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Diet

Several things you should know about food, diets and overzealousness – Part 2 – Why eating like a caveman might be a fabulous idea

Ciao!

It has been again a while since I wrote (there goes my promise to do a post every week on either this page, or Inspekcija’s site), but the time for THE TALK has finally come.

As I described in the previous post, my first shot on changing my eating habits was moving from the Lithuanian diet to being a Vegan. You can read more about that there, so I’ll simply continue where I left from.

Past the first vegan month, my friend Claudio, whom you might know from the interview I posted some time ago, suggested trying a completely different diet – the Paleo diet. Ranked even lower than the vegan diet (#28!), it ended.. the whole “Diet Expedition“. Sort of.

So what is Paleo all about?

Main idea of the Paleo diet is that most of the highly processed and agricultural age foods aren’t actually that good for your body – they lack the actual sustenance real products have – such as unprocessed meats, vegetables, nuts etc. –  instead have empty carbs (pasta, rice, i.e. you can eat a lot of them, but won’t feel really full), cause issues for your health (gluten in grains) etc., so eating real food must be a good idea, right?

So I started thinking – in most cases if you go to a restaurant – you will get a dish with a pinch of actual food (meat, awesome cooked vegetables or similar) and then – 70% of the dish is covered in pasta/rice/potatoes, in some cases – some bread slices are added to the mix. When I was younger, I remember I could eat looots of such dishes and would still feel quite hungry afterwards.

From the restaurant owners perspective – for sure, serving people a 20 LTL dish with 3 LTL worth of meat and 1 LTL worth of empty carbs is a bargain, but what if you ate a bunch of healthy veggies and some meats (by the way, paleo can be vegetarian, meats are not necessary) which are worth 10 LTL instead..?

One short disclaimer: paleo diets are, indeed, a tad more expensive than those filled with cheap products such as rice and grains. Let’s follow up with an example – this awesome meal I ate for friday lunch – Paleo burgers with guacamole.

Expenses: beef (~9 LTL), avocados (6-8 LTL), some salad, tomatoes, onions and garlic (several LTL); three eggs (0.5 LTL). Result – 5 massive paleo-approved burgers, free of processed foods and surprisingly tasty, filling (I didn’t eat anything for the rest of the day; ‘cept cider:D) and really refreshing (it was a warm day that day). So the total cost is about 20 LTL for two people – not that bad.

All the products mentioned are simple, healthy and available everywhere.

One thing you might ask though – “Looks like there is little seasoning and flavour (sauces etc.) in the dish, it would taste plain”. My answer, which is born from practise – god, when I changed the diet nearly six months ago, I started liking pretty much all the vegetables and meats with little seasoning, because there was no more conservatives, sweeteners or E621 in my diet so my taste buds returned to life. So no, the burger tasted freaking great.

Wait wait. But what about alcohol? Beer, most importantly? As are grains themselves, beer is prohibited on the paleo diet (vodka, whiskey etc. as well), while tequila, wine or cidres are loved by paleo eaters. Imagine how silly I look during events in smaller still the-lithuanian-diet pubs where the main drink is beer – “Wine please.”. Or how many times I discussed whether cidre is a girly drink (go try the real cidres in Piano Man or Sarkozy). Somehow earlier in the spring finding a viable drink was rather difficult, but now, luckily, cidres have a hefty chunk of the market (and after trying, a bunch of my non-paleo friends now prefer cidre before beer).

Weigh loss and sports

What about the paleo diet as a weigh loss option? There is really little research done on the Paleo diet and the results are mixed, so I’ll talk from my experience.

If you’re currently eating loads of grains (breads, pasta), rice and potatoes, mixed with vegetables and meats and if you simply remove the first three from your diet (the empty carbs) you might be surprised at the level of weigh loss you’ll see. For me, even after the vegan diet, the difference was almost 3 kilos in the first few weeks – the fat of my body burned soooo fast I was really pleased to see the results. As you might know already, the unused carbs (empty or not), if your diet is filled with them, will end up in body fat (google pictures of African children fed on rice only, a perverse scene in a way – although completely skinny, the children are fat around the waists, with bloated out bellies).

A friend once told me of a bet he did with one girl – if she dropped a certain number of kilos (a hefty number, but I won’t be specific about weigh, dangerous thing to do) in two months while eating paleo, she’d send the guy sexy pictures. She dropped more:))

But what about sports? Although some might argue, that Palaeolithic people (that’s where the name come froms, as you might imagine) didn’t do that much sport and would only need energy for short bursts, so lots of walking, some sprinting and a bit of heavy lifting is enough a sport for Paleo people, my opinion is slightly different. Sure, if your only goal is some weigh loss, this will be enough. You will burn through the fat you have and if its ok for you, its ok.

For me though – I always do sports. I wrote about Insanity last time and mentioned, that when I was Vegan, doing the program was a wrecking experience – my muscles hurt, my knees and feet joints ached and I had to quit. On Paleo though. Oh boy, while writing, I have less than a week to go for the whole program, my muscles are tight as hell, no pain anywhere, I recuperate really fast so the next day – I can dig even deeper.

And this is kind of logical – to recuperate my muscles I need proteins. Shitloads of them. And in contrast to the Vegan diet, which contained only little protein every day, I now have excess proteins (while the recommended amount is 35%, paleo has 38%, according to the american dieticians). And I feel freaking awesome.

I also regained the weigh I lost during the Vegan times and the first few months of paleo – in sheer muscle.

Conclusion

Whether you call this type of diet Paleo or any other name, the main takeaway for you might be this – try, at least for a while, eating less of the visual dish fillers (such as pasta) and more of the real foods – vegetables and healthy meats*. If you skim through the diet listings in the links above, you’ll notice the same trend everywhere – skip the grains (only whole grains are allowed), reduce the number of empty carbs, eat more vegetables, balance the amount of meats etc. So there is little magic in the Paleo diet, isn’t it?

*As I mentioned before, you can still be a vegetarian (not vegan though) if you don’t enjoy meats at all.

Plusses:

– Great for sports, productivity and overall energy levels

– Free of gluten and lactose for those intolerant (like me; no more digestion issues. Ever.)

– Most of the recipes are easy to follow and the preparation times are shorter

Minuses:

– Highly restrictive

– More expensive than the casual diets

Last remark

You don’t have to be completely strict, never touching the prohibited foods or ingredients, but when you do – you’ll notice something – perhaps you were being poisoned, silently, for your whole life.

Now I’m off to eat some awesome meal. Ciao, my beloved!