Performing on Paleo

This article originally appeared on CrossFit Invictus. I have recently switch from eating healthy, to going 100% paleo. For me it was  a small switch as most dairy was already gone, and I’d already eliminated most grains. What also significantly helped was zone-paleo. Paleo basically means eating fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, and meat. Zone means you divide your food into “blocks” which are easy ways to measure your food and the amount you are eating of carbs, fat, and protein. The goal is to keep a balanced intake so your carbs and protein stay in  balance. When you eat carbs you secrete insulin to uptake the glucose, where when you eat protein you secrete glucagon to uptake the protein. These hormones counterbalance each other and keeping the regulated leaves you with steady energy levels, and less stress on the body. So zone paleo keeps you eating healthy food while in proper portions.

I’ve been asked by many people how do you get enough energy while eating that way and no grains? The answer is, lots of vegetables. When measured my food I discovered my former meat portions had been a bit to large, and the fat portions (olive oil & penut butter) we way to high. My energy has balanced out and I feel good all day long. It did take a week to help process the rest of the junk out of my system and get used to the higher level of fiber. Below is some great information on how to actually perform while on Paleo. This means not just surviving but thriving as an athlete.


Performing on Paleo – by CrossFit Invictus

“Awesome, my waistline is shrinking but I feel so lethargic in workouts and it takes me forever to recover from a heavy squat session.”

Many of you have made the switch to an urban paleo diet – eradicating grains, legumes, dairy products, refined salt, refined sugar, processed oils and also post-workout supplements.  The question, is how has it affected your performance in workouts and recovery after?

Fact is, if you are already pretty lean and just looking to put on some muscle mass or lose that final bit of softness, you may need to increase your food consumption. Yes, you may feel that your portion size has drastically increased, but to get sufficient calories to perform and function as an athlete, you really need to be eating more often.

Below are my top five tips for athletes who are lean and looking to focus on fueling for optimal performance without any kind of supplementation, dairy or sugars.

  1. Start Strong – Around 90 minutes before a training session a meal rich in protein and fats can help to increase energy levels and performance. The meat and nuts breakfast is a favorite of ours at Invictus.  Check out this good article from strength coach Charles Poliquin for a good explanation of the advantages of the meat and nuts breakfast.
  2. Wake Up Your Brain – Personally, I like to have a strong black coffee just before I workout.  The caffeine keeps me alert and helps give that extra boost during the session. But be sure you’re drinking plenty of water before, during and after the session also. As a good rule of thumb, try to drink at least 12 ounces of water before your first coffee every day.
  3. Recover Quickly – Post-workout, which is anywhere around 30-60 minutes after training, I would recommend a small meal containing protein and carbs. An example may be, two small chicken breasts with a side of sweet potato mixed with applesauce. Try and stick to lean meats and starchy vegetables post workout. Replenishing glycogen stores with the carbohydrates and amino acids with quality proteins enables your body to recover more effectively and efficiently so that you are ready for that next workout or your long work day ahead.
  4. Biggest Meal of the Day – Around 90-120 minutes after your post-workout snack you should have your largest meal of the day, comprised of protein, carbs and good fats. Load up on your veggies until your heart’s content, the green leafy types are the best! When we talk about good fats, many people’s first instinct is to grab a packet of nuts (unsalted of course), but there are so many other good fats you can eat that are actually more beneficial than a handful of almonds. Incorporating avocado, olive oil or coconut milk into your meal is a great way to add those fats in. For dinner, your meal should be pretty similar. Remember that for your protein source, try and select the best quality cut of meat, it really does make a difference!
  5. Don’t Go To Bed Hungry – Experiment with eating something around 90 minutes prior to going to sleep. You don’t want to feel full, but also do not want to go to bed feeling hungry. This may come in the form of a snack, or it may be your dinner depending on what time you arrive home. The old rule about no carbs before bed is untrue.  A little bit of good carbohydrates can actually help promote sound sleep.

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