Categorized | Paleo Diet Tips

Paleo Diet for Athletes

Paleo dieting has acquired a large following from the athletic community as of late. As with many new diet plans, the Paleo Diet has its fair share of skeptics. However, there is nothing new about this diet; based on the eating habits of our ancient hunting-and-gathering ancestors, this diet’s plan is hardly a fad. With just a little bit of updating for the modern eater, the Paleo way of eating has been scientifically shown to increase athletic performance. Time and again, studies prove that a Paleo Diet offers an easier way for athletes to build muscle while also decreasing their recovery time.

The Logic Behind the Paleo Diet

The concept of the Paleo Diet is easy enough for anyone to understand. We simply need to be consuming the types of foods that our body was built to run on. Before humans settled and created vast civilizations built on farming, they spent their days hunting and gathering the foods they ate. This meant low carbohydrate consumption and high protein, which makes sense: these early humans needed the muscle power it takes to hunt and search for hours upon hours every day. Similar to the lifestyle of these people of the Stone Age, athletes spend long days building and exercising muscles, expending large amounts of energy in the process. Carbohydrates in the Paleo Diet should stay as natural, or “complex”, as possible. This allows for an even release of energy throughout the day and a faster recovery time after exercise.

A low-carbohydrate diet may seem counterintuitive to many athletes, who have been trained to consume vast amounts of carbohydrates. A popular practice for many athletes, called “carb-loading”, consists of scarfing down large quantities of simple carbs before games and competitions. However, simple carbohydrates hurt the athlete in the long run. Our bodies have not evolved to run efficiently on processed products such as white flour and sugar. Running on refined carbs means a rush of energy that ends with the athlete feeling fatigued and lethargic. This “sugar crash” means that next to nothing is left in terms of muscle recovery. After the high of carb-loading, an athlete’s body is left depleted and unable to fix itself. In contrast, the Paleo Diet allows a steady stream of high energy that lasts.

The Paleo Advantage

Any athlete seeking long-term energy and muscles that repair themselves may find a heavy advantage through the Paleo Diet. Not only does the plan include protein for building muscles, but by consuming fruits and vegetables in place of simple carbs the athlete is taking in high quantities of branched-chain amino acids. These special amino acides allow the athlete to actually do something with the protein they’re consuming. Compare this with an athlete who gets his or her protein through protein shakes: with no vehicle in the blood to build anything with the protein, the body is unable to take the protein to its full potential.

In addition to helping both build and repair muscles for athletes, a Paleo Diet prevents the loss of muscle mass. Because most diets are acidic, the body reacts to the acidity of foods by breaking down muscles to neutralize the acid. In general, unlike other diets, the Paleo Diet actually ends up being slightly alkaline. This prevents any of the complications of an acidic diet. An added bonus to the diet is the high concentration of vitamins and minerals in contains due to the focus on fruits and vegetables. Athletes not only gain energy from the vitamins and minerals they ingest with a Paleo eating plan, but they also have much less chance of getting sick and missing out on training or competition. With more muscle mass, a better immune system, and faster recovery times, an athlete on a Paleo Diet is a force to be reckoned with.

Key Notes

The trick to a Paleo Diet for athletes is timing the consumption of certain foods. For example, an athlete should consume a limited amount of complex carbohydrates in a small window of time before and after athletic activity. By following this guideline, the athletic advantages of the diet are maximized and ensure a healthy experience. Other than that, the athlete should simply eat as much lean protein and fresh produce as possible. Because fat is an important source of energy as well, monitoring fat intake for the Paleo Diet is not a priority. Plus, the healthy fats consumed in the Paleo Diet—lean meat, poultry, and seafood—offer important omega-3 fatty acids, an essential part of any athlete’s diet.