The Exercise Space

Caveman Diet?

February 8, 2012

Have you heard about the latest buzz word “Paleo”?  The paleo diet is the hot diet trend right now.  It is based off of the diet our ancestors, the cavemen, ate.  Think high in protein, low in carbs (grains are prohibited), and lots of fat!  Sounds similar to the once popular Atkins Diet, the paleo diet is being adopted by many athletes these days, more specifically Cross Fitters.

Dr Loren Codain, member of the faculty of the Department of Health and Exercise Science at Colorado State University, is a leading expert on the paleo diet.  He professes that humans were genetically designed to eat meats, fish, fresh fruits, vegetables, nuts and other foods that mimic the diet of our Paleolithic ancestors. Amongst his many books, you are sure to get the in’s and outs of his theory.  The paleo diet omits grains, dairy, and legumes.  Basically if it is not meat, fish, fowl, vegetables, fruits, roots, tubers or nuts, then it is not allowed.  All these items are part of a healthy and balanced diet, but how long can you live without grains?!

Most paleo diet variations require you to be very strict in the beginning (approx the first 30 days).  There are many versions of the paleo diet, but in my research the basic principal remains the same, as does the many improved health benefits claimed by many of it’s followers:

  • energy through the roof
  • sleeping like a log
  • decrease or elimination of medications for diabetes, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol
  • elimination of arthritic and multiple sclerosis symptoms
  • overall decrease in acne, inflammation, strokes and heart disease

I agree with the theory that we should eat food as close to it’s natural state as possible.  Processed and packaged foods are not on my grocery list.  Fresh produce, nuts, seeds, and fats (olive & coconut oils, avocados, lard, animal fats, butter, ghee, etc) are all choices in the paleo diet.  Yes, you read that right: lard.  We could all benefit from cutting sugar out of our diets.   Dairy is a constant contradiction when it comes to the latest research.  I think I would miss the fiber and protein of legumes!

Will this ’diet’ and it’s ‘trend’ fair for the long haul?  Regardless of  the claimed weight loss, improved health conditions, and sports performance, I am a skeptic when it comes to any specific and regimented diet that gives us access to limited food sources.   I am a believer in the moderation and balance. Much of my long term success with clients has been from teaching individuals to make daily, varied, moderate, and balanced food choices .  

The common ‘diet mentality’ is what I caution here, not specifically the paleo diet.  But feel free to give it a try, it may work perfectly for you…let me know when/if your craving for a good old piece of freshly baked bread overrides!

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