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Training Board is basically my gym notebook.

In theory, I can also blog in a more public spirited way about weightlifting, nutrition, weight loss, etc. But mostly, I just use this blog to track my workouts. And surfing.

If anything I have posted seems useful to you, let me know with a comment.

About Me

I'm a level I "sports performance certified" USAW coach, and I train, and work as a trainer at Asheville Strength and Conditioning, a great little gym here in Asheville, N.C.

I work with clients who want to get strong and fit, and am especially happy with helping older or detrained individuals.

My own training now is more focused on developing strength and using basic lifts and classic strength and conditioning techniques. A lot of the older portions of this blog deal with CrossFit and reflect my journey into fitness self-awareness. I first discovered CrossFit, back in late 2008. I learned a lot from CrossFit's "fitness as sport" model of training -- and benefited tremendously from training with my friends at CrossFit Asheville -- and furthermore I must credit my interest in CrossFit for opening my eyes to the larger world of training for strength athletics, Olympic-style weightlifting, powerlifting, and other arcane approaches to moving the Iron around.

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Cheat Days • January 23, 2010, at 11:47 pm

The “Paleo” Cheat Day (Coco-Cocoa-Banana Pudding Recipe)

I didn’t set out to do it, but today became my first ever “Paleo-Cheat-Day,” that is, a clear “cheat day” that was composed of completely “Paleo” foods. What I did set out to do, however, was satisfy a craving I had for a special treat. I devised a paleo version of one of my favorite desserts, the Italian Chocolate Pudding Mold I learned to make from the outstanding cookbook The Silver Spoon. (A must have for every kitchen, by the way.)

See page 1024 for the recipe for a traditional Italian “Chocolate Mold,” i.e. Budino al Cioccolato

My Accidental Paleo-Cheat Day

One thing that makes the “Paleo-Diet” so beloved by its proponents is the fact that it is sometimes called an “unregulated” or an “unrestricted” diet, meaning, so long as your food quality lines up with “Paleolithic” principles, you can eat as much as you like.

Paleo-theorists apply a lot of science to thinking about the types of food that Paleolithic humans did or didn’t eat. And it’s true that you will live a healthier life if you confine yourself to “Paleo-quality” foods. That’s fine, as far as it goes. But it simply doesn’t go far enough.

The more responsible Paleo-theorists will also think about when, why, and how much Paleolithic humans ate. The answer to this is, of course: they ate whenever food became available, they ate as much as was available, and they ate not only to stave off hunger, but to store energy for times when food would not be available.

Modern Americans who are living above the poverty level basically have access to any food they could want, whenever they want it. But Paleolithic humans weren’t Americans. They had the opportunity to hunt or gather food only periodically. Edible plants are available only in certain seasons and in certain areas. Animals live year round, but they too have life cycles and their migratory patterns are such that, in paleolithic times, they would be moving in and out of areas settled or ranged by humans. Weather patterns sometimes bring rain, sometimes drought. The food yield of the earth, in a state of nature, is in constant flux.

Thank God for evolution. Our human ancestors inherited two traits, one metabolic and the other behavioral, that allowed them to thrive in this potentially difficult environmental context. These traits evolved in mammals a long time before they were inherited by human beings, and while they were useful to Paleolithic human beings, they now happen to be some of the most frustrating aspects of our bodies. I am speaking, of course, of (a) our capacity to store excess calories as fat, and (b) our capacity to overeat in the presence of surplus food supply. These related abilities allow mammals to prepare for lean times (such as winter) by carrying with them at all times a non-perishable energy supply that doubles as a nice layer of insulation! The two capacities work together and support each other. Only our ability to eat in excess of the limits set by the hormonally triggered feelings of “hunger” and “satiety” allows us to create that surplus of available energy which our body can store as fat.

Paleolithic humans didn’t have to worry about their genetic heritage. It simply worked for them. There wasn’t any media or cultural pressure for them to have six-pack abs or be “fit,” so if they got a little bit chubby in a good year, it wasn’t a big deal to them. In any case, they were likely all pretty “fit” by our standards and they would almost certainly burn off any excess fat their bodies were lucky enough to store during lean seasons.

We, on the other hand, have to think carefully about what evolution has bequeathed to us. The ready availability of food in our society, especially when combined with a broken food culture that regularly “supersizes” portions in order to maximize industry profits, means that we are constantly offered the opportunity to overeat. And we are genetically predisposed to do so. Studies show that human perceptions of “hunger” and satiety, and our willingness to eat, are in part relative to the amount of food that is placed before us. Increasing portion sizes increases food intake. (See here, here, and here). To make it more complex, it turns out our food intake is also relative to the food choices and body type of the people we eat with. (That’s called “social contagion”).

I can hear the objections of the Paleo-theorists already! It is simply not possible, they say, to overeat if you limit yourself to high-quality, “Paleo” foods. Not true. A large number of acceptable (or nearly acceptable) “paleo” and whole foods are nutrient and calorie dense enough that they can be easily overeaten: coconut oil, coconut milk, dates, bananas, sweet potatoes, eggs, high-fat cuts of meat, dried fruits of all kinds, and nuts.

Furthermore, people who want to eat “paleo” are out there, all over the web, posting “recipes” for “paleo”-versions of your favorite dessert, breakfast treat, or what have you. These baked and fried treats use supposedly-paleo substitutes for flour like coconut flour and almond flour, and so-called-paleo substitutes for sugar like honey or “agave nectar” (an industrially processed product I prefer to call “high fructose cactus syrup”).

The recipe:

So, this brings me to my recipe and my unintentional cheat day.

All day long I ate normally, in a “Zone-balanced” and “Paleo” fashion. But by 9:00 pm I had eaten only about 2200 calories, and I knew that meant I could safely do some additional snacking. But what to eat?

I had been saving two bananas to let them get very ripe. These bananas were being saved in order to serve as the sugar substitute for a dish I’d been thinking up in my mind: a Paleo pudding-mold. (In very ripe bananas, the starches break down into glucose and fructose, giving them a much sweeter, and softer consistency.) Looking up at the shriveled, almost black bananas, I decided it was time to use them. My idea for the pudding was simple: use bananas instead of sugar, unsweetened cocoa powder in the place of sweetened dark chocolate, and coconut flour in the place of wheat flour. In the place of milk, I would use a combination of coconut milk and almond milk. By golly, I’m here to report, this plan worked!

Matt’s Paleo Coco-Cocoa-Banana-Pudding
aka Boudino al Paleolithico

4 eggs, separated
4 tbsp. virgin coconut oil
1/4 cup coconut flour
6 tbsp. unsweetened cocoa powder
2 very ripe bananas
1 cup unsweetened coconut milk
1 cup unsweetened almond milk
pinch of salt

First, preheat oven to 350. Grease a mold with coconut oil and lightly dust it with coconut flour. Set aside. Prepare hot water and pour it a deep oven-safe vessel that is large enough that the mold can be set into it and surrounded with hot water half-way up the mold. Put the vessel in the oven to get ready for the mold.

Take the egg yolks, coconut oil, and bananas and cream them together thoroughly in a bowl. In a saucepan, heat the coconut milk, almond milk, salt and chocolate powder, until it reaches a scalding temperature. Gradually, a few tablespoons at a time, add the milk to the yolk, oil, banana mixture and blend thoroughly. Add the coconut flour and blend, then return to a saucepan and cook over medium heat, five minutes, until the mixture is thick. Remove from heat and let it cool. In a separate, grease free bowl, whip up the egg whites until they are very stiff and frothy (they will grow in volume about fourfold). Fold the whipped egg whites into the cooled chocolate-banana-milk mixture, and then pour the resulting foamy slurry into the prepared mold. Set the mold in the hot water bath in the oven, and bake for 30-45 minutes until the pudding sets. Remove from oven, let cool 30-45 minutes, then gently turn the pudding out onto a plate. Serves 6. Or, it serves Matt and 1/2 of another person.

This was a truly awesome “paleo” treat. The trouble was, I made it at night, and everybody else in the house was asleep. And I was hungry when I approached it. On the plate, it looked like a single serving to me. I hadn’t yet done the nutritional information calculations on it, so all I was thinking was: “it’s Paleo,” and “it’s kinda high in fat, but it has eggs, coconut, and bananas, with no added sugar!” That is, it’s like a second breakfast! So, I couldn’t stop eating my beautiful Coco-Cocoa-Banana Pudding! I ate 2/3 of the thing myself before saving the rest for my wife (who did eat it for breakfast, by the way). It was surprisingly delicious, though not as delicate or creamy smooth as its sugared, dairy based, cousin, the Budino al Cioccolato (the fiber in the banana and the coconut flour give it a more curdled texture).

When I was done eating for the day, I realized what had happened because my stomach felt the usual “cheat day” symptoms: bloating and distension, and an unpleasant feeling of being over-full. It wasn’t until later that I calculated the actual damage.

Download (in .pdf) a copy of the Nutritional Information for Matt’s Paleo Cocoa-Coconut-Banana Pudding Mold

According to Fit-Day, this beautiful creation has over 1,805 calories, with a whopping 145 g of fat, 103 g of carbs, and 45 g of protein. Not quite “Zone balanced,” but reasonable. If it were used to serve 6, this would be a quite sensible low calorie, “Paleo” dessert: 300 calories per serving, each with 25g of fat, 18g of cho, and 8g of protein. But, in the presence of this caveman, a pudding like this is more like, serves 1 and a half. Because it was so light, fluffy, warm and chocolatey, I was easily able to eat 1200 calories of eggs, coconut fat, and bananas in one sitting, which, along with the 2 oz. of nuts, the date, and the dried fig I had snacked on while making my treat, brought my total calories for the day to about 4000. Which is about 1100 calories more than I need or want in a given day.

Ta da! A Paleo cheat day.

If anyone could get fat on a Paleo-diet, I could. Your comments are welcome.

4 comments to The “Paleo” Cheat Day (Coco-Cocoa-Banana Pudding Recipe)

  • Dale

    I just finished reading “The Paleo Diet.” To think, this whole summer I was taking the “principles” of the diet from what others told me.
    Dr. Cordain is straight-forward in explaining the diet. I think many of things you list as nearly acceptable are in fact not recommended. Crossfit deviates significantly from the tenants of the original diet.
    My other point, Dr. Cordain specifically addresses these paleo diet-like cheat meals. He admonishes to avoid them and treat them as you would other foods outside of the diet. The Paleo Diet allows for open meals depending on your goals and many of the things can be eaten during those times but not on a regular basis.

    I also understand that I am “preaching to the choir” but I think many other people may be in the same situation as me, listening to partially correct information without understanding the in-n-out of the Paleo Diet. More importantly not understanding the research behind the diet.

  • Dale you are exactly right. Cordain’s diet does restrict all or most of the items I called (barely/mostly) “Paleo-acceptable” … I think most sensible people would restrict (to a certain degree) the contribution such foods make to their diets! More people should read Cordain if they are interested in the “Paleo diet.”

    As I see it, CrossFitters pursue an eclectic diet they choose to call “Paleo”: one inspired by and including influences from the ProteinPower (“Low Carb Lifestyle”) diet, “the Zone,” the Primal eating movement of Mark’s Daily Apple, and the Atkins diet, with elements thrown in besides from the Whole Foods, Michael Pollan “Food,” Local Foods, Slow Foods movement, from the Raw foods movement, and of course, from the plain old world of competitive weightlifting. Call it an “open source” diet, if you want.

    The trouble with the open source diet is, without good information, and an underlying theory you trust, how can you make good decisions about certain things? Is coconut oil good or bad? (good?). How many eggs a week is ok? (15-20 is fine?). Can you eat Agave nectar, honey, maple syrup, or not? (no! you might as well eat sugar.) Why do we allow sweet potatoes but not potatoes? (it’s plain foolishness; eat either only in extremely limited quantities). Can I eat bananas? Quinoa? etc.

    Anyway, thanks for your comment.

  • Hey there, I was reading your post and I just wanted to say thank you for putting out such excellent content. There’s so much junk on the internet these days its difficult to find anything worthwhile. I actually have cooked this recipe before, I got this book last month on recommendation from a friend and it turned out very nice! I’m extremely eager to try your variation of it though, it looks excellent. I think you might enjoy those recipes, they’re very good. Thanks for the article and great ideas.

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hi mom!