When you made the decision about going on the paleo diet, you didn’t all of a sudden transport yourself 11,000 years ago to the wild lands of what is now the Middle East, unsure of where you would be sleeping, and if you would even be waking up the next day, and not transformed into a buffet for the local hyena cackle. Instead of hopping in your Prius to go to your steam room yoga, you would go for a nice jog down to the water hole in 90 degree heat, making sure not to misstep and roll your ankle, as a sprained ankle surely spells an immanent death at your inability to fend for yourself in these pre-historic times.
The paleo diet is designed as a way where modern day humans can reconnect with their genetic roots. Eating foods that have co-evolved with our digestive system is an obvious way to improve our health. However, just because something is a modern invention, does not mean that it needs to be shunned like processed enriched flour. For example, even if you are unwilling to put penicillin on a wound, you probably wouldn’t be here without it, and countless other advances in modern medicine that have allowed the human population to grow exponentially.
While inventions like the internet, soap and hydropower certainly are beneficial for society, a great debate in the paleo community revolves around the importance or necessity in the diet for supplements, most specifically, is protein powder paleo friendly?
Is protein powder paleo friendly?
Based on the (my) definition of paleo, any protein powder is clearly not paleo. My definition of paleo certainly excludes any foods that could not be hunted or gathered, thus eliminating protein powder, no matter if it is grass-fed, natural or minimally processed. However, that does not mean that it can be included in a paleo diet to improve certain aspects of performance or even health. How so?
We know that whey protein powder can help us reach our performance and vanity goals. But is it worth it?
Do you need protein powder to get strong? No. Do you need protein powder to recover? No
But are there side effects from not being strictly paleo?
The way to answer this question is through example. Let us use the example of coconut oil. We recently reported on this blog that while high-heat, highly processed coconut oil potentially had a negative impact on cholesterol levels, cold-pressed extra virgin coconut oil was able improve the body’s ability to metabolize fat cells. Even “paleo foods” are greatly impacted by the type of processing. Therefore, if you are looking for the most paleo friendly protein powder, you would look for one that used grass-fed, undenatured whey protein that has not been exposed to high heat.
Is whey protein allowed on strictly paleo?
This depends on your definition and adherence to your definition of paleo (see mine above). My definition also would eliminate coconut oil or olive oil – both completely natural products that needed to go through a modern technological process. But just because something does not fit or is an exception to a definition, does not mean that you cannot include it in a healthy, paleo-based diet.
What makes a supplement paleo friendly?
Just like olive oil and coconut oil, there are protein powders that are more paleo friendly than others. Due to a lack of government over site, there are a variety of supplements that have been found to contain arsenic and other toxic compounds. So while we are familiar with the terms “cold-pressed,” with protein powders, we are looking for terms like grass-fed, hormone free, undenatured, and GMP facilities. Just like with coconut oil, there are non-paleo friendly and paleo friendly protein powders. Use your discretion, but protein powder can easily be paleo friendly, helping you reach your health and fitness goals.