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The Caveman Diet (Paleo Diet)

What is it?

Just the name of the Caveman Diet—also known as the Paleo Diet—conjures up images of burley, masculine men savagely hunting wild beasts and gorging themselves on wild game roasted over open flames. However, this do-it-yourself diet doesn't mean chasing down deer that wander into your backyard.

Unlike other willpower-fueled diets, the Caveman diet takes a more animalistic and Paleozoic approach—enjoying food and feasting. Proponents of the diet argue that the calorie-counting found in many other diets is against man's primal instincts.

The diet's focus isn't so much on calorie counting, but how and when to eat. It focuses on foods from the Paleolithic era of nutritional needs—foods humans ate prior to farming, domesticated animals, and eons before food processing.

The goal of the Caveman Diet is to train your body to crave healthy foods (those high in nutrition and void of sugars, salts, and dairy products) and to thoroughly enjoy your food by eating with your hands and taking time to savor a meal.

  • Stage One: For the first two weeks, you wake up and drink a large glass of water. Throughout the day, you "graze" on fresh fruits and unsalted nuts. At the end of the day, you have one big meal where you eat whatever you want—burgers, fries, pizza, etc.
  • Stage Two: For the next two to six weeks, you continue with the morning water ritual. During the day, you fast and eat absolutely nothing while drinking water to help the detoxification process. At the end of the day, you feast on meat, eggs, berries, root vegetables (but not potatoes), and nuts.
  • State Three: During this stage, you continue with the morning water routine and your evening feast, but you can succumb to your hunger during the day by eating unprocessed, natural foods such as lean meats, fish rich in omega-3 fatty acids, vegetables, seeds, and nuts. You can remain on this stage for as long as you'd like.

The Promise

The Caveman Diet doesn't have the mindset of shedding a few pounds to look better when you're naked. It takes a full-life approach not only targeted at burning fat, increasing energy, and building lean muscle, but it also aims to help you "get in touch with your natural instinct."

The diet claims to shed unwanted fat to get your body to your ideal body weight, cleanse the body of built-up toxins, sharpen the mind, and provide a deeper connection to your body's inner being—similar to the way a wild animal needs keen instincts to hunt for food.

Pros & Cons

One of the biggest health benefits from the Caveman Diet is that it decries salt, sugar, processed foods, and other ingredients commonly over-consumed by Americans. The core of the diet emphasizes foods that have huge health benefits: lean meats, raw vegetables, large volumes of water, and raw fruits and nuts.

On the other hand, the diet entirely excludes the base of the food pyramid—starches—as well as dairy products in a higher tier. Long-term effects of insufficient intake of carbohydrates and calcium can lead to deficiencies in vital minerals and nutrients.

The daily fasting with only one meal per day may be difficult for some people to manage, as well as maintain for such a long time. Imagine the difficulty of regularly avoiding brunches and lunches with friends and family to stick to your diet. Eating one meal per day is in contrast to most other weight loss diets that suggest several small meals and snacks throughout the day to keep metabolism at its peak.

The pros and cons of the diet depend on the extent at which followers can take it as it is fairly open-ended once the daily fasting routine has ended. Most people will abuse this open-ended, loose guideline of eating whatever they want at the end of the day.

Healthline Says

We like this diet because it accentuates weaning the body off of salt, sugar, processed foods, and other harmful ingredients that lead to pervasive obesity in American culture. The focus on natural, healthy foods is one that doesn't follow the normal stereotype of "fad" diets, and it promotes overall nutritional simplicity. 

However, due to the strict guidelines, it may be hard for some people to stick with it for a long time. Sure, your body may crave healthy food, but that doesn't mean you won't also be tempted by the occasional cheeseburger.

One main downfall of the diet is its focus on foods only found by humans 500,000 years ago. A lot has happened since then. That being said, the masculine hunter-gatherer sense of the diet could reach out to men who want to tap into their inner warrior as an inspiration to better their health. Any diet that eliminates entire foods groups (grains and dairy in this case) is running a strong risk of being unbalanced and low in certain important nutrients.

Content licensed from:

Written by: Brian Krans
Published on: Dec 21, 2010
Medically reviewed on: Mar 23, 2016: Tara Gidus, MS, RD, CSSD, LD/N

This feature is for informational purposes only and should not be used to replace the care and information received from your health care provider. Please consult a health care professional with any health concerns you may have.
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