Tom's Cave Man Diet

Tom Davis

Last Modified: June 17, 2004

Humans evolved for two million years with a diet that varied very slowly over the millenia before the introduction of agriculture about 12,000 years ago. Since then there have been many other changes in our diet: dairy products, refined sugars, oils, "grain-fed cattle", et cetera.

On the evolutionary time scale, 12,000 years is almost nothing and Hostess Twinkies have been with us for even less time. It is almost certain that the human metabolic system is much better geared to what paleolithic man ate than to what the average person eats today.

The caveman got far more exercise than the average American. He didn't run marathons or anything, but he did walk instead of driving his car. If you don't get any exercise, no diet is going to help you. The bottom line is that if you don't get exercise, you're not going to be healthy. But you knew that.

In fact, if you're trying to lose weight, the more exercise you do, the better. Unfortunately, if you're not in shape, it seems to take a huge amount of exercise to burn just a few calories. I burn, during a solid workout, about 600 calories per hour. But I have a friend who raced in RAAM, the bicycle Race Across AMerica where the winners ride from the Pacific to the Atlantic from California to Georgia in about 8 or 9 days by riding for 21 hours each day. They have a huge problem getting in enough food to continue, and he once joked that he'd like to write a book that would surely be a best-seller: "How to lose weight on 10,000 calories per day."

Thus a possible approach to nutrition is to try to make our diets match, in some sense, what the cavemen ate. Obviously, this can't be done exactly, but it can be approximated and even improved in some ways, and that's what these web pages discuss. Here are the main topics:

What is the theory behind the caveman diet?
What did the cavemen eat?
What to eat and what to avoid on the caveman diet.
How to modify the diet for high intensity athletic activity.
What is the glycemic index and glycemic load?
What are the health benefits of the caveman diet?

Other topics (for possible inclusion later):


The diet itself looks quite a bit like the currently popular low carbohydrate diets like Atkins, Zone, South Beach, et cetera, but is probably less fanatical than most of them.

The author (who is not a physician and is not necessarily recommending this diet to anyone else) started experimenting with this diet in approximately December of 2003 and has been modifying it as he learns more and more. So far, it seems to work for him.

You will notice that this is not a "save the planet diet" or an inexpensive diet. The earth didn't support too many cavemen, and there is no way it could possibly support the current six billion people if they all tried to eat like this.

On the other hand, there is some interesting archeological data that shows that if you examine the skeletons of people from before the agricultural revolution 12,000 years ago or so, the skeletons indicate that the cavemen then were quite a bit healthier than the people whose skeletons are found in early agricultural communities. Switching from a quite varied diet to diets that typically had huge amounts of just one type of carbohydrate was not a healthy thing to do, but it sure could keep a lot more people alive, although less healthy, on average.

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