How to Use a Paleo Food Plan to Boost Muscle and Cut Down on Fat
Heart disease, obesity, type II diabetes, cancer, and other inflammatory diseases have become all too common in our societies, yet modern hunter-gatherer societies (who follow Paleo diets) show almost no signs of any of these diseases. The Caveman Diet, also called the Paleolithic (or Paleo), Stone Age, and Warrior diets, is a plan based on eating plants and wild animals similar to what cavemen are presumed to have eaten around 10,000 years ago (Zelman).
Food is an integral part of our health, and the hunter-gatherer way of eating results in outstanding health. The Paleo way of eating makes people feel better because they lose weight, gain muscle, have more energy, have less inflammation, and less digestive problems. “The Paleo diet is a very healthy diet,” says Loren Cordain, PhD, Colorado State University professor and author of The Paleo Diet. Many studies have been done that show the Paleo Diet is the optimum diet that can lower the risk of cardiovascular disease and blood pressure, as well as help with weight loss and promote optimal health and athletic performance (Zelman).
The plan is not meant to be restrictive like most diets, but to serve as guide to help people choose foods that are natural and not processed. Hence, following a Paleo plan is not necessarily the same as being on a diet–it’s more about living life by eating the “right” foods. When grocery shopping, choose foods that could be hunted or gathered–meat, fish, shellfish, eggs, tree nuts, vegetables, roots, fruits, and berries. Meats and eggs should be consumed from animals that were grass fed/pasture raised, and meats that contain preservatives or enhancers should be avoided as they can be toxic. Fish, shellfish, and fish eggs are all fine for a Paleo plan. Nuts and seeds are great options as well as coconut flour and almond flour. Fats that are okay to consume are lard, coconut oil, avocado oil, macadamia oil, hazelnut oil, and walnut oil. Most people are both surprised and excited to hear that bacon is a GREAT Paleo nutrition source!
So what’s not on the Paleo list? Dairy, grains, peanuts, refined sweeteners, highly processed oils, vegetable oils, fruit juice, soft drinks, and legumes are to be avoided. Strict Paleo followers limit certain vegetables such as cassava, sweet potatoes/yams, taro, and potatoes, and most Paleo followers limit fruit intake–especially dried fruit when weight loss is a major goal. Avoid shopping down the aisles of your grocery store and stick to the perimeter. Remember that you want to eat foods that are naturally found in nature–not foods that come from a box.
While the Paleo plan can seem a bit challenging to those who haven’t tried it, it’s important to remember that it’s ok to have fun while making this transition and “live a little.” Cheat days are incorporated into the diet and are highly encouraged! Most people recommend one fun cheat meal a week in order to keep focused while eating on a Paleo plan–it’s called the 90-10 plan. Eat well 90% of the time and have a little cheat meal for the last 10%. The Paleo diet is a great plan for optimum nutrition, and the best way to eat is every few hours in small amounts to make sure to include protein at every meal. Protein will keep you feeling full and satisfied. My best advice for anyone considering this switch is to “live a balanced life and enjoy everything in moderation!”
Zelman, Kathleen M. MPH, RD, LD, WebMD Expert Review: “Diet Review: The Caveman (Paleo) Diet”
Feature image by William Brawley
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