Paleo Sports Nutrition

Paleo 101

Seems like everyone is joining the Paleo diet and lifestyle these days. This is the most logical fad diet I have ever seen so I am pro paleo for the most part. Just like with any diet people start to follow it blindly without thinking logically for themselves. They just look for the big bold words PALEO APPROVED and eat it right up. I wonder how many people don't even know what the diet consists of and why? The paleo diet is based off of foods presumed to have been eaten by our early ancestors consisting of grass fed meat, fish, vegetable, healthy fats, and fruit. The diet excludes dairy, legumes, all grains, and processed industrial foods. Grass fed butter, raw milk, and pasture raised eggs seem to be an exception to the diet if you can tolerate them. I love this diet because it is a GREAT guide to teach people how to eat real whole foods again without feeling restricted- this makes the "diet" sustainable for long term health. There is actually a huge selection of DELICIOUS food to choose from and you can find some great tasting dishes to make with the ingredients available on this diet.

Are you on an accidental low carb diet? 

Paleo is basically a low carb, high fat, and high protein diet so you should feel pretty satisfied after every meal because of the satiety effects from all the healthy fats. This catchy diet is bringing the right fats back into our diets after demonizing them for so long which is a good thing but now it seems we are putting carbohydrates in the danger zone. Yes the diet does get small amounts of carbs from veggies which is probably fine for most sedentary or moderately active people since they can use fat as their main fuel source. Fat is the dominant fuel source for slow & low intensity activities but when intensity increases fat use decreases and carbohydrate use increases for quick and powerful energy. This is where problems arise in the paleo fitness community, especially crossfitters and those looking to lose body fat. High intensity workouts such as weightlifting or sprints need carbohydrates for fuel and recovery, and all the metabolic conditions to support growth. A lot of athletes following a paleo diet are not eating enough to support their activity levels. Most report when starting the diet they feel great and quickly shed some weight but after a month or two they start to feel pretty crappy. Paleo doesn't "allow" some harmless (for most people) quick carbohydrates like rice and oats which are great fuel sources for athletes. The only options paleo allow would be root vegetables which include yucca, plantains, sweet potato, pumpkin, squashes, carrots, beets, parsnips etc. which all contain relatively high amounts of fiber making them slower digesting carbs and very low calorie so you probably need to eat way more than you would think. To replenish glycogen stores after training you want to consume carbohydrates high on the glycemic index to quickly shuttle glycogen back into muscle. 

SOLUTION: To get the most out of these carbs you will want to turn them into quick digesting carb for post workout nutrition which you can do by baking them! A good example would be to bake yams or butternut squash until they are soft enough to mash into "smashed yams". Another good way to score some high GI carbs without "cheating" on the paleo diet is by eating dried fruit like mangos or dates post workout. 

Some signs you are not eating enough carbs include trouble sleeping, frequently getting up to go to the bathroom throughout the night, low energy, poor performance in the gym, stalled weight loss, poor recovery, and brain fog. TAKE AWAY: My suggestion for the paleo athlete is to find a macronutrient balance that makes you feel your best! Even if that means bending the rules a bit and adding in some hearty oats or wild rice to fuel your active lifestyle. It is best to place your carbohydrates around your workouts and add more carbs on days where you activity level increases. 


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Written by:

Martine Acanfora