5

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Is paleo by definition, low-carb?

Answered on August 19, 2014
Created February 16, 2010 at 5:27 PM

It has been often suggested that quality of food is an important tenet of the paleo diet. But macro-nutrient ratios also comes into play. Is my diet still considered paleo if I eat meat, veggies, and nuts, but at a balanced protein/carb ratio?

E7e7e1c856d4494d4a1b700b6869df90

(982)

on May 14, 2012
at 07:12 PM

Matthew- your points are very valid. I do see the geographical considerations/application of the paleo diet. I see what is applied but not where and this I think is one fault of it. How many races/cultures have banana/orange? I think the mixing and saying carbs are good "anywhere" or not good "anywhere" is the issue. It seems that more tropical = higher carb. More temperate cold climates= hi protein/fat with some exceptions. most cultures a narrow-range in any case. not a lot of "everything". Because tropical climes eat yams historically does not make them right for northern climes. banana too

Eae21abfabb19c4617b2630386994fd9

on February 18, 2010
at 04:50 PM

You may want your potatoes before your workout, not after.

77732bf6bf2b8a360f523ef87c3b7523

(6157)

on February 17, 2010
at 09:31 PM

David (Csonka), I think sweet potato is fine in PWO smoothies (or just as PWO food), but it probably depends on your body composition, your athletic goals, your genetics, and your specific carb tolerance. Robb Wolf said a few things along these lines recently (I don't think it was specifically about PWO nutrition, but I don't remember exactly). You may want to search his site for "low carb pwo" for a post that details some of his thoughts on whether to go high-carb or low-carb. I'd link, but it seems his site is down right now.

Fa47fe5368e66325865f60a928609145

(961)

on February 16, 2010
at 10:32 PM

You can't exactly replace fat with carbs and remain healthy, even if there were no downsides to eating high carb. Fats are very essential for your health.

65125edd5aafad39b3d5b3a8b4a36bb7

(6092)

on February 16, 2010
at 08:48 PM

I often include sweet potato into my post workout smoothies. Thoughts on that?

65125edd5aafad39b3d5b3a8b4a36bb7

(6092)

on February 16, 2010
at 08:46 PM

Well, there is no chance of me going ketogenic that is for sure. I have a 1.3 quart container of carrots, broccoli, and snap peas to eat at work during the day. Then probably some other kind of carb or post workout carb smoothie later at night. (This is of course in addition to copious amounts of meat and nuts)

Fa47fe5368e66325865f60a928609145

(961)

on February 16, 2010
at 05:33 PM

What do you consider balanced?

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4 Answers

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10
E35e3d76547b18096a59c90029e7e107

(15613)

on February 16, 2010
at 06:17 PM

It's clearly not by definition low carb, but it could be seen to be necessarily low-moderate carb. Limiting yourself to paleo foods (fruit and vegetables, not too much fructose) could be seen to require that, at most, you get moderate carbohydrate.

I think an interesting secondary question is whether you can have high carb paleo, e.g. a diet high in exclusively paleo carbs (perhaps sweet potato or other tubers a la the kitavans). (I'll take healthy protein levels as a given).

I think the kitavans case does show that such a high carb diet can be healthy. Obviously healthy isn't optimal though (as noted by panu). Stephan at Wholehealthsource seems to suggest that there's no reason why such a diet shouldn't be considered perfectly acceptable (i.e. there's no evidence that, on a practical level, the kitavan HC population do any worse than a optimal paleo LC). Personally I think there's deeper scientific (non-population) evidence that LC would be preferable though, e.g. something like the JK 'Optimal Diet', ketosis (or close) bringing 'metabolic magic.'

Another connected question (looking at it from the reverse angle) is whether high (sweet potato) carb would be truly paleo, since even if the carb source is entirely paleo, the amount isn't. Here I think it's entirely plausible to argue that even if no paleo communities would have had access to high carb for a significant part of our evolution, it may be just as good a diet for all that, because our bodies are just as good at processing (the novel) 80% carb as (the modal) 20% carb.

I think a final way of looking at things to bear in mind in judging whether high carb would be acceptable is that protein (and needing animal products) is a given, so carb is really just a replacement for fat. Not least in the sense that it's evolutionary 'purpose' is plausibly to top up our fat reserves which our metabolisms then largely run off. Looking at it that way it seems plausible that a HC diet could be just as good (if our metabolism is running off fat anyway). The counter to that would be if (as panu has neatly argued), getting saturated fat into your body by eating some carb just produces more metabolic downsides and stress than simply eating the fat. This seems plausible, but I suspect that large amounts of other nutrients and phytonutrients (such as in sweet potato) would more or less offset (or even exceed) the intrinsic metabolic downsides of the carb.

65125edd5aafad39b3d5b3a8b4a36bb7

(6092)

on February 16, 2010
at 08:48 PM

I often include sweet potato into my post workout smoothies. Thoughts on that?

Fa47fe5368e66325865f60a928609145

(961)

on February 16, 2010
at 10:32 PM

You can't exactly replace fat with carbs and remain healthy, even if there were no downsides to eating high carb. Fats are very essential for your health.

77732bf6bf2b8a360f523ef87c3b7523

(6157)

on February 17, 2010
at 09:31 PM

David (Csonka), I think sweet potato is fine in PWO smoothies (or just as PWO food), but it probably depends on your body composition, your athletic goals, your genetics, and your specific carb tolerance. Robb Wolf said a few things along these lines recently (I don't think it was specifically about PWO nutrition, but I don't remember exactly). You may want to search his site for "low carb pwo" for a post that details some of his thoughts on whether to go high-carb or low-carb. I'd link, but it seems his site is down right now.

Eae21abfabb19c4617b2630386994fd9

on February 18, 2010
at 04:50 PM

You may want your potatoes before your workout, not after.

3
Ce0b5fd94b1034e96cf710b6f138c29d

on April 24, 2010
at 11:15 PM

I'd say that actual Paleo diets were arguably normal-carb, and that our definitions of what is low-carb has been seriously skewed by neolithic diet-based conventional wisdom.

3
0bc6cbb653cdc5e82400f6da920f11eb

(19235)

on April 24, 2010
at 09:42 PM

There seems to be a lot of talk about eating low-carb now. I personaly see no reason to eat any particular macronutrient ratio. If anyone wants to avoid carbs fine, but it wont make them any more or less paleo. Studies of surviving hunter-gatherer groups show a high average consumption of animal products but a large variation between groups. Groups closer to the equator ate more carbs and less animals than those closer to the poles. However fewer hunter-gatherer groups survive close to the equator so the average plant consumption is probably decreased in this average.

Any particular macronutrient ratio would have varied greatly from day to day. For example my very hypothetical hunter-gatherer week (do not take to seriously):

Monday - Poor hunt, only small rabbit with baked tubers and berries the women had gathered to eat.

Tuesday - Find bees while out hunting. Eat honey till feel sick.

Wednesday - Nut tree in season. Everyone eats nothing but nuts all day.

Thursday - Good hunt. Eat organs and fat. Dry some of the meat.

Friday - Bone marrow and meat.

Saturday - Meat and a few plants/berries.

Sunday - Dried meat and baked tubers again. Time to go hunting again.

You could try and work out the average macronutrient ratios for the whole week but I don't think it would be very usefull.

E7e7e1c856d4494d4a1b700b6869df90

(982)

on May 14, 2012
at 07:12 PM

Matthew- your points are very valid. I do see the geographical considerations/application of the paleo diet. I see what is applied but not where and this I think is one fault of it. How many races/cultures have banana/orange? I think the mixing and saying carbs are good "anywhere" or not good "anywhere" is the issue. It seems that more tropical = higher carb. More temperate cold climates= hi protein/fat with some exceptions. most cultures a narrow-range in any case. not a lot of "everything". Because tropical climes eat yams historically does not make them right for northern climes. banana too

2
Fa47fe5368e66325865f60a928609145

(961)

on February 16, 2010
at 10:38 PM

First ask yourself what you are trying to achieve. - If you just want to get rid of allergies for example I don't think it's necessary to go (very) low carb at all. That would probably go for most gut-related health problems.

If you're diabetic or looking for optimal health or even just want to loose weight I think going at least moderately low-carb is a must. (I'm not talking ketogenic.)

Also ask yourself why you want to eat 'higher' carb? I mean, sweet potato doesn't exactly sound all that tasty so it can't be huge cravings :P

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