First off, in my world, those words above are “fightin’ words.” The Paleo Diet is more than just a way of eating, it’s a religion. There are thousands of people, including my own members, who have vastly improved their overall health and fitness following the Paleo Diet. My words below reflect my own experience as an elite track athlete, not just as a CrossFit athlete.
Let’s back track a bit. Anyone who’s been following this blog knows the month of November and most of December has been very rocky. The inability to recover from workouts week to week was pinned on sleep, sickness and of course nutrition. In the end, as in most cases, it was nutrition, always was. Overall fitness (thanks in part to CrossFit) was the reason I jumped on the track dropping 4min pace for multiple 1/4 mile repeats with no recent track work. Nutrition was the reason I couldn’t recover to do it multiple weeks.
Looking for answers, I had the pleasure of meeting and speaking with Anthony Almada of Genr8 (see previous posts) who took the liberty of (re)educating me on the dietary needs of elite endurance athletes and how his product could fit into those needs. From this I came with away with the understanding that I need 7-10g per lb of body weight for proper recovery (I was more in the range of 2g/lb!) and that protein during a workout does not help glycogen reloading (Endurox). I was shown studies (with proper controls) that proved carb supplementation before/during/after a workout not only helped performance but aided in recovery. I therefore had two promising reasons to get off a “Paleolithic” way of eating. 1. My own experience 2. Studies to back the claims.
Let’s be honest, I didn’t need any studies to tell me something I already knew. Not only was I looking for answers but so was my coach, Frank Gagliano. One of the problems with remote coaching athletes is that we don’t see each other everyday and only communicate via email a few times per week. Getting to see your athlete train lets you know how they are handling the workouts and how their bodies are responding. IF Gag could have seen me, he would have immediately known something was wrong. If I were to explain Paleo to Gag, his response would be, “Why da f*ck would ya want to do that?!” Obviously he’s old school. The obvious answer to this question is to improve performance. Why else would I want to follow this diet if I wasn’t improving?? Sure, my BMI was under 3% and I looked shredded but I’m not running my ass off to look good! So, if I’m not improving and nutrition is to blame, guess what, I’m changing my fucking nutrition AND how I look at nutrition. One size does not fit all, whether you be couch potato, amateur athlete, CrossFit athlete, amateur endurance athlete or professional endurance athlete.
I had been following a pretty regimented paleo diet for the past 2+ years. I have gained considerable amount of muscle while being very lean. Last season on the track I ran into similar problems ie recovery but thought most of it could have been programming. While that may be true, I also noticed jumps in performance and energy after high carbohydrate loading days ie. pancakes and waffles. Most of the time, my nutrition breakdown looked like 40-50% fat intake, 30-40% carb, 10-20% protein. Even those numbers are low (fat) compared to what many say you should get per day. Now, I get 75-80% intake from carbs, 15-20% protein. !!! My engine is humming. I don’t recommend this unless you are “running your ass off.” For my amateur endurance athletes, carb timing is crucial and I’d loved to advice you on it.
I can hear it now…”But Brendon, how could you say such things?? My heart hurts with each word you have said! I feel like you have kicked me in the groin and stabbed me in the eye with a spoon at the same time!” Listen, the sky isn’t going to fall (I thought it was at one point but it didn’t). It also doesn’t mean I eat whatever the f I want (on most days..hehe). While I really try to aim for gluten free recipes/products, in the end I’m willing to forgo that for performance. Sacrilegious? Maybe. My diet is obviously not a sustainable diet. Meaning, I don’t plan on eating this way forever. In fact, if I did, I know without a doubt I would become another case study for diabetes, Alzheimer’s, etc. Then again my training is also not sustainable. All I can speak for are the results. In the past, I used the weekend to recover and started out strong early in the week. By Friday, which is our track/pace work day and the most important of the week, I was usually fried. Here’s how last week broke down:
Sunday – CF Endurance strength WOD
Monday – 6x800m @ 226-225 w/ 2min rest
Tuesday – Easy/CF Endurance strength WOD
Wednesday – 3mile tempo 5:50, 5:40, 5:30
Thursday – Recovery
Friday – 1x500m @ 54s through the 400m. Rest 5min. 400m @ 55s. Rest 5min. 4x200m @ 27.
Saturday – Easy
Sunday – Long run
I’m currently in Tahoe for a little altitude training😉 Loving the thin air!
Never Let It Rest,