Paleo Craziness: What’s With This Carbofastcycliccoffeeloading Thing??


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!




  1. Kathy says

    This article is so spot on. I started Atkins May 2012. I totally immersed myself in all of the LC websites, message boards and blogs. I was becoming more obsessed and confused than educated. I had to stop. I now am able to find interesting and educating articles and push the hype to the side. We have slowly incorporated a more Paleo lifestyle for the last few months. Eating more cleaner and trying to eliminate proccessed foods. I wouldn’t call us a true Paleo family but what we do works for us. (One of the things I did learn from LLVLC is n=1) I LOVE the last paragraph of your article!!! Thank you!

  2. says

    Great post, Amy.

    We’ve got to learn to walk before we can run — or perhaps a more relevant analogy, learn to play by the rules before we go breaking ’em.

    I’m a brand-spanking new nutritionist, and while I’m not marketing myself as “Paleo,” I worry about people who are new to this lifestyle. Information is great, but I almost wish there were *fewer* books, websites, blogs, and such. Talk about overload! The tried & true basic guidelines are how most people will get the biggest bang for their buck, but some people will do a little too much Googling for their own good and end up trying all these bells and whistles before they’ve even gotten comfortable with the basics.

    Not saying some of the fancy tweaks aren’t helpful, but they’re just not what we should be focusing on first and foremost. For the seasoned veterans looking for that extra edge, sure, have at it. Thanks for the reminder.

  3. says

    great article! i totally fell into “this trap” when i started researching and adopting this lifestyle. although i wasn’t totally new to this world (having followed SCD for my colitis before with great success) i was starting to get a bit overwhelmed with all the info. especially around carbs because i enjoy running and exercise a fair bit…low carb jut turned me into a raging beast! main thing i learned was to listen to my body. maybe not the voice that says “oooooh twinkies!” but rather the voice that says “you ran an hour and went to the gym…you need sweet potatoes for dinner! then maybe some fruit! whoa!”

    so thanks for the reminder. i find this website one of the few to really put the brakes on the whole dictatorial atmosphere that paleo/primal can sometimes take on (although usually led by peeps on the forums).

    having said all that, i really do love my own version of bulletproof coffee. :)

  4. says

    This is a great post–I was this guy in high school and college trying every new workout protocol, pre/post drink/shake/pill/raindance, and while I got “jacked” for the beach, I probably sacrificed the majority of my gains and value added by jumping to another new thing rather than just putting in the work. Diet and fitness are great examples that for the general population, you just need to keep it simple.

  5. says

    Ha – it was a couple years ago now that I came to the conclusion that the optimal pursuit is a mostly carnivorous one, with occasional fruits and veg for taste, variety, and social ease. No magic bullets or holy hand grenades, just eating fresh quality foods with as little human interference as possible.

    All I see in the paleotard world nowadays is talk of more and more oddball protocols – which as you rightly point out are at the base simply measures for someone seeking out permission to include or omit a certain kind of neolithic acculturated food addiction or behaviour.

    It’d be funny if it weren’t so sad.

  6. says

    you are so right, you would expect Paleo to be simple: meat, veges, fruit, nuts & seeds, but even within that there are so many variables! And absolutely, most people don’t need to be tampering around with them in the beginning! Drawing from that, when do you think would be a good timeframe to start thinking about experimenting? And what would you say for people that are experimenting with different techniques to find one that will work with their lifestyle? eg. IF, vs daily 16hr fasts. Personally, I would suggest said person tries one thing at a time & sticks with it for a month or so & then considers changing – what do you think?

    • Amy Kubal says

      Annika, experimentation time all depends on the person and his/her situation. If you don’t have the basics down, are under a lot of stress, aren’t sleeping well etc. you may want to really think about messing with the basics.

  7. Joshua says

    Good post, but I would have to disagree. Maybe this is a cop-out, but I am constitutionally unsuited to consistency in any part of my life. Whole natural meat-friendly eating is definitely my baseline, but if I don’t regularly deviate from that, I get stressed out and antsy.

  8. Sophie says

    Wow – thank you for such a grounding call out. It’s so easy to get caught up in hype, and yet so many haven’t mastered the basics yet (I include myself in that, I’ve only been paleo for four months now and still working on sleep, reducing stress and sourcing my food from better places). I love a good metaphor, the new car story worked for me.

  9. Jamie says

    For nine months, I’ve followed the paleo lifestyle, or as close to it as I can get. The diet part is easy. Managing stress and getting enough sleep is hard. I wake up after 5 or 6 hours of sleep. I have an autoimmune condition that isn’t very well under control, so I decided to undertake the paleo autoimmune protocol. I’m about a week into it and it’s going okay as long as I can prepare my food at home. But last night, my husband wanted to go out to dinner. I ordered a steak with bok choy and a salad. This is a meal that I ate many times on the regular paleo diet, but last night it caused a lot of stomach pain. I had to go to bed with a heating pad on my stomach. It still hurts this morning.

    Should I not even attempt the autoimmune protocol until I’m managing stress and sleeping better? Since starting the protocol, I’ve been much more stressed, worrying about what I’ll eat on two upcoming business trips, if I’m losing too much weight — I’m 5’3″ and weigh 102 lbs. — and how in the world to avoid stress when I’m married to a walking stress dispenser. I want to do whatever I can to lessen the severity of the autoimmune condition and in a way, it has been helpful to take some sort of control by eating according to the autoimmune protocol. On the other hand, it’s causing me to think about and stress over my diet so much that I wonder if any benefit gained form excluding certain foods is cancelled by the increased stress involved in excluding them. I can be quite disciplined about food if I need to, but now I’m starting to wonder if I’m getting strange about it.

    Do you have any thoughts about this or advice to help me weather it?

    • says

      If you suspect AI it’s not a bad idea to get going on it. Each of these pieces can be an addition to the cumulative stress…if you fix the gut, sleep may improve and vice-versa.

  10. says

    You’re so cool! I do not think I’ve truly read
    anything like this before. So great to discover another person with some genuine thoughts on this topic.

    Seriously.. thanks for starting this up. This site is something that is needed on the internet,
    someone with some originality!

  11. Tara says

    Great reminder to get back to the basics. I’m impatient, so if I don’t see instant results, I try the next thing. And all the “tweaks” are easier than actually dealing with my stress, which ironically, just stresses me out more. I’m sure the stress is what’s keeping me chubby despite my eating well and moderately excersizing.

  12. says

    Starting to sound like obsessive thinking and behavior around food and body image….yet again. Like I said on twitter today it seems people gave up the scale and dieting for a ketone meter and orthorexia. People want a something special and magical.
    Great post Amy thanks for saying it!

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