Five years ago it was easy to explain the Paleo Diet, but somehow, in the last few years, the paleo diet, the simplest diet ever, has been complicated to almost no end. It has frustrated me enough I have found myself almost avoiding discussing it. The questions I get about diet and nutrition are less and less about how to get healthy, but more about how to cheat and what can we get away with. I know how important healthy eating is to your success in the gym and in life, so I want to put the info out there in a simple, to the point way.
Robb Wolf is the best known Paleo guru. His blog and podcasts are very informative. Read his article “What is the Paleo Diet” for an in-depth explanation of the Paleo Diet. While you are there, make his site a favorite so you can return to it and read as much of his work as you can.
[box_content][pullquote align="left" type="simple"]Paleo: The Simplest Diet Ever… Eat meat, nuts and seeds, dark green veggies, a few berries, no starch and no sugar. [/pullquote]In this article I am going to try to make it all very simple and line out a healthy diet template. Consider it a foundational template anyone can begin. It is a template I will guarantee to reduce your body fat and increase your performance in the gym. There is a bonus… you’ll experience a heightened level of cognition too. That foggy brain will disappear and your focus will increase. Much of that will be linked to the improved sleep you’ll enjoy. How am I so sure? EVERY SINGLE PERSON, without exception, I’ve ever known to have followed this way of eating lost fat and increased lean body comp.
I have met a few people that said it didn’t work for them and it made them feel bad. They lied. They lied to themselves and didn’t really try it. They were overweight and weak minded then and they are overweight and weak minded now. It made them feel bad because they were experiencing the withdrawal symptoms of reduced insulin and serotonin. Insulin and serotonin, their high sugar and carb, diet had been saturating their bodies and brains for years. Those folks tend to aggravate me. They have no control over their own actions and waste my time asking me questions about cheating their diets. Anyone who tells me they “need carbs” is simply full of it. There’s only one group of folks that need carbs… they’re doing endurance events over 3 hours long. Otherwise, you do not need starch (potato, sweet potato, rice, etc.) based carbohydrates. This America Journal For Clinical Nutrition article by Dr. Eric Westman of Duke Medical University, “Is Dietary Carbohydrate Essential for Human Nutrition”, was published in 2002 and long before the Paleo / low carb argument went mainstream. It explains why we do not need carbohydrates.
Let me be clear… I don’t eat a Paleo Diet myself. It is too broad. I prefer to eat an Ancestral Paleo diet. In other words, I eat the foods my ancestors would have had at their meals. That means, as a person of northern European descent, I eat meat, tubers, and vegetables. I rarely eat berries and never bananas or citrus fruits. They do not grow in the colder, northern climates of Europe so my ancestors would not have had them and therefore did not evolve to tolerate them as well as someone who’s ancestors are from a tropical climate. Some would consider this a more restrictive form of the already restrictive Paleo Diet. I say it is an optimized form of the healthiest way you can eat. It’s a positive, not a negative.
So before we go any further, be honest with yourself… if you consider eating healthy and improving yourself a restriction, you will always be unhealthy and overweight. If you cannot take control of what you put in your mouth, you will not thrive. Not in the gym and not at life. If just getting by is all you want or you are Ok with being Ok, stop reading this now and have a caramel latte or an ice cream. The serotonin will make you feel better about being overweight and help you accept your oncoming diabetes. And as long as you feel good about the bad things you do, it will be ok by most of your peers too.
If you want to experience healthy results and better your body composition read on!
Eat Clean Foods From Organic Sources
Stay away from processed foods. If it didn’t come from the earth, don’t put it in your body. Lean towards organic foods. Organic foods have more nutrients and less chemicals. Less chemicals is a good thing. It confuses me when a person says there is no benefit from eating organic food. So I ask that same person if he or she would like a sip of Round Up or Diazinon. So far, no one has ever accepted. I think it a decent assumption if it kills bugs and weeds, it must have at least a slight negative affect on our cells too.
Eat More Meat
Increasing your protein intake has many healthy benefits. If you’re training hard, the amino acids in proteins repair the damage exercise causes causes to muscle tissue. If improving body composition is your goal, protein fills up the tummy with almost no concern of fat gain. The body is efficient and doesn’t like to work hard at anything. Converting dietary proteins to body fat is just not something our bodies do not like to do. A good way to determine how much protein you need is to multiply your body weight by .7. That is approximately how much protein in grams you need each day to maintain healthy body mass. Adjust the multiplier up to at least 1 for endurance training and 1.25-1.5 if you are strength training and/or doing a CrossFit style program intensely. So if you are 140lbs, that means you need at least 98 grams of protein each day (140 x .7) to get by. That is 4 large chicken breasts. If you are training it is 120-200 grams you will need. That is 5 – 8 chicken breasts. So yeah, there’s no room for cake.
Eat More Grass Fed/Finished, Antibiotic Free Meats
Eating healthy isn’t just about the proper ratio of macro nutrients (protein, fats, and carbohydrates), those macro nutrients need to be clean and as natural as possible. Meats raised on hormones, fed grains, and pumped full of drugs are nearly devoid of Omega 3 fatty acids. These meats actually cause dietary imbalances and increase inflammation in our bodies. Grass fed and finished meat are typically leaner and are far more healthy for us.
Eat More Veggies
You’ve been told this since you were a kid. But have you ever actually tried it? You can literally eat all the dark green veggies you can stand and you’d not gain any fat. What you will gain is a gambit of nutrition. The trace minerals and nutrients found in dark green veggies are present without many calories. The majority of calories are from fiber. Fiber is carbs but very low glycemic carbs (little insulin response), most of which cannot even be absorbed by the body, much less stored as body fat. Again, all positives and no negatives.
Eat less Fruit
Fruits have a lot of sugar… that’s why they’re sweet (Duh). A banana has more sugar than a Snickers bar. Eat only fruits with dark, thin skins. They are highest in anti-oxidants and have less sugar. They are called berries. Still, do not eat them often. Once a week may be too often for most of us. Why is fruit so highly recommended by so many MDs and nutritionists? Most American could benefit from eating less chips, sweets, pasta, bread, and other junk. So replacing those things with fruit would be an improvement over their current diet. But I’m not trying to give you a better diet than you have now… I’m presenting you with the best diet.
Take Omega 3 fatty acids EPA/DHA.
Many would suggest Fish Oil be included in a list of supplements. Since it is so important, I consider it a need in each of our diets. I used to recommend we all take fish oil, but I wanted to further complicate and confuse things for everyone and began recommending EPA/DHA. I do it because I think it makes me sound more intelligent when I use less common, fancy words. No. I just don’t like the term fish oil. It’s too broad, misleading and not at all what you actually want to ingest. Fish oil is a culmination of the juices you could squeeze out of a croaker’s ass. EPA and DHA are omega 3 fatty acids found in wild caught, cold water fish like salmon, cod, sardines, and anchovies. Fish Oil is sold at Walmart, Walgreens, CVS, and other fine retailers that also sell school supplies, beach toys, holiday candy, and hemorrhoid creams. EPA and DHA are found in high quality supplements produced by companies like Stronger Faster Healthier, Poliquin, Meta-genics, and Nordic Naturals. They have the toxic, heavy metals (like Mercury) naturally found in cold water fishes removed from their oils by way of cold pressing, not solvents. It makes them quite a bit more expensive products than the ones you can find on the shelves next to Preparation H, but VERY worth it. Taking cheap fish oil is more unhealthy for you than not taking them at all. Of course everyone wants to know how much EPA/DHA to take. Start with 8-10 grams each day of combined EPA and DHA. Note the serving size on the bottle is not enough. Not one fish oil product’s suggested serving is enough fish oil to make any real difference. Also, you should note the EPA/DHA is listed separately on the bottle. To find out how much you should take of a specific product, you have to add them together, then divide the the total amount you need each day by that number. That is how many servings of your fish oil you have to take daily. Unclear? Read this.
Eat meat and nuts (or avocado) for the first 6-8 hours of your day.
This one blows people away for some reason. Yet it is the simplest way to increase your focus and reduce body fat. By not eating insulin raising carbs all morning, you don’t get the foggy brain (carb coma) we all know too well. The protein and fats in the meat, nuts, and avocado sets up our neurotransmitters for the entire day… in a positive way. There’s little insulin produced during these morning hours so the body can still burn fat. It’s kind of like fasting… except you’re not hungry. Read “What did you Have for Breakfast” for more info on this one.
Cook your own food.
If you prepare and cook all your own food, the chances are slim to none you will eat bread, candy, or any other non paleo foods. Since baking has nearly gone away in favor of faster, more convenient ways to cook food, there are actually very few people who even know how to bake bread. I don’t know anyone who makes their own pasta. How about chips or crackers? Not so much. Bananas, apples, oranges? No one cooks fruit unless it is a dessert. Oh, just in case you are unsure… chocolate is not a fruit.
If you do the very simple things I’ve listed above you are there. It’s all you need to do. Improved health, sleep, and performance will be yours. If you cut out the foods that elicit insulin, you’ll lose body fat and reduce inflammation. It’s the most simple “diet” ever. These’s not a single doctor or nutritionist out there that can argue it is bad for you to stop eating processed foods and increase your veggies. Other than wanting to eat junk food, you have no reason not to try it and nothing to lose but body fat if you do.
As much as I’d like to end this article here… as much as I know it is all the info you really need to be successful, I am going to elaborate by adding in some healthy eating “don’ts”. The reality is, they need to be explained or many of you will continue believing your oatmeal, whole wheat bagel, soy latte, paleo muffins, and bananas are actually good for you.
Don’t consume grains… especially wheat.
If you do only one thing for your health in your entire life, cut out grains. Grains are undoubtedly responsible for many of the[pullquote align="right" type="simple"]“Perhaps it is time to carefully examine the issue of whether carbohydrate is an essential component of human nutrition.” – Dr. Eric Westman in 2002[/pullquote] increases in diabetes, migraines, heart disease, IBS, Crohn’s, Ulcerative Colitis, depression, and even autism. There’s so much information out there about grains being detrimental to our health, yet our FDA, swayed by the very powerful agriculture lobbies, does nothing to restrict or regulate our consumption. Nor do they do anything to educate on the disease links and deadly effects grains and the foods made from them have. Not convinced? Read the book “Wheat Belly” by Dr. William Davis and this article.
Don’t eat soy.
Soy is a grain so I covered it in the previous paragraph, but with the marketing push it gets and inherit adverse risks to our health compounded by all the ladies I see in the mornings fresh out of the gym ordering it in their coffees, it deserves its own. Soy was originally marketed to women as a replacement for milk, dairy, and meat protein. The idea that fueled the marketing was that Asians ate soy and live long, healthy lives. The problem is, Asian cultures eat fermented soy, not the processed soy presented for sale in the US. Tofu? It is concentrated soy product meant to replace protein. It is not only toxic, Soy protein inhibit the bodies ability to absorb all proteins. Read “Soy, The Protein Killer”. In the least it is counter productive to. It is far worse than dairy. Soy contains compounds that mimic estrogen. It lowers testosterone and is toxic to the pituitary and thyroid glands. Soy adversely affects fertility in women and is linked to depression. In many studies, animals, especially carnivores and omnivores, fed soy could not reproduce. They also experienced elevated liver functions. In a country of such means, why is the US the first great civilization to experience such high levels of infertility?
Don’t Eat Sugar.
Diabetes, obesity, inflammation… frankly, if you do not know why you should eliminate sugar from your diet, you have big problems and this article isn’t going to answer all your problems.
Don’t drink alcohol.
I can’t see anyone needing much more of an explanation than I gave for sugar.
Don’t cheat yourself.
As the Paleo Diet has become more and more popular, so has its manipulations and bastardizations. Now there is an entire industry built around the diet. The info available on the Paleo diet was very simple. If you are new to it and do a Google search you’ll find more info on how to cheat the diet than to follow it. If you Google search Paleo treat or Paleo cheat you’ll get millions of listing for high carb, sugar filled deserts. So we now have Paleo muffins and Paleo Ice Cream. Sugar is sugar and unhealthy foods are unhealthy whether you make them from “paleo ingredients” or no.
Don’t eat Gluten Free.
But now we also have Gluten Free foods. In most cases these foods are marketing gimmicks. Food manufacturers replace Gluten with products with higher glycemic indexes and in some cases are just as bad for us. It’s simply an appeal to our senses of wanting to eat healthy, but still eat whatever we want. It’s marketing. Dog
shit poop in a pretty bag is still dog poop.
Foods that have gluten in them are typically junk foods… breads, pasta, cakes, cookies, and other “baked goods”. They are no better for us when we replace the gluten with other chemicals. Chemicals we no idea what effects may have on our health. So don’t eat Gluten Free… eat Paleo and gluten becomes a non-issue.
Don’t eat from plastic.
Plastic containers contaminate our foods with BPAs and other estrogen-like compounds. Now, we all know estrogen is the hormone that makes your wife insane, your sister irrational, and your mother emotional once a month (ladies, please note that I did not say it does anything to you, only other women you know, ha.). It is also the hormone responsible for a toxicity and causes the body to store fat below the waste on women and around the breasts on men. So unless pear shaped and man-boobs are hot to you, eliminating chemicals from your foods should be a priority.[/box_content]
I know it may come as a complete surprise, but being healthy means living healthy. There are no cheats. There are no compromises except the ones that compromise your health. Man has yet to create a better food than nature has already provided. Worse, in every case, we have created foods that are bad for us. In the US we too often equate being lean with being healthy. Obviously there is much more to it than that. However, if you simply eat a clean, Paleo diet you will be healthier, and as bonus, leaner than you are now.