I read a lot of stuff regarding nutrition. It has been an active hobby of mine since 2008. Although it was the Paleo Diet that rekindled my interest in nutrition, today I consider myself more in the Weston A. Price camp. I explained why in the post The Endgame for Paleo is WAPF. I’ve been successful on both diets. Earlier this year I started reading about the dietary views of Dr. Ray Peat and his followers. Unlike Paleo or WAPF, which are easy to understand on the surface, the Peat-atarian articles are quite intense. They aren’t user friendly.
What makes the Peat Diet unique is that it approaches nutrition from a hormonal perspective. It is all about reducing chronic stress. To me the Peat Diet appears to be a modern fix to the WAPF Diet. Traditional diets worked great for traditional cultures. But we now live in a world with chronic stress and dietary toxins. Simply following a traditional diet or going caveman may not be enough or may not work as quickly as a diet designed specifically to address the hormonal stress of modern times.
If like me, you have an average IQ and you start to dive into understanding all the hormonal relationships, you’ll quickly become overwhelmed. The purpose of this post is to just hit the important differences, why they exist and who might benefit the most from experimenting with this diet.
Paleo vs Primal vs WAPF vs Peat
On the surface it may appear that The Peat Diet is a radical departure from Paleo, but it isn’t. It has more in common with Paleo and WAPF than it does with USDA recommendations.
|Grains||NO||NO||YES (treated only)||NO|
|Soy||NO||NO||YES (fermented only)||NO|
|"Salt is Good"||YES||YES||YES||YES|
|"Sugar is Good"||NO||NO||NO||YES|
|Offal + Bone Broth||YES||YES||YES||YES|
|Nuts||YES||YES||YES (treated only)||NO|
|Avoid PUFA (Omega 6)||YES||YES||YES||YES|
|Avoid PUFA (Omega 3)||NO||NO||NO||YES|
|"Saturated Fat is Good"||YES||YES||YES||YES|
I’ve bolded the two main differences.
#1 Sugar – Every diet under the sun seems to loathe sugar. Not Ray Peat. At a hormonal level sugar can be used to reduce stress and boost metabolism. This protocol seems to be effective with people who have stalled in their fat loss while following a strict low carbohydrate diet. Give your body some sugar, reduce the internal stress, boost metabolism and resume fat loss. Using sugar to improve your health seems like a bizarre idea at first, but a few years ago we used to think saturated fats were evil and now we love them.
My own N=1 experiment this year was consuming ice cream daily. Although I haven’t become fully convinced sugar is good. I’m no longer convinced it is bad. My health is as good in 2012 as it was in 2011, when I avoided sugar. So given equal outcomes, I’m going to eat ice cream.
#2 Avoid Omega 3 – This is a big idea to wrap your head around. PUFAs aren’t just evil, they are super evil and that includes Omega 3 fats. It took me a while to grasp this concept and the motivation behind this recommendation. The typical person today will have high levels of inflammatory fat as a result of excessive PUFA. Depending upon whom you read, it can take 4 or more years to get rid of it. The way to get rid of it quickest is to eliminate all forms of PUFA.
This recommendation leads to the mathematical conclusion that a Peat Diet will be higher in carbs and lower in fat. I saw one chart that estimated a Peat Diet was 50% carbs, 25% fat and 25% protein. When you reduce your intake of bad fats (PUFA), you’ll also be reducing all fats. When fats go down, carbs must go up. Although I suppose one could eat fistfuls of coconut oil to boost the fat level, it isn’t necessary since the carbs are boosting metabolism.
What I Like
Besides their love of ice cream, one of the things I really like about the Peat diet is how it places importance on bone broth and offal. This is the best idea in the WAPF camp. Use the entire animal and not just the muscle meat. Ray Peat’s writings explain a hormonal reason why that is important. From his article Gelatin, stress, longevity:
When only the muscle meats are eaten, the amino acid balance entering our blood stream is the same as that produced by extreme stress, when cortisol excess causes our muscles to be broken down to provide energy and material for repair. The formation of serotonin is increased by the excess tryptophan in muscle, and serotonin stimulates the formation of more cortisol, while the tryptophan itself, along with the excess muscle-derived cysteine, suppresses the thyroid function.
I love this. Traditional cultures unknowingly knew how to properly use the entire animal to the benefit of their thyroid.
3 jars of beef bone stock
What I Dislike
The Peat Diet is against fermented foods. The reason is that the body apparently considers lactic acid stressful to process. Ray also doesn’t like negative weight lifting movements, as they produce a lot of lactic acid. I may have an average IQ, but I think the Peat-atarians are wrong on this point. First of all, anyone that has ever started a weight lifting program using negative lifts knows the body adapts quickly. The extreme soreness you experience on workout one gets less and less with subsequent workouts. This tells me that the body learns to deal with the stress rather quickly. Also, you need far fewer workouts so rest time between workouts is increased, which reduces stress.
As for fermented foods, I’m going to side with traditional cultures on this one. Having access to fresh vegetables year round is such a recent phenomenon. Fermentation is how we preserved veggies and dairy. The nutritional value and safety of foods increase when they are fermented. Even if there was a slight stress response, there are so many benefits from fermentation.
Another thing I dislike about the Peat Diet and their obsession with eliminating stress is that there doesn’t seem to be any discussion of hormetic stress. Should stress always be avoided? Or should we introduce episodic stressors and teach our bodies how to adapt in a positive manner? As someone who believes strongly in the benefits of Intermittent Fasting and Cold Weather Training, you know where I stand.
Should You Try This Diet?
There is a lot to this diet that I didn’t cover. As a person with an average IQ that is not a PubMed Warrior, it appears to me that the person most likely to benefit from this diet will be someone who has had a long history with dieting, specifically low-carb dieting. Weight loss has stalled. Most likely the person is female and possibly with a low thyroid. Ideally the person would be able to handle dairy. That is not to say others wouldn’t benefit, but that seems like the person who would get the most results.
The problem with this diet is the message is hard to understand. Hopefully this post clarified some of the differences. In a future post, I will list some quick start ideas on how to transition from Paleo/WAPF to a Peat diet. Note that I am not endorsing this diet, but I do believe it has merit and can benefit some people. I’ll eat the ice cream, but I’m not giving up my kimchi.