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Starting the new year on the right foundations (digestion and paleo)

There really is only so much Christmas fun one can take, and with the festivities diminishing in the rear view mirror, I’m as eager as ever to get back on the goal and achievement train. And so should you!

So how was Christmas? How much did you over-do it? Did you over-do it to the point you were almost desperate to get back to your chicken breasts, broccoli and sweet potatoes (disclaimer: healthy eating/living isn’t really that boring!)

Depending on just how dirty you went, you may have discovered quite a bit!

I ate pretty clean, just with rampant portion sizes. I suppose the only really uncontrolled element to my festive nutrition was my vast amount of 85% cocoa. I put cocoa in practically everything! Hang on a sec though, cocoa is not bad at all, BUT, it does contain it’s fair share of sugar.

There was also a significant portion of dairy in my food intake throughout Christmas too. Goat’s milk, A2 cow’s milk, heavy cream and things of that nature. If you ate a lot of commercial and generic chocolates, it’s a given that you will have consumed significant dairy too, and probably not the good type.


Working within the fitness industry, health and well being are always at the forefront of my mind. I like to practice what I preach and lead by example. Part of that entails much self examination, plus I just love gaining information often just for information’s sake! Learn learn and learn some more. A great motto.

So despite keeping it relatively clean, although I wasn’t tracking anything – macros, calories etc…I noticed quite a few negatives to my spell of indulgence.

I noticed:

– A very minor niggling headache that just didn’t seem to subside for long

– Much more gas than usual (gross but true!)

– A slightly itchy scalp

– A lack of sleep or sleep of less quality

Now I know at first glance, these may seem shocking or portray an image of disease or famine. I’m fine now and bear in mind I was keeping a real close eye on things. Also consider I had been clean eating consistently for months on end prior to Christmas.

These are common food intolerance or sensitivity symptoms. Particularly itchy scalp and dandruff. I know because a few months back I started eating cottage cheese sparingly, and that soon became very regular – practically everyday. Now there’s no hate at all here for cottage cheese, it tastes amazing and is generally a healthy food. But it is derived from casein (a milk protein), without going too in-depth, casein is a very common allergen in people.

I completely eliminated my beloved cottage cheese back in mid November and what happened? My symptoms began to clear pretty rapidly. I’m no scientist, but in this case 2+2 equalled 4.

So we know certain milk proteins don’t sit brilliantly with me, especially if ‘over-consumed’. Besides, I often advocate milk consumption based on individual tolerance and of course, I stress the need for good quality milk. Not milk with the fat removed and replaced with chemicals. Minimally processed whole milk – raw if you can find it!

Moving forward

These symptoms become rather irritating after a while, more so when you’re not used to them. On December 27th I was back tracking things and eating right back as I had been. I’m immediately feeling better.

But I received an amazing and very coincidental present: Chris Kresser’s ‘The Personal Paleo Diet’.

What are the chances?

The book is all about resetting your stomach health and eating patterns, and aligning them with more paleolithic principles. It’s about optimizing your gut health and overall health in conjunction. I say this a lot, but your gut health is the biggest factor in your overall health!

If you can’t utilise the nutrition you provide your body with, your body can’t transform.

This is why I and so many others stress tirelessly the importance of digestion enhancing strategies.

Chris Kresser (A doctor of functional medicine) who many of you may well have enjoyed some of his work already, outlines a specific reset template in the book. He encourages a minimum user period of 30 days, sometimes longer. In short, you remove grey area foods that can be a sensitivity in many people; dairy, grains, eggs (in some cases), caffeine and so on.

Now I’m not an affiliate or associate of Kresser’s, but I am familiar with him and have had read and heard some of his work through articles and podcasts. I like what he’s all about. He stresses the power of taking it down to basics to combat numerous common health issues. The ultimate basic is often good old nutrition.

The book came at just the right time.

Excessive gas is very commonly associated with higher protein intakes. We’ve all heard about the legendary “protein farts” – extra protein not only equals ‘GAINZZ’ but also GAS?

Many times though, it’s actually an undetected moderate food intolerance that’s causing the extra gas as the protein structure of the particular food is stressing your digestive tract. So a period of ‘cleanse’ is often very welcomed in us regular exercisers. Hence why the timing of a book like this landing under my Christmas tree was so convenient. I myself have been paying extra attention to the smaller details that often go missed and ignored. I have a traditional protein intake of the widely recommended and accepted “1 gram per lb of bodyweight”. Some say this is a little high, but across all the reading I’ve done, for muscle building and fat loss……..this seems to be the upper limit. Any more than 1.25 grams per lb is unnecessary.

Is gas purely down to a higher protein intake or something else? 

I will make some interesting discoveries! I love the details as I’ve said before. So this period of extra attention will surely lead to extra knowledge? Self knowledge.

You don’t need to grab the book yourself to run your own little experimental period, you just need to become a little more in-tune with your body and your body’s reactions to different variables.

Learning more fundamentals about yourself will allow you to live in a fashion that compliments your own needs. Subsequently, it will be much easier for you to live a healthy life……… for life.

Countless prolific and published authors online and offline have written considerably about this topic. I know Jason Ferruggia ran this very thirty day reset diet a year or two ago with tremendous results.

In simple terms: unknown food intolerances = more long term cortisol production. Too much cortisol = stubborn belly fat and extra visceral fat accumulation. 

Nobody wants that right?

That’s the ins and outs as to why I’m placing a lot of emphasis personally on digestive health. A functioning gut will greater promote efficient nutrient and calorie assimilation. This is why many people swear by probiotic supplements. I’ve even heard people say they lost body fat purely from regular use of a high quality probiotic! 

It’s also worth noting I had numerous battles with tonsillitis as a child. That is always accompanied by hefty doses of anti-biotics. I firmly believe I’m naturally more prone to digestion issues than those who haven’t had such exposure to anti-biotics.

Set the foundation in January, go out and attack goals with every ounce in me from February onwards.

I’m accepting that my workouts may take a slight hit in terms of productivity, maybe they won’t? But if they do, I’m ok with that. I still intend to keep calories as high as usual, I just have a more limited choice of foods. My new best friend will be the great sweet potato. Paleo eating often gets tagged as ineffective for building muscle. Perhaps there is some truth to that, you can’t eat real calorie dense foods such as brown rice and dairy. But sweet potatoes have been a staple of bodybuilding diets for decades!

I’ll also be eliminating my beloved pre-workout coffee too. Again coffee is great for increasing performance, but overuse can stress the adrenal glands. So that is likely to be a welcome break. There is a reintroduction period after the thirty or so days of all the grey area foods, where you keep an eye out for particular signs that the food should either be, eliminated completely or reintroduced. Many healthy eaters lack variety, you can often eat the same thing everyday – I know I’ve fell victim to this trait many times.

I’ll be keeping readers posted about my discoveries and findings whilst running this style of eating. I’ve always been a fan of paleo eating anyhow, this may swing me to stay full paleo. We’ll see. 

JR @ Straight-Talking-Fitness View All

The 'brains' behind StraightTalkingFitness, a site all about discovery that leads to strength in all formats; fitness, mental, emotional and spiritual. Everything starts from within and projects outwards. Master the body, master anything and everything.

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