The benefits of adopting a paleo lifestyle go way beyond weight loss and maintaining a healthy physique. This ‘low carb’ diet, that generally avoids dairy, grains, processed foods, preservatives and added chemicals, has numerous other health benefits including aiding in balancing blood sugar levels, reducing inflammation within the body, clearing the skin, regulating sleeping patterns and balancing energy output throughout the day.
Recently another diet has become increasingly popular, that combines the two different views on food and health from the paleolithic and the ketogenic diets. Though they are similar in some ways, both low carb diets that focus on optimizing health and well-being, they have some distinct differences too.
So just how does combining them together stack up against the individual diets? And what exactly would this diet entail?
In order to understand exactly what the keto paleo diet is, it is first important to take a closer look at exactly what is meant by ‘keto’, or the ‘ketogenic diet’.
The Keto Diet
The Keto diet is one that stimulates the production of an alternate energy source produced in the body, known as ‘ketones’. Generally speaking, the body predominantly runs off glucose, as it is the quickest to metabolize, and sometimes taps into fat stores. The fat stores being excess glucose that wasn’t used and therefore gets stored as fat for future use. Ketones, a third energy source, is what is used if glucose is in short supply. These ketones are created in the liver through the breakdown of fat.This fat can either come from what was recently eaten, or stores within the body.
After following a Ketogenic diet for a short period, your body actually switches its energy source over from glucose and starts to work predominantly from the breakdown of fat. This happens as you follow a diet that is not only very low in carbohydrates but also has a restricted protein intake too. The restriction of protein is required because excess protein consumption results in the conversion of protein into glucose. In order to maintain the energy required, a diet rich in good fats is consumed.
As the body adjusts to this low carb and reduced protein diet, it stimulates the production of ketones in the liver to ensure your body, especially your brain, has a ready supply of energy. When this occurs the body is said to be in a state of ‘ketosis’. Your insulin levels drop and you are able to access your fat stores for energy production.
Essentially your body becomes an efficient fat burning machine.
This state of ketosis is only achievable through either following a ketogenic diet or fasting. Obviously, fasting will help you achieve this state of ketosis sooner, however, it is not only unsustainable (you cannot fast forever!), you are also then starving your body of the nutrients and fuel it needs to build and maintain your muscles.
This is why the keto diet is becoming increasingly popular in the world of weight loss and body sculpting.
Looking at how the two might work together is interesting because there are both similarities and distinct differences when it comes to both the paleo and the keto diet:
Paleo – This diet approach looks at consuming food similar to what was available to humans in the paleolithic period, or ‘cave men’. It focuses on a high protein and low carb diet that includes meats and avoids grains. This diet also avoids dairy, refined sugars and table salt. The paleo diet is not specifically about weight loss (though this is, of course, a happy byproduct of it), instead it is about general health and wellbeing. There are many more diseases that plague us now, then there were in the paleolithic era, so by reverting back to a simplified diet, free from foods that cause inflammation including preservatives and chemicals, we can help promote inner health.
Keto – This diet focuses on putting the body into the state of ketosis, by manipulating the three main macronutrients, carbs, proteins and fats. It works by sticking to a low carb diet with restricted protein intake. This diet was originally used as a health tool, as it has been shown to lower LCD (bad cholesterol) levels and increase HDL (good cholesterol) levels, promoting a healthy cardiovascular system. Implementing a state of ketosis has also been used with some success in helping treat neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s, as well as the treatment of epilepsy. Yet has also been found to be an incredibly effective weight loss tool.
The problem is that there are risks involved in reaching a state of ketosis for people with specific illnesses, such as metabolic diseases including; porphyria and pyruvate carboxylase deficiency, and also type 1 diabetes where the insulin levels are an important consideration.
So this is a serious consideration for anyone who may be contemplating incorporating the keto aspect into their existing paleo diet plan.
The Bottom Line
The main differences between the two diets is the simple fact that paleo looks at food choices, whereas the keto diet is about macronutrient manipulation. With paleo you eliminate grains, dairy and avoid alcohol and processed foods, however, you can balance the three main macronutrients in any way you like. Keto requires a much more strict ratio between the macronutrients and allows for some raw, full-fat dairy.
So in order to balance both diets, and still achieve ketosis, there are going to be a lot of restrictions. A reduced protein intake will need to be compensated with fats, and in sticking with the paleo diet, this will mean more coconut fats/oils, nuts, avocados, eggs and even lard and tallow.
So is it possible? Yes. Is it healthy? If you maintain vigilance when overlooking your diet to ensure you are getting enough nutrients, then it can be healthy (assuming you have no underlying illness that would contraindicate attempting the keto diet) and could, in fact, be a beneficial tool for helping burn fat more effectively.
As I mentioned before fasting is another way of reaching ketosis, and though you cannot completely fast all the time, intermittent fasting is also an effective tool when coupled with the low carb intake involved in the paleo diet. In fact athlete, Ben Greenfield talks about how he uses this approach in this interview.
At the end of the day, both diets will promote good health (when practiced safely) and both will promote weight loss. The keto diet may promote weight loss at a slightly faster rate, however, this will come at the cost of a further restricted diet. So it really comes down to personal preference and what works best for you.
Remember to always thoroughly research any diet or change that will impact on your health, so that you can make your decisions from a well-informed place.
Back pain can range from being mildly uncomfortable to seriously debilitating and is incredibly common in the American population, with around 31 million people suffering from back pain at any given time.
One of the key factors in preventing back pain is strengthening and stabilizing the many different muscles of the core. However, often when people hear of their ‘core’, their minds instantly turn to images of ripped six-packs and strong abdominals.
Your abdominals actually play a leading role in supporting your spine. Ironically however, if you predominantly focus your attention on your rectus abdominus (abs) to the neglect of your other core muscles, you are likely to cause imbalance and weakness, putting your spine at risk.
For this reason many gym junkies or fitness fanatics, who are have not been properly guided in the do’s and don’ts of resistance training, often experience back pain, or worse end up doing some real damage.
So in today’s blog I would like to have a look at both understanding how to prevent back pain, and ways in which we can manage it.
Back Pain Prevention
When it comes to back pain prevention, in relation to resistance training, the key word here is ‘Balance’. Remember that even if aesthetics is your driving factor, strength, stability and balance should also be right up there on your list!
So firstly, let’s have a look at the back and the many different bones and muscles that comprise and support it:
The spinal column – This is made up of 33 vertebrae, 5 of which are fused and form the sacrum (S1-S5) at the base of your torso, and 4 that form the tailbone. 7 (C1-C7) more of these vertebrae are grouped together in a region known as the cervical vertebrae, which start from the base of the skull and move down. Then there are 12 (T1-T12) thoracic vertebrae, which is where the ribs are attached. Then there are the 5 (L1-L5) that make up the lumbar vertebrae, which form the lower back. Between each vertebrae is a cushioning disk that works to absorb any shock as well as keeping the spine flexible and limber. If these disks are put under too much pressure, from overloading or inappropriate movement, they can become injured. These injuries can range from mild to severe (such as disk herniation). When this happens the spinal cord, that runs internally through the spinal vertebrae, is at risk. These types of injuries can seriously impact on your mobility and independence.
Muscles of the core – The muscles of the core all work to provide stability, flexibility, strength and movement to your torso and spine. They are comprised of a combination of muscles found in both the abdomen and back, as well as including muscles of the hips, pelvis and neck. These core muscles can actually be divided into two main groups, those that are attached directly to the spine (the inner group) and work to support and stabilize its movement, and those that are attached to these stabilizing muscles (the outer group) and work to create your movement.
The major muscles of the inner group include:
- Transversus abdominus
- Internal obliques (fibres)
- Quadratus lumborum (fibres)
The major muscles of the outer group include:
- Rectus abdominus
- External obliques
- Quadratus lumborum
- Erector spinae
Even though the outer muscles are the ones that control the majority of your strength and movement (as well as the ones you can tone aesthetically), it is actually the inner group of muscles that need to be worked on to help prevent and manage back pain.
The reason for this comes back to what I mentioned previously; ‘balance’.
If your strength outweighs your ability to stabilize your core, then you are putting yourself at risk. You can look as strong as physically possible, however if you don’t cultivate balance into your workout, and strengthen these inner muscles that work to stabilize your spine during your movements, then you are likely to experience back pain or potentially do some serious damage.
This ‘balance’ also applies to the front, back and sides of your core. So when designing your workouts, make sure you don’t focus too heavily on one part (e.g. your abs) with the neglect of others (e.g. your obliques and lats).
This might sound like common sense, but I have actually spoken to many people who complain about experiencing back pain and find it hard to believe because they think that they keep their ‘core’ so strong. More often than not, this is simply because their focused workouts lack the appropriate balance needed for core stability and balance.
Ways in which to manage back pain
When it comes to managing back pain I’d like to firstly make it clear the importance of seeing an advanced practitioner who will give you a thorough orthopedic assessment (we have several advanced C.H.E.K practitioners here at Ascend) if you are experiencing any back pain that falls outside of general muscle soreness. As you may have noticed, your back is fairly integral to your wellbeing, so it is important that you look after yourself and not put your back at further risk.
From a physiological standpoint, the key to managing back pain is to get to the ‘core’ of the issue (please excuse the pun). By this I mean gradually working at both strengthening and stabilizing the muscles that support the spine.
In order to do this we need to focus our attention on the inner core muscles that are actually stabilizing the spinal column, as well as working at ‘balancing’ our outer core muscles.
The muscles that play the leading role in postural integrity are the internal and external obliques.
- The external obliques, located on either side of your abs, work to protect the lumbar spine against any rotations or twists. It is these movements that are most likely to cause damage to your spine.
- The internal obliques form the base support for the sacrum, as well as supporting the external obliques in protecting against rotations.
So which exercises are most effective at strengthening and stabilizing these muscles?
There are many exercises that have been devised by physiotherapists to specifically target the muscles required for spine stabilization, however you may be interested to learn that many of these exercises have actually been adopted from yoga.
In an interview between Ben Greenfield and the CEO and founder of Mindbodygreen.com, Jason Wachob, Jason actually talks about his struggles with being a 6”7 athlete with chronic back pain, and how yoga has not only helped him manage his back pain, but also eradicated the issue.
Another key component to reducing back pain and stabilizing the spine is reflecting on the way we breathe.
Poor breathing habits can actually contribute to a myriad of health condition including anxiety, heartburn, high blood pressure, digestive complaints and increased muscle tension.
Increased muscle tension in itself can contribute to poor posture and back ache, however it is the use of the diaphragm that plays a key role in both causing and helping manage back pain.
The diaphragm is a dome shaped muscle, positioned underneath your lungs and lower ribs, in the centre of your torso. Its is responsible for breathing, aids in digestion and is also the chief stabilizer of the lower back. It actually shares fibers and attachments with the lower ribs, and the deep stabilizing muscles of the lower back, as well as the serratus anterior (muscles of the shoulder).
When the diaphragm is being poorly activated, through bad breathing habits, the stability and support it offers the lower back and spine is lost. This can cause weakness and pain in these areas.
So what is proper breathing, you might ask?
From birth we breathe in a natural state, where the diaphragm pulls downwards, causing the belly to protrude slightly. The enables the oxygen to fill all the way down into the lower lobes of the lungs. This is called diaphragmatic breathing. We do this when we are in a relaxed state, such as when we are sleeping.
The problem is that the stresses and pressures of life has lead many of us to develop poor breathing habits that involve shorter and shallower breaths into our chest region, instead of deep into our belly.
This shallow breathing style can not only potentially cause problems with back pain, it actually tends to exacerbate the stress that causes us to breathe like that in the first place.
Ideally this style of diaphragmatic breathing should also be utilized during resistance training as much as possible. Instead of holding your breath during stabilization exercises, try to adopt a deeper version of diaphragmatic breathing.
So if you needed another reason to take some time out to internalize and relax.. Now you have one!
Kimberly joined us here at Ascend in July and is one of our most dedicated Boosters! She had been searching for a place where she could get her body moving but she wan’t interested in a typical gym environment. We’re super excited to have her here and to help her achieve her fitness goals, one of which is running a 5k in under 30 minutes. Watch Kimberly’s video to see what she has to say about her experience and the progress she’s made here at Ascend Body!
This is my story…
When I moved to San Francisco few months ago, I was looking for a place to help me become stronger, lose unwanted fat, improve my posture and be part of the holistic community. I should say that I was lucky to have found Ascend Body. From the moment, I walked into the studio and met Shane and his team, I knew that this is going to be the right place for me. What really made me join Ascend, was their holistic and integrative approach of combining fitness, nutrition, restoration and mindfulness into their program.
Since, I am a vegetarian, it has always been a tough battle for me to gain muscle while keeping fat in check. With Shane’s assistance, I was able to completely overhaul my nutrition plan. I realized that lot of my meals in the past had tons of sugar and carbs. And those easy to grab protein bars when you are hungry were actually the worst. I changed my food habits to include a clean diet that had good carbs, organic veggies, fruits and nuts. I complemented my diet change plan with the Boost workout training at least 3 times a week and stretching exercises to improve my posture and reduce pain. Simple and easy to do, things like, drinking more water, sleeping for at least 7 hours, meditating and getting massage, made a huge difference. I started seeing positive results both outside and inside.
When I weighed myself a month later, I was surprised that I had lost 10 pounds of fat while becoming stronger. Along with loosing fat, I was able to bid farewell to Ms. Stress and welcomed Mr. Energizing Bunny (and guess what, I don’t drink coffee.) This new energy inspired me to write a humorous book to make people laugh, called ~ 69 Hilarious Guests in just 14 days. I could have taken this renewed energy back into the corporate environment or I could use it to do something better and that’s when I decided to join Ascend’s team as their CDO (Chief Development Officer).
Living a holistic lifestyle is a continuous process and I am happy that I am in good hands.
Milesh Milan Jain
Riga came to us back in August, she was looking to loose some weight and also to add strength and weight training to her fitness routine. Riga has been faithfully attending our Semi-Private sessions and, in just a few short weeks was already seeing awesome results. Watch Riga’s video and see what she has to say about her trainers and her overall fitness experience here at Ascend Body.
Congratulations Riga, all your hard work and dedication has certainly paid off!