Am I eating like an paleo athlete or paleo non-althete? And should there be a difference for maximum performance and recovery?

Answered on August 19, 2014
Created January 10, 2012 at 6:29 PM

Sorry for the long title, but wanted to distinguish my Hack from other similar Hacks.

I have been Paleo for almost 2 years now and have found it to be very beneficial for the various health issues, mostly digestive, I was having as well as increased energy and maintaining a lean physique. However, my only complaint is that I cannot train or recover even close to the level I used to when I was eating 6-7 meals a day and taking a bunch of recovery supplements. I used to be involved in competitive bodybuilding and this was a typical day when I was "off-season" or trying to gain muscle:

Meal 1 - 2 who eggs, 6 egg whites, 1 cup oatmeal with banana with multivitamin and Vit C

During workout drink 20 grams of BCAA mixture (Core ABC supplement)

Meal 2 - PWO (1 scoop whey and 60 grams of dextrose)

Meal 3 (1 hour later) - Turkey and Cheese Bagel and piece of fruit

Meal 4 - 6-8 oz meat, rice or potato or pasta, veges

Meal 5 - protein bar

Meal 6 - same as meal 4

Meal 7 - 1 scoop protein powder blend and 2 tbs peanut butter (Vit C, D)

I almost cringe typing that out and realize #1 how much food controlled my life and #2 why I had so many digestive issues. However, I could blast through a 1.5 hour workout 5 days a week, plus 2 HITT cardio workouts 2 days a week and my recovery was awesome. Ok...so that was 2 years ago and this is my typical day now when I workout:

Breakfast - 4 eggs cooked in 1.5tbs Coconut oil, 4 slices of bacon, kraut (occasionally will have some fruit)

Lunch/Post workout - 12oz of meat cooked in coconut oil, large sweet potato

Dinner - 12oz cooked in coconut oil, lots of veges cooked in animal fat

Snack - 85% Dark Chocolate

I can only manage 3 maybe 4 30-40 minute workouts a week now (not close to the intensity from before) and my recovery sucks!! Also, if I don't take a week off every 4 weeks or so my sleep suffers, my cortisol levels begin to increase and I start to get some digestive issues again.

Obviously I ate a significant more carbohydrates prior to paleo, but to be honest I feel much better when I am under 100 carbs or so. I also don't take any supplements any more other than Vit D and Mag.

So am I eating like a Plaeo athlete or non-athlete and is there a difference for maximum recovery and performance??



on January 11, 2012
at 09:48 PM

I guess they did...I am low on choline.



on January 11, 2012
at 03:04 PM

both your buzzer and your reading comprehension skills went off, it seems



on January 11, 2012
at 01:44 AM

My buzzer went off at cheese bagel.



on January 11, 2012
at 01:17 AM

Can you provide me a recipe?

Medium avatar


on January 10, 2012
at 11:13 PM

Buzzer went off as soon as I saw protein powder. Make your own IGF, bro.

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8 Answers


on January 10, 2012
at 07:58 PM

Agree with the carbs being a potential key factor here. When I first read The Paleo Diet for Athletes by Cordain and Friel, I was initially inspired, then realised that, actually, what it boiled down to was "eat paleo, but add as many carbs of whatever kind you need in order to be able to train and compete".



on January 10, 2012
at 07:02 PM

This is a really good question.

Have you compared the two in fitday to see if total calories and protein amounts are similar? Also, it would be interesting to see if there are other vitamins or minerals that you are now getting less of.

I don't have a good answer, but you might want to look at what Mark Sisson or Art Devany typically eats. I'm looking at a Mark Sisson meal plan and a couple of things stand out. 1/4 cup of blueberries at breakfast plus a piece of fruit as part of a snack. He seems to have some nuts every day - chopped walnuts in his salad or macademias/almonds with the snack. He adds veggies to every meal and often has avocado - pretty much every day. Not sure if any of that would make a difference.

Maybe upping your carbs a little would help?



on January 11, 2012
at 03:36 AM

As usual, it depends. Are you eating like an athlete that competes at events requiring much physical exertion? Probably not. IMO, you would need more carbohydrates to do this. Your post indicates a sacrifice in carbs for digestive health. I don't disagree with this point if it works for you. However, in your prior diet, you had various grain based carbs, which most likely caused the digestive issues. If you want to eat like a competitive athlete while consuming Paleo only foods, you should consider more potatoes and perhaps some fruit here and there, especially post workout.

If your definition of "athlete" is someone who works out regularly 4 to 5 times a week and is in good health, I would say you are spot on.

Depending on your athletic goals, you might consider some cycling of carbs depending on your training schedule.


on January 11, 2012
at 03:05 AM

I am a paleo endurance athlete and the first thing that comes to mind to me is that you need to prioritize your post workout recovery nutrition. This would mean like some chicken and a sweet potato right after your workout, as well another at your lunch. Also, as mentioned above, calories matter for not only energy, but also continued recovery. Play with it- up your calories and up for your carbs from starchy sources such as sweet potatoes, squash, and skinless white potatoes. See if you feel better- if not, no harm, no foul, but you still remained paleo



on January 10, 2012
at 07:49 PM

Depends what "athletic" level you are aspiring to. What your doing looks solid, but if your looking to be elite then you are likely going to have to modify diet and workload to levels that are not exactly good for you. I think I have seen it stated in this manner by a couple people and would agree.

Oh and directly to your question...well you threw a sweet tator in for PWO so I'll give you paleo athlete :).



on January 10, 2012
at 07:26 PM

I think you're eating like a paleo non-athlete. You're working out way beyond your recovery abilities there. If you want to do that much on the high end, you need more carbs to recover.


on April 28, 2013
at 12:42 AM

You can't live in between and expect to get results. Either live the sad lifestyle or the paleo. The paleo lifestyle is far different than than the sad lifestyle. The real benefit gained by the paleo diet is switching to mostly fat burning mode. Oatmeal is going to stay in your system and provide blood sugar for hours after. You will likely never be able to get into ketosis hence you are probably never getting the true advantage of paleo which is going into ketosis. Blood sugar manipultion is the real key to it all. I would recommend throwing out all of your sad diet adapted to paleo diet and look at living the paleo lifestyle. This means changes in how you eat, play, sleep, workout, etc. The paleo man did not go to a gym. The paleo man had relatively low stress however was always conserving his energy to make it to the next meal or instantly explode and make the kill. He would be fasting at times throwing his body into ketosis. His body would use his stored fat for energy. He did not have the abundance of nuts, seeds and others foods. He mainly had meat and veggies. Sometimes has would go days or longer without any meat. What is the point? Don't live by hard set rules of what to eat when or workout. Simply strive for ketosis when resting and use energy like coconut oil pre and post workout. You must live in a fast paced world but think like a slow paced paleo man somewhat like a lion who slowly approaches prey then pounces then eats sleeps. You are eating way too much meat. Red meat has glucose in the blood of the meat. Your body is spending all of its energy trying to digest the meat. Give the digestion a break now and again. Try cutting all your meat down and increase the right kinds of fats. Look to salmon with the skin. Eliminate all hidden sources of carbs and sugars. Supplements can add up to a lot of carbs with maltodextrin etc. Get yourself a blood sugar checker and a urine test strip kit. Test your blood sugar throughout the day. When you wakeup, pre post meals, randomly, pre/during/post workout. This will give you a good idea what is going on. You could very easily becoming diabetic or have it already. As we get older our pancreas, liver, kidneys, and heart struggle to maintain the lifestyle that lead you to paleo in the first place. When we were kids we could eating baggle dogs, chips, etc and we were thin. As we got older we got fat and sick. Everyone has different genetics however eventually everyones organs will begin to fail. The good news is if you do the right things you can turn it around and reverse things a bit. The bad news is you have to change the entire lifestyle to adapt your body and mind to a completely revised lifestyle. Urine test strips are so friggin awesome. Learn everything you can about Leukocytes, Nitrite, Urobillnogen, Protein, PH, Blood (kidney health), Specific gravity, ketone, billirubin, glucose all on the URS-10 urine strips. Bascially become your own custom tailored physician. Only you can learn and know your own specific body and mind well enough to treat yourself! Most important with all of the meat your are eating, acidity, and toxins your kidneys are very likely failing. Check for any blood in urine. You really need to have a day off that you focus on no meat and alkalizing your body. This will give your organs a much needed break. You simply expect too much of your abused organs. Paleo man did not eat 1/8th of what you are eating. He also did not work 1/20th of what you are either. Anyway once you know some about where your health is then you should focus on health vs. being able to lift 1000 lbs. 8 x. Look at Arnold now. He is just like any other Joe now. Why? He is not taking steroids. Abuse the body, pay the price. Heal the body, it works out nice. Another note is if you don't understand how the adrenals, liver and cortisol all play in this and how to control the fight or flight reaction, you are going to be limited in what you can achieve.

For me personally I am after conquering diabetes, maintaining the level of muscle & fat my body prefers and being happy most of the time ie content and at peace. This is my current but morphing plan. I strive for ketosis most of the time except during my fight/flight workout.
I have tried all meats and have found salmon to be the best. I have tried eating more or less of it and found the best results by learning how to know how much to eat given the circumstances. In general I eat 1 normal sized portion with skin each meal. I coat it with ginger, onion powder, cayenne, white pepper and a bit of sea salt. I slowly grill on small electric grill and sprinkle lemon juice on it. I dice up cilanrto and spring mix. Add fresh saurkraut (probiotics), minced onion and chia seed milk. I break off pieces of fish eat it then eat some greens mixture. In between meals I use virgin coconut oil and cinnamon, I snack on fresh saurkraut, water, and green juice for nutrients (has minimal carbs/sugars). Coconut oil is the friggin key. The MCT's are incredible for providing fuel for recovery and workouts IF you are in keto. When you are a fat burner you simply switch to using fats for fuel/recovery instead of sugars/carbs. The key to all this is making sure you ARE in keto before increasing the fats. If you mix carbs/sugars and fats you get disaster. Once you are in keto just stay there and when you are running low on energy, eat coconut oil. I am still making changes but the key I use is to make sure my keto level is really high. Then I know I can use lots of coconut oil without fear. Watch out for coconut butter it is loaded with sugars. 1-2 week I may have a fruit fest by itself. Never again will I eat ANY grains, legumes, starches. I don't know everything. I know I rambled and I could spend hours go over this. In keto with the proper amount of omega 3, MCT's and some animal fat you should be able to have all the energy you ever wanted and see the fat simply melt off. If you eat too much red meat & chicken you will have a hard time keeping the weight off and you will be tired a lot if you eat it during the day.



on January 10, 2012
at 09:15 PM

I think you answered your own question. If you are able to maintain your previous intensity AND you are not recovering then you are fueling and resting your body properly. 3 days should be enough in terms of workouts per week, but you seem to be running a bit short here, so I would probably up the carbs.

I also train fasted and keep my fat intake low post workout. Try adding your carbs post workout and see how you feel.

Also how long have you been eating "paleo"? Your body might still be adapting to fat metabolism as a primary source.

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