Ihave followed a Paleo lifestyle since January 2013, so I’m not a total newbie to the idea of eating low carb meals and filling up on good fats to replace the drop in carbohydrate intake. In fact Prof. Tim Noakes came and presented at our Crossfit box in April 2013 but at the time I had paid little attention to what was said and decided that it was “pretty much Paleo” so I would stick to what I was doing.
It was only in April 2014 that the number of people in South Africa I was talking to, who were adopting the idea that carbohydrates should be reduced and fat should be embraced, seemed to be skyrocketing. When I explained how I ate to family and friends, everyone was asking me if I was on the “Tim Noakes” diet and didn’t refer much to Paleo. I was intrigued. How could one man be causing such a stir about how we should eat?
We went on holiday in April and I really relaxed about eating and sticking to a low carb lifestyle: there were toasted sarmies and many glasses of wine consumed, but on return from our break I headed out to purchase a copy of “The Real Meal Revolution”. I was ready to give (what I found out was referred to “banting”) a good go. I skimmed the first few chapters and honed in on the “green”, “orange” and “red” food lists and went shopping to fill my home with banting friendly foods. I resolved that in order to truly “test” if the eating plan would work for me I should try it out for 30 consecutive days and so the #banting 30 day challenge was born in our house.
Day 1 – 7
WOW can you say headache!!??! The first 4 days I had one major headache but I decided this was linked to the toasted sarmies and wine I referred to from just a few days prior to starting. I posted a few photos on Instagram sharing my experiences (a few of which I have scattered around this post) and I got quite a mixed bag of opinions on the fact I was trying out the “Tim Noakes Diet” – some good some bad. One of the comments was from Shayne who was very encouraging and added me to a few Facebook groups that she was on that primarily focus on low-carb-high-fat living. The biggest thing that stood out for me amongst the members of the group was the unbridled enthusiasm for the eating plan as well as a definite theme of “us against them” approach to anyone who believed the eating plan was sound opposed to those “uneducated fools” who sit stubbornly munching their fat-free-high-carb-processed rubbish. I felt like I had found my tribe over on the group and they have shown so much support through this process that I thought I just had to mention how absolutely fabulous they all are!
Day 8 – 14
The headaches subsided, my stomach was flatter but I had developed a thirst that I couldn’t quite seem to quench no matter how much water I seemed to consume. I stalked the internet and it seemed I wasn’t alone on this one, there were quite a few others who were experiencing this and was assured that this was a good sign that I was starting to move into ketosis. As I may have mentioned before I’m moderately active, I go to Crossfit 3 times a week and try to fit in short runs (all under 10km). I mention the Crossfit because it was at this stage that I noticed I couldn’t pile as much weight onto my bar as normal and I seemed to experience a “drop in strength”. I was feeling a little despondent but again friends encouraged me that this would pass and my strength would return.
Day 15 – 21
I had dropped almost a full pants size and the sensation of feeling as if my throat was as dry as the Sahara desert had subsided. I promised I wouldn’t weigh myself for the 30 days but I broke down and jumped on a scale and saw the numbers had dropped! This was very encouraging to me but I was still concerned that my Crossfit training was suffering because of the drop in carbohydrates and I was still very suspicious of what was happening to me. I decided to find more literature and read about what to expect and perhaps try to confirm my suspicions that this way of eating wasn’t quite right for everyone, and especially not me. I finished off reading the Real Meal Revolution, bought the Lose It! Magazine (both editions) and re-read a lot of what I had read a few years ago in The Primal Blueprint. Everything I read said that what I was experiencing was “normal” and that if I held out my strength would improve as well as my overall energy levels. I concluded that I needed to stick it out a little longer before I could write this way of eating off completely for myself.
Day 22 – 30
I’m not entirely sure when it happened but my brain “got over itself” and it seemed my strength was returning – I hit two personal bests at Crossfit (mastering box jumps on the tall boxes and a 65kg deadlift)! I did weigh again and the numbers on my bathroom scale had stalled, but my pants were still showing signs of falling off so I was really happy! Further reading and I believe that the slowed weight loss was attributed to the double cream and tub of mascarpone that I was snacking on in-between meals. Firstly they are high in lactose which is a sugar (read increased insulin which is a no-no on Banting) and secondly the eating plan recommends that you should not snack so I’ve banished both tubs from my fridge (out with the rubbish on Monday morning). Day 30 rolled around and I decided to celebrate by enjoying a glass of wine and a few ciders… BIG mistake for me! I really felt ill the next morning which in a way I’m quite happy about because it’s put me off a repeat episode for at least another 30 days (maybe even a 100!).
My conclusion! I’m still very intrigued by the weight that has dropped off since I started watching my carbohydrate intake. I’m also interested to see if my training further improves going forward given the positive results in the last part of my experiment. Mostly I’m enjoying all the wonderful food I have been eating and the improved sleep and energy I’m experiencing! I would definitely recommend trying the eating plan out to my friends and family.
Where to from here? I think I’m going to keep some version of the Banting lifestyle going but at the end of the day whether you call it Banting/Paleo/Primal or Low Carb High Fat I think the important thing I learned is: watch your carbohydrate intake if you want to lose weight (in other words control your insulin), and fat is good for you….. yes… repeat after me “Fat is GOOD for you” (well in my experience anyway). I think there are many more lessons to learn along this journey and I’m looking forward to experimenting and sharing what I find along the way!