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Ask Rudy: The Paleo Diet

paleo diet

The Paleo diet is very popular, and for good reason. The paleo approach to eating focuses on consuming whole and natural foods while avoiding highly processed ones.

No doubt you’ve heard of this diet, so I figured I would address some of the most common questions I read and receive about the Paleo Diet.

What Is The Paleo Diet?

The Paleo diet is a fairly new approach to eating that was popularized with the emergence of Crossfit into the mainstream fitness world.

The diet itself focuses on the consumption of whole, natural foods like animal proteins, vegetables of most sorts, nuts and healthy fats, while avoiding highly processed foods, and even some such as dairy and legumes.

Overall, the Paleo diet cultivates appropriate eating habits for athletes and those looking to get into better shape, but is also one that is typically quite different from normal eating habits and also incorporates restriction of some foods that may be considered healthy, such as dairy.

Why Does The Paleo Diet Work?

Overall, the Paleo diet works by creating a negative energy deficit, as do virtually all other diets.

One of the biggest issues that many people encounter when eating highly processed foods is just how many calories they are consuming. Often times, these foods have a high calorie density, which makes overconsumption quite easy.

Since the Paleo diet is so focused on consuming whole, natural foods, switching to this style of eating often leads to an inadvertent reduction of calories being consumed.

Relatively speaking, most animal proteins and vegetables have a low calorie density, yet high volume, in effect allowing you to eat more while consuming fewer calories. This is a perfect combination for weight loss.

For the most part, the Paleo diet works because it allows for a reduction of calories being consumed with little effect on how much food you’ll consume.

What Are Acceptable Foods When Eating Paleo?

The Paleo diet prides itself on promoting the consumption of whole, natural foods while avoiding highly processed ones. Here are some acceptable foods, and also some which are unacceptable on the Paleo diet:

Acceptable

  • Most meats
  • Fish / Seafood
  • Vegetables
  • Fruits
  • Eggs
  • Nuts & Seeds
  • Healthy fats (olive, coconut, avocado)

Unacceptable

  • Grains
  • Beans / Legumes
  • Dairy
  • Highly Processed Foods (almost anything boxed)
  • Candy / Junk food
  • Artificial Sweeteners
  • Cereals
  • Bread / Pasta

Will Paleo Help Me Lose Fat Better Than Other Diets?

The answer to this question is largely subjective, so really the answer is maybe.

The key to weight loss is finding an approach that lets you manage calories with minimal effort. The Paleo diet certainly can provide a calorie deficit if used correctly, but whether it will help you to a greater extent than other diets is largely dependent on you and your preferences.

Keep in mind that even though the Paleo diet may help you more than other diets, the Paleo approach alone does not provide a magic benefit compared to other diets. It’s simply a method of managing calorie intake while improving the quality of food being consumed.

Can I Modify The Paleo Diet?

You sure can. In fact, I even recommend it.

Unfortunately, the Paleo approach restricts some foods and ingredients that might actually be quite beneficial. Dairy, for example is an ingredient that, by and large, is considered to both be healthy and beneficial, especially when trying to lose weight.

Artificial sweeteners are other ingredients often banned by the Paleo approach, which again can serve as a low calorie alternative, if you enjoy drinking soda, for instance.

Additionally, there may even be acceptable Paleo ingredients that you simply can’t or don’t want to consume. For instance if you’re a vegetarian, you’d need to modify the Paleo approach significantly. Alternatively, you might have a nut allergy or something similar, further limiting your food options.

Overall, you can certainly adjust the approach to fit your needs, just make sure that, for the most part, you’re not modifying it so much that you’re not actually using the Paleo approach at all.

Are there Downsides to the Paleo Diet?

Every diet has downsides and the Paleo diet is no different.

Overall, I believe the Paleo approach to actually be quite sound. A diet focused on whole, natural foods, while avoiding overly processed ones is certainly in the short list of beneficial diets.

However, the Paleo diet can often restrict ingredients that might actually be beneficial or desired. This can lead to issues of bingeing and guilt should you ever deviate.

While this may only happen to a small amount of practitioners of the diet, it’s important to point out that the Paleo approach is restrictive in nature and, for that reason, may lead to issues.

Should I Exercise With Paleo?

It largely depends on your overall goal. If you’re interested in building muscle and strength or losing body fat, then you definitely should pair the Paleo diet with exercise.

On the other hand, if you’re just looking to get healthier, then the answer becomes more of a choice. However, I always recommend exercise, regardless of your diet.

As with other diets, improving the quality of your food and manipulating your calorie intake always pairs well with a structured exercise program. As such, I suggest exercising, regardless of your goal and dieting approach.

How Can I Eat Paleo When Out With Friends?

First, you’ll definitely need to prepare yourself. Being on Paleo means you won’t be able to consume many of the foods that your friends will be eating.

In this situation, I suggest checking out the menu before you go. That way you can find their salad options or determine other dishes that you can modify to meet your Paleo needs.

For example, rather than a burger and fries, you could opt for a burger without the bun, plus a side salad and a vegetable option in place of fries.

Overall, eating out when Paleo is quite easy, you just need to prepare ahead of time so as to not become frustrated with yourself and others when your friends indulge in foods you can’t consume.

Is there a Transition Period Like Keto?

With the Paleo approach, it’s very likely that you’ll drastically reduce the amount of carbohydrates you’re consuming, as you would in a keto diet. While vegetables do contain carbs, the amount is significantly less than what would be found in a slice of bread.

Thus, there may be a period of time where you feel the effects of low carbohydrate consumption, including brain fog, fatigue and difficulty with training. However, if you appropriately manage your calories, keep healthy fat intake high, you should be ok.

If you’re worried about this issue, I suggest slowly transitioning into Paleo rather than just jumping right in. Transitioning over the course of a week will be much easier than transitioning overnight.

paleo diet

Do I Need To Track Calories On Paleo?

Regardless of the diet you use, calorie balance is the most important factor.

Considering, if you’re absolutely serious about managing your calories and bodyweight, then I suggest tracking your calories. If you aren’t willing to track calories, I still suggest having some metric like serving sizes to ensure that you’re not accidentally overconsuming calories.

Paleo approved foods like nuts and seeds are extremely calorie dense, which can add up if not controlled and easily lead to unexpected weight gain.

As with any diet, I suggest tracking if you’re serious about making a change.

How Long Should I Use The Paleo Approach?

For most people, I actually suggest that you choose a dietary approach that you’re willing to stick with for most of your life.

If you think about it, once you lose weight, it would make sense to consider eating in the manner that lead you to that weight loss, rather than reverting to the old tendencies that led to weight gain.

Further, if you believe that eating with the Paleo approach isn’t sustainable, then it’s likely it won’t be effective in the first place.

However, I do suggest that you use the Paleo (or any new diet plan) for at least 1 month, if not 2. Too often, people start a diet and abandon it after a week and wonder why they aren’t successful.

If you use the Paleo approach, you need to give yourself time to acclimate and remain consistent. Only after consistently using the approach for a month of longer can you accurately assess whether the diet is for you.

Of course, if you absolutely hate what you’re doing, then stop. But if you’re simply jumping from diet to diet, I suggest sticking with this one for a while before jumping ship.

The Paleo Diet

In my opinion, the Paleo approach is a sound diet based on healthy and appropriate principles, that, when applied using calorie management techniques, can be a fantastic way of eating.

However, it’s not without its faults. The diet is restrictive in nature and may require drastic changes and limiting food. Careful consideration must be used when deciding whether the Paleo diet is right for you.

About the author

Rudy Mawer, MSc, CISSN

Rudy has a 1st class BSc in Exercise, Nutrition & Health and a Masters in Exercise & Nutrition Science from the University of Tampa. Rudy currently works as a Human Performance Researcher, Sports Nutritionist and Physique Coach. Over 7 years he has helped over 500 people around the world achieve long last physique transformations.

He now works closely with a variety of professional athletes and teams, including the NBA, USA Athletics, World Triathlon Gold Medalists, Hollywood Celebrities and IFBB Pro Bodybuilders. If you would like to get in contact or work with Rudy please contact him on social media.

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