Ancestral Eating & Lifestyle
Tying everything together
For the past few weeks, we have discussed the 3 main components of our nutrition (Protein, Fats, Carbs). To be honest this has been a very brief overview of nutrition. Many details go into understanding human nutrition and what is best for you. Today I hope to tie together all of the basics and provide you with a framework that helps you learn what’s best for you.
Why diets don’t work…
How many times have you heard “This diet will help you lose 50lbs in a month!” or “Look no further, the perfect diet is
Whether it is Vegan, Plant-Based, Vegetarian, Paleo, Keto, Mediterranean, Atkins, Weight Watchers, Carnivore, Macro counting, or another popular diet they don’t work (for everyone). This is not to say that people or even you at some point haven’t followed them and seen results but rather the mindset that we go into when starting them.
Going on a diet for most signifies that they are following a certain way of eating for some time as a means to lose weight or hit their goals. After that designated period, most go back to their previous eating habits. What most diets don’t do is help you develop sustainable lifestyle habits that will promote health and well-being.
The way you eat should not leave you feeling hungry, deprived, and lacking energy.
Most diets work by restricting either certain macros (mainly fat and carbs) or restricting caloric intake. Both of which leave you feeling like you are missing something. Sure you may lose weight but how many people do you know that rebound and end up weighing more after they cease their diet?
Diets do not work because they are not addressing the root cause of the issue. The root cause is low-quality foods, inadequate caloric, and nutrient consumption.
Why should we eat like our Ancestors?
Ancestral eating is the idea of following a nutrition plan that mimics the way humans ate for most of their existence. Humans have been thriving on the earth far longer than they have had access to agriculture, medicine, and industry. Now I will not say that I do not love the modern society where our biggest fears have nothing to do with being eaten by a bear or big cat, but when it comes to food and lifestyle our ancestors had it right.
Over the last several hundred years (mainly the last 100) we have progressed immensely in our technology and understanding of the world while simultaneously losing our health and longevity. Consumption of sugar, grains and seed oils has increased dramatically while naturally raised animals and seasonal plant consumption has decreased. This, along with many other factors, has left 70% of us overweight/obese and over 80% of us metabolically unhealthy.
It is undebatable that Americans are sick and unhealthy.
I am sure I will get the question “But didn’t our ancestors die on average at 40 years old? We live much longer these days.” This is a common misconception. When coming to this conclusion researchers included infant mortality leaving many of the deaths at an age of 5 or less. If you’ve ever taken a statistics class you will know that when you have outliers in the data it skews the median meaning that when infant mortality was controlled for in these studies our ancestors who made it through those first 5 years of life lived well into their 60s, 70s, and beyond. This is a key benefit of modern medicine.
Our Ancestors were hunter-gatherers through and through. The only way they could survive was by living off of the land hunting animals and consuming seasonal plants in the area they roamed. By doing this over hundreds of thousands of years (and millions of years before when we weren’t yet modern-day humans) homo sapiens evolved to thrive on the food sources available to them.
Now some may think “Well haven’t we or won’t we evolve to do the same with the way we are living now? We have had agriculture and industry for thousands of years.” The problem here is that for the human species to evolve it takes nearly ten thousand years for one genetic mutation to become linked to a large percentage of the population. Looking at the scale of human existence this simply hasn’t been enough time and it is far more likely that we will die due to disease and illness faster than we will evolve to accommodate our poor eating and lifestyle habits.
Nature has already done the work for us. It is on us to listen, learn, and apply what we have been given to our modern-day life.
Developing an Ancestral Lifestyle
For most of the human existence, we would wake up with the sunlight, spend our day tracking down food and supplies (walking 5-10 miles a day), eat as much as we could (or nothing if we were unsuccessful), and then wind down in the evening going to sleep when the sun goes down.
Of course, this is an oversimplification, however, thinking in this way gives us insight into how we can construct our day for optimal health.
Proper Sleep Cycles: Waking up with the sun and winding down with the sun. (more detail in a future article)
Only consuming food during the daytime. If the sun is up eat, if the sun is down then put down the fork.
Move often! We all know how sedentary we have become and even though walking 5-10 miles a day isn’t feasible striving for 30-60 mins of intentional movement every day should be a priority.
Get outside every day for at least 10-15 minutes in the sunlight! Preferably in the morning and evening.
Consume mostly (if not only) foods that our ancestors could have hunted or gathered. If you don’t know what these are yet go back to the previous week’s articles that have food lists attached to each macronutrient.
Strive to mimic these lifestyle habits and reap the health benefits your ancestors would want you to have.
Tying Everything Together
Let’s take someone who is a 35-year-old currently 200lbs and wants to lose 30lbs. They have a sedentary job and strength train 3 days/week. On average they burn on average 2,500 calories per day. They are striving to develop a lifestyle that aligns with the rules we discussed in Where do we start with nutrition as well as the habits above.
Here are their starting macro goals:
Protein (25-30%): 170 grams
Fats (40-50%): 130 grams
Carbs (20%): 130 grams
3 large eggs
1 medium apple
1 Tbsp Grass-fed Butter
6 ounces of berries
1 cup of plain yogurt
10 ounces of Beef
1/2 cup of white rice
2 servings of Butternut Squash
2 ounces of grass-fed cheese
8 ounces of steak
1 cup of sweet potatoes
This day of meals would hit all of the macro goals for this person. As you can notice this person prioritized protein at each of their meals while making sure they had at least a serving of fats and kept most of their carbohydrates from the eat more and eat some lists.
For most, once you figure out how much food you should be eating, you will find that it’s hard to eat enough food. I hear this all the time and it’s okay. We are teaching you how to FUEL your body to build muscle and develop a healthy composition rather than starve yourself to hit a number on the scale. This is a process that will develop over time.
Developing a sustainable lifestyle that promotes health is a process of learning what is right and wrong for your body. Follow the rules and habits I have laid out and trust the process.
Next Weeks Article: Sleep: Developing habits for quality and restful sleep.
Movement is Medicine. Food Is Fuel.
One Day or Day One the Choice is Yours
Andrew Cataldo CSCS
Director - Performance Division