I receive a monthly newsletter from Tom Venuto, the famous fitness book writer that wrote Burn the Fat Feed The Muscle (link to the review I did a little while ago of the book). He had a great question and answer that I wanted to share about The Caveman Diet, a diet that I myself had never heard of.
Your Burn The Fat, Feed The Muscle ebook was an eye-opener for me. I am following your advice closely with very good results. I’m a semi professional windsurfer and a mountain biker, and especially for the latter I need to be as lean as possible. Thanks in large part to your program, I’m well into a single digit body fat and dropping.
Just recently I came across a book called the paleolithic diet and I was wondering if you ever heard about it? What’s your opinion on this book? Is it worth reading if I already have your book? Is the program any good?
The “paleolithic,” “stone age,” “cave man,” or “neanderthal” eating plans have been around for a while and there are quite a few books that have been written on the subject.
In general, with a only few minor constructive criticisms, I think they are right on point, and will benefit your health and definitely your fat loss efforts.
What is the Caveman Diet?
A “Paleo Diet” is actually quite similar to my Burn The Fat program, only with the starches and grains (and dairy products) removed completely.
In fact, a “paleo” or “cave man” diet is very, very similar to the “contest” (bodybuilding or physique) diets I recommend in Burn The Fat, Feed The Muscle and this is most definitely a great way get very lean, very fast.
On physique competition diets (bodybuilding, fitness, figure, etc), you leave the lean proteins, lean meats, nuts and seeds, the green veggies (fibrous carbs), and some fruit in the diet, while reducing or removing ALL processed foods and SOME of the grains and starches. (usually the dairy products go too).
When it comes to MAXIMUM FAT LOSS, the removal or reduction of grains and calorie dense starchy carbs in favor of lean protein and veggies will definitely help speed the process – even if that’s only because it reduces caloric density of the food intake, although there are other reasons. Lean protein (fish and meat) + good fats & nuts + lots of green veggies + some fruit = LEAN! And thats basically what the “paleolithic” diets recommend, because the principle there is to eat like our “stone age” ancestors did – before there was McDonalds, Coca Cola and other junk food.
The premise is that since our genetic code (the human genome) has changed less than 0.02 percent in 40,000 years, this means that our bodies are still expecting to get the same foods and nutrition they were getting 40,000 years ago.
By eating what our “stone age” hunter and gatherer ancestors ate, say the paleo diets, we will rid ourselves of the health problems and the obesity problem that has only recently begun to plague us as a result of modern lifestyle and processed manmade foods.
What was Food Like in Caveman Time?
Forty thousand years ago, you had to eat nature-made food. There was no food in cans, boxes or packages was there? The packaging was peel, a skin or a shell!
There were no TV dinners. There was no drive in fast food. There were no convenience stores.
There was no corn syrup. There was no white sugar. There were no hydrogenated oils. No chemicals. No preservatives. No artificial anything
There was only what could be hunted and gathered: Meat, fish, nuts, seeds, plants, vegetables, fruits.
My only real constructive criticism is that some of these programs not only recommend removal of all grains and starches (and even dairy), they outright condemn them – sometimes unfairly, I believe.
They say that agriculture arrived on the scence only 10,000 years ago so foods produced as a result of agriculture should also be on the “banned” list and that includes 100% whole grain products and even rice, potatoes and other starches which are not manmade.
Are all Starches Bad?
the truth is there are some starchy carbohydrates and grains which are very minimally processed or completely unproceseed (the only processing being cooking).
Also, some people can metabolically handle starches and grains just fine, while others cannot. The same can be said for dairy products.
This is known as metabolic individuality. Because this individuality exists from person to person, I don’t believe it’s necessary to recommend that “EVERYONE” cut out “ALL” the starches and grains “ALL” the time.
I do believe that many people are getting an overdose of refined carbs and sugar and that moderating intake of concentrated carbs almost always accelerates fat loss.
However, the nutrition program you choose should depend on your metabolic/body type, your current body composition and state of health as well as your goals (maximum fat loss vs. muscle growth vs. maintenance, vs. endurance athleticperformance).
I don’t believe that “agriculture” and everything that came with it is “evil.”
I believe that highly processed and refined and packaged foods are the “nutritional evils” we should be aware of.
To remove brown rice, 100% whole grains, sweet potatoes, oatmeal, legumes and so on for healthy carb tolerant people, especially those who are highly active and or already at a normal body fat level doesnt make a lot of sense to me.
In particular, for athletes with a high energy expenditure, eating the concentrated complex, starchy carbs and grains – from natural sources – can be quite important.
Sure, there are some “renegade’ nutritionists who prescribe high fat diets for endurance athletes and claim that will provide high energy and high performance, but that is controversial.
Also, an explanation for athletes successful on such plans may be that they are metabolically suited for more fat and protein to begin with, so that conclusion shouldn’t be generalized to everyone.
thats the trouble with so many programs — the creators might say, “It worked for me and for some of my clients, so this is the way EVERYONE should do it.”
Everyone is different, so the true inquiring minds will inquire about what is best for THEM, not the other guy… In the case of highly active healthy people and athletes, I would lean towards a decent amount of natural carbs forperformance goals (and pull back on starches and grains when goals change to maximum fat loss).
The key word here is NATURAL!
There is a HUGE difference between natural starches and grains and refined starches and grains.
For example, look at old fashioned unsweetened oatmeal versus sugary, white flour cereal grains. How can you throw those together into the same category??? They are no where near the same, but often they get lumped together by those who are adamantly “no-grain” or “no-cereal” allowed.
What about sweet potatoes? why cut something like that out of your diet? They are not processed or man made at all are they?
Aside from that minor quibble I have with some of these programs being too strict with their “Absolutely no grains or starch allowed,” there is a lot anyone can learn from the “paleolithic” eating concept.
The questions raised from these programs and books are good ones:
“What were we eating tens of thousands of years ago?”
“What are we genetically and environmentally predisposed to eat?”
“what has gone wrong with the modern day diet that has led to so much disease and obesity which didn’t exist thousands of years ago?”
What Should you Eat?
I believe that too many people get caught up in low fats or low carbs or whatever the trend of the month is, but the real source of our problem is neither fat nor carbs, it is an excess of processed, refined man-made food! (combined with a serious shortage of exercise)
If you study and understand the concept of eating according to your personal goals and your unique body/metabolic type first, which I discuss in chapter 5 of my book, Burn The Fat, Feed The Muscle, then I believe you will get even more benefit from the further study of the “paleo” eating concept, as you will be informed and flexible enough to adapt it to your personal situation.
Loren Cordain and Ray Audette have written two of the more notable works on the subject (the Paleo diet and Neanderthin). You can get either of these at almost any bookstore or Amazon.com. You can get my Burn The Fat program at http://www.burnthefat.com
ANY good nutrition program – for health or for fat loss – is going to be focused on natural foods and it will teach you how to get the processed food OUT and the natural food IN
keep in mind what Fitness Icon Jack Lalanne has always said,
“If man made it, dont eat it!”
THAT is the essence of eating how we’re supposed to eat!
Until next week, train hard and expect success,
Your friend and coach,
Tom Venuto, NSCA-CPT, CSCS
Certified Personal Trainer
Certified Strength & Conditioning Specialist
Fat Loss Coach