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Paleo Diet basics

The Paleo Diet, Caveman Diet and the Primal Diet are just a few names that I have heard thrown around to describe what amounts to much the same thing. So let me try and demystify what could be considered by some another fad diet. Basically the science behind the Paleo Diet is that, as a species, human bodies have not changed much since the Paleolithic period. Back then we lived in caves, hence its nickname - the caveman diet. However, the Paleo Diet is really more about how we have evolved. So in reality what does this mean for you and where does the primal bit come in?

The primal part of the Paleo Diet

Back in the day, the diet of humans consisted mainly of meat, eggs and some seasonal fruit and vegetables (as they couldn't import from abroad). If you use this as the basis of what you now eat, that would mean no grains or wheat (bread, pasta etc) as there was no farming and eating seeds would be something to survive on. No processed sugar (chocolate, sweets etc) as they had no way of refining sugar and you had to fight bees if you wanted honey. Definitely no processed food pre-prepared meals with additives, as there was no Tesco around and technically no milk as getting close enough to something to milk it would probably get you killed. [caption id="attachment_1360" align="aligncenter" width="530"]Eggs are a staple of the Paleo diet Eggs are a staple of the Paleo diet, so Egg White Protein is a good choice.[/caption]

Paleo Diet benefits

The Paleo Diet seems a pretty strict diet and not much fun. So why do it? Well this way of eating takes into account the impact what we eat has on our bodies. Unlike other types of diet that are maybe calorie controlled, and you can eat what you want within a calorie limit, the Paleo Diet way of eating works on the scientifically proven bad affects that some foods can have on your body. The gluten in wheat can cause gut inflammation without you even realising it is happening. I can personally confirm this as I had a "swollen" stomach for years and I could not get rid of it. No matter how much training or how much I reduced my weight. I stopped eating bread and pasta as part of the Paleo Diet eating plan and I now have a nice flat tummy. I cut all of the other "bad" foods out and I ate clean for an initial 30 days. After this if I, say, ate a lot of dessert one night, I would feel so bad the next day - almost like I had a hangover - and that basically is how the diet works. Eat strictly for 30 days: I'm not saying forever, just 30 days. That's not too bad is it? This is the recommended initial start period, as it allows your body to start to heal itself. After this period if you want to try some pasta or a pizza have it. Then you will be able to see the effects these foods have on you. So then the question you have to ask yourself is why eat things that make you feel bad? If you train frequently and want to have good recovery, you're not giving your body much of a chance if it's hurting to begin with.

What the Paleo Diet is not...

One thing you must remember is this is not a low carbohydrate diet or a variation of the Atkins diet. Carbohydrate is the main source of fuel for your body, so this is necessary. The amount of carbohydrate you eat is what is required by you, for the volume of exercise or activity that you undertake. So, as an example, I initially went through a stage of eating very little carbohydrate when I starting eating this way. At the time I was training about five times a week. After a few weeks I started to feel really run down. So I increased the amount of vegetables I ate and threw in some fruit and I felt so much better. So it is a case of tweaking the carbohydrate intake to what works for you. The sort of carbohydrates you should be eating are sweet potatoes, carrots, cabbage and butternut squash to name just a few, and some fruit. This in addition to lean protein and healthy fat from coconut oil, olive oil or avocados would be the staples of your new way of eating. [caption id="attachment_1370" align="aligncenter" width="530"]Milk doesn't have to be completed ruled out on the Paleo Diet Milk + Paleo Diet = Primal Diet.[/caption]

Milk and the Paleo Diet

One thing I have not mentioned is milk. This is where the primal description crops up. The primal diet is essentially the same as the Paleo Diet with the addition of milk. This is mainly because our cave dwelling ancestors did not drink milk and it is a relatively recent addition to the human diet. This means that there are a large number of people that have a level of lactose intolerance. This may be as mild as having a very snotty nose constantly, up to the people that have really serious digestive problems if they drink it. But there are a lot of people who it does not affect and therefore it isn't really that bad for them. Drinking whey protein like this will help with your muscle recovery, just make sure it is a pure whey protein. So it isn't totally ruled out. If you have a very athletic lifestyle you may not be able to physically eat enough protein to achieve you goals or your recovery does not give you time to create a meal. This is where a good quality whey protein comes in. Yes this may not be strictly Paleo Diet but you need to build in an element of flexibility for your health and fitness goals.

Cheat days

Think of an 80/20 rule if you eat clean 80% of the time, you can allow yourself a 20% of naughtiness. That does not mean having a cheat day every week and going mad on chocolate or beer. The main key to this way of eating is to consider what you are eating and putting in your body. Is it going to benefit or hurt you? How natural is what you are eating? How many strange additives are in your food? When it comes to additives a rule I use is, if I can’t pronounce it I’m not eating it. However you can eat some of the "bad" foods that we all love. There is a lot of science behind all of this and lots of medical reasons why you should not eat certain foods and eat more of others. I wholeheartedly recommend that if you are considering changing your diet this way you do some research. Look up the likes of Robb Wolf, Loren Cordain and Mark Sisson - these guys really brought the Paleo Diet to the masses. It will really help you stick with it in the long term. You are trying to make your diet support you and your goals as diet is a key part of recovery and improvement and fit it into the limitation of a modern lifestyle.
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