View Full Version : Paleo for Athletes?

Matt Thomas
12-31-2008, 12:50 PM
I did some searching around the forums and couldn't find anything real specific, so I apologize if I'm re-treading old ground.

I've tried paleo style eating before and it works for me. I respond well to eating meat and no grains. Doing that, however, keeps me at around 170 lbs. Recently, relatively speaking, I've wanted to gain some size so I can get stronger so I changed my diet to include more calories. It's not a ton by some people's mass gaining standards, but this is what my typical day looks like:

1: 7 eggs & an apple (sometimes a wheat pancake.)

2: 12 oz. of a chicken / steak concoction with black beans mixed in.

3: Protein Shake: Whey (34g protein), 2 cups of milk, handful frozen strawberries, 1 banana, 2 big scoops of peanut butter.

4: 4-6 oz. of some other kind of meat (chicken or salmon usually) & handful of sunflower seeds

5: 1/2 - 1 cup of cottage cheese w/ frozen blueberries.

* 1/2 gallon of whole milk throughout the day.
** about 24g of amino acid supplements throughout the day.

This is working pretty good for mass gain. I weighed myself last week and I was 193-195. Somewhere in there.

The reason I want to make the switch is because I've become pretty smooth and I want to lean out a little. I'll be honest a lot of it is for cosmetic reasons. I live in Florida and beach season is fast approaching don't judge me!!!:mad: :D Also, the more I weigh the worse I am at running (PT tests -_-) so it'd be nice if I could trim out some of the fat. I thought switching back to a paleo style diet would be a good way to do it so I bought Paleo for Athletes. I'm only about 50 pages in, but it doesn't seem like they'll be addressing anything other than endurance athletes (why are only marathon runners "athletes"?) So I'm not really sure what to do for myself.

The problem is that I don't really want to lose weight. I'm willing to drop down toward the mid 180s, but don't really want to go lower and if I go back to how I used to eat that will never happen. I also don't want to lose any strength, in fact I'd like to continue gaining strength. I guess the only real problem is, how do I replace the milk? That's a lot of calories that would be tough to get down if I had to replace it with meat. Are my goals realistic to accomplish switching back to paleo?

Sorry for the long post, but thanks for any help you can offer.

Mike Prevost
01-01-2009, 06:48 AM

I don't think you will find any magic protocol here. I think you just need to cut your calories back a little bit. Make small adjustments and don't rush the fat loss too much or you will likely lose some muscle. A 200-500 calorie per day deficit would be plenty. Not sure what you are doing for exercise but finding a way to burn some extra calories, above and beyond what you are already doing would be good. You will see testimonials all over the place but I do not believe you will find the magic protocol that will melt the fat and build muscle with no effort. You simply have to find a way to burn more calories than you are eating by either eating less, burning more or both (while controlling hunger and preserving muscle). Dropping the fat slowly will help you hold on to your muscle.

Nothing wrong with wanting your abs to show. When you look good you can be a more effective ambasador for a healthy and fit lifestyle. People will actually listen to you when you give fitness advice, which is good. :D

Mike Prevost
01-01-2009, 06:49 AM
Another thought...

Why not just cut the milk consumption in half and cut out the peanut butter? You need to cut back on calories a little bit anyway....


Matt Thomas
01-01-2009, 10:36 AM
Thanks. I'm not adverse to working hard. Working hard is where all the fun is. It just always seems like it's one or the other with me. I can either be 190 and soft, or I can be 175 and ripped. I can never manage the nice median. I will cut out the peanut butter and down the milk and see how that works. Thanks!

Derek Weaver
01-01-2009, 12:20 PM
If you don't want to lose weight below 190 lbs. then you're going to need to pack on enough muscle (and more fat) so that when you lean back out to "six pack abs" levels you're still up between 190-200.

You can try a recomp. approach that I've seen a couple of people over at Lyle's forums try, going over maintenance on training days, under on off days...

Unfortunately I think you'll just end up spinning your wheels with an approach like that.

Chase two rabbits and they both get away.

Chris H Laing
01-01-2009, 07:51 PM
so I bought Paleo for Athletes. I'm only about 50 pages in, but it doesn't seem like they'll be addressing anything other than endurance athletes (why are only marathon runners "athletes"?) So I'm not really sure what to do for myself.

I'm in a similar position. I got the book for christmas and just finished it, but I think you just need to follow the basic guidelines of the book and not get caught up to much in the details. For me, I feel like the book recommends too many carbs(i guess lsd runners need more glycogen).

I am still cutting off some fat from my SS cycle, and I just try to get at least 150g of protein (I weigh 140 lbs), as many greens and as much fat as i want, and its working pretty well. I gained 15 lbs doing SS for a month and a half before getting sick, and after losing about 5 lbs of fat, I'm looking pretty lean but I'm still maintaining the higher weight.

The only thing I'm still working on is the pwo meal/shake, because I feel like using some protein powder and BCAA's, maybe some glucose (as recommended in the book), but I wodner if not getting the nutrients from natural sources takes away from the benefits of paleo.

Darryl Shaw
01-02-2009, 05:12 AM
I thought switching back to a paleo style diet would be a good way to do it so I bought Paleo for Athletes. I'm only about 50 pages in, but it doesn't seem like they'll be addressing anything other than endurance athletes (why are only marathon runners "athletes"?) So I'm not really sure what to do for myself.

Athletes are athletes and there isn't a huge difference between the nutritional requirements of a marathon runner and a weight lifter.

Derek Weaver
01-02-2009, 06:02 PM
Athletes are athletes and there isn't a huge difference between the nutritional requirements of a marathon runner and a weight lifter.

I'm not sure I'm following you on this one...

Kevin Perry
01-02-2009, 08:39 PM
I'm not sure I'm following you on this one...

Ditto. Elaborate?

Darryl Shaw
01-03-2009, 04:36 AM
I'm not sure I'm following you on this one...

Protein requirements for athletes are 1.2 - 1.8g/kg/day (about double the RDA) regardless of whether you're a runner or a lifter. The lifter needs the extra protein to repair and build his muscles and the runner needs the extra protein to repair his muscles and replace what he oxidised for energy (gluconeogensis) as his glycogen stores became depleted.
Once protein requirements have been met both runners and lifters need to eat enough carbs and fats to ensure that glycogen stores are replenished between workouts and that they have enough energy to get through the day. The 120 lb marathon runner needs to eat a high calorie diet to fuel his prolonged training sessions and the 220 lb lifter needs a high calorie diet to fuel his short intense workouts, build new tissue and maintain his current lean body mass so the total calorie requirements of the two different athletes won't be all that different.

This is a fairly simplistic explanation but I'm sure you get the idea.

Chris H Laing
01-03-2009, 06:27 PM
Protein requirements for athletes are 1.2 - 1.8g/kg/day (about double the RDA) regardless of whether you're a runner or a lifter.

I disagree. The nutrition of an elite marathon runner differs greatly from that of an elite weightlifter.

LSD runners are all about the carbs to keep glycogen stores high for their super long endurance workouts, and oly lifters eat buttloads of protein and fat, and cycle their carbs to help restore glycogen, but stay low carb for the majority of the time.

This is also extremely simplified, and I'm not really sure why it is like it is other than what I already said, but if it works, it works, and high protein/fat, cyclic low carb has been proven again and again to work for oly lifters, while high carb has been proven detrimental.

Darryl Shaw
01-05-2009, 05:50 AM

Generally speaking runners eat too many carbs and not enough protein and lifters eat too much protein and not enough carbs however for the reasons I gave earlier their nutritional requirements are actually very similar.

As for a high protein/fat, cyclic low carb diet being "proven again and again to work for oly lifters" well, I'm sorry but it's just an unproven hypothesis with very little supporting evidence, in fact evidence from studies subject to peer review suggests that athletes perform better when they're eating enough carbs to replenish glycogen stores between workouts; something which is almost impossible to achieve on a low carb diet.

The Effect of Carbohydrates and Fats on 24 Hour Nitrogen Balance
As has been discussed, energy has a tremendous nitrogen sparing effect [34]. However, a related topic concerns the differential effects of fats and carbohydrates on nitrogen balance. In this context, McCarger [83] investigated the effects of a high carbohydrate or high fat diet on nitrogen retention, substrate utilization, and serum hormone concentrations in six healthy male participants. The diets were administered at maintenance and at 75% of maintenance calories. Results indicated that the high fat diet produced slightly greater nitrogen retention in the 75% restricted diet than the high carbohydrate diet, while no differences existed between diets at maintenance. Results such as this have led Millward to suggest that "for now energy intakes can be considered independently from the composition of that energy as determinants of NB, thus simplifying the issue [34]." However, these results need to be replicated; particularly, in the context of exercise training.

Carbohydrates and Fats in Resistance training exercise
While carbohydrates and fats may spare nitrogen in a similar manner, it is important to recognize that carbohydrates are critical for high intensity exercise. As an illustration Jacobs et al. [84] investigated the effect of depleting muscle fibers of glycogen on strength levels. It was found that glycogen depletion in both fast and slow fiber types in the vastus lateralis was associated with impaired maximal muscular strength produced during a single dynamic contraction, as well as with increased muscle fatigue patterns. Further, it has been well established that a decrease in intensity can cause a significant loss of adaptation [43,85-88]. These results suggest that a decrease in carbohydrates may indirectly decrease muscle tissue, or impair further adaptations.

Interaction between carbohydrates and protein/amino acid intake
Koopman and colleagues [89] investigated the effects of carbohydrate (0.3 g per kg-per hour) (CHO), carbohydrate and protein (0.2 g per kg-h) (CHO-PRO) and carbohydrates, protein and leucine (0.1 g per kg-h) (CHO-PROL) on net protein balance, and amino acid oxidation rates. Results indicated that net balance was negative in the CHO condition, and positive in the CHO-PRO and CHO-PROL conditions, with the latter attaining the highest values. These results paralleled plasma insulin concentrations, with insulin being highest in the CHO-PROL condition, intermediate in the CHO-PRO condition, and lowest in the CHO condition. The net balance was improved through increased protein synthesis and decreased protein breakdown in the CHO-PROL condition relative to the other two conditions. Further protein oxidation was lowest in the CHO-PROL condition. The rationale may be that leucine intake enhances insulin secretion [89], and independently increases protein synthesis [90,91]. It is generally thought that insulin enhances protein balance through hindering protein degradation [40,92], which was supported by this study.

However, the role of insulin in stimulating protein synthesis is in debate [89]. In vitro studies [93-95] have supported insulin's role in regulating protein synthesis, while a number of in vivo studies have shown discrepancies in protein synthesis [96]. As an illustration Biolo et al. [92] found that insulin infusion increased protein synthesis at rest, but not after resistance training exercise. The authors concluded that it was the decreased amino acid availability which depressed the stimulatory effect of insulin. This was supported by Biolo et al. [97] when they found that maintained amino acid levels in the presence of hyperinsulemia increased protein synthesis. Further, Hiller and colleagues [96] suggested that discrepancies seen between in vitro studies and in vivo studies centered around plasma concentrations of insulin. To test this question, Hiller et al. [96] raised plasma insulin levels to concentrations similar to studies conducted in vitro, while maintaining amino acid concentrations. It was found that hyperinsulemia increased protein synthesis greatly. Therefore, mechanisms which enhance the insulin response to food may enhance protein accretion. The efficacy of combining carbohydrates and protein on insulin secretion was demonstrated by Ivy et al. [98] who found that the combined effects of protein and a high glycemic carbohydrate were greater on stimulating insulin secretion than their independent effects.

Summary of the effect of carbohydrates and fats on protein balance
In summary it appears that both carbohydrates and proteins have similar nitrogen sparing effects [34,83]. In this context it may be advisable to increase fats when carbohydrates are lowered. However because carbohydrates are critical to athletic performance [84] the athlete should be conscious of decreased intensity and performance with decreased carbohydrate intakes. Finally, there appears to be an interaction effect between protein and carbohydrates in stimulating insulin secretion [98-100]. This latter effect may be beneficial when manipulated for protein accretion purposes.


Rachel Izzo
01-12-2009, 08:29 AM
While weightlifters definitely don't need to eat a ton of carbs, they are in NO SENSE eating a low-carb diet.

Check out Melanie Roach's diet; it's anything but low carb.