Getting To Grips With The Paleo Diet

Even though we are now in the 21st century, athletes still have the bodies of the Old Stone Age (Paleolithic).

In the past 10,000 years there has really been no significant change to the human genome.  We are still Paleolithic athletes physiologically.

The Paleo Diet

The basic idea behind Dr. Cordain’s research concerning the Paleolithic nutrition says that there are certain foods that are optimal for use by humans while there are others that are not optimal.

The optimal foods are those items that we have been eating since we have been on earth for over 4 million years.  It has only been in the last 10,000 years, just a quick blink of our eyes; we have been eating the non optimal foods.

Unfortunately, these are the foods that most of us in the western society eats today and includes things like grains, dairy and legumes.

Seeing how our bodies have not changed over the years, we are not adapting to the non optimal foods along with moderate health and peak performance.

But on the other hand we have been eating a variety of optimal foods like fruits, vegetables and lean animal proteins for many years while are bodies are adapted to them.

When we look at science we know that these foods will meet the nutritional needs.  When you eat these you will be able to thrive.  When you avoid them or limit their use, your health and performance will not peak like it should.

Paleo For Athletes

The serious athletes, when it comes to immediately before, after and during the workouts will need to bend the rules of the Paleo Diet every so often because of the demands we place on our bodies that did not happen normally for the Stone Age ancestors.

Because of the hour upon hour of sustained high energy that puts on the body and then the need for a quick recovery for the athlete’s demands. This will require by explaining an athlete’s 5 stages of the daily eating relative to your exercise plan.

Stage I: Eating Before Exercise

In short, it is recommended that athletes should eat a low to moderate glycemic index carbohydrates approximately two hours before you go to a hard or long workout or the race.
You might even consider eating some fat and protein in this particular meal as well.  The foods should not have a lot of fiber in it.  You want to take in about 200 – 300 calories for every hour before your exercise begins.

If it is not possible to eat 2 hours before you exercise, then try and take in about 200 calories 10 minutes before your workout or race begins.

Stage II: Eating During Exercise

When you have a long or hard work out or race you need to make sure you are taking in high glycemic index carbohydrates that comes in the form of fluids.  Sports drinks are OK for this.

Make sure you find one that you like the taste of along with willingly drink.  If the event is less than one hour, including the warm-up, you don’t need to worry about the carbohydrate, water is fine for this.

A good place to start is by deciding how much you should take in, which is usually 200 to 400 calories per hour modified, which would be according to your body size, experience and even the nature of the exercise, the longer the event the more calories needed than shorter events.

Stage III: Eating Immediately After

During the first 30 minutes after a long and/or highly intense exercise and race, you need to make sure you are using a recovery drink that will contain both a carbohydrate and a protein in a 5:1 ratio.

Or if you would rather, you can make your own by putting 16 ounces of a fruit juice, a banana, 3 – 5 tablespoon of glucose like CarboPro depending on body size and then about 3 Tablespoon of a protein powder, whether in form of egg or whey and then 2 pinches of salt.

It is important to make sure that this is done within the first 30 minute window is critical to help with recovery.  It needs to be the highest priority after a hard workout or race.

Stage IV: Eating for Extended Recovery

Over the next few hours, for the same amount of time as the challenging exercise lasted, you need to continue to focus on your diet of carbohydrates, especially those that are moderate to high on the glycemic load along with proteins at a 3:1 carb protein ratio.

This would be the time to focus on the non optimal foods like pasta, bread, rice, bagels, corn and other foods that are rich in glucose and can contribute to the needed carbohydrate recovery process.

Some of the foods that are just right for Stage IV foods would be raisins, potatoes, yams and sweet potatoes.

Stage V: Eating for LongTerm Recovery

For the rest of the day or until start back on Stage I, you will want to eat a Paleo Diet that focuses on the optimal foods.  If you need more information on this you about the Paleo Diet you can visit or read “The Paleo Diet” by Loren Cordain, Ph.D.

How Much Protein, Carb and Fat Should I Eat?

The nutrient requirements will change as the demands of the training season changes.  It is recommended that athletes should maintain a rather consistent intake of protein all year.  20 – 25% is the percentage of calories that an athlete needs in their diet.

When looking at our Stone Age ancestors, this is on the low end due to the fact that athletes will increase their intake of carbohydrates during Stages I – IV, which will dilutes  the protein percentage of daily calories.

The athlete’s fat and carbohydrate intake will swing during the training season based on what the level of training is and whether more fat or carbohydrates are needed.

When the general preparation is going on the diet will include more fat in the diet while there is less carbohydrates in the diet.

It is at this particular time of the training season that the purpose is to help promote the body to use the fat for fuel, so make sure to eat more of the healthy fat, around 30% of the total calories while the carbohydrates intake will be around 50%.

Then during the training season that is higher in intensity and/or the training increases, putting more demand on the body for fuel, carbohydrates will need to increase.

It is during stages III and IV that the recovery of the athlete becomes critical.  The carbohydrate intake will need to increase accordingly, suggested to around 60% of the total calories that are being taken in while fat will drop to around 20%.

When training is reduced because of peaking, tapering or transitions, the athlete must watch the caloric intake to make sure they are not gaining unwanted weight.

Why Is The Paleo Diet Beneficial?

Fitness and health are not synonymous.  It is unfortunate that many athletes are fit buy are not healthy.  Reduced performance potential happens because of frequent illness, overtraining and injury.

The Paleo Diet for the athlete will significantly help improve the health of the athlete in the long run.  When compared with other commonly accepted athlete’s diet, the Paleo Diet will increase intake of the branched chain amino acids (BCAA).

A couple of the benefits include muscle development and anabolic function.  It can also counteract the immune suppression that is common in the endurance athletes following extensive exercise.

It also decreases the Omega 6:Omega 3 ratio as well.  It also helps to reduce the tissue inflammation that is often common to athletes while they are promoting healing.  This can also include asthmatic conditions that are common in athletes.

It will lower the body acidity, the catabolic effect of any of the acidosis that is on the bone or in the muscle while stimulating muscle protein synthesis.  This also helps with the aging process as well.

The diet is also high in trace nutrients.  These are vitamins and minerals that are necessary for optimal health along with long term recovery from the training.

The foods that are the most nutrient dense are vegetables and seafood.  On average, it is said that vegetables have about twice the nutrients density of grain.

Eat smart!


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