The Paleo vs. Slow Carb Diet

Winner Winner Steak Dinner

Winner Winner Steak Dinner

This is an overview of the Paleo and Slow-Carb diets. They certainly share several similarities but also diverge in a few significant areas. Which, if any, is right for you? Like everything, that depends. Also, I am going to suggest another alternative.

About the Paleo Diet

The latest diet fad called the Paleo Diet (or more specifically the Paleolithic diet or “caveman diet”), is a nutritional framework based on the estimated pre-historic diet of cavemen of eating just wild plants and animals. Using commonly available foods, today’s Paleolithic diet consists mostly of fish, grass-fed pasture raised meats, vegetables, fruit, roots, and nuts. It’s very popular among the CrossFit crowd. As per Wikipedia, the diet “is based on the premise that modern humans are genetically adapted to the diet of their Paleolithic ancestors and that human genetics have scarcely changed since the dawn of agriculture, and therefore that an ideal diet for human health and well-being is one that resembles this ancestral diet.” Basically, it’s eating food the human body was originally designed to eat.

About the Slow-Carb Diet

4-Hour Body

4-Hour Body

This is the diet developed by Tim Ferris in his book, The 4-Hour Body. You don’t need to buy the book though, the specific chapter outlining the diet is available on his website. Tim states, “It is possible to lose 20 lbs. of bodyfat in 30 days by optimizing any of three factors: exercise, diet, or drug/supplement regimen. I’ve seen the elite implementation of all three in working with professional athletes. In this post, we’ll explore what I refer to as the “slow-carb diet”.” It’s closely related to the Paleo diet but differs dramatically.

The Similarities

Both diets disallow A LOT. In fact, there’s way too much to list. But in a nutshell, no soda, dairy, grain (wheat, corn, oats), gluten, potatoes, pasta, yogurt, beer, just to name a few. Both allow red wine, and not beer. Some Paleo people also allow tequila since it is made from a plant rather than a grain. It all boils down to eating real food from local sources. Nothing processed or otherwise artificially altered. Things that are nutritionally dense, not just filler.

Grilled Salmon

Grilled Salmon


The Differences

Allowed on Slow-Carb but not Paleo: Beans, cheat day
Allowed on Paleo but not Slow-Carb: Fruit

Why doesn’t the Slow-Carb diet allow fruit? Because of the sugar content in fruit. Yes, it’s natural, but it is still sugar. And the Slow-Carb diet is designed for weight-loss thus sugar intake should be minimal.

Why doesn’t the Paleo diet allow beans? According to most paleo websites, beans (legumes) contain toxins and our ancestors in the paleolithic days did not eat them. Though I find the support of this argument flimsy. What do these “toxins” do?

Cheat Day

The Slow-Carb diet lets you take one day off each week where you can eat anything you want. Anything! Pizza, pasta, beer, potato chips, etc…all ok! Cheat day is actually beneficial for both physical and psychological reasons. Psychological in that this diet isn’t preventing you from enjoying the food you love, just when. You can still have whatever you want! Just not whenever. Physical in that extended calorie restriction does harmful things to your metabolism. The human body can cope during sporadic food availability without great impact on the itself (through long winters between harvests back in the day). It accomplishes this by slowing down, and suppressing, thyroid function. Thus storing weight for the long winter. On cheat day, when you significantly spike your calorie intake, this resets the internal system and resets your system into thinking it’s feasting time. Your metabolism rockets!

My Hybrid Diet

Grilled Chicken

Grilled Chicken

I call this the “Slow-Paleo” Diet, in that it borrows from each. It’s basically the Paleo diet but beans are allowed and you get a cheat day. Or more simply, the Slow-Carb diet but fruit is allowed. I do this because I don’t need to lose weight, and I personally believe that fruit is very healthy and important. So both beans and fruits are my friends, and I eat anything and everything on Saturdays! I’m sure several from each camp will disagree with me on this.

My Typical (Non-Cheating) Day

Breakfast: Either two fried eggs with a tomato, or a bowl of grain-free cereal, topped with blueberries and coconut milk.
Lunch: Either a burrito-bowl from Chipotle with chicken, black beans, tomato salsa, lettuce and guacamole (no tortilla, cheese, or sour cream) or then lunch buffet at an Indian restaurant with curry chicken, tomato-cucumber salad, spinach or whatever veggie dish they happen to have.
Dinner: Usually grilled chicken breast over a salad with tomatoes, avocado, mushrooms, etc. Or a grilled steak with roasted asparagus, broccoli, or zucchini with a side of mushrooms. Then some red wine too.

Salmon Dinner

Salmon Dinner


Overall

It works. I’m maintaining a healthy weight. Though it should be noted that I also exercise A LOT. I do Crossfit (one of the latest fitness fads) and play a lot of tennis. I believe the combination of eating smart and physical activity is the single most important thing a person can do for their health.


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