Steve Atlas on the Paleo Diet and the state of modern nutrition.
My first real introduction to the Paleo Diet came to me from movement artist Ido Portal back in May of 09′. Since that time I have read the works of Loren Cordain and Robb Wolf on eating Paleo, and I must say it was quite eye-opening. If your unfamiliar with eating Paleo, then you’ve probably been living under a rock for the last few years. It’s popularity is irrefutable in today’s culture. The elimination of the processed garbage that litters the grocery story shelves and fast food chains are a big component in understanding this system. The consumption of things that…
(1) Fly through the sky
(2) Swim in the sea
(3) Grow from trees
(4) Run upon the earth
…is about as simple a food philosophy as one can get. But is it for everyone?
This is an argument that is battled out in online forums, in books, among dietary experts (laughing), and even in the doctor’s office. My take here is not some empirical view with some dogmatic agenda to promote or damn Paleo, it’s simply to share my own practical experience as a very active athlete.
After a month of using a strict Paleo eating plan I can say that my overall energy at rest was great. I slept well, felt good, and my mood was great. However, with the amount of combined conditioning and strength work I was becoming very lean but increasingly flat in performance. The carbohydrate choices were not doing it for me, and I wanted to explore adding some of my old standby’s to experiment with the effects. After adding some steel cut oats, and a few supplements into the mix my muscles and energy returned. I also gave myself permission to go off the deep end with my strict eating now and again and found that the following day I felt VERY STRONG. Sometimes it’s a pizza, or a bread product — not something that I consume on a regular basis. While the purists of Paleo are damning me for my ingestion of ‘poisonous treat meals’ it’s hard to argue the results.
This is where it gets a bit tricky. I don’t espouse this way of eating daily, with what I call “treat meals.” If I did, I’d be big as a house, unhealthy, and unable to perform what I love doing. In large part, I do support a Paleo-style way of eating but no where near the rigidity that the protocols ask for. This supports the notion that I’ve always felt about food intake: Take what is useful and practical. Modify the diet accordingly to fit your lifestyle and activity. Dial in your supplementation — yes I do support them strongly, especially if you’re a high level athlete. Once you’ve figured out “YOUR” combination of foods it’s like finding the golden key to the temple. For no body feels as good as a lean, mobile, strong, and pliable body does!
So, where does the Paleo Diet have its strongest influence? Sedentary people — a category that covers most Americans. This group would get a lot out of this way of eating. For the high-level athlete, the Paleo Diet with some tweaks will do very well to keep a body lean, strong, and healthy. It’s very difficult to throw stones when you eliminate the majority of processed garbage from your eating habits — nothing on the market has spelled it out better than what is found in the basics of the Paleo Diet. Still, in all my years I humbly decline absolutism in nutrition. The exact combination that is optimal is truly found by objective trials and exploration of meals until you’ve unlocked your perfect combination. There’s seven billion different diets out there: one designed perfectly for each human walking the earth.
–Photo: Dogma-Free Thinker/Flickr