You’re in the market for a new car – you find an awesome deal on a really sweet brand spanking new ride and you jump on it. You drive the car home and you like it a lot – it rides smooth, looks great and is, yeah, pretty much perfect. Safely parked in the garage you decide to change the oil (you’re going to try the new synthetic type that you heard some people talking about), put in a new battery (the one you read about in the last issue of Car & Driver), and paint it a different color (the same shade of blue as that SUV you saw on the drive home)…
Okay, now you’re confused, right? I bet you’re all thinking, it’s a brand new car – what the heck would I do any of that for? That’s a damn fine question for sure. And it’s pretty safe to say that you would NEVER (if you are of sound mind) do any of those things to a brand new, just off the lot vehicle. I mean really. How would you even know if the engine could even run on the new oil, or if the battery that the car came with wasn’t top of line? And repaint? Is there even a chip in the current coat? Enough of this crazy talk already…
So now you’re wondering if I am, in fact, completely off my rocker (this is debatable…). What does any of this car non-sense have to do with food and a paleo lifestyle? Well, to be perfectly honest – not a whole heck of a lot. I just needed a catchy introduction to drag you all in… (Just kidding – there’s a point to all of this lunacy, it’s not a very sharp point, but…) I want all of you to pretend that, you on Paleo, are the new car. I know some of you have been paleo, like, before the cavemen even thought it was cool, but do this with me. It doesn’t matter how long you’ve been in the game – your ‘car’ must be doing alright if you’re still driving it, am I right? Paleo is likely doing something for you or you’d have traded it in back in 2486 BC.
Now, on to the point – In the paleosphere there seems to be a lot of questions about new tactics or ‘versions’ of the tried and true original ‘template’. You know what I’m talking about and I’m sure nearly all of you have questioned the validity or tried one of the ‘latest and greatest’ techniques. Maybe you’ve played with Intermittent Fasting, Carb-Backloading, Cyclic Low-Carb, Ketogenic, GOMAD, or some other quick fat-loss, health boosting or mass gain paleo plan. And if you’re out there shaking your head no – I’ve got two words for you: Bulletproof Coffee (gotcha!).
These nuances to the original paleo template can definitely be useful in some advanced situations. Unfortunately, everyone thinks that they need to get in on a piece of the action – newbies, metabolically/adrenally compromised, overstressed, sleep deprived, hard charging athletes, you name it… Some of the most common questions I get from clients go something like this, “I’ve been seeing a lot about (insert protocol of your choice here) and I’d like to try it –do you think it will help me (choose your answer – lose weight/fat, gain muscle, win the lottery, achieve world dominance…)” Now, understand that many of the individuals asking these questions are in NO POSTION to be experimenting with the newest trend on the block. In fact the askers are usually the individuals that are just getting started on paleo, have adrenal/leaky gut/health issues, are more stressed then Lance Armstrong waiting for the results of a doping test, and sleep –what’s sleep?? Yeah, the LAST thing many of these folks need is to throw another wrench into this game. Most of the time I can talk these guys down from the ledge – but they are a minority of the paleo population. There are hundreds (maybe even thousands) of people (you may be one of them) out there that are blindly messing around with one (or three) of these advanced protocols on their own. I’m not saying that these methods don’t work and that they aren’t good for anyone, but in many cases they do nothing but contribute to pre-existing problems or become a ‘justification’ for otherwise not so great food choices. Case in point – carb backloading is a technique that has some merit (in certain situations). Unfortunately, many people jump on board because it gives them an excuse to eat pizza, cookies, pasta, ice cream, M&M’s, etc., in fairly generous quantities every few days. This isn’t exactly the purpose here people… Also, none of these protocols should be something that you use either as a quick fix or as a permanent plan (Intermittent Fasting is a great example of this).
In the ever wise lyrics of a Van Halen tune, “There’s a time and place for everything.” (I love that song…) That is definitely the case here. Before you venture into the IntermittentcarbbackloadcyclicbulletpproofketogenicGOMAD protocol (or some variation thereof) – consider your goals, health, activity, stress, sleep, lifestyle and how long you’ve been paleo. If you haven’t been down with the OPP (Original Paleo Plan) for at least a year (and I’m not talking about one 30 day challenge every 3 or 4 months…), you’ve got “issues” (health, stress, etc), you’re a hard charging athlete, your sleep is jacked-up, or you’re just looking for the next “Raspberry Ketone” or “Green Coffee Bean” then you seriously need to step back and focus on the basics, dial in the OPP and work on maximizing your lifestyle to prioritize your health and goals. If you’re an advanced – “I was paleo before the cavemen”, only eat the highest quality food, have virtually no stress or complicated health issues, sleep like a rock, and want to see what kind of results you can get with some of these advanced methods – then go for it. Regardless of your situation, in the event you do decide to get jiggy with the latest and greatest message board buzzed protocol; don’t count on it being a ‘magic bullet’ or working for you just like it seems to be working for everyone else. There’s a lot to be said for individual differences and what works for one does not always work for all. If you’re seriously thinking about jumping head first into the wide world of “try-this” paleo craziness and have questions, consult a professional not a message board.
Your health and happiness are more important than a 16-hour fast, carb/protein/fat breakdown, 6-pack abs, single digit body fat percentage and number on the scale. Don’t let food run your life – use it to fuel your body!