Is the Paleo Diet a good option for bodybuilders?
Let’s take a look at both sides and see if Paleo Bodybuilding is here to stay.
“The Paleo principles are simple: if you can grow it or kill it,eat it. If it's been processed, don't.”
What is Paleo?
Paleo is more than a diet, it's a way of life. Paleo nourishes your body with clean, natural foods and provides all the minerals, nutrients, and vitamins it needs to stay healthy. The diet is designed to keep an active body properly fueled throughout the day, so if you lead an active life, Paleo is a perfect fit. But bodybuilders lead a bit more active life than the normal individual – and as well have slightly different/higher nutritional requirements. Where does Paleo fall for these individuals? Does it provide all the advanced nutritional needs of the bodybuilding lifestyle? Let’s find out.
Paleo refers to the Paleolithic era in history - a period from about 2.5 million to 10,000 years ago. During this period of time, humans grouped together into small, roaming societies and developed simple tools to hunt and fish with.
The idea behind the Paleo Diet is to “eat how our ancient ancestors did”–a diet mainly consisting of fish, grass-fed meats, eggs, vegetables, fruit, fungi, roots, and nuts. That’s why it’s also called the caveman diet or the hunter-gatherer diet.
While there are different subsets and modifications of the Paleo Diet the basic diet excludes the following: grains, legumes (peanuts, various types of beans, and chickpeas) , dairy products, potatoes, refined salt, refined sugar, and processed oils (trans fats, as well as refined vegetable oils like canola, safflower, and sunflower oil).
As you can see, it’s an inherently high-protein, low-carbohydrate, high-fat type of diet, and has you eating a ton of animals and animal products.
Pros and Cons of Paleo Bodybuilding
- Studies have shown improvement in glucose intolerance and C-reactive protein compared to the Mediterranean diet.
- The additions of roots and fruit eliminate some of the extreme problems with ketogenic dieting.
- Who can argue with eating fruits, vegetables and lean meats while reducing the amount of processed foods/carbs?
- Is an ideal diet for those who only desire to maintain their lean appearance and/or cut weight.
- Being a Paleo Bodybuilder means eschewing many of the supplements (which aren’t Paleo) that are beneficial to optimal performance and recovery.
- Claims that all applications and uses of starch and sugar are inferior are just not true, especially in terms of human performance.
- Due to the absence of carbohydrates, performing any type of off season bulking would require and extremely high amount of calories.
There is no doubt that following a Paleo diet can only make a person healthier. However from a Paleo bodybuilding perspective I would still encourage the use of some starch and sugar for practicality (studies show that those who do eat some processed, high-sugar foods maintain weight more easily than those who swear off them altogether) and for high-performance training. It is said – and it’s true that Paleo isn’t a diet – it’s a lifestyle. There is no end date to your Paleo diet, no cycling on and off. It becomes in a way who you are and how you identify yourself. If you think Paleo Bodybuilding is for you – take time to research it in depth yourself. Understanding the issues and pitfalls going in from a bodybuilding/athlete perspective will help you better tweak the diet to your needs. Below are a couple of athletes how have made Paleo work for them.
Mario Singelmann is a 100% Natural (drug tested and polygraphed) Paleo bodybuilding competitor and Paleo practitioner who has competed in natural bodybuilding competitions since 2009 and has been Paleo since November 2010. A 2011 winner of the Southern States Classic Men’s Novice Medium Category, Mario is now competing in ”Open” categories for pro qualifying competitions in pursuits of becoming the first Paleo Pro Natural Bodybuilder. Residing in Kansas City, Missouri he is working towards continued improvement in his physique as he looks to compete and pursue a pro career in natural bodybuilding. Mario received his pro card at the 2013 Mid America Championships.
Jaquelyn Kastelic lives the life of a modern-day lifter. She runs a CrossFit box and abides by paleo principles 90 percent of the time. Even she breaks the rules, because seriously, Mexican food is so damn delicious. Learn her rules and maybe something about paleo, and you may discover that you're already part of the way there.