*WARNING – This post is a rant about the Paleo vs. Debunking Paleo Diet Debate in specific, and the health & fitness industry in general. It is Rated “R” by the fitness blogger’s association and is bound to offend probably everyone at some point. Sorry about that. I come from a small surfer town where: (a) we’re a little rough around the edges with the language and whatnot, (b) you can get in a fist fight with someone, and laugh about it with them over a drink a few hours later. If you’re not that laid back, don’t keep reading.
I’ve been away working on a book project completely outside of fitness. Thank goodness, because you health, nutrition, and fitness people – including myself – are F’ing whackos man.
And being in this industry full of massive egos that are quick to tear down the work of others, which probably signifies a lack of self-confidence or ability to produce anything of true value yourself, cult-like clinging to systems, over-complicating everything to project intellectual superiority or to sell you a bunch of bullshit you don’t really need, battling for dietary supremacy, academics in love with their own voices, internet trollers jerking off after spirited forum debates, etc., is driving me crazy.
Hahaha, not really because I don’t really take anything too seriously, rarely get offended, and have a life outside of fitness. But for melodramatic effect…
So I’m not about to get into the Diet Wars. The Great Paleo Debate? I think both sides can be right, and offer something of value, depending on the demographic and the details of what we’re talking about.
This will be looking at it mostly from a fitness, athlete, or health enthusiast’s perspective to hopefully get something out of it, not prove who is more technically right. I don’t care about anthropology or whether or not something is truly Paleolithic, or if we are evolving or not, or whatever.
In other words, we’ll try to pull out some useful, simple principles from both sides that we can apply in the real world, and leave the theoretical debate for a special Paleo episode of Jeopardy.
And Me? I have no interest in convincing you that my opinions are right. I’m just sharing what I know, what has helped me, and some of those around me. Take it or leave it as you see fit. It is no sweat off my ‘sac either way. In case you are wondering, those nutz are small, yet 100% Paleo friendly.
I believe what’s lost in all of this intellectual pontification and academic posturing is the end goal of giving people simple, effective, actionable strategies that will help them produce results in the real world.
Lets not waste the next 15 minutes arguing over semantics, trying to prove the worthiness of our credentials or industry status, or think about how good we would sound in offices filled with many leather bound books and shelves made of rich mahogany.
Lets just get some shit done so you can go out and live your life and waste time on other, more important things this summer — like looking good at Ron Burgundy-style pool parties.
THE FACEBOOK PAGE SUMMARY
Technically, I should have written a few drafts of this post, cleaned up both the content and the language, and edited it down. What fun would that be though? I do that when I write for mainstream mags and other places. I also do that when I speak in formal settings and at companies — so yes, I can be “professional” (and I have people who will vouch for me) if you need a nutrition seminar speaker or a corporate wellness presenter.
But this is my blog dammit. I’m more of a shorts and flip-flop, vagabond guy than a professional suit guy anyway. Why not just be who you are and stop pretending, especially in your own home?
So I figured why not just shoot from the hip, rant a little bit, and just fire off some bullets like we were hanging out at a bar talking about some shit we’re both interested in. It will probably be more useful that way. It will definitely be more authentic. Aren’t you tired of fake people in fitness anyways?
All good with you? Whiskey or sake will be cool with me, but I’m fresh out of cash? I’ll get you back next time.
For those of you who don’t really like me that much, or don’t want to sift through the incoherent dribble popping out of my head, I think I summed this whole shindig up decently in a recent Facebook Post:
The Great Paleo Debate is all the rage right now, but for the most part I think its a waste of time and energy. There’s no reason for YOU, the person just trying to improve their health, slash fat, and look awesome, need to be either for or against it.
Growing up doing half of our shopping at gas station mini-marts (seriously), I’ve benefited greatly from some of the principles (cutting out crap like high fructose corn syrup and vegetable oils), and think the overall approach is a useful and simple educational tool for those who don’t know much about nutrition and are suffering the consequences of Y2K eating.
But I’ve also deviated from the creed and eat a sh*tload of white rice every day to support anaerobic training and higher-level performance/physique goals. I also like a little whiskey on the weekend, and have been known to go Baby Sumo style at Sushi Joints and Noodle Houses.
Whatever works man. This weird hybrid approach has allowed me to stay in low single digit body fat % year-round, with good biomarkers of health, good cognitive function (when not distracted by Sportscenter or porn), with a fully functioning wiener, and without having to give up my career and become a fitness nutcase that pops fat burners like M&M’s and lives on an eliptical machine.
And honestly, it doesn’t even matter what I do. What matters is what you need to do to reach whatever goals you have. The lesson is to simply absorb the useful principles (from any system available — Paleo, bodybuilding, academia, whatever) and ignore the rest. Focus on what works FOR YOU in the real world vs. clinging to any dogma or system (including any fitness information I put out). I’m just sharing what I know, not trying to start a cult.
I get it man. People want to cling to a system sometimes because it gives them a sense of identity. There is comfort in numbers. But have more faith and confidence in yourself.
Let the gurus hash it out for dietary supremacy. You focus on finding the most efficient path for you, given your individual situation and goals.
This post seemed to have struck a chord with people, so I figured I’d elaborate a little bit.
And to be honest, it’s nothing new. That’s another side tangent. People are always looking for new, new, new. Most of you don’t need new. You need to do what you already know.
I’ve written about all this stuff in the past in different spots. But I figured I’d pool it together, hack away the unessential, and fire off some random bullet(point)s.
Maybe you’ll get something out of it. Maybe you won’t. But thanks for the drink either way.
35 BULLETS ON THE VALUE OF THE PALEO DIET APPROACH
Gung fu values the wonder of the ordinary, and the idea is not daily increase but daily decrease. Being wise in gung fu does not mean adding more but being able to remove sophistication and ornamentation and be simply simple – like a sculptor building a statue not by adding, but by hacking away the unessential so that the truth will be revealed unobstructed. – Bruce Lee
ON THE VALUE OF A SIMPLE EDUCATIONAL TEMPLATE
- The Caveman theme is a simple theme to remember and practically apply, thus it is a great educational tool for almost everyone: from advanced athletes who have been information overloaded by the fitness industry, all the way down to the complete beginner that doesn’t know (or care) much about nutrition, and needs a simple approach to get started.
- It simplifies the overcomplicated, and it gives people actionable steps, instead of being frozen with paralysis by analysis listening to scientific debate. Cut out refined sh*t and eat more plants and/or animals. Drink muddy pond water instead of soda and fruit drinks. I bet that will take 90% of people 90% of the way.
- Just because people don’t want to do what they know they need to do doesn’t mean we should over-complicate it, or feed their laziness with dreams of magic pills and miracle programs, or give them bullshit “healthier versions of crappy food” recipes to make them feel like they are doing something good for themselves, but are actually getting nowhere.
ON THE CAVEMAN THEME CUTTING THROUGH BULLSHIT
- The Caveman theme cuts through all of the nutrition myths and bias standards that are out there, which are highly influenced by the refined foods and supplement industries. It places logic and common sense above all of the bullsh*t that is being marketed and sold to you.
- We were lean and healthy long before magic fat burning pills, miracle detox cleanses, “health” bars and shakes, etc. Natural foods (except for maybe poisonous mushrooms) are much better for us than the foods we make.
- It gets you to follow science and logic rather than gurus. “But this authority or trainer said ‘x’ is good for me?” “But this celebrity or pro athlete is sponsored by ‘y’ company and says I need ‘z’ to be fit like them”. Maybe it is, maybe it isn’t. Maybe you do, maybe you don’t.
- If you think drinking Sprite is going to help you play basketball like Kobe Bryant, I can’t help you. My two cents is to lean more towards our evolutionary and/or cultural pasts rather than modern marketing madness.
- It calls bullsh*t on much of the “health” industry that preys on uniformed consumers. Organic crap is still crap. Gluten-free crap is still crap. Organic, gluten-free cookies are still cookies, and are not that great for your health or body composition goals. The Caveman can show you the true Way. Wild salmon and spinach are gluten free as well.
- I’d say this: don’t try to justify bullshit “health” foods every day. Eat awesome 80-90% of the time, and then eat a real cookie every once in awhile. I think that ends up working better in the long run, but I could be wrong.
- It even cuts through the “capitalizing on the popularity of the ‘Paleo’ term for profits” bullshit. There’s no such thing as a Paleolithic low-carb, caramel fudge cake bars, regardless of how many scientific studies and marketing material some cult leader throws at you.
- The Caveman Way gives people some of the tough love truth they don’t want to hear, but need to hear. It ain’t about finding the next magic pill or miracle program. Start eating more real, natural foods, stop eating sh*t, and you’ll feel and look better. It’s pretty much as simple as that.
ON FAVORING ACTIONABLE STRATEGIES VS. TECHNICAL INFORMATION
- Fructose overload (from consuming too much HFCS and table sugar) can lead to the following responses: insulin resistance, impaired glucose tolerance, high insulin levels, high triglycerides, and hypertension. Trans fats raise total and bad cholesterol (LDL), elevate C-reactive protein, lower good cholesterol (HDL), and as such, are a major risk factor for cardiovascular disease, and have even been linked to premature death (death people).
- The optimum omega-6 to omega-3 ratios for health generally ranges from 1:1 to 4:1. With the addition of highly processed vegetable oils as a dietary staple, the average American dietary profile has skyrocketed to a ratio of 15:1, with numbers as high as 40:1. This unnaturally high ratio can lead to whole body inflammation, aggravate autoimmune diseases, and increase risk for heart disease and certain forms of cancer.
- The above 2 bullets are a little too technical and confusing to many people who have some kind of a life outside of fitness and fitness forums. Again, the caveman theme automatically takes care of those issues by simplifying it down to simple actionable strategies. It cuts through classroom jargon and gets to the heart of the matter. Confused about what to eat? Choose real blueberries over a blueberry muffin or a bullshit blueberry flavored “health” bar. Choose some wild cod over a corn oil loaded pastry, etc.
- Hey, was it around a few thousand years ago? That’s an easier question to remember out and about than does this meal have the optimum EFA ratios or too much fructose? Who gives a shit? You just want eat something.
- But apparently in some elitist athletic and academic circles, you can’t ever say the world “Paleo” or “Caveman” to frickin’ simplify concepts for people. Doing so would make you appear less cutting edge, intelligent, or advanced, and certainly wouldn’t grant you access to the cool-guy, V.I.P. parties where everyone circle jerks over how much they know. So we have flowery language, unnecessarily technical diet strategies, and obsession over minutia. Whatever floats your boat man. I’ve always believed that, while the science behind them is crazy complex and could take a lifetime to fully master, the most effective diet and training programs are the simplest ones on paper.
ON MERGING HEALTH ENHANCEMENT WITH PHYSIQUE ENHANCEMENT
- Listen, I think you should eat “optimally” 80-90% of the time and do whatever you want the other 10-20% of the time for sanity, sustainability, and social reasons.
- But what about coaches or bodybuilders selling “shit loading” programs to 20 year olds, and 20 year olds glorifying that approach (as long as it fits your calorie and macronutrient numbers, eat whatever you want)?
- I realize diet numbers are the most important variable to get right for physique results. So if that’s all you really care about (that’s all I cared about when I was 20 too), then garbage disposal away. But that doesn’t necessarily merge your physique goals with health enhancement (if you care about such nonsense).
- Take it from someone who has worked with clients of all ages, and former athletes who have jacked themselves up with uninformed or extreme methods. It is the cumulative effects of your diet over a lifetime that matter, not any 10-week time frame.
- Serge Nubret once said, “every sickness comes from food”. I think genetics and environment also play a part, but the first is what you can fully control.
- Beyond theory, marketing material, “study wars,” and pointing to that one genetically gifted guy who can pull it off, you can’t tell me that when you step back from it all and just use pure common sense that you think craploading every day can be good for your long-term health?
- There are many athletes that look great on the outside, but are train wrecks internally. They are extremely unhealthy and dealing with side effects such as sleep disturbances, depression, elevated disease risk factors (blood pressure, cholesterol, blood sugar), metabolic damage, digestive disorders, and a lack of natural hormonal production/control as a result of performance enhancing drug usage, recreational drug usage, pharmaceutical drugs to combat medical symptoms, and poor food choices. Ever wonder why there are so many dicks in the fitness industry? Maybe that’s a part of it. And that’s not hardcore or tough my friends. That’s just plain stupid.
- On a side note, have you ever tried to have an intelligent conversation with a full-blown meathead or fitness diva? It’s like going to the dentist (Actually, my dentist’s office is crazy. Its a bunch of attractive girls, and I brush and floss regularly — which on a side note, isn’t truly “Paleo”. So I actually look forward to going to the dentist. But I couldn’t think of a better analogy).
- Again, I’m not trying to convince anyone of anything. I believe food choices are important for optimizing overall health. You do what you gotta do. I just wish you could see some of the things I’ve seen being in Da Game for 15 years and working with people of all age ranges. That way you could make a fully informed decision. Again, 10-week studies don’t tell you much about the accumulative effects of lifetime habits.
- If you still want to eat pizza and Pop Tarts every day after that, be my guest man. As long as its a fully conscious, educated, and informed decision, I don’t give a shit what you do to be honest.
ON ANECDOTAL EVIDENCE
- I’ve helped some clients make dramatic improvements in both their body composition and biomarkers of health by using a Paleo model as a simple guide. I know my colleague Robb Wolf has literally saved lives with his work. Why would you try and tear results like that down?
- To argue against that approach, or to say it is not a viable or effective option because it doesn’t fit in to some archaic academic model or higher-than-thou intellectual circle, is stupid in my opinion. The Paleo approach is certainly not the only way, and its definitely not the only way I use, but it damn sure is one effective way for certain demographics.
ON REAL FOODS VS. FAKE FOODS & FAT LOSS
- Damn, what else can I puke out of my brain right now dude (or girl)? From a fat loss perspective, I already said that numbers (calories and macros) are the most important. It’s virtually impossible to stay in the calorie deficit necessary for sustainable fat loss, for any meaningful length of time, while eating a highly refined, “fake” food diet.
- That’s why people yo-yo on and off these plans – from competition diets to point systems. It takes incredible discipline to stay in a targeted calorie deficit with poor food choices. You’ll always feel hungry and like you are DIEting, plus you’ll probably end up with nutrient deficiencies.
- But it’s not all that hard to do it when eating real, whole, natural, unprocessed foods. I’d rather take the easiest path to looking good in my Borat-style dong thong, but in all fairness, I’m a lazy bastard.
ON WHY LOW CARBS IS A GOOD STRATEGY FOR THE SEDENTARY
- Oh, and a little physiology. Fall asleep and I’ll cut ya. A sedentary person is not exercising and burning through MUSCLE glycogen stores (300-500g), so they do not need to worry about replenishing them on a daily basis. High carbohydrate diets (300g or more) are more appropriate for athletes and regular exercisers that undergo the cyclical depletion and repletion of muscle glycogen stores.
- Sedentary populations really only need to worry about providing adequate carbohydrates to support LIVER glycogen stores, which regulate normal blood sugar levels and fuel the brain and central nervous system at rest. This can be accomplished with roughly 100g of carbs a day. And you don’t have to memorize any of that. Just remember that athletes can probably handle a lot more carbs than office workers.
- That’s why research shows that lower carb, Caveman-style diets may be the best approach for improving body composition and biomarkers of health for obese, insulin resistant, and sedentary populations. But who gives a crap about research? Try it out and see what it does for you.
- Get in a calorie deficit (yes that is still the most important step for fat loss), eat adequate protein, get roughly 100g of carbs from highly satiating vegetables and whole fruit, make up the rest of your calories from healthy fats, and walk daily. You’ll have yourself one hell of a fat loss and health enhancement plan.
ON WHY THE STRATEGIES MATTER MORE THAN THE NAME
- And I don’t care what the hell you call it – Paleo, Primal, Evolutionary Eating, Ancestral Eating, returning to cultural roots, or just cutting out da modern shit. Don’t let people arguing over semantics, technicalities, or minutia distract YOUR attention away from simple, actionable strategies that can make a dramatic difference in your life.
38 BULLETS ON WHERE THE PALEO SYSTEM HAS GONE WRONG
To begin with, we must realize the absolute fact that man created style. Disregard the many colorful histories of their founders – by a wise mysterious monk, by special messenger in a dream, in a holy revelation, flooded with golden light, and so forth, and so on. A style should never be the gospel truth, the laws and principles of which can never be violated. Man, the human being, is always more important than any style.
The founder of a style may be exposed to some partial truth, but as time passes by, especially after the founder has passed away, “his” postulates, “his” inclination, “his” concluding formula – we constantly learn, we never conclude – become law. Creeds are invented, reinforcing ceremonies are prescribed, separative philosophies are formulated, and, finally, the institutions are erected, so what might have started off as some sort of personal fluidity of its founder is now solidified, fixed knowledge – organized and classified response presented in logical order – a preserved cure-all for mass conditioning. In so doing, the well-meaning followers have made this knowledge not only a holy shrine, but a tomb in which the founder’s wisdom is buried. – Bruce Lee
*Note – This section is going to talk about the Paleo Diet in terms of its most generally accepted, well-known version – the low-carb, higher protein and fat version (eat animal protein, non-starchy vegetables, whole fruits, naturally derived fats, and ditch the sugars and starches).
I realize there is no single “Paleo” Diet, and food choices and macronutrient percentages vary among time periods and regions (Inuit vs. Kitavan, etc.). I know that’s not really fair to the whole Paleo Movement, but this article is about simplifying and giving people actionable strategies, and putting it in terms they know.
It’s not about historical studies, or figuring out the details of what is or what is not truly Paleo. I don’t really give a shit about caveman anyways. I just want to be healthy and look good, and help people who have the same goals.
ON DIETARY CULTS VS. MATCHING THE PROGRAM TO THE PERSON & GOAL
- As you can see, I think there are many great principles both mirror-gazers and health enthusiasts can take from Paleo-style diets. That’s why I’d say 80% of my dietary principles are based off that approach.
- But I don’t want to leave you with the false impression that I’m a true “Paleo-guy.” I definitely recommend applying certain Paleo principles, but my overall recommendations are different for certain demographics – particularly healthy, ANAEROBIC-based exercisers and athletes.
- My problem is when any nutritional approach, or any system in general, becomes a religious-like cult: Rabid teachers preaching it is the absolute and only Way with no possible modifications based on individual goals, hardcore followers condemning all other methods, brainwashed students that may be inhibiting their progress or even doing themselves harm by dogmatically adhering to the tenets of an inflexible system; instilling fear that if a starchy carb ever touches your lips, the wrath of the Four Winds is going to swoop down, destroy your village, and take your soul to the Underworld (although sign me up for the next gathering where everyone dresses up as cave people for a giant orgy).
- You’ll never convince me that a 300-pound, obese, insulin resistant, sedentary office worker trying to save his life should be eating the same thing as a regular exerciser or athlete that wants to reach peak physical condition. Yet that’s what you have to believe if you buy into the dogmatic adherence to a one-size-fits-all “system.” Cookie-cutting only works in the cookie making business. And remember, don’t eat bullsh*t paleo cookies. Eat awesome 80-90% of the time and eat a real cookie once in a while.
- I believe the true value of a caveman or ancestral approach to nutrition is what it cuts from the average person’s diet (concentrated fructose including high fructose corn syrup and table sugar, trans fats, high n-6 vegetable oils, etc.), rather than a religious-like dogmatic adherence to one specific macronutrient distribution pattern regardless of individual activity levels, metabolic condition, or goals.
- Why? Because 100% Paleo eating (again as it is most commonly defined) just doesn’t account for variances in activity levels, individual metabolic factors, overall health, and the differences between average and elite physique or performance goals.
ON WHY WE’RE NOT FRICKIN’ CAVEMAN
- Cavemen were highly active sure, but most of that activity was low-intensity, aerobic activity. Sure, they sprinted towards prey and away from predators, climbed trees, clubbed stuff, etc., but these were generally short bursts. They weren’t doing the type of sustained, glycogen depleting anaerobic activity involved in training programs specifically designed for cosmetic or performance enhancement.
- They did not have to recover from the type of self-inflicted, muscular micro-trauma associated with high volume, intense weight training or cross-training sessions performed multiple times a week. This unique metabolic environment necessitates unique nutritional considerations outside of the strict Paleolithic parameters, and warrants the inclusion of a few Sports Nutrition principles. Alright, that sounded way to frickin’ nerdy. Lets try that again — athletes are NOT cavemen, nor should they try and be.
- Cavemen were eating simply to survive. Modern physique enthusiasts are eating and training for much more than just the fulfillment of the general life cycle. They are trying to reach the pinnacle of physique development, and “get ripped”. And don’t tell me you don’t want a 6-pack. Yes you do.
- Just like the sedentary person shouldn’t get caught up in following Food Pyramid dogma, the strength-training athlete shouldn’t get caught up in following no-carb dogma.
- Besides if you stick to Paleo to a “T”, then you can only partake in cavewomen Wolf Bush. I prefer modern landing strips or hardwood floors. To deny yourself that pleasure because it is not “Paleo” is pure madness.
- And to not be sexist, I hear women are even starting to prefer some modern Nether-region grooming on their men. Hell, it makes my Little Shiitake look almost average. And here’s the bottom line truth — everyone likes a clean workspace my friends.
ON WHY STARCHY CARBS ARE NOT THE DEVIL
- Animals and plants provide us with the essential nutrients (essential amino acids, essential fatty acids) and micronutrients we need for survival and normal functioning. Everything else is about providing us with the energy we need to fuel our daily activities.
- “Added fats” are an energy source, not an essential nutrient. This can be good or bad depending on your total calorie requirements and goals, and the composition of the rest of your diet. Starchy carbohydrates are an energy source, not an essential nutrient. This can be good or bad depending on the type and amount of training you do. I could be way out in left field on this one, but I think a healthy and active human body is pretty adaptable and can do well on either one.
- Low carb diets are great for certain demographics — sedentary, obese, insulin resistant, etc. — thus they should be the default status for probably 70% of our population.
- However, exercise creates a unique metabolic environment, an altered physiological state, and changes the way your body processes nutrients both during activity and for up to 48 hours after completion of a training session. If you exercise intensely 3 or more days a week, than your body is virtually in a recovery mode 100% of the time. It is in an altered physiological state beyond pure resting conditions 100% of the time, thus its nutritional needs are completely different than sedentary populations.
- In a sports nutrition context, carbohydrates are thus considered conditionally essential (yes I do get that there is no such thing as an essential carbohydrate, but tell that to the guy who is combining high amounts of anaerobic training with no carbs and whose ding dong has been lifeless for a year, or the girl whose thyroid levels and metabolism is shot).
- I believe starchy carb intake should be directly tied to your high-intensity, glycogen burning activity levels. Fats should then be adjusted up or down accordingly to stay within your allotted calories.
- If the training program is different, the diet should be different. Beyond dietary dogmatic creeds, that’s just common sense. I think high and mighty, low carb cult leaders, whose only form of exercise is jogging, should take a class in exercise physiology before making Universal proclamations, and dismissing thoroughly researched Sports Nutrition principles.
- The anaerobic energy production pathway (what we use while strength training, sprinting, cross training, competing in intermittent team sports, or basically performing any high-intensity activity) runs on glucose/carbs. It can’t use lipids or ketones. While the body can use fatty acids as fuel at rest, and even those who train only in the aerobic zone can become “fat adapted”, high intensity muscular contractions require glucose.
- Therefore, chronic carb depletion combined with anaerobic training can impair performance and eventually lead to muscle loss (skinny-fat syndrome). The body will break down amino acids as a reserve fuel to provide the necessary glucose to fuel high intensity activity. You know how they say fats are more “muscle sparing” than carbs? Not necessarily when you factor in anaerobic training.
- And low-carb diets combined with consistent high intensity activity can have a lot of metabolic, hormonal, and physiological drawbacks including impaired thyroid production, low testosterone and sex drive, decreases in metabolic rate, muscle loss, skinny-fat syndrome, insomnia, depression, irritability, and low immunity (getting sick all of the time?).
- Yes, if carbs are overeaten it will inhibit the fat loss process. Chronic elevation or overproduction of insulin can of course lead to fat gain. But in the right amounts and situations (i.e. following an intense workout where insulin sensitivity is high), it can be a good thing (anabolic, anti-catabolic).
- As counterintuitive as it sounds (at least in the Modern Low Carb Era), some carbs in the diet can offset the catabolic activity of exercise (insulin is a counter-regulatory hormone to cortisol), can initiate the recovery and repair process, can help build lean muscle, and can help burn fat in the recovery period.
- I’ve worked with physique enthusiasts who got over their misconceptions and “carbophobia,” leaned up, and reached personal, record low body fat percentages by adding carbs back into their diet.
- And not to mention, the majority of the leanest people on Earth – natural bodybuilders and fitness models (yes, even the non-juiced up, non-crazy, perfectly healthy ones), diet on lean to moderately lean proteins, veggies, and some starch to support anaerobic training. You shouldn’t learn everything from athletes, but you can’t completely ignore them either. The percentage of people who achieve success with that approach is more than just coincidence, regardless of what “studies” supposedly prove.
- For those who fear the carb during fat slashing phases, just remember that total calories are still the most important step.
- If you strength train while maintaining a relative calorie deficit, you can still include some starchy carbs in the diet while losing significant amounts of body fat. The best part is you get better support of that anaerobic training, better energy, better muscle retention, don’t screw up your metabolism, don’t set yourself up for huge post-dieting rebounds, and maintain natural hormone production.
- Why am I so passionate about this fight? I suffered a lot of the drawbacks of combining low-carb diets with high intensity training myself. I hope to help people avoid the same mistakes and struggles I went through.
ON WHY UNLIMITED FAT DIETS DON’T WORK
- This brings me to something every no-carber needs to understand: being in a state of ketosis itself does not ensure fat loss.
- Ketosis is simply an altered physiological state in the human body. When carbs are extremely low, glycogen becomes depleted. The body will then use a greater percentage of fatty acids to fuel the body and use ketones to fuel the brain. It’s merely a shift in fuel dynamics. The body is running on fat metabolism, but it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s going to burn more body fat, although that’s what you might infer.
- The other rules of body fat loss still apply, not just the metabolic condition your body is in. Ensuring you’re in a relative calorie deficit is still the most important step in winning the fat loss war.
- In low carb, unlimited fat and protein diets, you can still enter a state of caloric excess. And even though your body has shifted to burning a greater percentage of fatty acids as fuel, it will simply obtain fatty acids and ketones from the abundance of dietary fat you’re taking in if you’re in caloric excess.
- It will not be forced to tap into internal body fat stores as a reserve fuel. Instead, the excess calories will be stored as body fat, regardless of whether insulin levels are constantly kept at a low level.
- “Macro-bashing” plays to people’s desires. These plans seem like they require more discipline – you have to eliminate certain food groups. “No carbs today, Dude.” But these diets actually require less discipline. They demonize a certain nutrient and point to it as the cause of all of our body fat problems. Eliminate that nutrient, and you can eat as much as you want of everything else.
- That’s what people really want to hear, isn’t it? You can eat as much of “X and Y” as you want, as long as you don’t eat “Z.” Eat vegetable oil, cream, and cheese to your heart’s desire as long as you don’t have that carb gram from a carrot stick. In a world of overindulgence, the lazy want to be able to gorge on something.
- I’m not saying it can’t or won’t work, but for the majority I’ve seen, it doesn’t. If you’ve banished carbs to the Underworld, yet are still struggling with fat loss and are looking for answers, now you have one – controlling calories is still king.
- And yes, if you have higher-level performance or physique goals, you need to know and adhere to your numbers. The right calories and macronutrients are the most important step in achieving any body composition goal, and need to be adjusted based on progress and feedback. I know that’s not “Paleo-style” or how Caveman did it, but who gives a damn about just surviving. We want to thrive. And don’t point to the one guy who is the exception to the rule and is ripped eating instinctually like our Cro-magnon cousins. Think about the 99 normal people who are “doing everything right” according to the rules of 10,000 BC, but still are disappointed with the results. And again, don’t tell me you don’t want to be ripped and perform awesome. Yes you do. Just because you haven’t been able to achieve that yet with theory and fluff, and think its impossible, doesn’t mean it is.
8 BULLETS ON MY NUTRITION APPROACH
This is the principle in which there is, and there is not, a stance. At its heart, this is first taking up the sword and then cutting down your opponent, no matter what is done or how it happens…The Way of this style is the mind that obtains the victory with anything at all. – Miyamoto Musashi
- I have two goals: improve overall health and maintain a lean physique year-round, without being miserable or compromising my career or cognitive function or sanity.
- I don’t believe you have to live and look like a goblin, or join a cult with an aura of mysticism, in order to improve biomarkers of health. Nor do I believe you have to destroy your health, give up your career and social life, live in the kitchen, take a bunch of drugs, have a laundry list full of miracle supplements, or be obsessively controlled by your diet to look good at Da Beach.
- I use the Paleo Diet as the baseline template for food choices (cutting out refined/process foods, and emphasizing animals and plants).
- I add back in some starch foods to support anaerobic training. I still try to minimize sugar, gluten, anti-nutrients, and toxic compounds. What I’m left with is root vegetables (yams, sweet potatoes, regular potatoes) and white rice. Maybe you do just fine with gluten or dairy or whatever. I don’t, and a large percentage of the people I’ve worked with don’t. Test and assess to see what works best.
- For a simple educational template that I think is as easy to remember as the Paleo Diet, I use the Traditional Japanese Village Diet. Fish and moderately lean meats, eggs, non-starchy vegetables, whole fruit, and rice and root vegetables to support anaerobic training.
- And again, I don’t really care if that is historically or anthropologically accurate (ie what some village in 1678 actually ate vs. what some village in another region in 1594 actually ate, etc). It is only meant to be used as a simple tool to give people actionable strategies.
- If you don’t want to feel like you are “Turning Japanese”, The Irish Farmer’s Diet (meat and potatoes), Okinawans (pork, vegetables, and sweet potatoes), and Kitavans (fish, fruit, and root vegetables) are other good examples and templates. Carb-based diets minus refined shit is the overall theme. Maybe you have some other template you can use to conceptualize that. So be it.
- I believe the old-school, natural bodybuilding standard of a calorie deficit, sufficient protein, vegetables and whole fruit for micronutrients, moderate amounts of fat as by-product of protein sources, and some starch to support anaerobic training (adjusted up or down based on progress and feedback) combined with hypertrophy-based strength training is far superior for fat loss and physique enhancement than the current trend of low carb, high fat diets combined with cross-training and boot camps. But I could be wrong. And if I am, I’ll be the first to admit it. I’m not living my life like I’m getting graded on a test. And I hope I’m not coming off the wrong way because I’m shooting off random bullets. I don’t think I’m better than anyone man. I’m just sharing what I believe and what I think will help you. If you think otherwise, you can still buy me a drink.
8 BULLETS ON WHAT YOU SHOULD DO
A samurai was essentially a man of action. Science was without the pale of his activity. He took advantage of it in so far as it concerned his profession of arms. Religion and theology were relegated to the priests; he concerned himself with them in so far as they helped to nourish courage. — Bushido.
Self-will is the only virtue that takes no account of man-made laws…The human herd instinct demands adaptation and subordination…A self-willed man has no other aim than his own growth – Bruce Lee
- Many Paleo people literally think they should walk around with a spear. Many academics can talk a big game but most look like they could use both a nutritionist and a trainer. And I’m fucking crazy and think I’m a modern Ronin. Why would you want to follow any of us? Listen to Bruce.
- The Great Paleo Debate? Both sides can be right. Both approaches can work. Research and anecdotal evidence can support both. Unnecessary confusion stems from coaches trying to slot everyone into one Universal system and proclaiming it the best for everyone, everywhere. It doesn’t work that way. That’s like saying there is only one way you should train despite your performance or physique goals, or only one sexual position you can use despite your flexibility or mood or number of partners or blood alcohol content.
- The diet industry has lost the principle of Specificity. There is no “Perfect Diet” that can claim a throne. There are multiple effective diets based on different situations and goals.
- Paleo is an approach. Anti-Paleo (which oddly enough ends up being 80% the same as Paleo with a bunch of platform pushing and flowery language on top of it) has an approach. I have an approach, based on my education and experiences. But none are the Only Way. I encourage you to take some personal accountability and self-experiment to find what works best for you. Don’t be like a baby bird waiting to be fed whatever your mama regurgitates for you.
- Maybe you consider that not taking a stance. Maybe you consider it bro-science. I consider it finding what works. And in terms of the true application of the scientific method, even research study conclusions really only give you steps 1-3 (question, hypotheses, and prediction). Every individual has to complete steps 4-5 (test and analyze) on their own.
- So whether you follow bro-science, ho-science (strategies you implement that ultimately help you look and feel good enough to get laid, which is the most important), or real science, they’re all still just hypotheses that need to be tested and assessed in the real world to see if it works for YOU personally. I’ve pulled from all 3 to be honest. But I guess it’s easier to sound good in a lecture or copy and paste stuff into forums rather than get out there in the real world and put in some work.
- In the end none of it really matters; the only thing that matters is what works for you, personally, given your unique situation. Now don’t misunderstand me. That’s not to devalue scientific research and advancement at all. I commend anyone trying to increase our knowledge and push our understanding of processes further. But nothing is immutable law. I definitely think you should use science and systems to give yourself an informed starting point, but don’t dogmatically cling to anything, regardless of the source. Simply find a Way to win.
Wow man, if you actually made it this far, you deserve a virtual high-5. Very nice!
Speaking of wrapping it up, I’m out of wiener wraps, so I got to get over to Bed, Bath, & Beyond to stock up. I hope this post cut through the academic and theoretical bullshit and gave you some actionable strategies.
I hope I didn’t offend anyone. Since I’m laid back and rarely get offended, I often assume everyone else is the same way. If I assumed wrong, I apologize.
In all seriousness, I wish you the best in whatever route you decide to pursue. I’m friends with people from all walks of life, races, socioeconomic classes, and yes — as shocking and politically incorrect as it may sound — even fitness beliefs.
I went long and hard on this one (hahaha) because most of my free time has been (and will be) working on a book that is outside of fitness that is much closer to my heart.
So I don’t know when I’ll be back for another fitness rant. Hopefully soon.
If you need a little bit more Miyaki in the meantime (seriously? I’m f-ing sick of myself at this point), here is a video I shot about how I implemented the Bruce Lee principle I suggested for you (absorb what is useful, reject what is useless…) in my own nutrition education journey.
Maybe it will help give you a few more ideas…
Until our paths cross again my friends,
Aloha, Slán go fóill, Sayōnara, Bye for now, or who knows, maybe until the next life.
In this interview, I talk with my friend and colleague Billy Polson. He talks about the specifics of the diet plan he’s been using to lose fat, build muscle, and improve energy all while keeping up with the demands of owning, operating, and training private clients at San Francisco’s top personal training facility, Diakadi Body.