As a species we have been around for about 200,000 years. Up until about 12,000 years ago homo sapiens lived as nomadic hunter gatherers moving from place to place in search of food, usually consisting of wild animals and plants. Then came the agricultural revolution. Agricultural societies formed, animals were domesticated, and grains were grown. Given the fact that we have spent 90% of our time as hunter-gatherers it makes sense, from an evolutionary standpoint, that our bodies are better adapted to consuming foods that we ate before the agricultural revolution. This is the basic premise behind the paleo diet. In essence, the Paleo Diet includes only meats, veggies, fruits, seeds, and nuts; foods that our ancestors ate before the agricultural revolution, which why it is also referred to as the “caveman diet”. I will go over the pros and cons of Paleo Diet to help you figure out whether it is right for you or not.
If you’re like most people and your goal is to gain muscle and drop body fat, let me just say that the Paleo Diet works. It helped me get in the best shape of my life. Check out the about me page to take a look at my transformation picture.
On the first few weeks of Paleo you will notice better energy levels. After a month you will begin to notice a better muscle tone and a leaner physique.However, other than enhancing you appearance, there are a number of other benefits to Paleo as well.
Unprocessed and Hormone Free
Today a lot of the food we eat, especially meat, is infused with hormones and preservatives. Hormones are used to help young animals gain weight faster. They even allow for cows to produce more milk. Hormones decrease the waiting time before slaughter which means less feed for the animals and more profit for the meat and dairy industries. Preservatives are added to food to increase shelf life and/or enhance appearance. Most packaged foods have added preservatives. The Paleo Diet is focused around eating whole foods like organic meats and vegetables thus eliminating unnecessary additives and chemicals from your diet.
Balanced Blood Sugar
Sugar negatively affects your metabolism and can even be the cause of a number of diseases. Foods high in sugar are calorie dense and nutrient deficient. When we ingest something high in sugar we get a spike of instant energy, and when that energy is not utilized it gets stored as fat. The fluctuation in energy levels from sugar even causes crashes. The negative effects from sugar are endless. Check out this article for further insight into the disturbing side effects of sugar. Other than from fruit, Paleo allows for no sugar. It doesn’t allow for grains either.
Grains, especially wheat, contain ingredients that contribute to significant insulin spikes. One such ingredient is amylopectin A, a super starch. Because of amylopectin A, two slices of bread (doesn’t matter whole wheat or white) causes the same spike in blood sugar, if not more, as two tablespoons of actual sugar! Foods that cause such drastic fluctuation in blood sugar result in people to store more belly fat. Stabilized blood sugar levels allow for better regulation of hormones, boosted metabolism, and better overall health.
Paleo doesn’t allow for grains, which also means that it is a gluten free diet. Gluten is found in a number of grains ranging from wheat, rye, and barley. Gluten is a protein that holds the bread together and allows for it to rise. Our bodies don’t respond well to gluten. It can cause inflammation, brain disorders, autoimmune diseases, and weight gain. Find out the details of why gluten is bad for you. Going gluten free will result in better energy levels and help you lose a couple of inches around your midsection as well.
No Tracking Macros
I have been through the experience of weighing out all my food, counting calories, and trying to hit my daily goals on MyFitnessPal (a calorie tracking app). It was almost like a second job. On Paleo you don’t have to count for a single calorie. You eat what you want (from the allowed foods list) when you want! Calories aren’t a good way to keep track of your diet anyway. Let me elaborate with an example: A bag of Cheetos has 150 calories and 6 servings of broccoli have 180 calories. Obviously the two will have very different effects on your body. So you see, it is not the calories that matter but the nutritional density of the foods that you consume. Paleo is focused around foods that are high in nutrients.
When on Paleo you are only eating organic and whole foods. This will result in better melatonin levels in your brain. Melatonin is the hormone responsible for controlling your sleep cycle. It has been observed that the chemicals added to packaged foods work to inhibit melatonin production. While on Paleo you will notice consistency in your sleep cycle and better energy levels throughout the day.
There are many critics of the Paleo Diet. Some claim that it is simply unrealistic and others claim that ancient humans did actually eat grains. Steve over at NerdFitness does a great job at addressing many common criticisms of the Paleo Diet. Overall, I am an avid supporter of Paleo, but I will go over some cons that you will experience.
So one thing you will definitely notice is that shopping for Paleo approved foods will tend to be a little bit more expensive. Organic meats and vegetables are always more expensive than their non organic counterparts. This is mainly because of the process that goes into the preparation. Organic farmers have to wait longer until their produce is ready. For example, hormone induced chicks grow up faster and lay more eggs. This results in less cost for the farmers which allows them to sell cheaper as well. Shopping for whole foods at the grocery store will always be pricey. If you can locate a local farmers market the prices will almost always be better.
Difficult Getting Used To
It is definitely not easy going full Paleo, especially if you have typical eating habits. For example, the typical American breakfast consists of cereal, muffins, or pancakes. If you are used to this type of stuff you will need a lot of will power to overcome these temptations. I remember when I was trying to start, my diet wouldn’t last longer than a few days. I then made a promise to myself that I would maintain strict Paleo for 30 days. It took a lot of effort, and there were times when I was very close to cheating. But after the 30 days I felt better and looked better. These days I have a cheat meal once every week or so, but I know inside that I am not governed by my temptations and have the willpower to consciously decide what goes inside my body.
Difficult To Maintain
Maintaining Paleo over the long term can be very difficult, especially when eating out. It is very rare that restaurants will offer meals that are “Paleo Approved”. You will fall under pressure from your friends and family who will say that you are taking this whole Paleo thing a bit too far. The Paleo Diet is not for the feint of heart. If you are serious about seeing results, it will require a lot of will power and you will have to be dedicated.
Ball is in Your Court
Look, nothing worth achieving is every easy. The only way you will be able to follow through with the Paleo Diet is when you find your “why”. Why do you want to start Paleo? Is it because you want to get in better shape? Is it because you want to feel better? Or is it just because you just want to experiment? The stronger your why, the more likely it is that you will stick with it. For me it started of as a 30 day experiment. When I saw the results, that was motivation in of itself. Give it a shot for 30 days and see how you feel.
The pros and cons of paleo diet have been laid out for you. Tell me in the comments if you plan on starting the 30 day Paleo Challenge. If you have any questions, I would be more than happy to answer them. If you have tried the Paleo Diet, I would love to hear about your experience!