There’s my Post-MyPlate self portrait there at the head of this post.
I have a little secret. I suspected going into this experiment that I wouldn’t gain weight. I lost 80 pounds on a diet that included plenty of grains, and I’d never experienced any digestive issues or symptoms of grain intolerance in the past. So I doubted I would suddenly explode into diabetic obesity, or develop leaky gut, or become crippled by mineral deficiencies. And the calorie allotment MyPlate gave me was right in line with how many calories I normally eat (a few hundred less actually, so I upped my calorie target after the first week produced a 4 pound weight loss). Of course, I DID gain weight, quite a bit, when I followed a strict paleo diet with the same calorie target, so I knew there was a chance I’d gain. My big questions were: how would it affect my energy levels? My post workout recovery? The effectiveness of my workouts? Would I see a change in body composition? After not eating grains for a year, would I experience digestive problems?
I hypothesized that I would experience little change in most of those areas, as my macronutrient ratios stayed roughly the same (I switched out mostly fruit for my added grain servings). For the most part, that is what happened. The one area I noticed a marked change was my energy level during workouts. It was phenomenal. I’ve had some workouts these last few weeks that have been practically life altering! Specifically, my endurance level increased dramatically, and I was able to keep working long after I would normally have become fatigued and stopped. I ran 7 miles one day, 3 miles more than I’d run in one shot in at least a year, probably closer to 2. All I can attribute this to is that I was getting a greater percentage of my carbs in the form of starch, rather than sugar (grains instead of fruits). The amount of carb I was consuming was pretty much unchanged. As always, I was getting 350-400 grams a day. Perhaps some of you readers have some input on this?
It was also substantially less expensive than my typical diet of mostly organic produce. Score!
The one negative I experienced is some increased knee pain (I have osteoarthritis in both). This could be a total coincidence (change in seasons?), or a reaction to something I added (gluten?) or was getting less of (some micronutrient plentiful in fruit but not grain?). I’m going to be paying close attention over the next few weeks as I transition back to my typical diet to see how it progresses.
A word on why I believed I gained on paleo: it was the carbs! I wasn’t getting enough. I was averaging around 250 grams a day, and my energy was in the toilet. When I was able to muster up the motivation to work out, it took days and days and days to recover. I had DOMS for 4 weeks straight. Not fun. Because my energy was so low, I was moving less, both during workouts and just in my daily life. Less moving = lower calorie burn. Lower calorie burn on the same # of calories = weight gain. Sure, I could have simply eaten less, but WHY WOULD I WANT TO DO THAT?? If I can eat 3000 calories a day and feel great on a plant based diet, why would I want to eat 2200 calories a day and feel like a slug on paleo?
My final word on MyPlate: it’s pretty decent, assuming one doesn’t have a grain intolerance. I was easily able to meet all my micro- and macro-nutrient needs, with calories left over for additional fruits/veg, protein, or even chocolate (which really should have it’s own daily requirement IMO). There was nothing in the MyPlate guidelines that required me to eat pizza or soda or twinkies or high fructose corn syrup (or refined grains or seed oils, for that matter). In fact, the guidelines discourage all those things. I was able to stick to my preferred diet of real, whole, plant-based foods, and stay 100% within the guidelines. My weight and body fat remained stable (which can NOT be said for the four weeks I spent on a strict paleo diet). My energy was good and I recovered well from workouts. It was cost effective and relatively easy to maintain. It gets a better score than paleo, for me.
I’m tossing around ideas for my next N of 1, some of my ideas are: high carb/low fat (80/10/10 perhaps), the Alkalarian Diet (which sounds like total woo, but actually something I would enjoy, food-wise!), and Raw Foods. Anyone want to vote on which one I should do? Or suggest something else?
If you haven’t checked out my Facebook page yet, head on over there now! I’m posting much more actively there, including daily workouts.