Hunt, Gather, Avoid Grains: The Caveman Diet
Ed Note: Our friend Amcstang is a caveman. Or at least eats like one. The Paleo diet receives much praise, and even more criticism, recently ranking “unsafe” at #18 on list of popular weight loss programs. Here’s his pitch on forgoing carbs, living CrossFit and going ancestral.
Only a year ago walking down Wilmington Avenue in Rehoboth Beach, DE at 8 AM, I would have chosen Dave & Skippy’s Gourmet Bagel and Sandwich Shop ten out of ten times for breakfast—promising whole grain bagels, gourmet cereals and fresh wraps—over Gus-N-Gus next door selling fried eggs, sausage and bacon off a flat-iron griddle on the boardwalk. I mean, Skippy’s was clearly the healthy alternative based on years of ‘advice’ from the USDA, FDA, and multi-national food companies.
Fast forward one year and I don’t even think twice about my breakfast choice: Gus-N-Gus with their greasy spoon approach, hands-down. No, I haven’t given up “eating healthy” and no, I don’t weigh 300 pounds and do my dishes in my own bathtub. In fact, I am pretty confident in saying that I am the healthiest and in the best shape of my life at age 29.
Without trying to attach a trendy label to my eating habit, I went Paleo.
The decision, or really first thought, to even consider “going Paleo” came about by getting involved with the CrossFit community. I had always been interested in eating healthy and bought into the standard food pyramid nonsense about carbohydrates and whole grains. After joining a CrossFit gym, which advocates “functional movements that are constantly varied at high intensity,” and being surrounded by athletes who also wanted to eat healthy but were doing so by subscribing to something called the Paleo Diet, was very intriguing. Most of these folks did it for the athletic performance reasons but the health effects, they claimed, were undeniable. So I really do credit this community—some call it a cult—of introducing me to his diet which has been an absolute lifestyle change for the better.
As for what I eat, it’s primarily meat, fish, vegetables, fruit, nuts and healthy fats. I exclude grains, legumes, dairy products, salt, refined sugar and processed oils.
That’s about as far as I’ll actually get into the details of the science behind the “hunter-gatherer diet” but a highly recommended reading source is The Paleo Solution by Dr. Robb Wolf. About only one week after changing from my traditional healthy diet, I felt like a new person. I had more energy, better focus, didn’t crash throughout the day, but most importantly, I was no longer immediately uncomfortable after every meal, was less gassy, and my digestion was remarkably improved. And it wasn’t like I was eating Dorito’s, Twinkies and Big Gulps as a well-rounded meal before.
I was eating what ‘they’ told me was a healthy diet: LOTS of whole grains and carbohydrates. I would eat a bowl of cereal, some fruit, and orange juice for breakfast and a turkey sandwich on wheat bread, pretzels, and an apple for lunch…and felt like shit after each meal. Now a typical breakfast is eggs and/or bacon and/or salmon, some fruit, almond butter, and spinach or other leafy green. Not to mention the small snack I eat before breakfast and before lunch. The clearest evil in my pre-Paleo diet? Wheat and other grains. For an eye-opening, but frightening depiction of how wheat is killing us, read Wheat Belly by William R. Davis.
In short, my wife and I started focusing on the true quality of our real food and immediately noticed undeniable changes and benefits. After a couple of months of training and eating Paleo, we started on a new prescription…Paleo foods according to the Zone Diet which essentially forced us to focus on the quantity of macronutrients (protein, fat, and carbohydrates) we were eating to maximize daily performance and overall wellness. I should mention that performance is not key because I am a professional athlete, but because I am a human being constantly faced with varying tasks, obstacles, weights, and challenges. For more on The Zone Diet, check out anything written by Dr. Barry Sears.
Finding the Paleo Diet, The Zone Diet, and CrossFit have all been positive additions to our lifestyle. Focusing more on foods has allowed us to take a vested interest in where our foods come from, how they are cared for, transported, etc. It has also forced us to simply eat the way humans were designed to eat, and feel so much better as a result.
The CrossFit community, outside of the fact that it has made us the fittest we’ve ever been, has been a great network of friends who support, encourage, and teach us about Paleo and Zone constantly.
Of course we aren’t that crazy…life is still about doing what you want so we don’t rule out the occasional trip to Nielsen’s Frozen Custard in Vienna, VA. Now that we’ve seen what benefits can be enjoyed by following a Paleo lifestyle we really want to take the time and effort to educate our friends and family who are suffering from the Food Pyramid prescriptions, just like we were tricked into following it for most of our lives.