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PERFORMANCE & PALEO

Tuesday, June 21th, 2016.  DAY 11!

We all embarked on this paleo journey for different reasons–some to look better naked, some to get faster, improve blood pressure or cholesterol, maybe you want to lose body fat or maybe you’re participating in the challenge just to prove you can make it through 31 days of strict, clean eating.  But, it all comes down to the fact that we all made the commitment to be BETTER.  And even if your initial goal/reason for joining the challenge was purely aesthetic or health-related–the added bonus of BETTER athletic performance is inevitable.

We already know that sugar, dairy, grains and legumes are massive gut-irritants and if consistently consumed on a daily basis, we force our bodies to operate under a constant state of systemic inflammation.  As an athlete, if we can eliminate this systemic inflammation (or at least minimize it as much as possible) through dietary intake, our bodies will be able to perform BETTER and recover FASTER which results in optimal performance day after day after day.  This means faster run/row times, higher scores on tabatas, less soreness, bigger weights, increased endurance…etc., etc., etc.

If you’ve ever read the CrossFit Journal “What is Fitness” article, then you’re familiar with the three pathways we train in:  The phosphagen, the glycolytic and the oxidative.  We train in all three pathways, with a dominance in the phosphagen and glycolytic.   That being said, there are a few tweaks to a Paleo diet that we’d make for a) Endurance Athletics and b) High Intensity/Glycolytic Athletics.

Endurance Athletes can easily adapt to a Paleo diet and stay very low carbohydrate because after a period of 2-3 weeks our bodies convert from carbohydrate dependent for fuel to fat dependent for fuel, as long as the diet that reduced carbohydrate maintained similar levels of energy via the increase in fat and maintenance of muscle sparing protein.

Training in the Glycolytic/Oxidative pathways, however, we burn into and through our available muscle and blood glycogen stores quickly and become needy before our bodies can source more out.  Ever heard of the “bonk”? Try a 20-25 minute heavy CF WOD on a low carb, typical Paleo Diet.  You’ll feel it.  And you’ll know…it’s an empty feeling.  This is where a tweak up in carbohydrates from fruit and safe starches can help athletic performance – but keep you Paleo so you don’t suffer the health decline that comes from the addition of grains, legumes and dairy.

Increases in carbohydrate should be strategic and based on our athletic needs in order to optimize body composition and athletic performance.  Here are some good tips:

  • Carbohydrates from fruit in the morning and pre-WOD for energy.  This will help ensure your body is able to use the sugar from the fruit versus store it.
  • Post WOD carbohydrate in the amount of 20 – 75+ grams based on your body size and output for that WOD.  Your body will respond well to the Paleo-ish starches and higher carbohydrate foods such as yams, sweet potatoes,  yucca, boniatos, low fructose fruits such as the tropicals: bananas, plantains, papaya and pineapple, squashes like butternut, acorn and spaghetti, pumpkin, turnip/parsnip & rutabaga, coconut water (high in natural sugar and electrolytes–replenish all that you sweat out during your workout).
  • **Rule of thumb though:  Carbs when you deserve them…we hate this statement, but here’s the deal.  You get one choice:  lean out of build muscle – you have to pick one.  If you are trying to lean out, limit post workout carbohydrates until you reach your ideal body composition, and THEN begin adding post WOD carbs. 

Getting the exact amounts right may take some time and tweaking, which is why amounts (exact is preferred but even a guestimation helps) are important to note on your journals.  Let us know how you’re feeling–both in your WODs and through out the day and we can try to help you tweak amounts and timing of your carbs to aid in optimal performance.

Protein is always important for performance. You need enough protein to repair what we break down and to maintain normal body function. 1x lean body mass is our starting point, and if you’ve been Crossfitting for a while and have been at 1x LBM, we’ll probably recommend 1x body weight.  It’s the first key in leaning out (getting protein levels adequate) and also in progressing in your training program.  Proteins from animals/mammals is more bioavailable than protein from plants.

Lastly, when fine tuning peformance, and when you’ve done everything right from above:  cleaned up diet, eliminated allergenic foods, monitored and tweaked carbohydrates and got your protein and fat in line, the last step, beyond practice, is controlling any left over inflammation. Yes, it’s truly all about inflammation.  Charles Poliquin requires a dental cleaning of all his professional athletes he coaches. Systemic inflammation can impair performance, and it’s been proven that improved dental hygeine can improve athletic performance by reducing inflammation.  From Poliquin in an interview with TNation:

Poor dental hygiene: 

Recall the scene in the movie Gladiator when slaves were selected for fighting by checking the slave’s gums to verify if he was a good purchase. 

If your gums are bleeding due to infrequent flossing and improper brushing, your body is constantly making C-reactive proteins which means your body is in a chronic state of inflammation. This robs protein that could be used to synthesize new muscle tissue to fight off the infection. Throughout the ages, it has been known that dental health is a reflection of overall health. 

This is why over the years I have observed that athletes always go through training plateaus after visiting a dental hygienist, since teeth cleaning can aggravate inflamed gums. Look around your gym, the easy gainers always have perfect teeth.

Inflammation can be caused by many factors:  stress, lack of sleep, poor dietary choices and yes, teeth that need cleaning!  Get to it!

After the challenge, for performance, it will behoove you to, one at a time, add back in some varied starches: white rice, oatmeal, quinoa…but one at a time, and post WOD at first. See how you feel – see how you perform.  It’ll be an experiment!

 

 

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