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chaff and wheat
on 22 November 2012
It's hard to review this book without giving your opinion on the value of the Paleo diet as well but I am going to try.(and perhaps fail.)
The Paleo Diet advocates eating in a fashion more akin to that of our distant ancestors living in the stone age. Put very simply, more vegetables and fruit, more meat, and far less dairy products and grains. Athletes (whatever they are) however have some special nutritional considerations to take into account and so we are presented the Paleo Diet but for athletes.
I personally found the book a little hard to follow and felt that the chapter "why eat like a caveman?" was the ideal introduction to the book and therefore should have come at the start rather than half way through. The reasoning as to why the paleo diet should work based on our ancestry seems sensible when you read it doesn't it?; but always ask yourself 'where is the evidence that is has been shown to work?'
I thought the authors gave misleading advice for example they describe "headache....confusion...tunnel vision..." as early symptoms of hyponatraemia. These are not just early symptoms and if you are experiencing them and are in a situation where hyponatraemia is a possibility then you need to seek urgent medical advice!!!
The value of the acid/alkali approach to food is misleadingly presented. Forgetting about whether this is even an intrinsically useful concept given the body's ability to buffer and maintain acid base balance within certain constraints, presenting a table of how grains are "bad" (ACID!!) and veggies and fruit are "good" (ALKALI!!) but leaving out citrus fruits (because they are acidic???) is tendentious and just one example of the selective presentation of evidence to further the thesis of the paleo diets 'goodness' that I noted in the book.
There are also factual errors "it's when you eat less than optimal foods that you tend to add body fat" ....this is not true! You add body fat when you eat calories surplus to requirements (If you eat 2200 calories of fruit and meat as advocated but only need 1800 you will gain weight!) and there is sadly very little attempt to discuss calories further because 'the Paleo diet will take care of it all for you'. This is additionally problematic as it is not made clear what constitutes an 'athlete'. So when examples of daily caloric intake are even mentioned (2200 calories for a 55kg female) these may be quite steep for a female jogging a few miles 2-3 times a week. (okay, so she is not an 'athlete', but what is? 20miles per week? 40 miles per week? Do they all need 2200 calories per week?)
So if you are able to sift through the chaff to get to the wheat (which the authors will tell you is bad for you) there is still quite a lot of genuinely interesting material providing food for thought. I just think that the paleo plate is pushed so hard at you that the material is a little hard to swallow.Also, once you take all the athletic modifications into account, is what you have left really the paleo diet any more?