Unless you are living under a rock, you probably have heard of the new craze around cross-fitters and health nuts, the Paleo Diet.
I don’t like to use the word diet, because I don’t believe in them. Diet ensues a temporary method of eating, and typically do not work.
Regardless, the paleo “diet”, or lifestyle as I like to say, has a lot of ups and downs.
I’m not enforcing this way of eating or any way of eating. I’m simply providing the facts and my opinion so you can decide, is it right for you?
What exactly is the Paleo Diet?
The paleo diet is essentially eating as the cavemen did during the paleolithic era, before the introduction of agriculture and grain-based diets. For this reason it is often referred to as the caveman diet, or the stone age diet.
The idea is that our paleolithic ancestors didn’t suffer from many of the modern diseases that plague our world today. There were no issues of obesity, heart disease, cancer, autoimmune diseases, or diabetes.
Instead they were lean, healthy, fit, and strong.
So what can & can’t you eat on the paleo diet?
What Foods You Can’t Eat
4) Refined Sugar
6) Any processed food
7) Any refined vegetable oils
What Foods You Can Eat
1) Grass Fed Meat
5) Nuts and Seeds
6) Healthy Fats and Oils
For additional clarity and depth just check out the video below.
No grains, no dairy, how can you live like this?!
I was on paleo earlier this summer for 2 months and I have to say once adjusted, eating a paleo diet is actually easier than the typical American Diet.
When I say easier, I don’t mean in the term of actually doing it. But I mean that when you start paleo, and get into a nice little groove, it becomes how you want to eat.
I looked forward to breakfast every morning. Bacon, eggs, avocado. I could eat that breakfast lunch and dinner (and sometimes I did = D).
Plus, what man doesn’t love steak. And I actually don’t mind vegetables either. So in my eyes it was much easier to live like this.
And it doesn’t hurt that the diet made my energy high and my body fat low ; ).
Benefits of eating paleo
Here’s a long list but we will begin with the basics. Modern day grains have become genetically engineered. They are not natural for the body anymore, and quite frankley your body doesn’t know what the hell to do with them.
Regardless of this the benefits of eating the food actually on the paleo food list are
1) More energy
2) Lower bodyfat
3) A boost in mental clarity, accompanied by less brain fog.
4) Improved sleep
5) Clearer skin and hair
There is many more. It is also important to note that you can obviously achieve these benefits with other diets including grains. But paleo is a quick, clean method, to achieving the benefits above and more.
Wait a second….I thought fat was bad?
Fat has gotten a bad rep over the years, and for all the wrong reasons.
Fat is not the enemy!
Your body needs fat. It needs fat to burn fat, it needs fat for the brain to function correctly, and given the correct situation, the body can actually run on fat.
Ketosis is a state when the body actually starts burning fat as fuel.
On strict paleo diets with minimum fruit intake (carbs) a person can easily reach ketosis. This is the ultimate fat burning place the body can be in. It actually starts using ketones (fat) as fuel instead of glucose (carbs).
While following a ketogenic diet you still need some carbs, mainly from fresh vegetables. The brain requires 25g of carbs a day daily to function. Most ketogenic diets have the carb ranges around 25-50 grams.
What fats should you be eating?
So since fats not making us fat what is?
Sugar and simple carbohydrates are the enemy here. When you see something that says fat free, this is what will probably make you extremely fat.
For example, fat free frozen yogurt. Yay! Not so much.
This stuff is loaded with sugar, which is what really makes you fat.
Ok. So how often do I have to eat?
This is the beauty of the paleo diet. No counting calories, and no set meal times. Just eat!
The number one problem with traditional diets is counting calories and being too restrictive with meal times and portions. Traditional diets are set up to fail because all you focus on is how much, how much, how much. Your brain becomes fixated on how much and when you can eat, that you end up eating more.
With the plaeo diet you can relax. You can eat whenever you want and never have to count a calorie. How is this possible?
1) The paleo diet actually curbs your hunger
Foods you eat on a regular basic, like wheat and heavy carbs, actually kick up your cravings for more carbs. Causing you to crave crave crave, and then snack snack snack.
On plaeo you are eating foods high in protein and rich in healthy fat. These foods leave you satisfied for longer, and reduce your cravings dramatically throughout the day. When I was eating paleo I never craved anything for hours after a small breakfast of just bacon and eggs.
2) Paleo foods don’t cause fat gain
Because paleo friendly foods don’t contribute to fat gain nearly as much as non paleo foods, you can each much more. No more counting calories.
What about alcohol?
Relax..you can still enjoy a nice alcoholic beverage on your paleo diet. Just make sure its paleo friendly of coarse!
1) What you shouldn’t drink:
a) No beers containing wheat
There are many beers that are now produced gluten free. These are perfect for someone on the paleo diet. Granted they probably won’t be available in bars, you can buy to relax at the house or take to barbecues.
b) Stay away from sugary cocktails or spirits
2) What you should drink:
a) Wine is a good choice
Not only does wine have a lower alcohol content, but it is very high in antioxidants such as resveratrol.
b) Pure spirits
Spirits are a safe choice as long as they are pure and are free of sugar and grain residue. Even though they may have been distilled with potatoes or grains, mostly all the grains are killed off by the end of the distilling process.
If you want to be safe though, you can drink vodkas that are distilled from grapes, such as Ciroc.
For more information on this watch the video below:
Downsides of paleo
Yes there are a few downsides to eating paleo.
1) Eating out is a bitch
Because our nation has become so fat friendly, it is tough to find paleo friendly meals everywhere you go.
Obviously fast food is out of the question, but this is not a downside at all.
Regular restaurants may have paleo friendly meals, but many do not. Especially Italian.
But fear not, many places are becoming aware of new trends and are beginning to accommodate paleo dieters. Also you can never go wrong with just ordering some steak, or fish, with double the veggies instead of potatoes or french fries.
2) It can be expensive
Eating paleo can be a little more expensive than eating a regular diet.
a) Many paleo dieters purchase only organic food, which in general is more expensive than regular foods at the supermarket.
That being said you can still eat the paleo diet w/o going fully organic. Personally I never bought organic fruit and veg, I stuck with the cheap stuff and the diet worked out fine for me.
b) You need to be eating grass fed meats. These are typically more expensive and cannot be purchased at a most supermarkets.
Places like whole foods and organic food markets carry grass fed items, but if you have ever been to whole foods you know the price can be a little steep.
3) Your alone in the world
One of the toughest parts of paleo is that you will likely be alone in your journey. Your friends will probably be eating whatever they want while you are limited.
People will offer you donuts, the boss may buy pizza for the office for lunch, and you will have to decline.
Its not always easy breaking apart from the crowd, but if you want to be above average you need to do something different.
What do I think of the paleo diet?
I was on the paleo diet for 3 months this summer. Personally, the paleo diet had fantastic results for me.
The picture below is from this year and is after me being on the paleo diet for 2 months.
The above picture is a result of just dietary changes. I did not enter a gym. I did not change anything up. During both periods I was just running a few times a week maybe two miles at a time, tops.
All I did was follow a strict paleo diet, and did not count a single calorie.
I felt cleaner is essentially how I can describe it. Like I was supplying my body with what I need. Now when I have donuts or cakes I feel gross inside and out. I have definitely become more aware of the effect is has on my body.
But that being said, I believe that the fundamentals of the paleo diet are great, but I do not believe that you have to eliminate grains completely out of your life to feel all the benefits.
Yes you might lose a little more weight without the grains that you would with them, but when you are too strict on yourself you are almost setting yourself up for disappointment. Don’t see eating bread as the end of the world. It’s gonna happen. If your out somewhere and you can’t eat paleo, don’t starve yourself.
So yes, I think the paleo diet definitely works for weight loos and general well being. BUT its not the only way to get there.
Some sample meals from my above experiment:
1) 1 Piece of fruit, 2 pieces of maple bacon, 2 eggs friend in bacon fat, 1 whole avacado.
1) 8 oz of steak, chicken, or fish (I never measured but it was roughly half a pound) , a whole bag of vegetables, 1 whole avocado.
2) OR Whole can of chicken salad or 1 cans of tuna. Mix up with mayo, diced tomatoes, and 1 whole chopped avocado.
1) 8 oz of steak, chicken, or fish (I never measured but it was roughly half a pound) , a whole bag of vegetables, 1 whole avocado, sometimes 1 sweet potato.
2) OR 2 pieces of maple bacon, 2 eggs friend in bacon fat, 1 whole avocado.
See a trend here?
I ate a shitload of fat, hence a whole avocado at every meal. My body was most likely in ketosis after the first week, burning fat as fuel. Hence the obliteration of body fat.
For steak it was usually skirt steak with some Montreal steak rub on it. Vegetables I just popped open a bag, threw some butter (fat) in the pan with a little bit of water and heated them for around 10 minutes on medium heat.
This is not a very expensive meal plan, actually may have been less that buying ton’s of bread and cereal. I didn’t keep track but there wasn’t a rise in cost.
My way is simple. Here is a more complex meal plan from ultimatepaleoguide.com
So whats the verdict?
The verdict is up to you.
This diet may sound great.
– Yes you will lose weight on it.
– Yes, compared to the traditional fast food diet you will gain energy and more wellbeing.
– But it is important to understand that it’s not for everyone.
And that’s ok!
There are many other ways of eating that will give you the same benefits of eating a strict paleo diet, without being so hardcore. Just start by eating clean. Eliminate all the processed junk and foods high in sugar and simple carbohydrates. Modify the diet to suit you.
After all, this should even be a diet, but a way of life.
So get some healthy fats, don’t forget about fruit and veggies, and if you can’t give up the grains just keep it whole and nutritious.
Just these small tweaks are enough to have a huge impact on your health and the way you feel. It’s your body, make it the best you can.