Saturday, 3 May 2014

Paleo diet for athletes

02:27 Posted by Dhaval Bhandari
It is not only those who have problems with their weight, or those looking for a cure for some ailment or disease who find the Paleo Diet healthfully beneficial. Even the able bodied athletes in the peak of their form have found the Paleo to be the perfect diet for them particularly the endurance athletes who often spend many hours a day in intense training.

paleo diet for athletes


For years now, nutritional experts have been trying to look for that perfect food combination that will help boost the athletes’ endurance during training and ensure excellent performance during competitions. The nutritional requirement of the ordinary person who lives a sedentary lifestyle is so much more different from an athlete who is frequently subjected to intense exertions almost daily.

Apparently, this diet appears to be a God given gift to these champion athletes as most of them would attest to it. With the modern urban diet containing stuff that proves to be prohibitive to competing athletes, nutritionists have been scrambling to put together a diet that is tailor fitted to their specific nutritional needs.

Because athletes undergo intense workouts everyday, eating correctly before, during, and after every workout as well as in between workouts is of paramount importance to ensure they have enough energy to achieve peak performance and at the same time help their bodies recover fast from the grueling punishment. The main focus of an ideal athlete’s diet is to provide him with enough fuel to sustain him through many hours of intense energy output and to provide him nourishment after each session to help the body recover fast.

The ideal diet for endurance athletes must therefore be able to do one thing to maintain adequate glycemic loads in the blood at all times during the workout. This may mean increasing carbohydrate consumption more often and in larger quantities than the normal requirement of the ordinary individual.

Endurance athletes need to have a moderate intake of carbohydrates two hours before each intense  workout. This will give the body sufficient time to bring the blood sugar to the appropriate levels suited for rigorous exertions that requires intense energy output. If the workouts are going to be long winded, the athlete may have to increase his carbohydrate intake occasionally throughout the duration of the exercise. For work-outs that last no more than an hour, drinking water regularly would suffice.

He must also eat foods rich in carbohydrates and with a modest amount of protein within the first half-hour after each workout. This is essential for fast and effective recovery. If necessary, he can continue consuming high carbohydrate foods for several hours for an extended recovery. After which, he must go back to his regular Paleo diet regimen.

Below is a sample outline of a Paleo Diet modified for endurance athletes as culled from the works of various nutritional experts who are experienced in handling endurance athletes. Breakfast, lunch, and dinner were not included in this outline as they are not to be modified and should remain strictly Paleo.

The nutrient requirement of an athlete may vary from time to time depending on his training schedule. The carbohydrate and fat intake as shown in the above schedule is designed to go along well with the opposing swings in the athlete’s energy utilization as the training progresses from different stages. It is important to note down these energy swings and program the carbohydrate and protein intake accordingly.

The Paleo Diet is Naturally Ergogenic

Perhaps the most significant feature of this plan which specifically benefits athletes is it being truly ergogenic. It means it is packed with nutrients that enhance the performance of athletes. It is particularly high in animal protein which is the best source of branched-chain amino acids like leucine, valine, and isoleucine which are basically responsible for muscle growth and repair.

The modern urban diet is commonly acidic and the body’s natural reaction to neutralize acidity by breaking down muscle tissues. Athletes on a Western diet normally would find it hard to maintain and beef up their muscle stores after a hard day’s workout. On the other hand, athletes on the Paleo Diet do not suffer protein breakdown in their muscle mass. This diet plan actually produces a net alkaline effect in the body which is the exact opposite what the contemporary Western diet produces. This eliminates the need for the protein-breaking reaction of the body to acidic diets thus no protein muscle breakdown occurs.

The Paleo Diet for athletes has to be modified though. It must be tailored specifically to an athlete's training regimen and nutrient requirements. It must be modified in such a way as to allow a small window of opportunity for the consumption of starches and simple sugars by the athletes from non Paleo sources during, before, and after the actual exercise. It must allow high carbo intake by athletes as needed and when it suits them best while training both to keep them in their peak forms during the workout session and to give them the much needed nutrients for their bodies to recover rapidly in time for the next grueling exercise.

Outside of the training schedule, it is strictly Paleo all the way – low carb, high protein diet. That means consuming a lot of lean meat, seafood, poultry, vegetables and fresh fruits as much as the athletes like.

To summarize, the Paleo Diet has the following beneficial advantages for athletes as Compared to other diets available today for endurance athletes:
The Paleo diet for athletes has more of the branched chain amino acids (BCAA) which enhances muscle growth and anabolic function. The BCCAs also prevents or minimizes the suppression of the immune system which normally follows intensive workouts by endurance athletes.

  • The diet strikes a balance between the inflammation causing omega6 fatty acids and beneficial omega3 fatty acids. It reduces if not totally eliminates post-workout tissue inflammations which commonly affect athletes after a strenuous work out.
  • The Paleo diet produces an alkaline effect which lowers body’s acidity thus reducing the debilitating effect of acidosis on the bones and muscles while at the same time inducing protein synthesis in the muscle tissues for more muscle growth.
  • The Diet includes nutrient rich vegetables and sea foods. They are packed with essential vitamins and trace minerals needed by endurance athletes to maintain optimal health and for effective long term recovery from grueling exercises.

Training for such endurance sports as running, weight lifting, cycling, swimming, triathlon, rowing, and cross country marathons is truly taxing to the body. The endurance athlete is constantly in some sort of a recovery stage following every strenuous workout. This is where this diet is vital to an athlete as it re-nourishes the body with the much needed carbohydrates and proteins it lost in the training while at the same time providing the body with trace nutrients and vitamins needed to repair the body back into form. Together, the Paleo diet and a truly restful sleep become the essential components of the endurance athlete’s training program.

The athlete needs to recover fast and effectively after each heavy workout for him to be ready and able for the next. This has always been the biggest challenge an endurance athlete faces in preparation for a competition. Let truth be told, it will be impossible for an athlete to make a full and fast recovery with a strictly all Paleo diet. What he eats should be able replenish the stored nutrients and glycogen he lost on each training session and a low carb high protein diet like Paleo diet won’t suffice as it is.

That is why Paleo diet has to be modified to include the use of non Paleo high carbohydrate sources during, prior, and post training. It is the only way to ensure rapid recovery in time for the next heavy work out. In short, a modified paleo salad recipes and paleo diet for athletes has to be formulated to accommodate all the nutrient requirements of an endurance athlete.