Paleo is great for the average Joe (and Jane). It keeps things simple, doesn’t require calorie counting, supplements or expertise in the kitchen. But what if your needs are a little bit more specialised? Whether you are a weekend warrior or even a serious athlete, can Paleo fit in with your requirements? Yes, it can, and it might surprise you just how suitable it is.
If you are an athlete at any level, your number one priority is staying healthy. If you are sick or injured, you can’t compete. This is just as true for Olympic athletes as it is for someone training for their first 5k. Whatever talent you may have, however hard you have trained, it doesn’t matter if you can’t perform on the day. So before looking at the detail of any diet, the first question to ask is “Will this keep me healthy or not?”
Now diet alone isn’t the only determining factor in health but it plays a huge part. You would be amazed at the terrible diets of some athletes, even the best. You may have read about Michael Phelps and his 8-10 thousand calories every day coming from a fair bit of junk food. But it works for him, right? Actually, Phelps is probably more the exception who confirms the rule. He was in the pool for hours every day and needed a huge amount of energy. He is also an absolute genetic freak!
It is far more revealing to look at the number of sportsmen and women who suffer from coughs, colds, and infections when they train. This is especially the case if they are eating a lot of processed food, dairy, and sugar. These foods tend to be causes of inflammation in the body. When you are working out regularly you are particularly at risk from inflammation. A bad diet compounds this problem. Suddenly you find that you can’t train today because you are still sore from the last session. This is despite the fact that you are taking the latest and greatest in sports supplements. No one tells you that these are full of chemicals and sugar, do they?
Now let’s look at Paleo for someone who is interested in sports performance. Most of a Paleo diet comprises protein (think meat, eggs, and fish), quality carbohydrates with high nutritional value (fruit and vegetables) and healthy fats (oil, nuts and fatty fish). Why is this great? First, protein is there to build and restore muscle that is being broken down by exercise. Second, these carbohydrates are providing energy to train and compete and a whole range of vitamins and minerals but without the negative effects of white flour, sugar and other processed or starchy carbs. Third, these healthy fats are fighting against inflammation and keeping your joints healthy just when you need it the most.
In fact, the ultimate argument in favour of Paleo comes from looking at sports supplements. Remember, these are supplements taken by athletes to compensate for a lack of quality in the diet. What exactly do we find in them? Protein to build muscle, carbs for energy and fats for general well-being! Paleo, anyone?
So why not just get these things in the most natural form possible? Eating Paleo when you are an athlete just makes sense. You are getting everything your body needs to stay fit and healthy but avoiding all the potential problems that come from junk and processed food. You are making the chances of falling sick or getting injured far smaller and really are in the best possible position to get great results to come competition time, whatever your level.