Founding Father of the Paleo Diet
In this episode of the Live Fit Podcast, I speak one on one with Dr. Loren Cordain. He is one of the founding fathers of the paleolithic eating philosophy.
Dr. Loren Cordain began this chapter of his life as a quest to improve his own athletic performance. When he read a paper written by Dr. Boyd Eaton about the things that hunter gatherers used to eat based on availability and technology his eyes lit up and he called Dr. Eaton on the phone to discuss further. Since that day, the two have collaborated and co-authored many research-based papers on the subject of paleolithic eating.
Dr. Eaton’s paper explained that humans have been eating in this manner, with these types of foods for thousands of years, yet we have only been eating agriculturally raised foods such as grains and dairy for about 333 generations – not very long on the evolutionary scale.
In this episode Dr. Cordain said that most people ingest 70% of their calories from the following:
- Refined grains
- Refined sugars
- Refined oils
Links and other information from the show
- The Paleo Diet website
- Dr Cordain’s bio
- Sugar content of fruit
- His rebuttal on the US News and World Report diet ratings
- His Criticism of the Blood Type Diet
- The Original Paleo Facebook page
- The Paleo Diet Twitter handle
These are just a few of the articles and other information about the Paleo Diet available on his site: thepaleodiet.com.
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Books on the Paleo Diet by Dr. Cordain’s
Listen to the show here
Glenn: Okay. So I have on the line today Dr. Loren Cordain. He wrote several Paleo diet books. One of which is ‘Paleo Diet for Athletes.’ And I’m going to talk to him a little bit about that. But first Dr. Cordain, how are you doing?
Dr. Cordain: Pretty good, Glenn. How are you?
Glenn: I’m doing really well, sitting here in some snowy weather here in Colorado so you must have some snow too, right?
Dr. Cordain: Yeah, it’s cold and snowy where you’re calling from.
Glenn: Portland, Oregon. We had a several days of snow and now we have freezing rain. So it’s pretty traffic outside.
Dr. Cordain: I see that on the news. You guys are getting some unexpected snow up there.
Glenn: Yeah, it’s pretty fun. I was driving in it yesterday. It keeps you alert. It definitely kept me on my toes but it was exciting. No problems.
Dr. Cordain: I used to live up in that area.
Glenn: Oh really?
Dr. Cordain: Yeah, I did. I lived in Forest Grove, Oregon.
Dr. Cordain: For a couple of years.
Glenn: Nice. Found better pastures in Colorado?
Dr. Cordain: Yeah, I was actually up there when I was a graduate student. I was going to Optometry School. And that really wasn’t my path in life so I left there but I really enjoyed my time in Oregon. You know I know Oregon is a very you know progressive state and the people that are there are huge advocates of Paleo. So I like connecting folks up in Portland. And I know you got a lot of Paleo friendly restaurant up there.
Glenn: Yes, we do.
Dr. Cordain: It’s a very cool city.
Glenn: So tell me how did you get interested in Paleo? What was your path that led you to where you are now?
Dr. Cordain: Well, I was always a high school and collegian athlete. And I ran track at the university of Nevada-Reno. And early 70s, I was always interested in diet and health and trying to figure out what I could do personally to help my performance. And then for the next 20 years after that, I was a life guard at Lake Tahoe. I experimented with all kinds of diets and you know supplements and juicing and what have you. And nothing really seemed to work that well as a matter of fact. I think I probably hurt my performance back in my late 20s and early 30s.
Glenn: By juicing or just everything you tried.
Dr. Cordain: Everything. I was pretty much into you know beans and brown rice, kind of the vegan vegetarian thing. And I think that potentially has adverse health effects because you end up doing short hand of so many nutrients that you need as an endurance athlete, zinc, iron, Vitamin B12 and many others. Also, a vegan vegetarian diet is very high in anti-nutrients. So we need a lot of legumes and brown rice and whole grains. Not only are not getting the appropriate nutrients, you’re actually doing a little bit of damage to your body by eating those foods on a regular basis. So at that time, you know this was in the 70s and the 80s. Nobody knew about it. And at the time, healthful diet was thought to be you know plant-based, low-fat, high-carb diet. So my tastes have changed.
Dr. Cordain: Yeah. So how did I get in to it? I ended up as getting my PhD and then taking a job as a professor at Colorado State University. And my research focused on a fitness, body composition, health and diet to a degree. In 1987, I read Boyd Eaton’s classic paper as a New England Journal of Medicine, the Paleo Diet, ‘The Paleolithic Prescription,’ and whatever he was calling that paper at that time.
Dr. Cordain: And I thought it was just about the best idea I’d ever heard. I ended up reading everything I could in getting all the cross references to that paper. And finally, I got enough courage and I called Boyd Eaton Atlanta. And we had a good conversation, nice long talk. I invited him up to see a few and we eventually started writing papers together because he was really the god father of this whole concept. And I just kind of looked around. It’s like climbing in a mountain and you know you’re kind of near the top and that’s how things happened. I didn’t deliberately set out to do Paleo. I was just trying to find a healthier way for me to eat and perform in a personal basis. Then my wife finally convinced me in bout 1999 to write a popular book on the idea because all I’d written up to that point was just scientific papers. So I wrote a popular book and wrote another one with Joe Friel. You may know his name.
Dr. Cordain: He’s one of the Olympic tri-athlete coaches because he and I have known each other for a long, long time. So we wrote a book and that did fairly well. And then probably about 2009 or 2010, Paleo just absolutely took off. And you know the whole movement now has become a worldwide movement. Clearly, I’m not the only person that’s involved. I got on board at an early stage and it was you know working and writing with the major players. Nobody owns it at this point. It’s public knowledge. And everyone’s, the entire world is moving it forward. So…
Dr. Cordain: Fine for me to see it take on this global perspective.
Glenn: Now so your first book was the ‘Paleo Diet,’ was type of the Paleo diet.
Dr. Cordain: Yeah.
Glenn: And then your second one was with Joe Friel was the ‘Paleo Answer,’ right?
Dr. Cordain: No, the second one was ‘The Paleo Diet for Athletes.’ And we actually revised both of those. I published the first one in 2002. It was revised in 2010. Friel and I wrote ‘The Paleo Diet for Athletes’ in 2005. And we revised in 2012.
Glenn: Okay, that’s when I saw it. It was in a book store when it first came out. I wasn’t aware that it was the second, that it was the revision.
Dr. Cordain: Yeah, and then ‘The Paleo Answer,’ that came out in 2012 also.
Glenn: Okay. I have that one.
Dr. Cordain: We wrote ‘Paleo Diet Cook Book’ in 2010. And then I wrote another book called ‘The Dietary Cure for Acne.’
Glenn: Okay. So yeah, you’ve put… What’s that? About five books you have out there that have been doing pretty well. And when I look at the Paleo section of the bookstore, I see yours. They’re predominant. But there are many others there. And I can’t help but wonder what are the difference between yours and some of these other books out there. Is there fundamental differences in the philosophies of what Paleo is or what is best for the body?
Dr. Cordain: Well, you know I can’t answer that question simply because I haven’t read… There’s a platter of books that I probably a couple hundred or more, maybe 4 or 5 hundred. I don’t even know anymore. It has become so huge.
Dr. Cordain: But anytime you get that many people were involved in ideology or way of living, I think there is some basic ideas here that almost everybody embraces but clearly not all the details are universally agreed upon. And that’s actually healthy. That’s how you move forward. I think disagreement is actually healthy.
Glenn: So you don’t have all the answers.
Dr. Cordain: No, and I think it’d be foolish to try to say that anybody does you know, anybody that comes on being “charismatic individual with all the answers” is probably wrong. In fact, I would have stayed away from him. So that’s really the beauty of this whole concept is I didn’t invent it nor did anybody else. What we did is we simply uncovered what was pre-existing. So you know we may have been at the very forefront of this notion going out to you know hunter gatherers and non-Westernized people and gathering data and showing what they did and did not eat. But others have added can add to that. So you know that’s kind of what we bring to the plate is the scientific information that we published through review. Of course, anybody can get on the internet and say anything they want.
Glenn: Right. Right. So you are true academic. You’re taking research from others and putting it together and trying it out yourself.
Dr. Cordain: Not just taking research from others. We’re actually generating data through empirically based experiments. And some are non-empirically based. So you know it’s a mismatch, but you know we’re putting it together from a variety of sources but all of the scientific papers, they are published in high impact factor per review, journals, mainly nutritional journals and anthropology journals.
Glenn: Okay. So for those people out there listening that are not very familiar with Paleo, can you give kind of an overview of what exactly it entails?
Dr. Cordain: Sure. The word Paleo means old. And it stands for Paleolithic which means the Old Stone Age. And the old stone age began with the appearance of stone tools and the fossil record and that dates back to at least two-and-a half million years ago. And from that point forward until the agricultural revolution, all humans on the planet existed as hunter or gatherers. And the only food they ate was the food they hunt, gather, forage or fish. And there were no such things really as processed foods or refined foods or most of the modern foods that we eat. So the notion is that our genome was shaped during that 2-and-a-half million year period and we haven’t changed a whole lot since the advent of agriculture which was only 10 thousand years ago. Also, that seemed historically remote. It’s really only about 300 human generations ago. And genetic change, even though 300 generations seems you know unfathomably long ago, it really isn’t on an evolutionary time scale. So for the most part, our genome, our bodies are relatively similar to our Stone Age ancestors. And accordingly the foods that they ate in their environment or the foods that we are best adapted to. How clever… They had all kinds of environments to live in the whole ton of different foods. But the Western diet is many standard deviations off even the furthest, most extreme hunter gatherer diet they have all kinds of environment to live and ate a whole ton of different foods but the western.
So the idea then is to restore the food groups that they would have consumed and try to avoid the ones that they didn’t. Obviously, we can’t live like hunter gatherers. We can’t all go out and eat while gain and gather up wild plants. But what we can do is when we go to the supermarket or to whole foods or farmer’s market or wherever you get your food. You can make food choices that emulate or mimic food groups that they ate. Basically, the food groups that they ate were fresh fruits, vegetables of all sorts, meat, fish, seafood, nuts, seeds, what have you. And so those are that really forms the basic of the contemporary Paleo diet. Is mimicking with modern foods, the foods that they ate. And we have actually done an analysis. We’ve done computerized dietary analysis.
Dr. Cordain: And the nutrition characteristic of the diet are roughly similar. Now the big difference is what we don’t eat is that in the Western diet, 70% of the calories come from four foods. They come from fine grains, refined sugar, refined vegetable oils and dairy products. That’s pretty mind boggling. 70% of your calories, if you’re a normal American, every single day, comes from those four foods. Now you can mix them up. You can call them a doughnut, a pizza, a cookie or cracker, ice cream, candy. You can call it whatever you want but it’s a mixture of one or more of those four foods. So what you get away from those, you take all of those four foods out of your diet because hunter gatherers rarely or never ate those four foods and what’s left? Fresh vegetables, meat, fish, seafood, nuts what have you. And when you eat that and those foods, the diet becomes incredibly nutrient dense. You don’t have to worry about taking Vitamins or minerals because you get everything you need from those foods. And the nutritional characteristics of the diet start to change. You can eat a lot of proteins. You eat a lot of carbohydrates, carbohydrate that you do eat comes from fruits and veggies. So recently in the last 0, 5 to 7 years, scientists have now tested that way of eating which is called the Paleo diet or however you want to call it, cave men or whatever. We’ve actually tested it and experimentally it turns out that it is superior to many diet that we thought were helpful versus the Mediterranean diet, low-fat, high carbs diet. It’s like what the American heart recommends and other groups. So this turns out to be a kind of a world leader when it’s contrasted to many of the other what we thought to be helpful diets.
Glenn: Now, you mentioned fruits a couple of times. I know now people are recently really down on fruit. And I’m a fruit bat from way back and I love fruit. I can eat fruit nuts all day. But a lot of people are saying according to evidence called liver fat and stored body fats. So where do you stand on fruit?
Dr. Cordain: You know people can say whatever they want as I said on the internet. I think that what you will find if you go to the sources, most people point out is that they’re empirically based. There have been actually a couple of studies that was done in overweight and even in type 2 diabetics where they gave them…. You know where you take the entire fruit and – what do you call it? – a fruit puree or a…
Dr. Cordain: It’s not a fruit juice and you mix all of those up and they give it to them and then they measure what’s called insulin insensitivity through a euglycemic hyperinsulinemic clamp, which is the best way to measure insulin sensitivity. And what they found is those fruits didn’t impair insulin sensitivity. Now however I’m open minded you know and maybe there are people out there that don’t science are on to something. And that’s certainly a possibility you know a lot of good information starts off as anecdotal. And so one of the problems with modern fruit when you contrast it to wild fruits is that it tends to degrade for a low fiber and high–
Glenn: High sweet.
Dr. Cordain: Very sweet. Yeah, a lot of sugar in it. So not all sugars are the same and so not all sugars tend to impair insulin metabolism. So fructose is big one. And that is handled differently in the liver by passes a crucial metabolic step in the liver. And that’s what causes problems with fructose. So somebody is grossly overweight or obese or they have one or more diseases that is insulin resistant then I would say that they need to be careful and cautious when they first try to Paleo diet. As you go to my website, the paleodiet.com, we actually list the sugar content of all commonly consumed modern fruits so you can see how much fructose are in fruits. Some of the bad ones are like apples. Not all apples. There are different varieties of apples but the average apple, the average grape is pretty high in fructose. Grapes, you can end up eating a ton, if you sit down, and pound pretty easily. But apple, you know you can eat one apple maybe two which probably can eat 7 or 8. So you know I think that most fruits are off limiting. And there’s a lot of really healthy fruits that you can eat all you want. And you don’t have to worry about it. Believe it or not, tomatoes are fruits and they have very low sugar content, same with lemons and limes. Most berries like what you guys can pick wild up there in Oregon and black berries, blueberries, raspberries typically are low in sugar as our melons. So most cantaloupes you know different varieties of melons are quite low in sugar.
Glenn: Except watermelon, I suspect. It’s pretty high in sugar.
Dr. Cordain: You know that’s kind of a myth. Once again, if you go to my website, you can actually get the data and you can see how much sugar. And we actually break it down into the types of sugars. Believe it or not, glucose is actually not as harmful for you. Glucose is monosaturated or a simple sugar and it doesn’t seem to have nearly adverse effect. Fructose, as I mentioned fructose is just metabolized way differently than other sugars in the body.
Glenn: Uhum. Yeah, I’m looking at your page right now and your website. So I will definitely give this information in my Show Notes, your website and some of these others that we talked about so people can find it more easily. This is very informative so I will give a direct link to this page in particular.
Dr. Cordain: To answer your question, Yeah, I think that you know normal healthy people who are adopting Paleo probably don’t have problems with sugar. Some people do. And if you do listen to your body, this is the starting point for healthy eating. It’s not the end point. And everybody needs to kind of find, attune to their own needs.
Glenn: And you’re talking about the thousands and thousands of the viewers that people have been eating in a certain way. And years ago, I read a book called ‘The Blood Type Diet.’ And it does talked about that but it says certain regions of the world as you can imagine has certain foods available and not other foods and there is the northern, what’s now European area, they had dairy. And so they did not wean from when they were weaned. They continue eating dairy. And those people their ancestors that are still alive, can eat dairy. But I noticed that Paleo generally says no dairy. Most people say no dairy. So what’s your stands on this or anything to this blood type thing? Do you know anything about it?
Dr. Cordain: Yeah, we’ve… you know I’m a scientist at a division one research institute. And what I do all day long is play around with these ideas and reach scientific papers. Unfortunately, that the person who wrote that blood type diet actually did quite well in the popular book market. But it’s just – I hate to say it – it’s junk science. And so we wrote a pretty stern rebuttal to it. And he completely got everything wrong. Anybody that wants to take any time and go on Medline or PubMed, you can look it up. And he’s got the timelines wrong. He’s got the blood types wrong when they evolved, when they appeared in the scientific literature. It’s a complete and total disservice to the general public. You know it’s kind of like if you’re a computer scientist and you try to speak computer to somebody, they have no clue what you’re saying.
Dr. Cordain: And it takes another scientist to disenable the de reality and the fact. And this thing is an absolutely total jokes. It’s not base. If he tries to publish that any scientist or journal in the world, he would be completely blown out. None of the fact even close to being close. Now you brought up the point about dairy. Well, cows were first domesticated roughly 10 thousand years ago. Alright. And if you look t certain people in the world they have the ability to digest milk because it contains a sugar called lactose. And you have to have the enzyme lactase in your gut. Sixty six percent of the world’s people can’t digest lactose. So consequently they have GI tract abscess when they drink milk. When you look back and look at Peter D’Adamo’s ‘Blood Type Diet.’ Well, there’s four different common bloods. First off, he completely gets the whole thing wrong. There’s at least 35, 36 different blood types that are common. And there’s over 300 different blood types. Does that mean we have to have 300 different diets or 36? You know that’s one of the clues. Secondly, he said the most recent is the AB blood group. He said that’s the most recently of all. And then he says, it only happen roughly 14 thousand years ago. Or actually 13 years ago. That’s complete nonsense. That blood group evolved almost 600 thousand years ago. Two orders of magnitudes higher. So I mean just the starting point is ridiculous. And if you’re interested, you can go to my website and I think we published a blog. I extensively rebutted what perhaps 80 or 90 scientific references. And you can read it for yourself and get all the details. So it’s somewhere at my website. I you know… I don’t know exactly actually if you Google my name with blood type diet, you’d probably come up with that paper.
Glenn: Okay. I will look forward and I’ll put that on the Show Notes page.
Dr. Cordain: Yeah, once you find it. I don’t know exactly where it’s at but it’s somewhere on my website.
Glenn: Another thing, I wanted to talk to you about is I spoke with Dr. Barry Sears recently on my show. And he said that his diet is Paleo. Do you agree or disagree? Do you have any words on that?
Dr. Cordain: I know Barry. He’s a colleague and a friend. And I’ve known him for years. And I think his diet basically you know follows… Well first off, you know as I mentioned earlier, there really is nobody’s eating Stone Age diet. We’re all eating contemporary diets that are based on Stone Age food groups. So I think Barry is pretty you know he’s done a pretty good job of… He was one of the pioneers of getting it early on. You know I’ve never really read his book from start to finish but I’ve been at conferences where he spoke. And what he advocates is taken a piece of meat about the size of your fist putting it on a plate and filling up the plate with fruits and veggies and that’s should be what you do for your meal.
Dr. Cordain: Why don’t you on board with it.
Glenn: Except if I recall he’s not fundamentally against grains where you would be.
Dr. Cordain: You know I don’t know if he’s isn’t but we clearly are against grains and I think almost anybody in the contemporary Paleo movement that’s been around that are blogged and have written books you know there’s few exceptions. I think some people might so you can try a little of rice but I think most people for the most part suggest that’s not it. And really you know I try to do Glenn is used the model of hunter gatherers. And you know hunter gatherers rarely or never ate grains. They simply didn’t have the technology to make it. And grains weren’t, edible grains, weren’t universally widespread across the earth. So it really becomes a new point once you dock up 300 human generations. And even historically studied hunter gatherers rarely ate grains. They were considered starvation foods.
Glenn: Wow. They’re, you considered them to be anti-nutritious as in not just good for you but they’re bad for you.
Dr. Cordain: Well first off, it’s you know the question that I would ask why would you want to eat it’s an inferior foods.
Glenn: Right. Rice they’re cheap, cheap and plentiful.
Dr. Cordain: And actually nutritionally, they’re inferior. If you take the 13 Vitamins and minerals that are the most lacking in the typical US diet or the western diet, 13 vitamins and minerals most lacking in the US diet and you analyze the various food groups, cereal grains end up close to the bottom if you separate foods into one of 7 categories. We pointed this out a couple of scientific papers. We did actually the first analysis showing that cereal grains are nutritional lightweights. And high cereal grain diets as I pointed out in my paper cereal grains humanity’s double edge sword actually caused nutritional deficiencies. So you may have heard of pellagra. Pellagra is a disease that ran rapidly in the United States, the south, late 19th century. It also devastated Europe and Italy in the 16th and 17th century. And it’s primarily comes from eating corn. So if you eat a ton of corn, you develop a disease called pellagra. There’s another disease if you eat too much rice called beriberi, particularly polished rice.
Glenn: Right. Right.
Dr. Cordain: Pellagra and beriberi. And also grains don’t have any Vitamin C so you get scurvy if you eat nothing but grains to eat. So grains really are nutritionally inferior. They are low in 13 nutrients most lacking in the most typical US diet. And then to add insult to injuries, you pointed out they contain multiple anti-nutrients which interfere with normal human nutrition and potentially can be toxic ranging from lethal toxicity to just mildly toxic. And so that’s kind of what recent science particularly people that are studying autoimmunity are now coming to the conclusion is that the anti-nutrients in grains have multiple adverse effects in the GI tract. And if they pass the GI tract, they seem to interact with the immune system.
Glenn: And cause inflammation in joints too, is that right?
Dr. Cordain: You know that whole series of events as scientist, you have to go A to B, B to C, you have to do that entire series of events. We’ve known for a long period of time that elements in grains in animal models can cause inflammation in joints whether that translates what e call in vivo living humans under normal conditions hasn’t been established via randomized control trials. And that’s really the gold-standard in science is with randomized controlled science. So realized that this whole Paleo diet concept has only been around at least in the modern era, Boyd Eton, the first paper in the journal of medicine 1985. And the idea that this thing you know potentially therapeutic, I wrote my first book in 2002. And the movement really didn’t take off until maybe 2006 to 2009. So science is a little bit slow and behind the curve in–
Dr. Cordain: –getting this.
Glenn: Yeah, and that’s the trouble. A lot of people argued that they heard it from a friend or heard it, read it on the internet, which always cracks me up but they assume it’s true just because they heard it but science really does take quite awhile to show proof of a certain thing. Popular diets out there over the years, I’ve been following up since I was probably about 12 years old and that’s kind of what brought me into my career path where I am now. And it’s seeing all these different diet trends come and go and explode and then disappear and seeing people who are basically diet hobbies they would just jump from one diet to another looking for that magic cure, magic bullet. And I find it really inspiring or interesting also that Paleo took awhile to build and now it’s kind of exploded but it’s been around for awhile. There’s been some French people following it but there’s many more people following it. And it brings a certain amount of distaste to some people I guess like “Oh yeah, paleo, paleo paleo” but at the same time if you do follow the research and the evidence, you might see that it does have a pretty strong foundation.
Dr. Cordain: Yeah, you know I think that’s kind of the point that I try to make to this interview is that people should left the data speak for themselves and try to stay away from any charismatic individuals. So you don’t have to listen to me. You don’t have to listen to Robb Wolf or Marge Simpson or anybody else. But you know there are dozens of academicians and scientist out there that are test in certain aspects of this and you know you can read their papers for yourself. So you know when you know somebody criticizes it and hasn’t read you know the papers or the science behind it, then they’re really ill informed and so as I mentioned I didn’t invent this. No one invented this. It’s really not a diet per say.
Dr. Cordain: It’s a long way of eating to optimize health and wellbeing. And who amongst any nutritionist would tell you that eating in a real living food – fruits and vegetables, seafood and fish, grass-produced meats – you know will cause adverse health effects. So I think… and that you shouldn’t eat refined sugars and grains and processed foods and candy bars, I mean that message is… It’s the 21st century way of eating clean, green and responsible way of eating and responsible way of eating.
Glenn: And you bring up an interesting point what nutritionist say that you shouldn’t eat those healthy whole foods and prefer the processed foods but my problem is as an instructor in nutrition I find a lot of people do eat these processed foods and I’m sure at least 70% of most of their diets do consist of it. But the argument always goes down to cost and availability. So that’s the main problem I have convincing people to eat the whole foods when they can buy a case of top ramen for the same price as six apples.
Dr. Cordain: Well, you know I don’t know that I would necessarily agree with that but you have incredible farmer’s market importantly. And we have very good farmers market here in Colorado. And the unfortunate part is that you know the fruits and veggies in all that isn’t available all year round but I don’t know about in Portland but here in Colorado – and I only have to travel maybe a mile and a half to get to our farmer’s market and for 8 bucks, I can get a about a 20 pound bag of anything that’s you know available whether it’s carrots, beef, or cabbage or you know onions or what have you for 8 bucks.
Dr. Cordain: So yeah and so that happens on a daily basis. They bring these things in and if you wait until the end of the day, you get an even cheaper. So I look at that 8 bucks and then I look at processed foods, things like you know Kellogg’s Corn Flakes. And what is a box? I don’t even know how it cost anymore.
Glenn: Probably 3 bucks or something.
Dr. Cordain: Yeah, it was between 3 and 5 bucks for a box that contains maybe what 2 cents worth of cereal grain.
Dr. Cordain: A cardboard and advertising so and then I look at that potential health benefits of eating something like processed corn for breakfast in you know a bowl of milk versus having a bowl of fresh fruits and/or piece of meat or fish. So you can buy… I know there are websites and blogs that help people to do Paleo on a budget. So one of it the tricks is to look for the sales and buy fish and meat when it comes on sale. In Portland, you’re close to the sea and you know when the seafood comes out and you can get salmon for a really incredible price. You can get a big load of it and put it in your freezer. Samely, if you can eliminate the middle man by going to farmer’s market. That’s what my wife and I do. I can’t tell you the last time I ever bought any meat at a super market. First off, it’s difficult to get grass-produced meat in supermarket. So we go directly to the middleman here in Colorado, we have people that produce grass-fed cows, lambs you know free range chickens, grass-produced bison. And so we typically go out to Eastern Colorado and get a half a size of grass-produced beef or half a side of bison and bring it back. And the price per pound is about the same or maybe sometimes even a little bit lower than what you would get at supermarkets.
Dr. Cordain: So that’s you know there’s a variety of techniques. You know even in a city, even if you live in downtown Portland, you can you know grow herbs and vegetables in a little pot.
Glenn: True. True.
Dr. Cordain: So there are a variety of ways in which you can come around it and added people who just feel so much better. It’s like why eat cereal and sugar.
Glenn: Yeah, well I think we can go on back and forth with that argument based on the people I’ve spoken with and both of our kind of ideas on the subject. But I would like to get to my last two questions really quick. The first and last is who is Paleo good for? Is it good for absolutely everybody? And I’m going to ask you about your book ‘Paleo for Athletes’ in a second so I’m assuming that’s going to be one of the answers that Paleo is at least good for athletes. Is it good for the persons whose just have a sedentary lifestyle?
Dr. Cordain: I would turn that question around and I would say, “Who is the standard American diet good for?”
Glenn: (Laughter) Good point. No one.
Dr. Cordain: Well, you know if you’re involved in fitness and health, you realized that roughly two-thirds of all American that are adults or either overweight or obese and 70% more of the population has one or more symptoms of the metabolic syndrome so you be the judge of that. And I’m not saying that it’s entirely diet related but if you throw out an exercise component, you probably are pretty close to being there.
Glenn: Yeah, I agree. Okay. Let’s get on with your book, ‘Paleo for Athletes,’ what’s…
Dr. Cordain: It’s not really my book. I co-wrote it with Joe Friel, a past US Olympic tri-athlete coach.
Glenn: Yeah, I read a couple of his books too. Well, what’s the difference between eating as an athlete Paleo and eating just a regular lifestyle with Paleo?
Dr. Cordain: Well, you got to recall that Joe is you know a tri-athlete coach primarily and he’s also distance runner and bicycling and mountain biking. And so we’re primarily talking about endurance athletes and so what we try to gear that book for was endurance athletes. And I’m not saying that you can’t do that diet if you’re not an endurance athlete but one of the factors that endurance athletes need to have is they need to maximize muscle glycogen content prior to competition. And so we talked about ways in which you can train and the way in which you can manipulate diet before and after competition and during training to maximize that. And one of the surprising factors that have come out in the scientific literature is that if you eat less carbohydrate during training, you tend to optimize what I call beta-oxidation pathways. Pathways that utilize triglyceride rather than carbohydrate. And so when people bunk when they hit the wall, when they were in a competition, it’s usually people that eat carbohydrates all they long. And when the muscle glycogen is eliminated or reduced down to practically nothing that’s what subjectively the feel as the bunk. Yet, what we’re finding now is that you can extend that time until you get the bunk if you can increase your utilization what we call intra-muscular tri-glycerides so one of the most lay bile sources of energy and ATP in the muscle are intermuscular triglycerides. And by eating a Paleo diet when you’re eating and throughout the week, it tends to reduce or rely on carbohydrates during training and increase your reliance on these so called beta-oxidation pathways that utilize intramuscular triglycerides. And the object of the game is to enter competition with maximal stores of intramuscular triglycerides along with maximal storage of glycogen. So that’s kind of the science behind it. We talked about the practical part on why do you need to know. So all of the references Joe and I provided at the back of each chapter. But that book tends to cater to endurance athletes. There’s multiple benefits, the same benefits to people have by consuming Paleo diets, you have when you eat for health you do Paleo diet for athletes so one of the problems, I’m sure you’re well aware of this after respiratory illnesses that seemed to happen with endurance athletes, another athletes that get everything that comes along during cold season. And once you start adapting this way of eating, it tends to optimize factors that are involved in immune function that tend to help you or reduce the incidence of a respiratory illnesses. You do that, you can train harder. And the same thing is true is that you can train harder if you finish your workout and you’re not completely, if you’re muscles are not completely wasted. And so that’s really what we’re looking at, their nutrition, their compounds called branch-chain amino acids. And they’re found primarily… It’s called leucine, isoleucine and valine. And these 3 amino acids, they tend to be anabolic in the post exercise period. And so they restore and help to build muscle that have been broken down during the workout. And so the Paleo diet is incredibly high in branch chain amino acids because we focus on animal products at you know virtually all meals.
Glenn: Very nice. Well, I’m gonna have to pick up that book and read it. I’ve thumb through it before and just never… I didn’t but it because I didn’t have the time to sit down and really read it. And I don’t want to just have it taking up space. I’m not gonna pick it up until I really have time to dedicate to it. But that’s really lead me to wanting to speak with you is the fact that I’m an endurance athlete. And I wanted to know really what’s the difference between your version and the old ways of carb-bloating and some of these other techniques of constant carb ingestion.
Dr. Cordain: Yeah, we point out some of the short-comings of the old way of doing it with grains and sugars and what have you. And recall, I didn’t tell you this yet. But grains are not acid yielding. And one of the ways in which the body has to deal with the chronic net metabolic acidosis is it uses glutamine to basically help get rid these net acid ions of report to the kidney. So if you carbohydrate load with cereal grains, which is what the average endurance athletes have been doing 40 year, then you tend to produce chronic net metabolic acidosis. And we point that out in our book and we say that if carbohydrate load, you’re much better off loading with foods that produces a net alkalosis. In that way, you don’t lose glutamine. Glutamine high levels of glutamine are associated with over training and so you’re draining your body’s glutamine storage when you carbohydrate load grains and sugars.
Glenn: Alright. So let me get this right. High levels of glutamine happen when you’ve done long training and you’re depleted or…
Dr. Cordain: Well, there are two factors is that it’s the way in which you measure it. So when glutamine is elevated in the blood stream, it’s an indicator of over training.
Dr. Cordain: And the reason glutamine is elevated is because it’s being sucked out of your body because it’s being used by the liver to get rid of the chronic metabolic acidosis. So one of the ways in which the body gets rid of acid ions is be excreting more ammonia.
Dr. Cordain: And it excretes ammonia the nitrogen source for ammonia is glutamine. So the body, when it breaks down muscle in the post exercise period, there are amino acid stores in the bloodstream. High levels of glutamine are indicative of over training. And if you’re losing those the glutamine that appears in plasma than it’s being sucked out by the liver to titrate the acidic ions that come from a net metabolic acidosis. If you’re interested you know more fully on that, you can go to our book and I’ve written a part of a chapter on that. And at the end of each chapter, we site the scientific references. And you can read the papers for yourself on Medline.
Glenn: Okay. I’m gonna do that. I’m interested. I’ve heard people supplementing glutamine after a long bike ride or race or something kind of want to get a little more information on that for myself.
Dr. Cordain: Yeah, you know so Paleo is a pretty easy way to not have to worry about the details. Just eat bananas and fruit n the post exercise period or pre-exercise. So you don’t have to eat spaghetti. Isn’t that how they typically carbohydrate load is go out and eat a gigantic spaghetti meal before a race?
Glenn: Yeah, that doesn’t quite work for me.
Dr. Cordain: Yeah. Alright. Well Glenn, thanks. You’ve been a really interesting interview. You are a sharp guy. And you know your stuff. So I appreciate it. And hopefully, get this message out to your audience.
Glenn: I certainly will. I would really like to thank you for taking the time to come on the show with me. It was really an honor to talk with you. I’ve been really impress with your books. And you kind of being the leader of the whole Paleo thing. It’s nice to hear from the horse’s mouth. Get well soon. I hope you’re back up on your mountain bike in no time. I wish you the best.
Dr. Cordain: Hey, Glenn. It’s been my honor. Good luck to you as well.
Glenn: Alright. Thank you.
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