These questions are not being posed to offend anyones nutritional needs or macronutrient requirements.
All plants have a season/time of year when they can be eaten, this season is even shorter outside the range of the equator- so how would Pleistocene man have a decent supply of glucose 9-11 months out of the year? Even when in season, hiking in the Northeast of the U.S. I'm surrounded by berries, some veg, and tons of meat/animals. But i could probably dig for weeks without finding a single tuber that contained a decent amount of starch. Plus I've read that a hard frost of 24 degrees or lower will end the season for a potato.
I'm not saying starch isn't a great fuel, because it is and I run better on it, but every time I'm in the wild and then go eat dinner, I say to myself "Theres no starch out there to survive/thrive on. European HGs left Africa way before agriculture and its storage of winter grains, into a seasonal, often cold environment,why am I eating this starch/potato and why does my body perform so much better with it? Hell pemmican is pretty starch free!"
We gorged on fructose, available tubers and maybe late fall vegetables (squash and pumpkins,etc…) which gave us some great pounds for winter survival but theres not much fructose or starch till later in the next year ( i doubt we were getting substantial glycogen from gorging on the spring onions in March)
So did man thrive in a cave/forest eating fatty meat and run on gluconeogenesis for fuel 9-11 months out of the year?-maybe. Did people trek with potato sacks on their backs or have 1000s of pounds of potatoes stored in our caves/tipis- probably not, at least not for more than maybe a few weeks. Did we only perform glycogen depleting activities during the months where we could obtain a decent level of starch? (9 months out of the year-no sprinting, no heavy lifting more than once in a blue moon or significant hoarse playing?-doubt it .Did we huddle and hibernate (humans can't really) for most of the year till starch was available and only then start taking down animals, running around, and digging -probably not.
Lastly, maybe we slept and rested so much when not active (12 hours of sleep and extremely low glycogen depleting exercise volume) that nucleogenisis was less stressful and really was the primary fuel for us? How would that be possible when matched with significant physical activity? -(some have compared the hunting, gathering, animal butchering.etc… life our paleo ancestors to that of a modern day construction worker) Many modern HGs have a rest day or two after a very strenuous day and many of these groups have access to a decent amount of starch. What were we doing in the absence of starch? Were our bones frail from ketosis? Did we have tons of issues like, hair loss,etc… from VLC?- probably not
Our very very close cousins, Neanderthals were mostly carnivorous and were insanely strong/active. Did they eat mostly raw meat (possibly making gluconeogenisis easier?) The real question-How did we survive most of our months and thrive without starch?
Neanderthals were not mostly carnivorous. In fact, some of our best evidence for Paleolithic starch consumption comes from neanderthal remains.
Either way, there is a ceiling for protein consumption and because of that, Paleolithic hominids had to get a certain percentage of energy from carbs or fat. Unfortunately, there is no way to determine which they chose from the bones like we can for protein with isotopes. There are papers that theorize animals based on faunal remains and others plants based on local botany. There are starch sources buried in the ground even in mid-winter and in fact some of them are best in late winter even in the far north (cattails) because they store sugars in their root systems to prepare for spring. Siberians dig up lily roots for starch. There are also berries that can be found frozen in winter under the snow.
So really, we have no idea, but people make huge mistakes when they try to extrapolate from their own botanical knowledge. Most Americans wouldn't survive in the wild. And most of us cannot imagine what life was like back then. It continuously surprises even seasoned anthropologists. Based on paleoclimate and data from hearths, I'm going to say that Europe was probably originally settled by raw meat eating carnivores (not modern homo sapiens at this point), then there came a population of homo sapiens that interbred with these original settlers and also probably overhunted many large fatty game, pressuring hominid populations to rely more on leaner small game and thus forcing them to rely more on plants to avoid rabbit starvation. Might be why the descendants of this population only have a small amount of DNA from these archaic hominids. But now I'm just speculating.
A lot of starches that paleolithic and neolithic people used could be harvested and processed into a dried state, to be reconstituted with water later. Some of these techniques make roots and the starchy insides of trees/plants store-able for years.
Read the potato section of 1493 (by Charles Mann)for a description of the creative ways folks in the Andes used to process potatoes to make them store-able, using little to no technology. The resultant stored starches might not sound very appealing or palatable to us. Also, if you have Netflix you can stream a movie called Pururambo about the indigenous of New Guinea. Towards the end you see 20 minutes or so of them harvesting the pulpy interior or a large tree they felled, that forms the staple starch in their diet. The resultant starch looks every bit as white and powdery as white flour or white sugar.
Not much seasonality in the tropics. The idea that paleolithic humans only had fruit or starch available for a small amount of time in the year is (in my opinion) frankly a myth.
Humans have millions of years of tropical adapation; we've not lived in cold climates for long and as Melissa points out carbohydrate is available and exploited year round. Humans while well adapted to a large amount of meat and fat consumption; are not carnivores.
As a side note I'm northern european.
Thank you melissa, great website btw.
But I'm so confused on how someone like deVany thrives without or with so little starch in his diet? (He's naturally lean and pretty strong/active) Well trained gluconeogenesis? Because I'm pretty weak and slow without Starch.
Starchy vs Non-Starchy Vegetables 11 Answers