The last half of the Whole30 is what the creators describe as “Tiger Blood”. I completely agree, if by that they mean constant hunger and being invited to several highly anticipated new restaurants to order… a highly modified dry salad. (My profound apologies to all of the waiters who had to deal with me during January.)
Of course, that’s not what the Whole30 folks mean. Tiger Blood is the stage where you have reached the apex of the detox, and things are starting to get easier. The cravings subside somewhat. The end is in sight. Your senses are heightened. Your libido shoots through the roof. You begin to meditate daily, tell your boss you want a raise, and call your grandmother weekly. Things are finally falling into place.
Let’s get to the good stuff. If you came here by a Google search, you really just want to know if I achieved a six pack, clear skin, and caused a traffic accident by walking down the street in my yoga pants. (Click here to read my Whole30 intention… which includes none of the above. Though for the record, my yoga pants have nearly caused a traffic accident in the past, Whole30 not necessary. #Sorrynotsorry, GEICO!)
Body Composition: It’s worth repeating: My goals did not involve how I look in a bikini. My long term goal is to regain strength following my ACL repair, and that includes regaining quite a lot of lost muscle mass (17 lbs, to be precise). For that reason, I didn’t bother to take before-and-after photos or bust out the calipers to measure my body fat percentage. That said, I got curious and stepped on the scale about 24 days in… and I had gained a considerable amount of weight.
That’s right. In line with my goals, I managed to gain weight on a strict Paleo diet. I ate a LOT of food to make that happen. And I trained heavy to make that happen.
At the same time, I saw my abs! That’s always sweet. Win-win.
Athletic Performance: The first ten days were rough. I fatigued easily in my WODs. I’d get kind of lightheaded on heavier sets. I felt whiny as hell. We’re talking Roseanne Barr style. Getting done with a gym session to realize out I couldn’t bro out with a celebratory whey protein shake felt like adding insult to injury.
The next ten days were easier. The last ten days were awesome. I tore into my WODs with vigor. I continued to get stronger, setting more post-surgery PRs. My volume increased steadily throughout the month. I forgot all about my knee problems.
Energy/Sleep/Focus: I’m prone to anxiety attacks. (Especially if I undersleep or overcaffeinate. If I do both, I cannot be held responsible for anything I say or do.) On that note, I’m also prone to bouts of ADD and insomnia. So did I become a normally functioning, balanced person during the Whole30? Kind of, maybe.
I had a couple of anxiety attacks, but definitely on the mild end of the spectrum. If something got me amped up, I put on my headphones and listened to calming podcasts of The Dave Ramsey Show (I told you I’m strange) until I realized I was not going to die– yet. It was not a full on heart-racing, DON’T FUCKING TALK TO ME, sweating/crying profusely type of anxiety attack. I’ll take it!
My sleep was awesome. I didn’t suffer from sleeplessness (as I periodically do), unless you count when I woke up from having naughty pizza dreams. I credit this improved recovery for much of the athletic improvement I experienced.
My ADD might have marginally improved, but I wasn’t paying attention. (Ha! Oops. :|)
Skin: It’s no secret I’ve had terrible skin since I was twelve. I have great days… and really, really bad days. Yes, I’m almost 30. Yes, I’ve tried Accutane. (And Spironolactone, and birth control pills, and a dozen different antibiotics, and every topical treatment you have seen on an infomercial, and the oil cleansing method, and peels, and supplements, aaaand…. you get the picture.) Needless to say, I was really hoping a simple dietary fix would help. While many others report improved skin on the Whole30, unfortunately it had no effect on my acne, something my dermatologist has unhelpfully chalked up to “your hormones are fucked up.” Back to chocolate, I guess. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
The Real Takeaway
I’ve already told you the results of my overarching Goal #1: Get stronger and gain muscle. Check.
After the Whole30 ends, you are not supposed to fall face-first into a pizza. If you indulge and feel like shit, you won’t know if it was the gluten in the crust, the dairy cheese, etc. You’re supposed to add one banned group back per day. Full disclosure: I did not do that.
You better believe the first thing I did was run to Locale Market and buy a Bon Bon Brownie Hot Fudge Sundae. That’s really what it’s called. It’s nitrogen sea salt caramel ice cream rolled in nuts and hot fudge on top of a brownie, in a cloud of whipped cream. It’s almost ten bucks– which, in addition to the gigantic bowl it’s served in, are telltale signs it’s meant for two people to split. The smiling woman behind the counter handed it to me, asking if I needed two spoons. Her brow furrowed when I answered in the negative. My boyfriend watched on in horror while I ate the entire sundae so fast, I couldn’t even stop myself to Instagram it.
And? It was certainly good. But not that good. Not worth having porny food dreams over. Not by a long shot. And it was certainly not worth all the entire rest of the day I spent within sprinting distance of a bathroom. (I know, TMI. You’ll be okay.)
Since then I’ve had some dark chocolate covered almonds. They were great. But I don’t feel the need to buy them every time I’m at the store and eat the entire package on the way home like I did before the Whole30. So, “Goal #2: Break my sugar addiction” was a success.
Aside from my joyride at the ice cream counter, I have mostly gone back to my old way of eating, which is about 80% Paleo, with whey protein shakes being my major deviance. It took a week for me to realize my knee, the one I had surgery on, was really acting up. Creaking, aching, grinding, swelling. I failed to realiz the extent to which my joints had benefitted from a decrease in inflammation. I’m going to have to run more controlled tests on my diet, but I’m suspecting I might have to donate my beloved protein powders to a bro in need. If at the end of the day, I’ve learned I have more control over how my bum knee performs, I consider the entire thing a success.
Do I Think You Should Do the Whole30?
I get asked this constantly. I’ve narrowed my view on the subject to one question:
Are you an Olympic contender? No? Then I believe you should do the Whole30. Just like I believe you –and all athletes– should spend time conducting controlled experiments with your diet to see what works best for you. If you’re like most Americans, you’ll lose some body fat in the meantime, sleep better, and make strides against your sugar addiction. If you’re in the upper 30th percentile of CrossFit athletes, you’ll suck at WODs for two weeks and then you’ll be fine.
Oh, my apologies, you’re an actual Olympic contender? Then I think you should do the Whole30 during your offseason.