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A Nutritional Formula for Peak Athletic Performance
BY LOREN CORDAIN Summarize by Rett Larson - Performance Corps • December 16, 2010
and lean proteins in favor of carbohydrate loading with grains. the athlete’s ability to recover and overall health is compromised. nutritional thinking has gone haywire. and the periodization of diet in parallel to training. Athletes not longer eat as many “real” foods and instead turn to commercial products and supplements.The Paleo Diet for Athletes A Nutritional Formula for Peak Athletic Performance INTRODUCTION Since the 1970s. is in the timing of carb and protein ingestion. the selection of foods based on their glycemic load. vegetables. While carbs are beneficial in terms of glycogen storage (essential for endurance events). This diet is specifically for health and sports performance and not fat loss. they aren’t rich in other essential nutrients. Probably the greatest difference though. There has been a shift away from fruits. . The Paleo Diet is higher in protein and fat and lower in carbs than what is currently recommended to athletes.why’d we have to mess it up? The Paleo Diet for Athletes proposes that we need to reverse this trend and go back to eating the way that Homo sapiens have been for most of our existence on this planet. although that is a common result. the way diet affects blood acidity. Cavemen had it right . As a result.
000 years ago . Seventy-percent of the US diet is made up of food that modern man has created and they’re made up of the same ingredients: refined grains. These food-mixtures have displaced more healthful fruits. He was challenged by Dr. fit. The ubiquitous high fructose corn syrup was only introduced to the US food supply in the 1970s. etc. Cordain in 1995 to go Paleo. And what about bread. was an All-American duathlete and highly successful triathlete coach. Not refined sugars (which makes up 18% of our total daily calories) . and that process didn’t exist until 13. and after 2 weeks of allowing his body to adapt he found it to be totally ergogenic (performance enhancing).they didn’t have the tools to get sugar from sugarcane plants or sugar beets. Honey was all the cavemen had in the way of refined sugar.6 of American’s daily energy intake) . degenerative disease or obesity.a relatively short amount of time in the history of our species. and seafood in our diets.Common Counterarguments 1. vegetables. and disease-free. Cordain make some necessary adjustments to the Paleo diet to accommodate . refined sugars. and perhaps some processed dairy product. The fact is that most deaths during the Paleo era was due to accidents and trauma. Joe Friel. artificial flavoring. many humans died at birth or before they hit puberty. 2. lean meats. not chronic.cows weren’t domesticated until relatively recently. It’s easiest to answer what foods they couldn’t have eaten. this was the average. While it’s true that the average life span of early hunter-gatherers was short. say. Cavemen didn’t live long enough to develop heart disease. cancer. The co-author of the book. processed vegetable oil. Rett’s Note: this book is primarily geared toward endurance athletes. salt. a beach volleyball player. Not milk (which makes up 10. Whole grains are indigestible unless you break them down by milling and then cook the starch. and cereals (which represents about 25% of the US diet)? They were almost never consumed by the caveman. and that was seasonal AND tough to get. Those who did live were universally lean. Friel went on to help Dr. grains. Imagine having to camp in the wilderness your entire life and you get an idea of why average life spans were low. and it’s hurting our health and athletic performance. so most of the advice and plans contained within it are for athletes whose energy demands are different than.We don’t really know what the Caveman ate. Without modern medicine.
and salty processed foods at the expense of base-producing foods like fruits and veggies. dairy products.Blood acidity vs. The US diet is heavy on acid-producers like cheese. This process is reversed on the Paleo Diet. you get lots of BCAA. He also found that some carbs are better than others for restoring muscle glycogen. sports nutritionists took this info to the extreme and have hurt performance as a result. 3. Foods that are not Paleo are cereal grains. One way the body neutralizes the acid is by breaking down muscle tissue. grains. To boot. and your body can get all that it needs in that little window of time. Fruits and veggies are rich sources of antioxidant vitamins and minerals. like bananas.Trace Nutrients. Branched Chain Amino Acids (BCAA). and illnesses which can derail your training. Combine those with the zinc and B-vitamins in lean meat and you have an immune-system that’s primed to fight colds. and yams. 4. Much like BCAA. Aside from stimulating muscle growth with BCAA. high glycemic fruits and vegetables. WHY IS THE PALEO DIET FOR ATHLETES ERGOGENIC? 1. sweet potatoes. All foods report to your kidneys as either an acid or a base (alkali). glycogen is most effectively produced in the muscles right after your workout. poultry. fresh fruit. flu. 2. exercise also makes you more acidic. Switching from carbs post-workout to lean meats leads to improved recovery. Unfortunately. and veggies as you like. potatoes.the higher glycogen needs of athletes and have since proven its effectiveness on many different athletes. The biggest refinement the Joe Friel made to the original Paleo Diet was to recommend the consumption of starches and sugars during and after workouts for athletes. legumes . Athletes have to maintain high stores of muscle glycogen and dietary starches and sugars are the best source for making it.Glycogen Stores. seafood. the Paleo Diet also prevents muscle protein breakdown by keeping your blood from getting too acidic. Because the diet is high in animal proteins. Alkalinity. NUTRITIONAL CHARACTERISTICS OF PALEO FOR ATHLETES IN A NUTSHELL You can eat as much lean meat. which are different than any other amino acids in that they are potent stimulants for building and repairing muscles. New research has also shown that BCAA work best when they’re consumed in the post-exercise window.
(beans). You have to replace those immediately when you wake up. The modifications only need to happen in the window before. during. the saturated fat content is very low. If you don’t replenish your fluids you set yourself up to be dehydrated for your workout. • Reestablish normal body fluid levels: when you sleep you lose water through sweating. You may be down 20 ounces of water when you wake up. Omega-6 fatty acids are found in vegetable oils and processed food and they’re not healthy if they’re consumed without omega-3s to balance them out. EATING BEFORE EXERCISE If you’re training 10+ hours a week then concessions need to be made to the Stone Age diet in order for you to recover quickly enough. during. One is that immediately before. breathing. To be covered later. There are a few exceptions to this. the fats that you get in the Paleo diet (monounsaturated and polyunsaturated) are “just plain good for you” and help lower your cholesterol. Get yourself accustomed to eating something (liquid meal to start) right when you wake up. The pre-exercise eating goals are: • Satisfy hunger: this is why athletes need to eat in the morning. alcohol. Omega-3 fatty acids are found in fish and they’re healthy. fatty meats. and bathroom visits. sugars. . Eat at least 2 hours before your workout or match. and after a workout certain non-Paleo foods should be eaten to help recovery. If you compare a day of Paleo eating to a day of USDA recommended eating you’ll notice a lot more protein and much less carbs in the Paleo (obviously). • Optimize performance: The big one. that’s just a training issue. and nearly all processed foods. and after the workout though. and if your body isn’t hungry early in the morning. salty foods. • Restock carb stores depleted by the overnight fast: overnight your body uses your stored glycogen (carbs) to repair muscle and do general body maintenance. But even though more than half of the calories in the diet come from meat and seafood. The USDA diet has terrible ratios of bad to good (14:1) while the Paleo diet is generally 3:1. Plus.
Stir in some whey protein to slow the glycemic reaction and add BCAAs. take in 600-900. lots of fluids. take in only water. take in 400-600 calories. Fruit is a great pre-workout carb source. especially BCAA. If you have a nervous stomach then a blender might be your best friend. by the time the workout arrives you’ll have already burnt through that sugar high and you’ll be hungry and sluggish. • Include protein. and in the last hour before the workout/game. . applesauce mixed with protein powder. It does many good things including lowering the glycemic index of any carbs eaten with it. • Baby food. baby food. • Eat mostly carbohydrates. So if it’s 2 hours before your workout. WHAT TO EAT PRE-EXERCISE • Consume 200-300 calories per hour prior to exercise. You don’t want anything sitting in your gut come game-time. Make sure the applesauce is unsweetened. Blend low-fiber fruit with fruit juice and protein powder. If it’s 3 hours beforehand. FOOD CHOICES • Eggs and fruit. • Suggested foods: fruit with eggs. especially fruits that are low in fiber (bananas. • Keep it low in fiber. Eggs are loaded with protein and easily digested by most folks.• Prepare the body to recover quickly after exercise: it’s easier to recover after your workout if the pump is primed before. • Liquid meals. the slower the energy-bringing sugars are released. sports bar with protein. • Hydrate well. • Reduce the glycemic index of the meal the more time you have before the workout. melon) • Applesauce mixed with Protein Powder. If you eat something really sugary (high index) 2 hours before the workout. and of course. peaches. The lower the glycemic index. liquid meals/shakes. If you have to buy something commercial look for options with added protein and non-dairy bases.
excessive fluid intake (the stomach can only hold 32 oz of liquid). So what causes the burning sensation and fatigue we feel during sprint intervals? Well. and most of your calories taken in during exercise should come from liquids. This has caused death in marathoners (and radio show contestants) over the past few years. remember the pH scale? It goes from 1 to 14. LACTIC ACID’S BAD RAP For years scientists thought that this “waste product” was a cause of fatigue and soreness but this thinking is now being challenged. dehydration (especially in heat). Least attractive option but high on convenience. EATING DURING EXERCISE [This chapter is written primarily for the endurance athlete. salt water ingestion (ocean swims). Soreness the next day is caused by damaged muscle cells which are the result of excess usage. with 1 being super acidic (hydrochloric acid) and 14 . Drink tons of water with these so they don’t draw fluids away from your body. If it’s a longer race. Hyponatremia is when you drink too much water and it lowers the sodium levels in your blood to dangerous levels. take in fuel only at periods of low intensity. nervousness.• Sports bar with protein. Research has shown that while lactic acid IS produced during times of intense exercise. excessive nutrients. there’s no need to take in additional fuel during it. At very high intensities of exercise (above 85% or anaerobic threshold) the gastrointestinal system essentially stops functioning as blood is shunted to your working muscles and skin. so I’ll summarize it quickly and point out some of the cool exercise physiology stuff that everyone should find interesting] Eating during exercise is a learned skill that required planning and testing. If an event is short and intense. POSSIBLE REASONS FOR FEELING NAUSEA DURING WORKOUTS Poor pacing. More important than fuel intake during exercise is fluid intake. it is actually processed and converted to fuel to keep the muscles contracting.
Remember that during intense exercise (especially when carb stores are low) the body will break down protein in the muscle to create glucose.This meal is most easily taken in liquid form because it’s more palatable and rehydrates. In that crucial period your goals are to: 1. Provide amino acids for the re-synthesis of proteins damaged during exercise. Replace carbo stores. 4.neutral is a pH of 7. Glycogen is stored inside the muscle where it’s quickly broken down for energy. EATING AFTER EXERCISE The period immediately after an exercise session of competition should be your highest priority nutritionally. Take in protein in a 4:1 or 5:1 carb:protein ratio. and it actually helps clear H units from the muscle.4. Not very important in exercise durations under 4 hours or in cool weather but electrolytes like sodium and potassium are critical for muscle relaxation and . Rehydration. specifically the first 30 minutes after exercise because your body is most receptive to storing carbs then. Protein recovery shakes and powders are easiest.4 but even slight changes in that number severely affect how you feel. This is especially true if you worked out or competed over an hour. So if lactic acid doesn’t cause that drop. Take in 16 oz of water for every pound you lost (over the next few hours). During a 2 to 3 minutes all-out effort you may get down to 6. 3. it produces two H units. The same amount of lactic acid is produced regardless.being super alkaline (milk is 10) .either glycogen or glucose (both are carbs). At the greatest sweat rates athletes lose up to a half gallon per hour. which lowers the pH of your blood and increases the acidity pain. potatoes. and grains are good for immediate release while the fructose in fruit is good for the slower release. Your blood is slightly alkaline at 7. what does? The answer has to do with the source of fuel you’re using during the sprint . and you start feeling twice as bad. You need a mix of carbs that are high on the glycemic index for quick replenishment and slower releasing carbs. Glucose is stored in the liver and is only called upon when glycogen stores are running low. When glycogen runs low and glucose gets used. The sugar in starchy foods like rich. When glycogen is broken down for energy it produced one hydrogen unit. 2. Begin to replace electrolytes.
The problem is that if your blood is acidic.. You can also select grains but grains have a net acid enhancing effect so eat them with fruits and veggies to counteract it. 5. And eat as much as you want . pick from the caveman menu: fruits. If you add fruits and vegetables to your recovery meal. and lean protein from animal sources. “Load” means you don’t have to eat much of it to get the benefit. seeds. Instead.with nuts. This is still important recovery time and the most common mistake is when athletes continue eating the high glycemic load. The rest of your day Your two hours past your workout so you could be tempted to slip into normal eating mode. but that’s where many athletes slip up.. yams. Reduce the acidity of bodily fluids. low nutrient foods (starch & sugar) they were allowed post-exercise. Animal meat is best but avoid farm-bred fish and feedlotraised animals because the physical composition of their meat and oils is different from freerange options. As you exercise your bodily fluids get more and more acidic (same thing happens when we age).contraction. The foods you eat in this period should be moderate to high glycemic load carbs.that’s the good part. Keep up lean protein intake as well.raisins especially) while continuing to rehydrate. [Great chart on pg. dried fruit are best . Fruits are a good choice because they also replenish the electrolytes you sweated out. . they’ll lower blood acidity and spare your bone and muscle. and berries thrown in as well. You also shift toward more solid foods (potatoes. where recovery needs to extend beyond the 30 minute window immediately after. sweet potatoes. veggies. 57 of all the acid/ base fruits and veggies] What to eat in the 90 minutes after exercise This is important for hard workouts that last longer than 60 minutes. When you do that you start to squander your fitness gains from your earlier workout. Sodium is the only one you wouldn’t find in most fruits so you may need a pinch of salt to be added to your recovery shake. it draws calcium from bones and nitrogen from muscles because those two minerals have an alkaline-enhancing effect.
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