated when eating. Like someone blew up a balloon in my stomach. This is a sign of not producing enough stomach acid. To help this, I shoot 1-2 tbsp of apple cider vinegar in 2 tbsp water 10-20 min before meals. It’s worked like a charm.

Much of the added foods (Fermented, broth, tumeric/cinnamon, starches) are to aid in gut flora production and healing gut lining, i.e. getting rid of that leaky gut.

So now the big question: what happens next?

I destroy my insides.

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After 26 days of healing, I will partake in what I believe to be a common ‘cheat day’ over Labor Day weekend. Grains, Sugar, and Booze, Oh My! I’m not going to completely blow it out of the park by eating an entire sheet cake, but what I believe to be (and what you share with me) a standard cheat day. Let’s say some kind of grain-filled breakfast, a burger, and maybe pizza and beers for dinner followed by some ice cream. Sounds like an average weekend cheat for many, doesn’t it?

Here’s my goal: To demonstrate the actual and lasting effects of our cheat days and discover how long it takes to truly recover from them. I believe we don’t understand what ‘going off the rails’ really does to get in the way of reaching our goals.  We tend to make our ‘cheat meals’ way out of the scope of whole foods. We go from grain-free right to a stack of pancakes. That all fine and dandy, but then we wonder why we don’t have that six pack, or still feel sluggish. I think it’s because that inflammation we spark never really goes away. Think about it. Let’s say, for arguments sake, that it takes 72 hours to recover. I actually believe it’s closer to 7 days, but anyway. So you exercise and eat whole foods Monday-Friday. Saturday hits and all bets are off because hey, you earned it. You were ‘good’ all week!  Sunday, it’s time for brunch and you can’t say no to brunch. Maybe a summer BBQ and beers later. It’s Sunday, after all. Monday morning you wake up, feeling gross, probably a little nauseous.  That’s ok though, you’ll go to the gym today and ‘burn it off’, even though you feel like shit and your performance is gonna suck.  Besides, you’ll eat good again this week. Maybe your bloat goes away and the inflammation calms down by Thursday.  You have one day in the green and then BOOM…Saturday Night Fever all over again.  When did you every really recover? When did you heal? How can you make progress if you keep taking two steps back.

Do I think that just because you ‘fell of the wagon’ that you’re screwed and should give up everything you’ve done and go right back to your old ways? Absolutely NOT. I think though, that it’s time we put our big girl pants on and take responsibility for our weekends.  Does this mean you should beat yourself up when you slip up and have a slice of pizza? NO! Move on. No use is crying over spilled pizza. Sh-sh-shake it off.

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After I ruin my insides in two weeks (I started the healing part Aug 4), I will take pictures and write a daily journal about how my trip back to baseline is going. We’ll see how long it really takes to put out the fire. 

I’m not going to lie to you, I’m actually not even excited about my day of gluttony that’s approaching. I know I’m going to feel like absolute shit by the end of the day and probably need a few days to recover.  I’m probably going to break out. I’m probably going to get sick. I actually moved this D-Day to Labor Day weekend simply because I know I’m going to need that Monday off to be useless. That being said, I think it’s really going to be an eye-opener, and a valuable lesson. Hopefully it will answer some questions for you about why you can’t seem to reach your goals or why you seem to be stuck. I don’t believe you are. I think you’re stuck in the thinking that 2 days a week doesn’t matter when “you’re good every other day”. What you do every day matters. It time to find out how much.

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Am I saying you should never have a day where you let loose and indulge? Hell no! I’m saying that it’s time we see what is truly happening so we can make better choices. Maybe get the dairy-free ice cream, or the gluten free pizza, or the paleo cookie instead when you do. Or maybe have whatever the fuck you want, but know the consequence of it. Once you arrive at your aesthetic/body comp/performance/health goal line, then it’s easier to maintain your progress with the inclusion of these indulgence days. That being said, if you’re still trying to get down the field, taking two steps back for every three forward doesn’t get you very far. All of those athletes you see on Instagram having their pizza and eating it too have spent years getting to the level they are at now. I heard Jackie Perez (below) talking about how yea she parties and has her shitty food sometimes, but she also said it took her five years to get to where she is now and to ‘see her abs’.  She said she wasn’t eating that way while she was working at it. The basic idea was: You have to eat good. You have to work out. You can’t eat like shit and expect results.  The bottom line is this: You cannot eat like you are maintaining, if you are not in a place of maintenance. You will not heal your gut if you consistently aggravate it every 5-7 days. It’s that simple.

Here’s where your help comes in. I want to know:

What do you eat on your typical “Cheat Day”? Help me plan mine. I want to eat what you guys regularly have on your treat days. Tell me all about it in the comments, or on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter! Let’s hear it!