Sports dietitians work with athletes on ways to optimize their performance through what they eat and drink. There is no “perfect” diet for everyone, but there are a lot of wrong ones \u2014 or plans that may compromise performance. You may have heard about the paleo diet, but how much do we really know about this? Here’s a breakdown.\nHow much do you really know about the #paleo diet? Click To Tweet\nWhat Is the Paleo Diet?\nThis diet was developed by Loren Cordain, PhD, a researcher from Colorado State University, who started doing studies in the 1970s. He says that the paleo diet is the way humans were genetically designed to eat. Let’s explore this:\n\nWe are not cavemen.\nRecent studies suggest that early man was more of a vegetarian (plant eater) and not as much of a carnivore (meat eater).\nMost of us don’t just hunt for our food.\nWe have many food choices available.\nThere has been a lot of research on the health benefits of foods that are not part of the paleo diet.\n\nRELATED:\u00a0Heart-Healthy Choices on the Paleo Diet\nPaleo Diet Food List\n\nLean meat, such as chicken, turkey, pork, lean beef, and buffalo (bison)\nFish\nSeafood\nFresh fruit\nNonstarchy vegetables, such as lettuce, asparagus, green beans, broccoli, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, and spinach\nNuts, like almonds, walnuts, cashews, pecans, and pistachios (no peanuts)\nSeeds, like pumpkin and sunflower\nEggs\nPlant-based oils, such as olive, walnut, grapeseed, and coconut oil\n\nWhat Can’t You Eat on the Paleo Diet?\n\nGrains, such as oats, wheat, barley, and rice \u2014 which means no cereal, bread, pasta, bagels, crackers, or granola bars\nStarchy vegetables, such as potatoes and corn, as well as potato and corn chips, tortillas, and popcorn\nLegumes or beans \u2014 so no peanuts or peanut butter; no soy foods, such as soy milk, tofu, or edamame; no hummus or beans of any kind\nDairy products \u2014 so no milk, yogurt, cheese, or ice cream\nHigh-fat meats, such as salami, bologna, pepperoni, hot dogs, ground meat, rib roast, and ribs\nSugars, such as in soda, honey, jam or jelly, syrup, candy, cakes, cookies, and sports drinks\nProcessed foods or trans fats, such as doughnuts, french fries, fruit snacks, or macaroni and cheese\nSalty foods, such as crackers, chips, pretzels, soy sauce, added-salt foods, or sports drinks\n\nRELATED:\u00a0Finding Healthy Food Options in Common Foods\nEssential Paleo Diet Tips\n\nThe diet does not specify portions of the allowed foods, and because there aren’t a ton of approved foods, you may find yourself overeating some of them. This wouldn’t be a calorie issue if you ate a lot of lettuce, but could be a problem if you ate a 5-pound jar of nuts.\nThe diet is higher in protein, which is an important nutrient to build and maintain muscle. But too much protein usually means too little carbohydrate, which is the energy source for exercise.\nThe amount of carbohydrates may be inadequate for athletes. The diet does allow some carbohydrates, but it is still fairly restrictive.\n\nThe #paleo diet may be inadequate for athletes due to restrictions on carbohydrates. Click To Tweet\nPaleo Diet Benefits\n\nYou are more likely to\u00a0eat a clean diet without additives, preservatives, or chemicals.\nThere are\u00a0anti-inflammatory benefits from the plant nutrients in fruits, vegetables, oils, nuts, and seeds.\nIf you are eating more red meat, you will get more iron.\nYou may see\u00a0improved satiety \u2014 a feeling of fullness between meals, due to the higher intake of protein and fats.\nMany people\u00a0lose weight primarily due to the limited food choices.\n\nNegative Effects and Disadvantages of the Paleo Diet\n\nIt can get expensive.\nYou don’t eat any grains\u00a0or dairy\u00a0which\u00a0can be\u00a0good for health and energy.\nThis diet can be difficult\u00a0for vegetarians, especially since it\u00a0excludes beans.\nMost athletes need between 3 to 6 grams of carbs per pound of their body weight, per day. This would be very hard to do with just fruits and vegetables.\n\nPaleo Diet Alternatives\nIf you want to “health up” your diet, by all means do. But rather than going paleo, you may consider:\n\nDo eat three meals a day.\nDo include some protein at every meal and snack.\nDo include foods with color at every meal or snack.\nDo include some grains at every meal and snack, such as cereal, whole grain bread, rice, or pasta.\nDo include a little fat at each meal, such as nuts, butter, salad dressing, oil , or a little mayonnaise.\nDo be selective with some of the less healthy foods.\n\nRemember that if you take away foods and nutrients and don’t find suitable replacements, you can create a nutrient imbalance.\nFor more information, visit UPMC’s Sports Nutrition site to learn more about our services.