28

votes

Should we take breaks from meat? Did cavemen eat it every day?

Answered on August 19, 2014
Created January 13, 2011 at 4:11 AM

Breaks from meat seems natural. Unless a caveperson always succeeded in his/her hunt (or was 100% accurate with food storage techniques, or never experienced draught, or was never injured, etc).

Part of the reason fasting might be good is to help protein recycling. Are there other reasons why it might be good to take a day off of eating meat every week or two? I'm thinking that there might be reasons that science doesn't know about yet, since we barely even know what optimal levels of vitamins and minerals are. Maybe something involving hormesis?

Eating meat every single day is a great way to get into paleo, but I don't know if it's what our bodies are 1) used to, or 2) optimized for.

96440612cf0fcf366bf5ad8f776fca84

(19473)

on December 22, 2011
at 06:43 PM

@Chris: exactly. Cortisol is what can kick in gluconeogenesis. It is not a cause of stress, but rather a response to stress, sadly it turns off repairs, and digestion because it's also used as a response to sabretooth tigers, and if it happens in the middle of the night, it wakes us up and causes sleep problems. Adapting to a ketogenic diet solves most of this, as does eating protein.

21fd060d0796fdb8a4a990441e08eae7

(24543)

on April 29, 2011
at 06:44 PM

Curious...about how much protein do you eat a day?

21fd060d0796fdb8a4a990441e08eae7

(24543)

on January 14, 2011
at 03:33 AM

Maybe avoiding meat one day a month is like a lukewarm shower? Maybe avoiding meat that day and having lots of heavy cream, fruit, and nuts is like a warm bubble bath? A warm bubble bath never hurt anybody.

47a42b6be94caf700fce9509e38bb6a4

(9647)

on January 14, 2011
at 01:51 AM

So it's just that both a good feeling after lifting and major DOMS after lifting are on the same side of the conceptual divide as a cold shower. But certainly we could find some result of lifting that is equivalent to hypothermia: like, say, dislocating your shoulder. And we're trying to figure out, as a response to your original question, whether avoiding meat for three days is more like a cold shower or more like hypothermia. (When I put it that way it makes my case look a lot worse, I realize.)

21fd060d0796fdb8a4a990441e08eae7

(24543)

on January 13, 2011
at 10:10 PM

All good points. EXCEPT (hehe) I don't think workout stress is a good indicator of gains vs counter-productivity. Arnold feels the pump and can recover in time for another workout, while Woody Allen may feel the pump and be down for the count. Conversely, one may feel great afterwards and gain muscle, or one may get major DOMS and gain muscle. We know what makes us feel good at the moment, but how that relates to overall health is a little more murky.

47a42b6be94caf700fce9509e38bb6a4

(9647)

on January 13, 2011
at 10:07 PM

But still lots of gray area in between, maybe.

77732bf6bf2b8a360f523ef87c3b7523

(6157)

on January 13, 2011
at 08:37 PM

Okay, I'm on board with that. Going back to the strength/conditioning analogy, I can definitely tell when I've stressed myself to the point of spurring gains, versus stressed myself to the point of being counterproductive. I guess we should distinguish between different kinds of discomfort. A cold shower may prompt hormesis, but hypothermia will not.

47a42b6be94caf700fce9509e38bb6a4

(9647)

on January 13, 2011
at 06:40 PM

And also it should be noted that the "what is the point of doing this" kind of feeling-bad is still consistent with Jae's point (second comment above). Not definitively claiming otherwise, just using my intuition to shove in the other direction.

47a42b6be94caf700fce9509e38bb6a4

(9647)

on January 13, 2011
at 06:37 PM

Good point Jae and Kamal. I guess I would say that there are different kinds of feeling bad. When I've fallen into a groove of eating (and even snacking) frequently, skipping a meal and fasting it out for a while will indeed "feel bad," but it's a pretty minor thing, like a laziness, and I feel great afterwards for having done the fast. But going completely without meat feels bad in a much deeper way, like: "what is the point of doing this?" I don't think this line of argument is sheer subjectivism, I think there's something to it. But I'll admit it's not exactly the evidence we want.

77732bf6bf2b8a360f523ef87c3b7523

(6157)

on January 13, 2011
at 04:23 PM

I do think that there is a significant probability that protein cycling yields some health benefit. But, as with anything concerning "optimization," the science isn't solid. I think one of the coolest things about Paleo is that the science IS solid with regard to making huge changes at the other end of the scale: massive, empirically demonstrable benefits in going from sick to very healthy (although not optimized). Once you get to that point, it's all about tinkering and self-experimentation and trying to distinguish random/placebo effects from actual further improvements.

21fd060d0796fdb8a4a990441e08eae7

(24543)

on January 13, 2011
at 04:03 PM

No doubt they were well-versed in food storage for lean times. BUT...their lives were certainly less predictable than ours. No grocery stores, no restaurants, no hospitals. I can't possibly imagine that things wouldn't go wrong every now and then, and you'd have a day or two without meat.

21fd060d0796fdb8a4a990441e08eae7

(24543)

on January 13, 2011
at 04:01 PM

He mentioned a couple times that he actively tried not to get above 70 g/day of protein, now I see where that number comes from. Thanks.

21fd060d0796fdb8a4a990441e08eae7

(24543)

on January 13, 2011
at 03:56 PM

That's the issue in a nutshell, Jae. If you've eaten meat every day for a while, you would probably feel bad not eating it for a couple days. The benefits of not eating it are hard to quantify, and would on surface be outweighed by feeling bad in the moment. But if it has been standard practice for a long time, our bodies might be optimized for infrequent breaks.

77732bf6bf2b8a360f523ef87c3b7523

(6157)

on January 13, 2011
at 02:21 PM

The trouble is that "feeling bad" for a couple of days isn't the same thing as actually being bad for you long-term. The stress inflicted may yield beneficial adaptations. But here, any potential adaptations would be hard to quantify (as opposed to, say, quantifying strength/conditioning gains).

1a8020e101199de55c1b3b726f342321

(1973)

on January 13, 2011
at 08:45 AM

Also, cortisol being higher on a low carbohydrate diet is hardly surprising or indicative of anything negative or stressful, as cortisol has an important function in regulating blood sugar, GNG and glucose metabolism.

1a8020e101199de55c1b3b726f342321

(1973)

on January 13, 2011
at 08:44 AM

The carnivorehealth.com article you linked is really lacking quality. The mTor section is rampant speculation, the vitamin A section simply suggests increased protein consumption utilizes more vit A in some way, and the section on testosterone/cortisol is highly misguided. 44% of calories from protein is way above the 35% hard ceiling seen cited in many texts, also the negative association between protein intake and testosterone in other less bias studies (Kraemer et al) is small, the positive association between fat intake and testosterone is much stronger.

1a8020e101199de55c1b3b726f342321

(1973)

on January 13, 2011
at 08:39 AM

Neither extreme is likely to be optimal.

1a8020e101199de55c1b3b726f342321

(1973)

on January 13, 2011
at 08:38 AM

Peter has referenced eating Kwasniewski's optimal diet, which is low, around 1g protein per kg bodyweight.

47a42b6be94caf700fce9509e38bb6a4

(9647)

on January 13, 2011
at 06:25 AM

And if we need some paleo reconstruction for my suggestion, then either Eva's idea about food storage or Melissa's about smaller game could apply.

47a42b6be94caf700fce9509e38bb6a4

(9647)

on January 13, 2011
at 06:00 AM

See what you miss when you take breaks from paleohacks, Kamal? Now draw the parallel conclusion about meat and you have the answer for this thread.

62ed65f3596aa2f62fa1d58a0c09f8c3

(20807)

on January 13, 2011
at 05:37 AM

I still think we tend to underestimate our ancestors skill at storing food. The urge to hoard and store in engrained in most humans and dried meat stores well. Beef jerky is one of the few foods that can handle sitting in the car for a month and still being totally fine! Even veggies can't compare. (grains are the other one :-( but require much more preparation)

21fd060d0796fdb8a4a990441e08eae7

(24543)

on January 13, 2011
at 05:09 AM

Theorizing about our ancestors is indeed fun sport! I wonder though...it would be difficult for me to fast for very long very frequently, but that's after years of eating Doritos. Maybe our ancestors were old pro's at it, depending on game/fish/weather at hand.

21fd060d0796fdb8a4a990441e08eae7

(24543)

on January 13, 2011
at 05:04 AM

I disagree, moderately. There won't be any data for this. But people have fasted for long periods, and at least one of the world's oldest people was vegetarian for many decades. From this sliver of evidence, it is possible to not eat meat every day and be healthy. Now...what are the possible reasons why it might be healthIER than eating meat every single day of the year? These reasons are more difficult to tease out, but probably there nonetheless.

9bc6f3df8db981f67ea1465411958c8d

(3690)

on January 13, 2011
at 05:02 AM

Yes, Kurt is back in town since a recent interview with Jimmy Moore.

21fd060d0796fdb8a4a990441e08eae7

(24543)

on January 13, 2011
at 05:01 AM

Already done. When the fridge is empty, I "gather" less desirable from the cupboard, such as old gross jerky. (beef jerky though, not lizard jerky)

21fd060d0796fdb8a4a990441e08eae7

(24543)

on January 13, 2011
at 04:53 AM

Hold the phone, PaNu is back?!?!

21fd060d0796fdb8a4a990441e08eae7

(24543)

on January 13, 2011
at 04:51 AM

Also note that Peter from Hyperlipid eats low-ish protein. And he's pretty smart, I reckon.

21fd060d0796fdb8a4a990441e08eae7

(24543)

on January 13, 2011
at 04:43 AM

You're dead wrong. There were no intercontinental rock stars back then. On the other hand, they did know the answers to these "re-enactment" questions.

D30ff86ad2c1f3b43b99aed213bcf461

on January 13, 2011
at 04:33 AM

Kidding aside, I do like this question (+1) and am curious to see the responses.

D30ff86ad2c1f3b43b99aed213bcf461

on January 13, 2011
at 04:28 AM

If our ancestors didn't eat meat every day, I'm sure they always failed on their hunts on Mondays to have solidarity with Paul McCartney and other celebs in honor of Meatless Monday.

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9 Answers

12
62ed65f3596aa2f62fa1d58a0c09f8c3

(20807)

on January 13, 2011
at 04:59 AM

I agree that we probably didn't get meat 365 days a year. But on the flip side, that does not mean we would gain any special benefit from skipping meat. If we are designed to eat meat almost every day and/or at very long stretches at a time, then it could be that we would not gain at all from skipping meat on any given day. We probably also had days where we could not find water and had to skip it, but that doesn't mean that skipping water is good for you. My point is that we have to watch out for where such a logic structure leads us. Just because you sometimes had to go without does not automatically mean it is healthier to sometimes go without. I personally have not seen enough data either way to have a very strong opinion on it either way though really.

21fd060d0796fdb8a4a990441e08eae7

(24543)

on January 13, 2011
at 05:04 AM

I disagree, moderately. There won't be any data for this. But people have fasted for long periods, and at least one of the world's oldest people was vegetarian for many decades. From this sliver of evidence, it is possible to not eat meat every day and be healthy. Now...what are the possible reasons why it might be healthIER than eating meat every single day of the year? These reasons are more difficult to tease out, but probably there nonetheless.

1a8020e101199de55c1b3b726f342321

(1973)

on January 13, 2011
at 08:39 AM

Neither extreme is likely to be optimal.

7
9d43f6873107e17ca4d1a5055aa7a2ad

on January 13, 2011
at 04:51 AM

Why not be super realistic and on some days have some lizards and grubs? When hunting was bad, most cultures probably relied on gathered foods, which included some meat, but usually of the less-desirable sort :)

There are modern-day paleo and paleoish people that do this sort of thing for religious fasts. It would be interesting to hear from some of them, like Michael.

21fd060d0796fdb8a4a990441e08eae7

(24543)

on January 13, 2011
at 04:03 PM

No doubt they were well-versed in food storage for lean times. BUT...their lives were certainly less predictable than ours. No grocery stores, no restaurants, no hospitals. I can't possibly imagine that things wouldn't go wrong every now and then, and you'd have a day or two without meat.

62ed65f3596aa2f62fa1d58a0c09f8c3

(20807)

on January 13, 2011
at 05:37 AM

I still think we tend to underestimate our ancestors skill at storing food. The urge to hoard and store in engrained in most humans and dried meat stores well. Beef jerky is one of the few foods that can handle sitting in the car for a month and still being totally fine! Even veggies can't compare. (grains are the other one :-( but require much more preparation)

21fd060d0796fdb8a4a990441e08eae7

(24543)

on January 13, 2011
at 05:01 AM

Already done. When the fridge is empty, I "gather" less desirable from the cupboard, such as old gross jerky. (beef jerky though, not lizard jerky)

5
47a42b6be94caf700fce9509e38bb6a4

(9647)

on January 13, 2011
at 06:05 AM

Why not go the way of moderation with this one and say something like: it's beneficial to have longer periods of minimal meat rather than periods of going without it entirely. I've been playing around with this recently and have discovered that I often feel better when I go for a couple days (sometimes longer) eating small amounts of meat -- but cutting it out completely just makes me feel bad.

77732bf6bf2b8a360f523ef87c3b7523

(6157)

on January 13, 2011
at 02:21 PM

The trouble is that "feeling bad" for a couple of days isn't the same thing as actually being bad for you long-term. The stress inflicted may yield beneficial adaptations. But here, any potential adaptations would be hard to quantify (as opposed to, say, quantifying strength/conditioning gains).

47a42b6be94caf700fce9509e38bb6a4

(9647)

on January 13, 2011
at 06:40 PM

And also it should be noted that the "what is the point of doing this" kind of feeling-bad is still consistent with Jae's point (second comment above). Not definitively claiming otherwise, just using my intuition to shove in the other direction.

77732bf6bf2b8a360f523ef87c3b7523

(6157)

on January 13, 2011
at 04:23 PM

I do think that there is a significant probability that protein cycling yields some health benefit. But, as with anything concerning "optimization," the science isn't solid. I think one of the coolest things about Paleo is that the science IS solid with regard to making huge changes at the other end of the scale: massive, empirically demonstrable benefits in going from sick to very healthy (although not optimized). Once you get to that point, it's all about tinkering and self-experimentation and trying to distinguish random/placebo effects from actual further improvements.

21fd060d0796fdb8a4a990441e08eae7

(24543)

on January 13, 2011
at 10:10 PM

All good points. EXCEPT (hehe) I don't think workout stress is a good indicator of gains vs counter-productivity. Arnold feels the pump and can recover in time for another workout, while Woody Allen may feel the pump and be down for the count. Conversely, one may feel great afterwards and gain muscle, or one may get major DOMS and gain muscle. We know what makes us feel good at the moment, but how that relates to overall health is a little more murky.

77732bf6bf2b8a360f523ef87c3b7523

(6157)

on January 13, 2011
at 08:37 PM

Okay, I'm on board with that. Going back to the strength/conditioning analogy, I can definitely tell when I've stressed myself to the point of spurring gains, versus stressed myself to the point of being counterproductive. I guess we should distinguish between different kinds of discomfort. A cold shower may prompt hormesis, but hypothermia will not.

21fd060d0796fdb8a4a990441e08eae7

(24543)

on January 13, 2011
at 03:56 PM

That's the issue in a nutshell, Jae. If you've eaten meat every day for a while, you would probably feel bad not eating it for a couple days. The benefits of not eating it are hard to quantify, and would on surface be outweighed by feeling bad in the moment. But if it has been standard practice for a long time, our bodies might be optimized for infrequent breaks.

21fd060d0796fdb8a4a990441e08eae7

(24543)

on January 14, 2011
at 03:33 AM

Maybe avoiding meat one day a month is like a lukewarm shower? Maybe avoiding meat that day and having lots of heavy cream, fruit, and nuts is like a warm bubble bath? A warm bubble bath never hurt anybody.

47a42b6be94caf700fce9509e38bb6a4

(9647)

on January 13, 2011
at 10:07 PM

But still lots of gray area in between, maybe.

47a42b6be94caf700fce9509e38bb6a4

(9647)

on January 14, 2011
at 01:51 AM

So it's just that both a good feeling after lifting and major DOMS after lifting are on the same side of the conceptual divide as a cold shower. But certainly we could find some result of lifting that is equivalent to hypothermia: like, say, dislocating your shoulder. And we're trying to figure out, as a response to your original question, whether avoiding meat for three days is more like a cold shower or more like hypothermia. (When I put it that way it makes my case look a lot worse, I realize.)

47a42b6be94caf700fce9509e38bb6a4

(9647)

on January 13, 2011
at 06:25 AM

And if we need some paleo reconstruction for my suggestion, then either Eva's idea about food storage or Melissa's about smaller game could apply.

47a42b6be94caf700fce9509e38bb6a4

(9647)

on January 13, 2011
at 06:37 PM

Good point Jae and Kamal. I guess I would say that there are different kinds of feeling bad. When I've fallen into a groove of eating (and even snacking) frequently, skipping a meal and fasting it out for a while will indeed "feel bad," but it's a pretty minor thing, like a laziness, and I feel great afterwards for having done the fast. But going completely without meat feels bad in a much deeper way, like: "what is the point of doing this?" I don't think this line of argument is sheer subjectivism, I think there's something to it. But I'll admit it's not exactly the evidence we want.

1
96bf58d8c6bd492dc5b8ae46203fe247

(37227)

on December 22, 2011
at 06:03 PM

In the modern era, I think one reason to have meatless or outright fast days is that we have too much of a good thing. Even sticking to whole foods, I sometimes feel I eat more than I really need out of habit and it slows or stops my weight loss.

I used to say I had to eat meat every day as it was the only food that shut down my appetite. It served as my anti-binge prescription. In the last few weeks, though, I've noticed that drinking fizzy water kefir does just as well to kill cravings. I also had some days where a busy schedule meant I didn't eat at my normal times and decided to just skip until the next day. I felt so good--not weak or tired or even hungry--on the following days that I decided this is a natural thing for me. I felt no need to compensate by eating more, so it caused slightly better weight loss.

I've been pretty liberal with my fruit allowance for the holidays, but in January I'm going to do a couple weeks of leptin reset. Then I'm thinking of settling into a long-term pattern in which one day per week will have no meat/dairy, but lots of vegetables and fruit, and another will be a water fast. My goal would be to stick with that until I get rid of the other half of my excess fat, about 30 pounds.

1
164ed7cd8d84c926bc66f366619bf853

(495)

on December 22, 2011
at 04:02 PM

Personally, I don't crave it daily, so I don't eat it daily. Some days I eat mostly veg & some dairy (for the fat/calcium), eat fish/chicken for a while & there are just certain times i crave beef. Once in a while on a totally meat free day, we'll have refried beans as a protein, but that happens infrequently.
So, in short, what i'm saying is, I go w/what my body asks for... that steak looks far more glorious than an ice cream sundae ever could! LOL But, I don't eat meat every day... just most days. :)

1
535633b57c4a4940d1e913e7a12ee791

(1013)

on April 13, 2011
at 04:28 PM

The way I understand the true Paleo diet is that you can eat from a list of pre-agriculture, pre-animal husbandry whole foods that hunter-gatherer people would forage or hunt. I think the ratio of meat to vegetable should be individual. What I am tying to say is Paleo does not have to be meat heavy and low carb. I think the hunter-gatherers often ate only a few bugs, grubs, lizards, fish, crayfish, and frogs as a protein source, and yes, days with no meat at all. Their food choices had to be based on how easy to was to catch or forage. Personally I eat a small amount of protein with most meals, but I eat tons of veggies. The human body seems very adaptable, I know plenty of very healthy robust vegetarians. For me, balance and moderation work best with all the foods I eat. I think breaks from meat are healthy as well as short fasts.

21fd060d0796fdb8a4a990441e08eae7

(24543)

on April 29, 2011
at 06:44 PM

Curious...about how much protein do you eat a day?

1
0d2dec01a5ed9363a9915e111ae13f7e

on January 13, 2011
at 05:04 AM

Nora Gedgaudas' makes an argument for limiting protein in her book "Primal Body, Primal Mind" that makes sense. It is fun sport to theorize what ancient ancestors did or did not do. Some fasting/starvation might have played into our ancestor's lives. But then, it could be argued that we only have the "still-paleo" living hunter/gatherer groups to look at, that have been pushed to fringes. Perhaps it would be wise to consider that there were populations at some point in time in some locale that had a great abundance of fish/seafood or game and did indeed feast on meat daily!

21fd060d0796fdb8a4a990441e08eae7

(24543)

on January 13, 2011
at 05:09 AM

Theorizing about our ancestors is indeed fun sport! I wonder though...it would be difficult for me to fast for very long very frequently, but that's after years of eating Doritos. Maybe our ancestors were old pro's at it, depending on game/fish/weather at hand.

1
9bc6f3df8db981f67ea1465411958c8d

on January 13, 2011
at 04:44 AM

I think protein fasting is a concept that makes sense.

After all, we agree that taking breaks from carbs from time to time and going into ketosis has beneficial effects.

I think that periods of complete fasting are just one part of what a fasting schedule should be. The two other parts should be carb fasting and protein fasting.

Like mentioned by Gumby on one of Kurt Harris' last posts ( http://www.paleonu.com/panu-weblog/2011/1/5/guest-post-professor-gumby-essay-001.html ), it's very unlikely that our ancestors had constant access to meat. The opposite is also true, after a good hunt they would probably have been on a near zero carb diet for weeks while feasting on protein and fat.

Here is a nice article summarizing some of the benefits of consuming less protein: http://www.carnivorehealth.com/main/2010/9/16/low-protein-diets-longer-life-decreased-cortisol-more-testos.html

I would extrapolate on that article and say that other than keeping protein intake on the low side most of the time, we should also benefit from restricting them completely from time to time.

1a8020e101199de55c1b3b726f342321

(1973)

on January 13, 2011
at 08:44 AM

The carnivorehealth.com article you linked is really lacking quality. The mTor section is rampant speculation, the vitamin A section simply suggests increased protein consumption utilizes more vit A in some way, and the section on testosterone/cortisol is highly misguided. 44% of calories from protein is way above the 35% hard ceiling seen cited in many texts, also the negative association between protein intake and testosterone in other less bias studies (Kraemer et al) is small, the positive association between fat intake and testosterone is much stronger.

21fd060d0796fdb8a4a990441e08eae7

(24543)

on January 13, 2011
at 04:53 AM

Hold the phone, PaNu is back?!?!

1a8020e101199de55c1b3b726f342321

(1973)

on January 13, 2011
at 08:45 AM

Also, cortisol being higher on a low carbohydrate diet is hardly surprising or indicative of anything negative or stressful, as cortisol has an important function in regulating blood sugar, GNG and glucose metabolism.

9bc6f3df8db981f67ea1465411958c8d

(3690)

on January 13, 2011
at 05:02 AM

Yes, Kurt is back in town since a recent interview with Jimmy Moore.

47a42b6be94caf700fce9509e38bb6a4

(9647)

on January 13, 2011
at 06:00 AM

See what you miss when you take breaks from paleohacks, Kamal? Now draw the parallel conclusion about meat and you have the answer for this thread.

96440612cf0fcf366bf5ad8f776fca84

(19473)

on December 22, 2011
at 06:43 PM

@Chris: exactly. Cortisol is what can kick in gluconeogenesis. It is not a cause of stress, but rather a response to stress, sadly it turns off repairs, and digestion because it's also used as a response to sabretooth tigers, and if it happens in the middle of the night, it wakes us up and causes sleep problems. Adapting to a ketogenic diet solves most of this, as does eating protein.

0
96440612cf0fcf366bf5ad8f776fca84

(19473)

on December 22, 2011
at 06:39 PM

Are you falling for the vegan pushed "Meatless Mondays" astroturf campaign crap?

Unless you're fasting those days, which is a perfectly good way to enable autophagy and get into ketosis, (both of which are very beneficial,) you should absolutely eat some meat each day.

Look, the next vegan that comes up to me and tells me I should honor "Meatless Mondays" is going to wind up on my BBQ - well, ok, ok, only if they've been grassfed and not grainfed. :-)

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