Bulletproof Paleo Fasting: An Athlete's Guide to Nutrition
- Rachel Sovka
Former Dalhousie sprinter turned Sports Science Biomechanist, Michael Bawol, is an interesting person to talk to for many reasons. One of which is his unique perspective on nutrition.
He’s got a few pretty specific ideas you can try out at home, with just a little will-power and without a ton of fancy equipment or supplements.
Ironically, Mike says he only became interested in reading books on nutrition toward the end of his sprinting career as a way to enhance performance and stay healthy. “I really wasn’t keeping track of that kind of thing,” Mike says, “consequently I gained a bunch of weight; at one point I weighed 240 pounds… not in a good way”. Since then, Mike made a point of knowing plenty about nutrition and does his best to share his knowledge with the athletes that he’s coached.
Mike chooses to follow the Paleo diet, “because humans evolved to eat certain things,” he says. But his guiding principle is what he calls the 80/20 rule - it isn’t as strict as the caveman diet you might be picturing. Simply “eat well 80% of the time, and eat whatever you want 20% of the time,” he says. This works for Mike, a guy who doesn’t particularly like vegetables. But on a competition day, it’s a different story.
“On a comp day I try to eat light because you’re a bit nervous and not digesting well,” he explains, “I still have my coffee in the morning because I thrive on caffeine, but I’ll just eat snacks throughout the day like granola bars and trail mix.”
Most of these practices he’s picked up over his career, but some didn’t come easy. Mike recalls one weight loss experience gone wrong.
“At first in my training I cut a ton of weight, about 15 pounds in 3 months,” he says “but after a while my performance decreased, and my body went into shock from overtraining. It was a short term gain that was erased in months.”
Mike says that athletic weight loss needs to be gradual, tactical and thought-out.
“I learned that when nutrition is done right it has a big impact, but and when it’s done wrong it does too.”
A few practices he’s done right have made a big impact for him like intermittent fasting, and bulletproof coffee. Fasting might not sound super nutritious at first, but the 8/16 method (eating for 8 hours, then not eating for 16) is proven to have many healthy benefits and Mike would be the first to recommend it. He likes it for the cellular cleansing effect, many others find it simplifies their day, increases fat loss, decreases blood insulin and sugar levels, and even provides more mental concentration.
Mike’s strategy for getting through a tough fast is much like getting through a tough training session: “You tell yourself the same things,” he says, “‘push through’, remind yourself ‘you’re doing this for a reason’, ‘just a little further’ etc.”. That’s for perseverance in difficult nutritional challenges, but Mike’s favourite nutritional practice is one that he really enjoys: butter coffee (also known as ‘Bulletproof Coffee’), which he started drinking in 2012.
“Butter is healthy for you,” he begins, “like olive oil, you have to first realize that.”
Next he adds MCT oil (medium-chain triglycerides) and 2 tablespoons of butter to fresh brewed coffee. Fat is a slow burning energy so “if you start the day with fat not carbs, it extends your fast, and doesn’t give you a crash later from something like sugary cereal,” Mike says. The secret to maintaining this nutritional regimen for Mike is that he just loves the taste of it.
“Find what works for you that you actually enjoy,” he tells me, “and you’ll be much more likely to keep up with those good habits.”
And if you become a Paleolithic bulletproof fasting caveman in the process, you have Mike Bawol to thank for that.
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