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Does anyone else here follow The Paleo Solution Podcast? I've been listening to it and I think it's great. The most recent episode featured Mark Bell as a guest: http://robbwolf.com/2013/03/12/mark-bell-episode-174/ I haven't listened to that one yet, only about 15 minutes from the start. It seemed great and might be interesting even if you don't care about Paleo stuff in general. Sometimes the podcasts with guests haven't been as good as the normal ones IMO and it's nice to have Greg Everett there too, but this one seemed different. Anyway, I thought that if there were other followers we could talk about the topics that come up in these podcasts. http://robbwolf.com/podcast/
This post/thread will be about Paleo nutrition (and it's application to lifting), but since I'm starting the thread it'll be about my take on Paleo which is decidedly not dogmatic. That is, I don't care if something is "paleo", I care if something WORKS. The fact that I'm typing this while drinking a protein shake should be evidence of that ;-) The Paleo Premise Paleo (or paleolithic) nutrition starts with the idea that man evolved for hundreds of thousands of years hunting and gathering and is well suited to that diet. The introduction of grain-based foods as a staple is relatively recent (4,000-10,000 years) and man has not yet successfully adapted to a grain-based diet. Lifespan, health, etc The first rebuttal often offered for this seemingly innocuous premise is that paleolithic man had a very short lifespan. While it is true that the average lifespan in this era was 33, when adjustments are made for trauma deaths and infant mortality, the average lifespan was actually in the 60's, even before we take medical care into account. Meanwhile, when populations started shifting to agricultural foods as a staple, average lifespan dropped to 20 and reached a mere 18 during the Bronze Age, as people began to cluster in cities and sanitation was as yet undiscovered. Life expectancy did not return to non-adjusted paleo levels until the 20th century, for most parts of the world, and in some countries is still in the 30’s. Perhaps worse, quality of life was greatly diminished; every culture that adopted agriculture as a staple source of dietary calories shows drastic changes in skeletal health in the following generations. Diminished stature (4-6 inches lost in average height in many cases), rickets, skeletal deformities, dental problems, etc became normal whereas they had previous been unheard of. In the US, we are directed by the government to consume a diet based on grains -- 60% of our calories are recommended to come from "whole grains". Despite following this policy for ~40 years, Americans are fatter and unhealthier than ever, leading to the conclusion that people simply aren't following the guidelines but instead consuming lots of processed junk foods. Unfortunately, the ancient Egyptians -- who most certainly did not have access to modern processed foods -- ate a diet virtually identical to the one recommended by the USDA, and still suffered many of the skeletal deformities, dental problems, and even obesity recognized in modern countries as well as other cultures that adopted agriculture. We are now at the point that we are able to consume enough calories that we can at least make up for the nutrient deficiencies of grains. That is, a population living off of a small quantity of grains only would rapidly become unhealthy, small, and weak because the small quantity of grains offered so little nutrition. With calories and nutrients now in abundance, we can essentially out-eat grain's dietary deficiencies -- but the harm remains. Rather than worry about counting carbs or concerns about various macros, I agree with Dr. Kurt Harris that it's more important to avoid specific compounds found frequently in modern foods. The evidence seems to indicate this and it offers an explanation for why various cultures around the world thrive on various macronutrient compositions, so long as they avoid neolithic foods . Dr Harris' excellent summary is located here. The problem with modern foods Modern foods bring a host of problems. Not *because* they are modern, but because of known, specific biochemical problems or conditions they create. Probably the only thing that irks me more than blind adherence to “paleo” for the sake of paleo is the dismissal of a mostly “paleo” diet because “we aren’t cavemen” anymore or some nonsense. Modern foods do NASTY things to your body, and I’m going to outline the biggest culprits. Again – these aren’t foods to be ignored simply because cavemen didn’t eat them. They are foods to be ignored because they are bad for you for medically verifiable and testable reasons. First on the list are grains. Grains include wheat, barely, oats, corn, rye, etc. What’s the problem with grains? Grains contain phytates Phytates are (anti-nutrients) which prohibit the absorption of zinc, iron, calcium, magnesium, niacin, and other nutrients. To be fair, nuts and seeds contain these as well (though in lesser amounts per quantity typically consumed) as nature will always punish you for eating the reproducing part of a plant. Plants have evolutionary strategies, too, and they’re good at chemical warfare. Grains contain Lectins Lectins are nasty little proteins that avoid digestion and make it, intact, into your intestines. From here, they then get transported intact through the intestinal wall, into the bloodstream. Having intact proteins circulating around your bloodstream is bad news for your immune system, which is always on the lookout for offenders and formulates its immune response based on the type of protein. After a while, if it recognizes too many proteins floating around for too long, it thinks something is wrong and mounts a response. The problem is that, at this point, it might not be able to tell the difference between an invader protein and your body itself, leading to attacks on good cells in an effort to get rid of the bad. Congratulations, you now have an auto-immune disease to deal with. Gluten: bad guy #1 Of all the grains, the gluten containing ones are arguably the worst, as they contain weight-germ agglutinin (WGA) which is the nastiest lectin of all. Not only does WGA slip through the intestines like other lectins, but it also binds to other “macromolecules” in the intestines (read: poop) and brings them along as well. So now you have a whole mess of proteins floating around in your bloodstream and your poor immune system has no idea who’s friendly and who’s there to cause trouble. While the research in this area is new, my theory is that excess grain consumption is responsible for the dramatic rise in food allergies we’ve seen over the years. As people eat wheat along with other food (e.g. peanuts, which themselves contain lectins) the body recognizes the proteins as an invader and mounts a massive immune response. The research on this subject is, unfortunately, quite scarce, as it is only recently that the idea that grains were anything but the “staff of life” has been questioned. Also, agricultural companies aren’t exactly in a hurry to fund research showing the negative effects of grains… [More reading on WGA/gut health/immunity: http://www.fourhourw...-diet-solution/] Wheat causes blood sugar spikes For many people, something about wheat spikes blood sugar higher than expected for the carbohydrate content it contains. Interestingly, ancient strains of wheat don’t have quite the same effect, though they still produce undesirable spikes in blood sugar. More reading on wheat and a host of other problems it causes from AGE (advanced glycation endproduct) production to pancreas issues, to addictive properties http://www.lef.org/m...le-Grain_01.htm Other culprits (usually associated with grains): Omega-6 Polyunsaturated fat, especially linoleic acid: bad guy #2 The media would have you believe that French fries, baked goods, and desserts are LOADED with ARTERTY CLOGGING SATURATED FAT. Right? Wrong. Most of the fat in the “high saturated fat foods” people think of is actually polyunsaturated. Specifically, it’s omega-6 poly unsaturated fatty acid in the form of linoleic acid (LA). Omega-6 fatty acids are highly inflammatory, and LA is one of the worst culprits. All vegetable oils are polyunsatured and much of the polyunsaturated fat found in grains is of the worst kinds. First, a quick aside about fats: Monounsaturated, Polyunsaturated, trans, and saturated fats are not fats themselves, but classifications of different types of fatty acids. Even those can be further broken down into different categories based on the chemical structure (e.g. omega-3 vs omega-6 vs omega-9). Most fat sources contain a blend of fatty acids, but they are not all created equal. Your body prefers some over others and in varying ratios. Ok, moving on: Polyunsaturated fats breakdown or trigger signaling molecules called “eicosanoids”, and there are good and bad eicosanoids. Dr Eades describes these in terms of their effect on blood flow: omega-3 eicosanoids promote blood flow whereas omega-6 eicosanoids promote clotting and inflammation. Aspirin’s blood-thinning effects are actually caused by a downregulation of clotting eicosanoids. For the nerdy crowd out there, here’s what happens: Note the breakdown to Arachidonic Acid (AA), which is a particularly potent inflammatory agent. What happens when you’ve got an inflamed cardiovascular system? Imagine a plumbing system of metal pipes that are heated, constantly. They metal will eventually become brittle, stiff, and show stress cracks and weaken. Your arteries begin to do the same, but your body doesn’t want this to happen, so it sends cholesterol to the stress cracks in order to patch them up. Cholesterol is a nice, goopy substance your body uses to patch holes (among other things) in blood vessels, and does a good job. Unfortunately, if you keep the inflammation going, your body is going to keep sending cholesterol, until there is so much cholesterol stuck to the side of a blood vessel that blood can’t flow through it. We all know what happens next. Linoleic Acid and other omega-6-heavy Polyunsatured fats make up most of the fat in grains and are frequently combined with grains to give a nice 1-2 punch to the body. Finally, Fructose: bad guy #3 The last major culprit in modern foods is fructose. Hold your horses, because I am *not* about to say that fruit is bad. Fruit is fine. There are three major camps on this issue, and all of them are wrong. The first, mainstream/medical establishment camp, says that fructose is from fruit (or corn) and is therefore good (naturalistic fallacy, again). They say fructose doesn’t evoke a massive insulin response, has a low glycemic index, and therefore is better for diabetics or people not wishing to become diabetics. The second is the contrarian-but-still-wrong camp suggesting that high-fructose-corn-syrup is the devil and if we all just drank soda filled with sucrose we’d be perfectly fit and healthy. The final camp is the “paleo for paleo’s sake” crowd who rejects fruit on the ground that caveman didn’t have year-round access to fruit and ancient fruits weren’t as sweet. Those points are both true, but it ignores the bigger picture. The first two camps are both wrong for a couple of reasons. First, they both start with the assumption that people should be consuming a carb-based diet and then they are merely quibbling over which sugar is better than the other. If you are consuming 150-200g of sugar a day, your body hardly cares whether you’re dumping fructose or sucrose into it – at that point, sugar is sugar and the total load on your body is going to be very bad no matter the type. This isn’t saying that fructose ISN’T worse than other sugar – it technically is—but rather I’m pointing out that sheer quantity at that point makes them all horrible. That being said, fructose is quite a bit more harmful than many other sugars. First, it’s processed primarily in the liver, which basically stops everything to clear what it sees as a potential poison. In small amounts (e.g. actual fruit) this no problem. But in large quantities (e.g. soda, fruit juice, and sweetened foods) this becomes a huge problem as your poor liver tries to detox. Fructose also screws with hunger hormones (specifically, ghrelin) which tends to make people hungrier. Thus, it becomes harder to control eating when lots of fructose is involved. Fructose is certainly the least three of the main culprits I mentioned, but it deserves mention because it causes a variety of metabolic problems. Grains suck as a source of nutrition Let’s pretend that grains don’t have any negative side effects. Let’s pretend that grains are free of WGA, lectins, omega-6 fatty acids, and all of that. As a source of nutrition, they SUCK and are mostly empty calories. As an example, let’s go with 100g of avocado (about half an avocado) vs 100g of whole wheat bread (about 3 slices or maybe one large bagel). Avocado: -167 calories, 8.64g of carbs, 15.4g of fat (mostly good monounsaturated), 6.8g fiber, lots of vitamin c, vitamin A Whole wheat bread: -259 calories, 47g carbs, 4g fat (mostly inflammatory PUFA), 4.4g fiber, no vitamin C, no vitamin A Whole wheat bread even sucks as a source of fiber, the main reason lots of people supposedly eat it and the reason it supposedly is good for you. To get the fiber found in ONE avocado, you would have to eat an entire loaf of whole wheat bread – getting almost 1,000 calories in the process, compared to the avocado’s 260 calories. Again, this isn’t white bread I’m talking about. This is the whole wheat stuff. Wheat isn't even good at the things it's supposed to be good at! Look at the nutrient profile of kale, cauliflower, asparagus, lettuce, coconut, and any number of non-grain foods and they completely blow away even “healthy whole grains” in terms of nutrient density, fiber content, satiety, and antioxidant contents. So even if we completely ignore all the bad things about grains, you’re left with a food that is really just…pointless. It doesn’t contribute anything meaningful in contrast to these more healthy alternatives. Worse than pointless, the number of calories consumed to try to obtain decent nutrition from grains is staggering. Calories from grains really are “empty calories” compared to any meat or vegetable. So grains, particularly gluten-containing ones, are AT BEST high-calorie foods that provide little nutrition and satiety and AT WORST, gut-destroying, immune-response provoking, inflammation-causing junk foods that should be avoided. Combined with excess linoleic acid (a common ingredient in many boxed/processed foods) and excess fructose, and you’ve got a trifecta of bad news. Take a look at what’s in most things on the grocery store shelves and you’ll see this general formula: a grain, a vegetable oil, a sugar (usually fructose-heavy). This same formula exists in foods that obviously bad (twinkies) to things not thought to be bad (whole-grain cereal). To sum up The big three bad guys to avoid here are grains (especially gluten grains), excess fructose, and excess linoleic acid. Saying "avoid" doesn't mean "never have them". What I'm saying is that you first should recognize that they are bad for you and WHY they are bad for you. The second step is to realize that they should not form a staple of your diet. The third step is to determine what role, if any, they will play in your life. The trouble with moderation So that brings us to moderation. Most people read this stuff and say “well, I can’t give up ___________(pasta/rice/bread)” and just move on. I guess the idea of just limiting them never occurred? Many others read this stuff and say “well, I think everything should be consumed in moderation.” I agree with that – the trouble is that we’ve been told that a diet comprised of 60% grains is “normal”, so we’ve skewed the definition of moderation. I would say that a diet comprised of 5% calories from grains is “moderation”. You eat roughly 20 meals a week, so 5% of your calories from grains means you have a fair-sized serving of grains twice a week. To me, that’s moderation when it comes to grains, though I happen to consume them far less often than that. To many, “moderation” simply means not eating huge plates of pasta all the time – meanwhile eating a whole grain sandwich every day, having a biscuit or roll before dinner every night, and eating various grain-based snacks throughout the day. When it comes to grains, that level of consumption isn’t moderate AT ALL. It’s a huge amount, frankly. Then you add in the juices (excess fructose) and all the omega-6 fatty acids and you've got a bad diet. So, moderation is fine, but first you have to get your definition of moderation right. If you accept the evidence that grains are harmful – or at least pointless filler foods – then 0% consumption logically becomes the new baseline (if you’re concerned about your health or weight, that is). Moderation from that point then becomes any small quantity you eat above that, within reason. Here’s what I mean by this. Let’s say that the average alcoholic drinks 12 beers a day. We all recognize that alcohol isn’t necessary for anything, but non-alcoholics choose to consume a few beers every week because they enjoy the flavor and the intoxicating effects. Consuming a few drinks is consuming in moderation, whereas an alcoholic simply reducing from 12 drinks to 9 is NOT drinking in moderation simply because he is drinking LESS. It’s all about perspective. If you start with the premise that a diet comprised mostly of grains is “normal”, then your sense of moderation will be just as skewed as an alcoholic who thinks a 12-pack a day is “normal”. Paleo vs not paleo: a disclaimer I want to state again that I am *not* saying that paleo foods are inherently good and modern foods are inherently bad. That is like the naturalistic fallacy wherein things that are natural are “good” and things that are unnatural are “bad”. That’s not the point. Looking at diet through a paleo lens, however, gives us insight into what works. By definition, Paleolithic foods worked for our ancestors or we would not be around to debate the merits of a paleo or modern diet. That they were able to thrive before the existence of modern agriculture – and in spite of living at the mercy of nature – is a testament to the viability of paleolithic nutrition. That doesn't mean it can't be augmented or improved, it merely means that we evolved to handle a certain diet and we should be skeptical of new foods, which have a tendency to cause problems. There seems to be a rush among many (especially) the crossfit crowd) to see who can be "more paleo" than others. I see athletes avoiding whey/casein PWO because it's "not paleo" and it makes me cringe. I cannot emphasize enough that your body doesn't care if the food you're putting in it is 100,000 years old or 1 minute old. It cares if that food is harmful or not, and that's it. Yes, paleo foods tend to be more beneficial and neolithic foods tend to be harmful. But the idea of "eat paleo foods and avoid modern foods" is a guideline, an idea to provide coherence and give us predictive power -- not a line in the sand. What you don't eat is more important than what you do eat, and so I've covered the things that should be minimized or avoided. I'll post further to talk about what you SHOULD eat, though "meat, vegetables, fruits, butter/ghee/coconut oil, and some nuts" is a good general guideline for most people. Reading: -My notes that I used during a nutrition seminar I gave a couple years ago: https://docs.google....9EH2nlizdg/edit -Dr. Kurt Harris: Paleo 2.0 and Getting Started -Dr Eades' take on "Wheat Belly", Dr. Davis' book