Losing weight with Paleo/Primal
Please note: Some of this information is from me being smart and fairly well-edumacated on Paleo/Primal. But largely this information is gathered from other websites and books. I make no claim to any of this being all my own information, and thus I can’t be held responsible if something goes wonky.
Many people have experienced significant weight loss success with a paleo diet. But why…and more importantly, how?
Nearly every diet nowadays- including the SAD (Standard American Diet) will advise cutting back on grains (even the whole grains they tout as healthy and the base of the food pyramid), starchy vegetables, and eliminating most refined sugars and processed foods. Why? Because these foods are high in carbohydrates that will affect the body’s glycemic index (GI). The higher the GI, the faster and more intense the foods affect the blood glucose level. The greater the effect on the blood glucose level, the higher your body will peak and the lower it will crash, which in turn affects how soon you’ll get hungry and what (usually unhealthy foods) your body will crave.
When your body is getting a steady supply of carbohydrate-rich foods, it doesn’t has to work as hard to translate the carbohydrates into energy. Most high-carb foods offer a quick burst of energy, but the sustained release of energy is missing, so the resulting ‘crash’- the loss of that energy source- leaves you wanting more.
Hunger pains, cravings, headaches, lightheadedness, dizziness, even nausea can be associated with your body trying to move from burning off the stored carbohydrate energy to the burning the fat stores of the body. The problem is that by the time the body switches over from the carbohydrates to the fat stores, it is already offered more ‘lazy fuel’ in the form of more carbohydrates (because we were trying to stem the feelings of hunger or soothe the cravings).
Because paleo and primal eliminate those carb-heavy GI-spiking foods from the diet, your body has to rely primarily on the healthy fats ingested to have energy. Fats have a slower and steadier energy-release rate, so the peaks and valleys of the blood glucose level are very even. When the body has burned off the fats ingested, it turns to the fat stores available- a smooth, seamless switch. It’s why, once your body has adapted to the absence of those carb quick-fixes (the period often referred to as the ‘carb flu’), the appetite and hunger decreases and is much different from the feelings of hunger you may be used to. It’s very common to hear that ‘hunger’ is a feeling of emptiness, a reminder of ‘yeah, I should eat’ rather than that gnawing, aching pain. Cravings for specific foods are also diminished, making it easier to avoid the detrimental meals and snacks.
So how many carbs should you be getting?
Carbohydrate intake is often the decisive factor in weight loss success and prevention of widespread health problems like Metabolic Syndrome, obesity and type 2 diabetes. These average daily intake levels assume that you are also getting sufficient protein and healthy fats, and are doing some amount of exercise. The ranges in each zone account for individual metabolic differences.
- 0-50 grams per day: Ketosis and I.F. (Intermittent Fasting) zone. Excellent catalyst for rapid fat loss through I.F. Not recommended for prolonged periods (except in medically supervised programs for obese or Type 2 diabetics) due to unnecessary deprivation of plant foods.
- 50-100 grams per day: Sweet Spot for Weight Loss. Steadily drop excess body fat by minimizing insulin production. Enables 1-2 pounds per week of fat loss with satisfying, minimally restrictive meals.
- 100-150 grams per day: Paleo/Primal Maintenance zone. Once you’ve arrived at your goal or ideal body composition, you can maintain it quite easily here while enjoying abundant vegetables, fruits and other Primal foods.
- 150-300 grams a day: Insidious Weight Gain zone. Most health conscious eaters and unsuccessful dieters end up here, due to frequent intake of sugar and grain products (breads, pastas, cereals, rice, potatoes – even whole grains). Despite trying to “do the right thing” (minimize fat, cut calories), people can still gain an average of 1.5 pounds of fat every year for decades.
- 300+ grams a day: Danger Zone of average American diet. All but the most extreme exercisers will tend to produce excessive insulin and store excessive fat over the years at this intake level. Increases risk for obesity, Metabolic Syndrome and type 2 diabetes.
I can’t get my energy from carbohydrates, so I get it from fats. How much of these healthy fats should I be eating?
Your diet should be 65-70% fat.
High fat, moderate protein, low carb- and please note that I stress these ratios are what is recommended for weight loss, not for maintenance.
What about calories?
Don’t count ‘em.
If you concentrate on trying to balance your diet to 65% fat, 30% protein, and 5% carbs (roughly), you will, very naturally, fall in a good caloric range and not have to worry about them. You may feel like you’re eating way too many calories and far to much fat, but remember. We’re counting carbohydrates here.
Think this is a lot like Atkins (especially the ‘new’ Atkins) and South Beach?
You’re may be on to something.
Paleo-style diets are, for the most part, dramatically lower in carbohydrates than the Standard American Diet (SAD). The success of very low-carb (VLC) diets like Atkins could be attributed to the fact that we evolved to thrive on low-carb, high-fat diets, and not the reverse. The difference with paleo, however, is that paleo diets do not include manufactured/processed low-carb foods (like low-carb energy bars, flour substitutes, bread, tortillas, etc.). Pick up a container of low-fat anything, and or low-carb anything, and read the ingredients. REALLY read them..see all that unnatural man-made stuff? And sweeteners…loaded with chemicals and stabilizers. They can’t be good for your body.
In short, paleo is a diet concerned primarily with FOOD QUALITY and not with ratios of macronutrients (% protein/carb/fat); for people trying to lose weight or reverse metabolic syndrome, sticking to the lower-carb end will give better results.
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