Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Paleo Diet not working? Part 1-Intense effort

In the 17 years that I have been working with people to help them get healthy and in shape, I have never seen quite what I see with the Paleo diet. No other diet causes so much change so rapidly. I’m not just referring to the weight loss, I am talking about health parameters, energy levels, attitude, systemic pain, and just about anything you would expect is affected by diet. While I think the Paleo diet is the cat’s meow, I think people overstate it’s effectiveness. If you take your average 300 pounder, they will get immediate, dramatic change. However, if you take your average person who only has about 30bs to drop, they may drop 10lbs of fat rapidly, and then they stall. Once they’ve stalled for more than a couple of weeks, they get desperate and feel the diet is failing them. In this respect, the Paleo diet is a victim of it’s own success.  IN this multiple part series, I will go over the important factors that people seem to ignore when following a Paleo diet.

Part 1: Intense Exercise

One thing that I’ve found, whether it is from giving online advice or working with clients, is that these people tend to have little desire to progress their training regimen. Maybe it’s because they don’t want to get bulky, which doesn’t happen unless your diet is terrible, or maybe it’s because they are plain lazy. I don’t know the answer to that but I can tell you one thing, you are not going to get an ideal physique walking and eating the Paleo diet. I’d even argue that you aren’t going to get an ideal physique jogging and doing the Paleo diet. In order to change the way your metabolism runs and lean out effectively, you need to force physiological adaptation at the level of the cell. You need a ton of mitochondria to burn fat, high glycogen storage capacity to give you a cushion when you cheat, and routine activation of muscle fibers you aren’t going to activate doing everyday activities.

When you look at people like Mark Sisson or some of the more ideal physiques in the Paleo community, you need to realize that a lot of work was put in up front to attain that physique. In my opinion the diet takes care of quite a bit, but you need to hold up your end of the bargain. This means putting in low volume high intensity physical activity 2-3 times a week. Whether that activity comes from lifting weights or playing flag football is irrelevant, so long as it is of sufficient intensity. The problem most people run in to is that they have no strength base, so getting in intense activity is difficult to do when playing football because they are slow and ineffective. It’s really difficult for a person like this to get intense activity outside of weight training because how do you increase the amount of force you generate? When you take in to consideration that you are typically losing weight and, therefore, moving less weight, you are actually producing less force. Enter weight training.

Weight training not only provides a way to produce a lot of force, it also gives you a way to measure and progress it. If I do lunges with 20lbs this week and then next week I do them with 25lbs, I am increasing the amount of force I am producing. Even if I lose weight I can account for that by choosing to lift that much more. It has been my experience that most people are going to have to, at the very least, put in some weight training up front so that when they do decide to play football, baseball, or whatever sport they choose they can generate sufficient forces. It really doesn’t require that much effort and time. My clients either do 3 45 minute full body workouts per week or 4 30 minutes sessions alternating between upper and lower body. If you were to calculate how much of that time was spent actually working it’s actually quite low. Doing sets that are 15-20 seconds long followed by 3 minutes of walking around for recovery six times doesn’t really seem that difficult to me. That’s 90 seconds of intense activity and 18 minutes of walking around per day. Seems like an awfully small price to pay for an ideal physique, what do you think?