The words “paleolithic ketogenic carnivore” may seem daunting to a beginner. We can demystify them a bit by looking at each one individually. Combined, they tell you most everything you need to know.
This is the simplest element of the paleolithic ketogenic diet. A carnivore is an organism that derives its energy and nutrient requirements from a diet consisting of animal tissue. We’ll be eating only animal foods (e.g., steak) or foods that come from animals (e.g., eggs).
The metabolic state of ketosis is the goal of this diet. This is essentially the burning of fat for energy.
Most modern humans eating a carbohydrate-rich diet are in a state of glycolysis, the burning of glucose (derived from dietary carbohydrates) for energy. As carbohydrates (grains, starches, sugars, etc.) are eaten, the body converts them all into glucose. Excess glucose in the bloodstream is toxic, so the pancreas tries to get it out of there fast. It releases insulin, allowing excess glucose to be either burned for energy by muscle immediately or stored as fat to be burned for energy later.
When dietary carbohydrates are removed, the body no longer has to deal with excess glucose in the bloodstream by secreting insulin. With insulin levels very low, we are able to access the stored energy in fat. When these molecules are liberated from fat tissue, the liver converts them into ketone bodies, which then enter your bloodstream and can be burned for energy by muscle and organs.
A ketogenic diet aims to maintain the metabolic state of ketosis. This is done by drastically reducing carbohydrate intake. Some different keto diet experts advise keeping carbs below 20–30 g per day. We will be keeping carbs at 0 g per day (not counting the trivial amount of carbs that come naturally in some animal foods).
Further analysis of ketosis will have to wait for another time. It’s a deep and fascinating topic. Suffice it to say that in order to ensure we’re staying in ketosis, we keep a very high ratio of fat to protein when selecting our meals. There is much debate about whether and how protein levels affect ketosis. For the purposes of this diet, we will be assuming that 1) too much protein can interfere with ketosis, and 2) adequate fat can signal the body that ample food source is available and metabolism can be “turned up” (avoiding the tired, fatigued feeling of most calorie-restricted diets). Thus, to maintain a high level of nutritional/therapeutic ketosis, we aim for a fat/protein ratio (by weight in grams) of 2 to 1.
Much of Paleomedicina‘s studies and experiments focus on gut health and the lining of the intestines. They theorize that some foods are irritating to this delicate membrane, causing a state of increased intestinal permeability (sometimes also called leaky gut). This allows unwanted molecules to enter the body. It’s this presence of foreign bodies that, they believe, triggers the body’s defenses, leading to many of the autoimmune diseases that plague society.
To address this, Paleomedicina recommends removing foods that they believe the human body has not yet evolved to digest properly. It’s theorized that ancient humans hunted large, land-dwelling herbivores for hundreds of thousands (even millions) of years, eating little vegetation except out of necessity or perhaps seasonally (in the case of some fruits or berries). Grains and starches are relatively recent additions to humans’ diets and likely contribute to intestinal permeability. Likewise, ancient humans probably did not use seed oils or cultivate dairy products.
The removal of more recent dietary trends (where “recent” could mean as little as 10,000 years ago) leaves a diet that, in theory, more closely resembles what our ancient ancestors ate, what our bodies evolved to thrive on over many hundreds of thousands of years. The name of this historical age is the paleolithic era, and so derives the name for this category of appropriate foods.
This is the key distinction between paleolithic ketogenic carnivore and the popular “keto” diet. Many foods that are used in the keto diet to keep fat levels higher than protein are not allowed in this way of eating due to their supposed effects on the digestive tract.
Paleolithic Ketogenic Carnivore
Hopefully by now it’s pretty clear what we’re going to focus on.
- Animal foods only
- High fat, moderate protein (ratio of 2:1, by weight)
- Zero carbs (no grains, starches, sugar, fruit)
- No seed oils or nuts (and no eggs or dairy in the beginning)
Check back soon for a deeper look at what it means to eat this way, including what specific foods are appropriate.
Thanks for reading. I’m Drew, the type 1 diabetic carnivore, and I’ll see you next time.