Eat like a Caveman!
Have all the "improvements" made in diet and supplements in the last few decades meant big increases in athletic performance? Or are we throwing lots of money at supplement companies in the hope that it will help in some way?
Ask anybody in the know and they will say that diet is the key to being more athletic/powerful/stronger/quicker/leaner/bigger/getting a six pack (delete as appropriate), and supplement companies prey on this vanity and general competitiveness inherant in man to bring out products that promise much, but do they deliver?....
Are whole foods always superior to supplements? Was the questions posed to the eminent nutritionist and bodybuilder Dr Lonnie Lowery....here is what he said.
"Whole foods should make up the majority of any long term diet. Athletes need to learn about them and how to incorporate them into their lifestyle. We humans have evolved alongside unrefined plant and animal foods for over a hundred thousand years and our biochemistries are built to consume them."
We are going to take a quick look at the history of man and how they thrived on "natural" products for thousands of years and how we can learn from the big smelly brutes.....
Cavemen, our hairy knuckle dragging cousins, lived a hunter/gatherer lifestyle. Picking what they could from the tree's and bushes whilst hunting down huge dangerous prey with little more than a lump of rock and a stick.
There is also some evidence that our relatives in the Paleolithic era used to run down their prey over huge distances and over many days, eating what they could on the hoof and working like a pack. Impressive for someone with such a "poor" diet. No chocolate protein shakes post session for these guys, just lumps of raw flesh, if they were successful.
Can we learn from the cavemen? Is the diet they had thousands of years ago pretty much spot on? I haven't seen too many overweight cavemen, and heart disease just didn't exist (people got eaten before that occured!)
The Paleolithic Diet (from the paleolithic era) is a diet that tracks the cavemans way of eating and is based around "optimal" and "non-optimal foods".
"Optimal foods" are ones that have been around for 4 million years, and "non-optimal" are ones that have been around for a fraction of that time (10,000 years). Western society diets are made up of large quantities of these "non-optimal" foods such as grains, dairy and legumes. Having said that we also eat alot of "optimal" foods such as vegetables, fruits and lean animal protein, the Paleo way says that, for athletes its a simple equation, eat non-optimal foods and they will moderate your health and peak performance, eat optimal foods and you will thrive and avoiding them means health and performance will be compromised.
Obviously there is a need to bend the rules of the strict Paleo Diet to one more suitable for professional athletes since they are placing huge demands on the body that were not normal for our Stone Age ancestors. Hour after hour of sustained high energy output and the need for quick recovery are the day to day demands beset on the body of an elite athlete.
The main difference between the two diets is that non-optimal foods are used on a limited basis for the athlete, this give some latitude for the intake of required nutrients at specific times during training.
CHECK OUT OUR SPECIAL CAVEMAN BOX!!!!
What are the benefits of the Paleo diet for Athletes?
Obviously nutritionists have implemented many diets for elite athletes over the years and as a group of people competing athletes need to get the most out of what they put in their mouths. In a world where the 1% improvement in performance can make the difference between winning and losing, every little bit counts.
But athletes don't go on diets, their diets are 24/7, something they take pride in, and is highly monitored by the physical preparation team, but saying that, at times even an elite athlete needs a little push in the right direction. I am sure all of you reading this article have been on one diet or another over the years.
What should I eat then?
Very simply, try to eat lean animal protein such as grass fed beef or free range chicken. For a more in depth look at why the quality of the meat you eat makes a difference click here. The other components of the diet are fruits, vegetables and nuts.
All of these are acceptable on the Paleo Diet in some form or another so now I am going to concentrate on the nuts of the issue.....
There are many many varieties of nut, but have you ever wondered which ones are the most specific for your bodies needs?
Peanuts - 564 calories, 46g fat (per 100g)
Cashews - 573 calories, 48g fat
Brazils - 682 calories, 68g fat
Walnuts - 688 calories, 69g fat
Pistachios - 601 calories , 55g fat
Almonds - 612 calories, 56g fat
Pecans - 689 calories, 70g fat
Hazelnuts - 650 calories, 64g fat
Chestnuts - 170 calories. 3g fat
So by now you are now armed with all the ammunition to go out and eat like a caveman. Eat grass fed beef, and other Athleat lean protein sources, plenty of fruit and veg and go nuts for the nuts.....