Paleo diet

You’re missing the boat a little bit, especially going a little overboard with that post on Mcdonalds. So we say athletes shouldnt eat junk (like sugar and trans fats), I think we can all agree on that. For sure we should ensure that optimal levels of zinc and magnesium are achieved. In order to accomplish that you should probably avoid the anti-nutrients found in wheat and grains. Say what you will about Dairy, good or bad, it can be a good source of protein and nutrients.

Anyway, my point is what you end up moving towards is exactly what we are talking about, the paleo way of eating. But of course, if none of the top guys are doing, then it must be wrong.

And if you think saturated fats are the big problem, you arent even on the same continent.

I just see things like the Paleo Diet as more faddism that has no basis in sprint performance whatsoever. It is in fact one of the most disrespected current diets by health experts and dieters alike:

Anyone who thinks grains are a problem and saturated fat is not needs to spend more time away from the latest fads and paying attention to medical professionals. Compared to a normal balanced diet with protein content optimized for strength and power athletes, I don’t see that any diet has the slightest impact. Forget about diet and gym fads, and get thee to the track and train.

i think the reason why some of these guys were eating micky ds at the last olympics was because its consistant dirt/trash all over the world. do you guys really believe eating chicken nuggets is ok? i know for a fact that the smtc guys were very very strict leading up to any olympics…they would even employ a chef to prepare all meals to be in the best possible shape going into the games!

if you give an F1 car diesel just look what happens…

Candidate for worst post of the year. Maybe if you spent some time looking at some literature and not just your old school way of thinking. You’re stuck in an old paradigm, and modern science is leaving you behind. Which is fine if you want to stay ignorant. Others will continue to evolve and learn and become better coaches and athletes as a result, not you.

Lets look through some thoughts on certain details that have been raised:

Zinc and phytate consumption

Zinc Status in Athletes:
Relation to Diet and Exercise
Sports Med 2001; 31 (8): 577-582

"Proteins, especially of animal origin, and fat are the most important sources of absorbable zinc. The relatively high amounts of phytates (inositol pentakis and hexakisphosphates) in cereal products, legumes and nuts can significantly decrease blood levels of zinc in vegetarians because intestinal absorption of zinc occurs through a specific process that is diminished by concomitant ingestion of phytates, phosphates, iron and copper. Because of this high phytate content, the bioavailability of zinc in wholemeal cereal products is low compared with foods of animal origin.[7] Protein intake is important in this respect since proteins provide amino acids, some which are able to desorb zinc. "

The influence of the subjects training state on the glycemic index
Mettler S et. al. The influence of the subjects’ training state on the glycemic index. Eur J. Clin Nutr (2007 ) Jan;61(1):19-24.

“Conclusion: The GI of the commercially available breakfast cereal depended on the training state of the healthy males. The training state is the first reported factor influencing the GI that is subject specific rather than food specific.” Its been shown that athletes respond differently in a blood glucose way to high GI carbs, therefore they can eat higher GI carbs and get away with it more than the average joe. So from a body composition and health perspective high GI carbs are less damaging to athletes in general. But the phytate contents shouldnt be ignored.


Moderate-carbohydrate low-fat versus low-carbohydrate high-fat meal replacements for weight loss

“Results Both the Low and Moderate Carbohydrate groups lost significantly more weight as well as inches from their waists and thighs than the Control group, while the Low Carbohydrate group lost a greater percentage of body fat. Although the Moderate Carbohydrate group showed significant reductions in serum cholesterol, the Low Carbohydrate group showed the greatest improvements in serum cholesterol, triglycerides, high-density lipoprotein, low-density lipoprotein, and very-low-density lipoprotein.”

So high fat diet actually improved the blood lipid profile better than high carb. And what you’ll find is that the real culprit to unhealthy diets is this high GI carbohydrate consumption of grains, wheat and sugars.

High–glycemic index carbohydrate increases nuclear factor-κB activation in mononuclear cells of young, lean healthy subjects

“Conclusions:The findings suggest that high-normal physiologic increases in blood glucose after meals aggravate inflammatory processes in lean, young adults. This mechanism may help to explain relations between carbohydrates, glycemic index, and the risk of chronic disease.”







No wait let me google paleo on some obscure news site so that I can make a point and base my entire nutritional philosophy based on this. Just because Paleo has a name don’t ignore the underlying science. In reality paleo eating can differ in a lot of ways, especially for athletes. But the overall message should be the inherent physiological reasons why a person should maybe avoid grains and high GI carbs, and add in organic meats and eat lots of anti-inflam fats.




If I’m an athlete in Beijing, I’m doing what X-Man says- eating McDonald’s because it is a known quantity in a sea of unknown quantities- you can’t win with food poisoning! You can win by eating food that won’t make you physically sick despite having minimal nutritional value, especially since it’s only for a couple of weeks at most.

People have made many diets work for them in sprinting. Carl Lewis ran 9.86 at age 30 (on a super-hard track, but still a very good performance) eating an all vegan diet, and he often cites the diet as a factor in his success that season. Bill Pearl is a bodybuilding legend, and he ate vegetarian for his entire career. I think it’s pretty clear that wholesale dismissal of an eating philosophy without knowing the individual’s rationalization runs the risk of oversimplifying. There is no reason that multiple approaches can’t work given the proper context, as it’s proven successful for many in the past.

Syrus, you sound like someone who has made up their mind about the Paleo diet. There is nothing revolutionary about it- it restricts you to non-processed foods, which of course means it’s a fair bit harder to eat wasteful calories. As long as you can put up with the list of non-allowable eats and you have the time to prep your own foods (as eating out is going to be problematic) I can see it helping. It would be interesting to hear how your body reacts to it.

The idea that the most absorbable zinc comes from meat is fine, but in no way eliminates vegetarian or vegan diets as viable options, as supplementation of reasonably bioavailable zinc or B-12 is easy. Most vegetarian athletes I know are more careful about obtaining needed supplements than non-vegetarians, simply because they are on average more conscious of diet than others. In addition, fermented soy foods such as Tempeh have been shown to contain B-12, though how absorbable it is has not been established.

I really like Patrick Holford’s “New Optimum Nutrition Bible”- a very worthwhile basic compendium. He basically covers everything, is way ahead of trends, it’s referenced, and isn’t as dry as reading a medical textbook.

T-Slow, a fair response, thank you. And I agree that we should look past the names of diets and try to dig through what science and underlying biochemistry of what is occurring when specific foods are consumed. A discussion of the science is more refreshing and honest then a knee jerk reaction to a name.

There are so many commonalities between people’s views on diets, it becomes clear there is an obvious evolutionary reason why certain things are healthy while synthetic vitamins and foods are not. That means avoid the plastic material known as margarine, in favor of much healthier butter. Avoiding nitrate full meats in favor of local grass fed meats, which have been shown to be higher in minerals (zinc) and CLA and omega 3’s. No doubt fruits and veggies are needed in abundance in ones diet, especially organics if you don’t enjoy exposing your body to pesticides and lower nutrient content. And the havoc that high GI carbs can play on our physiology is starting to become abundantly clear. The goal of the paleo diet is to replace the deprived nutrient food that we eat today with the nutrient food our ancestors consumed in abundance. The understanding of how synthetic and modern foods differ from the foods of our ancestors is important.

The soil has less minerals and nutrients in it from factory farms. Our fruits and vegetables have less overall nutrients then they would have just 100 years ago.
Cows are fed grains, an unnatural food for them to fatten them up, it kills their immune system so they are pumped full of antibiotics. Their omega 3 content and zinc is much lower.
Pasterized milk is a shadow of what raw milk is nutrient wise

Those are the easy ones to name a few.

Its become abundantly clear to me that when foods need to be infused with some sort of vitamin that it has been deprived of its naturally occurring sources. Yet we ignore the processes which naturally deliver the highest bio-available nutrients the way our ancestors got them. Its no wonder that our ancestors were said to be more muscular, leaner and healthier than we are today. They must have been doing something right.

Grass fed Organ meets (insanely high in vitamins and minerals)
grass fed local meat
Organic fruits and veggies
Some seeds and nuts
fermented foods

A new study published on the myth of saturated fats causing CVD

I’m going to switch gears a little bit and bring what I’m saying back to reality.

As an athlete and a person who works with athletes I have both tried and recommended the ideology behind this way of eating. If we think in terms of optimal health and how a well oiled machine can accomplish more when everything it needs is present, when your physiology is working efficiently things tend to go really well. The increased natural nutrients tend to improve all hormone levels and increase sensitivity to insulin.

For athletes, there is an obvious need for higher carbohydrate intake to recover muscle glycogen. The amount recommended in textbooks are a little crazy, unless people plan on running marathons on a daily basis (6-9g/kg). But like I originally said, a good post workout shake will take care of those needs. And as an athlete you can opt to include some higher GI fruits and veggies to help top off what the shake missed. Sweet potatos, maybe the occasional rice, things like that.

I’ve been eating pretty close to this for some time now, and have never felt better, nor have my workouts gone so good. I’ve had 5 national level track athletes switch to this type of eating, couple middle distance, jumpers and sprinters and they have all enjoyed the benefits and it has worked quite well for everyone. Each person tends to find their groove around certain food types and certain ways of eating. I strongly believe that the diet for optimal health is the best diet athletes can enjoy.


Thanks for the discussion. I’m currently teaching a “nutrition & wellness” course, and we just had a guest speaker on the paleo diet/ danger of processed foods. I appreciate the discourse - and syrus, I can’t wait to find 8 hours to watch all of those videos:)

But I will try!

I second Devils, I’ve been watching the info Syrus provided as time allows. There is some really interesting stuff there!

Thanks, I will try to post more when I find it. Good to have a localized source for these sorts of things, and these long lecture type videos are great educational resources.

Just something I’ve been reading about these days, the mTOR pathway:

"When mTOR is activated, it causes muscle cells to increase protein synthesis. This leads to skeletal muscle hypertrophy. mTOR integrates cellular information regarding intracellular nutrient status and energy and oxidative stress levels. When it deems that energy levels are high and the muscle cells are stressed, it activates in order to help the cells heal and rebuild in a stronger manner.

mTOR is activated by certain factors such as insulin, growth factors (IGF-1 & IGF-2), oxidative stress, mechanical overloading and amino acids. mTOR is part of the insulin pathway, and normalized function depends upon healthy cellular insulin sensitivity. Elevated circulating insulin levels cause a rapid increase in mTOR. However, as people begin to lose normal cellular insulin sensitivity, they also lose the ability to effectively utilize mTOR." - Dr. David Jockers

Learn more:

As my own experience has shown, having great insulin sensitivity makes you more anabolic, through this particular pathway. Taking advantage of the insulin response post workout seems to be quite key. Along with some BCAA’s pre, mid and post workout to continue the protein synthesis signal.

Syrus, any more links you’ve found interesting since your last post? I’ve been watching the ones you linked and there is a ton of good information there.

Have you done any research on acrylamide? It’s becoming more mainstream, but with regard to processed grains Patrick Holford was all over this a decade ago, telling people to avoid all breakfast cereal. Another feather in the cap of the Paleo approach.

Hmmm… I have been a little busy and havent been reading as much.
Measurement of zinc bioavailability from beef and a ready-to-eat high-fiber breakfast cereal in humans: application of a whole-gut lavage technique

A study showing the bioavailability of zinc is 4x more in beef then in cereal.

This guy is always good


The main area I’ve been looking into is Vitamin D right now, which sort of has a paleo implication.

I use this graph to make a point about where you probably want to be with vitamin D. Although every link hasnt been established, I would venture a guess that vitamin D deficiency affects athlete performance to a pretty great extent.

5 000 IU/day might be a good place to start.







Could you give an example of your grocery list, and perhaps a few meal ideas for breakfast/dinner? I like what I’m hearing and reading about paleo-type diets, but I imagine getting bored only eating meats/fruits/veggies with no grains.

I’m not hardcore paleo, I’ve done well eating some dairy and occasionally some oats or rice. Every saturday I go to my local farmers market for most of my food for the week.

  • Grass fed beef
  • Bacon
  • Local fresh cheeses
  • liverwurst
  • local sausage
  • haddock
  • salmon
  • any type of nut
  • sweet potato
  • pumpkin seed
  • sunflower seed
  • salads
  • fruits
  • veggies
  • butter

I’ll also eat some granola with almond milk and add flax and chia seeds, or I’ll eat some sushi or brown rice for some extra carbs. I can usually eat the same thing each day and not get bored of it since I enjoy these foods so much. For better ideas, I would recommend any type of paleo cookbook, there are tons, and some great recipes out there.

When I was in college many years ago I ate breakfast with some track guys a couple of days each week. One guy was a middle distance runner and also ran cross country. Lean and skinny, he ate eggs, bacon, and whole wheat toast most days.

The other guy who would eat with us was a sprinter, 100m and 4Xrelay. Stocky and muscular, he fueled up with sugary breakfast cereal (i.e. Fruit Loops) with several doughnuts as a side dish. He would drink fruit punch with breakfast.

According to the middle distance guy, the sprinter ate junk food at every meal, and snacked on chocolate and candy, and drank soft drinks as his beverage of choice. Of course, the sprinter was ripped and had very low bodyfat.

Obviously, genetics and metabolism play a great deal into the differences between these two guys. And of course, the two had very different training regimens once at track practice.

Of course genetics play a huge role. That is an example of a genetically insulin sensitive individual. Cases like that are interesting cases of genetic diversity but offer no insight into what are optimal practices. In terms of DNA, there is always a range of possible up/down regulation that can occur from individual to individual. You can never assume what the genetically gifted do is anything close to best practice.