CrossFit South Rockland

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Paleo FAQ


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Thinking about trying Paleo for 30 days? Here’s a great slideshow on what you can expect. Thanks to Brian at Potomac CrossFit.

Frequently Asked Questions

Paleo Overview

The Paleo diet is simple yet remarkably effective for fat loss and halting or preventing a number of degenerative diseases. To reap the benefits of the most effective nutritional strategy known, one need simply build meals from the following:
  • Lean proteins (ideally) grass fed meat, free range fowl and wild caught fish
  • Seasonal fruits and vegetables
  • Healthy fats such as nuts, seeds, avocado, olive oil, and coconut oil
Our 30 day challenge is the true test of the Paleo diet. Regardless of your fitness or health goals, you WILL look, feel and perform your best on the Paleo diet. Give it a shot and let us know how you do.
For most people the fact the Paleo diet delivers the best results is enough. Improved blood lipids, weight loss and reduced pain from autoimmunity is proof enough.  Many people however are not satisfied with blindly following any recommendations, be they nutrition or exercise related. Some folks like to know WHY they are doing something. Fortunately, the Paleo diet has stood not only the test of time, but also the rigors of scientific scrutiny.
This page will be an ever-expanding resource for peer reviewed, scientific research. In an effort to make this material more accessible to folks without a scientific background, we will provide a brief synopsis of the paper in plain English (hopefully). If you have questions about any of this material, other resources, or if there is a topic you would like to see addressed, please contact us. Whenever possible we will reference papers that are freely available so you can take your Paleo education and your health to the next level.

Basics of the Paleo Diet

Does it work for diabetes?

A great question to ask is “Does the Paleo diet work”? Here we have a head to head comparison between the Paleo diet and Mediterranean diet in insulin resistant Type 2 Diabetics. The results? The Paleo diet group REVERSED the signs and symptoms of insulin resistant, Type 2 diabetes. The Mediterranean diet showed little if any improvements. It is worth noting that the Mediterranean diet is generally held up by our government as “the diet to emulate” despite better alternatives. You can find an abstract and the complete paper here.

What exactly is a Paleo diet? Can I do it with modern foods?

It’s easy to emulate the healthy diet and lifestyle of our Paleolithic ancestors. Lean proteins, fruits, veggies and good fats. With a very simple shift we not only remove the foods that are at odds with our health (grains, legumes, and dairy) but we also increase our intake of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. Here is a great paper from Professor Loren Cordain exploring how to build a modern Paleo diet: The nutritional characteristics of a contemporary diet based upon Paleolithic food groups. This paper also offers significant insight as to the amounts and ratios of protein, carbohydrate and fat in the ancestral diet.

Come on! Our Ancestors lived short, brutal lives! This is all bunk, right?

The Paleo concept is new for most people and this newness can spark many questions. We like people to not only read about and educate themselves on this topic but also to “get in and do it.” Experience is perhaps the best teacher and often cuts through any confusion surrounding this way of eating. Now, all that considered, there are still some common counter arguments to the Paleo diet that happen with sufficient frequency that a whole paper was written on it. Enjoy:Evolutionary Health Promotion. A consideration of common counter-arguments.

Cardio Vascular Disease

According to the CDC, cardiovascular disease is the number one cause of death in the United States. Interestingly however, our Paleolithic ancestors and contemporarily studied hunter-gatherers showed virtually no heart attack or stroke while eating ancestral diets. The references below will explore these facts to better help you understand the heart-healthy benefits of a Paleo diet.

Saturated Fat

Saturated fat has been demonized by our health authorities and media. What is the basis for this position on Saturated fat? Are current recommendations for VERY low saturated fat intake justified? How much saturated fat (and what types), if any should one eat? Without a historical and scientific perspective this questions can be nearly impossible to answer. In this paper Prof. Cordain looks at the amounts and types of saturated fats found in the ancestral diet: Saturated fat consumption in ancestral human diets: implications for contemporary intakes.
One of the greatest deviations away from our ancestral diet is the amounts and types of fat found in modern grain feed animals vs. the amounts and types of fats found in grass fed or wild meat, fowl and fish. What we observe is wild meat is remarkably lean, and has relatively low amounts of saturated fats, while supplying significant amounts of beneficial omega-3 fats such as EPA and DHA. In this paper Prof. Cordain and his team analyze the complete fatty acid profile from several species of wild deer and elk. The take home message is that free range meat is far healthier than conventional meat: Fatty acid analysis of wild ruminant tissues: Evolutionary implications for reducing diet-related chronic disease.

The Bottom Line

Unless you have a solid background in physiology and biochemistry, understanding the mechanisms of cardiovascular disease can be daunting. Simply understanding what is being discussed in a paper can take s significant amount of time and effort. This paper is a remarkably straight forward discussion of ALL the factors related to CVD and dietary fat intake. The bottom line: Saturated fat has some influence, but it is secondary to issues such as systemic inflammation caused by trans fats, high carbohydrate intake and a skewing of our ancestral omega-3/omega-6 fats: Dietary fat quality and coronary heart disease prevention: a unified theory based on evolutionary, historical, global and modern perspectives.


Autoimmunity is a process in which our bodies own immune system attacks “us.” Normally the immune system protects us from bacterial, viral, and parasitic infections. The immune system identifies a foreign invader, attacks it, and ideally clears the infection. A good analogy for autoimmunity is the case of tissue rejection after organ donation. If someone requires a new heart, lung kidney or liver due to disease or injury, a donor organ may be an option. The first step in this process is trying to find a tissue “match”. All of us have molecules in our tissues that our immune system uses to recognize self from non-self. If a donated organ is not close enough to the recipient in tissue type the immune system will attack and destroy the organ. In autoimmunity, a similar process occurs in that an individuals own tissue is confused as something foreign and the immune system attacks this “mislabeled” tissue. Common forms of autoimmunity include Multiple Sclerosis, Rheumatoid Arthritis, Lupus, and Vitiligo to name only a tiny fraction of autoimmune diseases. Elements of autoimmunity are likely at play in conditions as seemingly unrelated as Schizophrenia, infertility, and various forms of cancer. Interestingly, all of these seemingly unrelated diseases share a common cause: damage to the intestinal lining which allows large, undigested food particles to make their way into the body. This is called “leaky gut and the autoimmune response”. Here is a 7-part video series by Prof. Loren Cordain describing the etiology of Multiple Sclerosis. Keep in mind, this is the same process which underlies ALL autoimmune disease.

Additional topics

  • Calcium
  • Acid Base balance
  • Fatty acids (including omega 3’s and 6’s) – My rough recommendation on fish oil supplementation is 0.25-1.0 g/10lbs Body Weight/day of EPA/DHA. The top end is for sick/overweight people, the lower end is for most other folks. It seems like a lot, but a can of sardines is about 2.5g EPA/DHA. We are replacing a missing FOOD! My good friends at Whole9 have made a nifty fish oil calculator for you. It’s free. It works. use it! If you are ill (overweight, have inflammation, autoimmunity) and complain this seems like “too much fish oil” let me ask you this: If your house is burning down, are you concerned about too much water being used by the fire department? No? Good, same story with fish oil. Your house is burning down, kiddo. Let it burn or save your ass, that’s your call. Your overactive immune system is right at the heart of things and fish oil + a Paleo diet will fix it.
  • What about the fructose/glucose content of fruits?
  • What about Ketosis? Dr. Mike Eades has a fantastic blog and here is an amazing primer on Ketosis:Metabolism & Ketosis. What about ketosis and exercise? Here is a great piece detailing both anthropological data and modern laboratory data on the subject: Ketogenic diets and physical performance. The bottom line? No glycogen, no glycolytic activity!
  • Aren’t beans good for you? No.

Get Started

The Paleo diet is the healthiest way you can eat because it is the ONLY nutritional approach that works with your genetics to help you stay lean, strong and energetic! Research in biology, biochemistry, Ophthalmology, Dermatology and many other disciplines indicate it is our modern diet, full of refined foods, trans fats and sugar, that is at the root of degenerative diseases such as obesity, cancer, diabetes, heart disease, Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, depression and infertility. Our Paleolithic ancestors were largely free of these diseases, you can be too!

The Paleo Diet: Not a “One Size Fits all” Approach

The Paleo diet is built from the healthiest, most nutritious foods available:
  • Lean proteins that support strong muscles, healthy bones and optimal immune function. Protein also makes you feel satisfied between meals.
  • Fruits and vegetables rich in antioxidants, vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients that have been shown to decrease the likelihood of developing a number of degenerative diseases including cancer, diabetes and neurological decline.
  • Healthy fats from nuts, seeds, avocadoes, olive oil, fish oil and grass-fed meat. Scientific research and epidemiological studies show that diets rich in Monounsaturated and Omega-3 fats dramatically reduce the instances of obesity, cancer, diabetes, heart disease and cognitive decline.
Although the Paleo lifestyle starts with these healthy and delicious foods, not everyone’s needs and situations are the same. The paleo diet is infinitely customizable to meet YOUR specific needs and goals. Diets that recommend rigid food ratios or Spartan calorie counting seldom work over the long term because these approaches typically emphasize foods (refined grains, sugar and dairy) that are at odds with our genetics. When we eat according to our genetic heritage weight loss, improved energy and optimal health are fun and easy to accomplish. Here are some ways you can customize the Paleo diet to meet your individual needs:

Fat Loss

Effective, lifelong fat loss is easy with Paleo foods. We recommend the majority of your meals look something like this:
  • 4-8 oz of lean protein such as chicken, lean beef, turkey, pork loin or seafood.
  • Then add several servings of multicolored vegetables, either raw, steamed or lightly cooked.
  • Finally, round out the meal with good fats from Avocado, olive oil or a handful of un-salted nuts such as almonds, pecans, macadamias or walnuts.
Make sure to have 3-4 meals like this each day. Give it 30 days and then let us know how quickly and easily it is to lose unwanted body fat, all without hunger and cravings. Until you reach your desired level of leanness we recommend you keep your fruit intake to 1-2 servings per day and make these choices mainly from berries and melons. Keep in mind, you will be eating plenty of nutritious fresh vegetables, we just want you to see the fastest, most effective results you can. This is why we limit your fruit in the beginning to help you change your metabolic engines to a mode of “fat burning”.


The needs of athletes vary greatly depending upon one’s sport and level of activity. The needs of a marathon runner are quite different from those of boxer or Olympic Weightlifter. Despite these different needs all athletes share a few things:
  • Means of optimizing performance
  • Methods for improving recovery
The Paleo diet is the perfect solution for both performance and recovery. Lean protein sources such as chicken, lean beef, turkey, pork loin and sea food are ergogenic (performance enhancing) because of the large amount of Branched Chain Amino Acids (BCAA’s) which have been proven to be crucial in rapid recovery after hard training, both for strength and endurance athletes. So all of your meals will start with 4-8 oz of  lean proteins.
The next piece of customization is dependant upon the nature of your sport. High-intensity aerobic or anaerobic sports such as soccer, boxing, wrestling, mixed martial arts or sprint interval training (running, biking, swimming, rowing) should take advantage of a period of time post workout when the body is primed for recovery.  A meal of 4-8 oz of lean protein PLUS 50-100g of nutritious, Paleo friendly carbohydrate such as yams, sweet potatoes, squash or fruit should be consumed within 30 min post workout to optimize repair of muscle tissue and to ensure muscle glycogen is optimally replenished. The amount of carbohydrate will vary based on how large you are and the volume and intensity of your training. The larger you are or the harder/longer the training, the more carbohydrate you will GENERALLY need to optimize recovery. Some athletes may find they require 2 protein+carbohydrate meals to optimize recovery from particularly grueling work or multi-session training days. Subsequent meals should be built around lean protein, multi-colored, low carbohydrate density vegetables and good fats. Here is a sample meal plan and some further reading for determining your exact needs. Please read the book The Paleo Diet for Athletes by Prof. Loren Cordain and world renowned triathlon coach Joe Friel for more information on endurance specific Paleo Nutrition.
For sprinters, and other power athletes most meals should be built around lean proteins, a variety of low carbohydrate density vegetables and liberal use of good fats. Power athletes may find benefit from a higher intake from Paleo friendly carbs such as yams, sweet potatoes and fruit once or twice per week. This is called a “cyclical-low carbohydrate” diet and has been enormously popular with track and field athletes, football players, Olympic weightlifters and other athletes who place a premium on strength, power and exceptionally low body fat levels. Doctor Mauro Di-Pasquale is the world authority on this way of eating and we highly recommend you read his work for further information. To see the best possible performance and body composition, the power athlete should eat at least 1g of protein per lb of bodyweight per day. Here are a few sample meals and resources to get you going.


Emerging research has made clear the link between Neolithic foods (grains, legumes and dairy) and autoimmune diseases such as Lupus, Rheumatoid Arthritis, Multiple Sclerosis and a host of other less well know conditions. Many people have found significant improvements in autoimmune disease by eliminating the Neolithic foods and building a diet around nutritious Paleo options. If you suffer from an autoimmune disease we highly recommend you start a Paleo diet and let us know what your results are. To give your body its best chance to heal we recommend that you initially limit the following foods:
  • Eggs
  • Tomatoes & eggplants
  • Peppers including bell peppers and hot peppers
  • Spices such as curries, paprika, and chili powder.
Some of these otherwise Paleo-friendly foods have been shown to be problematic in individuals with autoimmune issues. We recommend you fully remove not only these foods but also all Neolithic foods (grains, breads, potatoes, beans and dairy) for at least a month to see if they pose a problem for you.

Sample Meal Plans

Sample Meal Plan: Weight Loss

Shrimp scramble with basil and steamed spinach. ¼ cup blueberries. Espresso.
Chicken salad with red onions, romaine lettuce, artichoke hearts and mixed bell peppers. Dressing: Lemon/Olive Oil with a hint of garlic. Green tea with lemon.
Grilled shrimp & veggies with a hand full of macadameias.
Baked pork loin with ginger cabbage and olive oil. Desert: shaved almonds over 1/4 cup mixed berries.

Sample Meal Plan: The Endurance Athlete

Let’s assume an early run, bike or swim interval session. Depending upon your preferences you may opt to train on an empty stomach. If you prefer a small snack before training here is a good way to start your day:
Pre-training Snack:
2 oz chicken OR 2 scrambled eggs
1/2 to 1/4 honey dew melon OR 1 cup of blueberries.
Post Training Breakfast: (best if consumed within 30 min of training)
Salmon scramble, 1/2 honey dew or rock melon+1 cup of blueberries.
Grilled salmon, sweet potato hash browns with olive oil and cinnamon.
Grass fed ground beef marinara over baked spaghetti squash.
Can of sardines, medium orange, hand full of almonds.
Baked Halibut, large Artichoke. Garlic-pistachio “pesto” for the halibut and as a dipping sauce for the artichoke.

Sample Meal Plan: The Power Athlete

4-6 egg omelet with 1 whole avocado. 1/2 cup blue berries.
Pre-workout snack:
2-4 oz grilled chicken, handful of almonds or macadamias.
Post-workout meal:
6-8 oz grilled salmon, asparagus, mushroom, bamboo shoot, coconut milk curry.
Canned salmon salad with olive oil, avocado, tomatoes and red onion.
Grilled grass fed Rib eye with grilled shrimp. Large mixed salad with greens, red onions and ginger sesame dressing.

Published Research

Have a question about paleo research? Why don’t you check out all the paleo research here: The Paleo Diet Published Research.
I just need to digress: All the anti-paleo blowhards have never read any of that material. They never evaluate the research as it stands; challenge its merit by recommending a better fit for the data or a better theory. They simply ignore it. Wankers.
Ok, so that is a bunch of stuff to read, are there any key papers that one should read FIRST? This is a fantastic, easy to read and short paper:

Gluten & Celiac

What is celiac? How do I get it?

Check out this video piece from CNN:

What’s so bad about gluten?

Evidence that gluten and other lectins destroy Leptin and thus insulin signaling: Agrarian diet and diseases of affluence -Do evolutionary novel dietary lectins cause leptin resistance?

Continuing Education

I frequently receive the question “What do I do after the Paleolithic Solution Seminar?” That’s a tough one. the Registered Dietitian track is so mind-numbingly boring and mis-informed it’s just painful to imagine going through that. What might be of benefit is doing a sequence of general, organic and biochemistry for nurses of allied health practitioners. It will cover much material you will not be interested in, but then again it will provide the foundations for better understanding all of this. A human anatomy/physiology class would be helpful as well. This represents a not-insignificant amount of work but if you take this stuff seriously it is the bare-minimum to really have a steeping in this material. At present there are no accredited nutrition related programs I’d recommend. It’s all Food Pyramid crap with not a mention of evolutionary medicine as the premise.
However, we are working on an advanced topics educational program for several different educational tiers. Trainers, RD’s all the way to Doctors and pharmacists. Check the live events section of the site often for updates.

Recommended reading

Visit Robb’s amazon store for books he recommends.

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