I used to really like the Paleo Diet. I was like a Paleo Preacher Man… I ate it, I talked about it, I taught it and repeat all. Then the muffins came. Soon there were brownies and even dinosaur era pizza. Then came the final ridiculous straw on the prehistoric camel’s back… Paleo Ice Cream.
So about two years ago, I began to teach clean eating and dropped the Paleo fluffing. It is the Paleo Diet only without the caveman hype. Let’s face it… few of you have ever killed your dinner, much less killed in a primitive paleo way. So no matter what we eat, it is not really Paleo.
Your food should be clean, organic, antibiotic free, non gmo and grass fed/finished. Basically, you should not ingest anything man made… you know, “paleo”. Simple. Or so we wish…
Myths of the Paleo Diet, let’s call them dragons for fun (sorry, the Paleo diet is so boring I have to entertain myself somehow), have nearly ruined what is undoubtedly the healthiest trend in eating ever. If America and the post industrialized world actually latched onto the concept, type 2 diabetes and a slew of other conditions would go away but so would BigPharma. The fast food and junk food industries would be forced to improve the quality of their food products. Imagine it… a burger at McDonald’s made from beef. Instead the myths of the Paleo Diet, some of them ignorantly perpetuated by those who support the diet, have all but derailed the movement in mainstream America. Let’s talk about some of those mythical creatures…
The largest most powerful fire breathing myth of the Paleo Diet is… it is a low carb diet. This is typically the reason (excuse) endurance athletes avoid eating healthy. The Paleo Diet does not have to be low carb. It can and should be tailored to athletes’ needs and goals. Low carb works if the eater is a weight loss candidate. However, a training athlete can easily get a ton of carbs from paleo foods… natural, healthy foods. Fruit, potatoes, sweet potatoes, beets, and others natural foods can provide carbs when indicated. I increase and decrease carbs on an “as needed” basis. I eat what I need prior to upcoming work. Lately, my athletes and I have been using UCAN for our training and fueling food source. There is no insulin spike from UCAN and is great for sustained activity, like endurance events and also very good for unknown and unpredictable exertions… like at CrossFit competitions. Either way, the Paleo Diet can be high carb, low carb, or whatever your carbs needs to be.
The low carb dragon has a mythical sibling… the Paleo diet is a high protein diet. Like carbs, protein should be eaten as needed. All training athletes, no matter their discipline, need more sulfur based amino acids. Animal proteins are the only real source of essential aminos so no matter, you need meat to perform and remain healthy. However, the Paleo Diet does not have to be high protein. A person who is exercising moderately (walking three times a week and playing tennis for fun) does not need 1-1.5 grams per pound of body of protein to recover and remain healthy. They will do just fine at .6 – .8 grams per pound of bodyweight. A bodybuilder in a hypertrophy / building cycle needs more protein than a golf enthusiast. In theory, vegetarian and vegans are Paleo eaters… but since they do not eat meat they tend to be low protein. No matter, the bottom line is, you need protein for optimal health… how much you need, just like it is with carbohydrates, is dictated by your activity level and its affects on the body.
My favorite Paloe Dragon is the fat-assed one that says you can eat all you want. The theory was, since carbs were low and there would be no high glycemic sugar carbs, a person could eat as much as they wanted. The problem is, whenever we overeat the sheer volume of food triggers an insulin release. So yes, even low glycemic index foods can release the fat storing, fat protecting hormone. Let’s not forget, animal proteins have high GI also. They too signal for an insulin release. Left over calories can be stored as fat whether carbohydrates are present or not. So you turn people loose to eat all they can shove into their wannabe caveman faces and a pound of macadamias and a jar of almond butter later your hunter/gatherer is a chunk monk. There is no free ride. The Paleo Diet still requires self control.
Diet, just like training, has to be tailored to the goals you want to achieve. The blanket statement “eat meat, nuts and oils, vegetables, some starch and no sugar” applies to anyone seeking great health. Once your physical goals go beyond watching TV and walking the dog, you will have to increase or decrease the macros to get the desired results.