Paleo Challenge: Rules, Results & Rewards

Paleo re-evolution

In the last episode about Paleolithic Nutrition, I mentioned Wifey and I were in the midst of a 50-day Paleo Challenge sponsored by our CrossFit gym. What follows is my experience with the Challenge including my expectations, results, and tips for those looking to do a Paleo Chellenge of their own.

What Is a Paleo Challenge?

It’s an undertaking, typically by a group of people, with the goal of eating a strict diet of Paleo-approved foods over a predefined period of time. For many, a Paleo Challenge represents their first foray into Paleo eating.

It takes about four weeks of clean eating to allow a damaged intestine to fully recover from the irritation imposed on it by Neolithic foods. So the typical Challenge is 30 days, though I’ve heard of some lasting as long as 90 days.

Many a Paleo Challenge have elaborate rules, including a point rating system based on foods eaten and workouts accomplished. When it’s all over, there is usually a highly coveted prize awarded to the first place finisher.

In our case however, the rules were merely to keep track of and report daily food intake, while trying to adhere closely to the “no grains/legumes/dairy” mantra. Our trophy? Prestige and pride. And a t-shirt.

Goals of a Paleo Challenge:

  • vastly improve health and energy
  • restore gut integrity
  • cure sugar and grain addictions
  • develop cooking skills
  • motivate diet adherence through group participation
  • incentivise diet adherence through competition
  • demonstrate that the diet works (improves health) via progress pictures and bio-marker tracking

Expectations & Experience

Going into the Challenge, I expected a few results…

  • ditch the sugar addiction
  • increase energy
  • reduce canker sores
  • cure body acne

Before and after the Challenge, we weighed ourselves, took full-body pictures and recorded measurements of arms, legs, waist, and hips.

As for the experience, it was easier than I thought it was going to be. This was likely due to our transition into a Paleo lifestyle that began months ago. If prior to the Challenge I was eating a ton of grains and processed food, it would’ve been a lot tougher.

Sticking with it was not difficult; we just took it one day at a time. It might have helped that her dangling carrot for a cheat-free Challenge was a Keurig. Mine was a real haircut at a real barber. (I’ve been cutting my own hair for the last seven years. At the conclusion of the Challenge, my hair was the longest and ugliest it’s been in 18+ years.)

My only semi-cheat was an occasional bite of 85% dark chocolate. And by ‘bite’ I mean an average of 25 grams. And by ‘occasional’ I mean an average of once/day. (Oddly enough, chocolate has been my weakness ever since my wife was pregnant. I know, weird right?) By the way, dark chocolate is generally Paleo-friendly.

Lessons Learned

Cooking is time consuming but worth it. I like knowing exactly what is going into my body. Gaining experience in the kitchen is priceless. TIP: Leftovers are huge time savers. Preparing at least two meals every time you cook will save a ton of time spent in the kitchen.

I wish I had taken blood tests. Comparing before and after biomarkers for disease and inflammation can be done through simple blood work. I suspect mine would’ve improved but now I’ll never know. TIP: The blood tests that Robb Wolf recommends are:

  • total cholesterol
  • HDL
  • LDL
  • LDL particle size
  • triglycerides
  • fasting glucose
  • A1c
  • C-reactive protein

Eating Paleo can be hard on a social life — if you allow it to be. Not once during the 50 days did I go out with my friends. Partly because I felt I would’ve fallen off the wagon with beer or some other tantalizing indulgence. TIP: Maintain social ties risk-free by inviting friends over to indulge in your Paleo home cooking.

Paleo Challenge Results

Addressing each of my expected results separately…

Energy. This was the biggest change we noticed by far — dramatically increased energy. What’s more, my daughter started waking up earlier in the morning which meant I was getting even less sleep than usual. Yet I still felt more rested and energized throughout the day.

Weight. Although I was trying to gain muscle weight, I ended up losing 1.5 pounds. (I started the Chellenge at a fairly lean 157.9 pounds on my 5’10” frame.) My trapezius and upper abdominals seemed to be the biggest beneficiaries of the weight/fat loss. Unfortunately it wasn’t enough to discern a difference between the before-and-after pics (they look exactly the same). There was no change in any other body measurement.

Sugar/grain addiction. I no longer crave any grains. At all. Not even the formerly beloved white rice. But the sugar cravings? Ohhh the sugar cravings! They never left. I blame this on the copious fruit we ate throughout the Challenge. (I’ve since learned that a better approach is to go easy on fruit for at least the first 2 weeks, if not the entire Challenge.) The upside is that my sugar cravings are now directed at fruit instead of junk food.

Acne & canker sores. Acne was slightly reduced but not as much as anticipated (again, I blame this on the excessive fructose in my diet from excess fruit). Canker sores were reduced in both frequency and severity.

As for the winners of the challenge…

I ended up splitting first place with my friend. Which makes me the proud owner of this awesome Paleo t-shirt and (unstyled) haircut:

paleo challenge t-shirt

Have you tried a Paleo Challenge? If not, would you? Lemme know in the comments.

5 responses · 4/16/12

{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

Mom May 17, 2012

Really good job with accomplishing your goals! Ausome journey. Proud of both of both of you. Giving up bread would be my nemesis. Although it Makes me want to see my body’s reaction to this change of diet someday.


Brady May 20, 2012

Thanks! Indeed, bread tastes awesome. But the results you would see from removing such things from your diet would likely astound you — either physically, energy-wise, or both.


Kristina November 11, 2013

We are Primal/Paleo with some raw dairy. Our 16 month old has had raw milk since just before she tunred one (and I started working). We introduced it along with nursing, and she gradually weaned over about three months, and has been fully weaned for about four weeks now. It all happened very naturally, as she was used to drinking expressed milk from a cup so there was no issue with her feeling deprived of the boob! She drinks milk with meals and before bed, and water throughout the day.Along with everything we eat, she eats a ton of sweet potatoes, peeled and roasted in bacon fat in chunks. She’s also a big fan of liver.We live in London, UK and are very fortunate to have an excellent source of raw milk; we buy it in the farmers’ market but they also delivery all over the country.


Tyund March 23, 2014

Try making a paleo znichcui bread. The one I made uses 6 eggs and a 1/2 cup of coconut flour, along with other yummies. Its almost like eating a custard, it is so light and delicious!I am going to make these cupcakes for a going away party that I am throwing in a week. Yahoo!


Blake November 12, 2013

Hi,I just discovered your blog and am fidinng it very helpful! My husband and I have been doing paleo for about 3 months, but never really knew it until recently. We discovered that the way we had been eating had a name, paleo! Anyhow, so far we are doing an okay job. My husband is like 85-90% paleo and I would say I’m about 75%. I have a 2 month old daughter and am hesitant to change my lifestyle completely bc I’m breast feeding. Breast feeding has been going really well thankfully and I just don’t want anything to change that. Any suggestions? Or knowledge on this?


Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: