Is the Paleo Diet or Primal Eating the Right Way to Go?
I have read numerous articles on this subject over the past few months and it is quite a hot topic. I was introduced to paleo eating about 12 months ago when I first read the book “The Paleo Diet” and then “The Primal Blueprint”. I then adapted this style of eating as I used to eat a lot of oats, milk and brown rice and pasta. After about six weeks, I lost about nine pounds! The good thing was I had reached a plateau and this really helped me shift some body fat and I started to see my top four abs for the first time. I shifted to a diet that comprised solely of eggs, meat, fruit, vegetables & nuts and it worked for me. I recently started to introduce brown rice and sweet potatoes back into my diet and I started to gain body fat again , I have adjusted back to a more paleo based plan and I have lost weight again.
I have recently read some articles claiming that the author of the paleo diet Dr Loren Cordain has exaggerated the amount of protein we need to eat and it is just a matter of calories in and calories out. Cordain claims that someone can eat a high protein diet and someone can eat the same number of calories from grains etc and the high protein diet person will lose weight. It is a hotly debated subject to say the least.
The key question is who is right and who is wrong? Another good question is “does it matter?” I can see some real key benefits to the paleo style of eating. The good thing that I have found about Cordains work is that the number of references that he uses is incredible and the research that sits behind this information is very credible. I have seen research to the contrary as well claiming that humans have consumed grains for longer than first thought. I often find that people in the health and fitness industry spend a lot of time trying to prove other people wrong!
I have personally seen the benefits of adopting paleo eating and having a “cheat” day every week but I also understand that isn’t for everyone. As a personal trainer, I have found that trying to get clients over to paleo straight away is a very difficult process and can switch people off. I believe that a lot of fitness professionals have already achieved a certain level of nutritional discipline and sometimes we expect our clients to have exactly the same as us. This is very rarely the case at all!
In my experience, I believe the Paleo/Primal concept is great and can be used to get fantastic results. I also think that if we use common sense, it is quite clear that our ancestors did not eat or drink 80% of what we consume today. It has certain benefits especially if people have lactose or gluten intolerances and don’t realise. I tend to find that people continue to eat bread and drink milk because they don’t know any other way. In circumstances like this, it can provide massive benefits. I definitely don’t recommend the “all or nothing approach” that some people tend to preach.
I believe we have a responsibility as fitness professionals to have good solid balanced knowledge when it comes to nutrition. This way we can provide a balanced approach to our clients well being without being too focused on one particular type of eating.
I do not believe that proving people wrong all the time is healthy for our industry and certainly paleo and primal eating fits into that category. I do believe though we have a responsibility to educate people on false advertising that claims foods (like high sugar cereals) are healthy when clearly they aren’t. We can then try and tackle the real issue of the obesity epidemic.
My final thoughts on paleo or primal are that they can get great results but I am also aware that fad diets can also get results. I would do the research and see if it is for you. If you are a trainer, I would always recommend having a clear understanding of different types of diets to give a balanced opinion (instead of the “my way or the highway! Approach) If it works great! If you hate it, try something else that is more suitable, this way you avoid giving up completely!