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Eat like a Caveman, Grow like Sasquatch

In this new weekly series I will breakdown different dieting strategies, the pros and cons behind these diets, who they are best suited for, and practical applications for use in your own diet.  I will also give out a few different recipes to try that relate to the dietary technique being discussed. 

This is the first installment of Fat Dan’s Fit Kitchen.  The irony in the name of this series is that I am not fat, actually by bodybuilding standards I am probably considered skinny.  But dammit I love food…..like a lot.  Almost as much as liking food, I like to cook.  I pride myself on coming up with unique, healthy, macro friendly, sometimes weird recipes.    

What better diet topic to cover than a diet that many bodybuilders scoff at.  The paleo diet, which consists of eating like we presume early humans ate.  It abides by the idea that a diet consisting of meat, fish, nuts, vegetables, and fruit is the way humans are meant to consume food.  Whether you believe this or not (I don’t) is entirely up to you, but there are some viable applications in the world of bodybuilding for a paleo diet.  This diet was made especially popular by the CrossFit community. 

Have you ever seen a picture of a skinny caveman (because, you know, there are pictures that exist of cavemen)? Those dudes are jacked!  Let’s dive into why cavemen had it figured out and we don’t. 

First, let’s look at the basis behind the paleo diet.  If a caveman did not eat it, neither can you!  Seems kind of silly when you put it in those words.  Essentially what the paleo diet does is helps to avoid processed and sugary foods.  Now that doesn’t seem so bad when you think of it as such.  There is a big emphasis on protein and fat, with a much smaller portion of calories coming from carbs.  Very similar to the bodybuilding version of the keto diet, where protein is high and fats are relatively moderate. 

The argument against paleo diets is that we have been eating processed foods, grains, and starchy carbohydrates for a long time.  This is also a valid argument.  I am not here to argue whether or not the basis behind people’s decisions to go on a paleo diet is valid or not.  What I am here to do however is present the diet in a way that might make sense for someone considering dieting this way.

First of all, carbohydrates cause inflammation, specifically starchy carbs.  Not only do carbs cause an inflammatory response in joints, but also around organs in the body.  This is not to say however that all inflammation is negative, as inflammation in the body actually helps with immunity.

I will argue that on the surface, not eating processed foods has to be a positive for health right?  Processed foods typically have many preservatives in them that are not necessarily meant for human consumption.  Nonetheless, humans are adaptive creatures, and if you have been eating junk since birth you are probably pretty adept to handling it now (moderation being taken into account). 

Another positive of the paleo diet is the absence of dairy.  Dairy is good for your bones, and hard on your skin (actually some studies suggest that those that do not consume dairy have better bone health).  Dairy consumption has been linked to acne and other skin issues.  It’s been said that all humans are lactose intolerant, each with varying degrees of severity.  Some people show no visible signs of intolerance, while others do.  Dairy has also been linked to insulin resistance, not exactly a bodybuilder’s best friend.

Speaking of insulin resistance, a paleo diet is great for controlling blood sugar.  Typically it is difficult to consume a ton of carbs while following a paleo diet.  Consistent blood sugar levels will help with cravings and consistent energy levels.

Paleo diets have a moderate amount of fat, meaning cholesterol profile should be improved.  On top of that, healthy fats are also great for joint health and retention of muscle tissue; especially while in a caloric deficit.

Protein will be the main macro consumed on a paleo diet, which is great for bodybuilders.  I would typically think of dieting like this for a deficit, but it could also have some benefits for a bulking plan.  Digestion on a diet like this should be optimal, with most carbs consumed being of the fibrous nature.  This means that the increased proteins consumed will be assimilated in a more efficient manner. 

The obvious downside to a paleo diet is the absence of complex carbohydrates, especially those individuals looking to be in a surplus.  To make up for this you need to consume more fats in the diet by way of seeds, nuts, red meat, and fish.  Consuming too much fiber can also cause gastric bloat as well, making it difficult to get in enough calories. 

For those that can grow well with higher protein and fats, this diet might be for you.  For those needing larger amounts of carbs, I would probably look elsewhere.  Another problem I see with the paleo diet is the lack of cheat meals or refeeds.  This is going to be especially problematic for times where metabolism starts to slow down and you need to ramp it back up.  I foresee large plateaus occurring during a paleo diet; for weight gain or weight loss.   

Personally, I do not find much use for a paleo diet, but I can see where someone would.  For those with food allergies and gastrointestinal distress, this diet may be for you.  For someone looking to be healthier and limit the amount of free radicals in the body this could also be beneficial.  I would highly recommend those that decide to follow a paleo diet to supplement with vitamin D and calcium.  Honestly I would recommend you supplement with a good multivitamin as well.  In today’s world it’s almost impossible to avoid foods in cans, just be smart about reading the label. 

If you want to go back in time a couple thousand years ago, give the paleo diet a try.  If it was good enough for men fighting off sabretooth tigers and dinosaurs, it might just be good enough for you!

Paleo Recipe- Lean Beef and Chicken Chili

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Ingredients:

  • 2 pounds 93/7 ground beef.
  • 1 pound ground chicken.
  • 1 can black beans.
  • 1 can red kidney beans.
  • 2 cans tomato juice.
  • 1 diced tomato.
  • 1 onion.
  • 1 tbsp garlic salt.
  • 1 tbsp cayenne pepper.
  • Salt and pepper to taste.

Directions

  1. Brown beef and cook chicken through.  Drain excess grease.
  2. Add both cans of beans (drained) and tomato juice into pot.
  3. Add the onion, tomato, and seasonings.
  4. Let simmer covered for 3-4 hours (enjoy smells).
  5. Eat!

Macros (makes about 10 servings)

Protein: 40 g
Carbohydrates: 20 g
Fat: 13 g

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