Jun 5, 2012

Should You Go Paleo?

I'm a big fan of exercise. There's nothing quite like the feeling of a good workout. During a normal week, I try to do 4-5 days of cardio and 3 days of weight lifting. Recently, I wanted to give cross-fit a try since the program incorporates both cardio and resistance training. 

After a session, I decided I really liked the workout. I was a little surprised however when I saw the diet the cross-fit gym advocated: The Paleo Diet. Posted on the walls were things like "you're probably allergic to grain" and "avoid dairy". Also written in bold letters were foods that "you should eat". These included primarily meat, poultry, fish, fruits and vegetables.

Image from: http://www.marksdailyapple.com/how-to-succeed-with-the-primal-blueprint/#axzz1wz8D8wju
To me, the Paleo Diet sounds a lot like a revised version of the Atkin's diet (and we all know how that tune goes); emphasis on protein, fruits, vegetables and a view that carbs are the enemy. As I understand on the Paleo Diet, complex carbs like pasta and rice are allowed in moderation for athletes, especially during recovery. But in general, it is a high-protein, high-fat, low-carb diet that promises weight loss and the potential resolution of health problems like heart disease and diabetes.

Apart from the tendency to disordered eating I've witnessed many people experience when trying to eat "low-carb", here's the big problem with the Paleo Diet: it identifies the right problem (obesity in America) with the wrong solution (low-carb dieting). Carbohydrates are the primary source of fuel for our bodies, especially during periods of intense activity (like....say, a cross-fit workout). That said, there is no question America is in the midst of an obesity epidemic. The solution to the problem is simple in theory: eating healthy foods in smaller portions and moving more. The application of this solution is the challenge and involves much more than simple calories in, calories out dogma. Truly becoming healthy involves a commitment from both your mind and your body, and that is no easy task.

Still, it's important for those seeking weight loss or general health to remember that the latest fad diet is usually not the solution to lasting change. A few other problems with the Paleo Diet are the nutrient deficiencies that can occur overtime when restricting dairy and grain products (for example, Calcium, Vitamin D, B Vitamins, fiber and more). For those with health problems like diabetes, the Paleo Diet can increase risk of blood sugar abnormalities due to the lack of carbohydrates. 

So, did I become a cross-fitter? No, but not because I was offended by the diet. I actually really enjoyed the workout, but the price tag just doesn't fit the budget right now. Instead, I do similar workouts at home and stick to a truly well-balanced, healthy diet. 

It looks a little something like this.


What are your thoughts on the Paleo Diet? Have you tried it?

11 comments:

  1. I love how there are supplements at the top of the pyramid! I wasn't aware that our paleo ancestors took supplements!

    ReplyDelete
  2. Hahaha! Hmmm, yes, interesting, eh?

    ReplyDelete
  3. I have never tried going 100% paleo but it's in my face constantly because of the CrossFit thing, although my gym is really good about not pushing it obnoxiously. I did experiment a little bit last fall with cutting back significantly on carbs-- admittedly, an area of overindulgence for me anyway-- down to only 2, maybe 3 servings a day (actual serving sizes taught to my by my friendly neighborhood dietitian, not my giant portions from before!). Results: I felt WAY better and put on 5 lbs of muscle! (Then I got pregnant and ate Trader Joe's microwave mac & cheese every day.) Obviously I don't have any scientific data on my results, just going by the way I felt, but I wonder if some people function better on less carbs?! I wouldn't ever go carb-free and would bump up my servings if I were doing more endurance/marathon training. Also, the high-fat thing doesn't sit too well with me, I personally need more moderation there for sure... though I sure do enjoy my nuts and avocado! Hopefully after this baby is born I will get back on track figuring out the perfect diet for me. Thanks for reading my rambling comment. ;)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I really like what's called a "controlled carbohydrate" diet, which is similar to the one I gave you. It's more like an average of 6 servings of carbs per day distributed evenly throughout meals and snacks. That said, some people may do better eating fewer carbs especially if they need fewer calories. There are certainly days we burn less energy than others. I don't know about you, but after a cross-fit style workout, I'm HUNGRY and being told to avoid grain, dairy and eat lower-carb sounds a bit on the strange side.

      Delete
    2. So true! I frequently down a TJ's nonfat Greek Yogurt on my drive home from a CrossFit workout, that 14 grams of protein really hits the spot till I can get my 2nd breakfast/morning snack! The no-dairy thing I definitely don't get. I realize a lot of people are are sensitive to dairy, but the claims that its bad for everyone are really far fetched.

      Delete
    3. Yep, unless a person has been diagnosed by a doctor (i.e. not the neighborhood wacko)as having lactose intolerance, there's really no reason to avoid dairy. I guess it's just easier to believe avoiding a specific food will lead to a lifetime of health.

      Delete
    4. Humans don't need milk, certainly not ANOTHER animal's milk, after their babies. That's a researched point.

      Delete
  4. I really appreciate the common sense you bring to food and eating. There really are no short cuts to being healthy and it is good to be reminded of that periodically.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Jen! You're absolutely right...being healthy takes work but is certainly worth it.

      Delete
  5. Having Trouble STICKING with the Paleo Diet?

    Want to munch on healthy tasty recipes TONIGHT?

    Check out the: Paleohacks Cookbook.

    ReplyDelete