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Whey protein and the Paleo Diet

Posted on October 20th, 2010 by Jeff Thiboutot M.S.

The Paleo diet is gaining in popularity and there is good evidence that a Paleo eating style can have many positive health effects for many people (Frassetto et al; Jonsson et al; Lindeberg et al). What I find interesting is that some of the people and companies recommending Paleo also recommend whey protein. This is interesting because a true Paleo diet is typically said to be devoid of dairy products and definitely did not included any powdered protein powders, so technically whey protein is not a Paleo food (Eaton, SB. et al). However, I am not implying that a high quality whey protein is unhealthy.  In fact, I think a high-quality whey protein has many health promoting nutrients/benefits (Frestedt et al; Hoffman et al; Luhovyy et al). My point is that whey and Paleo really do not go together in the strict sense. To clarify my point, I will briefly review two products, which are the Paleo Meal by Designs for Health and the Primal Fuel product sold by Mark Sisson the author of the recent book Primal Blueprint.

The Paleo Meal by Designs for Health is a comprehensive meal replacement powder that uses a high-quality whey protein for its protein source. I think it’s a good product, but it is not Paleo, so the name is really a misnomer.

Primal Fuel looks like a very good product, I have not tried it myself yet, but from what I can tell from the ingredients list it is a clean product. However, the price, $99 per container, seems a bit pricy to me. As with the Paleo Meal, the protein source for this product is whey protein, which, again, is not a Paleo food. To be a Paleo food, they would need to use some type of dried beef or some other animal food or maybe dried nuts/seeds, although to get enough protein would be challenging from the latter foods, due to their high fat content.

My point here is that if you are going to sell a product that is Paleo it should contain only Paleo ingredients. Otherwise give it a different name that is more congruent with the ingredients.


Eaton, SB., et al (2002). Evolutionary health promotion. Preventative Medicine; 34: 109-118.

Frassetto, LA., et al (2009). Metabolic and physiologic improvements from consuming a paleolithic, hunter-gatherer type diet. Euro J Clin Nutr: 1-9.

Frestedt, J., et al (2008). A whey-protein supplement increases fat loss and spares lean muscle in obese subjects: a randomized human clinical trial. Nutr & Metab; 5:8.

Hoffman, J. & Falvo, M. (2004). Protein- which is best? J Sports Sci & Med; 3: 118-130.

Jonsson, T., et al (2009). Beneficial effects of a Paleolithic diet on cardiovascular risk factors in type 2 diabetes: a randomized cross-over pilot study. Cardiovascular Diabetology; 8:35.

Lindeberg, S. et al (2003). Biological and clinical potential of a Paleolithic diet. J Nutr & Environ Med; 13(3): 149-160.

Luhovyy, B., et al (2007). Whey proteins in the regulation of food intake and satiety. J Amer Coll Nutr; 26(6): 704S-712S.

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8 Responses to “Whey protein and the Paleo Diet”

  1. Matt Schoeneberger M.S. says:

    I think DFH has a few Paleo products, right? Bars and such? I guess they all aren’t strictly paleo.

    Seems funny that many ‘paleo’ foods are already portable – nuts, seeds, beef jerky – so that meal replacements shouldn’t really be necessary.

    • Jeff Thiboutot M.S. says:

      Yes, DFH has a number of “Paleo” products that are really not “Paleo”
      Yes, many “Paleo” foods are already portable.

  2. Glenn says:

    in reference to Primal Fuel from Mark Sisson’s .. he has revised the price down to $79 dollars.. It appears the first price included and shaker/tumbler and a probiotic
    here’s the info if you’re interested..

    I try to go Paleo most of the time.. but i do shift work and sleep/time is erratic for me.. I got some to try and hopefully it will do when time is getting away from me.

  3. Glenn says:

    PS.. looking forward to the next installments of the fibre series. The stuff i have found indicates another scam on the part of the breakfast cereal sellers and the like.

  4. Alex says:

    Sisson doesn’t promote his lifestyle as pure Paleo – I think that’s why he uses the “Primal” label. He doesn’t promote the total elimination of dairy (at least not for everyone).

  5. Jeff Thiboutot M.S. says:

    I agree Alex that Sisson does not follow or recommend a pure Paleo diet. But, I still find it hard to call a whey protein product “Primal”. To me, “primal” has a connotation of very old, i.e., paleo times. I just think another name would better represent the product.

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