Pros and Cons of Following the Paleo Diet While Working Out

Andara Puchino

The Paleo diet is a diet that has been designed to resemble the way people ate thousands of years ago, during the Paleolithic age. It is based on the hunter-gatherer way of eating, and it excludes many food products of the modern era.

Basically, it includes food as found in nature: with as little processing as possible and as much fresh food as you can find. 

It is considered that people that lived thousands of years ago were healthy and free of many diseases of the modern age because of the way they ate and their physical activities. Eating Paleo seemed to agree with their active lifestyle, which brings up the question, what are the pros and cons of the Paleo diet while working out? 

The absence of processed food, artificial sweeteners, trans-fats, dairy, and legumes makes Paleo great for an active lifestyle and weight loss. However, eating Paleo while working out could be tricky, as carbs and sugars provide energy. 

paleo diet dishSource: Jennifer Burk on Unsplash

There are many misconceptions about Paleo and whether or not the Paleo diet is good for working out. These misconceptions mainly derive from the many discussions about whether you can eat carbs on Paleo.

Here, I will explain:

  • what to eat on Paleo
  • what not to eat
  • the advantages and disadvantages of Paleo while working out
  • who the Paleo diet is good for

What Do You Eat on Paleo Diet?

In essence, the Paleo diet is a back-to-basics kind of diet. The word Paleo is short for Paleolithic, meaning it’s a diet that people ate thousands of years ago. 

Because it isn’t entirely clear which food was available in which part of the world at that time, the Paleo diet doesn’t have a general rule about what to eat. It is a personalized diet promoting general healthy eating habits and choosing what’s best for you while avoiding processed food. 

There are meal plans for Paleo, but they need to be further personalized based on what’s available in a specific area. 

The general Paleo rule says to exclude all processed foods. Since cooking is also a kind of processing, you should eat food as close to its natural source as possible, and cook only what you cannot eat raw such as meat and eggs.

In a nutshell, your nutrition should consist mainly of meat, fish, eggs, fresh fruit and vegetables, and herbs and spices. You should further research these food categories to see what is available where you live. 

Additionally, you should avoid processed food such as candy, crisps, bread, pasta, vegetable oil, soft drinks, and basically anything that’s been produced through processing.

sample paleo diet dishSource: Photo by Lara on Pexels

All dairy products are also excluded from Paleo because it is believed that people need only breast milk while they are babies, and they don’t need milk after. This means that weightlifters shouldn’t eat cottage cheese and Greek yogurt if they are on Paleo, since they are milk derivates. Also, to get milk you need to farm animals, which people back then didn’t do. 

Legumes such as beans and lentils need to be cooked and therefore are excluded from Paleo as well. Four to five thousand years ago, people couldn’t cook much other than throwing the kill in the fire. 

Rice and potatoes are also excluded from the Paleo diet, as they are a part of farming, which as I mentioned, wasn’t a part of people’s lives then.

Although Paleo isn’t a low-carb diet, the food it promotes is low carb. However, there isn’t a restriction on how many carbs you can eat on Paleo, but you won’t eat many anyway. 

Advantages of Paleo While Working Out?

Since Paleo is all about natural food, you will likely have an efficient workout. The high protein intake you get from the meat and fish will help you gain muscle and increase the efficiency of your workouts. Moreover, due to the highly nutritious content, Paleo prevents muscle inflammation or, at the very least, reduces it. 

Since the carb intake in Paleo is low, your body’s preferred source of fuel becomes protein and fat. Therefore, eating Paleo while working out can result in fat loss and muscle definition. 

Disadvantages of Paleo While Working Out?

Since your carb intake is low on Paleo, you won’t have as much energy to work out, especially if you do high-intensity workouts or interval training. Your only sugar source comes from fresh fruit, the sugars of which will not last you long. 

There are athletes who increase their carb intake gradually for two hours before training. There is, however, something called “carb loading,” where you eat more and more carbs as your workout gets closer. 

Still, carb-loading is for people whose workouts are highly intense and their bodies have already adjusted; it isn’t for everyone, as you may experience carb-overload. 

Another disadvantageous aspect of working out on a Paleo diet is the fact that we are not the people we were thousands of years ago. Our bodies have changed a lot, and therefore going on Paleo may be a bit hard on the organism. Therefore, it would be better to get adjusted to Paleo before you start working out. 

Read more: 7 Ideal Calorie Deficit Foods

Paleo while working out

Advantages  Disadvantages 
Builds muscle Could cause low energy
Faster fat loss Requires getting used to
Prevents or reduces muscle inflammation and inflammatory processes in general Low carb intake, meaning the only sugar source is fresh fruit
Muscle definition Carb loading isn’t for everyone 

Who is the Paleo Diet Good for? 

The Paleo diet is practiced mainly by people between 20 and 34. However, Paleo doesn’t have an age limit. It can be beneficial for people suffering from diabetes or insulin resistance, high blood pressure, or heart disease. 

However, you don’t have to have a health condition to practice Paleo. It is also for people who want to acquire healthy eating habits and improve their health. 

Still, Paleo is a pretty radical diet, excluding many food groups and therefore isn’t suitable for everyone. You may have a condition that prevents you from excluding the foods that aren’t Paleo compliant. Also, Paleo is hard for vegetarians, as almost all protein intake comes from meat. 

Read more: Your Guide to Dieting: 4 Popular Diets, Research, Benefits and Considerations

Pros and Cons of Following the Paleo Diet While Working Out

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