Obstacles: Part 1

The potential benefits of adopting a primal lifestyle seem almost limitless. I’m always amazed to hear how differently it impacts people in their day-to-day lives. Ask a handful of primal followers what the best part is, and I’m certain to get a handful of different responses. People tell me constantly that they finally have control over their hunger and cravings. They can make it through the day without those mid-morning and afternoon crashes. Dinnertime arrives and they could take it or leave it. The pace of their hectic, modern life becomes easier to handle. Weight loss becomes an effortless side effect of new eating habits instead of an unsustainable short-term quest. Helping people to unleash their inner recipe for a lean, healthy, strong body is what I find so gratifying in my efforts to promote Living Primal to the masses.

But before I go on painting this Walt Disney utopia, I want you to be armed with all of the information. Everybody’s transition to eating primal will be unique, and all but the lucky few will experience some challenges along with way. Without proper warning, in some cases these temporary challenges could be enough to send you running back to your old ways. And I definitely don’t want to see you get only part of the way there, when a fit, healthy, happy life awaits you in less than thirty days.

Low Carb Flu

As your body adjusts from burning readily available glucose to relying more on fat, there is sometimes a temporary lag before all systems align themselves and function efficiently. This can lead to symptoms of mental fog, fatigue, irritability, and headaches, which are collectively referred to as “low carb flu.” Think of this as your body’s withdrawal and detox period as you kick your carbohydrate addiction! While this can be a significant hurdle to overcome, rest assured that it is only temporary. Creating glucose out of fat is a slightly more complex, but entirely natural process.

Some folks will experience it, and others will not. There is some suggestion those who relied heavily on carbohydrates previous to the lifestyle change may have a tougher time, but again this isn’t always the case.

Muscle Cramping

Related to the low carb flu, athletes may experience temporary muscle cramping during their transition to improved fat burning. From personal experience, these symptoms can be disconcerting if you’re not prepared for them! For example, when my brother (who is an elite level endurance athlete training for an Ironman triathlon) switched over to primal eating, he noticed as much as a 10 second decrease per 100 m in his swim workouts, while putting forth the same effort. Had he not known that this muscle fatigue was a normal side effect, it might have been enough to derail his efforts completely.

Ketosis Breath

As you dial back your carbohydrate intake, or during intermittent fasting, your body has to rely more on fat and protein for its energy needs. But to use these nutrients as fuel, your body has to break them down into small pieces; these small pieces are called ketones.

Ketones increase the acidity of the blood. Your body tries to correct this by eliminating ketones through urine, stool, and breath. This foul-smelling breath is referred to as ketosis breath.

While this problem can be unpleasant for intimate relationships and close-talking coworkers, it is temporary…not to mention completely natural and a powerful sign that your body is switching into fat-burning mode!

Ways to combat ketosis breath include:

  • Drink more water
  • Keep gum and breath mints handy
  • As a last resort, consider slightly increasing fruit/veggie intake

As any primal buff will attest, these temporary setbacks pale in comparison to the benefits realized once the transition has passed. The adjustment is typically complete within three to four weeks. Perhaps building in some extra downtime and shuteye during the process will help you arrive at the other side relatively unscathed.

Stay tuned in the next blog post for how to defend your food choices with concerned friends and family members, as well as navigating your way through eating out.