Why a Paleo Diet isn’t a High Protein Diet
A paleo/primal diet is comprised of animal meats, fish, natural sources of fat, vegetables, fruit, nuts, seeds and dairy if you can tolerate it. This idea that a paleo diet is the same as the Adkins diet (which I would argue is very acceptable if you have read his book) is a common misconception among conventional thinkers. Even the great Dr. Adkins didn’t believe in unlimited consumption of protein. What most people may not know is that excessive protein consumption can cause a whole host of other issues in your body that we’ll get in to…
The ‘Paleo = High Protein’ Thinker— You’ve heard about this paleo thing and you get the gist’ of it. Just eat a ton of meat, right? Everyone is loosing weight doing it so it should be easy. You start eating a pound of bacon with 3 eggs in the morning, 3 hamburger patties at lunch, leftover chicken for a snack at work, and eat a T-bone steak the size of your face for weeks. You should be seeing results on the scale but nothing. If anything you’ve GAINED WEIGHT! **Gasp!** You think to yourself, “This paleo thing doesn’t work for me” without looking in to where you may have gone wrong. Now, all that protein being converted into glucose and has to go some where if its not being used, right? What happens when we have more glucose in our bodies than we currently need? **Enter INSULIN** Insulin comes to shuttle all that extra glucose out of the blood stream and straight to your fat cells to be stored for later use. The problem is, that day never comes…
This one may seem obvious to some but when we eat such protein rich diet we’re leaving out so many other wonderful food choices! Vitamin and mineral rich vegetables should be huge component of any Paleo diet. Many vitamins and trace minerals can only be found in vegetables (unless your consuming organ meats, which in that case, your a total bad ass and are way ahead of the game. But you still need to eat your greens!) Ever heard of the disease Scurvy? This disease is a classic vitamin deficiency that was common among sailors dating back to the 15th century all the way through WWI. This disease was a Vitamin C deficiency common in sailors as they couldn’t store any fresh fruits or vegetables for their long journey across the ocean. Scurvy often begins with symptoms of malaise and lethargy, followed by formation of spots on the skin, spongy gums, and bleeding from the mucous membranes. This can lead to loss of teeth, jaundice, fever, neuropathy and death. Scurvy can be prevented by consuming a diet that includes certain citrus fruits such as oranges or lemons. Other sources rich in vitamin C are fruits such as blackcurrants, guava, kiwifruit, papaya, tomatoes, bell peppers, and strawberries. It can also be found in some vegetables, such as carrots, broccoli, potatoes, cabbage, spinach and paprika.
Now, before I get someone raising their hand in the back of the class to say “what about the Inuit? They didn’t eat vegetables” I’ll go ahead and answer that as well.
The Inuit appear to be very healthy with a diet almost devoid of plants. They appear to get enough Vitamin C from raw fish, organs of marine mammals, and mukluk (the skin of the beluga whale). Other sources of Vitamin C can include beef spleen and beef thymus. And let’s be real about this, I don’t see many people eating ANY of the things I just mentioned...
So how much protein should we eat?
The Primal Blueprint and many experts agree to consuming 0.7 – 1 gram per pound (1.5- 2.2 grams per kilogram) of lean body mass on average. Lean body mass can be calculated for a ballpark estimate using skin fold calipers or online calculators, all the way up to the extremely accurate water tank tests or BOD PODS that use pressurized air to calculate lean body mass. For this post I’m only going to address the average. If you are sedentary or elderly you will consume less, while people who are active, injured or pregnant will consume more. Mark Sisson does a fantastic job addressing specific protein amounts for certain groups with specific needs. (you can find them here.)
So there you have it. A Paleo diet and a high protein diet are two VERY different things. I hope this post helps to clarify some of the common misconceptions that most of us are faced with when we tell someone we follow a paleo diet… Until next time friends, LIVE LONG AND DROP DEAD!
The Primal Blueprint Expert Certification