A lot of readers have been asking about this new craze with the Paleo diet (also known as primal or caveman). In the interests of science, we decided to objectively analyse it ourselves, and to analyse our experiences based on our professional opinions.
From the beginning it was imperative that we keep objective, so we set up some rules:
Paleo or primal eating can be summarised as eating only what a caveman would eat. If you could eat it 3000 years ago, you can eat it now. This diet has been made popular again by elite athletes and in particular the crossfit community. It can be compared very closely to the Real Food Diet, except that Paleo assumes that modern agriculture was inaccessible to hunter/gatherers, therefore wheat products, potatoes, soy, rice and dairy are a no-go. Fruit is eaten seasonally and sparingly.
Good question. We’re big believers in bucking the trend. The caveperson with the shaved legs, chest and arms is going to get a lot more lady cave loving than his carpet chested brother. So in the modern age, if all the water logged muscle Mary’s at your gym have skin like a barbie doll, grow a freakin’ beard and look like a real man. Unless you are a woman. You won’t get much cave lovin’ if you grow yourself a full body fur forest, m’lady.
The hurt:reward ratio is what we created to analyse the benefits of any diet or exercise related theory. For example, heavy arm curls hurt like hell, but only work your biceps, so for the amount of pain (hurt), you get very little reward when compared to a chin up, which for the same amount of hurt produces exponentially more reward in terms of physiological (muscular, neural and structural) integrity.
As with all diets, we first ate a lot of fast food first, so that we could have implementation issues that are more realistic. Therefore, with the Paleo, we found implementation to be the most difficult part. It has been said that you would feel as though you have the flu for about 10 days. This is pretty accurate. We found that the hardest thing is to stop the sugars. For the first few days it feels as though your body is seriously fatigued. This is because of the reliance and addiction to sugar, which is said to be far more addictive than hard drugs such as cocaine – (we haven’t tried cocaine, so have no basis for comparison).
Once the initial shock is over, the results are quite remarkable. Initially, the bloat from wheat seems to go, it is assumed that most of the population is allergic in some way to wheat products, resulting in inflammation.
Interestingly, for the below 20% bodyfat testers, our weight stayed the same, while looking leaner and ticking off lower and lower body fat scores. This can only mean we built muscle, whilst burning fat. Those of us with a fair bit of fat lost weight, but gradually and very nearly the same amount every week.
Remember that we combine every diet we try with strength training and cardio training. We never felt hungry during the diet ever. Unlike a calorie restriction diet, you can eat as much as you want. We ate disgusting amounts initially, and still lost fat and bloat. After about 3 weeks, we didn’t feel the need to eat as much (this may have something to do with the insulin response reduction).
One thing that we really enjoy is the feeling of even energy throughout the day. As we now know, sugars create a kind of energy wave pattern throughout the day; high energy, low energy, high energy, low energy. The low GI nature of the paleo diet mitigates this, creating an even energy level throughout the day.
Bread and sugars can be some of the hardest foods to give up. Overproduced foods and chemicals are stored in the fat of the body, so once you start losing the fat, these toxins enter the blood stream, giving you the feeling of being seriously ill (migraines, sinus, stomach bloating, weakness, dizziness). As such, we would eat a lot of fruit in the first few weeks (2 or 3) to reduce the feeling of being seriously ill (which you are – your body is poisoned). Eating fruit will sustain the sugar cravings whilst providing a lot of water and fibre to flush out the toxins. Fruit is a great antioxidant, and we believe it to be a great buffer for the start of any diet that requires a complete change in your eating habits, which invariably releases toxins into the blood.
Once you feel as though the headaches and poisoning is cleared, reduce your fruit to before 3pm, then before lunch, then just a bit for breakfast. What you will notice is that fruit (which has sugar in the form of fructose) spikes insulin, which will make you hungry again. This is why we say that sugar is the curse of modern man, not fat.
There are two methods we would take when implementing this life changing eating system. Method one, is the “go all out” method. Change everything immediately and don’t look back. Method two is the step by step progressive method.
This is a really personalised question, and fortunately we have a simple answer. Both methods work really well, just remember that this is a lifestyle change, think long term – every diet you try will fail if you are seeking instant results. It’s like life – you either have a poverty mindset or an abundance mindset. Let’s break that down quickly by use of an example.
You know those stories of the dole bludger who wins lotto, only to be broke the next year? Poverty mindset. Now what about the billionaire who through unfortunate events loses everything and is forced into bankruptcy, a year or two later as if by magic is back in his wealth, flush with cash? Abundance mindset.
Dieting is the same thing. If you think to yourself “I’d love to be super fit and still be able to eat as much junk food as I like” then you have a slob mindset when it comes to your health and you will fail time and time again until your emotional bank account is completely drained and you check out of this world as a disgrace to yourself. If alternatively you think to yourself “I am an athlete who has just gotten fat, better clean my life permanently” then you have a healthy mindset when it comes to your body – you understand the longevity of healthy lifestyle and you can only win.
Once you have analysed yourself and your mindset with brutal honesty – choose your method of implementation based on your tendencies. If you tend toward the slob mindset (and it could be family pressure that does this to you) then start with the step by step. If you tend toward the athletes mindset, then by all means go the whole hog. Just remember that if you fall off the wagon, get back on as fast as you can. Kicking the sugar habit is a b*tch, but well worth it. Like cutting the invisible chains holding your angel wings down. First, you have to see them, then you have to cut them, then you have to fly away from that place and never come back.
Cut out alcohol. You will probably never drink again, so get used to this. You’re an idiot when you drink anyway. The only person who thinks you’re cool when you drink is that other drunk eyeballing you in the pub.
Cut out added sugars from your diet. This includes lollies, sweets, sugar in your coffee, soft drinks etc. You know that part of your brain that is at this very moment filing through your catalogues trying to see what is still included? Shut him up, he’s a weak piece of ____. Don’t let him dictate your life. You’re an immensely powerful person – tell him to go count past victories.
Cut out refined sugar completely. This is a potential stumbling block, refined sugars are in nearly everything. Look at the packet and list of ingredients on everything you eat from now on. If it has any of the following, eliminate it from your life and future:
You will have a lot of fun looking at the back of packets and seeing how much of our lives are fuelled with sugars. It’s sickening actually. Hint: eat seasonal fruit – it will help with the sugar cravings and flushing out the toxins.
Cut out agricultural sugars. This will eliminate the bulk of your previous diet. This means anything made with wheat, corn, soy, rice or potato. These five bad boys were introduced into our diets to provide manual field workers with enough energy to sustain a full day’s heavy labour from one meal (historically). Don’t be fooled into thinking that they are natural, they are not.
Get your filling from veggies and sweet potato. Corn is OK, if eaten from a cob sparingly – the problem is that big food manufacturers basically grind up the cob, pump some hard to pronounce chemicals into this mess and fatten out your food with it. You will find cornstarch in the strangest places: burgers, Christmas ham, breakfast cereals.
General rule – if it has an ingredients list, look for an interesting sounding ingredient followed by one of the following
Remember, you can still eat fruit, so eat as much as you need, we’ll be reducing this later.
Cut out dairy. We are the only animal on earth that still drinks from the breast after weening; and the sick thing is that we are drinking from another animal’s breast. You wouldn’t still be breastfeeding from your mum right now would you? So stop breastfeeding from a cow. Or a goat if that’s what you’re into, that’s just plain weird.
Cut out all additives. That means colours, flavours, preservatives. Jeez, this is seriously limiting my diet! Answer: in a way – just think that to get the equivalent calorie intake you used to with all the high density calorie foods you used to eat, would now take you 3 or four hours of gorging for each meal. The only way you could do it would be to eat pure fat. So portion size is just not an issue here.
No fruit after 3pm. Corn from the cob is a fruit. Tomato is a fruit.
No fruit after midday.
Reduce the amount of fruit in the morning.
Cut out caffeine.
Buy everything organic – you may think this is just for the hardcore cashed up peeps, but once you get to this point, you will be able to taste and feel the energy from grass fed animals. You will also eat so much less volume, so will save money there.
There you have it, an 11 step process to eating like a caveman and getting shredded. This can take anywhere from 10 days to 20 weeks. Just get each step dialled right in before moving on, and never fall back more than one step.
Throw out anything in your pantry or fridge that has more than one ingredient. Now throw out all the sugar, wheat, potato, soy, coffee, dairy and rice. All that should be left is meat, veggies, fruit, seeds and nuts. Eat fruit only in the morning. Enjoy your new lifestyle.
Get used to the taste of green tea and chamomile tea. Green tea will help to alkalise your body (think about the pH in your pool – acidic to neutral to alkaline) your body needs to be alkaline. Not just for success in the paleo diet, but ask any naturopath and they will tell you that an acidic body is a one way ticket to major health problems (think cancer, heart attacks and strokes).
Green tea is a fantastic antioxidant, and will rid you of the nasties you’ve stored in your body for later, while at the same time buffering your pH and getting you alkaline. Chamomile will help you to relax in the first few weeks. Drink it before bed to reduce the stress and headaches from detoxing, and allow you to enjoy one of life’s greatest pleasures... a good night’s sleep.
Don’t obsess over your weight loss. Your health is a part of your life and will be for your whole life. You can never “fix it so that you can get on with living”. It’s a journey and should be enjoyed as one... For the rest of your life.
Focus on the pursuit of excellence leading to mastery. This should be the purpose of your life, or you could cop out and just choose to be a passenger. Start on the journey for health mastery and the seeds of excellence will invariably creep into the rest of your life, showing up in unexpected, but remarkable ways.
Keep an eye out for our next post which will give you some fantastic meal ideas for your new cave existence. Once you see this, you will come to realise how delicious a paleo diet actually is. In fact soon, you will be eating naked, ‘cause it would be a crime to hide your delicious body.
Julius Kieser(with help from my obliging cave brothers and sisters at sharnyandjulius HQ, home of FITlosophy 1 and Never Diet Again.)
And if you liked this no bull writing style, you're going to love FITlosophy 1, which you can get by clicking here