Following Gymchat 205 – Paleo Dieting (with Adam Farrah), I received several questions relating to the Paleo Diet. Of those, the majority asked one or more of the following :
What is the Paleo diet? How can it benefit my strength training? Where/how should I start?
A few answers, based largely on my own experiences. Note that there are others who have been following this dietary approach for even longer, and several are listed below.
What is the Paleo Diet?
Firstly, a look at the basics. What is the Paleo Diet?
In a nutshell, it’s a way of eating that mirrors what our bodies are designed to eat. Humans have evolved – over an extraordinarily long period of time – to derive specific nutrients from a number of sources, and we function best when we consume those.
In essence, a large part of optimum health and performance is based on the things we eat.
So what sort of things should we eat? There’s a lot of fine-tuning possible, and no two diets are the same; however the basics are :
- Lean meats – including game
- Seafood (and not just fish, try some of the myriad other sea creatures which are available)
- Fruit & vegetables (this will quickly feel ‘right‘, so don’t worry if you seldom eat them now)
- Nuts and seeds – there’s an amazing variety available, so it’s always possible to have a few favourites on standby
Try to avoid :
- Grains (think breads, cereals & pasta)
- Dairy products
And in essence, that’s it. Much, much easier (and far more rewarding) than it may sound. For more details on both the individual foods and the science behind their selection, check out Loren Cordain’s book The Paleo Diet. A great read.
How Can it Benefit My Strength Training?
As strength-training is a major part of my life, I was careful to ensure that the Paleo Diet integrated well with it. I’m pleased to report that it’s a great mix, and even comes with a number of benefits. These include :
Energy levels maintained : as your body isn’t being subjected to constant insulin spikes under the Paleo Diet, you’ll have a much more stable level of energy going in to the gym. This is particularly noticeable after you’ve been on the diet for a few weeks or so.
Better recovery : although it’s most notable in the form of improved sleep, you’ll find that your body’s ability to recover from your workouts is improved overall. And this is definitely a good thing.
Improved focus : one of the most surprising benefits from a switch to Paleo (in my case at least) has been an improvement in mental clarity. This change can have a very subtle effect on training; remembering exactly what happened in a prior session and just how much impact it had. Additionally, you’ll find an array of subtle benefits from it when you’re outside the gym. Love it.
Where/How should I start?
Everyone is different in just how quickly and deeply they wish to dive in to a diet such as this. I enjoy making massive lifestyle changes overnight, so I’d happily suggest diving right in. Methuselah takes a slightly more detailed look at this process here.
Regardless of the timeframe, I’d follow the same basic pattern :
- Empty your kitchen of the things you know shouldn’t be there. Start with the obvious – the ‘they taste great, but they’re not exactly healthy‘ stuff. You know the ones.
- Next, put the ‘maybe – not sure about this‘ items to one side. If you find that you don’t want them after trying Paleo for a week or two, get rid of them.
- The next time you go grocery shopping, stock up on the ‘good‘ things. Make sure you have plenty of fruit & veg on hand. This video will give you an idea of just how easy this can be.
Once you get started, it’s just a process of constant refinement. Whenever you’re unsure about something, just ask. There are plenty of people on this site (and in the forums) who follow a Paleo Diet themselves, and are all-too-happy to help.
Note : it really is that simple. You’ll note that the changes continue with time, and the diet just gets better and better.
At the start I mentioned that there are several others who have been following a similar diet for a number of years. In addition to leaving questions on the above articles and in the forums, here are a few sites you may wish to check out :
Pay Now, Live Later : Methuselah was the person who finally encouraged me to give Paleo a run. When you see his site, you’ll understand just why I did.
Mark’s Daily Apple : although Mark’s own approach is slightly different (Primal rather than Paleo), many of the underlying ideas are the same. For more details on his rationale, head over to his site or check out The Primal Blueprint (review).
Real Food University : I’ve been reading Scott’s work for years, and this site showcases his approach beautifully. Good stuff.
Final Thoughts on Switching to a Paleo Diet
Overall, it’s fantastic. Although I’m confident that there are many dietary approaches that work (after all, everyone is different), I’d strongly suggest giving the Paleo Diet a shot.