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28 July 2015

You Don't Have to Train in a Gym to Be a Jacked Badass- Bodyweight Training of the Experts

In the dark, misty depths of history, when men were violent, bloodthirsty killing machines and women were slightly less prone to fomenting a bloodbath, access to gyms was essentially limited to Sparta, Greece and India.  While neither of those nations are known for producing hulking mounds of sinewy muscle in the modern era, they were the only two places in the ancient world that boasted gyms.  The Spartan version, called the agoge, was likely so nightmarish that one would prefer to have sex with a broken-glass-filled-vagina'd Rosie O'Donnell.  Beginning at the age of seven, Spartan boys were underfed, underclothed, overworked, beaten, and taught to be fucking hard.  They were regularly forced to fight to death in an über, super fucking brutal version of MMA called pankration, in which fish hooking and eye gouging were encouraged.  Though they were gyms, they had no weights to lift- instead the students of the agoge regularly lifted and carried stones and logs for distance as if they were in the modern World's Strongest Man.

The Spartans also did a lot of group-oriented calisthenics which, interestingly, led Xerxes to think that they were weaker than a twink with AIDS.  After sending spies to watch the Spartans train, Xerxes discovered that the Spartans exercised in unison with rhythmic movements, which the Persians misinterpreted (hilariously) as dancing.  Thus, they thought they could just roll the apparently light-of-heel Spartans up, and then unknowingly walked right into the teeth of a well-oiled, incredibly strong war machine (Kagkelidou).


 Frankly, this is the closest thing to Greek Calisthenics you'll see unless you go to a Greek Calisthenics revivalist school, find a Crossfitter obsessed to death with calisthenics, or build a fucking time machine and haul your happy ass back to the 2nd Century BC.

The Greek gymnasium was basically Curves for Women in comparison to the more-brutal-than-the-end-of-A-Serbian-Film agoge.  In a gymnasium, Athenian men over 18 received all manner of physical instruction, the basis of which were calisthenics. For those of you (like myself) who are slobbering history and archeology nerds, the word calisthenics is actually ancient Greek and derives from the word kallos, which means beauty and strength.   The system of calisthenics was essentially a system of bodyweight exercises that combined the goals of hypertrophy, balance, strength, and endurance (with a healthy dose of philosophy thrown in on top, because the Greeks were awesome like that).  Thus, it wasn't so much a sport as it was a training system in a cool-ass community center designed to make people awesome.
 
Somebody had to have modeled for this, so I'd say calisthenics are pretty fucking effective.

Greek calisthenics have been revived and popularized in urban areas, more or less, by teams like Barstarzz or other street performers.  The system as the Greeks originally conceived, consisted of ground work like pushups, ultra wide grip static hold pushups, handstands, handstand pushups, situps, leg raises, lunges combined with a sort of Thai push kick, pistol squats, leaping front kicks, high knees, and the like.  They also did bar and ring work for the upper body, much as you'd see modern gymnasts do- varieties of pullups and muscleups and static holds.  No one died (probably) but given the state of the physiques on Greek statues, they were some ripped motherfuckers.        

It appears you can get a jacked-ass upper body with nothing more than a set of monkeybars on a public playground.  

Modern street calisthenics, as it's known, mostly consists of work on pullup bars, dip bars, and jungle gyms.  It seems to build some incredible upper body hypertrophy and strength, as well as seriously ripped physiques.  Beyond that, it seems to have become a bit of a performance art, so like the calisthenics of the Spartans, it could almost be construed as dance at times.  In reality, however, it's simply a rhythmic demonstration of incredible strength and muscular control, which is after all, pretty fucking cool.  There seems to be no real set program for street calisthenics- the goal is to just get strong and work on body control.  Thus, a heavy dose of dips, pullups, planks, and squats are encouraged at the start.  Then, you basically just play- try shit and see if you can do it.  Then, get stronger and try again.  For those of you looking for linear periodization, you won't find it here... because linear periodization sucks, and we're not fucking robots.

Pretty serious hypertrophy.  These guys are Lee, Ranjit, and Sai of Recession Proof Body (a cool fucking moniker).

Clearly, none of the above is mind-melting or ground breaking, but people rarely think of it in terms of strength building.  I can personally attest, however, to the fact that I am far stronger when I include a couple of 20 minute sessions of bodyweight work every week.  In fact, when I was in college, a buddy and I used to "play cards" a couple of times a week, and that kept us ripped in spite of the fact we were facing a couple of Blizzards from Dairy Queen every day like we were college girls sticking their faces under the frozen yogurt machine every day in the caf.  You know- chasing the freshman 15 (which I guess due to inflation seems to have become the freshman 25, because I'm seeing a lot of livestock wearing college sorority t-shirts lately).  When we played cards we'd watch either Rocky 3 or Rocky 4 and place a deck of cards between us.  We'd take turns drawing cards, and would do either pushups (black) or abs (red).  Black diamonds were diamond pushups, and red diamonds were double the situps.  We'd go through the deck a couple of times, and kept me as ripped as a phone book at a strongman competition and ready as an evangelical Christian dude on his wedding night. In other words, "playing cards" was awesome addition to my 5-6 days a week of training.  These days, I simply do dips and pullups, which I find to be more useful.  If I can find a tall stack of mats, I might do high jumps in between supersets of pullups and dips, or maybe ab wheel.

As this random Russian shows us, it's all about the muthafuckin' pullups. 

The third group I mentioned at the outset were the Indians, who actually predated the Greeks and Spartans in terms of having a codified system of exercise. There are extensive historical texts from early antiquity regarding exercise, wrestling, and the sport that was eventually bastardized by hippies in the 1970s called "yoga".  Physical fitness was prized among the Indians, and every village had a gym in which villagers trained and wrestled.  The calisthenics regime followed by the Indians is what led to them being the most dominant wrestlers in the world for centuries, and it's more brutal than an Al Qaeda execution video.

 Body built entirely by milk, veggies, almonds, chickpeas, and clarified butter, plus bodyweight exercises. 

The program Indian wrestlers use arose out of this millennia-old system of training do over 2000 dands (dive bomber pushups) a day, and can do 1500 of them an hour, and the upper body specialists in India do over 5000 a day.  Additionally, they do two to three thousand bethaks (free squats standing on their toes) a day, and the fewest a wrestler will do in a day is 500.  On top of that, they do tons of somersaults to build flexibility and core strength, wrestler's bridges for their necks, and headstands.  Though they're now considered weightlifting implements, another feature of their training that could be replicated without spending a single dime was club swinging, which could be replicated simply by swinging a heavy tree branch or log.  Again, they had no program for training- they'd just bust their asses harder than a slave coal miner in Scotland on the same exercises every day because they wanted to be better than the next man.


Across the Pacific Ocean, thousands of blood-crazed, heavily tattooed, hulking monsters of men, screaming hakas and wielding weapons made of bone, wood, and sharks teeth built their massive bodies not with calisthenics, but with the manliest of leisure pursuits- stone lifting, tug-of-war, wrestling, and boxing.  The Hawaiians were, at the time of their discovery, considered to be some of the most physically striking people in the world.  It's not hard to imagine Captain James Cook fawning all over the Hawaiians like a preteen over the Jonas Brothers because he basically landed on an island filled with clones of The Rock.  Additionally, their strength was considered unparalleled in the Western world, even at a time when weightlifting and strongman were physically one of the most, striking native races in the world (Aipa).


Just as in India and Greece, physical excellence was prized above all in Hawaiian culture for men.  The most famous king in the history of Hawaii, Kamehameha, was as famous for his strength as he was for his military prowess.  As the 14 year old gripped a stone no other man on the island could flip, the 2.5 ton “Pöhaku Naha,” he screamed:
“Naha Stone art thou:
And by Naha Prince only may thy, sacredness be broken.
Now behold, I am Kamehameha, a Niau-pio
A spreading mist of the forest.”
Badass that he was, he strained so fucking hard that blood shot out of his eyes like he was a superheavy squatting in the WPO, and with blood dripping from his fingers, he flipped that motherfucker to the amazement of everyone in attendance (Aipa, Monster). 




It's pretty awesome that the greatest king in Hawaiian history was as famous for his strength as he was for his conquests, but it's unsurprising- pretty much every leisure activity the Hawaiians participated in showcased physical dexterity or sheer muscle power.  Basically, the Hawaii of yore was like an island filled with hot, strong women and ultra-tan Hafthór Júlíus Björnssons.  Boxing, wrestling, stone lifting, and tug-of-war were all that were needed- no gym required (Games).



Then jumping to the mainland were the native peoples of the Americas.  Obviously, they were a very diverse group of people, but from North America to South America there was a culture of exercise.  Unfortunately, there isn't much written about any of their specific exercises, but there are anecdotes.  Both the Apache and Iroquois were known for their extreme endurance and toughness.  They were rugged and incredibly strong, according to explorers like Oglethrope expedition member Edward Kimber.  He commented on the appearance of the Seminoles, stating, “As to their figure, ‘tis generally of the largest size, well proportion’d, and robust, as you can imagine Persons nurs’d up in manly Exercises can be" (AIHDP).  Likewise, South Americans were equally strong and tough, and participated in crazy ass strength and conditioning sports that were so tough they'd kill Rich Froning- shit like the favorite pastime of the Ge Indians of South America- log relays, where participants would carry short logs weighting as much as 200 lbs over courses as long as several hundred yards (Crego 189).  As I said, there is only anecdotal evidence of how they trained, but I found a video of a Native American warmup that shows that the Native American warmup is extremely similar to the manner in which the Ancient Greeks trained.

Not a bodybuilder, but the 54 year old world record holder in the pullup.  

In summary, if you think bodyweight exercise is bullshit, you're wrong.  Enough hard training in bodyweight work should, if done right, turn you into a bona-fide badass.  And for those of you who think you can't build big, stong legs with bodyweight work, consider this- Indian strongman Monohar Aich had a 660 squat at 159lbs mostly from doing thousands upon thousands of free squats in prison.  Most pehlwani have tree trunk legs despite eating a meatless diet, all from free squats, and if you look at Grecian statues, all of the models for those statues had good to great legs, without weighted squats.  Thus, you might want to add in some bodyweight work if you want to achieve your potential, because it certainly won't hurt, and it will almost definitely help.

Now, go do some fucking pullups.  Then do some more.

Sources:
AIHDP.  History of Indigenous Activity.  American Indian Health and Diet Project.  Web.  28 Jul 2015.  http://www.aihd.ku.edu/exercise/history_indigenous_activity.html

Aipa, Daniel. Is Weightlifting a Hawaiian Practice?  The Ku Project.  16 Mar 2015.  Web.  27 Jul 2015.  http://www.thekuproject.com/hawaiian-weightlifting/

Crego, Robert.  Sports and Games of the 18th and 19th Centuries.  Westport: Greenwood Press, 2003.

Games of physical strength.  Hawaii History.  Web.  27 Jul 2017.  http://www.hawaiihistory.org/index.cfm?fuseaction=ig.page&PageID=519

Kagkelidou, Evangelia.  Calisthenics, the Yoga of Greeks.  Greek Reporter.  9 Oct 2013.  Web.  27 Jul 2015.  http://greece.greekreporter.com/2013/10/09/calisthenics-the-yoga-of-greeks/#sthash.m2aeWySn.dpufhttp://greece.greekreporter.com/2013/10/09/calisthenics-the-yoga-of-greeks/#sthash.m2aeWySn.dpuf

Monster, Higa.  Lifting Stones.  AnimalPak.  Web.  27 Jul 2017.  http://animalpak.com/html/article_details.cfm?ID=451

07 July 2015

Paleotards Are Doing It Wrong, Part Deux


For those of you who read the foregoing entry, you'll note I generally side with Ray Audette on the subject of paleo dieting.  Unlike his contemporaries, he seems to understand the necessity of fat, the fact that modern fruits in no way resemble ancient fruits, and the fact that hominids of the past were largely carnivorous in nature (Stanford).


That's not to say, however, that I am some kind of mark for Ray Audette.  He might have done some homework, but he didn't do all of it.  That's unsurprising, because he's neither a historian nor an archaeologist nor a nutritionist- in fact, he is a former computer salesman.  And while his motto for dieting boils down to "A natural diet is what is edible when you are naked with a sharp stick.... When you have no technology" (Sherman).  For some reason, many paleo advocates have taken paleo authors' recommendations against salt to indicate that seasonings are bad.  Bodybuilders, for some reason, seem to share the concept that seasoning their food will somehow make them fat.  This is, of course, retarded.

I didn't even know garlic mustard was a plant.

Archaeologists have found that, instead of what was previously believed (in spite of common sense), ancient man spiced the everloving shit out of their food.  Garlic mustard has been found in ancient cooking utensils (Saul).  The paleo community, then, is basically like the Christian community- they take what they like from the texts and discard the rest, and their "gurus" are no different.
"Even if eating only foods available to hunter–gatherers in the Paleolithic made sense, it would be impossible. As Christina Warinner of the University of Zurich emphasizes in her 2012 TED talk, just about every single species commonly consumed today—whether a fruit, vegetable or animal—is drastically different from its Paleolithic predecessor. In most cases, we have transformed the species we eat through artificial selection: we have bred cows, chickens and goats to provide as much meat, milk and eggs as possible and have sown seeds only from plants with the most desirable traits—with the biggest fruits, plumpest kernels, sweetest flesh and fewest natural toxins. Cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts and kale are all different cultivars of a single species, Brassica oleracea; generation by generation, we reshaped this one plant's leaves, stems and flowers into wildly different arrangements, the same way we bred Welsh corgis, pugs, dachshunds, Saint Bernards and greyhounds out of a single wolf species. Corn was once a straggly grass known as teosinte and tomatoes were once much smaller berries. And the wild ancestors of bananas were rife with seeds" (Jabr).
A Himalayan salt lick.

And as for salt, which Audette rails against in a manner so prolific it rivals the Westboro Baptist Church's hatred of the homosexuals, it's not only necessary, but critical.
"Certain isolated groups in areas such as Brazil, Papua New Guinea, and rural African communities have been found to live on sodium intakes of as little as 1150 mg per day. However, despite finding generally low blood pressure in these remote communities, the little evidence that exists on these low salt societies suggests shorter life expectancy and higher mortality rates" (Kresser).
Paleo authors will often rail against sodium intake, suggesting that paleolithic man consumed less sodium than is recommended by the government to maintain optimal health.  Apparently, however, they lack access to Wikipedia.  Wild animals, of whom our ancestors were a part, utilize natural "salt licks" to maintain healthy bone and muscle growth.  These mineral licks are so important to wildlife that they're illegally used to bait animals for hunting, and even the Vikings mentioned them prominently in their mythology.  According to Norse mythology,
"In Norse mythology, before the creation of the world, it was the divine cow Audhumla who, through her licking of the cosmic salt ice, gave form to Buri, ancestor of the gods and grandfather of Odin. On the first day as Audhumla licked, Buri's hair appeared from the ice, on the second day his head and on the third his body" (Wikipedia)
A bro this jacked could not have been a stranger to a salt lick.

In other words, no matter what the paleo authors might say, they're fucking morons- salt is important in your diet.  Nevermind seasonings, which have been used since time immemorial- you need to salt your food.  The issue with salt isn't too much salt- it's an imbalance in your salt and potassium intake.  Prehistoric man ate a hell of a lot more potassium than we did, which kept their electrolytes balanced and kept them hydrated.

Ancient India seems so much cooler than modern India it's hard to compare the two.

Likewise goes for intoxicants.  With the exception of Robb Wolf, paleo authors treat intoxicants as if they were child porn- partake and you should be thrown under Gitmo and raped by a thousand super-hung bulls.  Ancient man and even primates, however, have always loved to get fucked up.  Take alcohol, for instance- primates have been getting fucked in half on alcohol for ten million years.  It's literally hardwired into our brains to drink for the last 10 million years- exactly the amount of time it took for tree dwelling primates, who cannot metabolize alcohol, to split off from apes, who can (Zolfagharifard).
"'Ancestral reconstructions of ADH4 demonstrate the ancestor of humans, chimpanzees and gorillas possessed a novel enzyme with dramatically increased activity toward ethanol and we suspect this novel metabolic capacity was adaptive to this hominin ancestor,' said Professor Carrigan.
'This transition implies the genomes of modern human, chimpanzee and gorilla began adapting at least 10 million years ago to dietary ethanol present in fermenting fruit.
'This conclusion contrasts with the relatively short amount of time - about 9,000 years - since fermentative technology enabled humans to consume beverages devoid of food bulk with higher ethanol content than fruit fermenting in the wild.'
He said the history has implications not only for understanding the forces that shaped early human terrestrial adaptations but also for many modern human diseases caused by alcohol today" (Ibid).
So, as you can see, the conception that alcohol is forbidden on the paleo diet is nonsense, as Robb Wolf affirms in his seminal text.   Similarly, other intoxicants are forbidden by paleo authors, though evidence overwhelmingly shows that paleolithic man consumed intoxicants.  Consider, first, that both the ancient Indians and the Neanderthals consumed ephedra (Loporto, Block).  Coffee beans were combined with animal fat to create a protein rich snack (Avey), and coca leaves have been in documented use for over 4000 years.  In short, it's not unpaleo to get fucked up... and in fact it might not be paleo to be 100% sober.

Paleo Diet misinformation- what caveman would have avoided eating boar?  Ridiculous and deceitful.  Chicanerous and deplorable.

Going back to the diets themselves, though, you’ll note that (with the exception of Perfect Health Diet) none of these diets prescribe specific goals for macros, calorie intake, or anything beyond “don’t just eat the same damn thing every day.”  So the point of paleo dieting is not to of it as “Should I do the Paleo Diet?”, but rather to ask yourself “How can I meet my dietary goals, whatever they are, using Paleo or mostly-Paleo foods?”  Assuming that, if you’re reading Chaos and Pain, you have some idea of how much you need to eat and what macros you’re aiming for, and that you’re probably not obese, Type II diabetic, or otherwise physically dysfunctional, you’re probably looking to bulk up, cut down, boost your T and GH levels, reduce recovery time, or otherwise improve your Wilks.  Given that, it would behoove us to discuss the effective differences between the various versions of paleo as they apply to mostly healthy people.

If this is you, throw yourself down a goddamned well.

Bear in mind, the benefits of the stricter versions of Paleo are often subtle and incremental if you’re mostly healthy -- though it's recommended that you do a month of Strict or Traditional Paleo to see what nagging annoyances might clear up.  Some examples of what you could eliminate would be: recurring fungal infections, falling asleep after lunch, acne, gas and bloating, GERD (aka acid reflux), gout.  Frankly, I've never had any of these, but I'm more or less Wolverine when it comes to my immune system.  Aside from allergies, I heal insanely quickly, get sick only ever couple years, and really only suffer from allergies as a general rule.  From what I see online though, paleo is the last dietary bastion of the glutard/hypochondriac crew, who thing they're "sensitive" to everything from wheat proteins to tapioca and pretty much every dumbass thing in between.  As preposterous as that is, there is something to be said for the placebo effect, as I've written about before, so I suppose it's worth trying even for those halfwits.

Body most definitively not built by paleo.

Another thing to bear in mind is that some or most of you will find it more difficult, or even impossible, to bulk on Strict or Traditional paleo because the foods are far more nutritious and less calorie-dense than bulking staples like protein/milk shakes.  It’s tough to get to 2g/kg of protein when you have to do it by actually eating meat and eggs.  Furthermore, you’re not going to be “carb backloading”, consuming “super starch”, or any other plan involving pathological candy consumption or powders sold in a tub.  In spite of that fact, turn of the century strongmen were able to get huge and strong eating more or less paleo, so you can too- it's just going to require a hell of a lot of stuffing your face.  I can personally attest to having attempted a modified paleo diet that included a tortilla day post workout, and the rest of which was Granny Smith apples, almonds, chicken breast, chicken thigh, and broccoli and cauliflower.  In 10 months, my lifts all increased considerably, but my bodyweight dropped about ten pounds as I got much leaner and stronger.

If it can make dudes who eschew meat and weights and live off of chickpeas and pushups look better than most of the bros at your gym, there's likely something to Ayurvedic medicine.

As for nutritional supplements, they're really not paleo.  As I stated, paleolithic man used herbs for performance enhancement, and all of Ayurvedic medicine is based on the use of herbs for health improvements and performance enhancement, but they were hardly slamming protein shakes and preworkouts on the regular.  It might be worth experimenting with ditching them for your month of clean paleo, however, because you could then determine upon adding them back in exactly what works and what doesn't.

Cro-Magnon man was almost entirely carnivorous... likely so he could beat the shit out of Neanderthals and bang their wives.

If that a bit confusing and daunting, you're not alone.  In my research I was honestly perplexed by the disparity in diet recommendations by paleo authors, just as I was with the authors who wrote about the Ph of various diets- literally no two agreed on anything.  As such, I enjoin you to read up on this stuff and do a bit of your own research- check out ScienceDaily, for one, and do an occasional search on the diets of Cro-Magnons and Neanderthals- it will do you a world of good.

Up next, we've got an article headed your way on picking the type of paleo to best suit your lifestyle (even though none of them are really "paleo"), the use of protein, and a couple other topics.  Till then, keep it beastly!

Sources:
Avey, Tori.  The Caffeinated History of Coffee.  PBS.  8 Apr 2013.  Web.  7 Jul 2015.  http://www.pbs.org/food/the-history-kitchen/history-coffee/

Block, Jill.  Ma huang, an ancient Chinese stimulant.  UCLA.  Winter 1998.  Web.  7 Jul 2015.  http://www.botgard.ucla.edu/html/botanytextbooks/economicbotany/Ephedra/

Jabr, Ferris.  How to Really Eat Like a Hunter-Gatherer: Why the Paleo Diet Is Half-Baked.  Scientific American.  3 Jun 2013.  Web.  & Jul 2015.  http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/why-paleo-diet-half-baked-how-hunter-gatherer-really-eat/

Kresser, Chris.  Shaking up the Salt Myth: The Human Need for Salt.  ChrisKresser.com.  13 Apr 2012.  Web.  7 Jul 2015.  http://chriskresser.com/shaking-up-the-salt-myth-the-human-need-for-salt/

LoPorto, Garret.  Surprising Way Your Neanderthal Genes May Affect You.  HuffPost.  10 May 2010.  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/garret-loporto/surprising-way-your-neand_b_568455.html

Saul H, Madella M, Fischer A, Glykou A, Hartz S, Craig OE.  Phytoliths in Pottery Reveal the Use of Spice in European Prehistoric Cuisine. PLoS ONE, 2013.  8(8): e70583

Sherman, Rebecca.  Neander-Guy.  Dallas Observer.  6 Jul 1995.  Web.  7 Jul 2015.  http://www.dallasobserver.com/news/neander-guy-6404312

Stanford CB, Bunn HT. Meat eating and hominid evolution
Current Anthropology,  1990. 40(5):726-728

Zolfagharifard, Ellie.  We've been drinking alcohol for TEN MILLION years: Gene mutation reveals our primate ancestors enjoyed fermented fruit.  1 Dec 2014.  Web.  7 Jul 2015.  http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-2856241/We-ve-drinking-alcohol-TEN-MILLION-years-study-finds.html#ixzz3fEsWlQOZ

01 July 2015

Hey Paleotards- You're Doing It Wrong, Fuckfaces.

One of the most frustrating things about the internet is that while it provides a bounty of information, there's nearly as much conflicting information or misinformation as there is useful information, and for the average person it's incredibly difficult to differentiate between the wheat and the chaff.  It's almost as if a blind man got dropped off on an island populated by 50% gorgeous women and another 50% trolls in corsets, Spanx, and sexy clothing- it's gonna be hard as shit for him to determine which broad would get him high fives from his bros and which would get him mocked on Facebook for the rest of his life.  Tragically, I think the worst subjects in this regard are training and diet, both of which are written about extensively, but at least half of the missives penned seem to be the produce of minds rocked by people with IQs below room temperature.


Paleolithic dieting is perhaps the worst of sub-subjects to diet, because even outside of the internet there appears to be no consensus among authors about what, exactly, paleo dieting is.  In fact, the debate about what actually constitutes paleo is frankly more mind boggling than the fact that anyone finds Jack Black to be amusing.  To date, I've read the following paleo books:
I'll hardly assert that having read the above makes me some sort of an expert on the subject of paleolithic dieting, but I've done a tremendous amount of research into the actual archaeology and into the evolution of fruits and vegetables, which puts me heads and shoulders above all but perhaps three of the above listed authors.  Before we delve into the actual archaeology, however, I felt it necessary to employ some aid from renowned internet paleo author J. Stanton, author of Gnoll Credo, to help me flesh out the divisions in the paleo community.  You know, so I can eviscerate half of the internet for being the dumb fucks they are thereafter.  As such, the following portion was cowritten by both Stanton and myself.

The Main Paleo Categories

Strict Paleo

“I determined, therefore, to eat only those foods that would be available to me if I were naked of all technology save that of a convenient sharp stick or stone.” (Ray Audette, Neanderthin) As mentioned above, this is for all intents and purposes the paleolithic dieting bible for anyone actually concerned with dieting in the manner of our ancestors.  In practice his statement means meat, fat, organs, and any other unprocessed animal product from animals fed and finished on grass (or forage, in the case of non-grass-eaters like chickens); fish and shellfish; eggs; tree nuts; vegetables; roots; berries; mushrooms. Cooking is permitted, but dairy products, legumes, grains, potatoes, sugar, added salt, and processed foods of any kind are not.  For reasons that will be covered later in the article, fruit is allowed but limited.  Raw honey is allowed but very strictly limited to small amounts.

My two cats, Clean and Sober, just think I'm TOPS!

Traditional Paleo 

This trend is currently exemplified by Robb Wolf’s The Paleo Solution and the Hartwigs’ It Starts With Food / Whole 30.  Building upon strict paleo, it brings the additions of delicious, delicious salt, and other spices (except soy sauce and other grain-derived sauces), sweet potatoes (but not white potatoes), cooking oils made from animals or fruits (tallow, coconut, palm, olive).  Clarified butter gets a hall pass, as do limited amounts of coffee, tea, mate, etc.  Red meat is encouraged over white, eating the entire animal (offal and all) is encouraged, and there is a bit of fat-phobia in Wolf’s book, though he's backed away from that position somewhat over time.  This diet is also more tolerant of processed food, but it doesn't allow for “Paleo” junk food nonsense like "paleo cookies" and "paleo pizza", even if it is made with coconut flour, arrowroot, or other technically "legal" ingredients, no matter how much people who "have been on paleo for 4 days and just feel TOPS" might whine.

This pic pretty much sums up the word primal, even if the diet doesn't.

Primal

Primal is Mark Sisson’s brainchild, and is explained in his book Primal Blueprint.  Primal includes all of the Traditional paleo foods with the inexplicable additions of white potatoes (an explanation on why white potatoes aren't paleo is forthcoming.  Just keep yer britches on.), dairy if you tolerate it well, and gluten-free soy sauce is OK.  Though he's apparently a glutard, his diet is fat-tolerant, as his general recommendation for carbs is around 150g/day depending on one's goals.  Completely counter to Audette, for whom cheating on a diet is tantamount to (and possibly worse than) cheating on one's spouse, primal is more tolerant of occasional cheating (the famous “80/20 rule”).  It's essentially paleo-lite for housewives.  In spite of that, Sisson was the first paleo source to cover issues like sleep and exercise in addition to diet, which makes his approach not entirely crap.

Captain Potato there in the middle is 3 years old and weighs 154 lbs.  One potato, two potato, three potato, CHOMP.

Perfect Health Diet

The PHD is essentially Primal with the addition of white rice and a few other tropical “safe starches” (e.g. cassava, sago, taro, tapioca).  This diet recommends a starting point of appx. 15-20% protein, 50-60% fat, and 20-30% carbs, with modifications to suit various specific goals like hypertrophy or weight loss.  It's focused on nutrients like a fat kid with Prader-Willi syndrome on an ice cream cone, with specific recommendations for quantities of organ meats, bone broths, fatty fish and shellfish, etc.  It's more in line with Audette, even if the food choices aren't, because the PHD is less tolerant of outright cheating but more tolerant to occasional low-fructose sweeteners like dextrose and rice syrup.


Specialized and obsolete versions of “Paleo”

Being something of a fad diet, certain versions of paleo have gone the way of reel to reel, the Dreamcast, the RCA video record player, and the Shake Weight.  Before anyone gets their panties in a twist, stop and consider the fact that paleo is, for all intents and purposes, a fad diet.  It arose out of a series of articles in mainstream journals about "Ancestral Diets" in the 1980s, turned into "Evolutionary Medicine," and then became a diet with something of a cult following in health food stores.  Later, CrossFit boxes abandoned the archaic Zone diet and pushed paleo's popularity further, but since everyone has the attention span of either Lindsey Lohan or a gnat (they're basically the same thing), paleo was dropped like a fat girl in swing class when everyone decided that gluten was the enemy and moved on to glutardation.  I'm certainly not suggesting that the paleo diet isn't useful, but rather that, like any other diet, its popularity will wax and wane with media coverage and, sadly, internet message board discussions.


Autoimmune Paleo 

Autoimmune paleo was essentially traditional paleo minus all of the nightshade vegetables such as tomatoes, all peppers, both sweet and hot, eggplant, white potatoes, and the few common allergens remaining in a paleo diet, like eggs, nuts, and shellfish.  This diet was typically only used by people with autoimmune disorders like rheumatoid arthritis, and although it was generally very helpful for them, it fell out of fashion faster than two polo shirts worn at once with popped collars.


Cordain’s original Paleo Diet

This is perhaps one of the saddest books ever produced, because Cordain created a trend that flew in the face of his own research harder than that bird that smashed Fabio's nose.  It's likely that Cordain wishes he could gather up all of those books and burn them, because what he essentially did was try to combine the low fat-faddism of the 1990s with paleolithic eating, which essentially created a horrifying chimera of diets that resembled the monster at the end of The Thing.  In spite of the fact that Cordain suggested in "Implications of Plio-Pleistocene Hominin Diets for Modern Humans" that hunter gatherers' diets (which he believe mirror paleolithic diets in many ways) contained between 19% and 35% fat, the original Paleo Diet includes bizarre admonitions like “cut all the fat off your meat and then fry it in flaxseed or canola oil.”  Luckily, he managed to get his wits about himself in the last ten years and replaced his original pile of trash with a much more sensible and accurate book,  The Paleo Answer.

Though these diets are all fairly disparate, they have a number of critical features in common:

  • No grains.  That means no bread, no cereal, no crackers, no tortillas or chips.  (Exception: Perfect Health Diet allows white rice in moderation.)  Grains (wheat, corn, rice, barley, oats, rye, and other seeds and grasses) weren't eaten much in the paleolithic because they require milling and long cooking to be made edible.  Raw grain plus water essentially equals paper mache, and there's not a primate on Earth that can eat paper mache without shitting their proverbial pants.
  • No grain products.  This means no “vegetable oils” like corn, soy, sunflower, grapeseed, and canola, no corn syrup or Frankengredients like TVP (textured vegetable protein).  That pretty much puts 75% of the supermarket off limit if you're any kind of paleo.
  • No peanuts or peanut butter.  They’re a legume, not a nut.  Plus they’re only 18% poor-quality protein (PDCAAS = 0.5) with boatloads of inflammatory linoleic acid (“omega-6 fat”).  Peanuts, like corn, also contain a fungi called aflatoxins which is one of the most carcinogenic toxic substances known.  There's no treatment for aflatoxin infection, either- once you have it, you have it.  Cooking can kill aflatoxins, but it's not 100% effective- for some reason ancient man knew this, but flight attendants don't.
  • No sugar except what naturally occurs in fruit, and limited amounts of honey.  Obviously, ancient man had little access to sugar cane, and they certainly weren't going to tangle with a bunch of bees for honey on a regular basis.  Thus, sugar and honey are pretty much out, which basically eliminates all junk food from one's diet when combined with the grains.

In short, no matter what kind of paleo you're doing, you're essentially limited to the meat counter, the produce section, the spice rack, and maybe a stop in dairy.  As J Stanton puts it “Eat anything you could pick, dig, or spear.  Mostly spear.”  He's got an article to that effect called “Eat Like A Predator, Not Like Prey.”  One caveat to the "dig" portion of Stanton's quote I'd like to point out, and one to which I alluded earlier, is regarding modern tubers and fruits.  Agriculture does funny things to food, and fruits and tubers are perhaps some of the best- they in no way resemble their ancestors.  Tubers, for instance, were basically oblong pieces of bark with a tiny bit of meat in the middle.  According to Loren Cordain (the academic, not the shitpile author of pandering diet books), most of tuber eating was chewing on and digesting insoluble fiber- paleolithic man got over 100g of fiber daily from gnawing on tubers .

Apparently, there is a trend among hippie to engage in "aboriginal birch bark biting."  I just don't even know what the fuck is going on in the world anymore.

Because eating tubers was so time intensive (and likely led to more TMJ than a 12 hour stint at a glory hole), tubers were likely the initial objectives of cooking (Ungar 36).  Tuber consumption increased concomitantly with meat consumption and was likely the fallback food for primitive man, no doubt because that fiber filled up empty bellies (Ungar 203).  That, however, is a far cry from the sugary-sweet sweet potatoes with Saran Wrap-thin skin upon which you'll see your typical paleo advocate munching.

They might look like funny-colored cherries, but those are actually what apples looked like in the paleolithic.

Similarly, white potatoes in no way resemble their ancient ancestors.  The wild potato, which still grows in Peru (where it was originally domesticated 7000-10000 years ago), is more bitter than a fat girl on prom night, more gnarled than your great grandma's arthritic hands, and thicker skin than what's likely on your palms.  Apples in the paleolithic were little larger than cherries and were incredibly tart- in fact, they were far more like the crab apples that litter your driveway every fall than the Granny Smith you see in the grocery store.  If you want to see what an ancient strawberry looks like, look no further than a wild strawberry- they're basically the size of blueberries and about as tart as a lemon.  In short, none of the produce you're eating is paleo, and tubers and fruits are the worst culprits in this regard.


I'll continue this insanely lengthy article soon and hash out more of the reasons why people who eat paleo aren't, in fact, eating like paleolithic man.  Unfortunately, the introduction to the disparate types of paleo dieting took so long it left me with little room for explication of the difference between modern paleolithic eating and the actual diets of paleolithic man.  In any event, there's plenty more to cover, so we're going to school these paleotards like they're sitting in those tiny chairs with the desk attached.  Luckily, their legs are so fucking skinny form all of the cycling and jogging that they can probably fit- let's just hope they've eaten enough calories to hold onto their crayons as they take notes.

One final note- I love the idea of paleolithic dieting.  I just hate the motherfuckers who do it.