T Nation

Paleolithic Diet

Do any of you practice a paleolithic diet? The premise behind this way of eating is that our modern diet includes many foods that humans did not evolve to eat, and that many modern ailments (arthritis, heart disease, neurolgical and hormonal disorders, and especially diabetes) are exacerbated, if not caused, by our bodies inability to process “alien” proteins and phytates (anti-nutrients found in grains). The human genome has remained virtually unchanged for the past 40,000 years, and our evolution comprises hundreds of thousands of years of living and adapting to a natural environment. Grains and processed cereal products only entered our diet about 10,000 years ago. During the pre-grain time, scientists propose that the human diet was based on animal foods (about 50% of all calories), mono and polyunsaturated fats (about 30% of total calories, 1:1 - 4:1 ratio of omega 6 to omega 3, unlike today’s typical 40:1 ratio for the SAD), and lots of green, leafy and cruciferous veggies and fruits (obviously, about 20% of total cals), but mostly veggies. Modern hunter-gatherer tribes display a similar eating pattern, and suffer nearly zero incidence of heart disease and other modern afflictions. Additionally, once introduced to basic modern medicine (antibiotics, simple preventative health care), these hunter-gatherers live to an average age in excess of the average lifespan of developed countries. It is also interesting to note that, when these modern hunter-gatherers have adopted the standard American diet (SAD), they soon display ailments common to our society. I’m very interested in maximizing my health and longevity, and it seems to me that this paleolithic diet makes sense to that end. The only problem is that it’s rather expensive. When I eat “paleo,” I survive on salmon, tuna, buffalo (or 100% free range beef), game meat, organic veggies and fruits, and nothing else. No breads, cereals (and I like oatmeal a lot), processed foods of any kind, refined sugar (except for my pre/post w/o drink, of course!) legumes (peanuts are legumes, so I use almond butter instead), or beans. Has anybody had experiences with this style of eating? What do any of our nutitional experts think?

I follow a paleo diet and think it is the greatest.A few years back I used to follow a 30/30/40 diet,then about two years ago I went low carb for real,following an Atkin’s style diet,on which I felt so much better.However,I had some blood work done,and although my testosterone levels had gone up,so had my liver enzymes,presumably from all the saturated fat.So I started experimenting,trying to concentrate on healthier fat sources, and eventually stumbled upon Neanderthin' by Ray Audette,as well as various paleo sites on the web(if anyone is interested the beyondveg.com website has a truckload of info on paleo eating).I immediately deleted all theforbidden foods’,and went back to eating free-range meats and poultry,and was delighted with the difference.Food seems to pass through my system much more efficiently,I very rarely experience the bloating and gas that used to be common occurences with grains,legumes etc.I recommend this diet to anyone that will listen,and those who take up my advice notice the same things,as well as increased energy,mental focus etc.I do take supplements(antioxidants,fish oils,etc) and I always consume an amino/maltodextrin mix after I train,as well as arginine before bedtime-these probably were not common items two million years ago,but apart from that I follow the diet to the letter.One criticism I hear every now and then is the diet is too hard to follow,which I find to be an absolute joke-cavefolk had to hunt,chase and kill their food,we just have to get our asses on down to the local supermarket and pull it off the shelves.If you can’t get hold of game meats just use lean supermarket cuts.Another laughable line is that it deletes an entire food group(grains,legumes),but theses folks neglect to mention that we have not evolved to eat these foods anyway.Humankind did just fine without these food groups for over 2 million years,and according to paleontologists,hunter gatherers were taller,healthier and more physically robust than modern man.Also the diet discourages dairy consumption and people often ask ` so where do you get your calcium?’.From the same place I get most of my magnesium,potassium,etc-from my food!People seem to think that if you are not eating shitloads of dairy you are going to whither away from osteoporosis.Asian countries consume little dairy and they have lower rates of osteoporosis than we do.I tell people if they are serious about having strong bones they should get their ass underneath a barbell and subject their skeletal structure to some weight-bearing stress.
One important thing that I recommend,that most of the paleo literature does not address is post workout nutrition.This is important for athletes,and I guess most of the paleo literature is aimed at average folk.I boatload the carbs in after I train.
I also know folks who break the no dairy rule only to allow consumption of whey protein isolate,it’s benefits seem to outweigh any downside,and they do fine.
Good luck on the diet,based on what I have read ,my own experiences and others,I think you have made a wise choice.

I like the idea of natural foods, no processed stuff, and lower carbs- but no oatmeal? What’s wrong with natural oatmeal? It may not be what a caveman ate, but it isn’t bad for you. Same with protein powders. Let’s also not forget that cavement usually died before they were in their 20s. No, not just because of diets, but it’s something to think about before we glorify a certain eating style. Like i said, I like the basic premise, but it also sounds like it could become like most vegetarian diets i.e. it becomes unhealthy because it becomes a “moral” issue, rather than a health one. Like not eating oatmeal just because they didn’t do it thousands of years ago. They didn’t use penicllian or floride either. See what I mean? Not trying to start an argument, just keeping things in perspective. I just hate seeing diet become a philosophical or moral issue. Unhealthy things usually result.

I don’t get that crazy but my only plan when I wake up in the morning is to eat animals that I want to be like and fruits and veggies to get my carbs. I believe in your theroy 100% naturally if you eat a lot of Salmon you to will have “heart” like the salmon. Tuna put up a good fight also. If you want to be like a pig eat pork. You wanna be able to Bring the Thunder go kill and/or eat a buffalo.

Thanks for your input, Boombam. My experience with other diet regimes has not been satisfying. Soon after my wife and I were married–nearly 9 years ago–we adopted what was then thought to be THE healthy diet–low fat, high carb, moderate protein. I wasn’t into weight training then, just long distance running, so it worked just fine for about 7 years. About 2 years ago I had some blood work done and the doc talked to me about my low cholesterol of 115. Foolishly, I had always been proud of my extremely low cholesterol, and I never thought to look into the possible negative side effects. Since then, and learning that my family mostly dies from aneurisms and not heart disease, I’ve maintained at least 30% of my calories from healthy fats, and no longer shun real eggs (I eat a dozen or so a week). Additionally, I tore my meniscus and had to stop running for a while (it’s been 2 years…), and had to find another exercise regimen. I always thought I was too thin, and I was, but it turned out that I was actually skinny-fat from the high carb, low fat diet. Since I started weight training, manipulating my caloric intake, and eating paleo, my body composition has improved dramatically–with no cardio, to boot. The paleo diet is difficult to follow in that it eliminates many dessert items, etc. I allow myself one cheat day per week, and even then don’t go crazy and still stay within my calorie goal. I think it’s a really good way to maintain long term health and the high protein base makes it easy to build muscle.

TEK, I agree with you. Many of my friends were devout (it was their religion, it seemed) veggies, and we all know what that does to a person. I believe in optimizing my health and life span, and in taking full advantage of modern medicine and health-promoting supplements and foods. I use whey protein, hi GI carb drinks pre/post w/o, multivitamins, mineral supps (ZMA, etc.), and sometimes I even eat oatmeal and peanut butter (especially when I’m broke). I’ve seen bad things happen to people who turn diet into a moral/philosophical issue rather than a means to achieve optimal health, so it’s important not to slip into a cult mindset and lose track of why one is following a diet in the first place.

Had to jump in when I saw the mention of Buffalo - great source, you might want to try some Ostrich as well. I personally eat a diet close, with extremely high Protein intake but am not as strict with Oatmeal a few other things and additional supplmentation. I think it does wonders for myself and my athletes. In faith, Coach Davies

I follow a diet that roughly mirror a paleodiet, but I don’t get anal about it. Sure cavemen did not eat large amounts of grains, but still it is difficult to get enough carbs without SOME grains. Try eating ten apples a day and tell me if it is something you can do. When I’m on a strict diet that eliminates all grains, I have trouble gaining weight and my exercise recovery seems to suffer. So I would advise you to eat generally like a caveman, but add in conveniences and tools available to the modern man. Consume your high GI carb during and after your workout, per John Berardi’s guidelines and consume some WHOLE grains such as slow cook oatmeal and bulgar wheat. Do stay away from most breads–even the whole wheat ones are made of flour that is way too finely ground. Just my thoughts.

It does have significant health benefits and many people, myself included feel better generally following it (alas I don’t think they had Surge in those days)

How about eggs??Did paleo eat them??

I think the Paleolithic diet is by far the best diet concept, it just makes sense since like you said were have the exact same genes from thousands of years ago, but our food sources are quite different since agriculture started 10,000 or so years ago. A couple great books on the subject, if you havent already read them are “Neanderthin”, “Protein Power Lifeplan”, as well as “Nutrition and Physical Degeneration”. I also HIGHLY recommend people use the google search and look up Dr. Ron Rosedale, he has an article called insulin and its metabolic effects, and explain why foods like oatmeal really may not be good for you, actually detrimental to your health. I’m only 22, i am concerned with longevity, but its not necessarily on the top of my priorities. I think this is the best diet to look good, feel good, and be as healthy as possible. I’m on a limited budget so I cant afford organic meats, altough i’m going to learn to hunt soon so i’ll have venison available (if i become good). Right now I stick with top round london broil, the leanest and highest protein steak at the supermarket, and sometimes chicken as well. I steam my food an eat it rare, very rare, since I think thats the way food was meant to be eaten. “Pottingers Cats” is a great book that supports the idea that raw food is healthier than cooked. I just cook enough to kill bacteria on the surface. I supplement with fish oil capsules to try to bring into balance the omega-3:6 ratio closer to the desirable 1:1 ratio. I’ll ocassionally eat raw almonds. I’m not a huge fan of vegetables, so I ocassionally eat spinach. My favorite are green beans but they are forbidden on this eating plan, and get bloating from broccoli, which should be forbidden, I believe, since its actually a hybrid and was not originally found in nature. I cheat more than i’d like to admit, but overall I think i’m taking care of myself better than 99% of people my age, also b/c the fact I dont drink alcohol or take drugs as well. I definitely think this is the best decision you can ever make for yourself and am happy i’m not the only one here that believes in this type of eating plan. btw, i’m experimenting w/ different meal frequencies, since I refuse to believe that 6 meals is necessary, I doubt humans ever ate that frequently. Anyway, good luck with the diet.

I don’t think you should assume that because cavemen did something, it must be healthy. You must take into account the lifestyle of the caveman. They did not train for muscle gain/ strength nor have a body of a bodybuilder. You wouldn’t put regular unleaded in a fighter jet. You must fuel according to your bodies requirements. Stick with smaller more frequent meals, I doubt it can hurt.

The purpose of paleo eating is not to mindlessly emulate the cavemen for the sake of fashion,it is simply the logical recognition of the fact that this is what our bodies have evolved to eat-mankind ate this way for over 2 million years,this is how we spent the greatest part of our existence on this planet eating,and there is a lot of evidence to suggest we are better off healthwise eating this way.To use a similar analogy to the one you used,if a high performance vehicle is designed to run on high octane fuel,and you try to run it on cheap low octane gas,would you really be surprised at the resulting decline in performance? As far as cavemen not being bodybuilders,paleontologists have found that the hunter gatherers were taller,leaner,more muscular and had thicker bone structures than modern man.If they did have Gold’s Gyms back in those days,they would have commenced training with a more solid foundation than most people today,I’m sure.Interestingly,there is a chronological chart on the beyondveg.com site showing how man’s average height dropped a couple of inches soon after commencing a grain-based diet.Pete,stick to your plan ,you will do fine,I wish I knew about this style of eating when I was 22!
Coach D,pleased to see you follow a similar diet,makes me feel I am in esteemed company!Have you ever been to Oz? What we lack in supplement availability we make up for in availabilty of wild meats! Melbourne T-folk,check out the Chicken Pantry at the Vic Markets-they have got kangaroo(I live on this stuff!),wallaby,emu,crocodile,venison,rabbit,free range poultry etc,etc.Great stuff!

Oz, you bet, love it. I like my game meats too and with the exception of emu have tried those. As you noted, I follow this general diet style because it works for me, no general philosophy or fashion statement. I dont completely abolish grains (ie Oatmeal & dont mess with my barley & hops) but I severely limit it and just a lot of quality meat. Hope to hear from you. In faith, Coach Davies

How do you guys keep yourselves out of ketosis on diets like this. It seems to me that going over 100 gr of carbs on veggies alone would be really difficult. How do you guys keep your glycogen up? Do you still do post workout surge style? Peace, K

Knuckledragger,I probably never go into ketosis on this diet as I have huge carb feedings (usually an BCAA/maltodextrin/honey mix after I train),yet I still maintain a pretty lean physique,certainly much easier to stay lean than on conventional higher carb diets.I may be wrong,but I am sure I read a comment by Mauro De Pasquale that it was not necessary to go into ketosis for a low carb diet to be effective for fat loss?
Keep in mind I am not trying to lose weight,but I do notice the less carbs I eat with my meals the leaner and harder I look.Post workout, I am talking 150-300g of carbs,depending on what sort of a workout.For example if I have just been for a gruelling ride in the hills I’ll take in the best part of 300g of carbs.I find on a low carb diet my body can soak up more carbs after training.Another strategy I have read about in books like Natural Hormonal Enhancement and The Fat Burning Diet is to eat high carb meals 2-4 nights a week.1 or 2 nights a week I do this in addition to my post w/o carbs.These books are aimed primarily at fat loss,though NHE has a bodybuilding version of the diet.Whatever strategy you use I believe for many people carb cycling is the key to using low carb diets on a long term basis,using them for weight gain and using them while performing high intensity cardio,as strategic carb intake will keep your muscles topped up with just enough glycogen to do the job well.I firmly believe low carb diets are the best,but I did have to experiment a bit to find the right approach.My two favourite books on the topic,which I would recommend are Neanderthin and NHE.

So tell me, which cultures evolution would be the best to follow. Saying that cavemen ate one way is a lie. They were scavengers, they would eat whatever was available. if they didnt they wouldnt have survived.

Good discussion you guys. I evolved my diet much like boombam, checking out the internet sites mentioned and reading Eat Right 4 Your Type and NHE. After ER4YT, I began eating more red meat and green leafy vegetables, cutting out 90% of dairy and wheat. I saw my abs for the first time and my cholesterol came down from 210 to 180. It’s now around 160. We have to learn, try it out, save what works and throw out the rest. Our digestive systems are genetically varied as the rest of our physical features.
= eat beef and carry a big stick=

Cycomiko,if you consult the research sources I have mentioned (beyondveg.com,Neanderthin),you will find that regardless of area or era,Hunter gatherers ate primarily meat,supplemented with fruits,berries,vegetables,nuts,seeds etc,etc.Common sense will tell you that the exact type of these food items consumed varied according to what animals and plants were available in a particular region and during a particular era,but the basic template was the same.

Especially in temperate climates the food sources would be primarily meat from game and fish along with seeds and nuts that keep well for most of the year. Not many plant foods grow in the dead of winter. Even a scavenger in a climate like that would get most of his nutrition from meat. There’s plenty of acheological evidence to show what early man ate…and it wasn’t tofu, bagels, and rice cakes.