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Ketongenic Verus Paleo Diets

Unlike most dietary approaches the Paleo diet was not “thought up” by any given person (although there certainly have been researchers who have championed the approach). The Paleo diet concept was born through the observations of dozens, if not hundreds, of anthropologists and medical explorers. They realized that hunter-gatherer groups were largely free of modern degenerative diseases.

Yes, these people were remarkably healthy even despite an almost complete lack of modern medical interventions. While these groups suffered from high rates of infectious disease, injury, and childbirth complications (all areas where modern medicine excels), even those who lived into advanced age were largely free of obesity, type 2 diabetes, autoimmunity, heart disease and neurodegeneration. (This may be a bit more history than what you were looking for but I think it’s valuable to understand this dietary approach was an outgrowth of observing remarkably healthy human populations living as hunter-gatherers.)

Modern researchers and medical professionals who learned about the paleo approach asked a simple question: What if features of our modern world are at odds with our ancient genetics?

If this is the case, perhaps eating in a way that better reflects our ancestors might save us from a host of modern degenerative diseases.


Ok, history aside, what is a paleo diet in practice? I look at this in two ways:

  1. What foods are generally excluded?
  2. What foods are included?

By exclusion the paleo diet suggests one should generally minimize or avoid: grains, legumes and dairy. 

Okay to eat: fruits, vegetables, lean meats, seafood, nuts & seeds, healthy fats

Not okay to eat: dairy, grains, processed foods and sugars, legumes, starches, alcohol


The long-story-short version of the ketogenic diet is that researchers in the early 1900’s noticed that patients with severe epilepsy had remarkably fewer seizures when they were fasting.

When fasting we deplete liver glycogen (a stored carbohydrate) and the body tends to shift into a state of ketosis. In this state ketone bodies (produced from fat) are used in place of glucose for most energy needs, but in particular by the brain. Your brain can shift nearly ⅔ of its normal glucose dependent metabolism to one fueled by ketones which provide a much more stable energy source.

So, although fasting proved to be a remarkably effective tool against epilepsy (in a time when there were no pharmaceutical options) one can only fast for so long. Generally what people ate kicked them out of the ketogenic state, causing the seizures to start again. So how do you solve this ‘starving with no seizures’ vs ‘fed with seizures’ situation? A diet that mimicked many of the features of fasting. By dramatically reducing carbohydrates, increasing fat, and keeping protein at moderate levels one could enter a state of “nutritional ketosis” which could be adhered to long term.

Although the ketogenic diet was born of a need to help epilepsy, many people observed that low carb diets were exceptionally effective for fat loss. Names like Banting, Atkins, and others have popped up over the years, offering both effective weight loss strategies and controversy. A low carb, high fat diet has generally contradicted the recommendations of many health authorities and governmental agencies.

On top of all this, recently the ketogenic diet has been studied as a therapy for conditions ranging from type 2 diabetes to cancer and even performance enhancements in endurance athletes.

Okay to eat: meats, seafood, eggs, non-starchy vegetables, nuts & seeds, healthy oils & fats, full fat dairy

Not okay to eat: grains, processed foods, starchy vegetables, fruit, sugar, alcohol

Regardless of the dietary approach (paleo, keto, vegan etc.) your #1 focus is eating whole, unprocessed foods with an eye towards nutrient density. You could easily eat a paleo diet with ketogenic ratios—and many people do! It helps guide you to eat with optimal nutrient density. As powerful as both a paleo and keto diet may be, they are tools and as such are best used to address specific needs. No need to try and turn them into one-size-fits-all solutions. Assess an individual for carbohydrate tolerance and set daily carb intake to support this situation.Recommend an elimination of the commonly immunogenic foods (typically grains, legumes, and dairy).

Folks remove these foods for 30 days, reintroduce and asses for things like mental clarity, physical performance, sleep quality, and ability to go extended periods between meals without suffering cognitive impairment or performance problems. We hope this helps you better understand what the paleo and ketogenic diets are (and are not) and how they can work together (or not).

Group class programming for Monday July 16, 2018:
3 rounds for time of:
5 Power Snatches (155/105#)
10 Toes-to-Bar
-rest 3 minutes, then:
3 rounds for time of:
5 Power Snatches (155/105#)
10 Toes-to-Bar

A few resources you might find helpful:
What's Up With Pink Himalayan Salt?
5 Reasons Experienced Athletes Need A Coach
Creatine Phosphate Energy System Explained