Is Paleo low-carb? The short answer is no.
The long answer is: only if you want it to be.
The truth is Paleo is very adaptable to whatever your lifestyle and goals may be.
If you’re an athlete who does a lot of high intensity activities then you’re going to have to keep your glycogen stores topped up with more carbohydrate dense foods to power those anaerobic pursuits.
But if you’re trying to lose body fat then Paleo very easily supports a low carbohydrate diet as well.
Paleo Simply Gets its Carbohydrates from Different Sources
The Paleo diet puts an emphasis on eating the same kinds of foods which people lived on for hundreds of thousands of years before the agricultural revolution.
Because of this bread, pasta, and rice have been removed since these sources of energy would have been either non-existent or been a negligible part of our Paleolithic ancestors’ diet.
Now, I know what you’re thinking.
All of the foods I just mentioned not only comprise a huge amount of the total calories we eat but they also all have one thing in common;
They’re all starches which are major sources of carbohydrates.
If we remove these from our diets how can we possibly not be on a low-carb diet?
The first answer to this question is that there are many other healthy and Paleo friendly starches which can replace the grains in our diets.
Sweet potatoes, yams, and squash are all good examples which are both extremely healthy and packed with carbs.
In fact, sweet potatoes are one of my favorite post workout snacks for refueling my muscles’ glycogen stores.
The second answer to this question is that we simply have to do what our moms and dads always told us to do:
Eat our fruits and vegetables.
The average American diet is terribly lacking in these two essential and fantastic sources of carbohydrates.
Not only are fruits and vegetables an indispensible source of micronutrients but they are also a source of carbohydrates.
In fact, most Paleo meals should be composed of at least 50% vegetables.
By simply replacing all of the grains with vegetables we are replacing many of the carbohydrates lost from removing bread, pasta, and rice from our plates.
However, if we directly swap all of our grains with vegetables, gram for gram, we will not be getting an equal serving of carbohydrates and calories.
The reason for this is that we are incapable of digesting many of the carbohydrates in vegetables because of the high fiber content.
This fiber content is actually very healthy for us, especially for our microbiome, but it also means that gram for gram vegetables do not provide as many carbohydrates as starches.
If we want to match the quantity of carbohydrates we currently take in through breads, pasta, and rice we need to make sure to eat more starchy tubers and vegetables such as sweet potatoes, yams, and squash.
So, Is Paleo Low-Carb Or Not?
If you regularly drink three sodas a day and enjoy a bag of potato chips after every meal then the Paleo diet would definitely have you eating less carbohydrates then you do now.
However, if you already eat a regular “healthy” diet then you’ll only be swapping many of your old starches with extra vegetables and starchy tubers such as sweet potatoes.
You’ll still be consuming plenty of carbohydrates.
The only real difference is that your new sources of carbs are all much lower on the glycemic index.
Meaning that the sugars are absorbed into your blood at a much slower rate than they are with grains and sugary drinks.
This has a whole host of health benefits.
It keeps your blood sugar from spiking and therefore keeps your insulin levels steady.
This helps you keep your hunger under control by preventing the highs and lows caused from ingesting too many sugars too quickly.
On a Paleo diet you never feel a “sugar rush” followed by the resulting crash which causes many people to ingest more empty calories.
By eating the all natural foods that our ancestors ate you will enjoy more steady energy levels throughout your day.
Can I Make The Paleo Diet Low-Carb?
Because you’re already eating foods which have a much lower glycemic index than most foods in the American diet your body will be able to make the transition much easier.
By reducing the number of starchy tubers and fruits from the Paleo diet you will find yourself on an extremely low carbohydrate diet.
Just make sure to continue eating plenty of vegetables to get all the nutrients and fiber your body needs to stay healthy.
Also be sure to get plenty of healthy fats from nuts and grass fed meat to maintain an adequate caloric intake.
The Paleo diet is extremely adaptable to whatever your specific health goals may be and it is definitely not a low carbohydrate diet; it just gets it carbs from different sources.
That being said, it’s very easy to reduce the number of carbohydrates in the Paleo diet to create a low carb or even ketogenic diet as you’re already eating lots of healthy fats and nutrient dense vegetables.
If you do a lot of high energy sports than you can still get plenty of fuel from starchy vegetables and tubers.
However, if you are trying to lose body fat then you can reduce the quantity of carbohydrates by removing some of those items from your plate.
Just make sure to have a solid base of healthy vegetables, fats, and protein in your meals at all times.