Running, jumping, hurling, jogging, lifting, pushing, pulling, spearing, archery, all in a day’s work for our Paleolithic ancestors. Is the Paleo diet for athletes? You bet. The diet they ate helped to provide the fuel needed to get through a day of hunting and gathering.
There’s no reason to believe that it won’t also benefit us modern humans, even though our days are generally not as active. When you do want to push your body and reach new levels of performance, you need a diet that gives you what you need to give your best effort, regardless of the sport.
1. Provides Protein for Muscle
The Paleo diet is essentially a high protein diet, so you’ll be able to build lean, useful muscles that will assist you in mastering your sport of choice. The great thing is that Paleo is one-size-fits-all. If golf is your sport you’ll naturally slim down to the right size for tackling the greens, and if MMA is more your thing you’ll find that you’ll easily start putting on more muscle when you make up for any protein deficiencies by eating whole food sources of protein.
Paleo is basically an even split of meat and vegetables, and the focus is on high quality meats that provide plenty of protein, regardless of your protein goals. If you are trying to build muscle and are looking to get more than the average recommendation of 50 grams of protein per day, this can be achieved by two meaty meals on Paleo. And if you simply want to meet that 50 gram goal you’ll easily do it on Paleo. Combine this with even moderate strength training and you should see an increase in your muscle tone.
2. Provides the Right Carbs for Energy
The Paleo diet is naturally low in carbohydrates, even though no carb counting takes place. The carbs that are eaten are from fruits and vegetables, so they won’t add weight and instead will provide you with energy that helps you during a practice or a training session, or during game day when you’re expected to perform at your best. You’ll have the mental focus that comes with eating a meal that is roughly half meat and half vegetables, with some fruit thrown in for good nutrition.
If you’ve ever felt weighed down after a meal it’s probably because you were eating a food that was high in the wrong kind of carbs. Try Paleo for a week and you’ll be amazed at the difference it makes to the way you feel, and the way you’re able to compete on the field, and off.
3. Provides Healthy Fats
The Paleo diet is focused on getting healthy fats back into the diet, which not only help you lose fat if necessary, but keep you feeling full and focused for several hours. This can help curb brain fog and keep you alert for your sport, while providing energy so you can have some to spare and best your opponent. If you’ve been stuck in the mentality that fat is bad, it’s time to get more specific of the type of fat in question.
Polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fat from foods like olive oil, avocados, and almonds are the good kind of fat that you want. Even saturated fat from coconut oil and macadamia nuts can be helpful to your system, and help propel you through a workout or a game.
4. Provides Fiber to Maintain a Healthy Weight
You’ll be eating plenty of fruits and vegetables on the Paleo diet, so you’ll never have to worry about regularity, and it will help you maintain the right weight so you’ll be better able to function in your chosen sport. The role of fiber in an athlete’s life is not often recognized, but running a fiber deficiency will slow down your digestive system, and there’s just no accounting for a sluggish digestion, it permeates into all other areas of your life. Get your digestive system unstuck and you’ll see performance games on the field, on the court, in the water, or wherever it is you do battle.
Getting the required amount of fiber each day will slowly but surely improve your digestive abilities, and unless you’ve been paying close attention to it, you’ve likely been falling short of your fiber requirement for quite some time. With the amount of vegetables and fruit you’ll be eating on Paleo you’ll increase your fiber intake to acceptable levels and notice a big difference in how you feel each day, which directly translates to better on-field performance.
5. It’s CrossFit Approved
Many who perform the CrossFit exercise program use the Paleo Diet as a way to make sure they have the energy and muscle needed to get through a routine. They even mention it in their section on what to eat while you’re doing CrossFit. They say that it is perfectly in line with the intense training you’ll be doing while on their program, and they point out that the human body hasn’t adapted to eating the foods that modern technology has provided us with.
With the rigorous cross training involved in CrossFit, this is perhaps the number one seal of approval that should have you believing that Paleo is right for athletes. Regardless of the sport, there is likely some element of it incorporated into a full CrossFit regimen.
6. No Protein Shakes or Energy Drinks Needed
Going Paleo means you won’t need to take protein shakes or energy drinks to try to artificially boost your focus or protein intake. Getting enough protein and having enough energy are a byproduct of the Paleo lifestyle, and you’ll find that you don’t really need these sort of supplements. Some Paleo followers will supplement with protein powders if they are doing intense strength training regimens. It’s best to try out the Paleo diet for a measured amount of time, say 30 days, and then assess whether you feel that you need to add more to your diet.
7. It’s Inherently for Athletes
The Paleo way of eating is designed for those that are active and mimicking a caveman’s busy day. If that isn’t you right now, it might become you after you start eating Paleo style. Excess energy is a typical side effect from doing the Paleo diet, and you shouldn’t be too hard on yourself if you’ve always wanted to be more athletic but found that you didn’t have enough get-up-and-go to get up and go.