Without doubt, a paleo-ish diet is unrivalled when it comes to shedding body fat and improving health.
I often get asked, however, whether this way of eating can be followed if your aim is to gain weight?
The answer is a resounding yes!
A paleoish diet is excellent for building muscle for several reasons:
It is high in protein – The essential building blocks of muscle. Ensuring all your meals contain all the essential amino acids in a readily digestible form from meat, fish or eggs will give your body the raw materials it needs to pack on some muscle mass.
It is high in good fats – The good fats found in those same foods are essential for the formation of hormones such as testosterone, IGF1 and human growth hormone, all of which are necessary to promote lean tissue development.
It is jam packed with vitamins and minerals needed for building new tissues – Neolithic foods such as grains are full of phytates which not only keep the nutrients inside locked away, but can also prevent you from absorbing the minerals from other foods consumed at the same time. There is much more to changing your body composition than simply manipulating calories – I have often seen people gain weight in muscle after cutting total calories from their diet in the form of grains and legumes!
The main issue people find with using the paleo/primal diet to gain weight, is that it is so filling it is hard to consume large amounts of calories. Here is a quick trouble shooting guide:
1) Do you really need to consume vast amounts of calories?
More is not always better! On many traditional “bulking” diets, a high proportion of the weight gained is simply fat. When this fat is dieted off later, much muscle is lost too – Often people end up back where they started in the first place! By consuming just over maintenance calories from paleo foods, you may not gain weight as quickly, but the weight you gain will be in muscle.
2) Are you training hard enough?
To gain muscle you need to lift weights, at high intensity, using big compound movements. Train hard and ensure you’re getting stronger and your appetite will increase accordingly.
3) Add some post workout carbohydrate.
Include some “safe starches” in the form of potatoes, rice, bananas and dried fruit post workout. The high GL foods will both help replenish your glycogen stores ready for your next session, and also help spike your appetite.
4) Don’t be fat phobic.
Good fats are a fantastic source of calories, and not as satiating as protein. Don’t be afraid of fattier cuts of meat providing they’re from a trusted source, and include good plant fats in the form of avocados, olives and olive oil, and coconut products such as oil, raw milk and cream.
5) Consider adding (more) dairy to your diet.
If you really want to grow quickly, add some more dairy to your diet, ideally in the form of raw, grass fed milk and cheese. Dairy is not only nutritionally dense, but also paced with potent growth factors.