11

votes

Should you focus more on strength than food choice?

Answered on September 12, 2014
Created July 09, 2011 at 12:11 PM

There are numerous debates about the macronutrient makeup of our ancestors??? diets. One would be forgiven if, after a cursory glance at a site similar to paleohacks, they thought that all we ever took into consideration with regards to whatever template we derive from our ancestors was food choice. Some believe more in the ???carbohydrate-scarcity and thus a lower carbohydrate-intake??? line of thought. Some skew more towards a tuber/starch-dependent way of eating. These topics have been covered well by us, and repeatedly come up for discussion. They are still almost always of interest to me.

I wonder if there should perhaps be a larger focus given to strength (ie lean muscle mass ??? which does NOT mean one has to be lean, you can be well-padded and yet have a lot of lean muscle mass underneath). The more muscle one has on one???s body the more leeway one has in consuming both pure calories and the macronutrient ratios that make up those calories, as regards any possible detrimental effects those foods may possibly have (you can define ???detrimental??? however you???d like).

I wonder if you could argue that many of our ancestors probably had a lot of lean muscle mass. I???m not arguing they were all ripped; I???m sure they were as fat-padded as they could possibly be given their resources, which I would think were at some level of constant variance. This lean muscle mass???s control of (or at least active directing of) their metabolism must have been responsible for effective metabolism of whatever fuel was available.

So, I simply wonder if, given the quantity of discourse regarding our food choices (composition of those food choices, timing of those foods??? consumptions, etc.) it would be in most people???s best interest to spend more time and effort in performing activities that would work towards developing a metabolism (ie lean muscle mass and the recruiting of that muscle mass by the CNS) that would be more efficient at utilizing whatever calories are available.

Would this not be more inline with the thinking that says if we (at least) use our ancestors as a starting point, a template, a fundament with which to then incorporate modern science we will be at our healthiest?

Notes:

We are always burning both fat and glucose, even the sickliest among us. However, the more lean muscle mass one has the better at burning BOTH fat and glucose one becomes.

I am not a practitioner of the "if you run the engine hot enough it will burn anything" thinking that then results in one eating crap and being OK with it. But I can't help but believe that there is some truth to it.

26b7615ef542394102785a67a2786867

(7967)

on July 09, 2011
at 05:48 PM

I have to read Robb Wolf more. I am loving winter now that I am paleo but humid summer is so hard to tolerate now that my system 'burns hot', that I find myself deliberately undereating for much of the day to get through it. Not enough to lose weight though.

667f6c030b0245d71d8ef50c72b097dc

(15976)

on July 09, 2011
at 04:51 PM

Cool. Thx for the citations. I am always want for Evidence.

Medium avatar

(10611)

on July 09, 2011
at 04:16 PM

I would agree been. ADA carb counting got me out a blood glucose Type 2 scenario. But my ancestors were metabolic garbage cans that could thrive on any calorie source. Once I dropped 50 pounds I went back to eating the same foods with no return of the high blood glucose.

667f6c030b0245d71d8ef50c72b097dc

(15976)

on July 09, 2011
at 03:22 PM

Cool. I agree that healing a broken person would call for diet-fixing first and foremost.

667f6c030b0245d71d8ef50c72b097dc

(15976)

on July 09, 2011
at 02:23 PM

I hadn't heard of Gflux. I'll take a look, thanks.

667f6c030b0245d71d8ef50c72b097dc

(15976)

on July 09, 2011
at 02:22 PM

wow, very thorough, concise answer. I happen to agree totally.

667f6c030b0245d71d8ef50c72b097dc

(15976)

on July 09, 2011
at 02:21 PM

nice spot Jake. While I did take the wording from him, that idea is old and I've even written on paleohacks about it. Powerlifters have a somewhat sordid and proud history of eating pizzas and burgers, etc. The thinking being, it don't matter long as you lift heavy enough.

1ec4e7ca085b7f8d5821529653e1e35a

(5506)

on July 09, 2011
at 02:12 PM

Plus one for quoting Welbourn from the paleo podcast. And a cool question

0dbd7154d909b97fe774d1655754f195

(16131)

on July 09, 2011
at 01:43 PM

This is a great question Ben!

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9 Answers

5
36b7a2776d028dc8d5743e2e56ece34d

on July 09, 2011
at 01:18 PM

Yes I think so. All paleo people were a lot more physically active than 99% of westerners. It is a huge x factor people don't account for when trying to recreate paleo land. Basically every organism in the wild is in a struggle to survive everyday this builds the muscles, brain, and synchronizes the whole body.

As anyone with lean mass knows it is very hard to maintain high levels of activity on a very low carb diet and the only people I see successfully(totally debatable) living are sedentary people who maybe walk for 1 hr a day.

There is a study showing people who deplete their glycogen stores and eat a high carb meal stay in predominately fat burning mode even though their insulin is jacked. They store all the carbs and stay in fat burning mode. I never see any bloggers talk about this.

I would personally wager on average the exercise based health people of the world will have better quality of life and longevity than the average nutrition based health people. Since nutrition is pretty basic and exercise actually takes hard work; something most westerners are conditioned to hate. An exerciser can't live without some kind of nutrition but a nutritionist can live their entire life on the couch saying yea I'm healthy.

667f6c030b0245d71d8ef50c72b097dc

(15976)

on July 09, 2011
at 02:22 PM

wow, very thorough, concise answer. I happen to agree totally.

2
4dc97234de5ef4ebe77c78323d527bd0

(183)

on July 09, 2011
at 06:31 PM

My observation is that diet matters a lot more than exercise to people's health. Lean muscle mass is definitely good, but the impact of going paleo is much higher than the impact of weightlifting. If you were to choose one, it's not even close. If you were to choose "paleo for the first 50% of your calories in the day", I think that's still way better than "add lean muscle".

If people are squeezing themselves from 90% to 100% paleo instead of lifting some weights, that's not optimal, but diet is more effective.

2
8be7a492e2844e2ad5595a6c73974f99

(891)

on July 09, 2011
at 03:18 PM

Can I just weigh in as an individual who has always been active, but has struggled with digestive issues. For me, exercise and activity kept my nose above water. My weight was managed to a degree, but I wasn't really thriving.

Three months in eating strict, I am still not nearly as active as I once was. I feel my body using all this good nutrition to find a new state of balance and healing. It takes a lot of energy to do this. So, I often find myself laying around (on 100g of carbs mind you), not doing much and enjoying my new belly, my softer skin, my new body comp. Health returning. I don't think it will always be this way, but pursuing more intense activity than I already do simply doesn't make sense and feels completely counter-intuitive. I am often surprised at individuals that can keep working out as they go through the transition. It really made me realize how much my metabolism was broken. (I also think there is a lot of coffee being drunk and a fair amount of pushing through the body's tendency to rest in this paleo bubble)

For Westerners that have sustained themselves on what is essentially poison for years on end can't stop talking about food choice because that is what it takes to heal and get them to a place where building lean muscle is even possible.

For me, food choice is everything. The better choices I make the more healing my body undergoes, the more I am set up to start to look at this question anew and tweaking other aspects of this WOL. I am very excited to move on from the food issues and onto the activity issues, but I'm not there yet.

667f6c030b0245d71d8ef50c72b097dc

(15976)

on July 09, 2011
at 03:22 PM

Cool. I agree that healing a broken person would call for diet-fixing first and foremost.

Medium avatar

(10611)

on July 09, 2011
at 04:16 PM

I would agree been. ADA carb counting got me out a blood glucose Type 2 scenario. But my ancestors were metabolic garbage cans that could thrive on any calorie source. Once I dropped 50 pounds I went back to eating the same foods with no return of the high blood glucose.

1
26b7615ef542394102785a67a2786867

on July 09, 2011
at 06:21 PM

I like the question and I think good body composition means you have a ton of leeway with macronutrient poportions, and also that lean mass is incredibly important for health.

It's worth noting though that strength and lean mass aren't always tightly correlated. I find it very difficult to bulk at all due to genetics (I take after the string bean side of the family with tiny, tight, wiry muscles), hormones (female and pear-shaped weight distribution with extra-skinny arms), metabolism (lighting-fast, burns extra off as body heat), and difficulty in stuffing my child-size torso and 23" waist with the massive amounts of food I need to in order to gain weight steadily. But strength gains? Except for my arms (I have some shoulder issues that prevent me from working them out as much as I could), comparatively easy as pie. I've about tripled what I'm capable of lifting in the last two years without working at it too hard, and only gained 10 lbs, some of it fat.

As some have noted all groups on record who eat a diet with very few of the Neolithic agents of disease, are very skinny people on average (yet lean to moderate in body fat percentage, often with a wiry appearance), no matter the macronutrient proportions of their diet. I don't think it this is due to the poorer quality of a hunter-gatherer or pastorialist diet in more recent years. It's so universal - Kitavans, Amazonian tribes, Native Americans of all stripes who still eat and live ancestrally, Africans, Asians. All so very small and thin compared to Americans, even lean Americans.

The only people I know who have so much muscle bulk that they appear 'bulky' a]spent years eating a grain-heavy, industrialized diet and have been thick since they were children and/or b]do loads of intense weight-bearing exercise, far outside what any hunter-gatherer would encounter in their daily life.

JMO, but I don't think it's natural for the human animal to maintain much lean mass/body weight. Especially in the very early days when all homo sapiens appeared to have been nomadic foragers who hunted with 'persistance' and light spears. Like most predators, there is a fine balance between functional strength and an amount of bulk that is efficient to carry and maintain. Hunter gatherers are and were as light, lean and strong as they have to be. You have to be strong to transport a kill back to camp, but you can't be very heavy and muscular if you're running a marathon to kill it in the first place.

1
0dbd7154d909b97fe774d1655754f195

(16131)

on July 09, 2011
at 04:03 PM

http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1113/jphysiol.2002.019265/full

Your question inspired me to read this article. (above link) which was very enlightening. It outlined the difference between modern people's exercise habits (referred to as an caloric expenditure deficiency) with Paleolithic humans and hunter gatherers. Here are a few things I found interesting:

We expend (if my math is correct) 36% fewer calories though exercise per day than that of Paleo man. I am willing to bet that we are also taking in far more than 36% more calories as well!

Estimates of physical activity in the Late Palaeolithic era and current physically active societies are much greater than in current sedentary lifestyles (Cordain et al. 1998). Cordain et al. (1998) published that daily Hominid energy expenditure declined from a value of 206 kJ kg???1 day???1 (49 kcal kg???1 day???1) that was present for much of the past 3.5 million years to 134 kJ kg???1 day???1 (32 kcal kg???1 day???1) for contemporary humans.

According to the Nurses Health Study, it only takes about 3 hours of exercise (that's just walking people) a week to reduce risk of death by up to 117%!

Epidemiological reports indicate higher prevalences of breast cancer (22 % increase), mortality (41 % increase), coronary heart disease (43 % increase), gallstones (49 % increase), type 2 diabetes (85 % increase), colon cancer (85 % increase), diabetic coronary heart disease (92 % increase) and ischaemic stroke (117 % increase) in the Harvard Nurses Health participants who undertook less than 2.5 hours per week of moderate physical activity (e.g. brisk walking) as compared with cohorts who had more than 2.5 hours per week of physical activity (Hu et al. 1999, 2000, 2001; Leitzmann et al. 1999; Manson et al. 1999; Martinez et al. 1997; Rockhill et al. 1999, 2001).

The "thrifty genes" humans developed in the Paleo era to survive times of famine are the same genes that cause sedentary people to develop heart disease, diabetes, and other chronic diseases.

Ironically then, while thrifty genes probably have enhanced survival through reproduction during eras of famine and drought, these very same thrifty genes diminish survival in selected sedentary populations with continual access to food. For example, the lifespan of diabetics is shortened by an average of 12 years (American Diabetes Association, 1998).

We evolved under pressures that required physical activity, therefore we must turn these genes on through exercise in order to reap the benefits of ideal human health.

However, alterations in gene expression by exercise deficiency contribute to morbidity and mortality, which emphasizes the importance of using the evolutionary pressures that have shaped human physiological responses to define better the functions for exercise-induced changes in gene expression in both physiological and pathophysiological conditions.

667f6c030b0245d71d8ef50c72b097dc

(15976)

on July 09, 2011
at 04:51 PM

Cool. Thx for the citations. I am always want for Evidence.

1
E5c7f14800c5992831f5c70fa746dc5c

(12857)

on July 09, 2011
at 12:45 PM

Read John Berardis article about a concept he calls G-flux. I personally think Hunters probably followed a similar style of exercise naturally and most hunters were extremely muscular.

HG's now a days are pretty skinny and lack musculature for the most part but I think this is more due to the fact that their hunting and gathering territories have been overrun so now they are forced to subsist on very minimal food.

Robb wolf also had a theory recently that the closer you are to the equator the harder it is to bulk up because eating excess calories makes you very hot. Might be another reason why modern HG's aren't super muscular as most live around the equator.

667f6c030b0245d71d8ef50c72b097dc

(15976)

on July 09, 2011
at 02:23 PM

I hadn't heard of Gflux. I'll take a look, thanks.

26b7615ef542394102785a67a2786867

(7967)

on July 09, 2011
at 05:48 PM

I have to read Robb Wolf more. I am loving winter now that I am paleo but humid summer is so hard to tolerate now that my system 'burns hot', that I find myself deliberately undereating for much of the day to get through it. Not enough to lose weight though.

0
66974b2cb291799dcd661b7dec99a9e2

(11121)

on July 09, 2011
at 06:13 PM

Both are tightly intertwined and are synergistic. Our human heritage is that we eat healthy, be physically active as needed, endure short periods of intense stress. Getting healthy food meant we had to move a lot and sometimes strenuously, to be healthy enough to move appropriately we needed the healthy food, both the food and our physical robustness allowed us to survive extreme stress. Nothing in this world is isolated.

0
6f2c00fcbf48c69f0ea212239b3e1178

on July 09, 2011
at 01:21 PM

I don't have any idea how to quantify which is more important for health. All I know is that I do both very well and benefit accordingly.

0
Medium avatar

(10611)

on July 09, 2011
at 12:29 PM

Yes. I believe that hunter/gatherer is the central concept of paleo lifestyle. Move to find food because you're hungry. It doesn't require deep thought.

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