Zone Paleo: Eating Lots of Carbs, Gaining Weight, and Feeling Good

Screen-Shot-2012-12-13-at-12.46.06-PM-300x164.pngAfter my ketosis experiment, I told you I had some serious carb cravings. Well, the intense sugar cravings subsided and I went back to eating my normal Paleo diet, which usually means eating under 100 grams of carbs a day. Sometimes a lot less than that.

But I started being hypervigilant about my energy levels after that ketogenic week of almost blacking out every time I would stand up, having a hard time making it up the stairs, and not recovering from workouts for days and days. After I added more carbs back in, I definitely felt better, but still not great. I still felt sort of weak and low blood sugar during workouts, still felt dizzy upon standing… And it dawned on me: What if I need more carbohydrates than I’ve been eating all this time on Paleo?

And that’s when I started looking into Zone.

If I were to follow Zone at 40% carb, 30% protein, 30% fat kind of diet – Paleo style, of course – what would happen? If I were to do that on an approximately 1500 calorie diet (sometimes more), I’d need to eat at least 150 grams of carbs a day.

That’s what I’ve been doing for the last couple weeks. Well, I’ve at least been getting that number of carbs every day; maybe not the 30/30 protein/fat. Either way, I can definitively say that I feel better, I have more energy, my workouts are easier, and my recovery time is faster.

The carbs I’ve added are more fruit (especially apple sauce), more sweet potatoes, some honey, and… carob chips sweetened with beet sugar. Yes, I said “sugar” and I’m totally fine with it. If something doesn’t give me food sensitivity symptoms (skin irritation, digestive problems, etc.) then I’ll eat it, and carob chips are actually easier for me to digest than sweet potatoes. My new favorite snack is a cup of unsweetened applesauce, a tablespoon of shaved coconut butter, and 2 tablespoons of carob – or as we call them, “carbo” – chips.

But… I’ve gained a few pounds.

However, I’m actually ok with it. The scale started going up and up, but now it’s leveled out. I got a DEXA scan done and I’m 15.5% body fat and my bone density is above average. I’m completely fine with those results and don’t think I need to be any leaner. Maybe it’s just all the water that’s being stored in my cells now that I’m eating more carbs that’s causing the pounds to appear on the scale. Or maybe it’s water weight from inflammation from shocking my body with CrossFit for the past 6 weeks. Honestly, I don’t know and I don’t care. I don’t even see the difference in my body – I just know I feel better.

So for now, this is what I’m doing with my diet in my never-ending personal experiment. I just wanted to tell you all this to stress the point that everyone is different, and active people need to fuel their bodies differently than inactive people. And lean, active people may need to fuel their bodies even differently than overweight, active people. All of it is really complex and individual, but I finally feel like I’m onto something, at least for myself.

I’ve always told my athletic clients that they need to eat more carbs (or get serious about ketosis) if they want to fuel their workouts properly. Now I know I was ignoring my own advice a little. This might be one of the keys to my climbing success this year – who knows? That, along with CrossFit, might get me strong enough to do what I want to do out there…

Eat what fuels you.