The Paleo and Primal Diet. Eating Like a Caveman?

Here is a quick outline on the paleo diet, or what some call the primal diet.

Some of my favorite fitness blogs on the internet are big advocates of this way of eating and I just wanted to touch on some of the basics. The amazing thing about this way of eating is how wonderful it makes you feel. I certainly don’t follow this 100%, but implement many of these ideas into my own diet.

I still enjoy carbs a bit too much to be a true follower, but “go primal” when I can.

primal and paleo diet

[I don’t think I would enjoy cave exploration, especially back in the days of the caveman. I picture weird looking pale bald creatures with no eyes and sharp teeth running all over the place when you go too deep into a cave…and blood sucking mega-sized bats.]

A Quick Summary of the Paleo Diet

The paleo diet is based around quality sources of protein and healthy fats. The diet consists of meat, fish, eggs, nuts, roots, fruits and vegetation. Dairy, grains, gluten, refined sugar, trans fats, and hydrogenated fats are to be avoided.

This is a low-carb diet focused on the way we ate before the agricultural era….the way we ate when we were “hunters and gatherers”.

Paleo and Primal Eaters Prefer Free Range and Organic Food

We all know that this is the way to go when it comes to eating fresh food. My girlfriend has recently turned me on to trying to go organic whenever possible.

I must say that it makes a difference in the way I feel. It tastes better as well. All those steroids and chemicals do bad things to the body. One of the side effects of pesticides is an increase in estrogen which leads to stubborn body fat.

What I Like About This Diet

Whenever I want to get extra lean, I follow a diet of animal protein and green vegetables along with the occasional fruit. When I eat like this my body begins to use a lot more body fat for energy.

Within 4-6 weeks I can get as lean as I desire eating this way and I feel great the whole time. I also enjoy the sense of energy that I feel. So if it helps me feel and look better, why don’t I eat this way all the time?

What I Don’t Like About Paleo and Primal Eating

Honestly, I simply enjoy fresh baked bread, pasta, rice, ice cream, cheese, and various other non-primal foods. Make no mistake about it, I agree with the followers of the primal diet for the most part…I just like some of this food too much to be 100% primal.

I’m guessing beer is out of the question as well, so that has to be a “no” for me…I follow some, but not all principles.

A 5 Minute Video Put Together by My Friend Methuselah

Methuselah over at Pay Now Live Later put together one of the best videos I’ve ever seen explaining this diet. In fact, I think this video is an instant classic as far as Youtube videos go. You can learn more about this diet in 5 minutes, than reading on the topic for 4 hours.

[Methuselah is one of the best teachers as far as fitness bloggers go. I am a big fan of his blog and probably don’t comment on his site as much as I should. He has a really unique writing style that is hard to explain…until you read his site for a while.]

My Suggestion About the Primal/Paleo Diet

Take an afternoon and read up on the subject. Implement a few of the things that fit your lifestyle and you notice a difference in the way you feel.

Even if you just switched to organic foods and replaced half of your grains with vegetables, you will get lean and feel less lethargic after meals. It isn’t all-or-nothing, you can “go primal” part of the week and get solid results.

Here Are Some Great Places to Begin Your Research

I’ve become friends with most of these bloggers, because all of us spend a big chunk of time building our fitness blogs. I am sure that I will miss many people, but here is a good list of starting points.

Mark’s Daily Apple: Mark Sisson has been talking about this way of eating for quite a few years. He has a book in the works on the subject, one of his most popular posts is called The Primal Blueprint.

Son of Grok: A man that goes by the name “SoG”…you gotta love it. He was inspired by Mark’s Primal Blueprint and put it to the test. You have to go to his About Me page and read his story (check out his slide show which shows the transformation). The guy went from flabby to ripped in less than 9 months and is extremely healthy.

Free the Animal: If there was a debate over paleo eating, I’d want Richard Nikoley in my corner. His whole site presents a strong case for going primal and eating the way our ancestors ate. This is another blog you will want to subscribe to. Here are his articles on Paleo Eating.

Art De Vany’s Evolutionary Fitness: This is a subscription blog, but some of his articles are free. When I have time I will probably order his DVD set…his methods are cutting edge. Another guy who I would want on my side in an argument.

Art is a Professor Emeritus of Economics at the University of California, Irvine. He is not only smart, he’s 71 and is in ridiculous shape. Go to Evolutionary Fitness to see what I mean.

The Paleo Cookbook, by Nikki Young: This seems to be the best selling cookbook on eating paleo to stay lean and healty. Nikki has included over 120 recipes. I haven’t read it yet, but may pick it up at some point to add in some variety into my eating. I hear it is solid info…The Paleo Cookbook

Note: I know I missed a ton of people who follow the primal-paleo way of eating.

I just didn’t want to have dozens of links in the article.

 

76 thoughts on “The Paleo and Primal Diet. Eating Like a Caveman?”

  1. Sort of new here, so I know I’m late here BUT…. Paleo and Primal and NOT the same thing. Both eat CLEAN- probably the most important thing in any diet but Paleo eats grains. Primal NEVER eats grains. As a diabetic grains are killers. I haven’t eaten grains (breads or pasta, etc) since Jan and have not missed them. Grains have no place in my diet or food supply therefore its Primal not Paleo for me. I use this around the Warrior diet.

  2. Ron,

    Hopefully those guys get back to you. You should consider visiting their sites and finding out what they think.

    Anthony,

    I like a bit of grain and dairy, but I don’t think that cereal is a good way to have energy in the morning. I will eat cereal, but more as an occasional treat at night. It usually makes me tired and a ready for sleep. Don’t eliminate them if you like these foods, but limit them when possible.

    Rusty

  3. Spaniard thanks for your comments. My high calorie deficit style of eating is probably not super healthy(at least for short term health). Luckily I have only about twenty more pounds until I hit the 10 percent body fat range. I have just recently lowered my deficit to help preserve muscle. Thanks, I look forward to talking with you on another post.

  4. Anthony, I think you are a little bit mistaken with the poor communities and diabetes. If they hardly have money for food, it is always cheaper to go to the supermarket and COOK your own food. At least that is what they do in poor nations. Ah, but it is easier to go to McDonalds to have a small hamburger and a large soda and fries…every single day. How come people in other countries where there is no access to fast food have no diabetes? They are also poor… many times even poorer than poor people in this country. You don’t think rich people have diabetes? Why, because they can afford better restaurants? How many of those restaurants cook with olive oil?

  5. Jason, I had written a long reply but I realized that people can do whatever they want. I could go on and on explaining why the Paleo Diet or the South Beach Diet or any other popular diet is a gimmick and quite often supported by a massive marketing budget. Exercise and eating a balanced healthy diet is the best for losing and maintaining weight loss and good health. The way you are losing weight makes me think that you were eating really bad. You can continue with this diet all your life and it could work, but what if one day you introduce wrong food in your diet? I find the video quite funny. When he says that our ancestors never had chicken from a farm I would like to ask him.. so every time I want to have chicken I have to start running after one and then kill it with my own hands? I would then become a hunter and I would eat organic. All these diets also promote a lot of supplements. Why? Because they are lacking in your diet. Our ancestors or Paleo people never had supplements, so actually, we are not really following the rules. I guess there was something wrong with their diets when their life span was so short. Just to finish. Have you seen Survivor? Have you seen how they look after one or two weeks? They are really following the Paleo Diet of our ancestors.

  6. I always though that whole grains were good for you, and that we SHOULD have some kind of dairy. That being said, a bowl of Cheerios or Wheeties would be beneficial, or so I thought. If this stuff leads to illness, that is enough to make me switch.
    I am going to give this a try.
    The video is very persuasive. If there was a cure-all pill, one that actually helped us, the company wouldn’t make money. If medicine worked, we would not need to take it more than once or so. I agree with those points.
    Here I am listening to the Frosted Mini-Wheats box saying I’ll be more attentive in class. The corn lobby is very powerful. Did you guys every wonder why processed food like the stuff served in McDonald’s is cheaper than organic, free-range stuff? It had to be made from scratch, yet can be sold for 99 cents. The corn lobby subsidizes the crop, and all those things in your Big Mac have high fructose corn syrup. I think 8 of the ingredients in Chicken McNuggets include corn. Long story short, this is why diabetes is so prevalent in poor communities: they can only afford fast food, and these places are abundant.
    Rusty, what do you think about whole grains and dairy? They seem like stuff we can’t leave out of our diets, at least to me.

  7. Spaniard I think eating two eggs a day is a risk (I agree with you), but it will ultimately depend on the genetics of the individual. However eggs are a cheap protein source and right now my budget is lower than normal. I am also not on my ideal diet right now. I am currently succeeding (I don’t try I do) at losing weight. Since December I have lost fifty pounds, which is not the healthiest rate of weight loss by any means. Health sometimes comes later. By the way the link you provided, that basically gives the Paleo diet two thumbs down, was written by a MD who advocates high amounts of saturated fats and cholesterol as healthy dietary sources (sounds like eggs to me!). That being said I would like to stay on topic (meaning the header of Rusty’s post) and ask you why specifically you think the Paleo diet is crap and/or unbalanced.

    From a weight loss/Fitness Black Book fan perspective the Paleo diet is perfect. The average weight lifter looking to lose a few to a hundred pounds can follow this diet and keep their glycemic load low and provide their muscle with adequate amounts of protein. Perhaps by crap you mean unhealthy?

    In the last six months I have read many diet and health books written by MD’s. I have also read books like The Paleo Diet which are supported by MD’s. One conclusion that I have came up with is that grains and dairy are not the ideal food source and can cause serious problems as stated in Dangerous Grains(James Barley M.D.) and The Ultra Mind Solution(Mark Hyman M.D.). So as far as the carbohydrate component (high amounts of vegetables and moderate amounts of fruit) is concerned the Paleo diet is dead on. The high calorie intake of fruits and vegetables provides high amounts of fiber. Do you believe vegetable fiber to be bad?

    The diet also promotes moderate levels of saturated fat and high levels of monounsaturated fat and Omega 3 fats. The medical community-including every health book I have read (many written by MD’s) do agree that these fats are vital for human functioning. So please do not come back at me with low fat diets are the key to ultimate health. Furthermore don’t quote Miss Milk Fat either (http://www.newtrendspublishing.com/SallyFallon/aboutSallyFallon.html), who’s anti Paleo diet mentality is obvious fueled by the money the milk industry pays her and maybe by her love for her cow Betsy.

    The last component of the Paleo diet is the high amount of lean meat protein in the diet, which can be anywhere from 19% to 35% of the diet. Since you apparently support Miss Milk Fat who recommends high amounts of animal fat for optimal health I am not sure if you are against this part of the diet.

    Based on my limited knowledge I see some room for improvement in this area. I think Loren Cordain limited legumes in his diet basically to support his anti-agriculture thesis. In his defense even though beans are a low fat protein source they do not have all of the essential amino acids and therefore are not essential. As you know I believe a larger portion of the diet should consist of fish. Loren Cordain promotes high Omega 3 fat through supplementation if necessary, so lack of emphasis on sea life is not enough to make this diet crappy.

    Spaniard we are all here to learn from each other, so all of the bloggers here would be happy to hear the specifics of why you think the Paleo diet is crap. I refuse to talk about eggs anymore, and to be quite honest I am not even sure if I can eat them anymore. They have been tainted.

  8. Hey Ron,

    If your interested in nutrition I would also check out “The Omega Diet” by Artemis P. Simopoulos.

    I believe that these two books complement each other. The Omega Diet does allow grains, but does not promote it(neither do I). However The Omega Diet educates people about healthy fats, and how they can help you live more healthy. By combining the ideas of these two books you will find yourself eating more fish, and adding olive oil to your salads and vegetables. Even though Loren Cordain allows these oils in his diet he does not put enough emphasis on how and why monounsaturated oils and omega 3 oils are important to maximize the health benefits of the Paleo diet. Combine these diets and you will be eating the healthiest diet on earth.

  9. Hello Jason G. Well, as my name indicates I am not your average American. I was born, raised and fed in Spain with real organic food, not the pseudo-organic expensive food that has become so trendy today…back then (the 70’s), when you ate an apple (to give you an example) you could find a little surprise inside: a worm. Now, about the diet you are going to follow. I don’t know where you did your research or if you read every book written by all these diet gurus, but none of them have medical degrees. It doesn’t matter if you spend 1 hour working out or 12, a doctor can really tell you if the diet you want to follow has any risks. I know some guys that eat well, exercise, have no fat and yet their body produces high levels of cholesterol. I think is better to be safe than sorry. When my cholesterol shot up to 300 I was running every morning and following a balance diet (and I don’t mean the Mediterranean Diet because that is the same crap as the Paleo Diet and the South Beach Diet). All I did was to eat more eggs than usual.

  10. Rambodoc,

    Yeah…that is a good point. I love Indian food, but it puts me to sleep more than just about any other food. The rice, the nan, etc…all amazing tastes. I just need to stick with their curry meat dishes and veggies. Too many carbs most of the time.

    Achintya,

    Are you referring to that site that had the food list posted? I’m not sure why they would say eat low fat meats. The person who came up with that list probably just put that out of habit.

    Jason G,

    Never too late to hop into the conversation. Great point…I love the taste of fish and love the way it makes me feel. Buffalo is delicious as well. Great job on finding an approach that is working so well for you. Hopefully others will give it a shot.

    The Spaniard,

    You like to play “devil’s advocate”, which always makes the comment section interesting. These guys who push the paleo diet have a pretty good idea of what our ancestors ate…science has come a long way and we can find out much through fossils, carbon dating, etc. You do have a point…no way to know for sure.

    Kelly,

    Thanks for the compliments. Carbs at the wrong time kick my butt. It definitely makes sense to be strategic when eating carbs. I wish I would have known this stuff back in college. I was sleepy all the time in class and I know it was because of the cereal I had for breakfast and the high carb lunches.

    Rusty

  11. Obama has not got me health insurance yet. I am going to start eating 2 eggs every other day, so I can avoid the cardiologist. However Spaniard you must understand that my diet is very high in vegetables(about 50 percent) and lean forms of protein. I am currently getting more than one gram of omega 3’s for every gram of omega 6’s. Eggs are the only protein source in my diet that have a bad protein to fat ratio. I also do not have high amounts of saturated fats in my diet. Furthermore I do not eat processed foods, bad oils, or any form of simple sugars. All these factors and the fact that I spend an hour at the gym a day do not make me a candidate for high cholesterol. I am wondering if you were eating like me when you had bad cholesterol, or perhaps you were eating like the average American-and having eggs?

  12. Jason G, just in case, go to a cardiologist and make sure your levels are ok. You are only having 2 or 3, but it sounds like mostly every day and that is way too much. Don’t believe all you read, go to a doctor (like I said, a cardiologist) and talk to him/her.

  13. Hi Rusty, I am really behind the times because I’m just discovering what great stuff you have on your website. I think this was a great post that stimulated a lot of discussion and was very thought provoking. Clarified a lot for me on this diet concept and I’m looking forward to learning more. Thanks for the other references too! I’m still working toward 90-95% compliance and seem to be really sensitive to carbs. Like some of the same stuff you do, but I am finding I feel much better if I stick to stategically-timed high fiber carbs. Thanks again for all this information!

  14. Thank you Spaniard for your concern, but I believe that the lean fish in my diet will offset the negative effects of a couple of omega 3 enriched eggs. People who eat diets high in saturated fats might try avoiding eggs, but the eggs themselves are not the sole culprit for high cholesterol.

  15. I am just going to put a link in case any one wants to read it:
    westonaprice.org/bookreviews/paleodiet.html
    I am really tempted to write how I feel about this paleo diet and all this caveman mambo jambo, but I will restrain myself from doing so because it would be too long.
    Nothing against you Rusty, it’s just that none of this guys ever lived during that time for them to say how our ancestors ate.
    Jason G, I hope your cholesterol level is fine because some time ago I did something close to what you do (though I only had 2 eggs instead of 3) and when I went to the doctor, my cholesterol had gone up to 300.

  16. As usual I enter the conversation a little too late. I wanted to let some of your readers know another way of doing this diet, which I believe is a little more superior form of the primal diet. It’s basically substituting the red meat and poultry part for just fish. Fish has been the major protein source of my diet for the last month, and I feel amazing. Like the diet above I have been consuming vegetables as my only carbohydrate source.

    By eating this way you are avoiding the high levels of saturated fats found in red meats and exposing your body to higher levels of omega 3’s. Hunters and gatherers actually had way higher quantities of omega 3’s because wild game is higher in omega 3’s. So the people who use the primal diet as an excuse to eat a twelve ounce steak every night will not be as true to the primal lifestyle as the people who are eating fish and poultry. Grass fed buffalo is also a great lean source of red meat that also has omega 3’s.

    My after workout meal consists of omega 3 enriched eggs and a can of salmon. I have sardines throughout the day for a snack, and end the day with a large piece of fish with vegetables on the side. Unlike my other calorie deficit months I am thinking more clearly and my muscle recovery is better. I lost ten pounds this month on this diet.

  17. Hi, can someone tell me why on the paleo foodlist posted above it says to eat lean meats but avoid fatty meats? I thought high fat was important to this diet?

  18. To the guy who mentioned diabetes incidence being high in certain countries of the world: India is one of the highest, and is set to be the World capital of Diabetes (if not Diabesity) by 2025. If I have my number memory site in the brain working okay, I think the figure os 70 million. That is more than the entire population of most countries.
    Why is this important? Indians are ALMOST ALL grain eaters, and have a very high carb content in their diet.

  19. Adria,

    Thanks for the link. I appreciate it.

    SoG,

    Your site is great because you posted from when you first started learning about this way of eating. You are now pretty advanced when it comes to the Paleo diet, but beginners can read a bunch of the early posts and follow along and learn a ton. You are looking pretty darn ripped in your most recent photo. Great job!

    Mike,

    Great point. This is just an outline of a great diet to follow to be healthy. I do my best to follow it when I can. Today I’m doing an EAt Stop Eat fast, followed by a homemade stir-fry tonight (will make it spicy).

    Andrew,

    Thanks for being so supportive to FBB on your site. I consider your blog to have the best combo of clean design and great content. You are really emerging as one of the fastest growing fitness sites online. Completely excited by your progress…keep it up.

    keith,

    Bananas are fine. Just make sure you stick to your calorie range to have a bit of a deficit.

    Luke,

    Out of all the ways of eating, this one does make me feel the best. Even though I don’t follow it all the way…on the days I do eat this way, I feel outstanding. Eat like this most of the time and do 2 Eat Stop Eat style fasts each week and people will feel great while staying lean year round.

    Adam,

    That is awesome! I’m going to use that in a post. I just listened to it and think people will get a lot out of it.

    Richard,

    I’m sorry your previous comment was eaten by the Spam Bot. This one went through. I really encourage people to visit your site. All of us guys in the fitness blogosphere really enjoy your intelligent approach to posting diet and fitness advice. Great stuff!

    Evan,

    Plateaus are common when losing a lot of weight. You may be stuck at the same weight for a month or two before you begin losing again…this is very natural. Don’t give up, because this is the way it works.

    Arya,

    I’m proud of you for hitting your goals…I’ve been following your progress ever since you first started commenting on my site. Great job! Gaining mass on triceps and shoulders is going to be a piece of cake, but it will take time. What I would recommend is to double the volume of shoulder press type exercises…and reduce the sets a little for the rest of your body. Do 8 sets of standing military press for sets of 5, do 8 sets of seated dumbbell presses for sets of 5. Just get stronger in these two lifts and within 3-6 months you will notice added size and density in both your triceps and shoulders. Don’t increase your calories or anything like that…it is too close to summer. You will have strong and angular looking shoulders by mid-summer.

    Ron,

    That is a great resource. Thanks for posting that…this will help a lot of people who are seriously considering this way of eating.

    Fred,

    I just read your post on your site about taking the family to Billy Goat Trail…I love spring when the weather begins to improve. I can’t wait to spend a lot more time outside!

    diana,

    I crave nachos more than any other “evil food”. I wish they weren’t so bad for you, because I could live on the stuff. Stuff made with flour isn’t too far behind…I love freshly baked bread and pasta.

    Good Comments!

    Rusty

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