When athletes eat a paleo diet

I just read it again on someone else’s blog; a commenter was convinced she needed to load up on carbs for her full on workouts. And who can blame her… and thousands (millions) of others who are force fed this information wherever they look. If I relied on my Runner’s World magazine alone, I’d be right there with her. And of course, this used to be me just over a year ago, when the night before my half marathons I ate a bowl of pasta, and immediately before the race I’d eat a banana, a granola bar, and drink a glass of orange juice. About halfway through my races I’d struggle with an upset stomach. But I wasn’t terribly concerned about it, as I’d read many times that this was a common occurrence during races for many runners.

When I changed my diet, I didn’t quite understand yet what effects this would have on every aspect of my life. After having survived the carb flu (brain fog, sluggishness, headaches), I was bursting with loads of energy. I slept better, was regular, and felt so much better overall. Of course, I still was concerned about how well I could perform, not loading up on carbs before workouts and ultimately my half marathon that was coming up quickly.

I did a little bit of homework (okay, hours and hours of homework), and learned, that paleo athletes perform at an incredible rate with an amazing amount of energy. A whole book has been written, called The Paleo Diet for Athletes. But, quite honestly, I had no interest in getting into the science of it all. I was already convinced, that living the paleo life was the right thing to do.
I started having coconut milk shakes (coconut milk, a banana, a spoonful of almond butter, an egg yolk and a handful of blueberries) before workouts. When I didn’t feel hungry, I’d only eat a little something… sometimes as little as half a banana, or half of a Lara Bar. Needless to say, I was incredibly impressed by my performance. I actually increased my running speed by almost 2 minutes per mile. After my runs I’d load up on protein and vegetables. This satisfied any cravings for junk food I might have had. However, those cravings for junk/carbs subsided very quickly. Soon, all I could think about after a race was how quickly I could get my hands on a steak or a paleo burger. I recovered quicker, hurt less, ran faster. There were no disadvantages to this new way of life.

This is not to say, that this will work for every single person. If you are a serious, hard working athlete, I strongly advise you to do your own research. Read the Paleo Diet for Athletes book.

Also check out Mark’s piece on Endurance Training and the Paleo Lifestyle. Mark does not recommend endurance training, so you will have to decide for yourself, what works for you, and if you should do this.

I run, because I love it. Running makes me happy. It is my passion, and I will continue to run as long as it feels right for me. What I do know is that carb loading is a thing of the past in my life, and I cannot wait for the first article in Runner’s World, that will cover a runner, who lives and performs on the paleo diet. As a matter of fact… maybe I’ll write a query right now. 😉

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