With an increase in obesity and lifestyle diseases as a result of the modern diet and sedentary lifestyle, paleo lifestyle’s popularity is growing steadily by the day. Adopting a paleo diet is great but integrating exercise into it is even more appealing as it leads to even better health benefits.
So how does a paleo diet feature in your diet as a runner and how does it help fuel your body during training or even competing? It is hard especially for runners and other athletes who need lots of energy, as most paleo foods are low in carbs. Cutting out grains and legumes from your diet as an athlete means you have to be creative and find a balance in the paleo foods that work for you. Whether running for fun, travelling or for a marathon a paleo diet will help achieve your goals.
How then do I run on a paleo diet?
Many athletes prefer loading up on carbs before races to give the body the energy it needs for the race. However, there is minimal investigation in the field of low carb performance during running, which raises the question; is it advisable to run on a paleo diet or not?
Well, of the 11 recorded studies on this subject, 9 found out that runners on a low-carb diet performed the same or even better compared to those on a high-carb diet. Therefore, as a runner, you need to retrain your body to adapt to the new diet, as the regime is low in carbohydrates and high in protein and vitamins.
Benefits to long-distance athletes
While doing some light training/running, a paleo diet is perfect, as the body does not need a lot of energy. However, when it comes to marathons or training for long distance running or any vigorous competition, you will need a tailored diet to fuel the body. The reason long-distance athletes load up on carbs before a race is because it is readily convertible to energy during races.
According to studies, athletes on a low-carb diet were able to oxidize body fats at higher rates and thus produce more energy. While we humans store large quantities of fat in our bodies and low amounts of muscle glycogen, the latter is preferred for strenuous activity such as marathons because it is easily converted to energy.
However, runners like me who live and train on a low carb diet have low muscle glycogen/insulin levels and therefore have rapid access to these fats than high-cab colleagues because our bodies have adapted/evolved to this kind of metabolism.
Paleo foods to consider as an athlete include natural carbs such as yams, sweet potatoes, and winter squash. These are nutrient-rich, contain micronutrients minerals, vitamins, antioxidants, and fibre, which regulates the flow of sugar into the bloodstream thus maintaining insulin levels throughout the run.
Remember to include proteins such as grass-fed meat because it is rich in omega 3 fat good for muscle repair, eggs from free roaming chicken, and seafood. Finally, a paleo diet contains the nutrients and protein you’ll need for cell growth, muscle repair and inflammation reduction caused by running.
Due to the health benefits associated with a paleo diet, you will be able to lose weight quicker than ever before. For instance, avoiding processed foods will be a significant boost for you because most of these foods are filled with sugars and preservatives, which add on to your weight.
Moreover, replacing corn-fed meat with grass-fed meat was beneficial as corn-fed meat contains high levels of omega 6 fat, which is harder to digest and assimilate leading to your body storing fat. Finally, in the absence of a high carb diet, the body converts stored fat to energy through ketogenesis thus providing the required fuel for the body.
Timing meals to get nutrients and avoid cheating
If you are worried about cheating on a paleo diet, due to either busy schedules or temptation by all the non-paleo food around you here are some tips;
- First, you need to gradually adapt to the paleo diet and not dive right in to know what works for you and how to schedule your meals into your lifestyle.
- Secondly, create a routine for accountability, and nutritional strategies through the help of a professional, friend, a community or even individually.
- Finally, ensure you eat full meals, as this will help you keep up energy levels and reduce the temptation to snack. You can eat twice or thrice in a day or even skip some meals as long as it does not tempt you to cheat.
Changes to make when you adopt a paleo diet
- First, a paleo diet may be expensive, so you need to do proper research to know where to reduce costs.
- Secondly, preparing paleo meals is time-consuming, so you have to make a schedule on how to adapt to these changes.
- Thirdly, you have to adjust to eating more proteins, vegetables, and fruits than you are used which may not be so appealing at first. If you are starting out, you are allowed to eats low quantities of not paleo foods/cheats as your body adapts and with time to will get used to it.
- Finally, getting adequate rest will be vital for you. Create a set time to rest or sleep and stick to it. Remember, adopting a paleo lifestyle is more than a diet you will need to overhaul significant parts of your lifestyle to integrate the new changes in your life successfully.
Running on a paleo diet for athletes is very beneficial as you will have more endurance. Although restrictive, it is one of the best decisions you can make in your life. It will not limit you from any activity you may want to do in your life like working or running. However, it will need you to get used to it first and tailor your diet according to your activities. Most importantly, a paleo lifestyle is more than a diet but a change in lifestyle for the better.
Are you a runner on a paleo diet or planning to start? Share with us your experiences or expectations.