Paleo diet for athletes – does it work when the Paleo diet lacks starches, processed sugar and grains?
Neil Stephenson was affected with a parasite in 2004. She took medication for months but didn’t feel better. Stephenson had always and continued to eat healthy foods, but doctors realized she had developed stomach problems and gluten–intolerance.
Neil decided to try out the Paleo diet – a diet consisting of foods eaten during the Paleolithic period, before the discovery of agriculture.
Neil Stephenson, a nutritional coach and trainer, who now runs a Paleo blog, Paleoista, said that she failed better in 3 days after trying the Paleo diet.
While most athletes eat (and know they should) lean protein and fresh vegetables and fruits, many still feel processed sugar, starches and grains provide energy.
Joe Friel, the author of Triathletes’ Training Bible and Cyclists’ Training Bible, and the U.S. Olympic Triathlon coach, says Paleo diet for athletes can be highly beneficial with few simple adjustments to the basic Paleo diet.
The Paleo diet has greater micro nutrient content than a sugar and starch diet, which allows an athlete to train with a greater stress load.
Athletes should eat foods with a low fiber content and moderate glycemic index only 2 hrs before a hard workout.
However, during long hours of an athletic event, athletes will need to consume quickly processed carbohydrates in form of sports drinks. Stephenson acknowledges that she also uses carbohydrate gels during Ironman races, even though she eats 100 percent Paleo. During short events of less than an hour, an athlete can drink water. An athlete, on a low carbohydrate diet or the Paleo diet is teaching their body to use more stored fat, and this can level out blood sugar fluctuation.
After an intense workout, an athlete must have a drink with protein and carbohydrate in a 4-5 : 1 ratio. This will help the athlete in the rebuilding and recovery of the muscles.
You need to focus on eating carbohydrates – foods like pasta – and not eat Paleo after few hours of intense exercise. Friel recommends eating potatoes, yams and resins in this period.
The problems that athletes face come from their inappropriate understanding of Paleo diet, improper planning and not being able to understand their bodies. Stephenson says Paleo is not a low-calorie diet, rather a calorie-restricted diet.
A CrossFit and Triathlon coach in San Francisco, Nate Helming, was on the Paleo diet for 8 months but had to give up due to inappropriate sustained endurance. He says “I didn’t see a big change.” That’s because before he started Paleo, he was already close to a healthy diet as Paleo.
However, 2 of his athletes who were on the Paleo diet did lose large amounts of weight – one by 26 lbs. in 3 months.
Stephenson also had athletes who were on nutrition bars and electrolyte drinks coming to him for help. They wanted to know about Paleo as a healthy diet structure.
So does Paleo diet for athletes really work?
The Paleo diet is not a high starch and sugar diet like many athletes eat. The Paleo diet can have many effects.
- Increased fat oxidation which builds endurance for long events
- More anti-oxidants and vitamins for a better immune system
- Balanced pH levels
- Better muscle recovery
All of these makes the Paleo diet for athletes recommended by coaches and makes you healthier in the long haul.
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