paleo diet for athletes

Some May Benefit from the Paleo Diet, but not Athletes

The main focus of the Paleo Diet is to recreate the dietary intake of our caveman ancestors. The source of this idea is that many of the chronic diseases that have become more prevalent over the centuries (such as diabetes and heart disease) are directly related to the over processing and chemical additives to many of the foods we eat.

The main foods emphasized on the Paleo Diet are grass-fed meats, seafood, fresh fruits and veggies, eggs, nuts and seeds, and healthful oils.

This eating pattern results in increased protein, fiber, potassium, vitamins and healthy fats, less carbohydrates, and NO processed sugars OR chemicals. The Paleo diet focuses on whole, natural foods and increased protein often leads to increased satiety, which can benefit weight loss efforts.

Sounds like a pretty good deal, right? But, consider what you must give up to follow this diet: dairy, potatoes, legumes and cereal grains, plus pure sugar, alcohol, and salt.

Carbohydrates Fuel Performance

Alcohol certainly makes sense to give up for sports performance, but everything else on the “avoid” list would not be in an athlete’s best interest. Dairy is high in electrolytes, bone-building calcium, and fat-soluble vitamins; potatoes are one of the highest dietary sources of potassium, plus they contain fiber and complex carbohydrates; and legumes and cereal grains also contain high-fiber content and often reasonable protein content as well.

This is important to note because athletes must consume a diet with adequate carbohydrates to fuel performance, and the Paleo diet makes it very difficult to achieve that. Additionally, sugar and salt can be critical additives for increased performance and recovery, even though they may not be typical healthy additives for the average individual.

And if you are vegetarian? You will have an extremely difficult time meeting your protein and B vitamin needs on this diet.

Bottom line: Unless you are lactose-intolerant and/or gluten-intolerant, this diet is likely no more beneficial than a regular healthy eating pattern that includes all of the food groups. And if you are an athlete trying to eat clean, remember that cutting carbohydrates is never the answer!

(By the way, when I say athlete, I don’t mean a professional! I mean someone who works out HARD regularly and possibly for specific events or competitions.)

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