So Why Paleo?
Here at ChilledFitness.com we are all about simplicity and effectiveness; The Paleo Diet is strong in both of these areas.
We want to ensure that our readers and customers actually stick to the nutrition guidelines in our courses and programs. There are a number of diets that meet our criteria of being extremely effective for fat loss and sculpting a lean body, however not all of them are practical for us, or for the users of our website.
Most people lead busy lives with jobs, families and a need for relaxation and down time. With this is mind the two simple and effective diets we feel will allow you to keep even the busiest of schedules are…
#1 The Paleo Diet – Obviously the focus of this guide and a number of other resources on ChilledFitness.com; Paleo is proven and easy to follow.
#2 The Slow Carb Diet – A modified version of Paleo which introduces extra carbs – these are carefully chosen for their favorable GI (Glycemic Index) scores. Slow Carb first appeared in a book called The 4 Hour Body by Tim Ferris and is nothing short of excellent. Read all about it here.
The Paleo Diet Explained – What Is It?
The term ‘Paleo’ is an abbreviation of ‘Paleolithic’ which refers to an era that started approximately 2,500,000 years ago and ended with the agricultural revolution. Our cave man ancestors walked the earth during this time; the Paleo Diet is also commonly known as the cave man diet.
Paleo is based on what we assume to be the typical diet of a hunter-gatherer before agriculture really took off. The main food groups are:
- All kinds of meat, preferably organic and grass-fed
When compared to the modern Western diet, Paleo has some notable exclusions:
- Dairy (for the most part)
- Refined sugars
- Oils, such as vegetable oil
- Legumes (see the Slow Carb diet for guidelines on adding these)
For a complete collection of Paleo foods take a look at our Paleo shopping list.
Why Eat This Way?
In it’s simplest form, the logic behind following a Paleo Diet is that we have spent millions of years evolving and slowly adapting to the diet of our ancestors. This is an extremely long process but our bodies are now at a stage where they are designed to perform optimally when consuming Paleo foods, because they have been doing so for so long.
Studies have also shown that our beloved cave dwelling ancestors were typically strong, athletic, lean and free of most modern health conditions. It is very difficult to argue that diet did not play a large part in their overall well-being. The average modern Western man is definitely not lean, athletic or disease free.
On the flip-side we can also look at the negative aspects of a modern, non-Paleo diet…
The Agricultural Revolution: Going Against The Grain (Pun Intended)
Obviously the revolution is widely celebrated as a period of incredible human ingenuity, and rightly so. Unfortunately though the Agricultural Revolution also set into motion a series of events that, over time, have proven to be an absolute disaster for our health and well-being.
This fact is now being realised by more and more people… but what is the problem?
One of the main issues is grains and the fact that we are simply not used to eating them. Although we have been consuming grains for around 10,000 years, which seems like a fairly long time, in evolutionary terms this is actually a very short period. There has not been any chance at all for our bodies to adapt to a diet that is suddenly full of these carbohydrates.
This fact is more important than it first seems because grains, like almost all plants and animals, have evolved their own natural defences to maximize their chances of survival. These defences come in several forms and will be touched on in a second – for now though just know that they are very harmful to the human digestive system and we have no good way of dealing with them.
Nevertheless, grains remain a very large part of the typical Western diet.
So What Exactly Do Grains Do To Harm Us?
One of the most vocal and respected proponents of the Paleo Diet is Mark Sisson, who runs www.marksdailyapple.com – I highly recommend you visit this site. Mark has done a great job of digging in to the science behind why grains and other carbohydrates are not best of friends with the human digestive system; much of my own reading in this area began with Mark’s website.
Mr Sisson will certainly do a better job of explaining these subjects than I will, and I do not want to simply repeat what he has already written. Here then I will just provide a simplified summary of the problems we face with grains so this article is complete; below there are links to Mark’s more in-depth resources for those of you who are interested.
Why Grains And Most Carbs Are Not Our Friends:
1 – We are supposed to use fat as fuel, not carbs.
Traditionally (as in for millions of years) we have used fat stored by our body for energy. This is how we have evolved to function, and we do it pretty well. An obvious benefit of this system, aside from powering us through daily life, is that body fat is burned efficiently.
When you are actually using your own body fat as your primary energy source, which is one of it’s main functions, then staying lean is not difficult at all.
This is obviously a win-win situation: Have energy and stay lean.
Unfortunately though the Western diet relies largely on carbs as a source of energy. Our bodies process them into glucose, an energy source. The problem though is that excess glucose is easily stored as body fat. This fat is not burned by the body for energy as we already have carbs for this – hopefully you can see where the problem arises.
In summary: Our high carb intakes create a glucose a surplus which is stored as body fat. This fat is not used as energy though, it hangs around on our stomachs, arms and thighs etc looking very ugly.
Now more good news for the bagel lovers…
2 – To aid their own survival, grains have adapted some vicious defences.
These little rascals are designed to make grains harmful, and therefore unnattractive, to potential predators. Many animals that have been eating grains for much longer than ourselves can handle lectins without any trouble, good for them.
We however, cannot.
Without going into the science of how they damage us (links below), Lectins are basically bad news for our digestive systems.
Gluten intolerance is another problem. Not many of us are actually diagnosed as being completely intolerant and therefore in imminent danger if we consume gluten; but this does not mean we can handle the stuff.
It turns out that a significant portion of the population are at least somewhat intolerant mean that over time we are susceptible to a whole host of ailments.
Thanks again to Mark Sisson for the excellent resources.
So… What The Flip Am I Supposed To Eat?!
Ok. So far, if we assume that the Paleo Diet crew have got it right, we are supposed to be avoiding the majority of carbohdrates; we are especially supposed to be avoiding the ones most commonly eaten: Bread, rice, pasta, cereal, sugars etc. Get rid of the lot.
This leaves us in somewhat of a pickle though because when we look at a typical, ‘healthy’ food pyramid like the one below, the foods we are supposed to eat the highest quantities of are now out of bounds. Keep in mind that the image below is what is generally recommended by Doctors, National Health Departments and Schools.
Typical Food Pyramid… Oh Bloody Dear.
Pay particular attention to the bottom row – the largest one and the ‘foundation’ of our diet:
Personally, I almost laugh anytime I see a pyramid like the one above. The reason I say “almost laugh” is because there is large body of evidence that clearly demonstrates the typical Western diet is responsible for our rapidly expanding waistlines.
More worryingly though, it is also playing a major role in the rapid spread of many diseases of affluence. None of them are pretty.
In summary, the more reading about the Paleo Diet makes you think “what the hell am I supposed to eat?”, the more you need Paleo.
So back to our question:
What To Eat Then?
Ideally, all of your meals will be made up of decent quantities of animal proteins, along with large amounts of vegetables. Fruit is obviously fine too. Fats play a large part in the Paleo lifestyle as well; fats should come from animals, nuts and oils for the mostpart.
A word about meat
Back in caveman times meat was usually something you chased around for a while and killed. On a lucky day you may have stumbled upon a poor animal’s carcus. The point is that these animals were wild.
Most of our meat comes from farms where being fed grass, the natural food for most cattle, is a luxury. Instead the animals we eat are most often fed grains most of their lives – the exact thing we are trying to avoid.
What does this mean for the Paleo Diet?
Well, organic and grass-fed is certainly preferable where beef is concerned. This is expensive though and often hard to come by. I personally settle for regular, organic meat from the supermarket. THIS IS COMPLETELY FINE.
Just because you have to ‘settle’ for organic meat and cannot get hold of grass-fed, you do not have an excuse to just say “screw Paleo” and chow down on a box of donuts instead. Simple enough.
Although the above paragraphs on what to eat are really straightforward, most people trying to make the switch do not realise just how much of their diet, in terms of calories consumed, is made up of carbs. When switching to Paleo you will often find that portion sizes need to be bigger to ensure caloric intake is high enough.
Eat more or eat more often. Eat until when you are hungry and eat until you are full. This is what our ancestors did
Fats are a great way to make up calories if you find that eating sufficient quantities of the other Paleo foods is a bit of a struggle; nuts are a particularly good snack when you get hungry and are high in both calories and fat.
What you have just read is nothing new for Paleo converts. It is however incredibly powerful, not only for your health, but also for working towards a lean body and shedding fat as fast possible.
So We Eat More Fat… To Avoid Getting Fat?!
As long as you are eating healthy fats then this a great way to make sure you are getting enough calories. Remember, our bodies are designed to use fat as a source of energy. The caveat here of course is that carb intakes should remain low so that our bodies actually need to burn body fat, just as they have done for millions of years.
What are healthy fat sources?
- high quality meats
- nuts such as brazils, almonds and walnuts
- oils including coconut, macadami and olive (not vegetable oil)
And What’s In It For Me? What Are The Benefits?
The potential benefits of Paleo are wide ranging.
Firstly, and of greatest importance to us at ChilledFitness.com, is the rapid reduction in body fat you can expect. Hopefully after reading this article the reasons for shedding fat should be clear. Paleo has proved itself time and again as an excellent way to achieve a lean physique.
Adopters of this lifestyle also frequently report having more energy, feeling less stressed and also sleeping better. As vague and wooly as this sounds, many people seem to stick to Paleo because they just feel better in their day-to-day lives. That though is of great value to us, however unscientific it may be.
The positive impacts a Paleo lifestyle can have on health are widely reported, particularly with the diseases of affluence we referenced earlier.
We do not want to delve too deeply into this subject as it is out of the scope of this article, which is simply an introduction to Paleo. Having said that, there is plenty of research supporting the idea that a Paleo Diet can be a great help to sufferers of conditions such as heart disease, cancers and diabetes. There are plenty of medical journal articles to be found online covering these subjects
What If I Am Still Unsure?
Simply switching to a brand new diet is not easy, especially if your current diet is fairly ‘un-Paleo’.
There are a couple of options for getting started that are short of just jumping in at the deep end:
Committing to eating a Paleo breakfast each morning is a great start. Swap out your bagels, muffins or cereal for some protein; boiled eggs are a quick and easy option. Also add in some nuts and veggies if you like. Good quality bacon is also Paleo, and everyone loves bacon, right? Have a cup of coffee with cinnamon on the side and your day will be off to a flying start for sure
Just making this one change should result in some positive changes; expect to start noticing fat loss if you keep this up for a few weeks.
Gradually start to change more of your meals to Paleo as it’s benefits become clear. Before you know it you’ll be eating like a true caveman.
As long as you are eating the right meals then you should see great results. What you eat is important, not how often, so get it right!
The slow-carb diet is brought to us by Tim Ferris. It is a ‘modified’ Paleo Diet that allows the addition of certain carbs such as beans and lentils. Crucially these are digested slowly and allow us to avoid blood sugar spikes. Interestingly, this diet also has a compulsary ‘cheat day’ where you gorge on anything you like for one day a week.
Slow carb works like an absolute charm. We frequently use it and find that compliance is very easy – the results are also fantastic.
Can You Spare 2 Weeks?
If you are unsure about Paleo, why not just try it for a period? At least a week, preferably two. You will notice the difference for sure. Just commit to this short-term change, follow it through and re-evaluate after 14 days. We are sure you will be glad at the end.
Over To You
Please feel free to let us know your thoughts on Paleo, or any questions you may have. Got experience with this lifestyle? Let us know how you got on!
We have put together some recipe collections from our own kitchens and from Paleo lovers across the web:
There is also The Paleo Recipe Book – easily the best resource for Paleo recipes online in our opinion.