Another article I read, shortly following the Lance Armstrong/Vanity Fair article I mentioned in part I of this two-part series, came courtesy of Loren Cordain’s Paleo Diet site, and specifically the Paleo Diet Newsletter thereof. I can’t recommend this site and the accompanying newsletter enough. A good information clearinghouse for all things related to the practice of Paleo-centric living; more centered, though, on the dietary aspects of the lifestyle.
The following article is from the September 12th newsletter, and it appears here courtesy of The Paleo Diet®, scientifically researched information on the diet we evolved to eat. For more information on, and for complimentary subscription to The Paleo Diet Update, visit http://www.ThePaleoDiet.com.
Here’s the article:
Geologic Time, Magnitudes, and the Paleo Diet
By J R Lagoni
The reason the Paleo Diet leads to optimum health is because it is the diet we evolved to eat. Humans have only been eating grains for about 10,000 years, and eating dairy for even less time.
To understand and appreciate the basic premise of the Paleo Diet – that our genetic composition has not substantially changed since the geologically recent times of mass-agriculture and industrial age food – it is very helpful to have a clear perception of the magnitudes of time (both very large and very small) that we are talking about.
A change in magnitude (in math or science) is a number written in scientific notation that is at least one power of ten more or less. So, 20 and 40 (written scientifically as: 2 x 101 and 4 x 101) are actually of the same magnitude, or often stated as being the same “order of magnitude”. However, 20 and 400 (written scientifically as: 2 x 101 and 4 x 102) are one power of ten different and therefore one order of magnitude different. It is much more than mere doubling or exponential change (it must be a change in exponents of ten versus any smaller base number), and it is not uncommon in the natural world or science.
The graph below illustrates the magnitudes of the time our ancestors ate a Hunters and Gatherers’ (H-G) Diet versus when our ancestors consumed a Mass-Agriculture Diet. The specific times used in this graph are 2,000,000 for the H-G Diet and 10,000 years for the geologically recent Mass-Agriculture Diet. Although exact dates and amounts can be argued, and would change some among different ethnic groups and regional histories, the graph would always look very much the same – because regardless of the specific dates you utilize, it always would very definitively involve magnitudes of change difference.
Figure 1: Bar graph illustrating a ratio of geologic time: 2,000,000 years vs. 10,000 years. These times are good representations of the magnitude of time of the Paleolithic Era foodstuffs of our ancestors as compared to the time our ancestral lineages have been on a Mass-Agriculture Diet.
It is startling to see the Mass-Agriculture Diet as a nearly flat, non-existent bar. In a mathematical sense one could almost say it is approaching the inverse of infinity … or that it is “infinitesimally small” in comparison to our earlier foodstuffs. It is more than a full 2 magnitudes smaller. As a decimal ratio of 2,000,000: it is .005.
While we can continue to debate (and we should) the exact amounts and rates of change in human physiology and the dietary amount of animal products vs. fruits/vegetables, etc. – an obvious fact is that the amount of time we and our ancestors have had mass agriculture and industrial era food is incredibly small indeed … and not debatable.
When we talk about “evolutionary discordance” in regard to our modern diet vs. the Paleo Diet, this is what it means in one very real sense. A diet based on the way humans ate for a couple million years will lead to optimum health and reduce the risk of degenerative disease.
This, then, leads me back to my original question: would Lance fair better, even as an endurance athlete, on a Paleo diet? My gut instinct is that, after his body completed the transition phase (whereby his body completed “the shift” from being primarily a sugar-burner to being a fat/protein burner) he’d be able to significantly increase his power-to-weight ratio and, therefore, be able to perform at a higher level. I also believe that his stamina would improve as well. I know that I don’t experience a “bonk” (carb., i.e., fuel depletion) any more during long, hard rides since going Paleo.
Of course, this is all mere speculation — though I’d love to see a top-caliber endurance athlete like Armstrong take up the challenge of stepping into the “Paleo light”, as it were. Athletes are prone not to change things though, that, in their minds at least, ain’t broke. And I suppose you can’t blame them for that. There is the question of tinkering (again, needlessly, in their minds) with what has been “proven” to work in the past, tradition and — here’s the biggie — superstition. I understand, because I was once the same way. Back in my competitive days, I’m sure I would have completely ignored the same advice that I myself would dispense today. I predict, though, that a Paleo diet is the next wave of the sporting future, completely eclipsing the old carbohydrate-based mind-set. Because one thing is for certain in the sporting world: winners will cling ferociously to what got them to the top of the heap, where all others will look for any edge possible to topple those standing atop that heap. It’s just a matter of time before Paleo becomes the next “competitive edge”.
Weekend Workout Update
I moved more furniture over the weekend than I care to remember. Big stuff, bulky stuff, heavy-heavy-heavy stuff. In the heat and up and down stairs. Why is this in any way significant? Well, the significance is in the fact that I did not workout. Not once. Nothing, the entire weekend. And I don’t intend to workout today (Monday), either. “Huh,” you ask? “Isn’t this kinda what this whole blog thing is about?”
Yeah, it is. But follow me here, for just a moment.
The old me — the non-Paleo, non-Evolutionary-Fitness-inspired, gym-rat me — would have never let anything get in the way of a workout. Anything short of hospitalization would have been considered wussin’-out. And just because I’d moved furniture all weekend would’ve meant nothing.
Now, though, I’ve come to see the power (pun intended) behind Power Law and fractals — nature’s organization method — and realize that my next workout (whenever that does end up being) will be much more productive if I (1) give my body some time to recuperate and, (2) don’t force square pegs into round holes. The Puritan work ethic, command-and-control — what have you — does not work in this instance. I’ll know when I’m ready to hit it again when I’m overcome with that “antsy” feeling.