Paleo Myth Buster: Carbs & Muscle Mass

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I had a friend tell me the other day that he got inspired and decided to go paleo, but then he read something about paleo causing muscle loss so he had some french toast.

Because french toast is going to help him build muscle mass?

I thought about inviting my friend to squeeze my glutes so he could judge for himself, but I thought that might get weird.

Paleo contradicts the nutritional programming we’ve had all our lives, so it’s understandable if there’s questions and fear. In one quick google search of the paleo gurus you can find enough contradictory information to get you really perplexed. Such as:

  • Carbohydrates are unnecessary;
  • Eat carbohydrates before exercise, during exercise, and immediately after exercise or your face with fall off;
  • Don’t eat carbohydrates until 30 or more minutes after exercise;
  • Fast before & after you exercise;

It’s enough to make you wonder if maybe you are safer with the french toast.

What I think about all that is: experiment.

Experiment

Experiment with:

  • Just eating paleo & not worrying about carbs;
  • Eating one higher carb meal a day & eating lower carb the rest of the time;
  • Eating low carb for a spell (less than 100 grams a day);
  • Eating super low carb for a short while (less than 50 grams a day);
  • Eating carbohydrates before exercise &/or during exercise &/or immediately after you exercise;
  • Fasting before you exercise;
  • Fasting after you exercise;
  • Exercising on an empty stomach and having a higher carb meal soon after (that’s what I do, currently);

If you’re not exercising yet, I have a blog post about that!

Then observe yourself as you tinker. How do you feel, during & after?

Keep experimenting until you find what works for you. If you hit a plateau (of energy, enthusiasm, weight loss, or what have you) experiment some more. You are the science project. Observe yourself & keep tweaking until you find your sweet spot. Expect that sweet spot to evolve as you do.

Usually what the paleo gurus are saying is simply: Hey this is what has been working for me lately. I guarantee they keep observing & tweaking, and their tweaks might even get them to a different perspective over time.

Learn from those who’ve gone before, for sure, but be your own guru.

If your body thinks you are starving, it will use your reserves, including muscle, for fuel. But I eat robustly. My body is much less confused than it was pre-paleo. It doesn’t think I’m starving. It’s delighted by how nourished I am and just wants me to put on my shoes so we can go for a run together.

Want to see what that looks like?

This was me on french toast:

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Me at age 41

And here I am now:

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Me at age 42
(Photo by: http://www.franceslitman.com)

So what do higher-carb meals look like when you’re paleo?

For me, they include squash and roots:

  • Yam fries with portobello bison burgers;
  • Rutabaga hash with bacon & eggs;
  • Spaghetti squash with paleo pad thai sauce & chicken;
  • Salmon beet fritters with greens;
  • Oven roasted parsnips & carrots with steak & salad;
  • Chai squash pie with halibut;
  • Mashed turnip with sausages & sauerkraut;

Um… yum!

So if you want to eat french toast, go to it. Just don’t say you’re doing it to preserve your physique. Cause that’s silly.

12 Comments

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12 responses to “Paleo Myth Buster: Carbs & Muscle Mass

  1. I would not consider myself paleo…but from reading your blog I have now really changed my breakfast options….warming up in the oven as I write this is last nights left over veggie shepherds pie and a organic chicken sausage..this will be combined with a half avocado and a sprinkle of sauerkraut to start my day! This feels right as we transition into colder weather.

  2. Helen

    Petra, I had no idea….love to talk sometime.

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  9. GayinLA

    My favourite line in the post, “Because french toast is going to help him build muscle mass?” Genius! I love it.

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