Junk Paleo, Caloric Math, and a New Direction

Before we get into the math, here’s a few thoughts and product reviews.

First, that coconut bliss ice cream stuff is too good. I’m not buying it anymore. I managed to eat nearly 2 tubs of it in the last 3 days, and that’s just not gonna fly. It’s sugar, and I don’t care that it’s paleo sugar. It’s still not good for me in that quantity.

Second, I found another good bar at the Shaw’s across the street from CrossFit Fenway. “Raw Revolution” makes a set of bars based on a raw-foods diet… but they’re also paleo! And, they taste like brownies. They have a more brownie-like texture than larabars, too, and a higher protein content (8g in 270cals is a bad ratio, but it’s better than 4g in 200cals). All around, a superior choice in my opinion.

Third: don’t do the hemp powder. I forgot to mention this last blog – maybe I blocked out the memory. Trying it again this morning brought back the memory, vividly. Ibought some hemp-based protein powder at Whole Foods and tried it… it’s like eating mud. Really bad-tasting mud. It’s just not worth it for a little better protein-per-calorie ratio. Eat some chicken instead.

And really, that’s what it comes down to. This past week, I’ve been eating less “real food” and more packaged stuff as part of the theme of the week. What I’ve learned for myself is that I’m happier eating real food. The best I felt was after the halibut and salad – which was a corporate dinner at an Italian restaurant. Stuff I can grill and stuff I can chop up and toss in a salad bowl has a much better macronutrient balance than packaged fruit bars. I don’t have to worry about too many carbs, and I just feel lighter. At least, right now I feel really heavy – and last week didn’t feel that way.

Amazingly, I think I proved this week that one can keep strict paleo and still be eating junk food constantly. Ugh.

I don’t like the way it feels. Last night I stopped in a regular old butcher shop and picked up 2 london broil shoulder cuts and 2 t-bones. I know what I’m eating today and tomorrow. The prospect of that makes me smile really, really big.

Theme for next week: traveling! I’m on the road nonstop for the next 10 days for a variety of reasons, so I’ll be checking in with some unusual food logs and the barrage of solutions I come up with for eating like a pseudo-caveman while flying around the country and living out of a suitcase.

Now, for the math:

5/13 Weight: 79.7kg (up from 79.5kg one week ago)
Average cal intake in the past week: 2,254 cal/day
Daily caloric excess… here’s where it gets interesting. Let’s do some math.

For the first scenario, let’s assume that ALL of my extra calories this week turned into fat, all that coconut ice cream stuff, smeared in a nice thin layer just under my skin.

Fat has a high energy density but a low mass density. Which is to say, it takes up a lot of space in your body but stores many calories of energy per pound of mass. 3500 cals per pound to be exact – and about 1 liter of fluid per pound. Consider 1 liter for a moment, and imagine that fluid injected under your skin. That’s a pound of fat.

Graphic depiction aside, a gain of 0.2 kg of fat in a week translates to 1,540 excess calories consumed that week. That’s 270 extra calories per day, which would place my maintenance caloric consumption level at just under 2,000/day this week. Seeing as how I did the class with CrossFit Fenway every day, and also did supplemental Olympic weightlifting sessions three days last week, that makes sense to me – it’s just over my normal 1,900/day maintenance level.

This is how math works. We measure things, and our body gives us answers.

But wait – doesn’t “a pound of muscle weighs more than a pound of fat?” No, that’s ridiculous. A pound is a pound. Density is different, though – a liter (by volume) of muscle weighs more than a liter (by volume) of fat.

There’s also an energy density difference, too. Pure muscle is about 600 cals per pound. It also requires a certain amount of energy to build that muscle, and store it. Some estimations put 1600-1700 cals per pound as the right measure of caloric excess per pound of “lean gain”. We could also use 2050, as listed in Lyle Macdonald’s work for a 50/50 blend of fat and muscle. (Here is a great article of his on caloric energy balance. It’s focused on weight loss, but still relevant here, and good reading for anyone who likes facts and math.)

Using that 2050 number – because no gain is pure “lean gain” – I’d end up calculating a caloric surplus of 130 cals/day to put on the weight I’ve gained in the past week.

Regardless of composition or quality of mass gained, the bottom line is that gaining mass is a function of eating more calories than we burn. Losing mass, amazingly enough, is the result of eating less calories than we burn. Do you want to lose weight? Keep CrossFitting. Eat less.

That prescription works, trust me on it.

The take home message for me is what I have known from 18 months of tracking my caloric intake and weight balance: eating over 1900 cals/day is going to cause my mass to increase. 1900-2100 cals per day is the high end of my maintenance caloric intake range. (Without all the coconut ice cream, that’s where I would have been, too!)

You can do this math too. Weigh yourself first thing in the morning, the same day every week. (Mine is Thursday.) Count all your food, just like I’m doing in this blog. Calculate based on the changes you see. Once you’ve got good data, you can use that to make your dietary choices better informed and more precisely aligned with the changes you intend to see in your body.

Food logged as (calories/grams protein), per usual.


jerky (120/20)
almonds (570/18)
2x 7oz sirloin (660/60)
Broccoli (80/8)
4oz beef (200/30)
4oz chicken (150/30)
coconut bliss (630/6)
Total: 2410cals, 172 g protein

(Funny story about the sirloins: I was out with some customers at a lunch restaurant. Ordered the sirloin. The manager served us, and insisted that I cut the meat to check how it was cooked. As expected, my “medium rare” looked more “medium well” – that’s the problem with not getting steak at a steakhouse (or off my own grill). Unexpectedly though, he said to keep the steak and he’d bring me another one properly cooked in short order. I ate both, voraciously. Two steaks for the price of one? I’m in.)


3 eggs (225/21)
3 strips bacon, 3 links sausage (280/15)
orange juice (120/2)
jerky (120/20)
Larabar (200/4)
trail mix (225/6)
Halibut 4oz (160/32)
Steak 4oz (200/29)
Spinach (80/8)
salad (50)
red wine, 2 glasses (250)
coconut bliss (600/6)
Total: 2510/137

(Again with the red wine. Didn’t hear any complaints about it last time. I’ve got a fondness for tuscan reds.)


Clif-C bars (260/4)
Jerky (120/20)
Raw Revolution Fruit bar (270/8)
Trail Mix (225/8)
8oz boiled shrimp (120/24)
larabar (190/4)
sesame bark (160/4)
8oz beef steak (400/60)
salad (50)
coconut bliss (220/2)
Total: 2015cal, 134g protein

(Shrimp is awesome. Near perfect food, for me. I’ve found a very low cal, very paleo BBQ sauce that I’ll talk about next time that serves as a great substitute for cocktail sauce when consuming boiled shrimp in mass quantities. I’ve got a pound of shrimp in the fridge right now calling my name…)

7 thoughts on “Junk Paleo, Caloric Math, and a New Direction”

  1. I’m surprised at your calorie intake. Using a calculator I found online, my calorie intake to maintain weight is ~2200. I’m going on vacation in a few weeks, but I think after, I’d like to start an experiment like yours!

  2. Don’t forget that lean muscle mass consumes more calories for maintenance then fat. So as you put on “useful” (ie, muscle) weight your maintenance needs may change a fair amount. Hypothetically, a “new” JT, weighing 85kg but most of the new weight solid muscle may need maintenance of 3000cal or more compared to “old” JT weighing 79kg/2000cal maintenance. I just pulled those numbers out of thin air obv, but it’ll be interesting to see what your caloric needs are as muscle mass goes up.

  3. I love shrimp, a lot. I look forward to hearing about your bbq sauce! =) Though really, horseradish is a root, and still fairly spicy without vinegar. I wonder how it would be with some pureed tomato…

  4. Coconut Bliss does not have paleo sugar. Agave nectar is the euphemistic marketing name for High Fructose Agave Syrup. It is more processed and higher in fructose than High Fructose Corn Syrup. It is not paleo.

    I don’t find Raw Revolution to be very paleo. They have sprouted flaxseed would could be considered paleo. Some have soy flour, which is definitely not paleo. The snack bars I consider paleo I list here:


    1. Well, I guess I was doinitrong. Thanks for the tip on “Agave Nectar” versus “Agave Syrup”. Interesting list ya got there.

      The Raw Revo bars I tried didn’t have soy – but some others did. As always, read your labels. (Buy some reading glasses.)

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