The Rise of Paleo
The last few years has seen a massive explosion of proponents of the “Paleo Diet” or the "Cave Man Diet", a lifestyle approach that emphasises a return to the nutrition of our hunter-gatherer ancestors. Although the idea of a stone-age style diet has been around since the 1970s thanks to gastroenterologist Walter L. Voegtlin, it’s really over the last decade or so that the diet has risen in popularity. This is thanks to popular selling books such as the 2001 book “The Paleo Diet” by Dr Loren Cordain, the 2010 book “The Paleo Solution: The Original Human Diet” by Robb Wolf as well as generous media attention and word of mouth from bodybuilders, casual trainers and athletes alike. As such, the Paleo Diet is the Atkin’s Diet of the modern era.
What is the Paleo Diet?
For those who are uninitiated to the ways of our Paleolithic ancestors, the diet is based on dietary patterns of various Hominid species during the Paleolithic era, a period a time lasting anywhere between 2.5 million years ago to roughly 10,000 years ago. This era was seen to have finished after the advent of agriculture. While there are a few variations of the diet, the general principles of the diet support a higher protein (19-35%) and fat intake (28-58%) with a lower carbohydrate intake (22-40%). The protein and fat sources came from land and water based animals and their organs, while the carbohydrates mostly came from fruits and vegetables along with roots and tubers as a primary source of starch in their diets. The diet was also high in fibre but lacked products of agriculture such as grains, legumes, dairy products, potatoes as well as refined sugars, salt and oils. The following principles are summarised quickly below.
Do's & Don'ts of the Paleo Diet
- Eat lean game meats and fish
- Eat organ meats
- Incoporate more wild fruits and vegetables including fibrous tubers and root vegetables
- Aim at eating a wide variety of food sources based on seasonal fluctuations
- Do not eat bread, pasta, rice or anything made with grains
- Do not eat cheese or dairy products
- Avoid refined sugars, salt and oils
- Reduce consumption of legumes and potatoes
- Very minimal to no consumption of alcohol
Paleo Diet Pros & Cons
The Paleo diet has often been referred to as a fad diet and one that is fraught with issues and problems both in the nutritional sense and in terms of compliance. In terms of nutritional quality, the diet is positive in the sense that it is high in protein, fruits and vegetables and low in refined carbohydrates. In addition, the diet is low in sodium, high in potassium and B12 and high in fibre. Higher protein and lower carbohydrate (HPLC) diets have also been studied extensively for its ability to reduce appetite as well as weight gain making it a popular method for weight and fat loss. However, these HPLC diets differ from the Paleo Diet in terms of fatty acid makeup with HPLC diets featuring more unsaturated fats than the Paleo Diet.
The main issues with the Paleo diet include its low amounts of carbohydrates, lack of calcium and rather high fat levels with a good proportion of that fat being saturated animal fat. In addition, sticking to the diet requires a substantial financial investment as meat, fruits and vegetables are considered to be the priciest food items in an average food basket. In addition, critics of the diet suggest that generalising a diet from archaeological evidence of a period ranging millions of years is not enough justification for its use. In fact, the uncertainty of Paleolithic nutrition composition and its variability amongst different time periods and geographical regions makes it hard to come up with a conclusive diet plan.
While the debate on the validity of Paleo Diets for improving health and reducing disease rages on, another movement has slowly started gaining momentum. Paleo Training or Paleolithic Training is the movement or idea that the physical activity styles and levels of our ancestors are perhaps the missing element to the puzzle connecting the Paleo Diet to longevity and disease prevention. And that Paleo Training may perhaps be more physiologically better at improving athletic prowess and training adaptations than many modern ideas about training. To learn more about Paleo Training – head over to the article “Paleolithic Era Training”
Paleo Diet & Supplements
The main supplements suggested for followers of the Paleo Diet include:
- Calcium Supplements – Due to the lack of cheese and dairy.
- Vitamin D Supplements – Also due to the lack of cheese and dairy, however sun exposure should be enough.
- Omega 3 Supplements – Ideal for those who eat less fish as a good proportion of modern day meats are grain fed and therefore lower in omega 3 fatty acids.
Paleo Protein Powder Australia
When it comes to protein supplements, it can sometimes be a challenge to find one that conforms to the Paleo ideals. Whats more, Paleo is still an emerging trend in Australia and the 'Paleo market is still relatively young. This means Aussies have a relatively limited range of Paleo Protein Powders to choose from. But this will likely change going forward. As discussed above, by strict definition, the Paleo Diet excludes dairy and cheese, which totally elimnates all protein powders dervied from whey and milk proteins. This leaves egg protein as the highest quality protein option for Paleo dieters. Other options include vegetable derived protein powders such as soy protein, pea protein and rice protein. But there is some conjecture as to whether such proteins meet the strict definition of 'Paleo' given they are derived from legumes and grains. With these points in mind, the list below provides some protein powder options for those on a Paleo Diet.
1. International Protein Naturals - Egg White Protein. Protein powders don't get much more pure than this one, with just a single ingredient, namely, egg whtie protein. International Protein is a reputable Australian brand run by athletes and personnel actively engaged in weight training. The only caveat is taste. Most individuals will need to mix the protein with some type of natural sweetener and/or food to make it palatable.
2. Natural Health Supplements - Egg White Albumen. Almost identical to the above product, Egg White Albumen from NHS is another top quality protein powder suitable for individuals on a Paleo Diet. It comes with the same amount of protein per serve as International Proteins Egg White Protein. But again, it doesn't have any flavouring agents so one will most likely need to spice it up with something to get it down.
3. BSc Organic Vegan Protein - For those individuals on a Paleo Diet and happy to consume some protein from vegetable sources such as pea protein, this protein is ideal as it is combines multiple vegetable protein sources and is free of dairy. BSc Organic Vegan Protein does comes with some natural sweetening agents but it doesn't stack up with your average whey protein in terms of flavour.
Paleo Diet Review
The Paleo Diet like other diets has its own pros and cons associated with it. As with all diets and lifestyle modifications, it’s important to realise that diet only makes up one part of the puzzle and there are many other factors that need to be addressed in order to improve ‘health’. With any diet, the best way is to take on the positives whilst minimising the negative factors and always track your progress in reference to your goals. An individualised approach to diet and health is always the best way to achieve success.