In our last nutrition segment, we looked at the popular uptake of the vegan diet. Examining the literature, we found that it is perfectly ok for dancers to go vegan, as long as they focus upon their protein and carbs. But we’re wondering about vegan’s polar opposite, the paleo diet. Is it a good choice for dancers? Let’s look at the evidence.
What Is A Paleo Diet?
The paleo diet is also known as ‘primal eating’. The idea is to go back to basics, eating the same type of foods as our hunter-gatherer ancestors did. This means avoiding anything that is processed, whilst living off the type of vegetables, fruits, and meats that would have been available in the wilderness of Palaeolithic earth.
Some paleo diets allow ‘forbidden’ modern foods, such as potatoes. Others are more stringent, and do not allow non-native fruits and vegetables. In Britain, this means forgoing many vitamin-C rich fruits, such as oranges. However, the diet is very varied and is whole-food based.
What Is A Paleo Diet?
The paleo diet was invented in 1975 by Dr Walter L Voegtlin, although it was not widely known until his original book was republished in 2000. This is why the paleo idea feels quite new, even though it has theoretically been around for a while. A gastroenterologist, Voegtlin was convinced that modern humans have not physically evolved very far from our distant ancestors.
Consequently, he argued that we are primed for an ‘ideal’ diet that is free from human interference. This includes any food types that have been produced since farming was invented, such as grains, sugars, and dairy. According to Voegtlin, this means that the body should only consume the natural foods that it evolved to eat.
Is A Paleo Diet Safe?
There are some apparent health benefits to this approach. Processed foods – which include anything that has been frozen, pre-cooked, or which has added salts and sugars – are known to be linked to heart disease, obesity, stroke, and the high blood pressure that tends to underpin those conditions.
The paleo diet restricts carbohydrate intake, and this causes some interesting chemical changes inside the body. It increases the storage of triglycerides, enhancing the efficiency of the liver. This is thought to have a positive impact on blood sugar levels, which in turn is good for using fats efficiently.
What Can I Eat On A Paleo Diet?
A paleo diet allows anything that is not processed. Some paleo dieters are very strict, and refuse caffeine and natural oils. Others are more forgiving, and stick to a fairly normal menu, as long as it is organic. On the whole, the paleo diet is one of the most varied. Meat, poultry, fish, eggs, vegetables, fruits, nuts, and mushrooms are all permitted. The aim is to keep these as natural as possible, and to only consume things that existed in the pre-modern era.
Can A Dancer Thrive On A Paleo Diet?
Yes. If you’ve been following the Ray Rose nutrition blogs, you’ll know that protein is absolutely vital for professional dancers. The paleo approach emphasises the importance of protein. It is what gave our ancient ancestors the strength to hunt their food and is exactly what dancers need. The reduced sugar is likely to reduce the risk of the insulin surges and drops that are common in intensive exercise.
However, if you are considering trying the paleo diet, it is a good idea to work with a nutritionist. The biological changes that accompany the diet tend to change the way that the body uses fats, and this can have serious adverse health affects if carried out incorrectly.
For The Dance Of Your Life
At Ray Rose, we want to support dancers in every way possible. That starts with high quality professional dance shoes, but looking after the whole of the body is important. If you’ve got any stories about your experiences with the paleo diet, please share them below!
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