How to Benefit From Fasting While on a Paleo Diet
For various reasons, Leangains is very popular in the Paleo and Primal communities. It may be the fasting that attracts them to it, as fasting has been touted by many of the Paleo/Primal “authorities” as being beneficial, even before the widespread popularity of intermittent fasting in the bodybuilding/fitness community. Or, it may be that Martin Berkhan, the creator of Leangains, eats a mostly Paleo diet of whole foods.
It may also be that people in the Paleo community often look more into the science of body composition than the average guy you see on the Bodybuilding.com forums. Well, whatever the reason, it’s a growing trend that has been growing for quite some time – people following Leangains while choosing from Paleo sources of food.
Many people on Leangains who do not follow a Paleo template believe that it’s not possible to eat a Paleo diet and succeed on Leangains. They say the volume of food one must eat is too large or make up some other silly excuses. The reality is, it’s extremely easy to stick to a Paleo template while following Leangains.
Now, whilst I am keen on eating better generally, I am personally not an advocate of strict Loren Cordain-esque Paleo (this is coming from someone who ate an all-meat diet (yes, absolutely nothing but meat – no joke) for nearly two years). My current diet is very similar to Paleo, which I’ll get to shortly. I am not a fan of traditional Paleo because I believe it includes too many troublesome foods, leaves out some incredibly nutritious foods, and is based too much on what foods were supposedly available 10,000 years ago than actual nutritional science.
Furthermore, traditional Paleo has some weird phobias to certain foods, such as potatoes, because of dietary stigma which has developed over the years, rather than actual science. Really, Paleo just isn’t focused on what really matters when it comes to nutrition.
However, I do believe a Paleo template (not diet, template), closer in line with what is advocated by guys like Chris Kresser and Mark Sisson, is a very long step in the right direction. These guys actually care about the science behind their recommendations and care only about the effects of a certain food on oneself, instead of the year it first began being consumed by human beings.
Foods like dairy, potatoes, and even white rice and properly prepared corn flour and beans can have a place in the human diet. Dairy is extremely nutritious and has little ill effect on most people, potatoes are very nutritious as far as starch goes, and white rice and properly prepared corn flour (as well as other gluten-free grains) and beans are very low in antinutrients and other harmful properties.
On the flip side, traditional Paleo includes many too many nuts (nuts are nutritionally inferior to most foods, high in Omega-6 polyunsaturated fats, and extremely calorically dense) and doesn’t place enough emphasis on avoiding the real killers – seed and vegetable oils high in polyunsaturated fats. Instead, traditional Paleo focuses on eating mostly a bastardized version of what humans ate 15,000 years ago and avoiding anything that isn’t organic/grass fed/pastured.
Trust me – grass fed beef is obviously superior from a health standpoint to conventional meat, pastured eggs are going to be better than supermarket eggs, and pesticides can be harmful – however, it would probably literally take one bite of a twinkie to undo the advantage of avoiding conventionally grown foods for a decade (maybe an exaggeration, but you get the point), so in my opinion, it’s a lot more important to just avoid damaging and unhealthy foods than it is to eat organic/grass fed/pastured food instead of conventionally produced food.
What to Eat on Leangains
You’d be wise to base your menus off of several healthy foods that will make it easy to fit your macros, especially when you are planning to travel or are eating out more than normal. Most Paleo-ers who follow Leangains have trouble getting enough carbs, so let’s just start there. Here’s a quick list of starchy sources of carbs (perfect for post workout feasts) based on a Paleo template:
Potatoes (not strict Paleo, but for silly reasons)
Winter squash – my personal favorite option – extremely nutritious and high in starch if you pick certain varieties, such as kabocha
“Exotic” starchy root vegetables, such as yuca and cassava root
White rice (not strict Paleo)
Properly prepared (soaked and drained) beans (not strict Paleo)
Nixtamalized corn tortillas (the nixtamalization rids them of most antinutrients – not strict Paleo)
In general, try to stick to starchy vegetables (potatoes, sweet potatoes, etc.), because they’re still infinitely more nutritious than a properly prepared corn tortilla is ever going to be. However, if you’re looking for a little treat or variety, just know that there are tons of other options.
You can (and should) also include many non-starchy carbs – vegetables (which actually contain more carbs than you’d expect in many cases) and plenty of fruit should round out any Paleo or Paleo-inspired diet. Also, I highly recommend including some dairy, if you tolerate it well. Non fat or low fat greek yogurt and cottage cheese is perfect for your post workout meal (dairy causes a huge insulin spike, which is very desirable post workout, as I’m sure you know) – just make sure to find a brand with an acceptable ingredients list or make your own.
Really, there’s no reason you can’t follow Leangains while following a Paleo or Primal diet. I follow a diet based on Paleo principles and eat all my food in one fell swoop on most days – I’ll have a fasted workout, then go home and eat. Some days, this means 2 lbs. of lean beef, 1 lb. of potatoes, 1 lb. of green vegetables, 2 lbs. of pumpkin, 2 lbs. of nectarines, and a quart of homemade strawberry frozen yogurt (made with nonfat greek yogurt and sweetened with stevia).
That might be an intimidating amount of food to you, but trust me, you’ll get used to eating a large quantity of food if you’re practicing Leangains while following Paleo or a Paleo-inspired diet. What may seem impossible now may not look like it’s impossible once you build up to it.
You’ll discover that there are an infinite number of ways to prepare most Paleo foods without ever getting bored of them.