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…
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.
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.
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