Paleo Diet for Weight Loss: The Beginners Guide to The Paleo Diet
You’ve probably heard of the paleo diet at some time or other; its popularity has spread like wildfire, and as more and more people jump on the wagon and try it, they too “see the light” that is the paleo way of life.
But if for some reason you haven’t heard about the paleo diet, or you aren’t exactly sure what it entails, don’t worry, I’ve got it all laid out here for you, just keep on reading!
In this short beginners guide, you learn;
- What the Paleo Diet is and why it relates to you
- Whether or not the Paleo Diet is healthy and why you need to know
- If you can use the Paleo Diet for weight loss and burn fat by….eating fat (yes you read that right)
- What foods you can eat – and what you can’t
- Paleo recipes and cooking instructions
- Breakfast Recipes
- Lunch Recipes
- Dinner Recipes
- Snack Ideas
- What exercise is best if your eating Paleo foods and why you need to follow the right workouts
- The Pro’s & Con’s of the Paleo Diet
- Paleo Diet guidlines and tips before you started!
What is the Paleo Diet?
Simply put, the paleo diet is the healthiest and most natural diet you can consume today.
Well, of all the diets out there today, the paleo diet is the one that has stood the test of time. It has been consumed by humans for millions of years, shaping our genome and defining the foods that our bodies are most suited to.
It takes us back to a time where our ancestors roamed the land; the days where crops, grains, processed foods and dairy weren’t available. Animals roamed free and weren’t locked in cages purely for farming. Vegetables and fruits were organic, GMO and pesticide free.
These were the days where you survived on purely what you could hunt, fish or forage – nothing more.
Is the Paleo Diet Healthy?
Within the last 100 years the number of people with some sort of autoimmune or inflammatory disease has rocketed out of control. Along with disease and illness, obesity has become a huge issue, and it is estimated that a whopping 34.9% of US adults suffer from obesity today, costing almost one hundred and fifty billion dollars EACH YEAR in medical costs.
It’s clear to see that our general health is descending into the abys, but what’s going on?
Just take a look at this graph for a second. It shouldn’t need much explaining – ‘a picture speaks a thousand words’ as they say.
As our consumption of sugar has grown over the last 200 years, our waistlines have followed suit, leaving us fat and ill.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that sugar is the devil, after all, you do consume natural sugars on the paleo diet, however; the intervention of farming and the heavy consumption of grains means that the western diet has become heavily saturated in sugars, processed or not.
And it’s this overload of sugar that causes many of our modern day health problems.
In reality, grains have only been consumed for a mere 3% of our entire existence, and is that really enough time for our bodies to evolve and adapt to their consumption after millions of years without them?
I think not!
Once you remove the processed sugars, grains, GMO’s and pesticides from the human diet, your health takes a turn for the best.
You replace these offenders with organic fruit and vegetables that are packed full of vitamins, mineral and antioxidants. Seafood that is rich in heart-healthy fats, and meat and poultry loaded with protein and minerals, essential for overall health.
By converting to the paleo diet you will benefit from reduced risk of debilitating diseases such as autoimmune disease, diabetes, and hypertension.
Other benefits you can expect from the paleo diet include:
- Weight Loss
- Blood glucose control
- Reduced/eliminated bloating
- Improved lipid profiles
- Improved cardiovascular health
- Reduced pain from chronic diseases
- Healthier skin, nails and teeth
- Sounder Sleep (The foundation for optimal wellbeing!)
- Increased energy
- Positivity and improved digestion.
So is the paleo diet healthy? I would say so, wouldn’t you?
Can You Lose Weight on the Paleo Diet?
One of the main reasons people look to change their diet is the allure of weight loss / fat loss, and the question has to be asked;
‘Can you lose weight with the paleo diet?’
The answer of course, is yes, most definitely. Like any diet out there, the key to weight loss is consuming less food than you burn in a day. By introducing a deficit to your calorie consumption, your body is forced to turn to other sources of energy – fat and protein (muscle).
There is however, a difference between losing weight with a conventional western diet, and losing it with the paleo diet. That difference is body composition.
When you try to lose weight with a conventional diet loaded with grains, you reduce your overall food intake, protein included.
As the body realises it needs to source its energy from other places, it starts to burn both stored fat and muscle tissue. Whilst this is still weight loss, it may not be the best type of weight loss (who wants to lose muscle?).
When you set out to lose weight with the paleo diet, you restrict calories as usual, however your protein intake remains high due to the nature of the diet. This supports the sustaining of your lean body mass (muscle), and thus your body turns to burning stored fat off rather than muscle.
As your weight loss has come from predominantly fat, your physique will be leaner than if you had lost the weight from both fat and muscle.
Research also shows that trying to lose weight with the paleo diet may actually be easier than trying to lose weight with other diets such as the Mediterranean diet.
The Nutrition & Metabolism Journal concluded that;
‘A Paleolithic diet is more satiating per calorie than a Mediterranean-like diet’
We all know the woes of trying to restrict calories and lose weight, but luckily it would seem that the Paleo diet is ideal for helping you lose weight whilst also keeping you satisfied.
The Paleo Diet
Foods you can eat
The general rules of the paleo diet are dead easy to follow. Get yourself thinking like a hunter-gatherer!
You want to consume fruits and vegetables that you could harvest in the wild;
- Poultry (that you could hunt or fish)
- Nuts and Seeds (that could be foraged)
I’ve put together the following lists to make your transition into the paleo life as easy as possible.
Eat lots of the following:
- Non-starchy veggies (broccoli, kale, spinach, greens etc.)
- Low sugar fruits (berries mostly)
- Organic, grass fed meat and poultry
- Fish & seafood
- Natural oils (coconut, olive etc.)
Eat a moderate amount of the following:
- Tubers (Sweet potatoes, yams etc.)
- Fruits high in sugar (bananas, apples, peaches etc.)
- Dark chocolate
- Honey (Organic only)
- Nuts & Seeds (peanuts are legumes)
Foods to Avoid on The Paleo Diet
As well as remembers to only consume the foods above, you need to remember to avoid all forms of farmed and processed grains.
That’s no bread, no rice, and certainly no refined sugar.
Dairy is also completely off limits as is was not heavily consumed in the days of our ancestors, and also plays a large role in many of todays’ digestive problems.
Foods also need to be free from heavy processing, and you need to check the labels of certain food products carefully as more often than not they will contain grains used to bulk them out. A good example of this is the classic sausage, they often contain fillers that are not paleo friendly.
Finally, you should strive to avoid food products that have been treated with pesticides or genetically modified.
Avoid the following:
- Grains & Legumes
- Meats fed grains and GMO/pesticide treated foods
- Farmed fish
- All kinds of dairy (milk, cheese etc.)
- All refined sugar (candies, milk chocolate etc.)
- Refined oils
- Highly processed foods (spam, cheap sausages etc.)
- All alcohol
- Stimulants (Coffee, Red bull etc.)
Paleo Diet Recipes for Beginners
When you first enter the world of paleo it can be difficult to come up with meal ideas that aren’t simply meat and vegetables. Check out the example meals below for a few ideas.
Paleo Diet Breakfast Recipe
Just because grains and dairy is out, doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy pancakes. Try the following recipe for a tasty, sweet morning treat.
- 1 banana
- 1 egg
- 2 tablespoons of ground almonds
- Vanilla extract to taste
- Mash the banana down until its nice a smooth.
- Lightly whip in the egg.
- Add the ground almonds and vanilla and mix thoroughly.
- Fry in a small pan with a natural oil such as coconut oil.
Paleo Diet Lunch Recipe
The BLT is a classic, and you can still enjoy it by ditching the bread and turning it into a tasty salad.
- 4 slices of streaky bacon (2 slices chopped)
- ½ a small chicken breast, chopped
- Drop of coconut oil
- 2 cups chopped lettuce
- 5 cherry tomatoes, halved
- ½ an avocado chopped
- ¼ of an orange bell pepper chopped
- ½ a spring onion chopped
For the dressing:
- 1 tsp. Dijon mustard
- 2 tbsp. olive oil
- 1 tbsp. lemon juice
- A pinch of salt and pepper
- Heat the coconut oil in a non-stick pan or skillet, and fry the bacon until it’s crispy. Set aside.
- Season the chopped chicken breast and cook in the fat from the bacon. Set aside.
- Mix the salad ingredients in a bit bowl and toss your dressing in there, making sure to coat of the salad.
- Mix the chopped bacon and chicken into the salad, serve on a plate and top with the other two slices of crispy bacon.
Paleo Diet Dinner Recipe
Roast chicken with all the trimmings
Roast dinners are a Sunday tradition where I am from, and my favourite is definitely roast chicken. All the different textures of meat go perfectly with sweet roasted carrots and garlic broccoli. Yum!
- 1 whole chicken (you can use just legs and breast with skin on if you are cooking for one)
- 3 tbsp. Ghee
- 4 tbsp. chopped fresh rosemary
- 1 large red onion, peeled and quartered
- 2 halved lemons
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 1 cup of chopped broccoli
- 1 cup of thickly chopped carrots
- 1 garlic clove, crushed and chopped into a pulp
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F
- Stuff the chicken with the onions and lemons.
- Mix the ghee and rosemary in a bowl, and apply ¾ of the mixture to the skin of the chicken.
- Finally season the chicken with salt and pepper to taste.
- Line a large baking tin with foil and place the chicken in the middle.
- In a bowl, use the rest of the ghee/rosemary mixture to coat your carrots and broccoli.
- Place the carrots around the chicken.
- Put the baking tray in the oven and cook for roughly 30 minutes before adding the broccoli.
- Cook for a further 30 minutes, or until a meat thermometer reads 165 in the thickest part of the breast. Serve immediately and if you like, try knocking up a paleo gravy.
Snacking is a good way to keep us tied over until our next meal, and stop us from binging. Probably one of the most common snacks consumed is chips, but with the absence of potato in the paleo diet you may think your luck is out. You couldn’t be more wrong, check out this tasty paleo chips recipe for a go-to snack.
- 2 large sweet potatoes
- 2 tbsp. melted coconut oil
- Sea salt to taste
- Paprika to taste
- Line a baking tray with parchment paper and preheat the oven to 375F.
- Peel the sweet potato and slice thinly (too thick and they will go soggy).
- In a large bowl, toss the chips with the oil, salt and paprika, then arrange them on the baking tray, making sure to keep a good space between each one.
- Bake in the oven for 10 minutes, then flip them over and bake for a further 10 minutes.
- Allow to cool and serve. These go great with guacamole or salsa!
The Paleo Diet & Exercise
When it comes to exercise and the paleo practice, the same principles apply. You should aim to exercise functionally, doing exercise that your body was designed to do.
This is very simple, aim to exercise using movements that are natural.
Get out and;
- Or just walk the dog!
These forms of exercise are perfect because the movement is completely natural.
If you are someone who hits the weights in the gym then ditch the machines; instead, opt for compound movements which challenge your entire body in with the natural movements you were designed to do! Some good examples include;
- Bench press.
Pros & Cons of Exercising on The Paleo Diet
Exercise performance relies on a number of different factors, but one of the biggest influences is diet. Diet can make or break your exercise performance, and knowing how to best approach your diet with regards to your particular exercise program is essential.
But before we look at a few tips for exercise with the paleo diet, let’s look at the pros and cons that some people face.
- Enhanced fat burning through ketosis (low carb protocol)
- Easier to maintain and build muscle due to high protein intake
- Natural sources of energy
- Lots of vegetables provide larger amounts of electrolytes lost through exercise
- Functional training targets entire body
- Decreased energy in the start due to lack of carbohydrates
- Smaller insulin spike after exercise due to lower GI carbohydrates
- Carbohydrate cravings may occur to start with
Paleo Diet Guidelines & Tips When Exercising
When you first embark on your paleo mission, you may find that exercise becomes a bit tougher. This is primarily due to the lack of carbohydrates in the diet; generally speaking, people who hit the gym – more specifically weights – will consume high amounts of carbs beforehand. This is their energy for the workout ahead.
So what do you do when you can’t consume grains but want a great workout? Well follow the tips below to get the best out of your workout.
Time your fruit
Natural, organic fruits are permitted on the paleo diet, with high sugar fruits being consumed in lesser amounts than lower sugar fruits.
If you find you are struggling for energy during your workouts, try consuming your high sugar fruit with your pre-workout meal.
The fructose that is found in fruit is actually one of the slowest digesting of all the sugars (unlike dextrose) and should help provide you with steady energy.
Get your healthy fats in
Contrary to popular belief, fat doesn’t make you fat. If that were true, everyone eating a paleo diet would be fat, but the truth is quite the opposite.
Fat is actually essential for hormone production and secretion, and making sure you consume fats is essential for efficient recovery from exercise.
Also, many people find that consuming a good amount of fat before a workout significantly aids in their performance.
Try adding some nut butter in to your pre-workout meal for an extra bout of energy.
Knock up some paleo sports drinks
One thing that you will see endorsed by athletes around the world is sports drinks.
Back in the day, sports drinks were simply loaded with sugar and a few vitamins to give you an energy boost. These days its more about replacing the electrolytes and vitamins lost through sweating.
Consuming processed sports drinks is prohibited on the paleo diet, however you can easily create your own which is actually denser in vitamins and electrolytes when compared to many popular brands.
Give this one a go:
Watermelon Sports drink
Time: 10 minutes
- 1 cup of chopped watermelon
- 1 cup of coconut water
- Juice of half a lime
- Simply throw all the ingredients into a blender and blitz until smooth.
That’s a Wrap!
And there you have it; hopefully that is everything you need to know to get yourself started on the paleo diet! Good luck and remember to get inventive in your Paleo Kitchen!
- Ogden CL, Carroll MD, Kit BK, Flegal KM. Prevalence of Childhood and Adult Obesity in the United States, 2011-2012. JAMA. 2014;311(8):806-814. doi:10.1001/jama.2014.732.
- Johnson RJ, et al. Potential role of sugar (fructose) in the epidemic of hypertension, obesity and the metabolic syndrome, diabetes, kidney disease, and cardiovascular disease. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 2007.
- Jonsson T, Granfeldt Y, Erlanson-Albertsson C, Ahren B, Lindeberg S. A Paleolithic diet is more satiating per calorie than a Mediterranean-like diet in individuals with ischemic heart disease. Nutr Metab (Lond). 2010 Nov 30;7(1):85