Primal Nutrition

Paleo Nutritional Strategies for Performance

For most people, the standard Paleo prescription (Meat, Veggies, some fruit and some nuts) is the correct one.  The beauty of the Paleo diet is that you don’t have to micro-manage everything, from overall calories to macronutrients.  If you’re eating the right foods and listening to your body, you’ll be right where you need to be.

However, certain populations have certain needs, and as Nate Miyaki stated in a recent T-Nation article, “You’ll never convince me that a 300-pound, obese, insulin resistant, sedentary office worker who just wants to be able to see his wee-wee again should be eating the same thing as a 185-pound, ripped, insulin sensitive, athletic alpha male trying to reach peak athletic or physical conditioning.”  I agree that athletic fit individuals don’t need to be as carb-phobic as insulin resistant overweight dieters.  I disagree with Nate where he states that two of the mainstays of his dietary recommendations, rice and white potatoes, are not “paleo.”  While these may be Neolithic foods, we are heading towards a new definition of what “Paleo” is.  Most forward thinkers in terms of Paleo are moving towards a concept where we are less concerned with recreating an imagined paleolithic diet bite-for-bite and more towards moving towards making educated diet choices based on an what we know from our evolutionary heritage.

In other words, Paleolithic man and/or Hunter Gatherer tribes do not have the instances of the diseases of civilization that we see in modern society.  But we need to get into the nuts and bolts of “why” to see what foods we should eat and how much.   We know that gluten and various anti-predation elements in grains and legumes are destructive to the human body.  We also know that for overweight, insulin resistant individuals, a ketogenic or low carb diet can be very beneficial.  Finally, we know that even if one suffers no adverse effects (currently) from gluten or lectin ingestion and he or she is not overweight, there are no nutrients offered by grains and legumes that cannot be provided to a greater degree by varied vegetable sources.  Note this study by Dr. Loren Cordain on the nutritional characteristics of a modern diet based on paleolithic food groups.

In terms of performance, and if one is healthy, lean, and athletic, the precision introduction of carbs surrounding the athletic activity is absolutely appropriate.  Remaining gluten and lectin free, a few options for starchy vegetables to introduce in the “peri-workout” period include:

  • White potatoes
  • Sweet Potatoes
  • White Rice
  • Yucca Root
  • Yams
  • Plantains
To put this concept into practical application, before a hard HIT session (which is every session for me) I will eat a meal that is high protein, high carb, low fat.  This could be a sweet potato and a protein shake, for instance.  Within an hour after my workout I’ll have the largest meal of the day, again high carb, high protein, low fat.  I’ll usually eat a big plate of white rice and tuna.  White rice doesn’t have a ton of nutritive content, but in this instance I’m using it specifically as a dense “clean” starch source.  On my non-workout days, I simply return to the “normal” low carb, high fat diet that’s considered Paleo.  Lastly, I have a weakness for burgers and french fries which I can generally control.  But if I’m GOING to have a giant burger and fries, I’ll make sure I have it after a hard workout.  Clearly not healthy or ideal, but if I’m going to cheat (and I’m not perfect) this will be the least detrimental time to do it.  I’m of the belief that after a hard squat workout almost anything I digest will be put to good use by my body.
P.S.  The last four sentences or so of the above paragraph were not the go-ahead to gorge on junk.  I’m close to 95% compliant on my diet.  I’m extremely strict.  But I do allow myself cheat meals here and there, because I can afford them.
P.P.S.  I wouldn’t bother with any of this if you’re still fairly overweight/insulin resistant.  The customary Paleo diet works just fine in that hormonal milieu.

One thought on “Paleo Nutritional Strategies for Performance

  1. Pingback: Paleo Nutritional Strategies for Performance « Evo Lab | Paleo Diet | if you do the paleo diet you need supplementing

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