Gained Weight on the Paleo Diet? Here’s What Went Wrong.
By: Courtney Sperlazza, MPH
April 20, 2018
- If you tried paleo, you started eating real, nourishing foods, and you felt better. But, it’s a common complaint that people don’t lose weight on the paleo diet, or worse, gain weight
- There are several reasons you might not lose weight on the paleo diet. Maybe your carbs are too high, you’re eating too much protein, or your food was toxic.
- Read on to find out why you’re not losing weight eating paleo diet foods, and what you can do to make paleo work for you.
If you tried paleo, you eliminated processed foods and packaged sugary snacks, so you probably noticed a difference pretty quickly. When you’re eating real, nourishing foods that feed your cells, you feel better. But, it’s a common complaint that people don’t always lose weight on the paleo diet, or worse, they gain weight.
Read on to find out why you’re not losing weight eating paleo diet foods, and what you can do to make paleo work for you.
What is the paleo diet?
The Paleo diet focuses on what our ancient ancestors ate – things they could hunt and forage, like meats, plants, nuts, seeds, and fruits. Grains, dairy, and legumes are out. The idea is that if humans didn’t have the equipment, the ingredients, or the preparation methods to make and eat a particular food thousands of years ago, your body isn’t adapted to that food and your biology doesn’t know what to do with it.
The paleo diet is a fantastic basis for someone who is transitioning from the standard American diet, eating tons of empty carbs and processed everything. But if you want to lose weight and perform at your best, and that didn’t happen, here are a few reasons why.
You ate too many carbs, preventing weight loss
Technically, you can drink a bottle of honey and still be paleo. That’s a bad idea on multiple levels, and it’ll derail your weight loss goals for sure.
If you want to lose weight, you have to control your blood sugar, and to do that, most people have to keep carbs down. It works like this: when you eat something, your body breaks your food down and some of it enters your bloodstream as sugar (glucose). Glucose provides energy for your cells. While you’re eating, your pancreas releases insulin, the hormone that tells your cells to open up for a delivery of fuel.
If you’re eating too many carbs, things can go wrong.
Hangry feelings and sugar crashes. A lot of carbohydrates causes blood sugar fluctuations that make you hungry, cranky, and tired throughout the day. When sugar goes from your bloodstream into your cells, your blood sugar drops, which can signal hunger if you’re running almost exclusively on glucose. Since sugar is quick to either burn or store, your body wants to replenish it as fast as it’s depleted.
More fuel than you can use. Glucose that just hangs out in the bloodstream causes problems, so your body wants to either burn it or store it as quickly as possible. Your cells only accept so much, which leaves glucose in your bloodstream. Eventually, glucose in your bloodstream gets stored as fat.
Insulin resistance. Too many carbs can cause insulin resistance. If your body is accustomed to excess carbs, your signaling mechanisms get messed up. Your pancreas could be pumping out so much insulin that your cells don’t as readily respond to it by opening up and accepting the delivery of glucose. That leaves too much sugar in your bloodstream, which once again gets stored as fat.
On paleo, you can eat with abandon as long as the food was likely a part of your ancient ancestors’ lives. That might make positive shifts in your vitamin and mineral levels, but it won’t do a thing for your muffin top. Here’s how to find your ideal carb intake.
You ate too much protein on the paleo diet
Especially if you’re just starting to switch your thinking away from the low-fat mindset, you might think that you should center your meals around protein. It’s a common misconception that high-protein diets will make you lose weight.
Protein helps with weight loss, but only to a point. Sure, adding more protein pushes bread and pasta off of the plate. But, the benefits have limits. When you eat too much protein, digesting it causes a lot of oxidative stress in your digestive system, especially in your liver. This produces toxins that can slow you down, plus any protein you don’t use in time gets treated like a carb. It gets converted to glucose, and if that’s not burned as fuel right away, it gets stored as fat.
When people first go paleo, they tend to load up on bacon and bunless burgers, thinking that as long as they’re not eating bread and pasta, all will be well. But early nomadic humans didn’t eat that way. In most geographic areas, meat was available but scarce. Your ancient ancestors ate a ton of plants.
Here’s how to find your ideal protein intake.
Low-toxin foods help you lose weight
Factory-farmed meat has an omega-6 to omega-3 ratio that’s too high, it contains estrogen that will throw off your natural hormone balance, and most often it contains mold toxins that make you hold onto body fat. Pesticides and herbicides sprayed on vegetable crops also disrupt your hormones which can make you store fat.
On paleo, you eat certain foods and avoid others without much concern for where it came from. If all calories were equal, that would be fine, but toxic foods can make you pack on the pounds. Your body can only eliminate so much waste, and to protect your body from toxic substances that it can’t eliminate, it wraps it in fat and stores it under the skin and away from your organs.
When you can, choose organic for meats and for as many vegetables as you can, especially for vegetables with the highest residues.
Anyone who cuts sugar, low-nutrient carbs, and processed foods is going to notice a difference. It’s a start, and if your goal is to just eat a little better, choosing a paleo diet may be sufficient. But if you want to feel a real difference in your energy levels, your strength, your focus, and your looks, you might need to dial it in even further and take things to the next level. Lifestyle changes don’t happen overnight. Take what works, leave the rest, and enjoy the journey!
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