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Going Paleo: Or How I Learned to Put Down the Protein Powder and Love the Meat

March 16, 2010

Like my stylish (over)use of pop-culture reference?

The past few posts have largely revolved around me and my concern for the training wall that I thought I hit.  I was quick to assume it was a function of the diet, and not my training methods.

In hind-sight, I was probably just having a few lousy days, especially since I’ve been training well above my bodyweight in almost all exercises.  Proof: my deadlift seemed to have improved overnight – from barely being able to manage 2 reps at 95kg to easily breezing through 5 reps a few days later.  Nothing much has changed in my diet.  My training schedule did; I removed the massive quantity of HIIT.  I’ve taken that one step further and started to follow Crossfit Football’s WOD.

All hardcore athletes know the carb-loading mantra by heart, and I was worried that the removal of carbs was my problem.  After all, that was the part of every night before game day for me, and what I even tell my little sister pre-soccer matches.

I think I was wrong.

Natural Messiah posted an article regarding just this topic, and TheGymMonkey goes further in-depth (thanks guys; consider this plagiarism the highest form of flattery).  The essence of the article is that increasing fat utilization – which going paleo will do – can reduce fatigue and increase recovery.  Besides, I’m not hauling 10-15 pounds of blubber on me anymore; consider that drag removal a definite improvement in athletic performance.

My experiences:

From the beginning of going primal I did the Stronglifts 5×5 program followed immediately by HIIT.  My energy levels throughout the week stayed high, even after having been on the program for 3 months.  No problem.  As mentioned, my plateaus were largely program based, and was quickly corrected by reducing the HIIT load and plain just switching programs.

Furthermore, from what I’ve seen, the majority of Crossfitters are either paleo, primal, or Zone followers, all of which are on low-carb diets.  They do some intense stuff and are able to keep that up day after day.  And these guys are Marines, firefighters, and other truly body-intensive professions.

Implications for Athletes (armchair and otherwise).

Go primal.  Especially since the long-term health benefits of eating a clean diet will last far beyond any sports career you’ll have (hopefully).

An important caveat.  As an athlete, especially an endurance one (soccer, cross-country, etc.), the replenishment of muscle glycogen is key after very long periods of stress (two-a-day practice, games, that kind of thing).  Muscle glycogen is fat that your body keeps as a battery within your muscles that it consumes during sustained periods of strenuous activity – running, for example.  The most efficient way to replace that glycogen after a heavy training session or game is carbs.  But starches are a no-no.

After practice and games, try putting natural yogurt/kefir and fruit into your system, instead.  And rest.  And stop chugging those energy drinks!  They’re pure sugar and chemicals.  Unless you’re on an IV of that stuff throughout an entire tournament, I notice that people crash come the third-or-so game (though, mind you, I watch a lot of U13 soccer tournaments).  It’s not just because of fatigue.  Water with a bit of lemon, please.

As always, stay tuned as I continue to experiment.  Vi sees.

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. March 16, 2010 9:27 pm

    As a believer in a strict paleo diet I don’t consume dairy. But there is coconut yogurt and kefir out there called So Delicious and made by Turtle Mountain. The plain yogurt I find a bit sweet and more like a jello (and other flavors are even sweeter). But they have recently reformulated the plain/original kefir and have gotten rid of its sliminess. It is now like a very sour milk. I recommend it highly. And if a bit sour for you, it can be mixed with any fruit juice, though I don’t consider fruit juice to be very paleo.

    • March 16, 2010 9:53 pm

      Good point, Don. Those would be good options to explore for someone looking to stick to it paleo-style.

      Directed to all:
      Just as an overall, you’ll find that I am what some circles would call more “primal” than paleo. A little bit of fermented dairy doesn’t hurt me. In fact I have actually seen improvements since introducing kefir and plain cultured yogurt into my diet(in small quantities, of course). I’d eat fancy old cheese if I could find/afford it in Norway.

      Generally, paleos stay away from dairy because it can spike insulin levels. There is also the problem of casein, a protein found in milk that some people are sensitive to.

      That being said, two things. First, everybody is different, and may or may not be able to tolerate fermented or even raw dairy. Second, forgoing the dairy is the perfect idea for those seeking to re-balance their body compositions This is perhaps not so for those looking for optimal performance from their already properly composed bodies.

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