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The Paleo Lifestyle: Getting Started

March 3, 2010

Poached from EatStopEat.com

I’m by no means a Paleo guru, but I’m working on it.  However, though I’ve only been paleo for a month, I’ve researched the concept for far longer than that.  It’s hard to get your facts right, and even if you think that Paleo is the right way to go finding the right jump-point can be daunting.  Voila – my two cents on the world of Grok.

The Paleo Diet is a lifestyle change, not a fad diet.  This isn’t Atkins, or the next celebrity craze.  Sure, you’ll loose fat and increase lean muscle mass, but there’s more to it than that.

Mark Sisson, in his book The Primal Blueprint, outlined how humans are better off living like our caveman ancestors by highlighting the exploits of his hypothetical caveman, Grok.  His basic rules are as follows:

  1. Eat lots of animals, insects, and plants.
  2. Move around at a slow pace.
  3. Lift heavy things.
  4. Run really fast once in a while.
  5. Get lots of sleep.
  6. Play.
  7. Get some sunlight everyday.
  8. Avoid trauma.
  9. Avoid poisonous things.
  10. Use your mind.

Seems pretty straight forward, right?  Well, when you get down to the brass tacks it can get pretty confusing.  What counts as a plant?  How should I lift?  Use my mind, huh?  With that in mind I offer my own take on the matter:

1.  Eat meat, vegetables, fruits, and nuts.

If you couldn’t eat it raw, don’t eat it.  Never any processed food.  Your health and body composition is 80% diet based.

There are some definite no-no foods.  Don’t eat any sugars, grain in all varieties (corn, bread, pasta, potatoes, rice, oatmeal, etc.), processed oils, legumes (peanuts, cashews, peas, green beans, garbanzo, etc.), and dairy (I’ll get to why soon).  Legumes are an odd one, but the same sugars and enzymes that give you gas also tear apart your stomach lining.

Now, remember that this isn’t an exercise in caloric restriction.  You’re giving up sugar and carbs, and replacing those calories with fat instead.  No, fat doesn’t clog your arteries, high starch diets do.  But which fats?  Eggs and nuts (nuts in small quantities) are good, so are all fats that come with the meat you should be eating in heaps (don’t do the chicken-breast diet, please).  Olive oil, butter, advocates, and coconut oil/milk are also good things to reach for, amongst other things.

Dairy is an odd one in the Paleo community – some say in small quantities, some say none at all.  My advice is to cut it out of your diet for a month and see how you feel.  If you absolutely must have cream/cheese, make sure the milk you’re getting is from pastured, organic, urn-adulterated cows.  Industrial milk has a ton of nasty things going on with it.  For more, see here (http://www.marksdailyapple.com/dairy-intolerance/).

2.  Exercise.

Lift heavy things, go for hikes, go sprinting.  This is the other 20% of being healthy.

Paleos are strong proponents of incorporating play into working out (as am I).  However, swinging off trees, throwing rocks, and crawling on all fours just isn’t feasible for most.  Do fun stuff like play on a sports team, and add weightlifting to your list of hobbies.

How do I start weightlifting?  Find a buddy, do the Stronglifts 5×5 program together.  Why?  It not only contains easy-to-understand compound exercises, but also gives a hard and fast rule on how to progress.  The beginner starting weight is also low enough to accommodate any fitness level (and for women, no, lifting heavy will not bulk you up – it’s not genetically possible).  Do the 5×5, and do interval-based cardio (jog for a bit, sprint, jog, sprint, rinse, repeat) at the end of each weightlifting session (read: 3 times per week, no more).  Explore High-Intesity Interval Training (HIIT) when you feel comfortable with your fitness level.

3.  Take care of yourself.

This should go without saying even if you aren’t interested in the Paleo life.

Ditch the cancer sticks.  Don’t drink yourself into a stupor every night (yet we all deserve to party once in a while).  Go outside and smell the roses (intrinsically accomplished by going outside for walks/hikes).  Get a good 8 hours sleep every night.  Go read a good book, watch a stimulating movie, and subscribe to blogs with thought-provoking content.  Be the change you want to see in the world.

Additional Readings

If you would like to read about the do’s and dont’s of the primal world, check out the links below.  I’ve also listed my absolute favourite Paleo and fitness blogs under “Fitness and Nutrition Blogs I’m Reading”, on the right-hand column.

  • Mark’s Daily Apple – Primal Blueprint 101:  The Primal Blueprint’s laundry list of how to do everything paleo.
  • Hunt.Gather.Love – Paleo Foods:  Hunt.Gather.Love. has a great post on ideal foods to eat as a modern caveman.
  • PaleoHacks: By far the best Paleo community on the web.  This is where you can ask questions and discuss all things Paleo.  No such thing as a stupid question (though the internet often tries very hard to contradict that statement).
  • Free The Animal – Overview:  Richard Nikoley, author of Free The Animal, offers a deliciously irreverent viewpoint of the Paleo lifestyle.  This is great intro to going Paleo.
  • PaNu – Get Started: PaNu’s getting started guide offers some more technical instructions.
  • Primal Wisdom: A good “Primal Diet in a Nutshell” on his sidebar.

Now what are you waiting for?  Do it.  Do it now!  And if you have questions, post in the comments.

Vi sees.

[This has been immortalized as a static page up-top]

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