Flavors of Paleo

I’ve mentioned before that Paleo is not a cookie-cutter nutrition (and lifestyle) plan. We all need to find what works best for us and follow that path. People new to Paleo – or complete strangers to it – may not be aware of all the options, though. So, I’d like to take a moment and provide a brief description of what I think are distinct “flavors” of Paleo, and list some available resources:

Basic Paleo
This is the starting point for most of us. It’s as simple as eliminating grains, legumes, and dairy from one’s diet, but there are several sidenotes to that, such as removing vegetable and seed oils as well as sugar. For further information, check out the following:

  • Robb Wolf’s book and site. His book is easy to read, but you may need to keep notes as it’s packed full of technical details. You can find a multitude of helpful articles, as well as his excellent podcast, at his site.
  • Loren Cordain’s books  and site. Although The Paleo Diet is a must-read, it is a rather controversial book, and Loren has revised several parts of it in more recent blog posts. I’d suggest starting out with The Paleo Answer instead.
  • Melissa and Dallas Hartwig’s book and site. Their Whole9 program is what got me into Paleo. 🙂 When I first came upon their site and read the instructions, I beat a hasty path out of there – it looked impossible to implement (and people may have the same reaction to any entry-level Paleo plan). A year later, I decided to read their book, and everything they were suggesting finally clicked. It is an excellent read, detailed but approachable. I gave the Whole9 a go and to my surprise discovered it was far easier than I thought it would be.
  • Nora Gedgaudas’ book and site. A challenging read, probably more appropriate for people who want to delve deeper into Paleo.

Paleo for Specific Conditions
The basic Paleo guidelines are good enough for most people to play with, but if, for instance, you suffer from an autoimmune condition, you may need to add some restrictions. Some examples include removing nightshades (tomatoes, potatoes, eggplants, peppers, etc.), sources of FODMAPs (onions, garlic, etc.), or eggs from the diet. Consider consulting with a Paleo/Primal physician to help with this:

If you want to discuss a Paleo approach with your current physician, you could read and pass along Diane Sanfilippo’s book as it provides nutrition plans for several conditions. You also can find a multitude of articles, recipes, etc., and her podcast on her site.

Paleo for Weight Loss
Although I consider obesity a medical condition that should be dealt with as such, I thought I’d give it its own section since a lot of people (myself included) come to Paleo for the express reason of losing weight. I’d like to point out, though, that Paleo is not a weight loss plan. Weight loss is a side effect as the body is allowed to work its way towards a healthy, balanced state.

You could be following a basic Paleo plan and losing weight without further intervention. If that doesn’t work for you, you may need to cut back a bit on carbs to egg your body on. This doesn’t mean aiming for a zero carb approach. A general approach would be to first try to limit fruit consumption to no more than 2 fist-sized portions per day. If you stop seeing results (assess primarily your body fat percentage and the fit of your clothes before obsessing over the number on the scales), restrict your starch consumption to post-workout meals only.

You can find more on most resources mentioned in this post, but might want to particularly check out:

  • Gary Taubes’ books. Although not strictly Paleo, you should get at least one of them. They are both very enjoyable to read (or was that just me?) despite being long. The shorter, easier read of the two is Why We Get Fat.
  • Stephan Guyenet’s blog for an alternative, high-carb approach.

Always, the key point is experimenting and finding what works for you.

Paleo for Athletic Performance
Although now popular mostly in CrossFit circles, Paleo has been promoted for a while among endurance athletes by top trainer Joe Friel (you can follow his blog here) with the support of Loren Cordain (check out their book).

If you’re into general fitness or a strength-based sport, Robb Wolf’s blog has more appropriate resources. You can also find an excellent nutrition plan for athletic performance in Diane Sanfilippo’s book.

Other Approaches
As long as you don’t have any sensitivities to dairy, you could try going Primal. This is a variation allowing the infrequent consumption of fatty and/or fermented dairy in small quantities. Check out Mark Sisson’s awesome site and books. Mark Sisson’s and Robb Wolf’s sites are probably the biggest hubs of Paleo/Primal activity, so be sure to bookmark them and subscribe to their feeds.

Another possible approach is Paul and Shou-Ching Jaminet’s Perfect Health Diet, which allows the consumption of both full-fat and/or fermented dairy and white rice. Check out their site and book (revised version) for more.

This isn’t meant to be an exhaustive list, but I believe all the essentials are here. If there’s something you believe I’ve missed that should absolutely be mentioned, feel free to point it out in the comments.

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