For Athletes: Should you go Paleo?
With Crossfit centers all over the metro, it is no surprise that some endurance athletes might have considered, at one point or another, to try the Paleolothic diet. The question is, does Paleo suit endurance athletes who also do Crossfit? Read the pros and cons of going Paleo if your purpose is to be a great endurance athlete.
Paleo in a nutshell
The Paleolithic diet is rooted in the belief that the food we eat should be modeled after what the people in the Paleolithic era ate (a.k.a caveman). This means relying solely on unprocessed food plus assumingly skipping grains entirely. It is probably the best low-carb diet out there and is great if your purpose is to lose weight. However, there is something wrong with the thought of skipping grains entirely without looking at the quality of grains available.
Why keep the grains and starches
Grains and starches, such as brown rice, Quinoa, oats, etc are not allowed on a strict Paleo diet. However, despite the fact that there is a load of crappy, adulterated, and processed grains in the market nowadays, there are still pure and good ones available even though they are “Paleo-forbidden”. Having fruits and vegetables as our carbohydrate sources are simply not enough. Plus, these mentioned grains actually serve a great purpose for endurance athletes as enumerated below:
- Grains are an excellent source of carbohydrates, which is the main source of blood glucose
As an endurance athlete, good carbs are essential to fuel your body. Some may argue that you can use fat to fuel your race and training, but fat, as a fuel, burns brightest and best with a carbohydrate flame. Skipping good sources of Paleo-forbidden carbs like brown rice, quinoa, sweet potato might hold you back from racing at optimum levels.
- Muscle needs carbs to build and work
Carbs convert to glycogen and glycogen is the fuel for muscle. If you rely solely on fruits and vegetables, you might not be able to eat enough due to the “sawa” factor to build the muscle you need to be the best endurance athlete you can be.
- Endurance athletes are always carb-depleted
From my experience as a nutritionist, endurance athletes are usually very carb depleted. The body communicates lack or carbs as cravings for carbs usually in the form of sweets. If you go on a strict Paleo diet, not only are you running the risk of being carb depleted but also carb deprived.
- Variety is key to sanity
Because carbohydrates is important for endurance athletes, skipping certain carbs obviously puts a limit to the variety the athlete can eat. In theory, it sounds easy to live off fruits and veggies as your source of carbs. However, it is very difficult to do. Keeping your source of carbs in full variety saves you from the nasty cravings and feelings of deprivation that comes after long periods of just eating fruits and veggies as carb sources.
Bottomline, there are people who have successfully lived out the Paleo diet as a lifestyle, but it isn’t for everyone because our bodies, especially those of endurance athletes, are built to take carbohydrates from a variety of clean sources. For the endurance athlete, keeping carb sources in a wide variety helps the athlete reach his full potential.