If you have been an endurance athlete for long or have even thought of going the long course chances are you have heard of the Paleo Diet. The Paleo Diet is said to aid in recovery, reduce the need for carbohydrates during a training session, aid in sleep, and create less of a chance of “bonking” during a race.
So, what is the Paleo Diet? It was a way of eating that was developed by Loren Cordain, Ph.D., whose book, The Paleo Diet, was published in 2002. It later became popular with endurance athletes after a sequel, The Paleo Diet for Athletes, was published three years later.
When eating the “Paleo way” an athlete tries to eat how the Paleolithic people ate focusing on fresh vegetables and fruit, clean protein like wild fish, free range poultry, grass fed meat, and eating healthy unprocessed fats like avocado, olive oil, and fish oil. Nothing processed. No grains. No legumes. No dairy.
At first glance, an athlete can see the diet as extremely restrictive. The typical endurance athlete who chooses to wholly embrace it will be forced to drastically alter his or her eating and shopping habits. One has to ask, do the benefits outweigh the costs? Studies are pointing to a resounding yes.
Studies have shown that both grains and legumes contain anti-nutrients, which bind to food, prohibiting your body from properly absorbing all the nutrients. They also may contribute to intestinal permeability (leaky gut) in which partially digested bits of proteins can leak out into the blood stream, over time leading to problems such as, IBS, Crohn’s disease, acne, chronic fatigue, and joint pain.
When it comes to dairy, the acidity of the products can cause the problem; especially if there is no alkaline-forming food to balance it out when it is eaten. This can lead to bone density problems if the body is continually searching for a way to balance out the acidity. One can easily rectify this problem by avoiding dairy and searching for their calcium intake in foods such as kale.
Many endurance athletes have chalked their athletic improvements up to the Paleo Diet. As with any diet it is important to research the pros and cons and make it work for you.