Monday, July 30, 2012

Tracking what happens in your body

So I think I promised to make it easier to track what happens in your body during a paleo challenge.
I've made two forms to fill out in the shape of pdf's (I used Google Forms which is why it looks weird).

First a pdf to download now and fill out.

And secondly a pdf to come back to when you have completed your 30 days or more.

I hope they help you!

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Paleo. How do you do that then?

A paleo how-to like everybody else... Anyway, it's a simple game of Don't Eat That But Do Eat This. Here's the strict version which is the one where you learn about yourself and shit. Do that. 80/20 becomes 75/25, becomes 60/40, becomes useless.
Disclaimer: When I started eating paleo, I didn't say "Okay, 30 days of strict paleo", I just decided to eat that way and worked out compromises and problems on the go. Right now I'm doing a full month of no treats and non-paleo foods because I didn't feel like I was in control of my compromises and it really isn't much fun and I can see how people end up binging on crap when the strict period is over. I want some food reward up in here but to be honest I will probably just make some paleo banana pancakes when September rolls round.

Don't Eat sugar, sirup, artificial sweeteners, natural sweeteners, juices, dried fruit. Grapes, plums, cherries (really easy to overeat and contain mild laxatives).
Do Eat fresh fruit, (unsalted) nuts, carbonated water.

Don't Eat grains, flours, rice, corn, legumes (including peanuts and anything with soy), white potatoes.
Do Eat vegetables, leaves, stems, roots, tubers, mushrooms (I cannot emphasize these things enough - also they are often expensive so look for cheap stuff e.g. cabbages and chard).

Don't Eat oils from any of the above (I have no idea how you make oil from corn but apparently that's possible) or the other hexane extracted oils.
Do Eat ghee/clarified butter or fat (e.g. goose fat) from pastured/grass-fed animals, olive oil, coconut oil.

Don't Eat dairy or dairy replacements (soy cheese, rice milk etc). Don't replace almond milk or "coconut milk" for glasses of milk or in lattes (coffee-flavoured milk, mmm).
Do Eat coconut milk in food or as a coffee/tea creamer.

Don't Eat processed meat like bacon or pretty much anything else cut in thin slices (except for carpaccio which isn't processed). You don't have any sandwiches to stuff them in anyway. Canned meat. Supermarket ground/minced meat - throw something nice-looking in the food processor yourself when you need some (or you get it from a butcher that you really, really trust).
Do Eat all sorts of animals, marine and land, and maybe try out some different kinds of offal (if you can eat brain you can skip fatty fish/fish oil/fish roe - just saying). Eggs.

Don't Eat preservatives.
Do Eat spices, herbs, and vinegars.

Don't Eat alcohol.
Do Eat fuck it, I don't think it's worth the stress to completely cut it out. Stick to a max of one unit of alcohol in a day. That's 3 cl (1 oz) of distilled alcohol like vodka. Shot or vodka soda.
If you are making a drink out of your booze remember to stick to water or carbonated water as your mixer (stick some lemon, cucumber, or herbs in there as well).
If you are (even undiagnosed) celiac beer is likely to fuck you over. Also wine and dirty spirits contain various irritants. Be aware!
Try to go without.

Do Eat (eat lots - much more than you expect - and don't let yourself go hungry).

Do it without cheating for 30 days (I would prefer you did it 6 weeks but I don't expect to ever get anyone to commit to that). If you do cheat then get back on the horse. Find out why you cheated and how to avoid it the next time you try to go 30 days (yeah, you have to do it again to get the full experience - don't go strict for a couple of months but use some paleo recipes, fats, etc then try). Don't add days in the end/start over immediately if you cheat, just complete it as originally planned.
Go here for more resources than I could ever be arsed to make in a lifetime:
They have an e-book and a book-book but all the resources you need are available for free on their website (other great sites are http://www.marksdailyapple.com and Google). Whole9 also has some guides on what to do after the 30 days strict paleo - I'll do a goals and evaluation of dietary changes post at some point hopefully. Maybe I'll even put a link here. In short it's about letting some things back in your life and see how you do then. Stuff like dairy, bacon, and for the more adventurous boiled/baked white potatoes (chips, crisps, and fries give me face zits and regular white potatoes give me arse zits so I tend to stay away from them - but different people are different). So you experiment with letting foods back in your life (basically the more calorie dense ones) when you've learned that you can live without them. And that you probably actually fare better without them.

Things that are different in my version:
I lump bacon and ground meat in the processed meat section - this is based on my own experiences when I was a paleo newbie. Today I am wary but I know approximately how much I can eat of it and from what sources.
Also based on my own experience too much fresh fruit can make your tummy a bit upset. But it's only really things like grapes where you are likely to inhale a pound in a sitting. They are very low in acidity so even if they don't have that much more sugar than other fruits you are more likely to overeat them. And they contain lots of tartaric acid, a mild laxative, and I want you to have normal poops.
Alcohol. Because otherwise I'd never get my parents' generation on board.

Adverse effects to look out for:
"Low carb flu", general lack of energy that lasts for about a 3-7 days often coupled with headaches (mostly women) or anger (mostly men - Finn Christo has a great post on it but you don't want to try paleo after reading it or reading this). Tips: 1) Be awesome like me and not have any problems or 2) Eats some fucking carbs. Various fruits, various pumpkins, carrots, sweet potatoes. There. Or just though it out.
Constipation. Yeah, avoid dying from that. Very rare and rarely serious and I think what happens is that yo-yo weightloss diets have decimated all semblance of muscle, even the smooth muscle surrounding the intestines so you can't move things forward normally. Or your gut flora was incredibly fucked up and has ended up in some weird dead end. If you haven't pooped in 3-5 days you should consider going back to parts of your old diet to get things moving or maybe try out some milk of magnesium (haven't tried it myself). Don't feel like a loser. Remember that I'm not a doctor - okay, I am but I'm not a medical doctor. So if you are sick of course you should contact your doctor but if they say that eating vegetables, fresh fruit, meat, seafood, and eggs is unhealthy and you should be eating grains and dairy by the fistful then consider a different GP. Especially if they don't mention soda and cakes.

tl;dr eat stuff that your ancestors ate 10'000 years ago

Extra reading: stupid sometimes

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Why should you eat paleo?

Why indeed. Could we just leave it at Because I Said So?

tl;dr Because I say so.

No? Well, I have two perspectives on why you should try out paleo (strict, no cheats, for at least 30 days).

The evolutionary angle:

 Humans are primates. The primates diverged from the other mammals approx. 50-85 million years ago. But if you go to the zoo or look up primates in a encyclopaedia you will notice that their diets are all pretty similar. Primates are omnivores that eat leaves, fruits, stems, flowers, tree sap, and animals, both invertebrate and vertebrate, as large as they can catch them. Only the gelada are exclusively vegetarian and only the tarsiers are exclusively carnivorous (yeah, I am totally lifting all of this off of Wikipedia). Anyway, the point is that anyone who claims that humans are originally vegetarian or carnivorous are wrong. The great apes to which we belong have some interesting adaptations to the main components of their diets though: Gorillas have sort of bubbles on their colons to ferment some of the large amount of fiber they eat and orangutans are able to remember where all the fruit trees in the jungle are and when they have ripe fruit (but yeah, omnivores). And humans are able to digest meat and complex carbohydrates from roots and tubers more efficiently by cooking them. This increase in calories then allowed us to develop larger brains which made us more efficient at getting food. Vicious cycle, this sentience business is. And whether early man were hunters or scavengers is completely irrelevant - both are efficient strategies. And this has probably been going on the last two million years, since human ancestors developed long limbs and became the heat dissipating champion of the mammals.
 Okay, so we've talked about primates and therefore humans being omnivores. Isn't this how modern man eats today (the majority anyway)? Well, no. The majority of human calories today come from the seeds of grasses and legumes, from extracted simple carbohydrates, and bovine milk products. And we live on this and we procreate but we could thrive better. Why not seeds? There is a thing called Red Queen Hypothesis that states that a host and parasite must both continually evolve to maintain the balance of their relationship (after the Red Queen race in Through the Looking Glass (Alice in Wonderland) where they run as much as they can without getting anywhere - Lewis Carroll was obviously making a comment on the futility of treadmills and cardio workouts). For grasses and legumes the seed is an enormous energy investment and the plants that put in defences are more successful than those that don't. The mice and what else lives on those seeds and beans then have to evolve to dodge those defences. We are new-comers to the grain eating business and while some of us are well-adapted, others are very poorly adapted (like celiacs) and most of us are somewhere in between those two extremes. The same goes for dairy (and I'm not just talking about lactose tolerance). So what about all the other plant matter that people on paleo eat? And why are animals okay - wouldn't it be in their interest not to be eaten? Okay, one question at a time. Fruits are a mechanism for spreading seeds far so there has been co-evolution of plants and animals towards the same goal: Healthy animals and more of that plant. Same goes for nuts. Squirrels forget ~25% of the nuts they hide away. So the tree is sacrificing some of it's "babies" so that the others will have success. For some plants having poisonous leaves is a viable strategy while for others it clearly isn't. It is easier to understand why if we look at animals though. For prey and predator there exists a symbiotic rather than parasitic relationship. Sick members of the prey species are killed and removed so they can't infect others. The predators keep the number of animals down so their food sources have time to grow and replenish itself. And monitoring of herbivores on islands with no predators confirm this - the population numbers vary wildly which both reduces the genetic diversity of the group by putting it through several bottlenecks but also puts it in danger of extinction. So while a predator is bad news for an individual it is a good thing for the species as a whole. Some poisonous animals do exist however - but this is always in very rich ecosystems with many many species. For plants sacrificing some leaves means that an animal could poop out some nutrients from a plant it ate somewhere else. It evens out the uneven distribution of trace elements. There are more factors but just know that for some plants and animals there are advantages to being eaten and for some there aren't.

tl;dr Humans are omnivores. For some plants and animals there are advantages to being eaten and for some there are advantages to not being eaten.

The other angle:

It works. Eating after a paleo pattern addresses most of the hypotheses behind the global obesity epidemic and the diseases that follow with the foods that make folks fat (yeah, just because you aren't fat doesn't mean that you're fine - sorry mate). People feel, look, and perform better. They heal things that wouldn't go away previously. They are less miserable (ever tried a calorie restricted diet? No wonder people are miserable). And it's fucking delicious.

tl;dr it's awesome

Thursday, July 19, 2012



Yet another blog about Paleo. Will the madness never end?
Bloody well no, it won't end until most people at least have tried out how not eating neolithic foods for a month affects their bodies (and minds).

My main motivators in life are the bits that come before paleo in the title of this blog. I was too vain to put up vain and sexiness is just so much more fun. And people asking me about what exercise I do motivated me to start a blog since people look at you like you are a freak if you start to talk about food when they asked about exercise. But I only spend about 2 hours in the gym per week. I do do efficient compound movements but it's all about the delicious, delicious food.

I am a trained and practising scientist in the life sciences field. I don't do nutritional science but I think it's really entertaining and I am after all life science literate. I don't need more citation stress in my life, thank you very much, so I'll keep it to the absolute minimum. There might slip one or three studies in there but generally I will just rant and you will have to trust me. If you think I'm wrong then please do add some citations to your comments. Otherwise I might just ignore or delete your comment - my blog after all. Please have actually read the paper you are citing too (at the very least the abstract). I promise I'll have a look.

Hopefully there will be posts on how to combine laziness and gluttony - they may even be sexy. On the other hand I am quite lazy so let's see what happens. Welcome! I hope paleo will bring you as much good as it has for me (or more since I didn't really have that many issues before I started it besides being skinny-fat and zit-prone).