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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!”