How to Maintain Weight When Following a Paleo Template

At Tribal, we recommend people follow a Paleo lifestyle template to maximise their health and performance.

At a very simple level, Paleo nutrition means choosing to eat real, nutrient-dense food – unprocessed meats, fish, eggs, nuts and seeds, healthful fats such as those found in healthy meat, olive oil, butter, coconuts, avocados and lard, vegetables, and some fruits, avoiding processed foods, refined carbohydrates, added sugars, vegetable oils such as corn oil, gluten-containing products and most grains, and beans.

Certain people choose to eat dairy on a Paleo template, electing for high-fat, low-carb dairy foods such as cream, butter and hard cheese, rather than milk or flavoured, sweetened yoghurt.

Unwanted Weight Loss.

For people who have been eating a standard diet (say a low-fat, high carb diet) the transition from the standard diet to a Paleo template can result in rapid fat loss, because of an inevitable reduction in carbohydrate intake from the modern western diet, and because the diet includes a good amount of healthful fats and protein which have satiating effects on appetite for most people.

One of the issues of having endurance athletes align with a Paleo template- is that the hard gainers can reduce their bodyweight beyond a desired level, especially when work stress, family life and sleep disturbance are aligned to a training schedule. So, what if you don’t want to or need to lose body fat?

Apart from attracting the green-eyed envy of many people, if you are hard gainer who still wants to take advantage of the health benefits of the nutrient dense Paleo diet, how do you adjust the template to suit your own needs? Whilst it might be tempting to give the donuts and Dairy Milk the green light, there are cleaner ways to maintain weight which allow you to drive health at the same time…

Inclusion of Safe Starches.

If you are a hard gainer, then you can include safe starches in your diet. Whilst not all Paleo- safe starches are the better choices of starches once you move away from below ground vegetables. Add white rice as a side dish to curries and stews, or opt for sweet potatoes, and even white potatoes. If you can choose locally-grown and organic products, so much the better.

You can also add properly prepared beans and legumes back into your diet, the soaking preparation of these foods results in a reduction of anti-nutrient value– lentils, kidney beans and chickpeas are good examples. Many Indian, Persian and Mediterranean recipes make good use of bean, vegetable and olive oil dishes. One great example is hummus:

  • 1 tin organic chick-peas (in sugar-free, salt-free water)
  • 1 lemon, juice only
  • 2tbsp tahini paste
  • 2tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 clove fresh garlic
  • Salt and pepper

Drain the chickpeas, reserving a tbsp of the water. Place in a blender with all of the ingredients except for the seasoning. Whizz until smooth and then season to taste. Serve with vegetable crudities or as a topping for lamb steaks.

Inclusion of fruit.

When you are using the Paleo template for weight loss, it is wise to limit the amount of fruit you are eating because of the sugar/fructose load fruit puts on the liver and body. But if you are a hard gainer, you can include more whole fruits in the diet – particularly when you are training.

The banana is the fruit of choice for many triathletes because of its portability and great taste, but dark berries; cherries, apples, pears, figs, apricots and peaches are also good because of their fibre content and relatively lower sugar profile compared to the likes of pineapple or melon.

Track your calories.

Yes, yes – here at Tribal we tend to steer away from the devil that is calorie counting as it can encourage obsessive behaviour and a preoccupation with numbers instead of nutrients, but sometimes hard gainers don’t realise how little they are eating.

Nutrient density is your first priority, but, by using one of the popular fitness apps (myfitnesspal actually allows you to tailor your total calorie target and your grammage of each macro) out there you can intelligently track macronutrient ratios and calories like this-


Step 1- First off- use these quick equations to make an estimation of your calorie needs- No Tribal athlete is advised to cut calories below their total daily energy expenditure- the result is a stress response from the body that distorts metabolism. Metabolic efficiency is compromised through a drop in total volume but also in it’s favouring of sugar for energy- the last thing an endurance athlete needs.

Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR) Estimation-

Women- Bodyweight in kg x 2 x 11

Men- Bodyweight in kg x 2 x 12

Physical Activity Adjustment Estimation-

Mostly Inactive (mainly sitting)- BMR x 1.2

Fairly Active (walk/exercise 2 x a week)- BMR x 1.3

Moderately Active (exercise 2/3 x a week)- BMR x 1.4

Active (exercise hard more than 3 x a week)- BMR x 1.5

Very Active (exercise hard daily)- BMR x 1.7

Setting your target values for each of the macronutrients is an individual process- some athletes do very well at the lower end of the range whilst some feel great at the higher- These values are a starting point- I would encourage you to test and adjust according to the health tip offs that your body gives you- If you feel low energy, a change in your menstrual cycle, an inability to train effectively or disrupted sleep- your getting something wrong and should adjust your approach.


Step 2- Start with Carbohydrate (4Kcal per gram) to fit your goal-

For body fat maintenance on an inactive day your carbohydrate intake should be between 100-150g (400-600kcals) per day. For each hour of intense exercise you complete you’ll need to add an additional 60-100g (240-400kcals) of carbohydrates.


Step 3- Choose your Protein (4Kcal per gram) to match your activity level

As an active individual your requirements for protein are significantly greater than that of a sedentary person.

The UK RDA guidelines of protein for inactive people are 0.8g-1.3g per kg of body weight.

Endurance athletes are encouraged to take slightly more at 1.2-1.4g per kg of body weight.

And, to either gain or maintain muscle mass, the target is 1.5-2.2g per kg of body weight.


Step 4- Intake the rest of your calories from healthful Fats (9Kcal per gram)

Some examples of healthful fat include:-

  • Organic Cold Pressed Coconut Oil- 1 teaspoon= 4.5g= 40.5kcal
  • Grass fed Butter and Ghee- 1 teaspoon= 4.5g= 40.5Kcal
  • Animal Fats (Beef, lamb, duck, pork)- this ones harder to quantify, but, if eating organic grass fed ruminants and outdoor raised animals choose the fattier/ slow cook cuts- they’ll also be better for your budget. A 350kcal beef skirt steak contains approx. 17.2g of fat, while 100g of lamb neck fillet contains approx. 18g of fat.
  • Olive Oil- 1 teaspoon= 4.5g= 40.5Kcal
  • Avocado- ½ Fruit= 75g total of which 13g are fats.
  • Avocado Oil- 1 teaspoon= 4.5g= 40.5kcal
  • Macadamia Nut- ¼ of a cup= 25g= 225Kcal
  • Salmon- Each 100g contains 13g= 117Kcal
  • Scrambled Egg- 2 Eggs contains approx. 4.5g= 40.5Kcal


Strength training.

Hard gainers need to lift heavy, but in a smart way. A structured lifting programme, such as the kind you’ll find here on Tribal Triathlete will ensure that your weight programme isn’t working against you and causing a loss of your valuable lean mass, instead of gains or maintenance.

And, remember, plenty of rest is the key to building and maintaining muscle mass.

Prioritise sleep.

We like to think of sleep as an all-round cure – good sleep promotes health. Optimal sleep promotes optimal health that will both help you to lose body fat if necessary and maintain or gain lean mass, if necessary.

21st century life offers many obstacles to good sleep – TVs, mobiles, laptops, gadgets, artificial light and devices, all give off low levels of radiation that heighten our sympathetic nervous system, stimulating response that will stop you from resting properly and reaching deep sleep. If at all possible, minimise your exposure to TV, mobiles, artificial light and gadgets after 1800 to let your parasympathetic nervous system, calming response enjoy its dominance as is appropriate late in the day.


Join Tribal Triathlete and your membership will unlock the door to a vast library of learning and motivational materials, including how to succeed on the Paleo diet when training for endurance events. Membership costs just £19.99 a month and includes ten days of free video content and great email advice to get you started. 

Paul Roberts