There is no better way to learn about nutrition than to apply theory in practice and assess your body’s reaction to it. To this effect, last year I went vegan for a week and subsequently drew my personal observations. This experimental week thought me many useful things and as a result I can now better understand the perspective and lifestyle approach of those who choose to subscribe to the vegan diet, to the extent that I have since introduced a couple of vegan days into my weekly routine.
Given that apart from finding this experiment interesting, it was also rather enjoyable, I recently decided to repeat the process with another popular diet – this time it was the paleo one.
I have always been skeptical towards this diet approach due to its avoidance of whole grain foods, which I typically consume as the main source of carbs in my nutrition. In fact for this reason I have to date shied away from trying it out. However, I have recently received positive feedback on the paleo way which somewhat triggered my motivation to form my own (unbiased) opinion of it.
The paleo diet in its purest form allows you to eat those foods that humans ate when they first roamed the planet millions of years ago. This diet is based on unprocessed foods such as meat, fish, eggs, vegetables, fruits, oils, nuts and seeds. On this diet one should avoid modern processed foods such as sugar, dairies, artificial sweeteners, grains, legumes and trans/processed fats. These were therefore the guidelines I took note of before kicking off my paleo week, which guidelines I followed for a whole week as described below.
My typical breakfast was chia pudding. This consisted of chia seeds, coconut milk and fruit. Furthermore, since I always try to consume most of my daily protein intake in the morning around my workouts, I decided to also add some protein powder. Granted, this does not fall within paleo standards – but it was my only divergence from the ‘rule’.
For lunch, which I used to bring to work from home, I ate a tuna salad with grilled vegetables, egg, olives and some extra virgin olive oil. During this week I also experimented with paleo muffins which I used to take as a mid-afternoon snack. It was my own recipe where I basically put everything which was paleo approved; I mashed banana and to it added eggs, coconut flour, grass-fed butter and blueberries. It was surprisingly good. Finally for dinner I mostly took eggs with smoked salmon, avocado and vegetables.
Every paleo-related article stresses the fact that one need not count calories which is why I cannot precisely say how many daily calories I was consuming during this week. That said, by the end of my experimental week I was feeling lighter and in terms of portion size I ate according to my gut feeling rather than weighing food which is rather liberating. Additionally I somewhat also liked the fact that I was doing a conscious effort to avoid any sort of unprocessed foods (except for the protein powder).
On the other hand I found paleo to be too strict for my liking, particularly due to the same reason mentioned earlier i.e. the elimination of whole grains. Other than that, my other reservation after having tested paleo for a week refers to the considerable amount of animal products that one ends up consuming on this diet.
In concluding, my recommendation or takeaway for your general nutrition would be to take on board some of the rules put forward by the paleo diet i.e. sticking to unprocessed foods, eliminating sugar and refined grains such as wheat flour and avoiding trans fats, without the need to avoid other healthy foods such as whole grains.
To fitness with love,