Diet

What’s the deal with the Paleo Diet?

By November 25, 2010 13 Comments

You’ve probably read a lot about the Paleo diet and what it involves, but here’s a brief run-down on it.

I’ll also go into my own personal criticisms on it, as well as some of the things that I actually like about it.

First, a disclaimer on the term ‘diet’

First and foremost, let me just say that I hate the term ‘diet’ in every sense of the word.

A diet is exactly that — you go on one, then you get sick of the ‘diet’ (or it stops working) and return to your old evil habits.

Changing your lifestyle permanently is the only REAL way to achieve greatness and to in fact STAY THERE.

So what’s on the Paleo diet menu?

Anything that flies, swims, crawls and runs, along with leafy vegetables, fruits and nuts.

Why would you adhere to a caveman diet?

Apparently chronic wellness problems such as obesity, diabetes, stroke, hypertension, heart disease and the like all stem from the ‘modern diet’.

Paleo believers tote that modern humans are still genetically wired to thrive on the foods eaten by our Paleolithic ancestors.

According to a recent study, a Paleolithic diet improves blood pressure and glucose tolerance, decreases insulin secretion, increases insulin sensitivity and improves lipid profiles without weight loss in healthy sedentary humans(1).

My take on it

The following are some of the Paleolithic ideals and why for me, they are deal-breakers…

Proponents of the Paleo diet shun all grains and even legumes (beans), citing their relatively recent invention on the human evolutionary scale

Why I disagree

Legumes and grains have been proven time and time again to be advantageous in maintaining healthy cholesterol levels as well as a flourishing digestive tract(2).

Highly fibrous foods should be a dietary mandatory in my honest opinion. Legumes and grains contain a healthy does of vitamins as well as offering slow absorption of minerals into the blood-stream (low-GI).

Dairy products are also avoided because animal husbandry wasn’t widely adapted until the agricultural revolution of 10,000 years ago

Why I’m not a fan

In terms of adding muscle size, milk itself is a highly effective tool for increasing lean mass, aswell as preventing fat gain(3).

Dairy is often the preferred choice of gymnasts and other athletes. Add to that the fact that cheese is dairy (I’m a huge cheese & wine lover), you’ll never see me cut it out of my diet completely. If you’re lactose intolerant on the other hand…

What's the deal with the paleo

Paleo Diet advocate Vlad Averbukh lunches on a raw steak.

Sugar is also a no-no on the Paleo diet

Why I’m not a fan

To me, sugar is a necessary evil. Collagen, the basic fabric of our body is made with glucose and glucosamine. Glucose and its derivative, glucosamine are essential for muscle formation. Two of our skin main components are collagen and elastin. Both need glucose and glucosamine to be formed. Without sugar our skin ages—In fact, without sugar our body ages much faster.

Sugar is good for thinking, and for the regeneration of our bodies. Add to this the need for spiking insulin during the post-workout-window, and you have a solid reason to perhaps ignore the Paleolithic way of life altogether.

What I like about it

– It largely cuts out the unnecessary crap from our diets.
– You can throw away processed foods and thrive on everything that is organic and natural, hopefully feeling a lot better for it.
– Preparing food would be a lot easier (albeit a lot more bland).
– Potentially less risk of allergens in foods (steering away from the processed evils of the world).

Yeah, but would I ever follow it?

Nope. For the deal-breaking reasons I mentioned previously.

In Summary

Besides its obvious criticisms, It’s not altogether evil. In a perfect world you’d be able to survive on this ancient style of eating.

More realistically, in today’s world of fast-food and ‘easy-options’ — adhering to it 100% of the time might prove just a tad too difficult in the long term.

That being said, plenty of people are finding success with such a lifestyle change in regards to fat-loss. Can they keep it up in the long term and maintain their sanity? This, I find hard to believe.

Editor’s Note: Have you tried the Paleo Diet? Is it effective or does it blow? Comment below.

Sources

1. Metabolic and physiologic improvements from consuming a paleolithic, hunter-gatherer type diet – Eur J Clin Nutr. 2009 Aug;63(8):947-55. Epub 2009 Feb 11.
2. The potential health benefits of legumes as a good source of dietary fibre – Br J Nutr. 2010 Feb;103(4):569-74. Epub 2009 Oct
3. Drinking Milk After Exercise Encourages Muscle Gain And Fat Loss – McMaster University and published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 2007

Clint Nielsen

Author Clint Nielsen

Clint is a dad and husband trying to stay in shape. He's also a highly opinionated fitness enthusiast and author of Reveal The Steel. Follow him on: Instagram, Twitter, Facebook and Google+

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Join the discussion 13 Comments

  • Reinaldo says:

    I like the “primal” approach better. Yes, it’s almost the same, but…

    It gives you a 80/20 percent rule. If you can stay Paleo 80% of the time, *whispers* the other 20% of the time doesn’t matter.

    It does says no to dairy, but just like with every other trend, there is a “Primal +
    dairy” tribe. I like that. The same way, there is a “Primal + legumes” tribe, if you know how to cook them correctly (mainly soak them over night or 24 hours, so the harming thing goes away because the beans “think” they are sprouting).

    You get tons of fiber. Greens! Greens everywhere!

    Gluten is a no-no. But Mark Sisson is slowly changing his mind abour white rice and peeled potatoes. The primal point-of-view see them and just sugar. And that’s OK, like in PWO meal. Heck, maybe as pre-WO meal!

    Whatever you’ll like to see it, you got to agree in one point. Eliminating high-processed food is gonna do some good for you. I see it like “Eat real food, good proteinz, and keep it high fat as long as you keep carbs low. If you ever go carb high, lower fat. Keep eating at maintaince, and avoid everything that comes in a plastic wrapper”.

    • Avoiding processed foods ‘most’ of the time should be on everyones to-do list. They are evil in so many ways, I don’t know where to begin.

      You’ll still see me eating bacon and eggs on saturday though ;)

  • I love eating naturally and unprocessed as much as I can .. I think the idea of Paleo is great but also too extreme in areas like you mention .. I mean what is the point of Paleo …to be healthy ?
    Well I’ve seen some unhealthy Paleo dudes and vegans too (btw I don’t eat meat) …so its not a done deal but again I think the concepts are right its just the practical execution.
    Raymond
    ps. I love a Pizza and beer every now and then ..cheers!

  • Louis says:

    I have read up on Paleo before. The deal breakers for me were also no grains, legumes, and sugar. I enjoy red beans are rice and Monster Energy drink, milk, and the occasional alcoholic beverage are the only things I drink besides water. I know it has good points but I am with you anything that has the word diet in it I am not doing. Just change your eating habits no dieting need. Good post!

    Louis

  • Mike Navin says:

    I’ve used a straight paleo on the past and I liked it. You still get a variety of choices in food and it makes it fairly easy to still eat at a restaurant. I tend to point my clients in this direction when they are first starting out on working out and eating right because it’s straight forward: meats, veggies, fruits, nuts, and some oils.

    But, at the same time, I don’t think it’s necessary to follow it to the T all the time and Dr. Cordain in the book and in his newsletters tends to do a lot of fear mongering on how you’re doing your body harm if you take a sip of milk or sit down and eat a bowl of oatmeal that I think goes overboard.

    In the end, I think it’s not a bad way to eat if you like those kinds of foods and if it helps you to eat less calories overall.

  • I think it’s a definite good starting point for most people. The restrictive side of it is what will be most peoples undoing in the end.

  • Pauly says:

    All you need is a proper diet. But it is not just any simple diet. It has been modified especially for this purpose. It is known as Every Other Day Diet. According to this you can actually indulge into the junk food!

  • I’m not all that opposed to the paleo/primal approach (seems healthier than the Twinkie diet!), but wasn’t the life expectancy for humans during that period somewhere around 25 years?

    I know, I know, at that time there was ZERO medical care, a constant threat of being trampled by wolly mammoths, etc.

    But it seems like the selling point of the diet is “become strong and healthy like your caveman ancestors!!!” – and this seems like a semi-romantic bullshit fantasy.

    But hey, if it works for you, don’t let me stop you…

    Thanks for the post!

    -Ian

  • Karen Gordon says:

    “Without sugar our skin ages—In fact, without sugar our body ages much faster.”

    This is actually not correct. Sugar is one of the leading causes of aging to our cells. It is almost as damaging to our cells in terms of aging, as smoking! Yikes!

    • Clint Nielsen says:

      And the proof of this is where?

      • Karen Gordon says:

        The proof is in your cells!!! Scientifically speaking, doctors have been discussing for years about the inflammation caused to your cells by sugar (which is called glycation) and damages on a cellular level. Any Dermatologist will tell you that the 3 leading causes of skin aging are sun, smoking and sugar. I have limited all of those my entire life and at 43, I can easily pass for someone in my 20’s.

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