Following Our Ancestors: a 30 Day Experiment on the Paleo(ish) Diet

Our ancestors preparing a meal.
Our ancestors preparing a meal.

It all started because I wanted to be healthier. I was sick of waking up at 7:30 every morning exhausted. I hated being tired on the weekends while I was out with my friends. Most of all, I wanted my energy back, and I wanted to look and feel healthier. Thus, my search to find the holy grail of healthy living began. I first researched a Gluten-free diet, but the results from it aren’t always positive. When I stumbled upon Robb Wolf’s blog about the Paleo Diet, I was blown away by the potential benefits: increased muscle growth, increased energy, fat loss, lower blood pressure, and overall healthier living. On the edge of my seat in excitement, rapidly clicking between Robb’s site, Loren Cordain’s blog (the father of the Paleo Diet), and whatever else I could find on the Internet, I was ready to begin my 30-day experiment.

The principles of the Paleo Diet can be boiled down pretty simply: meat, vegetables, fruit, and nuts. No more refined carbohydrates (buh-bye, macaroni and cheese!), sugar, or dairy products. Essentially, we eat as similarly to our pre-agricultural ancestors as possible. Here’s a sample meal courtesy of Robb Wolf’s blog:

1. Shrimp scramble with basil and steamed spinach
2. ¼ cup blueberries
3. Espresso (yes, coffee and tea are allowed!)

1. Chicken salad with red onions, romaine lettuce, artichoke hearts and mixed bell peppers
2. Green tea with lemon

1. Grilled shrimp & veggies with a hand full of macadamia nuts
2. Baked pork loin with ginger cabbage and olive oil
3. Shaved almonds over 1/4 cup mixed berries

Part of a meal for our ancestors.
Part of a meal for our ancestors.

I followed the rules outlined by Robb for about two months (I did occasionally have rice or milk, however, usually as part of one meal once to twice a week). One of the nicer side effects I noticed was a slight decrease in my seasonal allergy symptoms: less sniffling, sneezing, puffy eyes, etc.

Now, the main reason most people are attracted to the diet: getting rid of that belly. I experienced a side effect many people would kill for but I wanted to avoid: massive weight loss.  In about two months, I lost roughly 20 lbs.  Because I only ate vegetables, meat, and eggs, my caloric intake dipped dramatically (I was eating around 2,000 calories per day yet still feeling full). Therefore, I had to make some adjustments: adding back in milk, protein powder, and beans.  To keep (somewhat) in line with Robb’s recommendations, I made sure the milk was organic and whole and I bought canned beans soaked in water (and then washed the beans before cooking). Sure, I wanted to be healthy, but I also wanted to gain weight–not lose it!


When I implemented the diet changes mentioned above (with the guidance of Tim Ferriss’s new book), I noticed I was more alert upon waking in the morning. Within an hour of waking up, I’d have about 50 grams of protein and 1,000 calories. Throughout the week, I’d stick to the following food schedule:

BREAKFAST (7:30-8:15):
1 tsp creatine
2 Vitamin D3 pills
1 prebiotic pill
1 alpha-lipoic pill
3 brazil nuts, 100 calories, 2 g protein
1 scoop 100% Whey Protein Powder, 120 calories, 24 g protein
3 cups Local Organic Whole Milk, 450 calories, 24 g protein
20 Macadamia nuts, 380 calories, 4 g protein
= 1,050 calories, 54 g protein

MORNING SNACK (11:30 am):
Training 33 YouBar, 190 calories, 15 g protein
= 190 calories, 15 g protein

LUNCH (1:30 pm):
Burrito Bowl from Chipotle (black beans, chicken, mild tomato salsa, guacamole, lettuce), 485 calories, 42 g protein
= 485 calories, 42 g protein

Larabar, 190 calories, 4 g protein
= 190 calories, 4 g protein

DINNER (7:30 pm):
1 alpha-lipoic pill
1 can of Pinto/Kidney beans, 300 calories, 18 g protein
1-2 cups Iceberg salad, 15 calories, 1 g protein
2 tbsp Olive Oil, 240 calories, 0 g protein
15 almonds, 90 calories, 4 g protein
2 cups local Organic Whole milk, 300 calories, 16 g protein
= 975 calories, 39 g protein

2 Vitamin D3 pills
1 probiotic pill
2 tbsp almond butter, 190 calories, 7 g protein
3 brazil nuts, 100 calories, 2 g protein
= 290 calories, 9 g protein

TOTAL: 3,180 calories, 163 g protein

Some days, however, I went crazy with food.
Some days, however, I went a little overboard.

Per Robb’s recommendation, the prebiotic and probiotic pills are to aid digestion. Additionally, the magnesium helps with sleep (something I notice, as my WakeMate scores improve roughly 10% when magnesium and almond butter are added). Per Tim’s recommendation, the alpha-lipoic acid is to aid fat digestion and the creatine is to stimulate better muscle growth. The vitamin D3 pills are a recommendation from both Tim and Robb: Tim claims they improve testosterone regeneration (which helps with muscle) and Robb claims they help when lacking regular sun exposure (hello, working world).

WEIGHT AFTER STARTING PALEO DIET: 142 lbs., Jan. 29th, 2011
WEIGHT AFTER 30 DAYS OF PALEO(ISH) DIET: 148 lbs., Feb. 28th, 2011

OTHER SIDE EFFECTS: More alert, happier, weight gain was nearly all muscle (not fat as is common with quick weight gain)

The most difficult part of the diet for me was giving up the simple carbohydrates. As a child, my diet consisted of macaroni and cheese, juice, and cereal (often scattered throughout the day randomly). However, after about 10 days of not eating bread, cereal, and refined sugars (i.e. cake, sweets), I’ve nearly given them up completely. Not only do I feel healthier when I don’t eat that type of food, I’ve also lost the taste for it. It’s amazing how quickly my body adapted to a healthier lifestyle, and how painless it really was.

For further reading, I recommend you check out Robb Wolf’s book “The Paleo Solution“.

QOD: How often do you eat sweets (cake, cupcakes, donuts, etc.)?


  1. It sounds like you’re working out a good compromise in order to gain weight. What didn’t you like about the gluten-free diet?

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