Q: Why am I not losing weight on a strict adherence to the Paleo Diet?


Well because if your goal is to look like a Cro-Magnon man, then Paleo diets are great. And if you are 100lbs overweight, insulin resistant, type II diabetic, and just need to move closer to a natural, healthy bodyweight, Paleo diets are great. But if your goal is to reach the upper echelon of physical development (ie lose that last 10lbs, get ripped, look great naked, etc.), then in my opinion, 100% Paleo diets suck caveman booty. Just kidding, but not really.

Reaching a healthy body weight is one thing, but at some point getting to ultra-low body fat percentages, six-packs and whatnot, becomes somewhat of an unnatural process. The ripped guy would have died first in caveman times because a certain amount of body fat is advantageous as a back-up fuel source during times of food deprivation. So if you want to get rid of that extra reserve that your body physiologically wants to carry, you can’t just eat what your ancestors ate or rely on instinct. You need to add in targeted Sports Nutrition principles.

Why do you think you never see Paleo-ites with their shirts off? Because the majority are just skinny-fat (although there is always one guy that is genetically gifted, is an exception to the rule, and everyone points to as their example of Paleo-superiority). Well sorry to bust your bubble, but I’ve competed against world class NATURAL bodybuilders that would make your Paleo-god look like Richard Simmons.

And I don’t mean to be a jerk, honestly, I am really just trying to help you. I know what its like to be frustrated at a plateau, because I used to follow a 100% Paleo diet back in the day until I became more educated in exercise physiology and nutritional biochemistry. 100% Paleo is honestly just too simple of an approach for a physiological process as complex as fat loss.

Now before anyone gets their caveman, loin cloth panties in a bunch, I believe there are many great principles we can take from the Paleo Diet. In fact, so much so, that I’d say about 80% of my dietary recommendations are Paleo-influenced. But in my industry, we need to get out of trying to slot everyone into one little neat system. You’ll never convince me that a 300lbs sedentary office worker just trying to see his toes (among other body parts) again should be eating the same thing as a relatively fit, athlete trying to reach elite body composition levels. That makes no sense, common, scientific, or any other.

OK, now that the overview is out of the way, you are either (A) asleep, and in that case sweet dreams (B) logged off this site and logged onto Sportscenter.com (guys) or an online shoe store (girls, or vice versa, who knows?), and in that case have fun (C) excited to learn more, and in that case let’s break down your specific situation step-by-step. We’re going to go down a few different assumption roads so we can look at several possible solutions to your specific problem.

1. Maybe your current bodyweight IS your natural, healthy bodyweight. If it is, and that’s all you are shooting for, congratulations. Keep doing whatever it is that you are doing. I think most people could attain a healthy bodyweight by following a Paleo-style diet and walking alone, no formal exercise necessary.

2. But if you have higher physique development aspirations, maybe you need to look outside of 100% strict Paleo parameters.

3. You need to follow a diet more than a few weeks to attain noticeable results. Try a few months (and a few years if you want to reach elite status). I think shows like the Biggest Loser, and miracle pill and supplement marketing have skewed the public’s perception of realistic weight loss goals and time frames . We want fat loss and we wanted it yesterday right? Well, real fat loss takes time. And if you lose weight too quickly, you are likely losing more muscle than fat, damaging your metabolism, and setting yourself up for a huge weight rebound. This is the stuff you don’t see off camera on NBC.

4. Although food selections may give you a few metabolic and hormonal advantages, calories still count. If you are not in a relative calorie deficit, you are not providing an environment where your body will break down its own fat stores to obtain fatty acids. And on a side note, most formulas I’ve seen overestimate people’s true daily caloric needs.

5. Oils are not a true Paleo food. Where were the oil-refining factories in Caveman times. You may be in a “fat burning” mode, but if you are pouring oil on everything, your body is simply burning the dietary fatty acids you are consuming instead of being forced to break down body fat. True cavemen got most of their fat through their animal protein sources.

6. Fruit:  Fructose is one of the worst compounds for body composition enhancement — directly leads to insulin resistance and fat accumulation. A small amount of fructose from 1-2 pieces of whole fruit a day is cool, but if you’re pounding bananas all day like a chimp, the fructose can add up. And definitely cut out concentrated sources of fructose like fruit juice, dried fruits, high fructose corn syrup and SUGAR (which is actually one molecule of glucose per one molecule of fructose.

7. What kind of training are you doing? Cardio sucks for fat loss, you can check out my article on this topic in the articles section. And if you have a knee injury, the repetitive nature of, and joint pounding cardio can have on the joints is probably only aggravating your condition. At least with strength training, you can control the exercise tempos and vary the angles to make sure you aren’t making the knee worse.

Alright, I’m worn out. Hope that helps answer your question.