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Paleo diet adjustments for women?

by 1866 · February 23, 2011 at 04:41 AM

Most of the paleo literature out there is gender-neutral, with no specific guidance for men or women. Outside of paleo literature, we've heard that women should eat less red meat than men in general. If this is indeed not a myth, then what adjustments should be made to a "typical" paleo diet aimed at women? Or are the women paleo subscribers here eating basically the same as the men are, with similar health improvements? Anything women should be doing differently?

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55320 · February 22, 2011 at 06:11 PM

It's definitely a myth. Women need more iron than men since we lose it during our periods, childbirth, etc. It's actually a certain population of men that should eat less red meat (some men accumulate iron). There is an evolutionary aversion towards meat during some stages of pregnancy that anthropologists theorize has to do with pathogen risks, so I tell pregnant women who feel nauseous about meat not to eat it. I've counseled several women wanting to get pregnant and I usually prescribe must less fasting, higher calorie intake, the use of certain seafoods like fish roe and seaweed broths that are given to women looking to conceive in traditional cultures, and a higher fat diet. There is some evidence that women burn fat better than men do.

"Why women respond differently seems obvious. Women are, after all, awash in the hormone estrogen, which, some new science suggests, has greater effects on metabolism and muscle health than was once imagined. Some studies have found that postmenopausal women who take estrogen replacement have healthier muscles than postmenopausal women who do not. Even more striking, in several experiments, researchers from McMaster University in Canada gave estrogen to male athletes and then had them complete strenuous bicycling sessions. The men seemed to have developed entirely new metabolisms. They burned more fat and a smaller percentage of protein or carbohydrates to fuel their exertions, just as women do."

Some women I know have had to rely on high-fat dairy to get their bodies into pregnancy mode.

THE book to read on this is Ancient Bodies, Modern Lives.

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39204 · February 22, 2011 at 06:20 PM

Ovulating women are far less sensitive to fructose than males, so the immediate weight loss that many males experience isn't necessarily going to occur from simply going paleo. Even so, the basic method of ratcheting up activity while ratcheting down starch intake should get things moving again. This is assuming no fructose, adequate sleep etc.

Edit: There are a lot of studies that explore the difference in fructose effects:

http://www.ajcn.org/content/18/5/369.full.pdf

http://hyper.ahajournals.org/cgi/content/abstract/50/2/306

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20469 · February 23, 2011 at 04:41 AM

Seems like some women have more trouble than men going very low carb. MIght be that those who feel tired and sluggish may need a bit of starch once in a while. But that is something that typically does not show up right away and is only something I would personally worry about if it actually happens. Each has to find the macronutrient profile that works best for himself or herself. There is no one size fits all paleo model.

And I agree, women should probably eat MORE red meat, LOL! Who gets some of these crazy rumors started in the first place is just beyond me!

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