The Paleo Diet is without question one of the more popular diets at this time, and for good reason. Few diets offer a sensible eating pattern while still being able to deliver the nutrients, both micro (vitamins and minerals) and macro (protein, fat, and carbohydrates), required for the more sedentary individual or an advanced athletes. Few dietary patterns or eating styles can make such a claim. However, the notion of eating real, unrefined foods, lends the Paleo Diet to great flexibility.
The Paleo Diet is well suited for highly activity individuals. Athletes are a great example. They benefit from the Paleo Diet’s anti-inflammatory state and often experience an anabolic, or building, response. This is most noticed with increased muscle tissue development. When coupled with diligent training, the results can be unparalleled. However, one does not have to be an athlete to benefit. Application of the Paleo Diet can also have profound benefits in the less active population as well. This underscores the significance of the biochemical changes that take place when making appropriate food selection.
Even with the universal application of the Paleo Diet, it is not without its limitations. This however can be said of nearly all eating patterns. The biochemical difference between individuals does require customization of some diets. But for the Paleo Diet, this seems to be highlighted by hormonal states. Let me explain further.
The Paleo Diet is often considered a low carbohydrate diet. This is somewhat of a false notion. To better clarify, the Paleo Diet does lend itself to less overall carbohydrate consumption due to the absence of grains. In fact, grains typically make up the highest percentage of carbohydrates in the Standard American Diet (SAD) and as such, also create a diet with an overall higher intake of carbohydrates. So when you compare the Paleo against the SAD diet, you are not accurately drawing a fair conclusion as to overall carbohydrate consumption. This still however does not confirm that the Paleo Diet is NOT a low carbohydrate diet.
The reality is that several unrefined, carbohydrate dominant foods exist that meet the criteria for Paleo. Such examples include fruits, okra, sweet potatoes, various varieties of squash, and potatoes. These foods are important as part of the diet as they supply a source of easy glucose for the body. Glucose, as the primary energy resource, is needed routinely as part of the diet. Yet many that follow the Paleo eating pattern do not take precaution to make sure that these carbohydrate dominant foods are part of their daily diet. This is not without consequence.
Again, I must restate that everyone is different and diets must be tailored to an individual’s needs. But in general, those that have avoided carbohydrates for a long period of time and that have higher athletic demands are more at risk for diet induced hypoglycemia (low blood sugar). This is something that I often see within my patient population. Once the level of glucose falls below an ideal level, the hormone cortisol is secreted. Cortisol elevates glucose back into an ideal range. This will continue, but for only a limited time. Eventually, the demand placed on cortisol to keep glucose levels elevated is fatigued. When this point is reached, chronic hypoglycemia can set in.
Avoidance of carbohydrates may be a good option at times, but it should not be a dietary mainstay. Incorporation of carbohydrates in the diet is crucial, so long as those carbohydrates are unrefined. Carbohydrates are necessary in the diet and provide us with the easy sources of glucose that our body prefers. Avoid the common Paleo Diet pitfall of hypoglycemia and make carbohydrate dominant foods as previous listed a part of your diet. You will appreciate the sustained energy that you derive from it.