Whole 30 Questions and Answers

I want to preface this post by saying that I'm not a nutritionist or running coach.  The information I'll be sharing comes from It Starts With Food, other research, and from my experience on the program so far.  The program is not going to work the same on every person, so don't be afraid to adapt it to fit your health and safety needs.  The program isn't meant to be one-size-fits-all for life, but a way to physically "reset" in 30 days and figure out what bothers your own, personal body.  I'll talk more about what to do after the 30 days in an upcoming post!

If you're a runner, it might be a smart idea to try out Whole30 when you're in a lower mileage month, since the diet in general may affect your energy levels.  It's also a good idea to consult with your nutritionist, running coach or doctor if you're concerned about trying this.  The last thing that I want is someone to try this out because of my posts and end up injured or hurt in some other way.  If you want to try this out for health reasons or to figure out why you're not feeling great (aka the reasons I'm doing this)- GREAT.  If you're doing it because it's the "in" thing to do or you want to drop 10 pounds, Whole30 might not be for you.    If you'd like to see a running coach's argument against the Whole30, check out Laura's post here

Now that I have that out of the way, let's get to today's post!  I've been getting a lot of questions about the Whole30, both from readers and people in my life. I wanted to answer a few of those questions as best as I can.  I hope that this will help to explain things a bit more, but please feel free to contact me with any other questions or leave feed back in the comments!

I also want to make it clear that I'm not affiliated in any way or work with the Whole 30 program.  This is just something that I wanted to try out for the reasons I listed on Margaret's blog.  I'm also not an expert- I'm only on day 10!  Thank you for understanding, and on with the post! :)


What can runners use as fuel?

A lot of my typical foods that I use to fuel are off the table (Honey Stinger gels and waffles, Picky Bars and Nuun).  My stomach is really sensitive when I run, so I can't have the normal pre-run food like bagels or peanut butter toast.  Fruit is what I normally eat before runs and races (in fact, before my half marathon PR all I had was an apple and I had no cramps or fatigue at all!) and it helps to give me some sugar and carbs without the cramps. 

For Whole30, I had to find some other sources of fuel to replace those other items.  Here are some things that are working for me (and as always, make sure you check labels to make sure there's no added sugar or any other banned items):

Pre run : Bananas, dates with almond butter, unsweetened apple sauce, deli turkey, beef jerky

During run : Regular dates, dried apricots, Lara bars (or make your own)

Post run : Chicken breast, roasted sweet potatoes, egg whites mixed with pumpkin and apple sauce

If you're interested in more, Ultra Running Girl has a great blog post with fueling ideas (as well as what didn't work), and here is a good meal planning guide on the Whole30 website, with guidelines on meals as well as pre and post workout.

Do you get enough carbs?

(This is one question that I again have to remind you that I'm not a nutritionist, so take what I have to say with a grain of salt- which is Whole30 compliant!) This is probably the biggest question that I've been asked, particularly by my fellow runners.  Eating enough carbohydrates is an essential part of staying healthy and energetic while distance running, and the Whole30 eliminates all grains.  However, a lot of foods other than grains have carbs!

Some carb-dense vegetables that the book recommends include potatoes, butternut squash, acorn squash, beets, pumpkin and parsnips.  It's also recommended to add an extra meal if you are an active individual, which is laid out in the meal planning guide above.  This seems to help me tremendously, so I'll typical eat a fourth meal right after I get home from work, or after my workout.  

This is one of those areas that may affect people differently.  I find myself having more energy than ever when I run, while following the Whole30 diet.  Before I started this, my legs always felt really weighted down and I had terrible stomach problems during long runs.  I've followed the guidelines on getting enough carbs in my diet, and I've felt incredible.  Not only do I feel better physically on my runs (and in daily life), but my paces have been nearly a minute per mile faster.  

This is a topic that is discussed a lot in the Running Whole30 Facebook group, and the general consensus is nearly identical to my experience.  Some runners are experiencing some fatigue or low energy levels on longer runs, but most of that is caused by poor planning, or not eating enough.  Carmen talked about following the Whole30 while running 75 miles a week, Margaret talked about running and doing Whole30, and I'm currently running 20-30 miles a week and not struggling.  This may be a case of "your miles may vary" (literally), so make sure that you're planning accordingly and being careful about getting enough of all of your necessary vitamins and minerals.  I don't want to see any of you get sick or injured!

What do you drink?

This is definitely an area that most people seem to struggle with.  Alcohol, dairy, and all added sugars are not allowed, so what else does that leave?  Actually, a lot!  Here's a sample day and what I drink:

Breakfast: Black coffee.  For some people, this might be the toughest transition.  I've always liked having my coffee black, so I don't mind it at all!  If this is a struggle for you but you need your coffee in the morning, I would recommend going to a coffee shop and trying a few different roasts, and find one that really tastes good to you.  It may cost more than your typical beans, but the experience will be better, and you're saving money by not buying cream or sugar to add in!  Almond milk, coconut milk, coconut oil and spices are also allowed, so these might make the taste more bearable if you really can't stand it black. 

Before/after Lunch: During work, I like to sip on tea.  I have a big assortment of different flavors at work, so it's been fun to test out new varieties!  Some of my favorite are Yogi Caramel Apple Spice Tazo Refresh Mint (or any kind of mint tea) and Celestial Seasonings Tension Tamer Tea

Lunch: With lunch, I typically drink a big glass of ice water.  I like to have something refreshing with my lunch!  If you're not a fan of plain water, try adding some fruit or a squeeze of lime and a sprig of mint.  Tastes great!

Workouts: Coconut water is one of my favorite ways to hydrate for workouts, even when I'm not on the Whole30!  It's delicious and really refreshing.  My favorite variety is from Trader Joe's, but make sure you read the label to ensure no sugar is added!

Dinner:  La Croix is not exactly cheap, but it's a great alternative to pop.  Before the Whole30, I would typically have glass of wine with dinner, and this is probably what I miss the most!  To make up for that, I'll pour my La Croix in a wine glass so it's a bit fancier, and add some mint or a slice of lemon to the glass.  It makes dinner a lot more fun!  I also saw some ideas for mocktails on the Whole9 website!

Night:  After dinner, I like to either have some non-decaf tea or some more water. Great way to end the day!

What are some Whole30-compliant Trader Joe's items?

It seems like a lot of you like shopping at Trader Joe's as much as I do, because a few people asked this question!  There are a lot of basic items that I get from TJ's, like fruits and vegetables (both fresh and frozen), oils, nuts, and poultry.  These items are typically a lot cheaper than my local grocery store, and there's a much wider selection.

I did some research online and found some great ideas of some other things to pick up.  I didn't want to take credit for any of these lists, so I'll link the original sources and list some of my favorites from each!

Jenny On the Spot - Guacamole, peeled hardboiled eggs, uncooked ground buffalo burgers

Just Jessie BCruciferous Crunch, roasted plantain chips, coconut milk

The Common Room Blog - spices and herbs, freeze dried fruit, seafood blend

Paleo Plan - nut butters, canned fish, squash and sweet potatoes

Can vegetarians/vegans participate?

There are many different ways that both vegetarians and vegans can participate in the Whole30.  In the book It Starts With Food, the authors have a few modifications to the diet to suggest:

- If you eat some animal products (eggs, fish, etc.) - use those sources for the bulk of your protein, and supplement with plant-based sources as needed.

- If your concerns are ethical: research responsibly, ethically sourced meat, seafood and eggs.  Dallas and Melissa (the authors of the book and creators of Whole30) stress the importance of not buying factory-raised meats for the program in general, and offer this as a solution.  I know that I've changed my shopping habits to follow their suggestions.  It's a bit more expensive, but I feel a whole lot better about where my money is going and who I'm supporting (plus the food tastes better!).

- If dairy is an option for you, find pastured, organic, fermented sources like yogurt or kefir.  Whey protein from grass-fed, organic sources is also allowed.

-If none of these options work for you (don't want to eat any animal products, or need to supplement with more plant-based protein), minimally processed, fermented soy products like tempeh or natto, or organic edamame are permitted, as well as nonfermented soy like extra-firm tofu, and various legumes.  The authors just stress the importance of soaking the legumes for 12 to 24 hours, rinsing, and boiling at least 15 minutes to remove anti-nutrient and inflammatory compounds.

For more sources of information, you can read a Vegetarian's Account of Whole30, and the Whole30 Shopping List for Vegetarians.

I know that a few of you are vegetarians or vegans, and have no plans on changing your mind, which I completely respect.  While Whole30 might not be for you, you can still work on improving your diet for 30 days by removing excess sugars, alcohol and processed foods from your diet.  I know that these changes have made the biggest difference to me!

What other questions do you have about Whole30?
Is there anything I can clarify in my answers?
What are some of your favorite Trader Joe's products?

This post contains affiliate links


  1. Great post on a notoriously tough subject. I think Whole 30 can be great for many people who need to establish good eating habits and also to learn how to cook and prepare whole foods throughout the day. One of my biggest problems with Whole 30 is that it can be hard to sustain in the long run, for your energy levels, as you mentioned, and just in terms of cooking everything. But I don't mind it if people go into it for the right reasons.

    1. I really appreciate your comment Susie! I agree with all of your points..those are all really good reasons to try this out!

  2. a couple of interesting topics about whole 30 you don't hear discussed that often, so thanks for the info! i know a lot of runners will be curious on this!

  3. I think this is such a smart and knowledgeable post! You did such a great job that I didn't even mind that you said the word "pop" :) kidding but it did throw me off guard! I can definitely see why Whole30 wouldn't work for everyone and I wouldn't recommend it to everyone, but the more info someone has, the better they can make a decision for themselves. Mainly, this is just really helpful for the people in our group with questions so I thank you!!

    My last little bit: One of the best benefits if you get nothing out of Whole30 is that you learn a thing or two about yourself and about food. If you don't sustain it (well, I don't think anyone should sustain Whole30 and it's not meant to be too much longer than 30 days) then at least you've learned to eat more veggies and less processed food which is great! The best part is after when you find the right balance for yourself with what you learned! Have a great Tuesday!

    1. Aw come on Margaret...just give me pop!! You can have all the other words haha! I'm glad that you liked this post, and thanks for that added bit at the end. 100% agree :)

  4. Funny that you put the "Paloma" drink. That's what my mom ordered every day on vacation, although with alcohol :) Great job answering tough questions!

    1. I could go for one with alcohol in it right about now haha!

  5. I agree that this can be a tough subject but love what you have done! I think it's more of a analysis on what we rely on food and fuel wise (especially in light of the sugar debate) and isn't for everyone. I tend to already eat pretty "whole30" but was curious how the reduced sugar and grains and dairy would affect my body. I do think my concentration is better! I also have to test that paloma drink, looks delish!!

    1. Thank you for stopping by! Cutting my sugar has drastically changed my day to day life. Love it!

  6. You did a fantastic job compiling this post and answering all of these questions! It sounds like a very healthy eating plan. I wish I could adapt to drinking my coffee black- love your suggestion of sampling different roasts and paying more for that, less for cream + sugar!
    Gina || On the Daily ExpressOn the Daily Express

    1. Thanks Gina! I swear, you get used to the taste really quickly and you'll never miss that cream and sugar again :) Plus, now I drink slower and it helps the coffee last all morning!

  7. Fascinating! Especially the part about how your pace has picked up a whole minute/mile. SO COOL. I'm really glad you're doing this!

  8. I also LOVE coconut water! Im not a fan of drinking anything except water while I am running (something about anything flavored bothers me) but I LOVE it after a hard run/workout to refuel. My fave brand is Harmless Harvest!

    1. I haven't heard of that brand before..thanks for the suggestion :)

  9. I really appreciate how you addressed some of the top questions with Whole30, especially the issue of eating enough. I didn't know about the fourth meal and am glad to hear the plan encourages it for athlete, since that could help minimize the risk of underfueling. I still would never recommend it (or any diet, at that) to an athlete, but I am glad to hear how runners can prevent nutritional issues if they choose to follow it to address health issues. And thanks for sharing my link!
    I also appreciate your note on eating meat from organic sources. There was an worthwhile article released just yesterday in Outside magazine about the problems that the Paleo diet poses for the environment, since so many people follow Paleo eating but do not eat local or organic meat.

    1. Thanks for stopping by and commenting Laura! I'm glad that I got you to come around a bit to Whole30, and I still understand why you wouldn't recommend any diet to an athlete. Makes sense to me!

  10. i really need to do something like this, but not as hardcore as whole30. i'm not a vegetarian but i don't eat a lot of meat and i rely a lot on beans and such. but i really do need to cut out excess sugars!

    1. That's a great idea! After this is over, I'll definitely continue to cut excess sugars out, so I'll share about my diet changes later :)

  11. Thanks for answering these Gretchan. I think a lot of people have ideas and thoughts about the Whole 30 and this clarifies a ton of them.

  12. All of this information is super interesting! I like that you poured La Croix into a wine glass:) Haha I would do the same! One question I thought of- during this 30 day period, are you dining out at all? Obviously I'm sure it's much, much easier to cook everything so you know exactly what's in it. I was just curious if you've ever (or will be) been in situations throughout the 30 days where you're with other people who are out to eat? Just a thought!

    1. I will be dining out for an anniversary party, so I'll definitely share about that :) There are a lot of tips the book provides for how to handle that, so I'll share some ideas and what works for me!

  13. You answered questions that I think people are definitely wondering! I love palomas :)

  14. this looks so delicious! My husband hates eggs, so I never make Frittata’s which is a shame. Have you tried freezing this or something similar. I’m thinking for my breakfast or lunch, I could make ahead. Let me know, much appreciated!
    Regards: Eve Hunt

  15. I love to use my crock pot year round. In the winter for comfort foods and in the summer because it is just too darn hot here most of the time. But I still enjoy a good soup during the summer and I’m bound to find one here!
    Kelly Hubbard

  16. Thanks for this amazing list! I’m trying to eat the least amount of processed foods possible and this is so perfect for me!
    Holly Hooper

  17. I make something very similar and freeze it. The trick is to reheat it in the oven and not the microwave (which makes it weird and soggy.
    Paul Brown


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