The one important thing the Paleo diet is missing

Find out about the historically important thing the Paleo diet is missing: intermittent fasting

The Paleo diet has taken the world by storm. It’s officially trickled down into mainstream society, with pre-made food, packaged snacks and even the humble steak, now being advertised as Paleo. This primal eating style has been in fashion for a few years now.

There is heated and wide-ranging debate over whether the Paleo diet is the healthiest way to eat. You can read my argument about whether the Paleo diet is actually healthy here. But disagreements aside, the Paleo diet does fail to highlight one of the most important parts of human eating history: periods of not eating at all. This is also known as fasting. 

Cavemen, and most human beings that lived up until very recently, usually experienced times of feasting and fasting. It’s one of the main reasons the human body stores excess energy as fat. This way, it can be retrieved later on when there isn’t enough food around. 

Read on to find out more about fasting and why it’s an important historical aspect of the human diet. 

What is Paleo?

Nicknamed the Caveman diet, Paleo is supposed to reflect the eating habits of humans who lived in the Palaeolithic era. The movement encourages people to eat plenty of lean meats, healthy fats and fruits and vegetables. However, it does advise people not to eat grains, dairy and legumes. The eating style is a stark contrast from the standard Western diet that usually involves copious amounts of refined carbohydrates, plenty of salt and lots of additives.

Paleo is centred around the idea that today’s crazy rates of obesity and lifestyle disease are the result of the human body’s inability to adapt to the modern diet. Advocates believe the nutritionally-void sodas, sugary snacks and fast food we collectively now consume aren’t doing us any favours. And hey, they may be on to something.

But Paleo fails to highlight the importance of fasting

The one thing the Paleo diet does fail to mention (and advocate for) is the periods of fasting humans endured up until very recently. Yes, our Palaeolithic ancestors certainly weren’t eating doughnuts and french fries. But they also weren’t eating six, perfectly-portioned, calorie-controlled meals each day to keep their metabolisms burning. That said, society and our bodies have changed since the Palaeolithic era. But fasting for medical and health reasons has been practised since 500 BC. 

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Throughout history, people ate when food was available and stored fat. When food wasn’t available, our ancestors relied on their fat stores for energy. This simple process that the human body is designed for is completely underutilised in the modern world. Instead, we eat ALL the time. 

Food is always available to us. We have a body that’s not much different from that of a caveman’s’. It wants to constantly store fat in case a famine is around the corner. That’s paired with a culture where food is available 24/7 and constantly being advertised. It’s a tough time to eat like a caveman. But fasting, on the other hand, can be easy to implement.

Fasting throughout history

Although a lack of fasting may not have completely caused the obesity epidemic, it is certainly a contributing factor. The quality of the food many modern people eat has diminished, while the quantity has certainly increased. But the frequency of eating has also gone up.

Many “weight-loss” diets advocate eating six or more times per day. For many people, that would involve eating the second they wake up and finishing shortly before they go to bed. But research has shown eating more frequently has no significant impact on metabolic rate. Our ancestors had to skip the odd meal and luckily for them, their metabolisms didn’t come to a screeching halt. 

But isn’t fasting bad?

Although many people have died of starvation throughout history, you probably won’t starve to death by implementing periods of fasting into your diet. Heck, research has shown it can offer some health benefits and promote weight loss. Intermittent fasting is an eating pattern that strategically utilises periods of feasting and fasting to burn fat. You can read more about it in The Beginner’s Guide to Intermittent Fasting or in the free download below. 

Conclusion

Although Paleo persuades people to follow a more natural diet closer to that of their ancestors, it’s missing one of the most historically important parts of eating: fasting. Whether you agree or disagree with the Paleo movement:

  • Periods of fasting have been a natural occurrence throughout history.
  • Before agriculture and the food security many enjoy today, people regularly starved to death.
  • But your body will not enter “starvation mode” if you push breakfast back a few hours.
  • Research has shown periods of fasting can be beneficial for the body. 
  • Intermittent fasting has emerged as a popular, simple, natural eating technique for weight loss and maintainence. 

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