The Paleo Diet - food fit for a Caveman & Food that keeps a Caveman fit.
This diet has man written all over it. If there were ever a diet created just for the male species, the Paleo diet is probably as close as it gets. This way of eating is also termed the “Hunter and Gatherer” diet.
Paleo refers to the Paleolithic era. During this time period, man hunted/fished and gathered his food. His diet was essentially meat (from free-roaming, grass-eating animals), fish, nuts, seeds, and leafy greens. Basically the most available sources of food without having to grind it, fry it, oven bake it, process it, etc. And by the way, cavemen are lean, muscular, and strong. They are athletic and certainly don’t have a gut. Actually, many natives of primitive territories in the eastern part of the world eat this way. Not too surprising that there have been little to no cases of stroke, heart disease, diabetes, obesity, and hypertension (AKA “diseases of affluence”).
I am not a big fan of counting my calories or grams of fat. As men in the real world, you have a lot of numbers to keep track of. Fantasy football stats shouldn’t have to take a back seat to tirelessly tracking calories. Not only can it seem like a chore leaving you hungry and discouraged, calories are only portion of the puzzle. Our ancestors didn’t count calories, they ate when they were hungry, and they ate the kind of foods that kept them satisfied and fueled their body.
I realize I am talking to men. And real mean have real appetites. You won’t go hungry on the paleo diet. You can eat plenty of protein-rich foods, good fats and veggies. The best part is, you will be full and satisfied on less.
What about Wheaties? You will see the endorsement of an athlete on the box. Shrewd marketing, because we all want to look like a pro athlete, and if Wheaties are apart of that transformation, bring on the cereal. Let’s say you eat a bowl of Wheaties (a serving = ¾ cup) and a ½ cup of skim milk, along with a 10 oz bottle of orange juice. The total calories would be about 280. Not too bad. However, you would have consumed 38 grams of sugar, and only 8 grams of protein. This may satisfy you for an hour, but soon you will be craving a mid morning snack. Your blood sugar will spike and drop, causing a rise in insulin, and premature hunger/cravings. Excess insulin is stored as fat. Now, if you eat 3 eggs (210 calories), a huge serving of a green vegetables (raw or cooked), and still or sparkling water, you will have consumed the same amount of calories (280), 0 grams of sugar, and 21 grams of protein. Your blood sugar would not spike, very little insulin would be produced, and the protein would satisfy your hunger for a longer period of time. Your body will actually utilize what you consumed instead of storing it in fat cells. As you can see, not all calories are created equal. (If you want to get technical, watch the “Why you got fat” video to understand the science behind this in terms we can all understand here.)
Meat, Fish/Fruit/Fats, Veggies, and Nuts. (Think of a mnemonic device that will help you remember what you can eat and why, such as “Muscles Feel Very Nice”). Here are the cliff notes on the Paleo diet
Meat - Keep in mind that the quality of meat is important. Cavemen didn’t hunt farm-raised cows that are pumped with steroids and fed a diet of grain and corn. They ate free roaming, grass eating animals. This makes a huge difference.
Fish/Fruit/Fats – Fish should be wild caught and from a body of water that has not been contaminated by toxins. Alaskan, and Arctic fish are normally safe. Fruit should be eaten in moderation, as it is high in sugar. Avoid dried fruit as it is often combined with an oil and just high in sugar and low in fiber. Fats found in the wild such as avocados, olives, olive oil, coconut milk, coconut oil, grass fed butter, and grass fed dairy are great for brain cells and hormones. (AKA good fats can make you smarter and boost testosterone).
Veggies – green leafy veggies are the best. Peppers, cucumbers, celery, kale, collard greens, chard, carrots, broccoli, etc. Legumes are good in moderation. French fries, potatoes, and corn don’t count. Sorry boys. An occasional baked sweet potato is acceptable (just add coconut oil, sea salt and cinnamon, and it is amazing).
Nuts – Raw nuts/nut butters are best. Salt with sea salt.
Grains, processed foods, sugar, and bad fats. Grains have been highly processed and genetically modified. You can’t just pick a piece of grain in the wild and eat it. Grains also convert into sugar in your body. So if you eat a piece of bread with 0 g of sugar, it still breaks down to glucose. This means no bread, beer, pizza, Big Macs, tacos, pasta, beacon ice cream, Doritos...you get the gist.
Bad fats - hydrogenated oils such as soybean oil, canola oil, fried stuff, margarine, and Crisco.
Bad meats - Sorry, slim jims and mechanically separated beef jerky or chicken nuggets don’t make the cut. Bad meat will make you fat. Get out the grill, and cook your favorite wild game.
The Gray Area
Dairy is a controversy amongst Paleo subscribers. If you do decide to keep dairy in the picture, you want grass fed, organic full fat dairy (and preferably raw). Yep full fat. Your girlfriend may have you converted to skim, but Paleo eaters think differently. The fuller fat the dairy (the closer you get it right from the cow), the less effect it has on insulin. (And Insulin = stored fat). So if you are going have cheese, get a raw full fat cheese. Instead of low fat or nonsense powdered coffee creamer, get grass fed whole milk or half and half. It is counter intuitive, but when you are out shopping or ordering food, just ask yourself, would a caveman eat it?
I challenge you to try this: give it 60 days. The Paleo diet works. By fueling your body with protein to restore and repair muscles and limiting your sugar intake, and eating plenty of leafy greens, you will notice a positive difference in your physique. You will notice an increase in energy as well (after the initial sugar detox). That six pack of your favorite brew you gave up will be replaced with a more attractive one on your abdomen.
Keep in mind that cavemen did not have Escalades or Jeeps to catch their prey. They ran on foot, often sprinting, walking long distances, and carrying heavy loads. It would benefit you to integrate interval workouts, strength training, and ideally, some version of cross-fit.
It is important to note that physiology varies man to man. This diet is best for men who have extra weight to lose, are diabetic, insulin resistant, or just want to get back to his caveman core. This is only one diet/lifestyle that works well for many men. Vegans, vegetarians, and lovers of whole grains, I have not forgotten you! I will present the Vegan perspectives, as well as pros, cons, truths, and myths about eating a balanced diet.