5

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Bad Mood on Paleo Diet: Hack It

Answered on September 12, 2014
Created June 16, 2011 at 4:47 AM

First off, I have been Paleo for over a year now. I've realized when I am too low carb I get very irritable and moody.

Normally I am a very energetic and fun person but when I cut the carbs I can get miserable. I thought I was eating enough fat but I may be wrong.

It isn't withdrawal or anything. Please don't say it is my body getting used to it. I have been Paleo for a long time now. I guess its not a one size fits all plan.

Recently I started eating fruit occasionally and upped the veggies and I'm feeling much better, using more butter too.

Anyone else have similiar experiences or thoughts? Is it the fat or the carbs? Whats my problem? I am already very lean, and I can eat whatever and not gain weight so thats not anything to worry about. Should I just eat more fat or more carbs?

8d1ce78fe7071f2f60fd59365bf21cfc

(580)

on June 20, 2011
at 05:32 PM

I feel that carb cycling is definately worth a try for anyone experiencing any sort of mood/performance/sleep or any other issues. I did VLC for several months, lost weight, but then a) weight loss plateau'd b) had trouble getting sleep c) lifts started going down (during VLC i had somewhat maintained strength). Enter 250-300 grams of carbs on workout days and 50-85 grams on rest days - coupled with intermittent fasting > 2-3 BIG meals a day, and a) weight loss stopped, but still feel like i'm staying lean/adding muscle b) sleep like a baby c) lifts are good AND d) i love the meal sizes :)

02736efa3fda31740e8890eed0cb663d

(1813)

on June 17, 2011
at 01:43 AM

Paleomouth: potatoes and white rice are the bulk of it, also sweet potatoes and fruit. I don't really keep track of how much of anything I eat, but on some days I eat a lot of carbs, other days a lot less.

77877f762c40637911396daa19b53094

(78467)

on June 16, 2011
at 08:00 PM

what do you eat for carbs besides potatos?

77877f762c40637911396daa19b53094

(78467)

on June 16, 2011
at 07:58 PM

This is exactly me. I'm gonna give an answer

560821f3e7352455c3ebc2283d424f2e

on June 16, 2011
at 04:12 PM

If only I could freeze the lindt and have a couple of squares, as someone said in another post I would need x2 squares fedexed everyday to my house. Having "excess" in the freezer would awaken the sugar demon. Oh moderation, how you toy with me.

E35e3d76547b18096a59c90029e7e107

(15613)

on June 16, 2011
at 04:04 PM

... certainly made a substantial difference above and beyond the negligible extra calories they added. Plausibly (in me, for whatever reason) the carbohydrate increased hunger and therefore made me consume more calories from other sources rather than there being any physiological cause (like blunting lipolysis), but it certainly seems to me that I can consume a great deal more calories from plain fat without weight gain.

E35e3d76547b18096a59c90029e7e107

(15613)

on June 16, 2011
at 04:00 PM

@Ben. I never calorie count any more, so I didn't consciously alter fat. 40g carbs = 160kcal = 17g fat, so it would be pretty tricky to measure anyway! To gain a stone of fat (not that it's all fat, but nm) would be an excess of 49,000kcal. Admittedly that's pretty easy, if I ate 10% more calories than normal I could accumulate that in about half a year, but before I added in my half sweet potato per day, my weight remained steady for a couple of years without thinking about calories at all. I agree the problem is ultimately calories, rather than carb=>fat magic, but the minimal carbs...

9a5e2da94ad63ea3186dfa494e16a8d1

(15833)

on June 16, 2011
at 03:32 PM

To me the most important part of Paleo is no grains, no sugar, and no processed foods. Within that you can eat as many carbs as you see fit. Some limit carbs to lose weight or address some specific condition (diabetes, celiac, etc). But if you operate better on some carbs, by all means eats some carbs.

8c5533ffe71bd4262fedc7e898ead1ba

(1724)

on June 16, 2011
at 02:26 PM

Nico is totally right. Paleo is not synonymous with low-carb. Robb Wolf eats several sweet potatoes a day, BTW. And Paleo for Athletes is full of carbs. Only GOOD carbs, of course.

667f6c030b0245d71d8ef50c72b097dc

(15976)

on June 16, 2011
at 01:35 PM

@David, thanks for the result report. Love it. I would say that that low an amount of carbs added back in your eating has simply added more calories than you need. Did you commensurately lower fat at the time? I acknowledge that a lot of carbs eaten to excess for years will result in metabolic damage and thus that a calorie is not just a calorie, but in the lowish range you're talking about, with your fitness, I would think your weight gain is merely a calorie issue. Know what I'm saying?

E35e3d76547b18096a59c90029e7e107

(15613)

on June 16, 2011
at 01:12 PM

@Ben, I agree that active people can generally handle lots of carbs, but I think I would qualify the "no need to avoid... at all, ever. Period." I'm pretty fit and lean, exercise intensely at least 4 times a week and so on, but since I added ~40g of carbs per day to my previously ~ZC diet [which I think I mentioned to you a while back], I've gained almost a stone in the past year (mostly in the first 6 months). Granted, I added the carbs because I was aiming to gain mass, but it's still significant (and certainly not mostly muscle), even if I'm stronger and look better by most people's tastes.

667f6c030b0245d71d8ef50c72b097dc

(15976)

on June 16, 2011
at 12:54 PM

I'd echo Nico here. Fit people do not need to avoid starch at all, ever. Period. The fitter you are the more starch you can handle. Eat 1:1 ratio of protein grams and carb grams. Love it.

535fafe8afe6923870905c707c4f4454

(720)

on June 16, 2011
at 11:26 AM

What carbs do you eat? and how much?

Cc93847bfa820f0f2da654060b401fa5

(746)

on June 16, 2011
at 08:55 AM

Eat the carbs and prepare to kick ass my friend :)

A15af22bd729ec030e8f47d1189b6eaf

(774)

on June 16, 2011
at 06:21 AM

The serotonin hit that is associated with (sweet) carb intake probably has something to do with that ... I am thinking of Stephen Guyenets food reward posts right now. Might look into that!

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13 Answers

9
02736efa3fda31740e8890eed0cb663d

(1813)

on June 16, 2011
at 11:13 AM

I just gotta say: how many people have to come on this site complaining of being miserable from low-carb before we stop making low-carb the default prescription? I realize a lot of us have moved away from that a long time ago, but the paleo most people encounter is still low-carb. Mark Sisson is still all the way there, Robb Wolf seems to endorse some carb consumption, but the recipes in his book don't contain a single starch, and a lot of other popular sites for recipes like Everyday Paleo that are the same.

The answer is simple: eat carbs. They are not bad for you.

667f6c030b0245d71d8ef50c72b097dc

(15976)

on June 16, 2011
at 12:54 PM

I'd echo Nico here. Fit people do not need to avoid starch at all, ever. Period. The fitter you are the more starch you can handle. Eat 1:1 ratio of protein grams and carb grams. Love it.

667f6c030b0245d71d8ef50c72b097dc

(15976)

on June 16, 2011
at 01:35 PM

@David, thanks for the result report. Love it. I would say that that low an amount of carbs added back in your eating has simply added more calories than you need. Did you commensurately lower fat at the time? I acknowledge that a lot of carbs eaten to excess for years will result in metabolic damage and thus that a calorie is not just a calorie, but in the lowish range you're talking about, with your fitness, I would think your weight gain is merely a calorie issue. Know what I'm saying?

535fafe8afe6923870905c707c4f4454

(720)

on June 16, 2011
at 11:26 AM

What carbs do you eat? and how much?

8c5533ffe71bd4262fedc7e898ead1ba

(1724)

on June 16, 2011
at 02:26 PM

Nico is totally right. Paleo is not synonymous with low-carb. Robb Wolf eats several sweet potatoes a day, BTW. And Paleo for Athletes is full of carbs. Only GOOD carbs, of course.

E35e3d76547b18096a59c90029e7e107

(15613)

on June 16, 2011
at 04:00 PM

@Ben. I never calorie count any more, so I didn't consciously alter fat. 40g carbs = 160kcal = 17g fat, so it would be pretty tricky to measure anyway! To gain a stone of fat (not that it's all fat, but nm) would be an excess of 49,000kcal. Admittedly that's pretty easy, if I ate 10% more calories than normal I could accumulate that in about half a year, but before I added in my half sweet potato per day, my weight remained steady for a couple of years without thinking about calories at all. I agree the problem is ultimately calories, rather than carb=>fat magic, but the minimal carbs...

E35e3d76547b18096a59c90029e7e107

(15613)

on June 16, 2011
at 01:12 PM

@Ben, I agree that active people can generally handle lots of carbs, but I think I would qualify the "no need to avoid... at all, ever. Period." I'm pretty fit and lean, exercise intensely at least 4 times a week and so on, but since I added ~40g of carbs per day to my previously ~ZC diet [which I think I mentioned to you a while back], I've gained almost a stone in the past year (mostly in the first 6 months). Granted, I added the carbs because I was aiming to gain mass, but it's still significant (and certainly not mostly muscle), even if I'm stronger and look better by most people's tastes.

E35e3d76547b18096a59c90029e7e107

(15613)

on June 16, 2011
at 04:04 PM

... certainly made a substantial difference above and beyond the negligible extra calories they added. Plausibly (in me, for whatever reason) the carbohydrate increased hunger and therefore made me consume more calories from other sources rather than there being any physiological cause (like blunting lipolysis), but it certainly seems to me that I can consume a great deal more calories from plain fat without weight gain.

02736efa3fda31740e8890eed0cb663d

(1813)

on June 17, 2011
at 01:43 AM

Paleomouth: potatoes and white rice are the bulk of it, also sweet potatoes and fruit. I don't really keep track of how much of anything I eat, but on some days I eat a lot of carbs, other days a lot less.

7
A15af22bd729ec030e8f47d1189b6eaf

(774)

on June 16, 2011
at 04:58 AM

I think you answered your question yourself:

Keep on experimenting. If you're not happy change something (and you did that). Some people do better on lower carbs, some people do best on moderate to high carbs (lots of potato w/ butter harhar) ...

Anyways, you'll pobably get many different answers ??? game on ...

9a5e2da94ad63ea3186dfa494e16a8d1

(15833)

on June 16, 2011
at 03:32 PM

To me the most important part of Paleo is no grains, no sugar, and no processed foods. Within that you can eat as many carbs as you see fit. Some limit carbs to lose weight or address some specific condition (diabetes, celiac, etc). But if you operate better on some carbs, by all means eats some carbs.

4
26b7615ef542394102785a67a2786867

on June 16, 2011
at 01:50 PM

Low carb just isn't good or even healthy for some people. This goes double IMO for naturally thin/lean people. Like you, and me. Diets are not one fits all.

When I was in ketosis/ate low in carbs I felt foggy and mentally out of it a lot (I have ADD-PI so anything that makes me less present is bad!), it triggered my natural tendency towards depression, and I was often insatiably hungry no matter how I stuffed myself with fat, protein and roughage. There were some good things about it (I had zero menstrual cramps for the first time in my life VLC, and I had an easier time waking in the morning which is often hard for me) but not enough to justify the fact that I just didn't feel good a lot.

I hereby give you permission to EAT STARCH! It's not bad for you! There are plenty of harmless/'paleo' (most hunter-gatherers eat tubers) sources like white rice, potatoes, sweet potatoes and other tubers - Asian markets usually have an awesome variety of tubers and root veg.

I eat 100-200g of carbs from tubers, white rice, fruit and veg, and even some chocolate and ice cream, every day, and I feel and look (gained some weight) the better for it.

4
667f6c030b0245d71d8ef50c72b097dc

(15976)

on June 16, 2011
at 12:58 PM

I think you've sorted the answer on your own, too.

Classic bodybuilding thinking: the fitter you are the more carbs you can eat.

Very straight forward. I'd still prolly say that fat people will lose weight very effectively, at least for a time, on LC but for fit people it makes no sense to do low-carb while eating paleo.

I at the beginning did it too, cuz i read Sisson's book early. I did it for over six months so i was thoroughly keto-adapted as they say. Continued lifting and BJJ during that time, too. But i never felt that pep in the step, the extra oomph. Always felt...flat.

Now i eat between 200-250 grams of carb (all paleo, yes) per day, throughout the day, and feel kickass all the time.

Carbs' effect on mood is substantial and, I feel, underappreciated.

77877f762c40637911396daa19b53094

(78467)

on June 16, 2011
at 08:00 PM

what do you eat for carbs besides potatos?

1
B0454de6d4f4cdd9ca2e59021dc105bf

on June 20, 2011
at 09:28 AM

Try experimenting with carb cycling. I go 2, 3, 4 days on very low carb then have a day with some sweet potatoes thrown into the mix, something like that. I don't have a rigid carb schedule. See what works for you.

8d1ce78fe7071f2f60fd59365bf21cfc

(580)

on June 20, 2011
at 05:32 PM

I feel that carb cycling is definately worth a try for anyone experiencing any sort of mood/performance/sleep or any other issues. I did VLC for several months, lost weight, but then a) weight loss plateau'd b) had trouble getting sleep c) lifts started going down (during VLC i had somewhat maintained strength). Enter 250-300 grams of carbs on workout days and 50-85 grams on rest days - coupled with intermittent fasting > 2-3 BIG meals a day, and a) weight loss stopped, but still feel like i'm staying lean/adding muscle b) sleep like a baby c) lifts are good AND d) i love the meal sizes :)

1
D72e9d21977363ea1850fa00555f151a

on June 16, 2011
at 03:30 PM

I eat pretty low-carb Paleo. No fructose aside from an occasional cheat. Maybe some starch post workout, but not too often. I notice sometimes my mood will change especially after spending hours at school/library.

What works for me:

  1. Eating Dark Chocolate or making some hot chocolate using unsweetened cocoa powder (with water and some coconut milk). Cocoa contains theobromine and tryptophan. Tryptophan affects serotonin, which diminishes anxiety. With dark chocolate a little will go a long way. You can get Lindt 85% Dark, freeze it and then eat a couple squares with some tea. Hot cocoa is nice cause it will make you feel warm and fuzzy.

  2. Taking some vitamin D or just going out in the sun for a bit. Just o for a walk and soak up some sun.

  3. Taking some R-Alpha Lipoic Acid and maybe some Pantethene (500mg ish) in the morning.

Hope that helps!

560821f3e7352455c3ebc2283d424f2e

on June 16, 2011
at 04:12 PM

If only I could freeze the lindt and have a couple of squares, as someone said in another post I would need x2 squares fedexed everyday to my house. Having "excess" in the freezer would awaken the sugar demon. Oh moderation, how you toy with me.

1
77877f762c40637911396daa19b53094

(78467)

on June 16, 2011
at 02:53 PM

Have some Haagen-Dagz ice-cream my friend. You have no idea how happy it will make you.

1
9e2180e7bfd688eb52d4f0c536172024

(2004)

on June 16, 2011
at 01:38 PM

The serotonin response to starchy carbs is no joke. I recently added white rice to my diet, and it makes me HAPPY. So strange, but the mood response is immediate for me.

1
Aa1d5fbb9d8051538161c9a03afd384e

on June 16, 2011
at 07:32 AM

You are already lean, so I would try increasing the veggies and fruit ingestion. You could also try carbs rotations on 3 or 4 days cycle (adding fruits and tubers after training for example, increasing carbs "income" the first 1-2 days and dropping them the following days) as it's proven to work well and as far as I know (anthropology phd student) it could resemble the feeding patrons our ancestors used to. Remember that "the low carb-high fat" paradigm is fading way from the Paleo concept. Good luck, and hope to hear about your progress.

0
04f2eae4450112cdedce7235923c646d

(1112)

on June 16, 2011
at 01:45 PM

Dairy makes my mood like a rollercoaster, and I avoid it when I'm around people (which is most of the time).

0
E35e3d76547b18096a59c90029e7e107

(15613)

on June 16, 2011
at 01:18 PM

I don't know how much you're "cutting the carbs" but perhaps the underlying cause for your mood is cortisol (rising in order to raise blood sugar). You need a certain, limited amount of glucose daily, usually easily produced from dietary/muscle protein, for a few intransigent tissues that can't burn fats. If you aren't meeting those needs you might well suffer as your body breaks down protein to meet its needs. Unless you're getting irritable from sheer starvation, then I'd think that too little fat is probably an unlikely cause, since even though you look pretty lean, you doubtless still have quite a number of fat calories stored in the body. Hence, I would think that eating a few more carbs and not consuming excessive protein is probably the best, low risk solution.

0
44348571d9bc70c02ac2975cc500f154

(5853)

on June 16, 2011
at 06:23 AM

Low blood suger? Sometimes too much protein can be cause, does it for me. Its so easy to get too low blood suger, because there is no hunger anymore.

0
1fc9c11cf23b2f62ac78979de933ad83

(2435)

on June 16, 2011
at 06:03 AM

I get grumpy as hell when my blood sugar is low. Perhaps this is somehow related?

A15af22bd729ec030e8f47d1189b6eaf

(774)

on June 16, 2011
at 06:21 AM

The serotonin hit that is associated with (sweet) carb intake probably has something to do with that ... I am thinking of Stephen Guyenets food reward posts right now. Might look into that!

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