When considering following a Paleo diet and lifestyle, it is not intended to be an exact recreation and replication of what Paleolithic man may or may not have eaten or how he may have lived thousands of years ago. This would not only prove to be entirely too difficult a task in the modern world, but it is most likely less than ideal from a nutritional standpoint due to the adaptation of the various foods that have been introduced into the human diet since the time of our ever-insightful cavemen ancestors.
Although prescribing to all rationale stemming from a more ‘Paleo purist’ perspective may seem illogical, not taking into consideration the way in which humans ate during their formative years as a species is one of the many factors that contribute to many of our current ills.
Did Paleolithic man fast?
On the topic of intermittent fasting, one of the initial and most obvious conclusions one can draw is that our ancestors most certainly practiced their fair share of it, often due to lack of choice. In fact, this is probably the most natural way to eat. Mankind evolved whilst following a fasting cycle. This was not due to a burning desire for a six pack (although they were certainly lean and muscular) but because that is how they lived. The very nature of a hunter-gatherer lifestyle lends itself to going extended periods of time without eating. Going for long periods of time without food, is assumed to have been a typical way of life during mankind’s prehistoric hunter-gatherer phase, especially during cold seasons when food was scarce.
Furthermore, during the day, people moved around from place to place, hunting and collecting food. They certainly did not sit down to eat three meals. They may have snacked periodically on plants, seeds and nuts that were gathered, but they probably did not stop every 2-3 hours to eat. It was only in the evening when, if available, they would eat a large meal which would have consisted largely of foods similar to our Paleo options today.
It follows that the human body, through evolution, would have most certainly adapted to these periods of hunger or fasting. Not only did the human body have to adapt enough to survive in times without food, but it also had to be able hunt, gather, and fight. Hunter-gatherers, when looking for food, needed to be alert and focused. In pre-history, if an individual could not hunt well while hungry they would be less likely to survive. These are strenuous activities for the well-nourished individual, much less one that may not have eaten in three or four days. There is little doubt that evolution would’ve given top priority to adapting to such common and life-threatening conditions and we are the descendants of those who could perform well when low on food.
To completely ignore the potential benefits of intermittent fasting, is to deny the very fundamentals of a Paleo lifestyle.
The mindset and lifestyle of most of us is one of excess. As a society, we are simply accustomed to it. Fasting, for most, seems a rather foreign concept and that’s unfortunate. There is mounting anecdotal and scientific evidence that shows a wide range of benefits to be had from intermittent fasting or being in a fasted state.
These range from the health-oriented benefits including improved cholesterol and triglycerides markers, to the more physically obvious benefits like being a lean and metabolically balanced along with mentally focused.
Those are only the scientifically proven benefits. If you take into account the anecdotal and etiological data pointing to the potential for fasting to down regulate insulin production thus lending itself to increased longevity, and maybe even lower rates of terminal illnesses, incorporating intermittent fasting into your lifestyle may be something to seriously consider.
Combining the principles of the Paleo diet with those of intermittent fasting will supply your body, not only with the optimal nutrients necessary to thrive but also supplying them in the way in which humankind spent the last ten thousand years or more becoming accustomed to.
Perhaps we are meant to regulate our bodies by having occasional and/or seasonal bouts of eating and not eating, in similar fashion to our ancient ancestors had to. It is interesting to note that even in the relatively recent past, traditionally people would, for example, fill up during Christmas time and fast during lent.
What to eat
After a period of not eating, the body is more sensitive to insulin and breaking the fast with foods that cause insulin surges can be problematic and uncomfortable. During your fast, your body was being fueled from internal sources that consisted of fat and protein. Most of the fat was palmitic acid.
It would make sense to break the fast with a similar diet, one that consists mainly of palmitic acid. This would mean eating animal fat. Once again, a Paleo type diet, based on whole, nutrient dense foods is the optimal and allows the body to continue to reap the benefits of the fasting period. Here at Pete’s Paleo we even have you covered with delicious, well-sourced, chef-prepared Paleo meals (with multiple options and choices) delivered right to you. No apron required!
A few considerations
When choosing to combine an intermittent fasting protocol with your Paleo diet there are a few things to consider:
If you are new to a Paleo lifestyle and coming from an unhealthy diet and a big, refined carbohydrate-heavy breakfast, the change might feel rather extreme. It may be better and more sustainable to do a gradual change to healthy paleo living before thinking of adding fasting to the mix.
Occasionally it can be challenging to eat enough calories when there are fewer meals eaten and some people struggle to eat enough healthy, nutrient dense food in a limited daily period. Although a Paleo diet (and all of Pete’s Paleo meals) does focus on nutrient density, if your caloric requirements are higher, a fasting protocol may not be the optimal choice for you. Please also refer to our previous post on who should NOT fast.
If you are already enjoying the benefits of either Paleo or intermittent fasting, why not take things a step further and try both together? You might be surprised as to how effective it is to follow the ultimate natural eating pattern.