FIT takes a look at the pros and cons of this popular diet trend

The philosophy of the Paleo diet is to eat food like our ancestors did, following a hunter-gatherer lifestyle. This means loading up on vegetables, meats, fats, nuts and seeds, with limited fruit. All processed food, sugars and grains are out.  

This way of eating has taken off among fitness circles, but can a Paleolithic approach to eating help you loose fat and gain lean muscle? FIT takes a look at the pros and cons of going caveman: 

 

 Pros 

  • Following the Paleo diet removes processed foods that have a high glycemic index and spike blood sugar levels, which in turn can lead to unhealthy cravings and fat storage.
  • It’s high in quality protein sources that support muscle growth and recovery in conjunction with a weight training routine. 
  • Ample fat quantities help to provide satiation (fullness) and reduce the need to overeat. 
  • You can go crazy with non-starchy vegetables, such leafy greens and broccoli provide nutrients and alkalising chlorophyll to the body while bulking up meals for very few calories, as they are high water content foods. 

 

Cons 

  • A very strict Paleo diet can be difficult to maintain in the long run and also lead people to feel deprived, which can lead to binging. 
  • It excludes some foods and supplements that may actually be beneficial to muscle gain and fat loss, such as protein powders and complex carbohydrates like quinoa and brown rice. 
  • If you are doing heavy weight training sessions, you will need an increased supply of carbohydrates to provide glucose to your muscles. While the Paleo diet isn’t the same as a low carbohydrate diet, often people adopt it as one, which can hinder your strength training and results. 
  • With such a large emphasis on animal protein sources, it’s important to choose organic poultry and grass-fed meats. If you opt for conventional varieties, you could be ingesting large amounts of antibiotics and hormones, as well as it being less nutritious. 

 

FIT verdict  

Following a Paleolithic way of eating certainly has many health benefits and can be a great basis for building muscle and dropping fat. However, the best results will be achieved if a flexible approach is taken. Our top tips are: 

  • Allow for supplements and protein powders to be incorporated, as well as healthful carbohydrate sources, like quinoa, brown rice and buckwheat, as needed.  
  • To combat the issue of reduced carbohydrate supply to the muscles when doing heavy weight sessions, vegetable-based carbohydrates such as sweet potato are fantastic to emphasise, while still fitting into the Paleo diet philosophy. 
  • If you are “bulking up” (increasing muscle mass), you need a calorie surplus at the end of the day. Make sure you increase your energy intake by adding in extra servings of calorie-dense foods such as coconut oil and nuts/seeds. 
  • Don’t be too hard on yourself. Having a treat that falls outside of the Paleo diet every now and then won’t be detrimental to your results and will actually keep you sane!