The Paleo Diet is by far todays most popular diet, but what exactly is the paleo diet? how does it work? does it really work? Most importantly, How can you get started with the paleo diet? To make it easier for you, I have put together this comprehesive guide to help you get started with paleo.
The paleo diet is short for the paleolithic diet, it is also known as the stone age diet, gatherer diet and the caveman diet. It’s a dietary plan based on the foods similar to what humans most likely ate during the paleolithic era, this dates to somewhere between 2.5 million to 10,000 years ago.
The paleo diet typically includes foods like lean meats, fish, fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds — basically foods that could be obtained by cavemen when they were hunting and gathering.
They key focus is watching what you eat over how much you eat, in other words no more calorie counting! Calorie counting is not an effective weight loss strategy anyway. Since calories are not created equal it makes more sense to watch what you eat rather than how much you eat.
The paleo diet can help you build muscle, lose weight and get in the best shape of your life.
How Does The Paleo Diet Work?
The paleo diet is not really a diet, it’s a lifestyle choice that focuses on eating similar foods to that of early humans. You see our ancient ancestors thrived as hunter-gatherers, and our gentics haven’t really changed that much since then.
Back then the average caveman was tall, muscular, agile, athletic, and incredibly versatile. While today the average person is overweight, out of shape, stressed out, unhappy, sleep deprived and dying from a myriad of preventable diseases.
So what the hell happened? Agriculture! Around 10,000 years ago humans discovered farming, that might sound like a long time, but it’s nothing compared to the amount of time we’ve actually been roaming the earth. Agricultural set of a revolution and changed us from hunter-gatherers into farmers. From then societies built, and we progressed to what we are today.
We have been eating grains since agriculture began, yet our bodies have never really adapted to eating them. There are many reasons why you should stop eating grains, they can damage your gut lining, hurt your immune system and cause many other digestive issues.
The problem is, we’ve become dependant on eating grains – bread, rice, pasta, corn and so on. Even the government recommends a minimum of 6 servings of grains per day. It’s no surprise that obesity is on the rise.
In fact 66% of people are overweight and 33% are considered obese, and those numbers continue to rise every year.
So, clearly things need to change! The paleo diet helps us return to a natural way of eating, the way that our bodies are biologically designed to, this allows us to a live leaner and healthier lifestyle.
What’s Wrong With Grains?
Back in the day, grains were never a part of our diet.
The problem is, grains are composed of carbohydrates, once consumed our bodies turn those carbs into glucose (a type of sugar) which gets used for energy and other bodily functions. Any glucose that our bodies don’t use gets stored as fat.
To learn more about how you get fat, watch this 3 minute video:
Another reason we should avoid grains is because they contain gluten and lectins.
What Is Gluten
A huge part of our population are actually intolerant to gluten. Gluten is a type of protein that is usually found in foods like rye, wheat, and barley. Gluten intolerance has been associated with many medical problems which can occur over time. Stidies have shown that gluten can cause dermititis, painful joints, reproductive issues, acid reflux and many other health issues.
What Are Lectins
Lectins are actually toxins that grains produce to protect themselves. This means that grains have evolved to stop people from eating them. These Lectins are not good for our bodies and can damage our gastrointestinal tract.
The paleo diet also removes sugar from your diet, unless it’s from fruit then it’s a NO. Sugar can cause many health issues including weight gain. It causes energy spikes and crashes that just wreak havoc in our bodies.
All in all the paleo diet is strictly no grains, no sugar and no processed foods! Many studies have shown avoiding these foods can reverse many of todays diseases caused by lifestyle choices.
RELATED: “Are whole grains are really bad for you?”
So What About Carbs?
One of the first thing people ask when I mention the paleo diet is “what about carbs?” or “where am I going to get my energy from?”. But, the truth is our bodies are designed to operate better on a lower carbohydrate intake, so lower carbs is not a problem.
One of the main reasons that the paleo diet is so effective for fat loss is because the lower carb intake turns our body from a primarily carb-burning machine into a fat-burning machine, this is known as ketogenesis.
Are All Carbs Bad?
No, not all carbs are bad. Some are worse than others and there’s definitely a sliding scale of carbohydrate badness.
Many people often think all carbs are bad for you. However, it’s more important to understand the difference between “simple carbs” and “complex carbs”. The most important thing to consider is how fast your body turns the carbohydrates you’re consuming into sugar. Carbs that are transformed quickly are considered “simple” (these should be avoided), while carbs that take longer to break down are considered “complex” (these can be consumed in moderation).
Simple carbs are broken down much faster than complex carbs, they releases a much larger insulin response. When insulin is released, your body instantly stops burning fat. This is the key reason why you should stay clear from simple carbohydrates – this means no bread, pasta and no cookies (sorry). Eating these is not much better than eating sugar itself.
For best results you should get your carbs from vegetables, sweet potatoes, and fruit. Why? These foods are naturally whole foods that are packed with nutrients, low in calories and are NOT processed in any way (unlike grains).
What About Dairy?
There is alot of debate about dairy on the paleo diet. It’s one those categories that sits in a grey zone. For example, Mark Sisson from Mark’s Daily Apple includes whole milk and some fermented dairy products in his primal lifestyle (the primal diet is similar to the paleo diet). However, any strict paleo followers would argue that milk should be excluded, as early cavemen wouldn’t have had cows hanging around outside their caves.
Whatever side you choose remember that the more processed the food is, the less paleo it is. Therefore whole milk would be better that 2%, and 2% milk would be better than skim milk.
What about yogurt, butter, cheese, and ice cream?
Great question. It’s a surprise that we still continue to eat so much dairy, considering that lactose intolerance is so widespread. Just like carbohydrates, dairy can also be a a problem. Lets take a closer look.
Grass-fed butter is considered paleo, it’s a great source of fat, so go for it!
Yogurt is definately in the grey zone. While probiotics in yogurts are great for digestion, the problem here is with the amount of sugar that goes in them. Some yogurts such as the average Chobani yogurt contain around twenty grams of sugar, and they are suposed to be healthy! Again the more processed it is, the worse it is.
Cheese is another form of dairy that’s relatively safe (the fermentation process removes much of the lactose that may bother those with lactose intolerance). That said, you should read more about the problems with dairy before making a call on this one.
Ice cream is an absolute no-go. If you must enjoy it as treat every once in while, but there is way too much sugar in it to be consumed on a regular basis. Avoid whenever possible.
So, No Grains, No Dairy: What Can I Eat?
The paleo diet is all about eating natural whole foods, this includes
- Lean meats – beef, veal, venison, lamb, chicken, bison, etc…
- Fish – salmon, tilapia, bass, etc.
- Eggs – look for Omega-3 enriched eggs.
- Vegetables – Buy oranganic when possible.
- Oils – olive oil, coconut oil, avocado oil – keep it natural.
- Fruits – berries and the less sugary fruits are best.
- Nuts – great for snacks, just keep it in moderation.
- Tubers – sweet potatoes and yams.
In other words, anything a hunter-gatherer would have eaten 10,000 years ago! That means no cookies, cakes or your favorite breakfast cereal. However, this doesn’t mean that eating has to be boring, there are hundreds of amazing paleo recipes you can try. Just avoid any food that contains any chemicals that you can’t pronounce, it’s probably not paleo. Simply stick to paleo approved foods and eat them to your hearts content (with the noted exceptions). You will look better, feel healthier and fat loss will become a breeze.
Find out if a food is paleo or not with our paleo food list!
Why Won’t I get Fat
All the foods on the paleo diet are nutrient dense and filling, it’s pretty much impossible to over eat.
For example a bag of potato chips is loaded with calories and most people could easily eat them all day long. To equal the same amount of calories from vegetables alone you would have to eat several plates full of vegetables which is impossible (believe me, i’ve tried). Eating a big plate of veggies and a decent portion of meat can keep you full for hours, while eating carb-heavy foods doesn’t keep you feeling full for very long.
When trying to lose weight I find the best results are to go 100% paleo and in a few weeks I can drop several pounds of fat (for best results I combine a paleo lifestyle with strength training and HIIT cardio).
How Much Should I Eat
Simplicty is key: Your goal should be to eat a good source of protein with every meal you eat (this includes chicken, eggs, steak, pork or fish) and with a variety of vegetables and fruit. Simple as that. If you feel like you are not getting enough calories try adding some healthy fats to your diet, avocado, almonds or walnuts, almond butter or even some olive oil.
If you are trying to lose weight you want to watch your fruit intake, fruit does contain a fair amount of sugar so be carful not to over do it. You should also be careful with your nut intake as they contain alot of calories, just keep them in moderation. You should concentrate on good protein sources and plenty of vegetables.
In other words, fat should be an important part of your diet.
Hold up! Aren’t Fats Bad For You?
Absolutely NOT! Fat always gets a bad name, but it’s not bad for you.
Ever since the low-fat craze in the 1970’s people have been avoiding fat. People are still stuck in believing that fats are the cause of obesity and cardiovascular disease. However, studies have proven that fats good for us and are essential for good health.
The truth is, our bodies preferred source for energy is fat. Thats right fat! Fat burns slower and lasts much longer than carbohydrates. Therefore, when we stop consuming simple and sugary carbs, our bodies then switch from burning carbs to burning fat for energy instead. This means our bodies start burning the unwanted fat sitting around our belly. When we consume too many simple carbohydrates our bodies simply cannot burn them all, so our bodies has to store it as fat.
Fat is much more satiating than carbohydrates, this means it keeps you feeling fuller for longer. See, because fat fills you up faster, it’s easier to consume less calories on a high-fat diet than it is when you’re on a high-carb diet. In other words, you simply eat less because you get full faster. Strange as it may sound, but it works.
What Are Your Thoughts
Have you tried the Paleo Diet? What was your experience like? Have you got any criticism? Do you have another paleo recipe resource? Please share it in the comments below!