“Most of what we need to know about how to eat we already know, or once did until we allowed the nutrition experts and the advertisers to shake our confidence in common sense, tradition, the testimony of our senses, and the wisdom or our mothers and grandmothers.” ~ Michael Pollan
In this day and age humans are smarter and more intelligent than we’ve ever been in the past 200,000 years of our existence. As the dominant and sole survivors of the many hominid species that began emerging and evolving in Africa over 2 million years ago, humans today… Rule the Earth!!!
It was our very intelligence that eventually led us away from our “primal” or caveman diet and on to agricultural, animal husbandry and newer methods of feeding ourselves.
“With the current health care crisis and dramatic rises in obesity and disease, some may wonder if our ‘modern food industries’ are a good thing after all!?”
Well, at the time, the rise of agriculture freed us from the huge commitment to hunting and gathering our food and allowed us to take up new trades and tasks. People could finally do something besides focusing all their efforts on survival and feeding themselves.
This shift gave way to an explosion of craftsmanship, such as the blacksmith and led to the forging of steel. The creation of steel was a major event that greatly impacted the future of humanity.
Since then, we’ve created language, culture, art, music, and harnessed the power of ever new and evolving technology;
Technologies that helped us to master our environment and go on to create civilizations the likes of which our paleolithic ancestors could only dream of.
Eventually our technologies allowed us to populate the globe, harness the power of the atom itself and even leave the planet to walk on the face of the moon.
The rest is history… or rather “a case history” of nutritional chaos, unnecessary disease and mass confusion on a global level!
Unnecessary Diseases of Affluence
“The deviation of man from the state in which he was originally placed by nature seems to have proved to him a prolific source of diseases” ~ Edward Jenner
Despite all of our technology and advancements in medicine, drugs, supplementation and the health field in general… America and the other affluent societies of the world are now facing a major epidemic.
“With our abundance of wealth and food you’d think we’d be thriving, but instead we’re seeing disease, sickness, and obesity rising to frightening levels.”
So much so, that diseases like coronary heart disease, type 2 diabetes, obesity, certain forms of cancer, asthma, alcoholism, gout, allergies and depression have been given the label “Diseases of Affluence.”
Even though we’re able to sustain our lives with advances in modern medicine, many people die premature deaths each year or face these debilitating diseases which reduce the quality of our lives as we grow older.
The sad part is that most of us grow up thinking this is normal!!!
What’s even sadder is that as other cultures become wealthier, adopt our way of life and eating habits, they too begin to experience these diseases and declines in health at an alarming rate.
This is not what nature intended…..
Caveman Diet (A Return to the Paleolithic Age)
In order to understand the foods that homo sapiens evolved to eat we must venture backwards in time to the Paleolithic age. This period of time covers the era when our hominid ancestors first began to use stone tools (2.5 million years ago) and ends when modern humans invented agriculture (12,000 years ago.)
It was during this period of time that our, now extinct, hominid ancestors such as homo habilis, homo ergaster, and homo erectus existed in the tropics of what is now Africa. It was here, where they were evolving into the lineage that would eventually become modern humans (homo sapiens.)
These hunters and gatherers were the first to use stone tools to clean the meat from animal carcasses. The evidence of this (found as fossilized animal bones with scrapings from the stone tools) led anthropologists to realize that they were hunting and eating animals.
As the brains of hominids continued to grow larger and larger relative to their body mass, these creatures required more and more calories to sustain their bigger and more intelligent brains.
As modern humans emerged on the scene some 200,000 years ago, we too followed in our ancestor’s lifestyle as hunters and gatherers.
“According to anthropologists we ate primarily meat, fish, shellfish, leafy vegetables, fruits, nuts and insects. Basically, we ate foods that could be found in the environments in which we evolved.”
Although many scientists agree that these early humans ate large quantities of lean, wild game meats and obtained most of their food from hunting, there’s little evidence to prove just how much meat was consumed.
Some believe they may have eaten mostly a vegetarian diet, while others believe that it depended upon the climate in which they lived.
Humans that lived in warmer tropical regions, like Africa, probably consumed a more plant-based diet. Those that migrated into the colder regions of Europe probably ate more meat-based diets, especially in the winters.
Humans that relied on hunting also consumed the organs of the animals they killed, including the liver, kidneys and brains.
It’s also important to note that seeds such as grains and legumes (beans) were rarely if ever eaten. This is in stark contrast to our modern grain-based diets.
They may have also consumed hallucinogenic plants, which I found intriguing.
Although these plants probably had little to do with nutrition and were small parts of the diet, they may have played a role in our evolving levels of conscious awareness and mystical experiences. However, that’s merely speculation based on a book I read years ago called “Food of the Gods.”
It’s an interesting theory none-the-less, but that’s a whole ‘nuther topic!
Should I eat a Paleolithic Diet then?
“Because the human genome has changed relatively little in the past 40,000 years since the appearance of behaviorally modern humans, our nutritional requirements remain almost identical to those requirements which were originally selected for stone-age humans living before the advent of agriculture.” – Loren Cordain, Ph.D.
Eating like a caveman is actually a pretty good idea and should definitely lead to greater health, leanness and muscularity. In fact, the world’s leading expert on Paleolithic diets, Loren Cordain, Ph.D., suggests we do exactly that based on his research and conclusions.
Cordain wrote the popular book “The Paleo Diet” and recommends eating like our Paleolithic ancestors.
This diet consists primarily of lots of lean meats, seafood, and eggs. Ideally, these will come from wild, natural and organic sources (not factory farms.)
Most fresh fruits and vegetables are allowed. As well as, nuts and seeds. Oils that come from plants are also allowed such as olive oil, flax seed oil.
However, all processed foods, dairy, grains, legumes (beans) and starches such as potatoes, yams, and sweet potatoes are to be avoided.
This is also a good time to bring up the point that there is NOT just one specific version of the caveman diet, such as the Paleo Diet mentioned above.
“The basic premise of the Caveman Diet is that our ancestors ate only what they could hunt and gather. The actual macronutrient ratios of these foods are highly debatable and thus subject to interpretation.”
For example, Cordain’s version of the Paleo diet seems to be centered largely on lean meats and proteins.
However, let’s not forget that competing theories also suggest that Paleolithic diets may have been more plant-based depending upon the regions in which our ancestors lived.
As previously mentioned, this means some may have have depended heavily on meat for food, while others had a greater abundance of fruits and plants to consume.
So, there’s some room for variation in my opinion.
Whether you choose to make lean meats the foundation or fruits and veggies, you’re still consuming the same type of foods our ancient ancestors could hunt and gather. Foregoing grains, dairy, legumes, starches and processed junk.
Therefore, I believe that Cordain’s Paleo Diet could be modified to include more fruits and vegetables as well, depending on your own preferences.
Personally, I don’t really think you can go wrong by adding more fruits and vegetables to your diet. Do you?
With that being said here’s what I think is an even healthier version of the caveman diet:
It’s Time to Get Primal… a Primal Diet that is!
“The doctor of the future will no longer treat the human frame with drugs, but rather will cure and prevent disease with nutrition.” ~ Thomas Edison
Fresh fruits and vegetables contain the most vitamins, minerals, and overall nutrients per unit of energy (calorie.) In other words, they are low in calories and packed with nourishment. They contain the bulk of the vitamins, minerals and fiber that your body needs to thrive. That’s why I believe that vegetables and fruits should be the base of the Primal pyramid.
Meat, fish, fowl and eggs make up the second tier of the pyramid. These provide the bulk of your calories by providing healthy proteins, fats, zinc, b-vitamins, iron, and cholesterol.
The third tier includes seeds, nuts, and oils to provide the essential fatty acids the body needs.
The top of the pyramid lists herbs, spices, extracts and supplements as sparingly used additions to the diet.
The Primal Food Pyramid
The Primal Diet as a Nutritional Foundation
Personally, I like the idea of eating like a caveman! From an evolutionary standpoint it makes practical sense to consume the foods that our brain and bodies evolved to utilize. The caveman diet seems like a viable option for anyone looking to pack on solid muscle, stay lean and healthy.
You may be thinking…
NO GRAINS (bread, pasta, rice, cereals, etc.)
NO DAIRY (cheese, milk, yogurt, ice-cream, etc.)
NO STARCHES (potatoes, sweet potatoes, yams)
NO PROCESSED JUNK (all the crap in the grocery store)
YOU GOTTA BE KIDDING ME!”
Hey man, maybe it isn’t so easy being a caveman after all. 😀
In fact, that’s probably the biggest con about this diet program. Many may struggle with ONLY eating these foods and NEVER straying from the caveman diet, as some of the die-hard Paleo advocates suggest.
This is obviously clean-eating at its best and will definitely require some SERIOUS discipline.
Of course, to be healthy and gain muscle you don’t need to follow a super strict diet 100% of the time. There’s always some wiggle room. You could follow the caveman diet 90% of the time and enjoy some of the “forbidden” foods 10% of time or on your cheat or treat days. Just eat these foods in moderation.
I normally reserve Saturday as my “Treat Day” and have a few of the foods that our ancestors couldn’t enjoy… like pizza or icecream! Hey, You gotta live a little!
Performance Modifications to the Caveman Diet
The other major concern I have with strict adherence to a primal diet is that it may be challenging for skinny and athletic guys to consume enough calories to pack on muscle mass and/or perform at high capacity on the field or in the gym.
“Certain carbohydrates act as high octane fuel for building our muscles and developing our athletic abilities to their fullest potential. To ignore this fact is simply acting like a neanderthal.”
Without including some grains (in the form of rice, oatmeal, etc.) and starches (various types of potatoes) into the meal plans we may be leaving some our muscular gains and athleticism off the table… so to speak.
This is where I sort of stray from the Caveman Diet.
I believe in including some of these “forbidden foods” into my nutrition strategy because they are still “whole foods” with minimal processing and additional nutrients.
The best time to eat the bulk of these carbohydrates is right after your weight training sessions. This practically guarantees that the glycogen (carbs and sugars convert to glycogen in the body) will be pulled into the muscle cells and used for recovery, to refuel them and make them fuller.
This “carb-timing” strategy also decreases the likely-hood that these carbohydrates will be stored as fat.
Other Modifications to Consider
Grains, Legumes and Dairy:
Recent trends have been questioning whether foods like grains, legumes and dairy are actually healthy foods. Are they good for you or not? As always, you will see experts debating from both standpoints and I’m sure there’s some truth to both sides.
Personally, I feel that these foods have both advantages and disadvantages and thus should also be consumed in moderation based on a personal tolerance level.
I don’t see anything wrong with having some sprouted, whole grain bread, putting some raw goat’s cheese in your omelet, or adding kidney beans to your chilli. At least these are foods found in nature and do offer valuable vitamins and nutrients!
That said, it may be best if these foods have a minimal role in your diet.
Of course, every body is unique and some might do better to avoid them completely as the Caveman Diet suggests. This will depend on your own genetic make-up, food tolerances and nutritional goals.
Even though our Paleolithic ancestors didn’t understand the technique for fermenting foods, they may have gathered and eaten foods that were naturally fermenting.
Integrating fermented foods into your diet provides a plethora of benefits, specifically increased gut flora, beneficial bacteria and improved digestion and immune function.
Eating fermented foods like kefir, yogurt, sauerkraut, kimchi, miso, apple cider vinegar (with the “mother”), wine and other such foods that have been fermented can also help to detox your body, remove heavy metals, clear skin conditions, heal connective tissues, create an alkaline pH in the body and more.
Therefore, this is a modification that I believe everybody should make to their diet. Include at least one fermented food into your nutrition plan each day to reap the probiotic benefits.
The Bottom Line on the Diet Before Time
Using the dietary information that scientists have learned from studying human evolution, we can solidify our core nutritional philosophy and build upon it to enhance and improve our physical appearance, athleticism and our performance results.
“The bottom line here is that the caveman diet is the perfect nutritional foundation to use for making our primary food selections because these are the foods humans evolved to eat. Therefore, we will start here and consider making these few modifications and additions for our purpose of designing “The Awakened Warrior’s Diet!”
Now, grab your best spear… we’re going on a Mammoth hunt! 😛
Unleash Your Ultimate Potential,