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Can a paleo dieter consume close to 9000 calories, if so how would you do it?

Answered on September 12, 2014
Created May 13, 2011 at 1:24 AM

While reading Paul's newest post on endurance exercise and cancer, someone in the comments posted the dietary menu of elite cyclists from the Tour de France (here: http://sports.espn.go.com/espn/page2/story?page=stein/090701). An elite cyclist's diet seems to contain a lot of crap and generally unhealthy food, so I got to wondering how someone could consume an astronomical amount of calories while following a high-fat "paleoish" type diet. It seems easy to do when you eat a ton of simple sugars and liquid calories, but I am guessing it would be very difficult to consume the amount of fat/protein needed to reach 9000 calories while eating paleo. If you were an elite-cyclist how would you reach the aforementioned amount of calories? Is it realistic to do so, evolutionary speaking are we built for such an extreme amount of calories?

Fe29f6658ce67c1ecc4a22e960be7498

(2997)

on May 20, 2011
at 04:17 PM

I heard that Tibetan monks (the ones actually in Tibet) typically consume something like 6,000 calories a day - and this on a monks' "simple" diet (I'm sure they are active they aren't marathon runners either). The reason: it's the Yak butter tea they all drink obsessively!

1d952d225819b0229e93160a90bf9bf8

(1600)

on May 14, 2011
at 11:49 PM

Absolutely...you have something like lamb's breast and bacon(very fatty), a lot of Indian dishes that are coconut and butter based,but still fall within then realm of paleo for most people.Those can run 1,000 calories for a cup serving.Couple of avocados,some more coconut cream in your coffee,a sweet potato with more butter..it adds up.

Medium avatar

(5136)

on May 14, 2011
at 08:56 PM

yeah but how easy can digesting flat coke repeatedly be?

95eda9fa0cec952b482e869c34a566b6

on May 14, 2011
at 03:03 PM

@Dr. K: Mendacious.

742ff8ba4ff55e84593ede14ac1c3cab

(3536)

on May 13, 2011
at 11:01 PM

Digestion is one of the big obstacles I feel could prevent one from achieving such a high amount of calories. I wonder, if one were to blend/puree their food if it would make it much easier.

9f9fa49265e03ddd2bf2bba5477a556b

(3184)

on May 13, 2011
at 09:47 PM

Among Sonya's records: 44 lobsters in 12 minutes, 9 pounds of crawfish jambalaya in 10 minutes, 7.75 lbs of turducken in 12 minutes, 23 pulled pork sandwiches in 10 minutes, 11 pounds of cheesecake in 9 minutes and 181 chicken wings in 12 minutes. All that at 98 pounds. She's a beast. And a genetic freak. Normal people just can't ever get close to that.

667f6c030b0245d71d8ef50c72b097dc

(15976)

on May 13, 2011
at 09:40 PM

Dunno how Dr.K could estimate such a high number. Even people like Brock lesnar don't eat in that range and he's one of the largest, while in shape, dudes around. Smells fishy to me.

742ff8ba4ff55e84593ede14ac1c3cab

(3536)

on May 13, 2011
at 02:08 PM

Cream is about the only fat that I could overeat. I have tried it with butter, tallow and coconut oil and the results have not been pretty.

667f6c030b0245d71d8ef50c72b097dc

(15976)

on May 13, 2011
at 02:07 PM

@Robb, I'd agree that all of the sudden increasing cals is going to present digestive issues. One way around this indeed actually refined products. I'm not advocating them but once you strip away all the fiber, for instance, it becomes a lot easier to get more cals from grains and veggies, in the forms of refined flour and veggie juice, for instance. Same idea with the gels that cyclists use, too. This is indeed how people like Phelps can manage such monstrous meals. With most paleofolks eating higher fiber veg it'd quickly becomea stomach problem. Coconut would be out, for instance.

742ff8ba4ff55e84593ede14ac1c3cab

(3536)

on May 13, 2011
at 02:07 PM

...but can it be done with a paleo type diet? It's easy when consuming SAD food.

072fd69647b0e765bb4b11532569f16d

(3717)

on May 13, 2011
at 01:26 PM

I tend to agree. I workout quite a bit, and upping my calories helps. I tend to do better on solid food and eat as much meat and greens and squashes as I can each meal. Fattier cuts of beef (e.g. ribeye) help to push the calories up and don't seem to make my digestion suffer. It's when I add in liquid fat (e.g. cocount milk, oil) that I seem to have issues.

21fd060d0796fdb8a4a990441e08eae7

(24543)

on May 13, 2011
at 12:23 PM

Ha! No, I was just trying to eat more because of a misguided desire to enter a (low level) bodybuilding contest.

84666a86108dee8d11cbbc85b6382083

(2399)

on May 13, 2011
at 10:09 AM

A cup (250ml/g) of each, indeed David. While coconut milk is easy for me, I can see why that much creamed coconut could be problematic. Despite regular eating, 100g of coconut cream (approx. g of fat)in a sitting knocks me down. Therefore I dilute it with water, let it harden and eat it like biscuits.

E35e3d76547b18096a59c90029e7e107

(15613)

on May 13, 2011
at 09:25 AM

A cup = 10k? I'd have thought a cup of heavy cream was ~800kcal (nutritiondata.self.com/facts/…). Even a cup of oil is only @2000kcal. Maybe you mean a cup of all of the above, in which case I entirely agree that eating calories of cream is as easy (easier) than pie, but I don't think its clear that the 2000 pure oil calories would be that easy (or the coconut for that matter- easy to eat lots, but makes me feel sick).

E35e3d76547b18096a59c90029e7e107

(15613)

on May 13, 2011
at 09:23 AM

A cup = 10k? I'd have thought a cup of heavy cream was ~800kcal (http://nutritiondata.self.com/facts/dairy-and-egg-products/51/2). Even a cup of oil is only @2000kcal. I totally agree that eating calories of cream is as easy (easier) than pie, but I don't think its clear that the 2000 pure oil calories would be that easy (or the coconut for that matter- easy to eat lots, but makes me feel sick).

84666a86108dee8d11cbbc85b6382083

(2399)

on May 13, 2011
at 07:36 AM

What's the story behind that Kamal ? You wanted to be a pro eater or did it just "for the lulz" ?

21fd060d0796fdb8a4a990441e08eae7

(24543)

on May 13, 2011
at 02:48 AM

Many years ago, I emailed Sonya Thomas (#3 ranked competitive eater) asking for eating tips. From what she said and the specific way she trained to eat big, I highly doubt that any normal person could eat more than 10,000 calories or so without puking. She eats the lion's share of a buffet once a day, and does extremely slow and long cardio. Her bodyfat is very low in order to accomodate stomach expansion, and she has trained her gag reflex to stand by. Hard work.

742ff8ba4ff55e84593ede14ac1c3cab

(3536)

on May 13, 2011
at 02:43 AM

Whenever I increase calories my digestion suffers, but if my calories are too low my performance suffers.

9f9fa49265e03ddd2bf2bba5477a556b

(3184)

on May 13, 2011
at 02:31 AM

http://grimaudfarms.com/nutrition.htm#confit 170 cals/85 grams. About 450 grams/1 pound. ~900 cals/pound. ~2700 cals/3 pounds. Also, I'm exceedingly skeptical you actually ate 17,000 cals. That is competitive eating territory. That is what Joey Chestnut or Takeru Kobayashi put down when eating 60+ hotdogs. You would be among the elite on the planet. Michael Phelps only manages 10K while training, so 17,000 for a non-Olympian, non competitive eater? Unlikely. Being a neurosurgeon AND one of the top eaters on the planet? Surely you are not that blessed.

Medium avatar

(5136)

on May 13, 2011
at 02:31 AM

the Tour riders still lose a lot of weight by the end of the Tour even with all the food they eat daily... It's 3 weeks with with only two days off thrown in. It's a good question though and I've wondered it too.

742ff8ba4ff55e84593ede14ac1c3cab

(3536)

on May 13, 2011
at 02:21 AM

That's something that has been in the back of my mind for quite some time now, but you must take in to account that these are elite athletes who are constantly burning a ton of calories.

742ff8ba4ff55e84593ede14ac1c3cab

(3536)

on May 13, 2011
at 02:19 AM

Amazing. I have ate 2 pounds of meat before, but my stomach was close to exploding and I was very short of breath.

742ff8ba4ff55e84593ede14ac1c3cab

(3536)

on May 13, 2011
at 02:16 AM

Dr.k, I am wondering whether you achieved that feat when eating paleo. That is quite an extreme amount of calories.

79648d1e9f1a8d25d9450a8a1d18fe64

(395)

on May 13, 2011
at 02:07 AM

WOW...3 pounds? I think I would barf.

Medium avatar

(5136)

on May 13, 2011
at 02:07 AM

the only thing we really need to know is what Fabian Cancellara eats...

64433a05384cd9717c1aa6bf7e98b661

(15236)

on May 13, 2011
at 01:59 AM

Allen Lim, one of the premiere cycling nutritionist/sports scientists generally tries to keep his riders gluten free, which was very pleasant and surprising to hear.

667f6c030b0245d71d8ef50c72b097dc

(15976)

on May 13, 2011
at 01:46 AM

Once liquid fat is in the mix you can climb in cals pretty easy. Digestion would be tough though. Maybe lots of coconut water for the cyclists. You could eventually get pretty high in cals with those. Easy on the digestion too.

Ed71ab1c75c6a9bd217a599db0a3e117

(25477)

on May 13, 2011
at 01:43 AM

the highest day I have had was over 17000 calories. That was wild. I was training to get big after being a fat ass for a long time. But the amount of working out I was doing was sick. And I was lifting in 20 degree meat lockers and taking ice baths for two hours.

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10 Answers

2
072fd69647b0e765bb4b11532569f16d

(3717)

on May 13, 2011
at 02:26 AM

I would listen to my body. If I needed more food, I would eat it. Eating obscene amounts of calories just to do it does not make sense to me. Of course, my digestion isn't the best, and I am lucky to digest days where calories might reach 3,500 or so (guesstimating as I do not track calories at all).

742ff8ba4ff55e84593ede14ac1c3cab

(3536)

on May 13, 2011
at 02:43 AM

Whenever I increase calories my digestion suffers, but if my calories are too low my performance suffers.

072fd69647b0e765bb4b11532569f16d

(3717)

on May 13, 2011
at 01:26 PM

I tend to agree. I workout quite a bit, and upping my calories helps. I tend to do better on solid food and eat as much meat and greens and squashes as I can each meal. Fattier cuts of beef (e.g. ribeye) help to push the calories up and don't seem to make my digestion suffer. It's when I add in liquid fat (e.g. cocount milk, oil) that I seem to have issues.

667f6c030b0245d71d8ef50c72b097dc

(15976)

on May 13, 2011
at 02:07 PM

@Robb, I'd agree that all of the sudden increasing cals is going to present digestive issues. One way around this indeed actually refined products. I'm not advocating them but once you strip away all the fiber, for instance, it becomes a lot easier to get more cals from grains and veggies, in the forms of refined flour and veggie juice, for instance. Same idea with the gels that cyclists use, too. This is indeed how people like Phelps can manage such monstrous meals. With most paleofolks eating higher fiber veg it'd quickly becomea stomach problem. Coconut would be out, for instance.

1
E35e3d76547b18096a59c90029e7e107

(15613)

on May 13, 2011
at 09:43 AM

One would hope that it wouldn't be difficult to eat 9000 calories if we actually needed 9000 calories. I can't imagine a situation where we just keep getting thinner and thinner, to the point of starvation, because it's too difficult to consume extra calories- would be a great evolutionary mishap! I appreciate that athletes want to get in as many calories as they're expending in the name of keeping up performance, but if you just need 6000 extra sheer calories, from expending all (actually, less than 2 pounds of) your body fat, then I can't imagine that short term maintenance of calorie intake would be so necessary. So long as you're not losing an undue amount of bodyfat over the course of a few days, I can't imagine that maintaining body fat levels over the course of each single day is important. Of course, if you need carbs for glycogen it's a different story, but eating sweet potatos is easy enough.

Also the amount of protein shouldn't be too much. So it's not as though you'd need to consume 25% of 9000 calories (2250kcal/562g) of protein. You'd still, as an endurance, low carb athlete, still only need 1.2 ??? 1.7 g/kg of protein and then as much fat as you'd burnt. Personally, I find eating huge amounts of plain fat (cream normally) to be completely easy, I've never felt that I couldn't eat infinite amounts of it, if I wanted. I assume that by the time you actually started to lose dangerous amounts of fat it would be all the easier.

742ff8ba4ff55e84593ede14ac1c3cab

(3536)

on May 13, 2011
at 02:08 PM

Cream is about the only fat that I could overeat. I have tried it with butter, tallow and coconut oil and the results have not been pretty.

1
84666a86108dee8d11cbbc85b6382083

(2399)

on May 13, 2011
at 07:41 AM

Macadamia oil, heavy cream, creamed coconut, coconut milk, mascarpone and creme fraiche.

A cup (250) ml of all would amount somewhere around 10k.

E35e3d76547b18096a59c90029e7e107

(15613)

on May 13, 2011
at 09:25 AM

A cup = 10k? I'd have thought a cup of heavy cream was ~800kcal (nutritiondata.self.com/facts/…). Even a cup of oil is only @2000kcal. Maybe you mean a cup of all of the above, in which case I entirely agree that eating calories of cream is as easy (easier) than pie, but I don't think its clear that the 2000 pure oil calories would be that easy (or the coconut for that matter- easy to eat lots, but makes me feel sick).

E35e3d76547b18096a59c90029e7e107

(15613)

on May 13, 2011
at 09:23 AM

A cup = 10k? I'd have thought a cup of heavy cream was ~800kcal (http://nutritiondata.self.com/facts/dairy-and-egg-products/51/2). Even a cup of oil is only @2000kcal. I totally agree that eating calories of cream is as easy (easier) than pie, but I don't think its clear that the 2000 pure oil calories would be that easy (or the coconut for that matter- easy to eat lots, but makes me feel sick).

84666a86108dee8d11cbbc85b6382083

(2399)

on May 13, 2011
at 10:09 AM

A cup (250ml/g) of each, indeed David. While coconut milk is easy for me, I can see why that much creamed coconut could be problematic. Despite regular eating, 100g of coconut cream (approx. g of fat)in a sitting knocks me down. Therefore I dilute it with water, let it harden and eat it like biscuits.

1
Ed71ab1c75c6a9bd217a599db0a3e117

(25477)

on May 13, 2011
at 01:44 AM

i once at three pounds of duck confit.....still have no clue the calorie load but I bet that one meal was close to 7500 calories.

79648d1e9f1a8d25d9450a8a1d18fe64

(395)

on May 13, 2011
at 02:07 AM

WOW...3 pounds? I think I would barf.

742ff8ba4ff55e84593ede14ac1c3cab

(3536)

on May 13, 2011
at 02:19 AM

Amazing. I have ate 2 pounds of meat before, but my stomach was close to exploding and I was very short of breath.

21fd060d0796fdb8a4a990441e08eae7

(24543)

on May 13, 2011
at 12:23 PM

Ha! No, I was just trying to eat more because of a misguided desire to enter a (low level) bodybuilding contest.

9f9fa49265e03ddd2bf2bba5477a556b

(3184)

on May 13, 2011
at 09:47 PM

Among Sonya's records: 44 lobsters in 12 minutes, 9 pounds of crawfish jambalaya in 10 minutes, 7.75 lbs of turducken in 12 minutes, 23 pulled pork sandwiches in 10 minutes, 11 pounds of cheesecake in 9 minutes and 181 chicken wings in 12 minutes. All that at 98 pounds. She's a beast. And a genetic freak. Normal people just can't ever get close to that.

21fd060d0796fdb8a4a990441e08eae7

(24543)

on May 13, 2011
at 02:48 AM

Many years ago, I emailed Sonya Thomas (#3 ranked competitive eater) asking for eating tips. From what she said and the specific way she trained to eat big, I highly doubt that any normal person could eat more than 10,000 calories or so without puking. She eats the lion's share of a buffet once a day, and does extremely slow and long cardio. Her bodyfat is very low in order to accomodate stomach expansion, and she has trained her gag reflex to stand by. Hard work.

84666a86108dee8d11cbbc85b6382083

(2399)

on May 13, 2011
at 07:36 AM

What's the story behind that Kamal ? You wanted to be a pro eater or did it just "for the lulz" ?

9f9fa49265e03ddd2bf2bba5477a556b

(3184)

on May 13, 2011
at 02:31 AM

http://grimaudfarms.com/nutrition.htm#confit 170 cals/85 grams. About 450 grams/1 pound. ~900 cals/pound. ~2700 cals/3 pounds. Also, I'm exceedingly skeptical you actually ate 17,000 cals. That is competitive eating territory. That is what Joey Chestnut or Takeru Kobayashi put down when eating 60+ hotdogs. You would be among the elite on the planet. Michael Phelps only manages 10K while training, so 17,000 for a non-Olympian, non competitive eater? Unlikely. Being a neurosurgeon AND one of the top eaters on the planet? Surely you are not that blessed.

1
6f2c00fcbf48c69f0ea212239b3e1178

on May 13, 2011
at 01:41 AM

How do you know we would need so many calories if we're not just eating a bunch of crap? Maybe if you eat good food (paleo etc), you can be an elite cyclist without eating such a crazy amount of food. I know avoiding junk food has allowed me to eat like 1/4 as much as I used to, even though I do more exercise than back then.

Medium avatar

(5136)

on May 13, 2011
at 02:31 AM

the Tour riders still lose a lot of weight by the end of the Tour even with all the food they eat daily... It's 3 weeks with with only two days off thrown in. It's a good question though and I've wondered it too.

742ff8ba4ff55e84593ede14ac1c3cab

(3536)

on May 13, 2011
at 02:21 AM

That's something that has been in the back of my mind for quite some time now, but you must take in to account that these are elite athletes who are constantly burning a ton of calories.

0
48b3a3fac68ce4e0b80d8d29a584cc93

(242)

on April 28, 2012
at 04:11 PM

Coconut meat. I think if you eat the meat of a whole coconut (which is not much) you get around 1500 calories. I can see someone easily eating 3 pieces a day.

That would surely help.

0
Medium avatar

(5136)

on May 14, 2011
at 08:15 PM

well, speaking strictly about cyclists i think it could be done. The main reason I think so is because these guys eat all day long on their bikes. It's considered a very rookie mistake to forget to eat while riding (and hit "the wall") and they are even reminded to eat before they're hungry by their team directors etc over the radios.

So in a Grand Tour (one of three major 3 week races) the average stage length is more or less between 100-150 miles every day (excepting a few time trials) and the average speed is maybe near 24 mph so they're on their bikes for about 4-6 hours every day, and they're noshing away. They eat sandwiches, baked potatoes, gels, drink flat cokes, eat ham etc... so i don't see why a rider couldn't eat a pemmican bar or a few legs of duck confit. Add to that a major breakfast and a major major dinner, I think you could do it.

But mostly, I'd like to think it's possible because I've recently discovered one of my favorite riders, Dave Zabriskie, went vegan. Best of luck to him anyways. But if a vegan can do it, surely a paleo could.

0
667f6c030b0245d71d8ef50c72b097dc

(15976)

on May 13, 2011
at 09:39 PM

I can't answer "as a cyclist" but yes it is possible to hit 9000 cals/day on strict paleo. No it's proly not something we've evolved doing but I wouldn't concern myself with that. Anything confit will get you big cals easy. Or braise short ribs and brisket and wolf that down, easy way. Whole roast chicken, dipping each piece in liquid coconut oil while eating many many sweet potatoes slathered in coconut oil. Bunch of avocados alongside. You could hit 9000 I'd bet.

With most of our food being unprocessed and so higher in fiber than most SAD food it might be tougher on the digestion though.

If you add dairy in the mix you'd get some easy calories. GOMAD style or just heavy cream.

742ff8ba4ff55e84593ede14ac1c3cab

(3536)

on May 13, 2011
at 11:01 PM

Digestion is one of the big obstacles I feel could prevent one from achieving such a high amount of calories. I wonder, if one were to blend/puree their food if it would make it much easier.

Medium avatar

(5136)

on May 14, 2011
at 08:56 PM

yeah but how easy can digesting flat coke repeatedly be?

0
1d952d225819b0229e93160a90bf9bf8

on May 13, 2011
at 11:41 AM

Unless I was wandering through some horrible environmental extreme,there isn't any way that, at 5'3,I would require 9,000 calories.Can it be done?Sit and watch people eat at a buffet sometime..4 1600 calories plates,5 soda refills at 300 calories a piece,plus a 500 calorie dessert=8,400 calories.In one meal.:/

742ff8ba4ff55e84593ede14ac1c3cab

(3536)

on May 13, 2011
at 02:07 PM

...but can it be done with a paleo type diet? It's easy when consuming SAD food.

1d952d225819b0229e93160a90bf9bf8

(1600)

on May 14, 2011
at 11:49 PM

Absolutely...you have something like lamb's breast and bacon(very fatty), a lot of Indian dishes that are coconut and butter based,but still fall within then realm of paleo for most people.Those can run 1,000 calories for a cup serving.Couple of avocados,some more coconut cream in your coffee,a sweet potato with more butter..it adds up.

0
C1c86f42410cd4788bd9c5cf801dcd8f

(2246)

on May 13, 2011
at 01:45 AM

I was eating upwards of 6000 a day of Meat, Fat and Veg.

I was forcing myself to eat one of my 3 meals a day.

9000 would be very difficult without going to olive oil, or some other type of liquid food, and I honestly think it would have to be something someone would have to train for to get that much food in.

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