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Prehistoric Nutrition For Bodybuilders

Prehistoric or paleolithic man ate whatever they could get their hands on, as food surplus rarely existed before the age of agriculture. What they ate depended upon what was available to them at that time and place. The Neanderthals, were genetically predisposed to physiques that would be considered possible with steroids by today’s standards. In these ancient times however, large amounts of lean body mass with extremely low body fat would not have been beneficial, or possible. Body fat is stored as reserves for times of scarcity. This process has saved man from extinction, but now causes modern man significant health problems. This can be largely attributed to technological advancement which achieves a food surplus.

Protein is Essential For Muscle

2.5 million years ago, early man scavenged the remains of other carnivores by eating what they left behind. The strong bone structure of early meat-eating man can be attributed to their high protein diet. Their protein intake would have far exceeded modern man’s intake of 10-15% and in fact has been shown to reach levels of 19-35%, many of which came from nuts, game meats and fish. Legumes as a source of protein were not commonly eaten by our prehistoric ancestors.

Vegetables & Fruit For Energy

Whilst neanderthals in Europe were big meat eaters, they also relied heavily on herbaceous plants for nutrition. In fact, at times of low meat availability, plant products provided our ancestors with the majority of their energy. Significant quantity and diversity of fruits and vegetables are evident. Seeds of plants, fruits, and nuts have been recovered and are evidence of the diet of our Paleolithic ancestors. Unfortunately the micronutrient content of fruits and vegetables has been shown to be less than that in the diet of our ancestors.

Carb Intake

Carbohydrates have been recently blamed for the demise in modern health that fat was previously. Carbohydrates were eaten by our ancestors and were derived predominantly from vegetables, fruit, and whole grains. In prehistoric times, people’s genes promoted storage of fat to allow humans to better survive periodic famines. Nowadays, in these abundant times along with the advent of the processed grain, these same genes have led to the increase in the so called ‘diseases of civilisation’ including insulin resistance, obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

Ancient Fatty Acids

Intakes of these were significantly different in the past. The ancient diet consisted of more energy coming from fats many of which were monounsaturated fatty acids and polyunsaturated fatty acids, with less saturated fatty acids and almost no trans fatty acids intake. The modern day diet with its increased saturated and trans fat intake has been demonstrated to cause a greater chance of developing coronary heart disease. Domesticated animals have higher proportions of saturated fat than wild animals. In fact even the fattest wild land mammals contain 60-75% less total fat than today’s domesticated equivalent. The prehistoric diet also contained many more sources of fish and other seafood, which contain high levels of omega 3 fatty acids, beneficial for depression and heart health.

The Prehistoric Diet For Bodybuilders

We can learn from the health of our ancestors and try to apply aspects of their diets to our own. For example, wild game is a good option, and at a more economical level, the lean cuts of meat such as sirloin and chicken breasts are recommended. Fatty acids are best derived from cold water fish such as salmon, as well as flax, canola and olive oil. Whilst avoiding saturated fat is advisable, some is required for hormonal balance. This is easily achieved even eating the leanest cuts of meat and dairy foods. Eating more fruits and vegetables along with wholegrains with little salt as evident in the diets of our ancestors will also help us reap all the benefits of the good health and relatively little disease that they experienced. Consuming unrefined or less refined foods will also offer us many health benefits. A few studies have been conducted regarding the paleolithic diet with positive results such as weight reduction, waist circumference reduction, improved glucose tolerance and lowered blood pressure among others.1,2 The prehistoric diet was also relatively low in energy compared to today’s standards, which coupled with their vigorous activity levels meant reduced rates of obesity.

Prehistoric Diet Tips For Modern Bodybuilders

While there will always be positives and negatives with any diet, we can definitely adopt some aspects of our ancestors diets. Include more fruits, vegetables, wholegrains, lean protein sources, good fats such as monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids as well as omega 3 fatty acids. Avoid salt and highly refined foods. Modern man however is privileged that he can pick and choose from a greater variety of food sources than ever before. Ensure that you make the most of this and manipulation of this wide variety can help you not only be healthy, but add quality lean muscle mass to your body. Unlike the prehistoric man, reduce the level of fat consumption as excess fat, regardless of type is extremely calorific and can lead to weight gain. Regardless of whatever eating plan you adopt, it is important to incorporate regular moderate-high intensity exercise into your lifestyle. This will offer you additional benefits to complement your diet.

1.  Lindeberg S, Jönsson T, Granfeldt Y, Borgstrand E, Soffman J, Sjöström K, Ahrén. ‘A Palaeolithic diet improves glucose tolerance more than a Mediterranean-like diet in individuals with ischaemic heart disease’. Diabetologia 2007 Sept 50 (9): 1795–807.
2.  Osterdahl M, Kocturk T, Koochek A, Wändell PE. ‘Effects of a short-term intervention with a paleolithic diet in healthy volunteers’. European Journal of Clinical Nutrition: 2008 May: 62 (5): 682–85.

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