What’s the Paleo Diet and will it help you lose weight?
Can you imagine living 100,000+ years ago? Think: no Facebook, no gyms, no protein powder… Blasphemous! Well the latest fad, the Paleo Diet, says we should be eating like we’re neighbors with the Flintstones. But while the premise is questionable, unlike most other fad diets, it’s not entirely awful. There may even be actual glimmers of good tips in there. So let’s channel our inner Pebbles or Bamm-Bamm and figure out if reverting to the caveman diet really is the wave of the future.
What is the Paleo Diet?
The Paleo Diet has been around since the 70’s but recently caught a lot of attention with the praise of a few athletes. According to the original version, called NeanderThin (witty right?) by Ray Audette, the basis of the diet is to “eat only those foods that would be available to me if I were naked of all technology save that of a convenient sharp stick or stone.”
Naked old guy… nice visual. OK so the gist is to only eat foods that would’ve been hunted, gathered or fished during the Paleolithic era, which is interesting because anthropologists aren’t even positive of what cavemen ate, and it’s unlikely that we have the same options available anyway. Wooly mammoth for dinner, anyone?
According to the Paleo diet, hunter/gatherer foods include wild game, organ meats, marrow, fish, shellfish, eggs, tree nuts, vegetables, roots, fruit, and vegetable or nut oils. Additionally they must be wild, organic, or grass-fed (yeah, they didn’t have pesticides or antibiotics back in the day either).
So knowing what you’re allowed to eat, what foods don’t make the cut? All grains, dairy, beans, legumes, potatoes, sugar, processed foods, drinks besides water (soda, juice, vitamin water, etc), and supplements of any kind are out. Obviously alcohol is dunzo, as is salt… so margaritas and tequila shots are banned, which is obviously a real shame.
Before we get into whether or not this is your future diet (I’ll save you the suspense: it’s probably not) there are several ridiculous variations among paleo lovers, like only consuming raw food (including raw meat) and eating insects.
Benefits of the Paleo Diet
Let’s break down the Paleo Diet’s good qualities before digging into its bad:
Downfalls of the Paleo Diet
First and foremost, let’s talk carbs and athletes. Carbs provide about 40-50% of your game-time energy, so you’re doing yourself a real disservice by cutting them out entirely.
I’m all about limiting unnecessary refined carbs, but beans, lentils, quinoa, and oats are super complex carbs that are also phenomenal sources of nutrients, phytochemicals and fiber, and are very important if you plan to kick your opponent’s ass. Additionally, if you’re trying to put on lean muscle mass (which, let’s be serious, you probably are) carbs are important for muscle growth and recovery after tough workouts.
Additionally, a diet without dairy means bye-bye whey and casein shakes, greek yogurt and cottage cheese. As you’ve probably heard time and again you need protein for muscle recovery, and uptake is faster in whey form than any form of animal protein. Odds are cavemen weren’t trying to play college baseball; they were just trying to outrun saber-tooth tigers and survive into “old age”: their early twenties. It makes sense that their needs would be slightly different.
And while here, let’s discuss a bit more of the bad:
OK babes here’s a secret - any time a diet tells you to cut out an entire food group, 99% of the time it won’t work long term. The bottom line is this: athlete or non-athlete, the Paleo Diet makes so many contradictory and impossible recommendations that it’s not gonna do you much good for weight loss or muscle gain long term. Besides, you probably want to consider that Neanderthals went extinct before you decide to follow their diet, right?!