yHave you been struggling with bad eating habits or been trying to make a decision on how to eat “healthier”? We’re here to help! Over the next month, we’ll be releasing a blog post each week from CHT’s own Robert Langston that goes in depth on 5 of the most common dietary trends. This week’s article is the 4th in the series and focuses on Paleo diets.
In this edition we will see how a Paleo diet stands up against the objectives of Health, Performance and Aesthetics. We’ll also look at the ease of implementation of this approach. As a review…Paleo diets propose a simple solution to being healthy, performing well and looking good...eat like our ancestors did. Early Primates evolved eating fruits, vegetables and insects. As Primates evolved into early humans the diet also included meat. A standard Paleo diet looks like this...
40/20/40 calorie split for Protein/Carbs/Fat
Made up of foods that come from the Earth excluding grains and Dairy (this means no rice, bread, wheats, paleo etc)
High in protein (generally grass fed organic meats)
High in vegetables
High in healthy fats
High in nutrients
Very little if any processed foods
As you can see, the Paleo diet does a good job of accomplishing and maintaining our health objectives through:
Increased intake of phytochemicals which are vitamins and minerals that only occur in plants. Phytochemicals have many benefits, here is a short list of them.
Protect against cancer
Decrease our chances of getting heart disease
DNA protection against free radicals
Improve overall function of our organ systems
Increased intake of zoochemicals. Zoochemicals are nutrients found only in animals such as carnosine, creatine and fatty acids. Like phytochemicals, zoochemicals have a long list of benefits.
Inhibit/decrease complications that are associated with diabetes
Defend our bodies against heart disease
Reduce blood clotting
Suppress the development of cancer cells
Increased intake of proteins which are the building blocks of the human body. Most people are deficient in protein consumption. These macronutrients are vital to building enzymes, neurotransmitters, hormones, and antibodies. With inadequate protein intake, our health suffers. Paleo diets force people to increase their protein intake and thus enjoy the benefits that proper protein intake provides.
Increased intake of healthy fats which result in powerful effects within the body. Adequate fat intakes supports cell signaling, hormone assimilation, absorption of Vitamin D, metabolism and immune system. In addition to these, healthy fats have been shown to
Provide cardiovascular protection
Decrease depression (our brains are made of mostly fat)
Improve body composition (less body fat, more lean muscle)
Reduce symptoms associated with ADD and ADHD
Decrease the risk of cancer
Removal of processed foods, grains, beans, dairy and alcohol which are high in calories but low in nutrients. Removing these foods will generally improve digestion and reduce inflammation. The logic for removing processed foods is probably obvious but what about grains, beans,dairy and alcohol? The majority of grains and beans consumed by Americans come from GMO crops using conventional farming methods (pesticides, insecticides, low quality soil from over farmed land, heavily processed) resulting in a product with little nutritional value that might even be toxic to the body. This causes inflammation and reeks havoc on the digestive process for a lot of people. Non conventionally farmed grains are a different story and we’ll cover these in the Mixed Diet edition.
The same can be said of dairy, most of the dairy consumed by Americans comes from the milk of cows that are living in conventional cattle farms (cow hell) eating questionable diets of corn, soy, other grains and saw dust as well as being injected with various hormones to fatten them up. This results in a sick cow that must be treated with all sorts of antibiotics to remain alive. They are also given a variety of hormones to keep them lactating to produce the milk that is then used to make the dairy products consumed by Americans. The dairy product can only be as healthy as the animal it came from. In this case, the dairy products from sick cows do more harm than good. This is why Paleo diet Practitioners fair well with the removal of dairy. This doesn’t mean that dairy is inherently bad though, we’ll cover this more in the Mixed Diet edition.
And what about alcohol? Humans were not designed to drink alcohol. Current research shows that the metabolism of alcohol in the liver disrupts the liver’s ability to produce energy and can also lead to hypoglycemia (low blood sugar). Alcohol serves as a blocking agent preventing the absorption of vitamins and minerals. Alcohol also causes damage to the linings of the small intestine and stomach, which can lead to poor digestion of foods. Despite being fun, alcohol has a lot of detrimental effects on the body. A Paleo approach advocates removing alcohol.
When it comes to reaching and maintaining the performance objectives, Paleo doesn’t do as well. Paleo is still a low carb diet and like we learned last week, athletic/gym performance decreases from the lack of carbohydrates. As a result, thyroid output slows down which lead to a constant sluggish, feeling. However, Paleo Practitioners can still consume some carbohydrates in the form of fruits and starchy vegetables which results in it performing better compared to a typical low carb diet. In addition, Paleo Practitioners are also working from a more favorable hormonal context from the higher protein, fat and vegetable intake.
BODY COMPOSITION (aesthetics)
A simple google search of Paleo before/after pictures speaks for itself. Combine a Paleo diet with a strength and conditioning program and you're likely to see some significant positive changes to your body composition in 12 weeks. The changes are caused by a number of factors but this is the biggest one...
A fair amount of people come to a Paleo diet from a Standard American Diet while also living a sedentary lifestyle. All of the sudden they are now filling their bodies with nutrient dense foods while also removing processed foods and other foods that lead to bloat/inflammation/poor digestion. In addition, they’ve gone from be sedentary to following a strength and conditioning program 3-4 days per week. As a result, the body composition changes are quite drastic.
Following a Paleo diet is a mix of ease and challenge. The easy part is all the guesswork in terms of what foods to eat is handled for you. Eat meats, vegetables, fruits, potatoes, nuts and animal/plant oils. Don’t eat processed foods, grains, dairy, beans or drink alcohol. The first challenge is making sure your meals follow the the 40/20/40 macro split to ensure it’s actually paleo. Some margin of error is allowed, however if you go too low or high in one macronutrient category you’re following a different style of eating. The second challenge is dealing with the removal of grains, dairy, beans, alcohol and processed foods. This is challenging for most people and also makes for some awkward social situations. The third challenge is the low energy that a lot of people experience from the low carb intake. To help offset these challenges you could follow an 80/20 adherence model to this plan. This means you follow the Paleo diet 80% of the time and do whatever you want the other 20% of the time. You’ll still experience and maintain many of the objectives with this approach.
Thank you for reading this edition of “You Can’t Outwork a Bad Diet”. Please be sure to leave questions in the comment section below and we will be sure to answer them for you! Our next article in the series will come out next week and provide insight on the Mixed Diet.