Tuesday, 7 August 2012

Paleo and calories

Back in the day, you ate what you could scavenge or hunt. You would eat after trekking at pace, concentrating on your prey, and then killing it. Today, we typically pick set hours in which to 'exercise' and we eat while sitting at a desk, having sat there all day. Calorie use is therefore different, and we might think that eating calorific meats when we haven't sprinted through the forest and wrestled with a wild animal, might add a little too much pudge to our fat-fighting selves. But, and here's the catch:  

is it possible that the foods we eat influence how much we do?

Okay, this may sound a little strange. I mean, why not eat a lion and then have its strength, right? That's the old wives tale which directs peer pressure in camping groups, isn't it? 'Go on, eat the big fat boar. Then you'll be just as strong as it,' say the inticing group around the campfire. But this adage has a simple truth to it: the best predators or the cleverest animals may actually be so nutrient and vitamin-dense that, by eating them, we will (gradually) gain strength, energy, and better brain function.
Note: in cases of illness and deficiency which is not food-related, changing diet may not solve the problem and is unlikely to increase strength, energy, and brain function...or anything else for that matter. Thyroid Disease is a particular example here.

In what I have read so far, I have discovered that first-hand accounts of experiences on the paleo diet all follow a similar theme: an individual changes their diet, and starts running. 

In a way, this makes sense. If you have indigestion, or you feel sick, or you jump on the treadmill but you are distracted by the food which keeps pushing its way up your trachea, running becomes difficult. You may also feel bloated, heavy, off-balance, tired, or just uncomfortable. But if your body is working brilliantly you are likely to feel light, quick on your feet, and in the mood for a run. 

What is curious about the above, though, is that it was running which all these people took up. Why not cycling, or swimming, or weight-lifting for that matter? It appears that the paleo diet works very well with increased cardio output. But are they running foods? It's not something that I've heard before.

I don't like the idea that we are genetically able to eat in a certain way, and that if we eat those foods we will find ourselves functioning to the true calling of human beings. But we always think of the diet-exercise connection in the following ways:

Increase your exercise + decrease your calorie intake, particularly of any unhealthy foos which may be in your diet.

Exercise --> reduced weight/increased energy + supports a good diet

The paleo diet, however, if I am interpreting it correctly, appears to be suggesting the following:

Increase the 'good' calories  only

A good diet --> increased [cardio] exercise

This is not to say that you should simply change your diet and then wait for the 'magic bullet' which makes you suddenly able to run miles, but the theory is that you will feel like you want to do more and are able to do more once your diet is sorted. 

The challenge, of course, is finding the right diet.  

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