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Paleo Diet for Athletes

Mar 18, 2009
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I recently bought the Paleo Diet for Athletes in the hope that a higher protein diet over winter may help me shed some pounds while not doing as much endurance work (90 minute workouts or less). I was worried about starting such a diet during the season because of the fear of bonking with a relatively low carbohydrate intake.

I was interested in this diet and think it has a number of very good points. It basically is a mixture between a high protein-low GI diet. However, I found it too extreme for my liking with a number of restrictions that I do not necessarily agree with, such as no dairy foods, no cereal based products (breakfast cereal, breads, etc) and no canned tuna to name a few. While I agree that real tuna is obviously better than canned tuna, that is not always possible or feasible. My one other comment is that while the sample recipes are good, they really are for dinners only. There is no sample menus for either breakfast or lunch, and these are the two meals for which I find it difficult to prepare a high protein meal with the recommended foods. Overall, I would rate it as a good start with some good information on how to eat before, during and immediately after exercise, but it can moderated to some extent with some reasonable alternatives and better sample diets for meals other than dinner.
 
Nov 5, 2009
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It's a good plan. For high performance, one must include a post-workout shake. There's just too much science behind it's efficacy to not. As far as the recipe's only being for dinner, that's a moot point. Why can one not eat steak, for example, for breakfast? Furthermore, don't be trapped by laziness. DOn't think you don't have time to prepare good foods and have to stick to the canned version. Anyone who watches TV has time to prepare good food. My suggestion is to get over meal-based stereotypes and don't think of breakfast as such, it's meal #1. This will help get over any irrational or emotional attachments to consuming specific foods for specific meals (which has no merit or basis in science).

If you do decide to try this plan, and I do recommend it with some minor modifications (addition of whey protein shakes). Expect to have energy fluctuations for the first two weeks while your body is adapting, after this, you'll likely feel, look and perform great.
 
Apr 3, 2009
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jfcowell said:
If you do decide to try this plan, and I do recommend it with some minor modifications (addition of whey protein shakes). Expect to have energy fluctuations for the first two weeks while your body is adapting, after this, you'll likely feel, look and perform great.

I already experienced the low energy at the tail end of a 1 hour trainer ride the other afternoon. I had ridden 3 days in a row, and also worked out at the gym during my lunch hour at work those same days. At about the fifty minute mark I started to feel sluggish and felt awful.

Having read the book I think it makes a lot of sense and like the modifications. But I guess my only question about it is the intake of fuel before, during and after rides. I'm normally someone that doesn't need much in the way of fuel during a ride unless its over 60 miles (usual pace is 17-18mph avg - on a "no chain" day close to 19 avg). So do I use a gel before or during rides now? And then regarding the recovery shakes the book mentions, do I use one after even a one hour trainer session?

As for the meals, I do not agree that they are dinner only. Anything can be modified portion wise to fit any other meal. And whereas I thought it would be "weird" not eating cereal for breakfast I've enjoyed having fish most days. Not only is it a good protein source, but it's light. Add some honeydew melon and it's quite tasty.

What I have found is that my calorie intake is much less than it would be if eating grains and dairy. I use the daily plate at Livestrong.com and was surprised to see my caloric intake totals add up to a lower numner. However it does make sense as what calories I am getting are more direct and shall we say more optimal because the sources are more direct and not processed.

I haven't done any outside rides yet, it's late fall in New England so daylight is scarce on weekday afternoons. This weekend will be my first time outside since starting this, so I'll be curious to see how it pans out.

Oh and one last thing, I do plan on a modified version of the PD for Athletes that will include some (read minor) gluten free pasta and other gf items, just because. And I figure going 85-90% will be better than trying for 100% and failing.

I would be curious for the doctor to explain more of the anti-inflammatory benefits.
 
Mar 18, 2009
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jfcowell said:
As far as the recipe's only being for dinner, that's a moot point. Why can one not eat steak, for example, for breakfast? Furthermore, don't be trapped by laziness.

Sorry - disagree. I don't watch TV in the morning. I am up at 6am and working out for an hour or so, 20 minutes for breakfast, and then shower and out the door to work. Where is the laziness there? Same for lunch - the only option is to have left overs from the previous night (and that would get boring pretty quickly) because I cannot make one of the suggested meals for lunch while at work and do not have the time in the morning to prepare one of these meals. And I am not going to wake up at 5am to prepare breakfast and lunch for the day - that's not laziness, it's just not having your life ruled by a diet. For any diet/lifestyle to be effective, it needs to be sustainable. If it's not something you can fit into your everyday life, then it is ultimately not going to be successful. That's my problem with the Paleo Diet for Athletes with the current meal recommendations and it is far from a moot point for me.
 
Apr 3, 2009
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Why not prepare the meals ahead of time and just reheat them? I have a commute that is just under an hour and get up quite early. I prepare my lunch the night before and usually will cook a few things ahead of time for breakfast and reheat them as needed. Sure having it fresh out of the oven is better, but the convienence of reheating is nice.
 
First off - I don't do heavy exercise, hardly any exercise at all, so my experience with Primal/Paleo/Low Carb is restricted in that sense to "read about it only".

However, I have for the past year-and-a-half played around with my diet starting off w Atkins over Macrobiotic type and Primal. Now I eat exactly what I like when I like but am very aware of how my body reacts when I do different things.

How your body works is so much more than just about the raw energy you get from the food but also very much the inflammation issues noted above.

For example I am clearly not too good with diary and grains. However, there's a great difference to doing low-fat and high-fat diary as these problems are mainly in the low-fats (tied to the carbs/sugars in the diary) and certain grains are far worse than others.

Most people would probably say that although they sometimes feel bloated it's not a big issue. Personally I bet that it's not until you've actually tried to remove the culprits from your diet and feel what it's really like to not be bloated that you realise that it's a bigger problem than you credit it for, but you wouldn't know because you're not in tune with your body.

I've not read the PD for Athletes, but find Mark's Daily Apple very informative. I highly suggest visiting his site as it's not just about the diet - he covers "Primal Workout" and goes in-depth on protein sources and which are best for you. Also goes in to the importance of grain-fed v grass-fed meat - which is more important maybe than you'd tend to think. His approach to foods is also more towards practical than ideal - we're not living in a Paleo world after all and do need to function in a modern one. He's also got some interesting stuff about sleep patterns and intermittent fasting.

Personally I dropped about 30lbs to get to around my ideal weight without even trying (and not even working out), just by eating right. Don't have much fat on my body now and am happy about that, however, next step is obviously to get a more healthy activity level going - too many hours in front of the laptop still!

Anyway - as this is supposed to be about athlete's diets I think I can contribute by confirming that a good portion of what you would experience by changing diets is NOT different to what you would experience if you weren't exercising a lot.

For example - changing from a carb dependent diet to a protein/fat dependent one will give you a short period of energy imbalance while switching. Being on a carb diet you'll expect to have the need to snack and have many smaller meals and you'll have a loss of energy at some point in the afternoon. Having a "fat-adapted" body instead you won't normally have that lack of energy in the afternoon - and you won't need to eat very often either... A few days in you'll likely feel a slight dizziness for a day or two and if you're strict about your diet once you're past the carb-cravings they will go away.

I have also noticed eating less and I think one the most important things to pick while changing diet to a high fat/high protein one is to get to know your body better. Then you'll eat far more consciously.

Don't underestimate the importance of getting rid of grains! It's far better being very strict to start with and add back in stuff for experimenting again later on. If there's something that's problematic for you and you don't get it out from the start you won't feel the full benefit and will likely think it's the diet that's wrong. Wheat may be more important for the sugar cravings that sugar in itself - think about that. If you've got a problem curbing the afternoon snack craving it could easily be because you still think it's fine to have bread with your lunch or cereals for breakfast...

Rolf Devinci is also an interesting blog - guy cycles a lot and does primal and fasting...

One final point (well, two actually) - most people switching or about to switch miss two important points. DON'T be afraid of fat and STAY AWAY from processed foods.
 
Jul 17, 2009
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The biggest struggle for me is the time it takes. Seriously it is constant preparation for every meal.

cutting and cooking enough veggies for carbs for and endurance schedule is cumbersome. Doable but quite easy to fall off when on the go or out on business.

training early in the morning and getting to work is the hardest. That bagel on the counter at Peetes coffee is an easy fix for an otherwise bonk
 
Apr 23, 2012
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I started following Friels version of the diet (I think an early one) three years ago and the change was pretty dramatic. I went from racing weight of 165 lbs to 153 lbs. I guess on paper doesn't look like much but I am 6'1 and was already thin at 165. The 10 lbs represented the fabled "last 5 pounds" I had always tried to lose but never could. This past year I have not raced and without really trying have kept weight steady at 157.

I've read the studies that say no diet is better than the other but I have to believe they are missing something in the comparison. My suspicion is there is a difference between response for inactive vs active person. I think the key is the removal of foods that cause hunger cravings simply because it cuts down on the sheer volume of food you need to intake to be satisfied. This, in turn, helps you manage the portion size easier. I suspect if you are inactive, managing portion size is not quite as big of a deal because you do not need to constantly worry about whether you have taken in enough to prevent bonking for your next workout.

Of course prior to my switch I was extremely carb heavy - big plates of pasta/rice etc. So maybe someone more in the middle of the road would not see as big of a difference.