The Paleo Diet
Your eating habits will determine 80% of your body composition, meaning how much lean body mass you carry compared to body fat. The key here is to feed your body the foods it was designed to eat, so it can shed excess fat, build functional muscle and improve overall health. What kinds of food are we designed to eat? 10,000 years ago, we ate a diet exclusively of meat, fat, vegetables, and fruit. These are the foods nature intended you to feast on! Physiologically, we are no different than our hunter-gatherer ancestors. There were no obesity problems before grains and processed foods because your body could use what it was fed. The modern diet has changed everything, and it is killing us....literally!
Of Carbs And Insulin
The modern diet is much higher in carbohydrates then our ancestors had access to. Since the 1980's especially, carbohydrate consumption has drastically increased. To combat excess sugar in the blood stream your body releases insulin. Insulin pushes glucose (carbs) into muscle storage first as glycogen and once your muscles are full of glycogen, converts the remaining glucose to fat and then stores it. Every time your body releases insulin you put it at risk of getting fatter. It is extremely difficult to burn fat when in your body is releasing insulin. They key to fat loss and maintaining a lean physique is to control insulin! The key to controlling insulin is to limit carbohydrate consumption. This is it. Although exercise and plenty of sleep helps, 80% of your body composition will be dependent on your diet. Low insulin levels allow you to burn fat so you can get lean and stay that way!
This is why low carb diets work. They give your body the opportunity to burn fat as its primary fuel source, just like our ancestors bodies did. That being said, you should still eat some carbohydrates, about 150 grams or less per day compared to the norm of 300 to 400 grams in the modern diet. The less carbs you eat, the faster fat will fall of your ass. The problem is that optimum nutrition is next to impossible with an ultra low carb diet. So don’t be afraid to eat plenty of vegetables and some fruit to bolster your nutritional intake. You will keep your total carbs (insulin) low, but eat a diet loaded in nutrition.
So here I am recommending 150 grams of carbs a day from veggies and fruit while the average person is eating 300 to 400 grams per day of sugar, grains and corn products. No wonder everybody seems fat, they are eating way to many carbs! You will not only be decreasing the total amount of carbs consumed, but also choosing more nutrient dense (instead of calorie dense) sources, to ensure optimal nutrition.
Here is a quick list of the good carbs you will have access to:
- northern hemisphere fruit (apples, oranges, pears, etc)
- vegetables (pretty much any of them and as much as you want, but remember that soy beans and corn are not veggies!)
- nuts (the carbs are almost completely fiber)
And that is it! I'm sorry, were you expecting/hoping for potatoes, whole grains, whole pasta or at least rice? Sorry, if you are overweight right now I can pretty much guarantee that your body is carb intolerant and shouldn't be consuming starches. Although some carb sources are better than others due to high fiber or nutrient density, ultimately all carbs must be converted into glucose and either burned as energy, stored as glycogen, or converted to fat. I repeat, all carbs, even the healthier ones. And no, you don't need carbs. Your body can create it's own carbs through ketosis, by breaking down amino acids. This is pretty extreme though, just limit your carb intake to what you body can use easily and you will lose fat. Your brain consumes about 50 grams of glucose a day and a tough workout will deplete about 100-150 grams. So there you have it, any more than 200 grams is over kill. Besides, the idea of the Paleo diet is to teach your body to burn fat as fuel instead of relying on a steady diet of carbs. You will have to get the bulk of your calories from protein and fat to control insulin, build muscle and be lean enough to turn heads at the beach!
Here is a short list of Bad Carbs
- processed food (anything in a package)
- starches such as potatoes (for very high volume training athletes only)
- rice (for very high volume training athletes only)
What about fat?
Just as our body can produce its own carbohydrates, our body requires a constant supply of "good fats." They provide essential fatty acids that directly affect our metabolism, hormonal balance, and immunity. "Good" fats include nuts, plant oils, coconut, avocado, and meat fat. If you are focusing mostly on plant fats and nuts, the fat in the meat you eat will be fine. Don't freak out about the saturated fat content! In fact, if you go as far as to eat "grass fed" meats, that fat will be extra healthy, providing high levels of omega-3 fatty acids. High omega-3 level combat a host of diseases and disorders, so you really want to make sure you are getting enough of them. The final note about fat is that it slows down digestion, which in turn, lowers the insulin response of a meal. And just as you read above, keeping insulin levels low is necessary to burn fat and stay healthy.
What you have just read may be leaving you shocked and destitute. Trust me, I have been there, I love carbs and would eat them all day if I could without feeling and looking like a slug. The sad reality though is that a diet of over roughly 150 grams of carbs makes me gain weight and feel sluggish. My body thrives on a high protein, high fat, low carb diet and so will most people, it's actually programmed in your genetic code. The rules are pretty simple. No grains, dairy, or legumes. Eat as much as you want of everything else. This is how are body's were meant to be fed. If you still aren't convinced, read below to learn how your body reacts to a consistent high carb diet.