Do You Need To Count Calories Following The Paleo Diet?

Jun 8, 2014

I get it. Summer is here and you want to look good at the beach. Nothing wrong with that. Maybe you have a few extra pounds you want to drop before a wedding or event your attending. Great! But how do you do it? How do you lose the 5, 10 or 15 pounds in a matter of weeks vs. months or years? And how do you keep the fat off once you lose it?

Most paleo diet advice means well, but it might be misleading. I’ve read several articles, blog posts and even paleo diet books that say calories don't matter. You can eat any paleo food you want, in any quantity, and you will lose weight, look great and feel great. This is not entirely true.

The issue is that as Americans our diets are so bad that just the slightest effort to cut out processed junk food from our diets and to do minimal exercise leads to some fat loss. Our biological and metabolic processes are damaged from years of eating high sugar diets that keep blood sugar levels too high. And our stressful jobs and lifestyles don’t help. Spending eight to ten hours a day hunched over keyboards doesn’t help our cause either.

As Sisson has mentioned you’re goal is to become a fat burning beast. So the first thing to address is fixing your metabolic processes. Actually making your body function how it was meant to function.

How to Do The Fat Loss Progression for Paleo

I tell our clients to follow this fat loss progression in the following order…

1. Dramatically decrease all consumption of processed foods and foods that trigger allergic responses. This means cutting out junk foods and beverages.

By default you’ll be eating more protein and veggies, that’s just the way it is. Forget the title “paleo” for a second and just use common sense. If you’re not pounding spaghetti for dinner every night you’re probably eating protein with veggies. Chicken with a veggie medley of broccoli, cauliflower and carrots… one of my favs! And remember… nobody is asking you to be perfect. You don’t have to be perfect to see good results.

2. Move more. You have to start using stored energy. Get up from your keyboard and walk. Go to the gym and lift some weights. Don’t think you have to go big at first. In fact, start small and build the habit.

Go once a week and workout with weights for 10 minutes. Then go twice a week for ten minutes. Then three times a week. Once you’ve gone three times a week for 10 minutes then increase the time you’re working out to 15 minutes.

3. Decrease stress as much as possible. Cortisol is a stress hormone that left unchecked can make it really easy to gain weight and hard to lose body fat.

You have to get your stress levels down. I struggle with this. Add to that the fact that I would consider myself a “stress eater” and you get a recipe for disaster! The practices that help me are meditation, sleeping, journaling, being outdoors and exercise. I’m not perfect at this but I’m a work in progress! You should be a work in progress too!

4. Small decreases in calories consumed. Once you’ve got the first three steps down you’ve probably already seen some decent results.

Have you heard people say that their weight loss stalled after a couple week’s of paleo? Have you heard people say they started to gain weight eating paleo? Yes, it’s true, you can gain weight eating paleo. Your body is great at keeping things consistent. After making the changes above your body will get to a happy level and want to stay there. If you want to lose more body fat you’ll have to make adjustments to your calories. Usually you’ll decrease your daily calorie intake by 250 to 450 calories a day. Just like working out, start small and make adjustments from there.

So the answer to the question about counting calories on a paleo diet is that you don’t have to at first but at some point you might have to do it. If you’ve hit a point where fat loss has stalled or you’re starting to gain weight on a paleo diet then you’ll need to look at caloric intake. Logically it makes sense. Do you really think you could eat 5,000 calories a day of bacon and chicken thighs and not lose weight? Sorry, it doesn't work that way.

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