Based on a book by Dr. Loren Cordain, the paleo diet's approach to weight-loss involves whole foods nutrition. The diet focuses on foods that have been a part of the human diet for the length of human history and eliminates foods that have only been a part of our diet for the past 75 years. While most people will have great success with weight loss and improved disease markers on the paleo diet, you may choose to modify it to better focus on your individual needs. There are many ways to modify the paleo diet without losing the majority of its benefits.
Benefits of Paleo
The paleo diet can quickly improve health, according to a study published in the February 2009 "European Journal of Clinical Nutrition." The study reports that after only two weeks on a paleolithic diet, participants experienced improved blood pressure, lower plasma insulin, and significant reductions in cholesterol, bad LDL cholesterol, and triglycerides. Interestingly, this study also shows that using a paleolithic diet can create these health improvements without weight loss, whereas low-fat, higher carbohydrate diets require weight loss to see health benefits.
Reasons for Paleo
Some people may want to use a paleolithic diet for health reasons but have other fitness goals or health issues that require modifications to the diet, such as mass gain bodybuilders, endurance athletes and power athletes.
If you have some health issues, work with your doctor to modify the paleo diet for best results. Some conditions that may require modifications include hypothyroidism and type II diabetes.
Athletes and Paleo
Dr. Cordain addresses the unique modifications necessary for endurance athletes in "The Paleo Diet for Athletes." If you participate in endurance sports, you may have to modify a paleolithic diet to meet your needs as an athlete. The most common modifications for this type of athlete are the use of modern sports nutrition products that contain high levels of carbohydrates and a higher use of carbohydrate-dense whole foods such as yams and fruit to restore muscle glycogen after extensive exercise.
Mass gain bodybuilders will most frequently modify the paleo diet by adding dairy, and drinking a gallon of milk a day is a very common practice among athletes on a mass gain program. Power athletes also may need to modify the paleo diet by adding sports nutrition products as short bursts of exercise are fueled more effectively with readily available glycogen stores. Power athletes may have trouble getting enough calories through a paleolithic diet, requiring some modifications for higher calorie foods such as breads and cheese.
Illness and Paleo
If you have hypothyroidism, talk to your doctor about modifying the paleo diet. You may need to supplement with iodine, which is needed for proper thyroid function and is often deficient on a paleolithic diet. Processed foods are frequently fortified with iodine, making it one of the few things you may need to supplement if you stop eating processed foods.
Type II diabetics need to be careful with the paleo diet as well. There is a misconception that the paleo diet is low carb, but in fact the diet allows for very abundant fruit intake, which can create moderate to high daily carb intake. Type II diabetics need to carefully watch their dietary corbohydrate intake, and an unmeasured approach to a paleolithic diet may not be appropriate. A simple modification in this case would be to limit fruits and other paleolithic carbohydrate sources like yams and tubers, says the Protein Power website.
Points to Consider
You may not fall into one of these categories but still want to modify the paleo diet. It's perfectly fine to make room in your diet for foods you love but that you know are not optimal for health. You can still use paleolithic dietary principles to guide you while making modifications to suit your individual tastes and preferences. Moderation is key, so try to make optimal choices at least 80 percent of the time and allow the other 20 percent to be modifications that are important to you.