Here you'll find frequently asked questions about the Paleo diet and lifestyle.
The Paleo diet is the anti-fad diet because it's the original diet of our hunter-gatherer ancestors. Humans evolved as a species eating only natural foods found in the environment. If it couldn't be caught or pulled from the ground and trees, we didn't eat it.
Instead of worrying about macronutrient ratios and the glycemic index, we ate what we could get our hands on. Some days that was very little, other days we scored big.
Today, living in a modern world, our dietary needs haven't changed much, if at all. Imagine for a moment that you are a caveman or cavewoman (this is fun), do you think you would be eating processed frozen foods or losing weight by eating cookies? No, you'd be eating meat, fish, eggs, vegetables, fruits and nuts.
If the Paleo diet is a fad, it's been around for millions of years.
Not necessarily, but most people naturally decrease their carbohydrate intake when they cut out grains, legumes and dairy. On the Paleo diet, you will get your carbohydrates from fruits and vegetables. For lower carbohydrates, stick with green vegetables and berries; for higher carbohydrates, eat starchy vegetables and fruit. Personally, I eat a lot of salad greens and cooked vegetables, so I don't think of Paleo as being low-carb. At the same time, in terms of grams of carbohydrates per day, I'm on the low end. I have noticed (and this is common) the fewer carbohydrates I eat, the less hungry I am and the more energy I have.
You'll get major benefits by eating a Paleo diet, so start there. Adding a couple short resistance training workouts a weeks will make you look and feel even better. Getting strong is an important part of the equation for getting lean. There's no need to spend hours in a gym.
Try starting with a quick routine of push-ups and squats. As you get stronger, consider incorporating a kettlebell into your workout. I know it's tough to get started, but once you get some momentum, you'll look forward to working out. Exercise is anti-aging and decreases the risk of physical and mental decline, which is reason enough to do it! Explore other types of workouts too. Maybe you will love yoga or martial arts or tap dance or Ultimate or hiking or Zumba or CrossFit or ANYTHING that gets you off the couch. Finding a workout you enjoy will add value to your life in many ways.
We don't know exactly what they were eating, but we do know that they weren't eating modern foods because they didn't exist. Agriculture was invented about 10,000-12,000 years ago (which isn't much time considering the millions of years humans have been evolving). The food industry and highly processed foods are a very recent additions to the human diet.
Our goal is to eat in tune with our stone-age metabolisms rather than trying to emulate our ancestors' exact diets.
You might need more sleep. If you are eating a low-starch Paleo diet, (getting your carbohydrates from vegetables and berries), resistance training 2-3 times a week with plenty of recovery, and you still have belly fat hanging around, you need to increase the amount of sleep you're getting. Most people find this part of the equation challenging and benefit from sleeping more. Studies show that people who get adequate sleep have less belly fat. Start by incorporating a 20-minute nap into your day between work and evening activities. Then, for just one week, make sleep your number one health priority. By the end of the week, you'll be sold on it.
Technically, yes. Everyone figures out their own way of eating a Paleo diet. Some people will eat more sweet fruit, others will eat more meat, others will rely heavily on fats and still others will be most comfortable munching on big salads. It depends on what you enjoy. However, big fruit eaters have more difficulty getting lean. I first observed this during my years in corporate America. The people who ate a lot of fruit were usually struggling to lose weight. They also ate frequently and needed lots of snacks. A diet heavy in fruit is not ideal for getting lean because the sugar in fruit (fructose) is easily converted into triglycerides (fat). Paleo diets that are lower in sugar (carbohydrate = sugar) allow for more efficient fat-burning. If you tend to crave carbohydrate foods, focus on proteins and fats for awhile. In the beginning you might feel a little sluggish and hungry, but that passes once your body starts burning fat for fuel instead of the steady stream of glucose you're providing it. The increase in energy is incredible. Try incorporating some raw or cooked greens into your diet for nutrients and variety. Be sure to add enough fat to your vegetables dishes to make them taste good. Top with some grass-fed butter or add a little bacon for flavor. When you make salads, drizzle them with olive oil or macadamia nut oil and a little apple cider vinegar.
Nutrition advice does seem to change constantly. Often the information the public receives is biased, meaningless or influenced by financial and political incentives. In the recent past, nutrition was a field of "bandwagon jumpers" with fewer critical thinkers than we have now. For example, the work of nutrition researcher Ancel Keys influenced nutrition thinking to such a degree that even though his studies were flawed, no one interjected. In the 1950's, Keys presented evidence supporting a correlation between eating saturated fat and heart disease, but the American Heart Association felt the evidence was insufficient. A few years later, Keys managed to convince the group otherwise with the help of some influential colleagues. Then Time magazine praised Keys' research (even putting him on the cover), which led to a general consensus that he was right about saturated fat. That's fine except for the fact that Keys ignored data that contradicted his hypothesis. His data did not actually support a correlation between saturated fat and heart disease. I think we can all agree that throwing away relevant research findings is a bad thing to do, especially when the health of an entire population is at risk. By tweaking his results, Keys became ground zero for the persistent belief in our culture that saturated fat is bad and causes heart disease. To paraphrase Paleo advocate Mat Lalonde, we're just now recovering from Ancel Keys.
Which brings me back to your question, how do we know Paleo is a healthy way to eat? We know because it is the original diet we evolved to eat over millions of years. Of course, there are details we don't know for sure, such as daily macronutrient (protein, carbohydrate, fat) ratios, which likely fluctuated. We can guess that throughout the year, food availability shifted, as did the amount of animal fat available for consumption. We can imagine that some days there was more successful hunting and other days there was more successful gathering.
As someone who has tried many styles of eating (including vegetarianism), and witnessed others struggling to figure out what works best, the thing I find most refreshing about the Paleo way of eating is that it makes sense intuitively. There are no powdered drinks or frozen meals to heat in the microwave. There are clear guidelines, but no hard and fast rules. While some foods are technically not Paleo, there's a certain amount of wiggle room. The key is to eat real, high-quality foods.
Everyone can make some version of the Paleo diet work for them.
Yes. Research by Loren Cordain, Ph.D. (author of The Paleo Diet and The Paleo Diet For Athletes) has demonstrated with elite athletes that replacing the calories provided by processed carbohydrates like pasta, bread and cereal with Paleo-approved foods results in improved athletic performance. As an athlete, you might benefit from eating a Paleo/Zone diet. Paleo refers to the kinds of foods and Zone refers to the macronutrient ratio.
Paleo = meat, fish, eggs, vegetables, fruits, nuts (and a couple modern additions: healthy oils, spices).
Zone = Protein: 30%, Fat: 30%, Carbohydrate: 40%
Enter the Zone was published in 1995 by Barry Sears, Ph.D. The book was highly influential and introduced the general public to "wonder hormones," eicosanoids. Personally, my view of nutritional science shifted greatly after I read it. But real-life application has shown that getting "into the zone" is not a one-size-fits-all ratio. CrossFit athletes who eat a Paleo/Zone diet often eat fewer than 40% carbohydrates and more than 30% fat (with protein holding at 30%). It depends on the individual. Once you find your zone ratio through trial and error, you will need to adjust it as your fitness level changes. Doing so will require weighing and measuring your food. If improved performance is your goal, it's worth it. Non-athletes can skip the weighing and measuring and stick with simply eating high-quality Paleo foods.
Sometimes, but not much anymore. I like this way of eating a lot. I don't count calories or grams, instead I focus on quality. I love that Paleo emphasizes eating real foods. Two of my favorite meals are fish with cooked greens, and roasted chicken with salad. I love natural fats like avocado, coconut oil, almond butter and egg yolks. I like to eat some full-fat, unsweetened yogurt (my favorite is Fage Greek yogurt) and put cream in my coffee. I also eat dessert once a week.
One month a year (usually January), I do a very clean version of Paleo (as close to 100% as I can get) and then the rest of the time, I'm more flexible.
No, he enjoys pasta, rice and potatoes. For many years he lived with a vegetarian (me) and that meant we ate different foods most of the time. Now, I bring home meat and vegetables and he's happy to eat what I'm making, plus a starch on the side (he does make really good mashed potatoes). Since a Paleo diet is based on real food and has plenty of protein and fat, it's easy to just add another dish to keep non-Paleo eaters happy.
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