Will A Paleo Diet Work For Athletes?
Being an Athlete
Athletes are a unique subset of the population. The demands placed on their bodies can sometimes be staggering, especially when compared to the average person. Athletes tend to have higher requirements than most. The need to support higher metabolic rates and intense training schedules can present a challenge when trying to match the appropriate diet to the athlete.
In general, athletes strive to be healthy individuals on many levels, including their food selection. Dietary myths for the athlete such as carbohydrate loading and excessively high protein diets have seemingly permeated the culture. Yet, in this present day, we realize that better options are available. One such option is the Paleo Diet. The Paleo Diet provides a diversity of nutrients, is inherently anti-inflammatory, and provides the necessary components to support recovery. These are all crucial for enhanced athletic performance.
Understanding that the diet of the athlete is highly critical for success, a closer look is required for the athletic population. Add to this that not all athletes are the same in their requirements. Some athletes, such as endurance athletes, have to be able to derive energy over a long time frame. On the opposite end of the spectrum, strength athletes often go for only a very short duration of time, but need a diet that can support muscle development to move large amounts of weight quickly. For most however, somewhere in the middle is ideal. But is the Paleo Diet flexible, but yet useful enough to support both extremes and those in the middle.
The advantages of the Paleo Diet are many, especially for the athlete. However, one of the limitations that has been presented against the Paleo Diet is that it does not supply enough calories to support the metabolic needs of the athlete. There are many confounding problems with this viewpoint, the first of which is the assumption that calories are the primary concern where the athletic diet stands. This is a fallacy. Yes different athletes will require different amounts of calories, but the true importance of the Paleo Diet as it relates to the athlete is the hormonal stage that it sets. The diet of the athlete must be such that it promotes an anabolic state. This is regardless of the type of athletic activity.
What is an anabolic state?
An anabolic state is required for healing and recovery. It is necessary to prevent excess muscle breakdown. When the diet is low in inflammatory foods such as refined foods and grains, the ability to repair tissue is enhanced. The time needed to recover from a high intensity workout is decreased. Ultimately, a quicker recovery time and an improved recovery make for enhanced athletic performance.
The Paleo Diet has more than adequate amounts of carbohydrates to fuel the average athlete. For those that are working out longer periods, this just means that some of the less attractive foods like potatoes may need to be brought into the diet. By doing so, you continue to maintain the tenets of the Paleo Diet, eating real foods that are not processed. Accompanying the intake of carbohydrates will certainly be adequate protein and fat, for which the Paleo Diet has not been accused of under-delivering.
If you are an athlete, look deeper into the Paleo Diet and the idea of eating real, unprocessed foods. Like others, you might be surprised how your performance actually increases when properly applied.