There are many who are desperately struggling to lose weight. The modern Western diet is one of the many reasons why we are struggling with a very significant obesity epidemic. Many believe our diets are also contributing to other health epidemics such as Type II diabetes, depression, and chronic fatigue syndrome. As a result, many people have successfully adopted the Paleo Diet in an attempt to correct these dietary problems. One question people on this diet often ask regards whether it is appropriate to use a paleo protein powder.
The Paleo Diet
The Paleo Diet is based on the philosophy that modern man is eating foods that his body was never designed to eat. With the advent of systemic agriculture methods thousands of years ago, humans began to eat various foods such as wheat and other grains that they had never widely consumed before. This not to even mention what modern food processing techniques are doing to food.
Paleo advocates will argue our bodies have not had time to adjust genetically to effectively process these foods. They thus argue that people should strive to eat what the cavemen ate thousands of years ago in an attempt to improve our overall level of health and well being. This means a diet high in meat and fresh fruits and vegetables, while getting rid of processed food, wheat, milk, and other modern additions to the diet. This diet has proved quite successful for many people that have adopted it.
In examining the principles of the Paleo Diet, it should be pretty obvious at first that consuming any sort of protein powder is a very serious violation of the philosophy. Did cavemen have access to protein powder? Absolutely not! Protein powders are representative of the ultimate form of processed and unnatural food. Strict Paleo practitioners would argue that this is not real food and should be dispensed with.
That being said, if one looks at the underlying science behind the Paleo Diet, it might not be so bad. Many of the reasons the Paleo Diet works is because many people have significant problems with food allergies. Indeed people with gluten intolerance and lactose intolerance are the ones most likely to see a significant benefit. The other reason it is successful is that the diet minimizes the use of processed food that contain excessive amounts of carbohydrates (often in the form of sugar) while being devoid of any nutrition.
Paleo protein powder
So if looking for a truly Paleo protein powder these factors should be kept in mind. Unfortunately, for most Paleo dieters, the majority of protein powders on the market cannot be used. Most protein powders are based on whey protein, a byproduct of milk processing. Since milk is one of the most banned substances on the Paleo Diet, these protein powders should not be considered. The same holds true for soy protein, particularly as these carry the extra dangers of being high in very toxic phytoestrogens.
Thus, if one is looking for a usable protein powder for the Paleo Diet, one should avoid most commercial brands. However, there are some manufacturers that have come up with solutions with Paleo dieters in mind. These generally get there protein from a combination of several sources. These include whole egg protein, egg white protein, and beef protein isolate. These are ingredients that would be wholly approved under the Paleo Diet if they had not been processed. Paleo Pro has a Paleo protein powder that fits this description.
Now these protein powders will work best for a Paleo dieter, but are not optimum because they are still processed. As a result, they are still subject to certain contaminants in processing (theoretically, one may or may not think that is important) and doe not give one the whole food experience. However, there are some very good reasons that some people should consider using protein powder while on the Paleo Diet.
The first class of people who could really benefit are professional athletes who are looking to gain massive amounts of muscle. While there are some differences in professional opinion as to the necessity of consuming protein powders for bulking up, a large part of the fitness industry believes consuming large amounts of protein in this matter helps. This is particularly due to the fact that one can get large amounts of it without consuming too much fat (as if you ate a lot of meat) or too much carbohydrates (as if you ate a lot of eggs).
Another important group of people who could benefit from protein powder are those people who have difficulty chewing their food due to some other form of disability. This can be particularly useful in the elderly, small children, or those recovering from surgery or some other form of physical trauma.
When consuming protein powders, one does need to take certain precautions. People who substitute shakes for real meals can often fall into the danger of not getting enough fiber. This is one of the many reasons that Paleo Diet enthusiasts are usually very adamant on the need to eat raw food: it helps smooth over glucose spikes in the blood and ensures that you get enough real fiber from whole foods. If taking protein shakes, then one should be extra careful to add extra whole foods to the diet, or at minimum take a daily fiber supplement like Metamucil (not strictly Paleo, but if you are taking protein powder, you have already crossed that line).
Another thing one needs to be aware of is to select protein powders from quality manufacturers to reduce the risk of toxic chemicals in the powder as a byproduct of the processing. In fact, Consumer Reports found recently that many popular protein shakes were contaminated with chemicals such as arsenic and mercury. These are facts you need to keep in mind when selecting a protein powder.
Protein powder is not specifically Paleo compatible but can be used to supplement your diet. By taking a few extra precautions, one can potentially add it to the diet without missing many of the many benefits of the Paleo lifestyle.