How can I get started eating Paleo?
Over the last few weeks I’ve been getting quite a few emails asking some similar questions.
- There’s so much info out there about Paleo where do I even start?
- What’s the best way to get started eating Paleo?
- What’s the easiest way to get started with Paleo?
- What can I eat?
- What can’t I eat?
- What’s the best way to workout when I start?
I apologize for this taking me so long but I’ve finally got around to writing a quick start guide to starting the Paleo lifestyle. If you’re reading this I’m assuming that you already know what the Paleo Diet is and if not please take advantage of my free book “Paleo, so easy a caveman can do it” by signing up for Limitless365 weekly emails in the subscription box at the end of this post. You’ll also find some other recommended readings regarding the Paleo lifestyle at the end of this article that have been written by me or people much smarter than me regarding some of the science behind the diet.
By all means, if you still have questions or feel like I didn’t answer some of your questions please give me a shout and let me know.
Ok, so enough jibba-jabba from me and lets get on with it shall we? You’re quick start guide awaits!
WHAT IS PERFECT PALEO?
Personally, I’m a man of simplicity. I like things simple, easy to understand, and with as few guidelines and rules as possible. So if you’re looking for just the basics of how to go about eating the Paleo way it can be broken down into 4 simple steps.
1. Eat a source of animal protein with each meal
Q: What does that include?
A: Reference the real food chart for an easy go to guide of examples of some of the best sources but generally beef, chicken, turkey, eggs, buffalo, game meats, and salmon (as well as other sources of fish) will make up the majority of your meals. Emphasize grass-fed beef, wild caught fish, and free-range/organic poultry and eggs.
Q: How much protein do I eat?
A: This will very greatly depending on your activity levels, gender, and age but roughly the size of your palm for females and hand for males with a thickness of about your pointer finger. The more active you are the greater your need may be.
2. Eat veggies with every meal
Q: What does that include?
A: Again, reference the real food chart for a specific list of some of the best sources of vegetables for you body but generally lower carbohydrate/starch veggies like kale, broccoli, cauliflower, spinach, mushrooms, and bell peppers are some great sources. Combine vegetables, colors, and sources to create meals with a multitude of vitamins and minerals.
Q: How much vegetables do I eat?
A: Typically 1-2 fist size servings of your favorite veggies will do the trick but feel free to add as much as necessary in order to feel satiated. Think of it like this, If you have a plate of food put your palm to hand sized serving of protein on it and fill the rest of it up with your veggies.
3. Include a healthy source of fat with every meal
Q: What does that include?
A: Take a looksie at the healthy fat guide (sources also available on the real food chart). Generally you’ll want to cook with fats that are solid at room temperature like grass-fed butter and coconut oil, use liquid fats as dressings and toppers such as olive oil, and keep nuts and seed servings to no more than 1-2 baby handfuls per day if fat loss is your goal… they’re easy to overeat (you know what I’m talking about.)
Q: How much fat should I include?
A: Because you’ll be emphasizing more vegetables and less grains, legumes, starches, and higher sugar fruits your carbohydrate consumption will naturally be lower. This is ok, your body much prefers fats as a source of energy and will thank you for your increased consumption. Usually 1-4 tablespoons or about 1-4 thumb sized servings per meal will do the trick.
4. Include zero calorie beverages often
Q: What does that include?
A: I wrote an entire post about how to be like Aquaman and why you should never drink your calories. The jist of it is that usually those liquid calories come in the form of high sugar, high carbohydrate, and high calorie drinks that contribute more to your waist line than they do your health and well-being. As much water, unsweetened tea, and no more than 1-2 cups of black coffee per day should keep you hydrated, help with hunger and cravings, and improve physical and mental performance.
Q: How do I make sure I get my H2O fix?
A: Carry a large container everywhere you go, leave a case of water in your car or at the office, start your day off with a tall glass, and drink a cup or two before every meal. Above all else, remove temptation by pouring out or getting rid of the soda, alcohol, fruit juices, and milk.
THE ONLY EXCEPTION IS YOUR POST WORKOUT MEAL
Generally, post-workout nutrition has three specific purposes: (adapted from precision nutrition)
- Replenish glycogen
- Decrease protein breakdown
- Increase protein synthesis
Athletes & Exerciser’s will want to:
- replenish their energy stores
- increase muscle size and/or muscle quality
- repair any damage caused by the workout
It’s during this time right after exercise (and by exercise I mean intense activity, not moving from the couch to the mailbox and back again) that you may want to include a few more “Paleo-friendly” carbohydrates like sweet potato, plantain, or even some of the higher sugar fruits like a banana.
Q: So what exactly should I eat after I workout?
A: Follow the same principles as the anytime paleo plate:
- One palm to hand sized serving of protein
- One to two fists servings of veggies
- 1-4 thumb sized (tablespoons) of a healthy fat
- Add one fist sized serving of a higher carbohydrate food like sweet potato (see the real food chart)
Now some of you might be super hungry after a workout and some of you might not be. I know I’m not and you might be wondering if you have to eat right away. Well nope, you don’t. You’ve probably heard that there is some sort of 30 minute magical window when it’s best to consume your post workout meal but the truth is the best time to consume your workout is anytime after you workout but try for at least within 2 hours after your training session.
STEP 1: PERFORM A KITCHEN MAKEOVER
(Excerpt from: How to perform a kitchen makeover and Paleo in a pinch)
We’ve talked a bit about how your Willpower is actually limited. You don’t have an unlimited supply that you can suddenly call upon to keep you from diving head first into a carton of ice cream.
- Getting up to an alarm for work
- Avoiding the pizza in the break room
- Biting your tongue when someone makes a rude comment
- Not flirting with the cute coworker (hey, you’re married)
These things all help to deplete your willpower. By the end of the day you’re all tapped out which is why for some it can be difficult to stay on track with an exercise plan, diet, or to start working on that side hustle you’ve always wanted to start.
One key thing to remember is that willpower is trainable. It’s easier for some than others but one way to help speed up the process with those looking to stick with their nutrition plan or simply to eat a bit healthier.
The easiest way to make the Paleo transition as easy as possible for yourself is by cleaning house or the fridge, cupboard, cabinets, and pantry. Go ahead and download this kitchen makeover resource to simplify the entire process for yourself.
STEP 2: GROCERY SHOP
After performing a kitchen makeover there’s a good chance your kitchen will be awfully naked.
Please don’t fret about only being able to eat what is included on the list for the rest of your life. Although, the list has more than enough variety to satisfy anyone.
For a specific one week shopping meal plan and shopping list check this freebie out. I got your back here
Personally, I like to try to dedicate a day to shopping. Typically on Sundays but I’ve been known to sneak it in during the week. This helps me to stay on track. I know I’ll never be without anything as I have planned to pick it all up.
STEP 3: LEARN TO COOK
If you get nothing else out of this post please remember this one thing, “KEEP IT SIMPLE.”
I don’t know how to cook is an excuse I hear often. Cooking up delicious and nutritious meals doesn’t have to be difficult.
Steps to prepare:
- Put oil in a pan
- Brown some meat in the oil
- Add in some spices
- Add in your veggies
- Cover it up and let it sit. Check on it every 2-3 minutes
- Rinse and repeat.
Now I know what you’re thinking, you need a specific meal plan with recipes, fancy dishes, and variety so that you’re not eating the same thing every day but chances are you’re already eating the same thing every day right now and trying to cook and prepare 4-6 different meals everyday not only will be pretty time-consuming but also a pain in the butt.
A great strategy is to pick 2 different breakfast recipes that you can make in 10 minutes or less and do the same with lunch and dinner. Wear these recipes out until you can’t handle eating them anymore and then switch it up.
You’ll save time, headache, and heartache this way. When you feel overwhelmed you’re likely to get a case of the “hell with it’s,” and revert back to old habits. Keep it simple and easy on yourself.
STEP 4: MOVE DAILY
I don’t think I need to regurgitate the benefits of exercise here, a simple google search will provide you with more than enough information. What I want you to do is think of ways you can move more often everyday.
Hands up if you’ve seen the movie Wall-E. Our society is headed right down that path. A life where everything is done for you. We already have escalators and elevators that help us go from floor 1 to floor 2. Next thing you now a robot will be brushing our teeth and wiping our tushy’s.
- Just park, there’s no need to get as close to your destination as possible and enjoy the longer walk
- Skip if you must, hold hands with your LUVA and soak it all in, do walking lunges there
- Take the stairs
- Race a friend up, skips steps, have fun and be a kid again
Make it a point to get at least 10 minutes of movement in per day and make it work up a sweat.
First thing in the morning is great, maybe after 50 minutes of work break it up with a 10 minute workout routine like this one (I’ll send you a dollar if you video tape yourself doing it in a suite… I swear). Just build the habit of being active, it’s contagious and can actually influence your food choices.
“…exercise is one of the most powerful tools available for reducing stress. Beyond that, Alonso-Alonso says, it boosts your ability to stick to a plan. “Physical activity and eating behavior are connected in the brain at the cognitive level. It’s the same mental processes.”
Alonso-Alonso explained we use goal-oriented systems in our brains to suppress those immediate impulses to eat junk food. “The resources for goal-oriented eating behavior are greatly enhanced via physical activity,” he said. “Exercise improves eating behavior through brain and cognitive changes….” – Dr. Miguel Alonso-Alonso, Harvard neurologist
STEP 5: SLEEP
I’m sure if you take this Paleo approach to sleep outlined here, you’ll wake up revived and refreshed. You’ll be ready to rock the world in the morning.
More importantly, you’ll receive the benefits from a quality night’s sleep that include:
- Better performance in athletics
- Increased energy
- Improved mood and attitude
- Stronger immune system
- Higher tolerance for stress
- Enhanced memory and mental focus
- Decreased risk for obesity, heart disease, and Type 2 diabetes
If you are sleep deprived, there are some obvious tie-ins to obesity, like chronic sleepiness making physical activity unlikely. But there are also a number of things going on in your body that could contribute to weight gain. In scientific studies, the most commonly cited effects of sleep deprivation are hormonal disturbances, specifically involving the hormones leptin and ghrelin which can lead to weight/fat gain and difficulty removing those two things as well.
There are a few strategies you can try to start getting better sleep today… I mean tonight.
- Cut the television off. The light and noise from it interferes with the deep and rejuvenating level of sleep required for ultimate health and energy. Cavemen didn’t have TVs. They had dark caves. How lucky they were! No joke, I’ve even slept in my closet before. Scouts honor.
- Make use of dark curtains or blinds if street lamps or outside light tends to illuminate your bedroom at night.
- Shut down the computer, cut off the monitors, and even cover up the alarm clock. You want your room pitch black.
- Hydrate yourself, but don’t over do it. The result of too much water or fluids is 2 or 3 trips to the bathroom at night. This is horrible for a sound nights rest. Plus, if you have a weak bladder you may not even make it to the restroom. Gross!
- Sleep at least 8 hours each night. If you must sleep less on occasion, never cut your sleep below 6 hours.
- Take naps. Naps aren’t just for children and the elderly. Even a 20-minute afternoon power nap is excellent. But don’t use “THE NAP EXCUSE” as a means to skip out on your 8 hours.
- Sleep in silence. Cut off radios, TVs, etc. If necessary, use a fan or white noise machine to block external or other noises.
- Cut the crap out of your diet. Avoid alcohol, sugar, salt, dairy, and gluten. If you must have these items, then be sure to avoid consuming them 2 to 3 hours before bedtime. Caffeine should even be avoided after 3PM as it has a half-life of up to 6 hours
- Create a mind dump an hour or two before bed. Write down everything that is on your mind, things you need to do tomorrow, events that happened today, stress, just empty that brain.
- Create a relaxation ritual. A warm soak in the tub with some soothing music, a meditation session, or a message from your significant other, what ever floats your boat and gets you to relax.
STEP 6: SUPPLEMENTS
If you’re pretty dialed in with your Paleo nutrition, getting daily movement and exercise, sleeping well, and spending about 20 to 30 minutes a day outside exposed to the sun per day then you may not need any additional supplementation. However, there are a few that I do recommend and have personally noticed improvement in day-to-day function, performance, and overall well-being.
Vitamin D.. is for damn good vitamin
- Vitamin D supports the formation, growth and repair of bones, enhanced functioning of the immune system, muscular strength and is vital in energy production.
- The most common food sources of Vitamin D are fortified cereals and dairy products, both avoided when eating Paleo.
- Your body absorbs vitamin D from sunlight, but often not enough of it.
- Deficiencies in vitamin D contribute to significant health problems, including muscle and bone pain, weakness, and overall lack of energy.
- Vitamin D deficiency most commonly occurs as a result of a deficiency of sunlight or vitamin D food sources.
Followers of the Paleo diet can avoid deficiency conditions by replenishing low levels of vitamin D through oral supplementation over several months. While taking a vitamin D supplement is extremely beneficial I highly recommend listening to lyrical genius Cheryl Crow when she says “I… I want to soak up the sun.”
Do you really want to disappoint Cheryl? Me neither.
Find some activities you dig on and get outside and play. Take your dog for a walk. Go to the park with the kids. Just don’t stare at the sun.
Fish oil is a great supplement that has many health benefits. While the Paleo diet includes fish, it is often difficult to eat the amount needed to equal the omega from supplementing with fish oil.
Taking fish oil everyday has been associated with the following health benefits:
- Lower triglycerides, reducing the onset of heart attacks and stroke;
- Lower cholesterol and blood pressure;
- Reduced risk of forming varicose veins and blood clots, providing better blood flow throughout your body;
- Slows the onset of osteoporosis;
- Improves brain functions; and
- Helps to improve vision
Fish oil is also an antioxidant that keeps cancer causing free radicals from damaging the cells in your body; this includes preventing premature aging (also known as getting old to fast), certain cancers and decreasing blood toxicity levels.
How much fish oil? Well check it out boys and girls
Probiotics are microorganisms, or “good” bacteria, that aid with digestion and protects against harmful bacteria. While we have “good” bacteria already in our digestive tracts, many of us have had them damaged by antibiotics and pollution in air and water. Probiotics are found in yogurt and fermented vegetables. Eating Paleo doesn’t provide much opportunity to consume probiotics, you will want to supplement with them. According to the Mayo Clinic, probiotics have been shown to help with all sorts of fun things, including:
- Treating diarrhea and irritable bowel syndrome
- Regulating the digestive tract
- Preventing yeast infections
- Reducing cold symptoms
- Treating intestinal infections
TO SUM IT ALL UP
In a nutshell… no pun intended, if you wanted to jump full ship into Paleo tomorrow here is what you would need to do.
1. Perform a kitchen makeover
2. Go grocery shopping
3. Learn to cook and start preparing simple 10 minute Paleo friendly meals in advance
- Include 1 palm to fist size protein serving
- Include 1-2 fists of lower carbohydrate veggies (or fill your plate)
- Include 1-4 tablespoons (thumb sized servings) of healthy fats
- Limit fruit to 1-2 fist sized servings per day if fat loss is your goal
- Limit nuts and seeds to 1-2 baby handfuls per day if fat loss is your goal.
4. Drink zero calorie beverages only like water (lemon or lime for flavor), unsweetened tea, and black coffee on occasion
5. Sleep 7-9 hours per day if you can but more importantly go to bed at a decent hour (no later than 11pm)
STILL NEED SOME HELP OR ACCOUNTABILITY
I’m currently helping a good buddy of mine over at The Ultimate Paleo Guide and we’ve come up with some pretty awesome resources for you all.
- If you’re looking for some help jumping all in to this Paleo lifestyle try the 30 Day Paleo course we’ve developed.
- Maybe you just need some help with meal planning for a month or so. Try the custom meal planning service UPG developed.
- And if none of these float your boat give me a shout for some possible 1 on 1 coaching and accountability. Or try some personal accountability using the 30 day Paleo Challenge scoresheet.
Here are a few other resources that I thought may help you on your Paleo journey. I know there’s a lot of information out there and it can be pretty overwhelming but find what relates to you, fits your needs and lifestyle, and run with it…. literally.
- Bare 5 – Paleo: The Bare 5 Approach
- Paleo Diet News – The Paleo Diet for Beginners (with Vegetarian Options)
- Archevore – The Archevore Diet: Get Started
- Gnolls – Getting Started (my personal favorite)
- Primal Blueprint – 10 Laws
- Primal Wisdom – Hunter Gatherer Diet Guide
- 30 Truths in 30 days: Your first 30 days of Paleo and what to expect. (I’m biased to this one :D)
Feel like I’m missing anything or do you still need clarification on some of the stuff covered? Post to the comments and let’s get it all squared away.
P.S.: If you’re ready to commit to improving your healthy the Limitless365 Fitness Program teaches you how to build healthy exercise, nutrition, and mindset habits so that you can build a LimitlessBODY, LimitlessMIND, and LimitlessLIFE