Monday, April 23, 2007

Weight Loss

Although training for endurance sports typically keeps athletes lean, there are a few who seem to have a hard time establishing and maintaining low body fat. They may gain a few pounds over the holidays or during times of reduced training and then find it difficult to get the excess pounds off. My experience with several such athletes leads me to believe that if they ate a diet based on the principles in Dr. Loren Cordain's and my book, The Paleo Diet for Athletes, they would stabilize around their ideal weights.

We propose two principles in the Paleo (PAY-lee-o) diet book that allow the athlete to take in adequate carbohydrate to meet their training demands while helping to ensure that they don't take in excessive amounts of high glycemic carbohydrates which are quickly converted to fat. These principles are based on five stages of recovery throughout the day.

The first principle is that the athlete should only eat high glycemic foods (mostly starches and simple sugars) during exercise (stage 2), in the first 30 minutes post-exercise (stage 3), and for a period of time afterwards that lasts as long as the workout lasted (stage 4). During stage 1 (before the workout) the athlete eats moderate to low glycemic foods depending on how much time remains until the race begins. The more time there is before the race or workout, the more moderate the glycemic index of the food should be.

Stage 5--the remainder of the day--is the real key to weight loss and is the second principle. During this time the athlete focuses meals on vegetables, fruits and lean proteins, especially from animal sources. Lean protein is best found in ocean-caught fish, free-ranging turkey breast, egg whites, and wild game. In stage 5 snack with moderation on nuts, berries, seeds, fruit, and dried fruit.

The best recovery foods for stages 3 and 4 are potatoes, yams, raisins, bananas, and, to a lesser extent, grains (cereal, pasta, rice, corn). Foods best avoided altogether or eaten in very small servings are dairy and legumes. If you're concerned about calcium intake relative to dairy, don't be. It's a non-issue with the Paleo diet. You can see our book for the details and supporting research on this topic and others.

Back to the body weight issue... This past weekend I did a series of clinics in New York City at Jack Rabbit Sports. A young woman there told me she had lost 15 pounds following the Paleo diet and was training better than ever. I often hear similar comments from athletes from around the world. I've also seen this diet work with the athletes I coach which have included an Olympian, pro Ironman triathletes, top age groupers in cycling and multisport, and novice athletes.

From time to time, however, someone tells me they don't recover well on the Paleo diet. When I further quiz them I generally find they aren't taking in enough high glycemic carbs in stages 3 and 4. That's key to recovery on this diet.

You can purchase a copy of The Paleo Diet for Athletes here.


At May 15, 2007 5:32 AM , Anonymous Scott Hope said...

I started the Paleo Diet for Athletes about 6 weeks ago. As mentioned in the book, there is a period where your body needs to become accustomed to a new diet. This lasted for nearly two weeks for me. Now I am nearly 12 pounds down from my previous competing weight and am also training much more efficiently with more energy. This diet makes perfect sense and is the key to managing weight and performance.

At June 13, 2007 9:18 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am a long time vegetarian, though not a vegan. Is there a way to incorporate the the Paleo diet without eating animal flesh?

At June 13, 2007 10:58 AM , Blogger Joe Friel said...

Anon--I'm afraid there isn't a way to eat as our Paleolithic ancestors ate without including animal products. The best, BTW, would be fish given our food production system.

At November 5, 2007 7:59 PM , Blogger peterg said...

Hello Joe

Great resource you have here !

I have been enjoying a successful switch to Paleo for Athletes over the last 2 months. Lots of learning about food prep and different foods for sure. Was wondering if you were aware of any resources that outline how the paleo diet could be composed for athletes with 4-6000 calorie days?

or if you had any tips for optimizing these days?

Obviously the length of the workout causing a large caloric deficit would create a large stage 3 period. I Am just curious as to how this could best be composed.

At November 6, 2007 1:40 PM , Blogger Joe Friel said...

peterg--4-6k cal days means a lot of training load. That implies long workouts which means extended stage 4 recovery periods. Stage 4 is the time when carbohydrate is emphasized and lass as long as the preceding workout lasted. This situation may also mean you won't get to stage 5 until late in the day due to multiple workouts that day. That is fairly common for elite triathletes, especially.

At December 26, 2007 5:25 AM , Blogger mary said...

Hello, This is Mary

I am 36 years old with 2 toddlers. My youngest just started day care last week- which still feels a little strange. I haven't had this much time to myself in years. First thing I want to do is lose the extra pounds I put on during the last pregnancy. One of the girls next door has suggested I join her walking group two days a week. After my first pregnancy I lost around 35 pounds using the Herbalife products, but when I called the man that sold them to me three years ago he told me this week he doesn't sell them anymore. He told me to look on the internet. It's disappointing because he was really nice and he called me regularly to make sure I was using their products correctly. It was nice to have someone checking in with me every week to see how I was and it kept me motivated.

I searched on the internet for someone that sells Herbalife in New Jersey. I found many websites but I don't want
just to buy the products, I want to find someone trustworthy that sells the products so I can also meet them and get started again.

Could anybody here recommend someone in New Brunswick?

Thanks, Mary

At October 11, 2009 11:10 PM , Anonymous DDS Corpus Christi said...

It's really hard to maintain your ideal weight if you don't know what food you have to eat. this article has provided me lots of useful informations. thank you so much for sharing!


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