Trainer’s Talk – “Paleo” vs. Paleo

Ok, so you are “paleo”.  We get it, and so does everyone else around you because you never stop talking about how “paleo” you are.  Let us be honest here.  You never stop talking about how “paleo” you THINK you are. Nobody cares how much bacon you cooked, ate, or otherwise wrapped the nearest edible item in.  The “paleo” craze today has taken exactly the same turn as the “Fat Free” craze of the 90’s and the “Gluten Free” craze as of late.  It’s called marketing. Companies pick up on trends or fads then run with the idea knowing we will flock like sheep to an iridescent 3D label boasting “Our Product Will Solve all Your Life Worries and Woes. 100% Satisfaction Guaranteed! Now EAT ME you uneducated shmuck.” What have we learned in the past from these labels?  Simply because it says “fat free” or “gluten free” does not automatically mean it is good for you. Same rules apply to “paleo.” Whether it be an actual label or a recipe boasting “PALEO” simply because it states this, does not necessarily make that information true nor does it mean you can haphazardly eat all these “paleo” labeled foods and claim you are eating “paleo”.  Not to mention you aren’t going to see results or quite possibly currently not experiencing results. The misconception here is still about dietary balance.  

The foundation of true Paleo couldn’t be any more biologically correct in regards to body responsiveness and basal nutritional needs. The concept is factual science; the misconceived manipulation has skewed proper application.

Most of us have read Greg Glassmans prescription for success/fitness/health: “Eat meat and vegetables, nuts and seeds, some fruit, little starch and no sugar. Keep intake to levels that will support exercise but not body fat. Practice and train major lifts: Deadlift, clean, squat, presses, C&J, and snatch. Similarly, master the basic of gymnastics: pull-ups, dips, rope climb, push-ups, sit-ups, presses to handstand, pirouettes, flips, splits, and holds.  Bike, run, swim, row, etc, hard and fast. Five or six days per week mix these elements in as many combinations and patterns as creativity will allow. Routine is the enemy.  Keep workouts short and intense.  Regularly learn and play new sports.”

As with many concepts, as popularity grows different versions and interpretations begin to evolve.  Many who believe they are following the Paleo diet need to ditch the hearsay and do some actual research themselves. The surge of convincing PseudoPaleo products on the market can lead almost anyone astray.  This creates a day where someone who consumes “paleo” pancakes, made with almond flour, coconut oil and banana for breakfast, kale chips made with nutritional yeast for a snack, and some obscure “paleo” rolls made of more nut flour and vinegar with little to no vegetables for dinner thinks they had a “paleo” day.  Newsflash, it is not!  The key is to eat simple; simple AND balanced.  As we try to mimic the diet of our Stone Age ancestors, we must consider the boundaries of contemporary food options. The pursuit of true Paleo means taking a preagricultural approach to one’s diet. Grains, dairy, and added salt were not a part of our Paleo ancestors’ intake. The further we stray from our ancestral nutritional patterns, the more diet related health problems are likely to occur.  Despite the public misconception that Paleo is some crazy radical fad diet; it’s simply a common sense approach to a healthy lifestyle based on how our ancestors, the hunter-gathers ate. They ate what was readily available to them in the present both locally and seasonally. Luckily for us, accessibility of food and resources are more readily available, however, this can also lead to our dietary demise.  The main premise of the Paleo diet is to emulate ancestral food groups with modern day foods we can easily procure from our gardens, farmers’ markets, and grocery stores.

Here is a perfect example of “paleo” vs. Paleo: A dollop of coconut cream fresh from the coconut; perfectly Paleo as a topping for your steamed vegetables.  Coconut flour mixed with almond butter, stevia, chocolate emulsified with soy lecithin and tapioca to make a pudding. Swing and a miss! Paleo is not coconut, almond, or other alternative flours, “paleo” pankcakes, Greek yogurt, cheese, copious amounts of anything (this includes meat, fat, fruit, and nut), “paleo” bread, “paleo” muffins, artificial sweeteners (including stevia), daily honey or maple syrup, pounds of bacon, protein powders…etc. People often think they can eat as much as they want as long as the items fall under the Paleo umbrella. Too much of anything can get you into trouble both from a weight/body composition standpoint and also a nutrient imbalance whether it be overload or deficiency.  Even though the assumption that our ancestors had access to nuts and seeds is reasonable, the fact is, they weren’t finding them in 10lbs bags at Costco coated in flavors and/or chocolate. Pretty sure Fred Flinstone and family weren’t sitting around the fire roasting “paleo” marshmallows and waking up to “paleo” pancakes on Sunday mornings.     A true Paleo plate begins with a large bed of any fresh, local vegetables, along with some lean protein, and a dollop of healthy fat from avocado, coconut, or olive oil.  If this is used as a template and one eats the number of plates necessary according to this model as often as their body dictates, along with drinking plenty of water, sleeping properly, and getting physical activity then THAT is Paleo. Certainly, make a treat once in a while, but remember, even a “paleo” brownie made from fresh banana, coconut oil, almond butter, raw cacao and honey is still a brownie and not something to be relied upon as a daily snack. When the incorrect versions of Paleo are followed result potential is diminished.

My point being call your style of “paleo” what you will, but be aware of what it is not. Take an educated analysis of your so-called “paleo” diet if you are not experiencing the results you want. Do some research and make minor adjustments. Splurge and cheat in moderation.  Stop boasting, posting and/or bragging about it; instead be an educator. Inform and live it! True Paleo to perfection is nearly impossible in modern society.  Evaluate what works for YOU, your body, health, fitness, goals, and situational circumstances. Paleo is not a one size fits all and must be individualized; however, the conceptual foundation is solid. We want people to join this movement of health and fitness not to deter them with egos.

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