Loren Cordain’s first book, The Paleo Diet, shattered many people’s predispositions about meat and eating with one simple idea: we should look to the past for a healthier future. Of course, Cordain’s anti-carb stance is nothing new. We’ve been feeling guilty about that extra scoopful of pasta, buttered croissant, or piece of garlic bread since the days of Adkins’ and the South Beach Diet.
However, for runners, cyclers, and athletes, in general, carbs have always been the way to go. As Cordain states, “Nearly every successful endurance athlete . . .ate with a heavy emphasis on cereals, bagels, bread, rice, pasta, pancakes, and potatoes.” Now, on the contrary, world-class athletes like Ryan Bolton and Gordo Bryn have taken up the Paleo Diet especially tailored for athletes and outlined in Cordain’s second book, The Paleo Diet for Athletes. If you’re an athlete that gravitates towards the carbs, you may want to change up your diet to see if you can increase your performance, speed, and endurance.
The Method of the Madness: Why Paleo Diet Meal Plan for Athletes Works
According to Cordain, there is significant scientific basis for the Paleo Diet hypothesis:
- Branched-chain amino acids found in animal protein build and repair muscle. When athletes eat meals with higher amounts of protein, they “reverse the natural breakdown of muscle that occurs following a workout and thereby reduce recovery time and train at a greater intensity at the next session.”
- Metabolic alkalosis reverses metabolic acidosis, preventing muscle loss. Um, excuse me? For those of us who aren’t exactly well acquainted with physiology, all foods are either broken down through the kidney as an acid or alkali. Athletes are more prone to acidosis, an increased acidity in the blood, due to the byproducts of exercise. The body neutralizes these acids by breaking down muscle tissue, something we definitely want to avoid. The Paleo Diet’s emphasis on fruits and vegetables, as opposed to grains and starches, reverses metabolic acidosis, and prevents muscle loss. Happy muscles, happy athlete.
- Antioxidant vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals found in fruits and vegetables provide nutrients to athletes, ward off illness, and improve general health. No arguing with that.
- While the Paleo Diet generally discourages starchy carbs and grains, Cordain contends that glycogen, a body fuel essential for high-level performance found in starches and sugars, can and should be consumed in the narrow time frame following exercise.
Following the Paleo Diet Meal Plan as an Athlete
While most of the methodology of the Paleo Diet for Athletes is identical to the Paleo Diet for anyone, as an athlete you should pay close attention to the post-workout window. Following exercise, feed your body with both a high protein food, like fish, and a starch, like bananas, potatoes, sweet potatoes, or yams. Other than in the post workout period, stay away from grains, dairy products, high-sodium meals, and fatty meats. Gravitate instead towards fresh fruit, vegetables, lean meats, and seafood. If employed correctly, the Paleo Diet meal plan for athletes could improve your skill, speed, and performance, on the court, track, or field.
Better meals begin with better planning. We can help.