What we know: Eat less carbs – burn fat faster. But don’t eat enough carbs and you won’t perform optimally. Here’s how you can do both on a paleo diet:
There’s a growing body of research to support the effectiveness of a Paleo diet. This is largely thanks to its simplicity, which can be summed up by the following sentence: eat high-quality meats and veggies while keeping off the processed food, including sugar. Researchers at Purdue University found that eating caveman-style foods – vegetables and like grass-fed animals – lowers cholesterol and reduces your risk of disease while eliminating both obesity and diabetes. For anyone that wants to live longer and feel better, this is a great way to eat, but what happens when this is not the best eating strategy for athletes? Many exercisers look to be in great shape, but feel like they die out during CrossFit or other endurance workouts. If this is you, then we have the solution.
Root of the problem
Most people never consider how their bodies operate. Well, carbohydrates and fat are used like gasoline – for the most part – and protein is used for building and maintaining lean muscle mass. At rest, your body should use fat as energy and during high-intensity exercise (weightlifting, CrossFit, etc.) we should be using carbohydrates. After years of a poor diet your energy system may be a little damaged but this is rarely permanent. If you’re eating clean, then the “gasoline” that fuels high-intensity exercise will come from carbohydrates.
If you follow a Paleo diet you can choose from the following sources: fruits, vegetables and a small amount found in nuts. Sadly, fruit tends to be relatively high in carbohydrates in the form of fructose, which many say is not the best form of carb to take in – especially in large quantities. Vegetables? The only Paleo approved veggies with significant carbs are things like sweet potatoes, carrots and butternut squash, but who wants to eat those multiple times every single day?
The way to make sure you’re optimizing body composition and performance is to make a science experiment out of yourself. Endurance athletes (that’s you CrossFitters) should be getting at least 40% of their calories from carbohydrates. If you’re on a 3,000-calorie-per-day diet, then at least 1,200 of those calories should come from carbohydrates. That’s 300g, the same as 50 cups of chopped kale or 10 cups of chopped sweet potato.
The reality is the vast majority of athletes following the Paleo diet don’t have the discipline to eat a substantial amount of carbohydrates throughout the day. Stuffi ng your face with those quantities of fuel would win you some kind of vegetarian award. The remedy? Add carbs that don’t fi t the Paleo rulebook. Paleo is great for health but nowhere does it say this is the best diet for athletes. After all, the lifestyle of an athlete is quite different from the life humans lived in the Paleolithic era.
Stay lean and perform better
Starchy foods are great for athletes because they help your muscles recover faster. They also pack far more carbohydrates. White rice is the fi rst thing to reintroduce to your diet. It’s absorbed faster than brown rice and muscle recovery is improved by foods that are digested faster. Bread is not necessarily an evil monster, but when you fi rst reintroduce foods with gluten in them you might experience some gluten sensitivity.
People often mistake this for full-on celiac disease but that will usually fade within a week or two if you have normal gluten tolerance. The next step is to only eat a large amount of these carbs after your workouts. Remember that your muscle glycogen is what fueled most of that workout, so your muscles act as a vacuum for carbohydrates in the blood (in the form of sugar) just after. If you eat a bunch of carbs when your muscle glycogen levels are at their maximum then the excess goes into storage as fat. This is a way to keep your levels full while staying as lean as possible.
Eat like a caveman, Train like a beast
Use these meal plans that’ll have an 80kg man adding more muscle while burning fat:
- 4 whole eggs
- 2 natural chicken and apple sausages
- 2 large handfuls raw spinach (sautéed)
- 1 tbsp coconut oil (to cook the above)
- 120g tinned tuna in water
- 1 avocado (mashed)
- 1/2 cup salsa (no added sugar)
- Mix the ingredients together and wrap in a large lettuce leaf
- 2 pork loin chops
- 2 cups mashed cauliflower (with 2 tbsp grass-fed butter)
- 2 cups steamed broccoli and carrot blend
- 80g carbohydrate from sports drink, fruit juice or maltodextrin supplement
- 20-30g whey protein
- Chicken stir-fry with mixed vegetables
- 2 cups white rice
- 100g beef or game meat
- 1/4 cup almonds
- ½ cup unsweetened coconut flakes
- 1 large apple
issue 18. Pages 92-93