The Paleo Diet for Athletes

Traditionally, Paleo type diets are much lower in carbohydrate than the average modern-day athlete diet. Our ancestors seldom did 2 hour runs and 6 hour bike rides. Certainly, they had periods of intense activity, but these where relatively brief and spaced apart.

Endurance athletes require a higher intake of carbohydrates in order to replenish fuel stores after long and intense workouts. As such the program for athletes makes changes to the basic program to allow the intake of some foods that are not included in a Paleo Diet.

The major adjustment to the diet is that certain high glycemic index carbohydrate foods are included during the immediate post-workout period. For the remainder of the day the dietary pattern is the same as a typical Paleo Diet program. This is required to satisfy the need to quickly replace glycogen stores after exercise and will help speed up the recovery process for repeated efforts.

I did not write the article below, however it is an excellent summary of The Paleo Diet for Athletes by Loren Cordain and Joe Friel.

A QUICK GUIDE TO
THE PALEO DIET FOR ATHLETES © 2005 Loren Cordain, PhD and Joe Friel, MS

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The Paleo Diet for Athletes was released in October, 2005 from Rodale Press. Written by Loren Cordain, Ph.D., author of The Paleo Diet, and Joe Friel, M.S., author of numerous bestselling books on training for endurance athletes, the book applies the concept of eating as our Stone Age ancestors ate to the extraordinary demands of training for serious endurance sports. Although it is now the 21st century, athletes still have Old Stone Age (Paleolithic) bodies. There has been no significant change in the human genome in the past 10,000 years. Physiologically speaking, we are still Paleolithic athletes.

THE PALEO DIET
The basic premise of Dr. Cordain’s research on paleolithic nutrition is that certain foods are optimal for humans and others are non optimal. The optimal foods are those that we have been eating for most of our time on Earth—more than 4 million years. Only in the last 10,000 years, a mere blink of the eye relative to our species’ existence, have we been eating non optimal foods. Unfortunately, these foods comprise the bulk of what western society eats today and include such foods as grains, dairy and legumes. Given that our bodies have not changed, we are simply not well adapted to these non optimal foods and they moderate health and peak performance. On the other hand, we have been eating optimal foods – vegetables, fruits, and lean animal protein – for hundreds of thousands of years and we are fully adapted to them. Science tells us that these foods also best meet our nutritional needs. Eat these and you will thrive. Avoid or strictly limit them and your health and performance will be compromised.

PALEO FOR ATHLETES
Serious athletes, however, when it comes to immediately before, during, and directly after workouts, need to bend the rules of the Paleo Diet a bit since we’re placing demands on the body that were not normal for our Stone Age ancestors. Hour after hour of sustained high energy output and the need for quick recovery are the serious athlete’s unique demands. This requires some latitude to use non optimal foods on a limited basis. The exceptions may best be described by explaining the athlete’s 5 stages of daily eating relative to exercise.

Stage I: Eating Before Exercise
In brief, we recommend that athletes eat low to moderate glycemic index carbohydrates at least two hours prior to a hard or long workout or race. There may also be some fat and protein in this meal. All foods should be low in fiber. Take in 200-300 calories for every hour remaining until exercise begins. If eating two hours prior is not possible, then take in 200 or so calories 10 minutes before the workout or race begins.

Stage II: Eating During Exercise
During long or hard workouts and races you will need to take in high glycemic index carbohydrates mostly in the form of fluids. Sports drinks are fine for this. Find one that you like the taste of and will drink willingly. Realize that events lasting less than about an hour (including warm-up) don’t require any carbohydrate. Water will suffice for these. A starting point for deciding how much to take in is 200-400 calories per hour modified according to body size, experience and the nature of the exercise (longer events require more calories than short).

Stage III: Eating Immediately After
In the first 30 minutes post workout (but only after long and/or highly intense exercise) and post race use a recovery drink that contains both carbohydrate and protein in a 45:1 ratio. You can make your own by blending 16 ounces of fruit juice with a banana, 3-5 tablespoons of glucose (such as CarboPro) depending on body size, about 3 tablespoons of protein powder, especially from egg or whey sources and two pinches of salt. This 30 min window is critical for recovery. It should be your highest priority after a hard workout or race.

Stage IV: Eating for Extended Recovery
For the next few hours (as long as the preceding challenging exercise lasted) continue to focus your diet on carbohydrates, especially moderate to high glycemic load carbohydrates along with protein at a 45:1 carb/protein ratio. Now is the time to eat non optimal foods such as pasta, bread, bagels, rice, corn and other foods rich in glucose as they contribute to the necessary carbohydrate recovery process. Perhaps the perfect Stage IV foods are raisins, potatoes, sweet potatoes and yams.

Stage V: Eating for Long Term Recovery
For the remainder of your day, or until your next Stage I, return to eating a Paleo Diet by focusing on optimal foods. For more information on the Paleo Diet go to The Paleo Diet website or read The Paleo Diet by Loren Cordain, Ph.D.

HOW MUCH PROTEIN, CARB AND FAT SHOULD I EAT?
The macronutrient requirement changes with the demands of the training season and so should be periodized along with training. We recommend that athletes maintain a rather consistent protein intake year round. As a percentage of total calories this will typically be in the range of 20-25% for athletes. This is on the low end of what our Stone Age ancestors ate due to the athlete’s increased intake of carbohydrate in Stages I to IV which dilutes protein as a percentage of daily calories.
On the other hand, periodization of diet produces significant and opposing swings in the athlete’s fat and carbohydrate intake as the training seasons change. During the base (general preparation) period the diet shifts toward an increased intake of fat while carbohydrate intake decreases. At this time in the season when a purpose of training is to promote the body’s use of fat for fuel, more healthy fat is consumed – in the range of 30% of total calories – with carbohydrate intake at around 50%. During the build and peak (specific preparation) periods the intensity of training increases placing greater demands on the body for carbohydrate to fuel exercise. At this latter time of the season Stages III and IV become increasingly critical to the athlete’s recovery. Carbohydrate intake increases accordingly to around 60% of total calories with fat intake dropping to around 20%.
During times of the year when training is greatly reduced (peaking/tapering and transition periods) the athlete must limit caloric intake to prevent unwanted weight gain.

WHY IS THE PALEO DIET BENEFICIAL?
Health and fitness are not synonymous. Unfortunately, many athletes are fit but unhealthy. Frequent illness, injury and overtraining reduce performance potential.

The Paleo Diet for Athletes significantly improves health long-term. Compared with the commonly accepted athlete’s diet, the Paleo Diet:

  • Increases intake of branched chain amino acids (BCAA). Benefits muscle development and anabolic function. Also counteracts immunosuppression common in endurance athletes following extensive exercise.
  • Decreases omega-6:omega-3 ratio. Reduces tissue inflammation common to athletes while promoting healing. This may include asthmatic conditions common in athletes.
  • Lowers body acidity. Reduces the catabolic effect of acidosis on bone and muscle while stimulating muscle protein synthesis. This is increasingly important with aging.
  • Is high in trace nutrients. Vitamins and minerals are necessary for optimal health and long term recovery from exercise. The most nutrient dense foods are vegetables and seafood. On average, vegetables have nearly twice the nutrient density of grains.

EXCERPT FROM THE PALEO DIET FOR ATHLETES
Training for endurance sports such as running, cycling, triathlon, rowing, swimming, and cross-country skiing places great demands on the body, and the athlete is in some stage of recovery almost continuously during periods of heavy training. The keys to optimum recovery are sleep and diet. Even though we recommend that everyone eat a diet similar to what our Stone Age ancestors ate, we realize that nutritional concessions must be made for the athlete who is training at a high volume in the range of 10 to 35 or more hours per week of rigorous exercise. Rapid recovery is the biggest issue facing such an athlete. While it’s not impossible to recover from such training loads on a strict Paleo Diet, it is somewhat more difficult to recover quickly. By modifying the diet before, during, and immediately following challenging workouts, the Paleo Diet provides two benefits sought by all athletes: quick recovery for the next workout, and superior health for the rest of your life.

Basically…
At every level of competition, The Paleo Diet for Athletes can maximize health and performance in a range of sports.

The benefits of coconut oil

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Our body is well designed to run primarily on fat as a source of energy and when it does, it produces ketones bodies, which is perfectly healthy. Ketones are what the body produces when it’s using fat for energy in the absence of glucose. These ketones are a preferred energy source for the brain and heart.

Of the fats in coconut oil, 92% are healthy saturated fats. This makes it highly stable under heat when cooking and solid at room temperatures.

The main fatty acid content comes from Lauric acid (45-50%). Lauric acid is a medium chain triglyceride (MCT) with a 12 carbon structure (C12:0). These MCTs are digested and assimilated easily in the body and are transferred directly to the liver where they are immediately converted into energy, also meaning they are not directly stored as body fat.

Other MCTs of importance found in coconut oil are:

  • Caprylic acid (C8:0);
  • Capric acid (C10:0).

Generally speaking, the shorter the fatty acid carbon length (Cx:0), he faster the body can turn the fatty acids into usable energy.

Once mistakenly believed to be unhealthy because of its high saturated fat content, it is now known that the fat in coconut oil is unique and different from almost all other fats and possesses many health giving properties.

Lauric acid is a powerful virus and negative bacteria destroyer, and coconut oil contains the most lauric acid of any substance on Earth!  Capric acid, another fatty acid present in smaller amounts, has also been added to the list of coconut’s antimicrobial components.

Coconut oil has been shown to consistently raise HDL cholesterol levels in humans. Higher HDL is linked to a reduced heart disease risk.

Benefits of Coconut Oil
More than 2,000 studies have been performed on coconut oil, demonstrating a wide range of benefits. Here is a list of some of the benefits associated with the consumption of coconut oil:

  • Enhance immunity and fight infections;
  • Improve your cholesterol numbers;
  • Decrease risk of heart disease;
  • Promote weight loss;
  • Boost metabolism;
  • Boost energy levels and enhance athletic/physical performance;
  • Assist with blood sugar regulation & prevention/treatment of diabetes;
  • Improve digestion;
  • Improve brain health;
  • Improve skin health;
  • Improve hair health; and
  • Improve thyroid function.

Using Coconut Oil
Coconut oil can be used both internally and externally. It is an excellent source of energy and when ingested as a food oil or health tonic. It adds both flavour and has therapeutic benefits.

Some of the more popular uses of Coconut Oil:

  • Coconut oil is one of your best cooking alternatives as it is so stable that when heated it will not oxidize or go rancid;
  • Mix it into smoothies, herbal teas or hot water;
  • Mix it into black coffee (instead of milk or other creamers);
  • Use it as a skin and hair moisturizer;
  • A natural SPF 4 sunscreen;
  • Oil pulling (using it as a mouth wash, will help with gum disease and tooth infection); and so much more.

Vitamin D: the benefits

Vitamin D may be the single most important organic nutrient for your overall health. In fact, if this were a drug, it would be considered the discovery of the century.

– Al Sears, M.D., Your Best Health under the Sun

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Vitamin D, commonly mistaken for a vitamin is actually a prohormone (the precursor of a biologically active hormone). Vitamin D has no requirement to be eaten, as humans can meet all their requirements by getting enough sunlight exposure. It is critically important for the development, growth, and maintenance of a healthy body throughout its entire lifespan.

Vitamin D has been shown to be critical in (but not limited to):

  • Reduce inflammation;
  • Help with fat metabolism;
  • Help with cancer prevention, including skin cancers;
  • Help prevent autoimmune diseases;
  • Help prevent cardiovascular disease;
  • Help prevent types 1 and 2 diabetes;
  • Help the absorption and use of calcium and phosphorus;
  • Help promote bone and muscle heath.

How much do we need?
The vitamin D council has the current recommendations (these are only estimated amounts):

  • Healthy children over the age of 1 years – 1,000 IU per every 25 lbs of body weight;
  • Healthy adults and adolescents – at least 5,000 IU;
  • Pregnant and lactating mothers – at least 6,000 IU;

Additionally, children and adults with chronic health conditions such as autism, MS, cancer, heart disease, or obesity may need higher amounts.

There is difference among some organisations with regards to recommended daily intakes. This is due to researchers For example, the Food and Nutrition Board has the current recommendations:

  • Healthy children over the age of 1 years – 600 IU;
  • Healthy adults and adolescents – 600 IU;
  • Pregnant and lactating mothers – 600 to 800 IU.

The Food and Nutrition Board recommended daily intakes are the official recommendations by the United States government.

The Australian recommended daily intakes are as follows:

  • For those who get some sun exposure and are under 70 years – 600 IU / over 70 years – 800 IU;
  • For those who get very little or zero sunlight of all ages – 1000 IU to 2000 IU.

Where do we get it?
The best source is obviously the sun. Scientifically speaking, Vitamin D is obtained via a process where UVB radiation from sunlight converts cholesterol into D3. Certain animal foods and products, such as cod liver oil, salmon, makerel, sardines, beef liver and pasture raised eggs also contain Vitamin D.

Vitamin D and sun exposure
The human body was designed to receive vitamin D by producing it in response to sunlight exposure. Since this is the way Nature intended, it should be considered the method of choice. Conservative estimates place ancestral levels around 10,000 – 20,000 IU per day from direct sun exposure.

The human body can produce this amount in a very short time so over exposure isn’t necessary. Basically, the requirement to produce enough Vitamin D in a single day is to be in direct sunlight (as much skin exposure as possible) for about half the amount of time it takes for your skin to burn (turn pink).

The below map of Australia give an estimate of how much sun exposure is required to meet daily requirements. As you can see it doesn’t take too long in the summer months, with more time required during the cooler months.

Aus Vit D sun map

Even if you decide to stay out in the sun for an extended period of time, you body has a way of shutting down its production of Vitamin D. You will just stop producing it when you don’t need it.

What about sunscreen?
Ingredients in the majority of sunscreens block both UVA and UVB radiation. As mentioned earlier, UVB is responsible for producing Vitamin D. Only recently, have scientific bodies began to agree that it is UVA radiation that causes the deadly melanoma.

Sunlight exposure has a paradoxical effect that is both good and bad. Chronic, long term exposure to the sun, such as lifeguards and other outdoor workers experience, is protective from melanomas and other cancers, where as intermittent, infrequent intense burning, followed by little sun exposure, may promote this deadly form of skin cancer and many  other cancers.

– Dr Loren Cordain, Ph. D., The Paleo Answer

Sunscreen with a SPF factor of 15 blocks 93% of UVB radiation, the type that is actually required by the human body to produce Vitamin D. SPF 30 and SPF 50 sunscreens block out 97% and 98% respectively. To be effective, all sunscreen, regardless of strength, should be reapplied every two hours. Also, the “reddening” of the skin is a reaction to UVB radiation alone and does not give any indication to the amount of UVA radiation damage.

So, blocking UVB radiation isn’t the smartest idea going around as this is the spectrum of light that stimulates Vitamin D production within the body. How does one stay sun smart and still benefit from sufficient Vitamin D production?

One method could be to apply sunscreens liberally at the beginning of the summer and as your base level tan is produced you could lower the SFP of your sunscreen until your using very little, if at all (remember, the best protection against unwanted  UV radiation is a good tan, some shade or a hat).

Finally, the human species has evolved in the great outdoors and with direct sun exposure, thus having an actual nutrient requirement for it. Don’t deprive yourself of your day in the sun.

Why Paleo?

“Ten thousand years ago the Agricultural Revolution was the beginning of a drastic change in the human diet that continues to this day. Today more than 70% of our dietary calories come from foods that our Paleolithic ancestors rarely, if ever, ate. The result is epidemic levels of cardiovascular disease, cancer, diabetes, osteoporosis, arthritis, gastrointestinal disease, and more.”

– Dr. Loren Cordain

The Paleo Diet is based upon everdyday, modern foods that mimic the general diet of pre-agricultural, hunter-gatherer societies. It focuses on consuming whole, nutrient dense foods such as, meats, seafood, fruits, vegetables, nuts and healthy fats.

Conventional wisdom would suggest that the paleolithic man had a far shorter lifespan than what is the norm for today, although multiple studies have shown that a large percentage of the population lived into their 60’s and were virtually free of chronic degenerative disease. Taking a look at modern day hunter gatherer societies such as the Inuit people of the Arctic region, you will find that they live free of modern disease until they adapt a more modern diet.

Basically, with the Paleo Diet, one will be returning to the diet that humans are genetically designed to eat.

Foods to Eat

Meats, poultry, seafood, eggs, vegetables, fruits, nuts and plenty of healthful fats.

Foods to avoid

Cereals and grains, legumes, vegetable and seed oils, sugars (including artificial sweeteners) and diary (can be a moderation food if tolerated well).

Some of the benefits of a Paleo Diet

  • improved body composition
  • weight loss
  • increased energy and focus throughout the day
  • increased athletic performance
  • improved sleep quality
  • omega-3/omega-6 balance
  • reduced systemic inflammation
  • reduced risk of modern disease assosiated with metabolic syndrome such as, hypertension and cholesterol, diabetes, cancer, cardiovascular disease, osteoperorsis, and anything ending in “itis”

Just another low carbohydrate diet?

The Paleo Diet is generally thought of as a low-carbohydrate, moderate to high protein and fat, nutrient dense diet. People who choose a lower carbohydrate approach generally have weight loss as a goal. Athletes on the other hand, require a greater carbohydrate intake to help with recovery from repeated physical efforts. Depending on the individuals requirements (ie: weight loss, reduce insulin resistance, athletic performance, etc.), you can adjust accordingly.

Most modern low-carbohydrate diets are really high in protein and only contain moderate levels of fats much lower than the Paleo Diet. Whilst a modern low-carbohydrate diet may be great at promoting weight loss, many people who follow these diets only achieve short term success.

When compared to modern day low-carbohydrate weight loss diets, the Paleo Diet includes 100% of the nutritional elements (correct ratios of protein, fat, carbohydrate, vitamins and  minerals) required for both weight loss and promoting health and well being.

My own experience with the Paleo Diet

I have been using ancestral type diets for approximately six years now. In that time I’ve dropped nearly 8kg (without muscle loss) and currently I weigh about the same as I did ten years ago. I am bit more liberal with my nutrition these days. I’ve returned high quality full fat diary products like butter and some cheese back into my diet with success. I’ve never felt better. I’m rarely sick. I’m faster, fitter and stronger than ever.

But the biggest positive would have to be the reduction of acne. I had tried various medications and creams over the years but was unable to relieve facial acne. It wasn’t until after I had noticed my face had completely cleared that I learnt about the link between insulin resistance and acne. These days I’ll only have a minor breakout if I consume consecutive meals with high-glycemic load carbohydrates.

Feel free to comment on your own experiences with Paleo type diets or contact me if you have any questions and would like more information.

Welcome

Welcome. This blog will be targeting just about anybody who is interested in improving their overall quality of life, is interested in sports performance, improved body composition, weight management or even disease prevention.

All of the above areas can be achieved easily by following simple guidelines that were set out by previous generations. They ate whole foods (both animal and plant based), moved around frequently, had solid social connections and got adequate sleep.

Sounds simple? You would be surprised at how challenging it can be to achieve in the modern world. Fast foods, social media platforms, 24-hour trading are just some of the distractions in modern society.

Most of the information shared on this site will fall under one of the following categories:

  1. Nutrition;
  2. Training; and
  3. Lifestyle.

It is basically  a collection of information and lessons learned with regards to optimising human performance that I have picked up along the way.

Feel free to comment on topics, ask questions and share your own knowledge and experiences. After all, we’re all here to learn, adapt and evolve…