The Paleo diet may seem strict or intimidating, eliminating common foods that make up the average American diet like grains and dairy. Some people have trouble adjusting if they don’t have proper expectations, but most people find that they are still able to enjoy a wide variety of delicious foods. These are our tips to help you manage your expectations and transition smoothly into a paleo diet.
How to transition into a paleo diet
The first step towards a paleo diet, before you ever make any changes, is to do as much research as possible. Understand the benefits and potential downsides, and look up the most common foods excluded and included in the paleo diet. If you are on any medications or have any health concerns, consult a doctor or dietitian before changing your eating patterns.
Foods that are excluded in a paleo diet
- Grains like wheat, oats, and rice
- Legumes, including peanuts, beans, and soybean products (tofu)
- Refined sugars
- Processed foods that include grains, like crackers and pasta
- Sweetened beverages like soda and juice with added sugars
- Diet sodas and artificial sweeteners
- Cow dairy products (most people limit cow dairy, but others consume grass-fed dairy on the paleo diet)
- Most alcohol, including grain-based alcohol like beer and whiskey
Most common foods for the paleo diet
- Grass-fed meats like beef, chicken, and pork
- Fish and seafood (wild-caught) like salmon, shrimp, and cod
- Fruits and veggies
- Nuts and seeds
- Olive oil, avocado oil, coconut oil, and other healthy oils
- Limited amounts of paleo-friendly processed foods
- Limited amounts of alternative dairies like goat milk or almond milk
Physical changes you can expect on the paleo diet
When you first switch to a paleo way of life, your workouts may feel a little bit more difficult. Your body is used to tapping into the sugars and carbs that you eat as a source of energy during exercise, and cutting out grans and refined sugars can cause a temporary drop in performance. Luckily this is short-lived, and your body will learn to adjust to different energy sources after a few weeks.
Both weight loss and weight gain are common after switching to the paleo diet. Some people find that they are more satiated and eat fewer calories, leading to fat loss, while others are able to better nourish their muscles and gain weight and muscle mass.
You might also notice that your body odor changes as you shift your diet — for the better! People who eat a diet full of fresh fruits and veggies tend to have better odor than those who eat a lot of grains and sugars.
Changes in your bowel movements are also likely, as they are with any major dietary shift. It’s possible that you will experience upset stomach or loose stool for the first few days, but most people notice healthier, more regular bowel movements from eating more fiber and less sugar.
Mental changes you can expect on the paleo diet
Going paleo affects everyone differently. Some people experience low mood the first few days, and that’s because you are cutting out almost all of the sugar from your diet. This might have you feeling a little bit glum or low in energy.
Some people notice higher libido when they switch to the paleo diet. This is due to the boost in confidence and testosterone that you may experience.
Stress and sleep can also be positively impacted. The foods you eat will help you ingest higher amounts of nutrients including B6, vitamin C, and tryptophan, which affect sleep and cortisol (the stress hormone).
How long does it take to adapt to the paleo diet?
Switching to the paleo diet can be a struggle at first, especially when you are first learning the types of foods you should be eating and avoiding. Abruptly cutting out sugar and grains can also have you feeling sluggish at first.
Luckily, most people find themselves back to normal (and even better!) within a month. The best way to quicken the process is by thoroughly educating yourself, and finding lots of great recipes and meal ideas so that you never feel deprived of the foods you love.