Monthly Archives: January 2012

Should Athletes be Hunters and Gatherers?

On Blast:  Recommending Paleolithic Diet for Athletes?

Also known as the “Caveman Diet” or the “Stone Age Diet,” the Paleolithic diet is constructed of mass amounts of lean meat, fish, vegetables, roots, fruit and nuts.  Omitted, when compared to Western diets, are our friends:  low-fat dairy and whole grains.  Below you will find the Paleolithic Diet Pyramid.

According to Dr. Lindeberg of Sweden, his paleo diet consists of 15-35% of energy derived from protein and “is not necessarily low in carbohydrate.”  He also notes that energy intake from carbohydrate within his observational population of Kitava was nearly 70%.  The majority of this was in simple carbohydrates, rather than complex carbohydrates.  Dr. Lindeberg also expresses little regard for the nutritional quality of “whole grain cereals or beans” as they “provide no known benefit but may increase the risk of vitamin and mineral deficiencies.”  Unfortunately for him/us/anyone spending time reading his article, he does not reference his inference (cannot call it anything but inference, as the benefit of beans and whole grains is well-documented).  Additionally, Dr. Lindeberg feels that the exclusion of dairy merely decreases calcium intake (I think he forgot about protein, carbohydrate, vitamin D, riboflavin, and P+).

In direct contrast, Dr. Dan Benardot’s publication, Advanced Sports Nutrition, acknowledges the USDA’s carbohydate DRI of 130g/day in average adults (and that’s just to maintain brain function!).  He suggests a carbohydrate intake of 55-65% of total calories for athletes.  Dr. Bendardot details the necessity of athletes to consume enough carbohydrate in order to meet the tremendous energy need of their training programs and necessary muscle glycogen store restoration.  Post workout (up to 4 hours), he recommends athletes consume “1.0-1.2g of carbohydrate/kg of body mass per hour.”  Remember, no grains in paleo diet…so how many cups of peas (higher starchy vegetable) would you need to eat in 4 hours?  About 7!  Or 6 cups of fresh carrots.  Additionally, he explains that carbohydrate intake prior to training should be of the complex carbohydrate category and that simple carbohydrates should be ingested during work outs or immediately after, when needed.  For the athlete’s recovery, Dr. Benardot’s typical carbohydrate recommendation is 7-12g/kg of body mass daily.  Pretty hard to do without grains in our diets.

While this diet seems to work well in Papua New Guinea (one of the most rural places in the world) amongst the Kitavans, I would avoid it at all costs. 

Verdict:  Svaret är nej!  Which is Swedish for “The answer is no!”

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DASH to it?

On Blast:  DASH Diet

US News & World Report have named the DASH diet  the #1 best overall diet for the second year in a row.  Fabulous…but what is it?  Glad you asked :o).  The DASH diet is a diet rich in whole grain, fruits, vegetables, low-fat dairy, and inclusive of lean protein and nuts/seeds/legumes.  This intake is focused on volumetric intakes of foods rich in both macronutrients and micronutrients, as well as protein and fiber.  This approach was initially intended to reduced hypertension (hence the name:  Dietary Approach to Stopping Hypertension), but has been found to be widely applicable to a multitude of diseases and conditions, as well as most healthy people over the age of 2 yrs.  Its rich make up of Mg+, K+, Ca+, protein, and fiber contributes to healthy cardiac function, GI motility, and bone health.

DASH focuses on whole grains, fruit, and vegetables as the most voluminous component of the diet.  These three food categories pack the fiber punch necessary in a healthy diet.  Fiber contributes to fecal bulk, can help regulate bowel movements, can reduce hunger, and can help reduce cholesterol levels in the blood.  It has also been linked to a reduction in cardiovascular disease and reduced risk of developing colorectal cancer.  Dietary fiber is a low-glycemic index food, meaning that when consumed, it does not cause a rapid spike in insulin section (such as you would expect to see in unrefined sugar consumption) and thereby helps regulate blood sugar. 

 While I’m obviously a DASH enthusiast, there is a flip side.  DASH is more expensive…right now.  My response to that is:  your grocery bills may increase a bit right now, but you’ll be saving yourself money in the long run.  RTI published a study in 2011 that found that North Carolina “would save 9.9 percent on overall medical costs and 13.1 percent on Medicaid costs if all obese people in the state were normal weight.”  If you’re really interested in saving money, eat a healthy diet (such as DASH), exercise, and stay invested in your health. 

Verdict:  Definitely DASH to it!!