Becoming a caveman part 5: conclusions

10 Mar

After five weeks of eating paleo and two strength and conditioning workouts a week, I have managed to increase my lean mass by 2.7kg, drop 0.8kg of body fat, reduced my waist size by 0.5 of an inch, all while consuming in excess of 4,500 calories most days. Not bad, especially when I haven’t actually found sticking to paleo that hard at all.

So what can I conclude after my journey to become a caveman:

1. Eating paleo is not that difficult and I’ll likely stick with it
2. You can build muscle mass eating paleo
3. Time under tension needed to build muscle can be difficult for some bodyweight exercises
4. Bodyweight exercises may not build some muscles as well as some isolation type exercises

1. Eating paleo is not that difficult: If you can get breakfast sorted, your snacks for the day and dinner, the only challenging meal I found was lunch. This is because when popping out for lunch while at work, most options didn’t offer enough quantity of protein or fats without breaking the bank.

Solution? Avocados, sweet potato and smoked mackerel. I bought and prepared (for the sweet potato) these items and had them at work, so whenever I needed to, I just topped up lunches with some addition protein and calories. Easy!

2. You can build muscle mass on paleo: my weight went from 93.6kg to 95.5kg, while dropping from 13.7% to 12.6% body fat, so a lean mass gain of 2.7kg. As you’ll see from the photo below, it’s not a huge change in body composition (and not the best photos, lesson learned), although I’m relatively happy with the gains. I also think some changes to the workout would cause bigger gains.


3. Time under tension difficult for some exercises: lets take an example, the single leg squat. This is a tough enough exercise on its own, let alone with a cadence of 5 seconds up, 5 seconds down.

What did I do? I held on to my gymnastic rings to help guide myself up and down. The only problem is that it’s hard to stop from using too much arm strength to assist. Similar for the hamstring raises, I’d struggle doing a couple at a normal pace, so I resorted to negatives and the eventually single leg hip thrusts on a Swiss ball. The problem then was it was too easy, so I tried holding a belt over my hips to pull down and create more tension as I pushed. Worked quite well actually, although then it becomes hard to measure increased tension.

I could imagine some people may also find the same problems with pull ups and dips etc, if they haven’t got enough strength to make the minimum time under tension when using just their body weight. Hence my next concluding point…..

4. Bodyweight exercises may not build some muscles as well as some isolation type exercises : I did manage to put on about half an inch on my upper arms, although I saw gains of 1.5 inches around my hips and 1.7 inches around my chest. OK you would expect bigger muscles to show more gains, although I think the type of body weight exercises I was doing rely on the larger muscles and it felt as though they tended to fail before the smaller muscles such as triceps. This was particularly true for dips and towel pull ups (where the hands tended to give way in the latter). However, that being said it all depends if you want ‘show’ or ‘go’ muscles. I’ll take ‘go’ any day of the week, I went from being able to do 6 towel pull ups 5 seconds up, 5 seconds down, to doing 6 with 10kg added. For Bjj that’ll serve me far better than having bigger arms.


Finally, why am I stopping? Well I will continue eating paleo as I’ve been feeling great even well doing ~four Bjj sessions a week on top of the strength and conditioning. However, I’m not too hell bent on ‘getting stacked’ and more focused on performance. Next I’m going to be working up to double body weight squats and deadlifts and also doubling the number of ring pulls ups and ring dips I can do. Should be fun!


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