Real People, Real Paleo: Christopher Kelly’s Journey with the Autoimmune Protocol (Yes, It Can Work for Athletes)

April 11, 2013 in Categories: by

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“Real People, Real Paleo” is a series of posts written by real people who were inspired to share their paleo story with you.  There is such diversity in the challenges that bring us to a paleo diet and lifestyle and in what we hope to achieve by adopting them.  These stories are intended to be a place of inspiration, written by real people, showing the diversity of our needs and our approaches to this way of eating and living, and explaining how each individual’s implementation of paleo meets their needs.  By sharing these people’s stories with you on my blog, I hope to redefine what paleo success is.  I do not believe that eating paleo is purely about losing weight, gaining muscle, and having 6-pack abs.  I believe that paleo is about being healthy enough to thoroughly enjoy life, whatever that means for you, and about sustainability for our entire lives.  If you are interested in writing up your story, use the form on this page to contact me.

227592_10151132059786923_219274248_nI’m thirty-seven years old now, and I started cycling competitively about five years ago, bumbling along without making much progress for a couple of years before hiring a coach and soon after my speed and endurance improved. The training ramped gradually and with it my need for fuel. Conventional wisdom pointed towards high carbohydrate diets for athletes and I was eating large quantities of fruit, grains, legumes & dairy. I really wanted to be completely vegetarian but knew that getting enough protein could be problematic so ate fish a couple of times a week. I can’t pinpoint the exact moment when the symptoms normally associated with IBS became debilitating, but sometimes I’d be in too much pain from bloating to ride at all.
Then just over a year ago I discovered The Paleo Diet For Athletes co-authored by Joel Friel, a well known and respected endurance coach. I eliminated the grains, legumes & dairy and replaced them with less starchy tubers, eggs, nuts & fruit. The IBS symptoms improved markedly but never went away and were particularly bad after racing.
My primary physician had noted low hemoglobin & hermatocrit and high white blood cell counts for some time, something I put down to training and hay fever respectively. I eventually realised that really I should understand exactly what was going on and that yielded a diagnosis of iron deficient anaemia. The doctor didn’t really question the low iron levels, instead he prescribed an over the counter iron supplement. That was a truly horrible idea, the symptoms got worse than ever.
Enter the gastroenterologist, she ordered more tests that revealed occult faecal blood, high C-reactive protein & IgA. We talked briefly about diet, but it seemed quite clear to me that she didn’t think that was the cause of the bleeding. She ordered a colonoscopy and hinted that help for the symptoms my suspected ulcerative colitis were available. The prospect of anti-inflammatory steroids or even immunosuppressants sounded extremely unappealing but things had gotten pretty bad.
At almost the exact time that I was scheduling the colonoscopy I discovered the AIP article that changed everything. All the pieces fitted together so perfectly and the risk of giving it a go virtually nil so out went the eggs, fruit, nuts, coffee, alcohol & nightshades. And when I say out, I mean I have only consumed foods on the AIP for the last six weeks. My supplementing with whey protein (and creatine, only found in red meat) was ridiculous and I starting eating all meat.
At first the symptoms got slightly worse, possible due to the meat, but within a week I saw massive improvement. Now at six weeks I feel pretty much completely cured, going better than ever on the bike. The C-reactive protein & occult blood tests are now negative, concrete proof I’ve stopped the bleeding.
My iron levels had become dangerously low and my doctor ordered a course of iron sucrose infusions, the effect of which were truly eye opening. Suddenly my ability to concentrate improved dramatically, almost as if a fog had lifted.
Anyone that tells you athletes need grains and starch for fuel is wrong, I’ve put in some twenty hour weeks on the bike whilst eating AIP.
It’s frightening to think how much time, money & suffering I could have saved myself had I discovered sooner, it has proved to be a vastly more valuable resource than either of the doctors I’ve seen. Many thanks Sarah, I’m sincerely grateful.


Love this Christopher! I am also regular cyclist, and do HIIT 3x/week as well as weight training. When I mention my what my diet consists of the reaction from other trainers and athletes is quite agressive. “But you NEED TO EAT complex carbs!!”. I just smile. There doesn’t seem to be much point in trying to explain something we have all been taught for so long is wrong. I know it works for me, I know I feel better, and I know my performance/strength continues to improve. The proof really is in those who have lived both with the syptoms, and then without with a change in diet to AIP. Thank you for sharing your experience and I’m happy for you!! We can all learn from each other on this path and I share your gratitude to Sarah for impacting lives forever!

Thanks and good for you Jolaine. You’ve got to be healthy before you can get stronger, of that I’m sure.

That is why eating healthy is so important these days. Everything is processed now, and those kinds of foods are very unhealthy. I started eating healthy, namely the Paleolithic diet about a year ago. My body has adjusted properly to that.

Since going on the Paleo, everything else seems to just get better. My appetite is still about the same, but the unusual cravings are gone now. Losing weight is seamless these days.

So what did your meals look like? I do a ton of exercising as well, heavy strength and conditioning and then big cardio workouts. I have psoriasis. Was curious to see athletes can and how they thrive whilst on such a time of “embracing…”

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