Paleo Diet for Athletes?

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When I mention the Paleo Diet for Athletes to my friends these days, they look at me like I’m going crazy.

That’s because they know my favorite foods are all of the carb variety (and avocado) and they also know how much I run. How in the world can you do that running with no carbs?

Actually, if you read what Joe Friel says, it makes sense. Eat carbs during and after working out, for recovery. For the rest of your day, eat the good stuff… or bad, depending how you look at it.

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When I crossed the finish line of the LA Marathon, I knew nutrition was going to be my next big battle. [Actually, sitting on the toilet – or anywhere else – and standing back up was my next big battle, but you know what I mean.]

I trained as hard as I could for this race and still ran a disappointing (to me) 4:25. I felt dehydrated the entire time, and not as strong as I should’ve been, given my physical preparation.

Clearly, I’ve been doing something wrong, and the fattest finger points at my obscenely indulgent carbo-loading the days before the race… or just pretty much every day.

If Friel is right – and he probably is – then I’ve been eating the wrong stuff at the wrong time.

So let me tell you about this Paleo diet for athletes, and you tell me what you think?

[Read up on Paleo diet basics here.]

Friel divides an athlete’s day into five stages:

  • Stage 1 – Before exercise: this is when you eat some low to moderate-glycemic index carbs. Make sure they are low in fiber, too. Apple sauce is a good option, Ensure is another. But I’m pretty sure this tuxedo chocolate mousse doesn’t cut it?
  • Stage 2 – During exercise: if you’re running, biking, or otherwise engaging in high-intensity exercise for longer than an hour, you’ll need to take in some high-glycemic index carbs. Most people do it via a sports drink or gel. They cause a quick energy burst without taxing the stomach.
     
    Tuxedo chocolate mousse might be acceptable here, if you can carry and eat it without getting it all over yourself. Although… who really cares if it goes all over your face?
  • Stage 3 – In the first 30 minutes immediately after exercise: This is a key recovery period and you have to take in carbohydrates even if the last thing you want to do is eat. A smoothie with some fruit juice, banana, protein powder and ice is fine.
  • This one has blueberries, strawberries, almond milk, some fruit juice and whey powder.
  • After exercice – Stage 4: The length of this stage depends on the length of your workout. If you exercised for two hours, this is the one and a half hour after that 30-minute period immediately after you were done. This is when you eat raisins. Or yams, potato, bread, pasta, bagels, rice. Focus on high-glycemic index carbs that will replenish your body’s exhausted stores quickly.
  • Remainder of your day – Stage 5: until you get back to Stage 1, eat your veggies, fruits and protein. Quit dairy. Eat nuts if you want/ need the calories.

And that’s about it. [Head over to Training Peaks, of which Friel is co-founder, for more details.]

I’ve never felt in the least interested in the Paleo diet, but this modified version makes a ton of sense. Definitely something to try in the weeks leading up to my next half marathon (when we’ll find out if it helps?) and onward!

So… Anyone tried the Paleo diet? What do you think about the above modified version?

Today’s workout:Nothing special, just biked to the Sports Basement to get some biking stuff. It’s funny, now I have spare tubes and two CO2 canisters… and absolutely no idea how to use them.

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