Thursday, July 18, 2013

The "skinny fat" Paleo premise

I've been formulating thoughts the past several days, wrapping my brain around health, wellness, fitness, exercise, objectives and outcomes. It's almost too much to explicate over a 10-mile run, but I'll do my best to bring you some fresh observations.

What set me off was the nutrition world's heightened awareness of all things paleo. If you haven't yet jumped on the paleo bandwagon, it's about eating like a cave man, when hunting and foraging was yet king over farming. Bottom line, it's focused on lean meats, vegetables leaning towards the green variety, with minimal fruits, nuts and oils. Grains were thrown under the bus, along with most all dairy derivatives.

What's intriguing to me is the exercise routine that is many times incorporated into the paleo diet lifestyle. It's weight bearing and minimal. Many of the big name paleo proponents advocate only 30 minutes a day, usually a brief cardio warm-up and then variations of body strength resistance.

Please understand, I agree that as we age, our levels of exercise cannot remain static. I have reached out on that topic through my YouTube channel:

But there's some other things happening within the paleo world that I don't sync up to. A recent podcast stated that endurance sport athletes, specifically women, were turning up "skinny fat" through a non-paleo diet and in their opinion, excessive exercise. Thin on the outside, fat on the inside...say it ain't so!

It's at this juncture nutrition and sport enthusiasts need to reach a decision point: I believe you're either purpose training, or vanity training. Much of the paleo world is about being ripped, or in its latest configuration, shredded. Men are often shirtless to expose plateaus of ab muscles. That's vanity training (I must say that over the snowy winter months, you might find me popping around on the Cybex stations, doing a bit of vanity training myself).

Others, let's say those who intend on completing a 13.1 or 26.2, might opt for purpose training. I did 10 this morning in somewhat excessive heat and it had nothing to do with paleo. My body wanted to stop, sweat was pouring into my eyes, and I could feel that painful yet promising burn in my stomach that indicates fat cells are being cooked at a rapid pace.

We must build out bodies to perform for the outcome we desire. Fifteen minutes of jumping jacks isn't going to get me to the top of Snake Mountain on our next club cycling ride. Nor will lean cuts of steak and broccoli. Our diet choices are part of the plan, as is the level of aerobic sport we need to condition ourselves to get to the finish line.

I'm not adhering one camp over another, but I do want to promote the debate. For me, I'll lean towards the big miles and veggie intake; I don't plan on being "skinny fat" anytime soon. 


  1. interesting. but how do we know if we are in fact, "skinny fat"?

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    2. There is a possible correlation between body weight and body fat. Easiest way would be to use a scale that indicates both. I can be "thin" at 170 pounds but carry 9% body fat; that's high for me I have raced at 5%. Women have a higher natural/normal body fat range, so their numbers would be different. Measuring body fat percentage isn't a perfect science, but it's a good starting point.