The Whole30 clean-eating plan has become increasingly popular over the past few years—and for good reason. The diet works to reduce inflammation in the body caused by gut and allergy disturbances. “The focus during this 30-day span is on eating meat, seafood, eggs, lots of vegetables, some fruit, and plenty of good fats from fruits, oils, nuts, and seeds,” explains Paul Salter, M.S., R.D., former nutrition editor of Bodybuilding.com. “There’s also an emphasis on foods with very few ingredients—each of which is pronounceable—and on foods without an ingredient list because they’re wholesome and unprocessed.”
As with any big dietary change, the Whole30 diet may impact your workout routine. Here’s what you should know about how this 30-day diet can affect your exercise.
You may have less energy.
You may expect to gain energy eating such a nutrient-dense diet, but Salter says this isn’t usually the case. “It’s likely that a person may experience low energy levels through the day because they’re eating far fewer carbohydrates,” he says. “This has a negative impact on focus and performance in the gym.” To prevent this, pile your plate with fruit before you work out to get a burst of energy that will help you through.
You may feel more hydrated.
Monica Auslander Moreno, M.S., R.D.N., dietitian to the Miami Marlins and founder of Essence Nutrition, explains that when you remove processed foods from your diet, you’re also removing salt. This is a good thing because salt is highly dehydrating. “You should be replacing the salt loss with fruit and nuts, the former being mostly water, which will hydrate you,” she says. “Perhaps you won’t be gasping for water like you normally are.”
You’ll feel better during weekend workouts.
For many, giving up alcohol—even an evening glass of red wine—is the toughest part of committing to Whole30. But the good news is that cutting booze from your diet may be the best thing for your workouts. “Alcohol is extremely dehydrating and is a gastrointestinal irritant—both of which can make you feel sluggish for days after a bender,” Moreno says. In a nutshell, if you’re not drinking on the weekends, you’ll feel much better come those Saturday and Sunday workouts.
Your muscle recovery may be compromised.
Adequately replenishing your muscle glycogen stores can prove challenging without consuming grains and legumes, Salter explains. Additionally, a Whole30 diet lacks vital high-quality proteins, such as dairy, which are important during post-workout recovery. “This is impactful in a negative way because that means that you will progress through each subsequent workout for the week with less and less fuel (carbohydrates) in your tank … your muscles never truly recover,” Salter says.
Your body may use its own muscle mass for fuel.
When carbohydrate stores are low, it’s more likely to turn to its own muscle mass as a means of energy. This is not good for your performance and physique, Salter warns. “Muscle enhances your physique and is related to your metabolic rate. The more muscle you have, the more calories you expend per day,” he says. “If you lose muscle, you’ll need to eat even less just to maintain your weight.” Prioritize Whole30-friendly carbohydrates before and after your workouts. And eat a post-workout meal within 60 minutes of finishing.