This rabbit isn't starving

Eating a low carbohydrate and low fat diet is functionally untenable for human beings. We’re adaptable enough to live on a wide variety of food type combinations, but a high protein, low everything else diet does not work out so well. The results have historically been referred to as a condition called “rabbit starvation“.

From Wikipedia – “Rabbit starvation is a form of acute malnutrition caused by excess consumption of any lean meat (like rabbits) coupled with a lack of other sources of nutrients usually in combination with other stressors, such as severe cold or dry environment. Symptoms include diarrhea, headache, fatigue, low blood pressure and heart rate, and a vague discomfort and hunger that can only be satisfied by consumption of fat or carbohydrates.”

I’ve heard of this kind of experience from many people who have tried out the paleo diet. What usually happens is they already come from a diet that is fairly low in fat (because of the damnation of fat by the USDA). Then, upon adopting the paleo diet they switch to eating more lean meats, and try to cut out all the extra junk carbs they ate on a daily basis. With the prevalence of the “caveman” marketing and press for the paleo diet, everybody is imagining that they should eat meat all day long so they really pile on the protein.

All of the sudden, they go from what was probably a 50% / 30% / 20% (carb/protein/fat) ratio of food, to something looking like 30% / 50% / 20% (carb/protein/fat) ratio of food. It’s no wonder they feel hungry all of the time, and generally feel like crap!

The basic idea that needs to be understood here, is that you can be either low carb, or low fat, but not both.

When the USDA ruled that fat was evil, people followed the food pyramid and removed a lot of the fat from their diet. The result was that they had to add a lot of carbohydrates back into their diet, to satiate their hunger. It is difficult to consume that amount of carbohydrates eating just paleo-friendly vegetables and fruit. Either you will have to munch on high fiber broccoli and carrots for 6 hours a day, or eat higher glycemic fruits and starches. It’s certainly not impossible, just look at the Kitavans.

There is an alternative however, and that is to significantly increase the amount of fat in your diet. The paleo community is still divided on the topic of saturated fat, but more and more researchers are discovering that saturated fat may not lead to cardiovascular disease after all. If you want to play it safe, at least add more nuts like walnuts into your diet. Your body will thank you for it.

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7 Responses to You Can’t Do Both Low-Carb And Low-Fat

  1. Tyson says:

    I suffer from this problem. There will be days where I know my fat intake is low along with my low carb intake and I feel like crap. Sort of like the crash at the end of the binge. I for one to up my intake of fat.
    .-= Tyson´s last blog ..Those who eat brown rice may have less diabetes =-.

  2. Fitz says:

    Amen! I’m not a paleo-eater, but I do eat a lot of paleo/caveman/primal meals. Sometimes I think I will be starving because the only carbs are from vegetables, but if they’re sauteed in olive oil (I go overboard sometimes), I don’t feel hungry at all. I’m generally more willing to eat a bit more fat off my hunk of meat too.

    When you get full from a lot of carbs, there’s a buzz and crash followed by hunger. Paleo meals don’t have this spike which is what appeals to me. Nice reminder!

    - Fitz.
    .-= Fitz´s last blog ..Training Journal: 5.3 – 6.6.10 =-.

  3. Don Wiss says:

    This article is right on. This doesn’t get discussed as much as in should in the paleo community. I need to add this topic to my definition.

  4. tina says:

    We are on the GAPS diet so we don’t eat any grains. But we do eat coconut oil, lots of lard, avocodos and ghee. If I haven’t had enough fat then I feel weak and light headed.

  5. Patrick says:

    I do the CKD diet. I can definitely notice a difference in energy and overall feeling during the 2nd or 3rd day of low carb intake. After that, I normally sip into ketosis and feel fine.
    .-= Patrick´s last blog ..Vibram FiveFingers: The Perfect Wingman for Attracting the Opposite Sex =-.

  6. David Csonka says:

    Patrick, do you incorporate intermittent fasting with your cyclical ketosis diet?

  7. The Paleo Rodeo #013 says:

    [...] Csonka presents You Can’t Do Both Low-Carb And Low-Fat posted at Naturally Engineered, saying, “Humans are adaptable enough to live on a wide [...]