Paleo is dead…

Posted: December 27, 2010 in CrossFit, CrossFit Endurance, Paleo
Tags: , , , , , ,

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,

  1. Tim Dymmel says:

    Dude! Let’s go get chicken and waffles! Protein, carbs, fat! Perfect combo. So what should we hit up after Murph on Saturday? Hobees is what I’m thinking.

  2. Brent says:

    Hey bro! Funny I would hit your blog today and you have an article about nutrition. One of the misconceptions of the paleo diet that I hear a lot is that it is strictly a low carb diet. I see it as more about food quality.

    Have you tried a high carb diet with mostly paleo foods? It seems that you would be much better off getting all of the benefits of the quality carbs (vitamins, minerals, and fiber). This would be preferable to just eating carbs for the sake of carbs. A waffle isn’t much better than eating a spoonful of table sugar.

    Ken Gall is very successful with this type of protocol. He has a training schedule that is pretty high volume. He runs somewhere between 200 -300g of carbs per day.

    High carb paleo, all of the benefits, none of the alzheimers.:)

  3. Brendon Mahoney says:

    From Eric LeClair of CrossFit Team Monrovia…

    Eric LeClair
    Of course I did..I don’t understand the end of your second paragraph. You state that:

    1.”Overall fitness (thanks to CF) was the reason you jumped on the track dropping 4min. pace for multiple 1/4mile repeats with no recent track work.”


    2. Nutrition was the reason you couldn’t recover to do it multiple weeks

    Can you go into detail about this above correlation? I’ve just known too many CFers/Endurance types that both over train and then blame their bonking solely on nutrition. How about your sleep, stress, and everything else involved.

    MOST importantly…publish what you’ve found about these studies…or at least direct me to them. Who funded these studies, how long did they last, and to what group were they administered to?

    As well…you list two reasons to get off Paleolithic eating (which is great for you) but how long did you trial this to conclude your new route is successful?

    Oh..and did you mean Body Fat % was 3%…Because BMI isn’t graded in percents…and a score or 3 would be VERY underweight.

    • Brendon Mahoney says:

      I should clarify I am a track athlete and that 4min pace means 4min mile pace, ie 60s per 400m. Paleo actually worked very well racing trails where the event is more aerobic. An endurance athlete is differe…nt than a track athlete. My intensity of running workouts wasn’t as high or frequent when I was racing in the woods. It didn’t need to be either.

      CrossFit has given me a great ability to maintain a high level of fitness without being on the track, which is the premise behind the CFE model. Because I am specialized, I’ve got 5-6 running workouts per week, all but 1 or 2 anaerobic. CrossFit/strength workouts are 2-3x per week as well. That’s a lot of quality. Even when I cut out CrossFit in an effort to identify it as overtraining, I still wasn’t recovering.

      After restructuring my diet, I’ve noticed less breakdown physically, more energy, better recovery and better moods. I could say I’m still paleo-ish, b/c really just started taking out fat and adding carbs but then again 70% caloric intake from carbohydrate is not paleo.

      One of my earlier posts I talk about how paleo has benefited me as an athlete which is why identifying it as a problematic has been tough.

  4. Brendon Mahoney says:


    Agree with your statement. Food quality is still very important. Although oatmeal has snuck back into my diet, I still try to stick to whole foods. Lots of bananas and sweet potato’s or at least as much I can stand.

    Throughout the fall, I slowly ratcheted up the carbs. It looks like Ken prob went to 1.5-2x carb intake per lb of body wt. Mine is currently at 5-7x.

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