Rocking the Paleo Diet With Hammer

This is a guest post by my pal and fellow pimp, Hammer, on the Paleo diet and his workout regimen. I really like edgy stuff when it comes to training and lifestyle engineering. This definitely falls in that category. Read more at Hammer’s blog.

Over the last month and a half I I’ve been on a “paleo diet” which is designed to mirror the nutritional profile of our ancient ancestors in the Paleolithic era. It’s a program I put together for myself based on information from three books: Good Calories, Bad Calories; Body by Science; and Eat, Stop, Eat.

The Idea Behind Paleo

The idea behind the Paleo diet is that until 10,000 or so years ago, carbohydrates and beans essentially didn’t exist in our diet. Despite the fact that our diets have changed significantly since then, our digestive system has not changed. Evidence supporting this includes the fact that only in the last 50 or so years have we finally caught up to the size of our Paleolithic ancestry. This affects our health, and case studies over the last 150 years of hunter gatherer societies indicate that there was no cancer, diabetes, obesity, tooth decay, or really any other forms of modern disease until the integration of sugar, beans and grain.

I started in on Paleo to aid in muscle building and cutting fat, but knowing what I know now about disease, I decided to integrate it into my lifestyle permanently. I committed myself to putting on muscle mass and trying to achieve a “golden ratio” body, with shoulder to waist circumference proportions of 1.6:1. Now for those of you who don’t know me, I am 6’2″ and in the 150 lbs range, so I’m thin and putting on weight is difficult. I wasn’t always this way, but I had some serious health complications for most of my teenage years and into my early 20’s up until about two years ago when I had some major surgery that fixed my problems. Often, when your body is operating at a diminished capacity, it will release hormones that break down muscle mass to make it easier for the body to survive despite sub-optimal health conditions.

The idea behind using a Paleo diet combined with a high intensity program and intermittent fasting for muscle building is mostly hormonal. There are a number of important hormones that are released in the bloodstream that causes muscle to grow, the most well known of which are testosterone and growth hormone + IGF-1. Insulin, which is known for dealing with blood sugars, also has a side effect of acting as a trump hormone for all of these good hormones, effectively neutralizing them as they interact. Estrogen also has this effect, particularly on testosterone, which is why beans are bad news. Short term fasting has the opposite effect, as the body releases up to 6x the testosterone and growth hormone levels of baseline to protect muscle mass as it breaks down fat. It should also be noted that peak performance is achieved in a fasted state, which is in line with the idea that pretty much all animals hunt when they’re hungry, not when they’re full, and humans are no different.

Training & Diet

I work out once a week on Tuesdays after work. I do a “Big Five” workout, which consists of a horizontal push, a horizontal pull, a vertical push, a vertical pull, and a pressing motion with the legs. In my case this means chest press, seated row, shoulder press, pull down, and leg press. The cadence is a slow controlled movement taking five seconds in each direction with a weight heavy enough that you can keep this up for about 90 seconds until muscle failure in the positive direction. I can spend all day going into the why, but the simple answer is that you need to engage all of your muscle fibers from your low order slow twitch fibers to your high order fast twitch fibers, and then you need to give yourself ample recovery time (fast twitch fibers take anywhere from 6-20 days to recover depending on degree of inroading and genetics.

My diet is also very simple, but it’s different from what anyone recommends anywhere so you’re going to have to cook every meal for yourself if you try it. Here are the principles:

  1. Protein is good.
  2. Fat is good, as long as it is in a ratio of omega 6 fats to omega 3 fats of 4:1 or less. It’s important for cell repair and as a result muscle building.
  3. Carbs are bad, and the more refined they are the easier to digest they are, and thus the worse they are for you. This also includes drinking carbs in the form of fruit juice or non-diet soda.
  4. Beans are bad, as they alter hormone levels, particularly reducing testosterone and increasing estrogen.
  5. Vegetables are alright, because despite being carbs, they are pretty indigestible.
  6. Frying is good, but the oil used must have a high boiling point as oils like vegetable oil (soy) or corn oil will turn into trans fats

My diet  consists of the following:

  • High calorie protein shake for breakfast made with a can of coconut milk, three scoops of whey protein isolate (chocolate), and some melted butter (grass fed)
  • Grass Fed beef, maybe a 15 oz steak purchased from Grassland Beef. Beef and other red meats that you buy in the grocery store are grain (corn) fed and have a ratio of omega 6s to omega 3s of 20:1, which can cause a huge number of problems and is a big part of why people had problems on Atkins
  • Chicken breast, with fat added back into it using grass fed butter
  • 6-12 eggs, organic vegetable fed eggs high in omega 3s fried in grass fed butter
  • Organic, vegetable extracted multivitamin from Nutralite (Amway product)
  • 36 hour fast after my shake on Monday morning until after my workout on Tuesday night
  • One cheat day a week where I can eat whatever I want, including sugar, popcorn, pasta, white rice, etc on Sunday (furthest possible from my workout). This isn’t necessary and actually probably hurts my results at least a little but it is necessary for me to maintain my sanity. Compliance is the most important part of any dietary restrictions, and while some of it is a will power thing, if it’s too difficult to comply with the diet should take some responsibility.


I started out at 158 lbs on November 1st when I started this diet, with a 31” waist and 39” shoulders. In the first week I dropped about 10 lbs, most of which was water (carbohydrates retain 2.5 ml of water for every gram) but some of which was also fat. I now weigh an even 150 lbs, with a 30” waist and 40” shoulders. My strength has gone up substantially, and I am lifting roughly twice the amount of weight now as I was lifting when I started.

There have been a lot of other changes though, unrelated to weight or muscle mass:

  • My energy level is far more stable. I don’t have the post lunch “ugh I need a nap” feeling and can easily go all day without even thinking about eating if I’m occupied enough.
  • Hunger is different. Most people never experience real hunger, they merely experience blood sugar withdrawal. It’s actually a major problem in our society as being in a fasted state is very healthy for the body. Some say that the effectiveness of the “Mediteranean Diet” is mostly due to fasting, which is not accounted for in the research. The cultures of Cyprus and other Mediteranean islands where this diet came from are orthodox Christian, and as a result of their religion there are 100+ days a year where they are on some form of restricted diet or fasting.
  • I retain far less water. I drink three liters of water or so a day to aid in muscle recovery, and it all goes right through me. Carbohydrates cause the body to retain sodium, which then retains water. Cutting out carbohydrates negates the effect of sodium on your water retention. For every gram of carbohydrates that you eat, you retain about 2.5 grams of water.
  • I sleep through the night much better. The caveat to this is that I need to stop drinking water at least an hour or so before going to sleep otherwise I have to go to the bathroom.
  • I’m colder. I have very severe Reynaud’s Syndrome so it’s very difficult for me to keep my hands and feet warm. On a paleo diet, it is even more difficult. I suspect this has to do with water retention, as water has a high specific heat, and thus moderates your body temperature in the same way that oceans moderate the temperatures of coastal cities.
  • I was sick, but I wasn’t. I had a persistent cold going into this diet and while it didn’t totally go away, most of the symptoms did. What had previously manifested itself as a cold with a chronic cough and constantly feeling tired turned into this new semi-cold which was just a sore throat and nothing else. Cough was gone, nasal congestion was gone, lethargic feeling was gone, and there was no fever.
  • Cuts heal more quickly.
  • Hair is healthier and less oily. I have long hair and while I rinse it in the shower every day, I only shampoo and condition it once every two days. That has gone down to once every three days because I just don’t need to. Additionally, while some hair used to come out of my head every day in the shower (women can relate to that), hardly any comes out anymore.
  • Blemishes are all but gone. Because of my long hair, I have a continuous problem of pimples on my forehead. They are usually not noticeable because they are covered by my hair for the most part, but they bothered me, and now they’re pretty much gone.
  • Breath is better. Not that I ever had bad breath, but now it really just doesn’t get bad even over the course of an entire day. Tongue is much more pink as well.
  • Acid reflux is no longer an issue. I have a dilated esophageal sphincter, and reflux used to bother me at least once a day and sometimes more often. This doesn’t happen anymore, except on my cheat days.
  • Sex drive is way up. Erections are generally more full, and when I take a girl to the jazz café the size and velocity are both significantly increased. No word on taste.
  • Feeling of guilt if I cheat on a non-cheat day. This is less about the diet as it is about what I know to be true about modern disease and cancer, but if I eat carbs when it’s not a designated cheat day, I feel bad about it. I am convinced that the disease I had when I was younger was as a result of a genetic marker plus a high carbohydrate diet, based both on what I’ve read and the fact that my sister has a disease that has the same genetic marker and pretty much had the same pasta and rice diet (I was and still am a very picky eater and pasta, bread or rice with a side of meat was the best way to describe my diet).

So there you have it. Those are my results. I plan to stay on this regimen indefinitely, and for the first time feel like I have a good chance at not getting cancer despite all of the toxic drugs that I am on and have been on in the past to handle my health issues. I recommend that everyone adopt a paleo diet, particularly if you would prefer not to get cancer ever or would like to get ripped like Jesus.

If you liked this guest post, you might also like these posts from our fine contributors:

  • Lance

    Hammer, great post, thanks for contributing. Couple of immediate questions:
    1. How do you break up your meals? Are we talking about 3 squares a day or are you grazing throughout?

    2. Do you have the urge to work out more than 1 day per week? I love working out and I work out between 30-60′ per day, usually 7 days per week, with 2-3 days off per month. It’s a de-stressing activity as well as for fitness. That’s the one big problem I have with HIIT style training is it would drive me nuts to wait 6 days until my next workout.

    I weigh 150, 5’8″, 31″ waist, 32.5″ chest (yeah I’m narrow up top), usually have a problem keeping on weight although it’s less of a problem as I’ve gotten older. I want to try Paleo for at least a month next year.

  • Hammer

    As far as breaking up your meals, eat when you’re hungry! I’m trying to put on weight, so I force myself to eat and try to get in three or four 1000-1500 calorie meals a day (calories, by the way, are totally useless in terms of calculating nutritional value), but I could easily eat one or two and be satiated. I don’t usually snack throughout the day, although tree nuts or beef jerky are a totally legit form of snacking.

    I definitely feel the urge to work out again, particularly after a few recovery days. Keep in mind though, that you’re going to feel like death for at least a full day afterward, and probably won’t feel capable of putting in even a half workout for a few days. Those endorphines are addictive though, so you do feel that urge. Doing some low intensity workout like playing dodge ball or playing frisbee on the beach isn’t going to really hurt your results because you’re not really tapping into those high order fast twitch fibers. Also, I think that once you get over that mental block of feeling like you have to do something, it’s much easier to resist.

    I think part of your issue with keeping weight on is what you’re doing. Throughout our evolutionary history, food was a scarce resource, so ones body is constantly trying to conserve energy unless it has a survival reason not to. As your body gets more efficient at performing the repetitive motion associated with your sport, for example, it will break down expensive muscle tissue that isn’t getting invoked because it has no reason to keep it.

    The idea behind HIT is that your body doesn’t know that you’re pushing weight in a controlled environment; as far as it’s concerned you’re undergoing a substantial trauma that is life threatening and barely surviving it. This makes your body think that your environment is more dangerous than your body is currently capable of handling, and thus it will recover and overcompensate for next time given enough time.
    .-= Hammer´s last blog …Article on Exercise Not Leading to Weight Loss =-.

  • Honey

    I agree 100% that corn-fed meat and any processed carb or sugar (which is really a super-processed carb) are terrible for you. Really the less processed something is the better for you it is because your body has to do the work of breaking it down – cooking leaches the nutrients out of a lot of vegetables, which is why the raw diet is so great. Also, because cooking does most of the work for you, the calories get absorbed faster (increasing the risk of obesity and other ailments). Similarly, this is why a steak is better for you than a hot dog – so much crap is added to the meat during processing that the resulting product is not good for you at all.

    My reasons for becoming vegetarian were that meat destroys my digestive system (i.e., stomach cramps and…how to say this delicately…things running through me FAR faster than they should). I didn’t realize how physically ill I felt most of the time or how much it was due to meat until I stopped eating it, but I realize not all people have that reaction. I L-O-V-E bread and beer even though they are both terrible for you (it’s basically the same as eating a candy bar – fortunately, I don’t really care for pasta and only eat it maybe once every 3 months). I’ve managed to cut way back on bread, though :-)

    Jake became veggie because he is opposed to the way the farming industry treats animals. Now, my biggest complaint with the industry is their greenhouse gas emissions – I think that any cap-and-trade system should include the meat industry in its figurings, the government should not subsidize the production of meat, and they should have to pay a tax/penalty for their emissions.

    I also don’t think that corn or any form of sugar (includes cane, beets, and corn) should be subsidized – mostly because, as you correctly point out, that is what accounts for a lot of obesity, diabetes, and other chronic disease in our country. Obviously the health risks aren’t enough of a passive barrier to prevent people from eating them so we should make these things more expensive.

    I don’t know much about what paleolithic man ate (I read The Clan of the Cave Bear series but that’s the extent of my knowledge). Fortunately, though, I work for a top 5 anthropology program at an R1 school – so I e-mailed 4 of our faculty and 5 of our PhD students who specialize in paleolithic man. I’ll let you know what I find out!

    Other notes – I didn’t know you had long hair! Neat. I have long hair, too, and I rinse it in the shower every day but only use shampoo/conditioner maybe once a week. I probably drink a minimum of 2 gallons of water a day (I suspect it is closer to 3) but I live in Arizona, which is so dry you pretty much have to!
    .-= Honey´s last blog …Rocking the Paleo Diet With Hammer =-.

  • Lance

    @Hammer: 3000-4500 calories is ridiculous, esp. for your body weight! But if you want to put on weight, I supposed that’s what you gotta do.

    I do CrossFit, which has a similar affect although not quite as impactful as HIIT. Those workouts are in the 10-20′ range, and if you do them 3-4 times per week you can get gladiator jacked. CrossFit has the same principle, surprise the body with very intense, unknown workouts and it overcompensates. I did one this morning and it was ridiculous.

    As far as regularly working out, I get a tremendous mental benefit from regular training vs. not. That’s my one hour to unplug from everything and focus on a single task, which is getting through the workout or a row or run or whatever. I don’t workout just for aesthetics, so I have no desire to not train on a daily basis.

  • Honey

    Well (not shockingly) there is no consensus on how much meat was in ancient man’s diet. This is largely because plants (obviously) biodegrade much more completely and readily than animal matter, so we would not expect to find as much evidence of plants at excavation sites. However, there are some new techniques for analyzing microfossils that indicate plant use may have been more extensive than previously imagined.

    There is an article in this week’s issue of Science ( that, while it does largely agree that meat was a big part of the diet, notes that people from different parts of the world have radically different metabolic rates and respond very differently to different types of food (for example, Hindus have been traditionally vegetarian for centuries and to this day lack the gene variant necessary to digest meat and fat efficiently, whereas the ancient Saami from Norway didn’t have access to lots of fresh plant material and so even modern Norweigians tend to digest meat and fat very well).

    The biggest factor seems to be what the mother eats while pregnant, as this can affect the physiology of the next 2 generations at least. The fact that our physiology can adapt so drastically and quickly means that, according to one professor I e-mailed, “Something to keep in mind is that people have been eating an agricultural diet–domestic grains, legumes, root crops, and even dairy–for 6000 to 8000 years. That is a long time and most of us are probably highly adapted to that diet.” He also pointed out that societies that lived in arctic regions that didn’t have access to plants tended to eat the stomachs and whole intestines of the animals they ate and got lots of their plant materials secondarily (and kind of gross-ly!) that way.

    Ultimately, we are mostly all such mutts anymore that any one person’s ability to digest meats and fats is highly individual, so everyone has to experiment with their eating habits and find what works for them. Thanks for posting this, I learned a lot!
    .-= Honey´s last blog …Rocking the Paleo Diet With Hammer =-.

  • Hammer

    The problem with crossfit is that a lot of your initial gains in a workout are from the neuro-muscular learning that comes with it as opposed to muscle gains. If you keep changing up what you’re doing, your body is constantly having to learn new motions and so while you may be getting impressive gains quickly, these gains are not from putting massive trauma on your muscles from which they need to recover, but rather from developing the neurological and motor skills associated with that motion. Once that skill is developed, only then can you really start hitting your muscles hard, but by then you’re going onto a new exercise.

    There’s no scientific basis for this idea of “shocking” your body with a new motion resulting in extra strength gains. Body by Science covers it pretty thoroughly.
    .-= Hammer´s last blog …Article on Exercise Not Leading to Weight Loss =-.

  • Hammer

    The idea that we “highly adapt” to anything in a few hundred generations is pretty outrageous if you ask me. Indians don’t have particularly low levels of disease, especially when corrected for starvation and semi-starvation diets, which suggests to me that while they may have some adaptations to better process vegetables, they are clearly not that different from the rest of us. I also have to factor in my anecdotal evidence of knowing plenty of Indians who eat meat and don’t have any problems digesting it.

    I didn’t have access the article, but knowing what I know about both how experiments/case studies are conducted and how these studies are then interpreted for publication (results drive grant money), I am very skeptical of those conclusions. When you look at what the WHO says about obesity, and compare it with the research that this has been derived from, you will without question become a skeptic as well. It’s also a major red flag to suggest that anyone could have a diet that is high in protein but low in fat; name me a single (non-bean) natural food that is high in protein but low in fat.

    It is clear that there is a lot of genetic variations as to how we process foods, both within populations and across, but there is no research that I know of to suggest that any population as a whole is incapable of processing protein or fat, nor is there any research to suggest that any population is adapted so well to processing carbohydrate that they can have the same lack of cancer, heart disease, tooth decay, diabetes, and autoimmune disease as societies on traditional diets.
    .-= Hammer´s last blog …Article on Exercise Not Leading to Weight Loss =-.

  • Honey

    I don’t know much about how quickly we can adapt…I’m just reporting what the professional anthropologists that I asked told me. The particular professor who told me that about us being highly adapted to an agricultural diet said there is even evidence that our digestive systems have evolved in the last few hundred years since urban societies started really taking off.

    Regarding the article, it wasn’t an experiment or a case study, it was a roundtable of evolutionary scientists from a variety of related disciplines at an academic workshop. But again, I don’t know much about the social sciences or nutrition science so I can’t say how credible the source is considered other than to point out that one of the PhD students I e-mailed sent me that article.

    The only thing that is clear is that there isn’t really a consensus because we just don’t have well-preserved enough archaeological sites to yield the kind of data that would allow us to say for sure. I certainly don’t have the expertise to. And I think the diet you outline is certainly way better than most people’s diets, if you’re going to eat meat.

    Seitan (aka vital wheat gluten) is 81% protein and 4% fat:

    It’s by far my favorite meat substitute, and you can easily add more fat by frying it, which is AMAZING.

    In the end, though, everyone does what works for them – which works for me!
    .-= Honey´s last blog …Rocking the Paleo Diet With Hammer =-.

  • Hammer

    Improvements in our digestion are VERY minor at best. Cellulose is so hard to digest that cows have 8 stomachs and symbiotic bacteria to do it, that’s an adaptation. I think the fact that we can’t digest it is proof enough that it wasn’t in our diet for the 2+ million year stretch that we are talking about.

    I was talking specifically about natural foods. No one in the paleolithic era was extracting seitan from wheat. No one was even growing wheat. I use whey protein powder for my shakes that is well over 90% protein by weight, but that doesn’t mean that milk is fat free.
    .-= Hammer´s last blog …Article on Exercise Not Leading to Weight Loss =-.

  • Honey

    Haha, well I know THAT…but it works great for me!
    .-= Honey´s last blog …Job Interview & Other Updates =-.

  • Jack

    I am following the warrior diet which is very similar to the Paleo diet.

    I have lost over 10 lbs since I begun and have more toned body, but remarkably I am stronger now that I have ever been in my life. Much more so. This seems really counterintuitive to losing weight, but I think there is some definite sense to the fasting period and the overeating period.

    My only gripe is that my weight loss seems to have stagnated a bit, but that could be because I spend too much time working on the computer at the moment. I am sure if I put in a few days of cardio a week, say boxing, then I would lean out fast.

    I am very interested in the 36 hour fast. That seems like a long time. I usually go without food for 16-18 hours on this diet daily and that stretches it.

  • tattoo kits

    Great stuff – I love reading things like this – have you seen that movie food inc it says foods have basically changed more in the last 50 years than they have in the last 5,000 years – makes you think eh?

  • SheComesFirst

    I agree with Honey and Hammer about processed carbs being bad for you.

    About the paleo diet, though… something to keep in mind is that the life expectancy of a human being 10,000 years ago was significantly shorter than it is now (25 – 30 years?). So humans did not really have enough time to develop diseases like tooth decay, etc. before they died.

  • Honey

    Good point, SheComesFirst. Chronic disease was basically a nonissue when life expectancy was that short (and you were just as likely to die from childbirth, starvation, or a hunting accident than you were to live out the full lifespan anyway).
    .-= Honey´s last blog …How to say “Bad Motherf**cker” in a job interview and get the job =-.

  • Hammer

    Given that children get tooth decay at very young ages despite advances in dental care, I think I don’t think that really holds water. As for chronic disease, I think that the evidence from societies eating traditional diets into the modern era yet taking advantage of antibiotics pretty much rules this out as well. Actually pretty much all forms of disease develop in young children as well as the elderly, for example how many children do you know who wear glasses? How many do you know who have diabetes? These children would not survive to reproductive age without modern medicine, which suggests that while there is undoubtedly a genetic marker for these things, there is also an environmental trigger that wasn’t present pre-agriculture.

    Paleo humans had massive tissue damage and osteoarthritis from overuse injury associated with such a rugged lifestyle. This is why intense and infrequent exercise is so important.
    .-= Hammer´s last blog …Article on Exercise Not Leading to Weight Loss =-.

  • Hammer

    Spending too much time working on the computer is not why your weight loss has stagnated. The bottom line is that calories burned during physical activity are really totally irrelevant to weight loss.

    Exercise’s role in weight loss is the following:
    -Increasing musculature size, causing an increase in basal metabolic rate
    -Emptying muscle glycogen stores making way for new glycogen, increasing insulin sensitivity

    I’m not sure where your body is right now in terms of its fitness, but there is a point at which the body is just not going to want to burn anymore fat barring prolonged starvation. If you’re at this point, then you should stop worrying about losing weight and focus more on building muscle. If you are not at this point, I would suggest upping the workout intensity while decreasing the duration and frequency of workouts, and cutting the carb portion of the WarriorDiet since all of the science behind it is bunk anyway.
    .-= Hammer´s last blog …Article on Exercise Not Leading to Weight Loss =-.

  • Honey

    Well obviously a lot of contemporary society’s tooth problems come from eating too much processed food, as does diabetes. That’s not the kind of chronic disease I’m talking about.
    .-= Honey´s last blog …You’ll Love This Video… =-.

  • William

    Thank you.

    I have three questions:
    1. How do you feel on your cheat day after eating sugar and fries for that one day? Were you still able to get overall good results over a few weeks with a cheat day?

    2. Do you drink milk and eat cheese, or have you eliminated those too?

    3. Italians and French eat lots of pastas, wines and breads. Are you able to reconcile their health, despite eating carbs?


  • Bryan Jenkins

    Bad breath or halitosis can be easily elimated by using mouthwash with hexetidine or triclosan.’-.

  • Primal

    Im actually warmer on the Paleo diet. I was in the mountains this past weekend and my friends were wearing jackets and pants and one had a beenie on and a scarf. I was walking around in shorts and a t-shirt. I think Im entering Keto though and I think Ive read your body heats up when producing ketones. I freakin love being Paleo. Ill never go back.

  • Julia Mitchell

    I use Whey protein a lot before and after my bodybuilding routines. Whey helps a lot in building muscles.:*:

  • Phil

    I find the Paleo Diet an interesting concept. However, don’t be too hard on the foods “we’re not yet adapted to” in the modern world, as our current life expectancy today VS. the stone age is more than double. That includes people on this planet whom don’t have regular access to modern medicine as well- so don’t rely on that as an excuse. The key to any diet is balance. That’s the key to life!