Paleo Diet for Athletes

Hi! How was everyone’s weekend? Yes, I know it’s Tuesday, but Monday was such a blur, I’m counting today as the beginning of the week. 4 day week! Woo! (Not really).

We finally had some gorgeous weather here in Boston. I spent most of my day on Saturday rotating between laying out on my deck and the beach. It was the perfect opportunity to finally dive into The Paleo Diet for Athletes, which has been sitting on my nightstand for the past 4 months. Life has been so busy lately! I hate when I don’t have time to read. I try to read at night before going to bed, but the combination of Kava tea and physical exhaustion make keeping my eyes open a struggle.

So far, I’m pretty fascinated by everything I’m reading. I feel like I’ve been semi-slacking on eating clean lately, and reading stuff like this is always a good motivation to get back on track. What I like most about this book is that it is specifically geared towards athletes, and explains exactly why your body performs at its peak when eating a primal diet.

I won’t get into the super science-y stuff here (mostly because I have to read it over and over again before I actually understand it) but wanted to share the most interesting points I’ve come across so far. Dr. Cordain has a great breakdown of what you should eat before, during, and after your workouts to achieve prime performance. Thought this would be good incentive for everyone heading into the week! I’m going to go ahead and copy and paste directly from a more knowledgeable source, because if I tried to paraphrase, it would end up in doodles.

Stage I: Eating Before Exercise

In brief, we recommend that athletes eat low to moderate glycemic index carbohydrates at least two hours prior to a hard or long workout or race. There may also be some fat and protein in this meal. All foods should be low in fiber. Take in 200 to 300 calories for every hour remaining until exercise begins. If eating two hours prior is not possible, then take in 200 or so calories 10 minutes before the workout or race begins.

Stage II: Eating During Exercise

During long or hard workouts and races you will need to take in high glycemic index carbohydrates mostly in the form of fluids. Sports drinks are fine for this. Find one that you like the taste of and will drink willingly. Realize that events lasting less than about an hour (including warmup) don’t require any carbohydrate. Water will suffice for these. A starting point for deciding how much to take in is 200 to 400 calories per hour modified according to body size, experience and the nature of the exercise (longer events require more calories than short).

Stage III: Eating Immediately After

In the first 30 minutes postworkout (but only after long and/or highly intense exercise) and postrace use a recovery drink that contains both carbohydrate and protein in a 4-5:1 ratio. You can buy a commercial product such as Ultrafit Recovery™ ( for this. Or you can make your own by blending 16 ounces of fruit juice with a banana, 3 to 5 tablespoons of glucose (such as CarboPro) depending on body size, about 3 tablespoons of protein powder, especially from egg or whey sources and two pinches of salt. This 30minute window is critical for recovery. It should be your highest priority after a hard workout or race.

Stage IV: Eating for Extended Recovery

For the next few hours (as long as the preceding challenging exercise lasted) continue to focus your diet on carbohydrates, especially moderate to high glycemic load carbohydrates along with protein at a 4-5:1 carbprotein ratio. Now is the time to eat nonoptimal foods such as pasta, bread, bagels, rice, corn and other foods rich in glucose as they contribute to the necessary carbohydrate recovery process. Perhaps the perfect Stage IV foods are raisins, potatoes, sweet potatoes and yams.

Stage V: Eating for LongTerm

Recovery For the remainder of your day, or until your next Stage I, return to eating a Paleo Diet by focusing on optimal foods. For more information on the Paleo Diet go to or read The Paleo Diet by Loren Cordain, Ph.D.

via Training Peaks

What I found most interesting is that he recommends eating non-Paleo foods such as pasta, bread, or bagels immediately after working out. But only during that specific time period. Say whaaat?!

I’m going to continue to avoid doing that just because of my gluten sensitivity, but found it interesting nonetheless. Also- he recommends having sports drinks during extra long workouts. I also disagree with that, just because I find drinks like Gatorade and Powerade make my stomach cramp up, and I prefer sticking to just H2O when exercising.

How do you guys feel about that? Does anyone else stick to a primal diet but carb load after an intense workout? Any Gatorade fiends? Is this information as shocking to you as it is to me?! Spill the beans!



5 thoughts on “Paleo Diet for Athletes

  1. I buy into the extreme adaptability of the human body, so there are a multitude of variations one can practice, and what ‘works’ for him or her will likely work well only because the individual has adapted to it. Therefore, there must be a mental component to it.

    I alternate my workouts with weights and a short run on one day, and a long run the next. To illustrate the point I made above, I’ll describe my technique. The weird part is that I eat right before sleep, altering the components, depending on the nature of the next day’s workout. If its weights, then its basically an amalgam of everything; I just need a good dose of calories. If the next day is a long run, I carb it up! My rationale for eating before going to sleep, which is an extremely frowned upon practice by many, is the body does almost all of its repairs and recovery while we are asleep. Therefore, I provide it with lots of tools. Furthermore, I believe that calorically, my body can process calories while I am asleep, but it will not burn them off. Thus, when I get up, I do not have that full feeling, which makes cardio miserable, but I know that 1500 calories I had in carbs the night before has been converted to fuel and is ready.

    I am not saying it’s a good idea. I am not suggesting it to anyone. I am just pointing out what I do, and that it works for me. The bottom line is everyone is bound by the need for calories to perform optimally, but the nature consumption of said calories is not as universal.

    Do whatever works!

  2. I would not take gatorade just because it is totally out of being primal/paleo. My first rule is not to consume anything that I can’t read, so I believe if I would take gatorade ingredients list, there would be nothing natural about it. Anyhow, I don’t do long training, so I don’t need a high carb load, but when I do for a long climbing day, I consume carbs and fat, usually dried fruits (load of sugar) and nuts, to keep going and having endurance. So far it has worked even before I was even thinking about being on healthy eating diet.

  3. Pingback: Beginning my adventure in Paleo … or is it Primal? « My Journey to Godliness!

  4. Pingback: Paleo Diet And Exercise

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