Paleo Challenge!

1) When: Monday September 24th – Friday November 2nd (6 Weeks)

2) What: 38 Days of you taking The Paleo Dive to look, feel, and perform awesome-r!

3) How: Ahhhh details! First off all, I’ve created a PDF with all the important How-To details. Check it out. But to summarize:

Paleo nutrition is an approach to eating that is based on the quality of foods you consume. It mimics the diets of our hunter-gatherer ancestors – consisting of lean meats, seafood, vegetables, fruits, nuts and seeds. It excludes foods that came from agriculture or processing – dairy, grains, refined sugars, alcohols (altogether now, “awwww!”), sodas, etc.
The basic concept is that Paleo foods are the foods that we are genetically adapted to. Our diets have evolved and “modernized,” but our bodies have not. There are many benefits to eating this way, including a naturally lean body, improved athletic performance and recovery, and relief from numerous metabolic-related and autoimmune diseases. An aside: Yes, we know Grok died early and often, but evidence suggests it was due to swinging into trees and falling coconuts more than Coronary Heart Disease. Alas, Grok was ill-equipped for a long life due to his/her austere environment, but I heard it also gave him/her a sub 3-minute Fran, and the power to reproduce early and often (giggity)! Note: eating Paleo does not guarantee babies…phew!

Here are the general Food Rules:
• Eat the heck out of meat, fish, seafood & eggs
• Eat the heck out of all non-starchy seasonal vegetables
• Bacon! Bacon is its own food group. Discuss. But seriously, get the thickest cut, low to no sugar if possible.
• Moderate starchy vegetables (yams, sweet potatoes)
• Moderate fruit. Watch out for high sugar (particularly fructose) fruits, as sugar is sugar to your body.
• Eat as much fat as you can, particularly animal fat (yes, seriously). Lard, olive oil, coconut oil, and in some cases ghee butter are your primary Paleo cooking fats.
• Moderate nuts and seeds
• Coffee is okay. Use coconut milk as a milk/cream substitute.
• No grains: bread, rice, cereal, pasta, bran, gluten-free pseudo grains, etc.
• No legumes (beans, peanuts, soy)
• No dairy products (eggs are not dairy and are a must have)
• No sugars.  Agave, organic honey, maple syrup, molasses, pure spun golden sunshine….it doesn’t matter.  They are all out.
• No artificial sweeteners.  Aspartame, Sucralose, Stevia, etc.

Finally, I cannot emphasize this enough, so I’m going to put it in big, bold letters: EAT A LOT OF PALEO FOOD. Most of you have never done a diet that didn’t require you to restrict calories/portion sizes/eat like a bird. If you are eating good, Paleo food, you should eat until you are full. Every. Single. Time. This probably means eating 4 eggs instead of 2, a whole chicken leg instead of a drumstick, a whole avocado just for you, going back for seconds, etc. Everyone who has ever told you that you are going to get fat by simply eating too many calories is tragically wrong. Listen to the hungry voice, but not the sugar/sweet voice.

4) “This is tooo harrrrd!” “Give up alcohol, #@$! no!” “Can I do Paleo and *insert non-Paleo item*?” “But what about X?”

You will no doubt have lots of questions and concerns ;). There are quite a few grey areas in what constitutes Paleo food. I will do my best to differentiate if you have specific examples, but I strongly encourage each of you to make it easy on yourselves and get this book: Practical Paleo by Diane SanfilippoKeep in mind that we are trying to find a baseline prescription that works for everyone, so the “strict” by-the-book program will be more restrictive than what may work for some of you, individually, in the long run, but it is important for everyone to start strict so that we can “guarantee” a degree of success.

Now, I understand that some of you may choose to deviate right away for various reasons, and you will notice the way the challenge is setup that there is no penalty for this. However, whatever you choose to do, own your outcomes. If you do not do Paleo strictly for the challenge, then I won’t have much advice to give you other than “try doing it stricter now” if/when some of the common hurdles arise. Depending on current health and fitness levels, some will have great results just trading out breakfast cereal for eggs, or reducing alcohol consumption by a few drinks per week. Others will have to eliminate grains entirely to get over the hump. Others will have to reduce overall carbohydrate consumption deliberately. Others still will have to do it a lot.

And finally, about Paleo being hard. I’m not going to lie, it can be pretty “hard” sometimes. As hard as forming a new routine can be anyway. I only do it about 80/20 myself most weeks, so I’m not exactly your shining cave-ninja. It can be hard at first because some of you may have to re-think an entire week of meals (pasta for dinner? nay.). Then it’s hard because you realize that 90% of convenience foods are out, so there is much more planning, and by the way it’s probably more expensive. Then it’s hard because once you think you’ve figured it out, your family and friends often remind you what a weirdo you are, and seemingly conspire to knock you off the wagon by constantly placing tempting cheats right in front of you, sometimes insisting that you partake. I feel you. The one consolation is that over time, together, we will build a whole community of people that feel you too, and have lots of interesting ideas on how to survive in a decidedly un-Paleo world.

Finally, some of you have been on your path of health and fitness for a long time now. Some of you have big goals that are years in the making. Some of you have struggled over and over again with diet and exercise, and are frustrated and tired. Mark my words: if you do this right, you will be successful. I will see to it that you are successful. CrossFit has nearly a million data points that prove this stuff works. If you are looking for a big change in your life, and if you see this through, you will be transformed.

5) Performance Challenge: We will be doing a performance improvement measure via a baseline WOD that will be tested the first week (Sept 24-29). WOD re-tests will occur Week 4 (Oct 15-19) and Week 6 (Oct 29-Nov 2). We will try to accommodate those that miss the main testing days (generally Mondays) by allowing make-ups throughout the week, but try your best to make it out on testing days. There will be prizes for each re-test if we get enough participants.

The Paleo Challenge WOD will be:


7 Power Cleans @ 50-60% of 1RM

7 Burpees

This WOD was chosen based on its simplicity, scalability, and of course FUN ;)! It’s also the kind of workout that will feel like a Shaman’s Blow if you have an all out cheat fest the night before. As with all workouts, you are encouraged to scale based on your ability. Use the percentage or pick a weight that you can move fast. Remember you will be scored based on improvement, and to keep it simple this time you will use the exact same weight for the re-tests.

6) Adherence Challenge, AKA Paleo Food Photo Contest: This is something that I believe is totally unique to CF Cypher! Credit is due to my friend and former business partner Nate for the original idea. Each day of the challenge, you can score points by e-mailing photos of the Paleo Food that you actually are eating/ate to You must include your name and date within the photo somehow. We will not accept submissions that are not properly labeled this way. This can be done by writing it (legibly) on a post-it, napkin, or similar with the meal in the photo, or by adding a small caption afterwards with a popular phone app or caption website. You must submit your photos by midnight on the day the submissions correspond to. The following day (approximately), all photos will be tallied and uploaded to our Cypher Health & Fitness Facebook Page for all to share in and enjoy. You can submit up to 3 meals/food combinations per day, but you cannot repeat the exact same meal/food combination for the entire duration of the challenge. “Small” changes and variations are acceptable and encouraged. There is of course some discretion in deciding what qualifies as a “variation.” Adding more salt does not qualify. Removing or adding a major ingredient or side dish does. Use your judgement. If you have to ask the answer will probably be no :). Be creative, and please do copy and steal all the delicious meals you see your peers submitting — that’s kind of the point!

7) Here comes the math! To encourage long term compliance, points per meal will increase by one point each week for the duration of the challenge. This means 1 pt/meal during week 1 (Mon-Sun), 2 pts/meal during week 2, 3 pts/meal during week 3, etc. This means that those that are consistent in the later weeks of the challenge have the greatest chance of winning, and can quite easily pull ahead of those that do well early on but fall off toward the end. A spreadsheet will keep track of everyone’s scores.

8) Compete! $20/person minimum pot contribution. If you want to contribute more to give yourself more motivation and make the prizes cooler for all, please do!

9) Photo Document Change! We strongly encourage you to take before and after photos of yourself, for yourself. If you cannot see/measure change there is no change. Alongside how you feel, perform, and the way your clothes fit, this is probably the most tangible metric of your success. You will not submit these for the challenge, but if at the end you are happy with the results and would like to submit them as a testimonial that would be cool. If you choose to take pictures, make sure to standardize the “photo shoot” and photograph front, side, and back views, in form fitting clothing or, of course, in a bathing suit or underwear.

10) Prizes! Final prizes will be awarded for the top scorers from each of the two metrics (performance and adherence), and the best combined score.

10) Paleo Potluck! We will no doubt put together a Paleo Potluck to celebrate and wrap-up the challenge, but we’ll get to that when we’re further down the road.

That’s it. If you’ve actually read this far I applaud you, I was starting to lose it myself! Let me know if you have any questions at class or via e-mail, and I look forward to exchanging medium rare rib eye steak stories.



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