I just finished reading Paleo Diet for Athletes and really liked what it had to say. I am going to make an effort to keep Paleo in my mind when I look at food for now on. Here is a short version of the book. You can go straight to the website on TrainingPeaks by clicking on the name of this post. Enjoy.
A QUICK GUIDE TO
THE PALEO DIET FOR ATHLETES
© 2005 Loren Cordain, PhD and Joe Friel, MS
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 JoeFriel, 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 21 st 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 nonoptimal. 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 nonoptimal 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 welladapted to these nonoptimal
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 nonoptimal
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
to 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
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 warmup) don’t require any carbohydrate. Water will suffice
for these. A starting point for deciding how much to take in is 200 to 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 postworkout (but only after long and/or highly intense
exercise) and postrace use a recovery drink that contains both carbohydrate and
protein in a 45:1 ratio. You can buy a commercial product such as Ultrafit
Recovery™ (www.ultrafit.com) for this. Or you can make your own by blending 16
ounces of fruit juice with a banana, 3 to 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 30minute 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 carbprotein ratio. Now is the time to
eat nonoptimal 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 LongTerm
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
www.thepaleodiet.com 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
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 inflammations common to
athletes while promoting healing. This may include asthmatic conditions common in
● Lowers body acidity. Reduces the catabolic effect of acidosis on bone and muscle
while stimulating muscle protein synthesis. This is increasingly important with
● Is high in trace nutrients. Vitamins and minerals are necessary for optimal health
and longterm recovery from exercise. The most nutrientdense 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 crosscountry 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.
For more information on The Paleo Diet for Athletes go to…