August 24, 2013

guest author on the subject of the paleo diet and athletes

I've not been on this cobweb-filled blog in so long, the crickets have taken over the joint.  But I'm still kicking and still trying to get my riding fitness back (it's like the never ending story!) 

Two things -
  1. I started taking spin classes again (old school, I love it!) 
  2. I'm going back on the Whole30 indefinitely - as in until I see some serious results.  I'm going to modify it by adding white potatoes and white rice the day before and day of a long ride.  And, when I eat out, I'm not going to worry about it.  I'll stick to gluten free, but I'm not going to isolate myself so much that I can't have dinner with a friend or two.

So, as you may know, the Whole30 is like the strictest paleo diet ever.  I'm not an advocate for the paleo diet, I follow more the primal blueprint.  But I have to admit that after following the (faux)Whole30 for 30 days, I felt amazing, my skin was moist and clear, my asthma was almost nonexistent and I lost 8 pounds in one month.  I also have completely kicked my Splenda addiction and don't touch the stuff at all now - so there is something to be said for the Whole30 Challenge and the paleo diet!

When I was approached recently to feature an article by a guest author on the subject of the paleo diet and athletes, I immediately said yes.  And that's what the remainder of this entry will be, a guest article - actually, more a personal account of how one marathon runner ate paleo and PR'ed at the LA Marathon!

First, a little about Dee.  He's the creator of this website:

And in his words:

"I struggled with health and weight issues most of my life, climaxing after getting a desk job after college when my weight ballooned. Fed up, I tried every possible diet and health product I could find. I found the Paleo diet and lifestyle to give me the best results. A lot of my friends and family were asking how I was able to lose weight, reverse my asthma, and regain health; so I created Paleo Diet ++ as a resource for them. It got kind of popular, so I decided to add more resources and articles hoping to help more people who have similar experiences as me."

I hope you enjoy his article below.  I certainly did and am going to pull from it as I, too, continue upping my training for more and more miles on the bike.

Training for the LA Marathon while on the Paleo Diet

Let me start off by saying, I’m not an expert when it comes to running marathons.  However, I have ran the last two LA Marathons.  I ran it pre-paleo in 2012 and again in 2013, but this time I ate a full-blown Paleo diet.  My times were 3 hours 55 minutes in 2012 and 3 hours 41 minutes in 2013.  I will say that I have ran many 5K and 10K races and have been pretty active in sports most of my life; including one of the most grueling of endurance sports, crew, while in college.
For the 2012 LA marathon, I trained for 6 months before the race.   At the time, I really didn’t understand how to train.  I practiced and trained for the marathon the same way I practiced and trained for crew, basketball, and most sports in which I played and participated - repetition and practice.  I ran 3 to 4 times per week from October to December, and 5 to 7 times per week from New Year’s leading up to the week of the race.  Resting wasn’t even in my vocabulary, and this wasn’t a good thing.
I also didn’t pay much attention to my diet.  I was still in the mindset of calories-in-calories-out, and that if I’m fat and slow, then I needed to work out more and eat less.  Which I would argue is the polar opposite of the paleo philosophy which focuses more on quantity as well as the quality of the calorie.
I trained very differently for the 2013 LA marathon.  By now, I was very knowledgeable of the paleo diet and I wanted to apply what I knew to endurance training.
From a macronutrient point of view, there wasn’t much difference.  I still ate carbs after I ran to recover, but instead of eating pasta, bread, or corn, I ate safe starches such as yams, potatoes, taro, and sweet potatoes (my absolute favorite!).  
A piece of sweet potato the size of my palm was the usual portion, along with some lean protein such as chicken breast or  90% lean ground beef; grass-fed when I could afford it.
The biggest factor to my drop in time and better health was the elimination of food that is not paleo, such as dairy, grains, and legumes.  Why?  I’m lactose intolerant, so eating most forms of dairy would send my gut to digestion hell.  I’m also allergic to gluten, the protein found in most grains and in foods such as bread and pasta (No more spaghetti for me).
After going grain and dairy free, my asthma was gone.   I no longer needed my inhaler or “preventative” asthma medication.  I remember the first time I ran 6.7 miles (one lap of the route I run) without needing to use my inhaler; I had the biggest grin on my face after the workout.
Here’s a list of what I ate for the 3 months leading up to the LA marathon:
Breakfast: Protein and fat!  Yup, “bacon and eggs” was the standard.  I would cook the eggs in either coconut oil or with the leftover fat from the bacon.  I would also drink coffee with coconut oil and cinnamon; no carbs (not even safe carbs).
Lunch: Salad with lean protein, such as chicken breast, 90% lean ground beef, or seafood.  To treat myself I might put in dried cranberries and nuts.  I would have my 2nd cup of coffee or some tea with my salad.
Dinner: 200 grams of protein (e.g. a steak the size of my palm and about ¾ inch thick), a salad similar to the one I had for lunch, and 100 grams of a safe carb.  If I worked out, then I would eat an extra 100 grams of safe starch, like an extra piece of sweet potato.
I drank about 6 to 8 glasses of water each day, more if I worked out or if I consumed more coffee and tea.
I used this template until 4 weeks before the race, and then I totally eliminated the sugar (dried cranberries) and carbs (any kind of nuts and the safe starches) until 3 days before the race. I carb loaded the last three days, eating about 1 to 2 pounds of safe starches a day.
This strategy might not work for everyone, but I did drop 19 minutes from my time, eliminated my chronic asthma, and lost 20 pounds.
So is it possible to train for endurance sports while on a paleo diet?  I certainly think so!

That's Dee (on the left) at the finish line with his brother - what an accomplishment!


westlakeramblings said...

Glad to see you blogging again. I have a blog, too, and so far, I've only blogged on rather somber occasions. My daughters keep telling me to "write happy things, too"...
Anyway, I'd love to ride with you. Road or Mountain, it doesn't matter. I've ridden with HerbM (on the road, once), and I'd love to ride on the dirt with him (and you, if you join).
Kudos to continuing the dieting and the goal setting. BTW, I need to lose a few pounds, too (like 5 or 10 or 50), so I can identify with the subject.
Petros V.

merider (M.E.-rider) said...

Hi Petros,
Thank you for the sweet compliment. I'd be happy to ride with you. At present, I'm riding solo just trying to get my fitness back, but I know Herb and I will be mtn biking soon. I'll be sure we invite you.
All the best,
Mary :)

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