Using the Paleo Diet for Weight Management

Everyone wants to know which foods on their paleo diet plans encourage weight loss. The simple truth is, on a paleo diet, or on any other diet, it isn't some food you eat that burns fat. You yourself are the fat burner on any diet, and it's what you don't eat, not what you eat, that makes the difference in weight loss.

There are numerous indications that our paleolithic ancestors were almost all thin, lean, active people—until they were killed by predators, died in accidents, or succumbed to infection. Even in locations where food was abundant, people seem to have been lean.

The simple reason for that is that humans are pre-programmed to seek variety in their diets. When we don't have a lot of variety in our diets, as would have been the case as the tribe feasted around a buffalo or elk, after a while we lose interest in eating. We even stop eating when our stomachs are full.

Short-term fasting has some amazing effects on human physiology. Despite what you may have heard, going without protein for up to 48 hours (we don't recommend ever going more than 24 hours without eating, however) not only does not break down protein in muscle, it stimulates the release of growth hormone so that the muscles actually grow.

When we don't eat, the pancreas does not have to release insulin to store sugars and fats. This allows fat cells to respond to enzymes that break down stored fat into forms that can circulate into the bloodstream, feeding the muscles as they build new protein and add bulk and strength.

But where would the muscles get the amino acids to make proteins when we aren't eating? It turns out that going at least 12 hours without eating any protein food, more specifically, going 12 hours without eating foods that provide 5 grams or more of the amino acid leucine (such as even a single 1 oz/30 ml serving of milk), triggers a process called autophagy. During autophagy, cells all over the body break down defective parts so they can recycle their proteins. The result is a rejuvenated, healthier cell—but this is only possible when there is at least a 12-hour period in which protein is not consumed.

Our paleolithic ancestors bequeathed us genes that not only help us survive short periods of food deprivation, but that make us healthier as a result of fasting. Our best advice to you is simply to weigh yourself, skip one meal (such as dinner) without eating any snacks of any kind (water and no-calorie drinks are fine, you shouldn't dehydrate yourself), and see what you weigh 18 hours later. Chances are you will have lost 3 to 4 pounds (about 1 to 2 kg).

You'll regain 80% of that right away when you start eating again. Your 18 hours of fasting—eating nothing, not just eating less—may only take off ½ pound. But when you repeat the process 2 or 3 days later, you will lose another ½ pound. And the next week you can lose another two half-pounds. At the end of a year you will have lost a substantial amount of weight with no special foods, no restrictions on what you eat, no expensive supplements, and no expensive medications.

That's the authentically paleolithic way to lose more weight.

For more information, see my book “Paleo for Everyone” (out soon).

About Andy Williams

Andy Williams has a Ph.D. in biology and a strong interest in health and nutrition. The Paleo Gut web site was created to explore the health benefits of the Paleo diet and see how it is changing lives. Also, get our free daily Paleo Gut newspaper delivered to your inbox. Please feel free to contact me and let me know about your Paleo experiences or favorite recipes.

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