Last week I attended a book club discussion with Dai Roberts and the Final Kick crew on the book, The Paleo Diet For Athletes by Loren Cordian and Joe Friel. As It turns out, I was one of 3 people who actually bought the book, read the book, and brought it to the book club. The discussion was centered more around the concept than the book itself.
First a little background Paleo…
The Paleo Diet is often referred to as the cavemen diet. These nickname implies that one can eat anything and everything that was available to a caveman. Mostly the diet is made up of meats and vegetables. It does exclude grains, nuts, legumes, dairy, potatoes. Also it obviously excludes refined salts, sugars, and processed oils. The idea of the Paleo Diet For Athletes takes this concept a step further. Elite or endurance athletes need more nutrition than a sedentary individual. Their exercise schedule and training often mandates that they eat before, after, and even during some workouts. The body has more nutritional and dietary needs. The idea of Paleo for Athletes allows for some latitude on the “non optimal” food.
The book club group was mostly populated by endurance athletes such as runners, cyclists, and triathletes. One individual at my table was even in training for an Olympic Triatholon. While we had a lot of discussion of the type of diet to consume, most of use were in agreement on two things. One was that endurance athletes needed more nutritional intake than the Paleo Diet allowed for. And two, no one was willing to forgo alcohol. There was an individual who seemed to be in opposition of the rest of the group. This individual spent a lot of time doing CrossFit workouts (the topic of CrossFit is another blog for another day).
A average (non elite) marathon time for a man is 3 hours and 30 minutes. A typical Crossfit workout can be anywhere from 10-30 minutes. The nutritional needs before, after, and even during each of these respectable workouts are COMPLETELY different. It seems to me that this would be extremely obvious. But this was the point that seemed to ensue serious debate amongst the group.
For example, as I prepare for my Saturday morning long runs in the park, I do some nutritional planning. Before the run I may consume berries and peanut butter. Halfway through the run I may consume a gel, gu, or block of choice. After the run allows for more time to sit down and have a full meal that would include protein, carbs, probably some dairy, and even some refined sugar or salt. Peanut butter, gel, and some of the breakfast items would be considered to be non Paleo or non optimal foods, but for an athlete would be necessary.
Now imagine an endurance athlete who is in training for a full marathon or an Ironman. The time spent on planning workouts is probably equal to the amount of time spent on meal planning.
After reading the book, attending the discussion, and struggling with my own nutritional challenges lately, I have a very strong opinion on the matter. I believe that training and diet are extremely personal and individual choices. If you want to train for a time, you should. If you want to train without a watch and train to accomplish for the goal of completing the race you should. If you want to be a vegetarian for moral, ethical, or dietary reasons you should. If you want to eat fast food all the time, I don’t think you should but I think it is your right to do so. Just as the Adkins Diet was popular in the late 90’s, the Paleo Diet seems to be the trend of this era.
Please weigh in on this controversial topic. Have you tried Paleo? What were the results?