In the 1980’s, America witnessed the low fat craze.
In the 90’s, we saw the rise of the Atkins style diet.
In the early 2000’s, the Mediterranean and South Beach diets reigned supreme.
In the last 5 or 6 years, however, the Paleo diet has surpassed them all as America’s go to fat loss eating plan.
The Paleo diet gets it’s name from the Paleolithic era, a prehistoric period of human history extending from the earliest use of stone tools about 2.6 million years ago to the beginning of the agricultural revolution, about 12,000 years ago.
Humans spent most of this time as hunter-gatherers, foraging off the land for sustenance.
There has been quite a bit of research done indicating that before the agricultural revolution, human beings were much healthier, and modern diseases like cancer, diabetes, and heart disease were non existent.
The Paleo diet consists of vegetables, fruits, lean meats, fish, eggs, nuts, and seeds.
Natural oils, like olive, coconut, walnut, flax, avocado, and macadamia, are allowed as well.
Post agricultural foods like grains, dairy, legumes, refined sugar, and alcohol are not allowed.
What you end up with is a whole food based, low(er) carbohydrate, moderate protein, and high(er) fat diet.
As far as “diets” go, I have to say that I like this one a lot.
I have personally used this eating plan and have recommended it to many of my clients with great success.
If the goal is fat loss, improved insulin sensitivity, better cholesterol ratios, and overall health, you’d be well suited following an approach like, or similar, to the Paleo diet.
If the average American male or female ate like this most of the time, we wouldn’t have the obesity epidemic, or the drastic rise in diabetes, cancer, and heart disease we have witnessed in the last several decades.
I truly believe that.
With that being said, like any diet, there are a few “dogmatic” elements to it that I would advise avoiding.
1. Calories don’t matter.
Calories absolutely matter!
Don’t think you can drink your “Bullet Proof” coffee with 500 calories worth of butter and coconut oil while eating 4 eggs with bacon and think that you’re going to lose weight.
While it’s true that because of the reduced carbohydrate intake you are burning more fat for fuel, if you’re eating more calories than you’re burning you’ll just burn the dietary fat you’re eating instead of your stored reserves.
Ipso facto: you won’t lose weight!
The fats in this diet are extremely healthy, yes.
But they do have calories.
Keep track of how much you’re eating and don’t go nuts (no pun intended) on the healthy fats.
Overall caloric intake is still important, especially the leaner you get.
2. I’ll die if I eat grains and/or dairy!
Look, grains and overly processed dairy aren’t the best choices of food.
We can all agree on that.
Hell, I even did a whole post on why you should be avoiding them.
However, the truth of the matter is that you won’t die if you try a slice of pizza or a scoop of ice cream.
You know what you will die from though?
And if you live your entire life worried about what you’re going to eat and where you can eat it and who you can eat with, not only will you be the most annoying person on earth since Sarah Palin, but you will die sooner, unhealthier, and with less friends than if you would’ve just grown a pair and had a piece of f’ing bread!
I lived like that for a few years.
It wasn’t fun.
Avoid wheat and dairy, yes.
But don’t live your life stressing out about how you “can’t” eat wheat and dairy.
Unless you have Celiac disease or complete lactose intolerance, don’t be so god damn anal.
Live life; and every now and then drink a beer and eat a cheeseburger.
When you do, don’t feel guilty.
Last time I checked it was a diet, not a religion.
3. Fat is the body’s preferred source of energy.
This is very true – for low intensity aerobic activity!
Cavemen walked A LOT.
Occasionally they picked up a heavy stone to build shelter, or threw a spear to kill their dinner.
Sometimes they sprinted to avoid becoming dinner.
These brief jolts of energy were few and far between and were probably followed by lots of rest.
One thing is for sure, though:
They weren’t performing metcons of 200 double unders followed by 30 deadlifts and 10 burpees for 5 rounds.
If you are training intensely and often, as in 3 or more times per week, you’re going to need to up your carbohydrate intake.
There’s no way around this, especially if your body fat levels are relatively low.
Going too low on carbs while training often and anaerobically will only lead to a variety of negative health issues.
These include: hindering your recovery between workouts, a suppressed immune system, a drop in testosterone and hgh levels, depression, irritability, and anxiety.
You’re metabolism will also slow down, and this will obviously impede your fat burning abilities; it may even cause you to put on some weight.
If you don’t have 20 or more pounds to lose, and your are exercising intensely, lower your fat intake a bit and add some carbohydrates to your diet in the form of potatoes, rice, and/or gluten free oats, preferably around the time you train.
You’ll feel better, look better, perform better, and you won’t be a such a moody little biatch.
Nothing is written in stone.
We are all individuals and each one of us is different.
Tailor your diet to your own personal goals, activity level, and body type.
If you’re twenty pounds over weight and exercise a couple of times per week, the Paleo diet is probably right up your alley.
If you’re an exercise enthusiast or athlete and your body fat levels are moderate to low, follow the Paleo template of eating whole, natural foods, but realize that because of your workload, you will probably need to consume less fats and eat more carbohydrates in the form of starch.
The Paleo diet is great when used as a guideline; but not when followed blindly as dogma.