During March, I participated in a 30 day Paleo challenge. As you may have read in my previous posts, my experience was double sided. I did really enjoy some of the healthy changes I had to make, such as eating more fruit, vegetables, soup and nuts. This made a huge difference and got me more into a routine of eating these items, which are of course fantastic for your body and health. Please note I will not go into the details of the diet and what to do, this is purely about my experience and not intended to explain what you should be eating.

Other things, I wasn’t as much a fan of. So many things were cut out of my diet that it caused me to get very bored of certain foods. Also, dropping so much water weight (6lbs. at a certain point) wasn’t very fun. I was thirsty all the time and got dehydrated very quickly, not to mention I looked very deflated (since you retain more water when you eat more carbs).

During the challenge, I ran into a bigger problem though. Since my work requires me to stand, run, exercise and do many more things for long periods of time, my total exercise duration every week (with individual training as well) easily exceeds 15-18 hours of sports. Doing the Paleo diet caused my performance to go down. As I wrote in my previous article, I switched to Paleo for Athletes and reintroduced carbs to accommodate my high levels of exercise. This made a huge difference and got my performance levels back to their original levels (and went up since). This was more in line with how I normally cut weight and watch my food intake when cutting. It is a very manageable way of eating and fueling your body right. The right amount of carbs in the right times are hugely important, combine that with the health benefits of some Paleo ideas and you’re on the right track! Since starting on March 1st, I lost 10lbs, am close to my goal competition weight and did not compromise my performance or lean mass.

In my opinion, athletes need to eat more carbs than the Paleo diet can offer, that is why Dr. Cordain, who wrote the books on the Paleo diet, recommends athletes to make these adjustments.

Even though it was not ideal for me (which I knew beforehand but I considered this an experiment), the Paleo diet may work much better for others. Certain ideas of it make perfect sense and most importantly of all, it does not allow you to eat manipulated and processed foods, chemicals etc. These foods are a huge reason why so many individuals are unhealthy and obese. In my opinion, eating unprocessed foods is one of the most important changes you can make in a diet.

People need guidance. Perhaps that is why the Paleo diet is so popular and I am positive it works for many people. If you are looking to cut weight and you are not very active, it is likely to do just that for you. If you are very active, it may still work but I think there may be better ways. There are many articles and studies out there that tell you why to eat and why not to eat certain foods. Many foods have changed (the nutritional value) over the last 10,000 and even 50 years. However, for every pro study there is a con study. At the end, you need to do what works for you, using common sense. 

You should strive to eat as healthy as possible, fuel your body and give it what it needs and don’t get frustrated along the way because if you do, you are likely to give up. Go ahead and cheat a bit every once and a while, just be smart and disciplined about it. If you need help or you plan on starting a new nutrition or training program, go to a professional and ask for advice and motivation, both for nutrition and training needs.

By Sander Vanacker, owner, head instructor and personal trainer of Define Defense Martial Arts & Personal Training.


1805 11th Street Suite B

Boulder, CO 80302

(720) 340 6254

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