6 Weird Things That Happen to Your Body When You Go on the Paleo Diet
Let’s talk about the Paleo Diet. You probably know it as a popular diet in many CrossFit circles, and if you know anything about it, you know that going Paleo means cutting out sugars, grains, legumes, dairy, and most carbohydrates from your diet. The goal is to fill your plate with foods your ancestors (the “hunters and gatherers”) would’ve eaten. That means eggs, lean meats, seafood, vegetables, nuts, seeds, and fruit in moderation are all fair game.
For the most part, the Paleo Diet is pretty healthy. After all, packing on the protein is a fairly reliable way to lose weight—and it’s way better for your health than chomping on a donut during the dreaded 3 p.m. slump.
But there are still a few factors to keep in mind before going Paleo. As with any diet, you’re at risk of developing nutritional deficiencies or nasty side effects when in transition, says Dr. Josh Axe, D.N.M., C.N.S., D.C. best-selling author of Eat Dirt, and co-founder of Ancient Nutrition. Here are some of the craziest, most unexpected ones.
Related: The Low Carb High Fat Debate
You Might Get A Little Glum
Don’t freak out if you suddenly feel a bit gloomier than usual and have less spring in your step. “When you start a paleo diet, cutting out grains, starches and processed foods means that you’ll be cutting out a lot of sugar,” explains Dr. Axe, which means that if your body is used to consuming sugar daily, you might lose some of its short-term energy and mood-boosting properties when you give it up.
“When you eat sugary foods, the levels of dopamine in your brain increase. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that controls the pleasure centre in the brain,” he says. (It’s often called the “happy” hormone.) “Eating lots of processed foods high in added sugars can result in dependency,” so you might get crankier than usual due to withdrawal.
That’s because going from having lots of these foods in your diet to none at all can cause fluctuations in neurotransmitter levels, he says, resulting in headaches, brain fog, and fatigue. These effects are known as the “carb flu,” but they’ll ease up with time.
You Might Crave Sugar
When you first start the Paleo diet, you might notice some strong cravings. That’s because your body is searching for its primary fuel source, which is glucose.
If you manage to go Paleo long-term, however, you’ll have an easier time controlling cravings and weight, says Dr. Axe. You’ll be eating “a high-protein diet, which has been shown to decrease calorie intake, reduce appetite and cravings, and boost metabolism,” he says.
Your Workouts Might Feel Terrible
“When you dramatically reduce your intake of sugar from refined carbs or starches, you’re temporarily depriving your body of its main form of energy,” explains Dr. Axe. As we mentioned above, this can potentially result in low blood sugar, irritability, and increased cravings. But Dr. Axe also adds that it might result in “a drop in physical performance until your body is able to adapt and utilize other sources of energy.” So yeah — when you start the Paleo Diet, your workouts might feel more draining than usual at first.
Don’t worry, though: once you’re a few weeks into the diet, however, you’ll likely notice your workout performance start to improve. As you’re eating more fats and protein, you’re building and repairing muscles, so you’ll have better recovery after each session.
Your Sex Drive Might Increase
“Many people report that following a paleo diet has increased their sex drive and improved their sex life. This is primarily because it aids in weight loss, which can boost confidence and stamina and also build testosterone,” says Dr. Axe. Greater testosterone will make you friskier, so you’ll want to hop into bed after eating that piece of steak.
Plus, when you think about it, eliminating junk food is also a good way to increase your libido. “While there’s limited research on how specific dietary factors like processed food or sugar intake may affect your libido, eating a nutrient-poor diet can decrease steady energy levels, which can have a negative impact on your sex life,” he explains.
Your Poops Might Be Better
“On the paleo diet, you’re more likely to have regular, healthy bowel movements. This is because you’re increasing your vegetable intake, which means you’re also upping the amount of fibre in your diet,” says Dr. Axe. As fibre moves through the body undigested, it adds bulk to the stool and promotes regularity, he explains.
Plus, eating too much dairy and processed junk food can make you constipated, he says, so removing those foods from your diet will also help.
You’ll Smell Great
Get this: the Paleo Diet might make your natural body odour smell fresher. (Now’s the time to ask out that girl you’ve been checking out at the gym.)
“Interestingly enough, there’s been some research showing that the foods you eat on the paleo diet can actually make you smell better,” says Dr. Axe. “One recent study, for example, showed that women preferred the body odour of men who ate more fruits and vegetables over those who ate a diet rich in refined carbohydrates. They also found that a higher intake of meat, fat and eggs — all foods emphasized on the paleo diet — made sweat smell more pleasant than a high carb intake.”