Proper Fueling for the Athlete
Paleo. Zone. Paleo Zone. Whatever… Here’s what matters:
The goal is to train your body to derive its energy from proteins and fats instead of grains, legumes, dairy and other foods that irritate and inflame your body and deprive it of important nutrients. There is a growing body of research documenting the health benefits of making this switch. In short, the benefits include reduced risk of heart diseases, autoimmune diseases, cancer and diabetes, all of which can be traced in varying ways to excessive inflammation in your body, high insulin levels, and other processes and imbalances that are too detailed to cover here. Aside from that, you will simply feel better, look better, and perform better. Of course, individual results will vary, so the best way to see how this lifestyle will affect you is to jump in and try it. Remember, it's so easy a caveman can do it!
The truth behind proper fueling for HS atheletes is simple, as long as you know what is what. Break it down into proteins, carbohydrates, and fats. Proteins are animals and a few plant based. Carbohydrates (wanted and unwanted): wanted (fruits & veggies), unwanted (breds, grains, rices, pastas). Fats are oils, nuts & seeds, avocados, etc. Don't worry about specific percentages of each quite yet; just know you need all three in every meal you eat. Once we can eat PCF's in every meal, we can worry about percentages of each. More importantly is figuring out which foods are more nutriently dense than others.
Avoid the following:
Grains, legumes, dairy, sugar, alcohol, processed foods, corn, safflower or soy oil.
Eat with reckless abandon:
Eat lots of protein, veggies and fats. Grass-fed and antibiotic/hormone-free meats and wild fish are best, as are organic veggies. Focus on nutrient-dense veggies (those with bright or dark colors) and save the starchy one like sweet potatoes and yams – if you need them – for post-workout meals. And remember: avocados, nuts and coconuts are your friends. Eat SOME fruits. Whole fruits, not fruit juices, and preferably not dried fruit.
Keep a healthy distance:
Some people have special sensitivity to eggs, nuts, tomatoes, potatoes, and/or peppers. Pay attention to these foods see; if you feel discomfort after having them.
Additional ways to boost performance, and feel better:
Drink plenty of water – about one glass every hour, less as you approach bedtime.
Sleep in a pitch black room, get at least 8 hours of sleep per night.
Reduce “stressors” in your life or – at the very least – minimize your nighttime computing and television watching. Less blue light = better sleep = lower stress levels.
Eat three meals and two snacks each day, plus pre/post workout meals.
If you’re going to drink coffee, stop drinking before noon so that it doesn’t interfere with your sleep.
Get outside for at least 15 minutes a day. Workout several times a week.
Suggested meal timing and ratios:
Breakfast: Eat within 30 minutes of waking. Go BIG! Eat lots of protein, fat and veggies. Skip the high-sugar carbs like fruit or sweet potatoes. You want to have a clear brain so that you can be productive and have sustained energy through the morning.
Snack: Eat some more protein and fat – maybe about a half-meal size or a little more, enough so that you are no longer hungry and can get back on takes and stay mentally focused.
Lunch: Eat at your regular lunch-time, probably 3-4 hours after breakfast. Make this the feast of the day: lots of protein, fat and veggies. A serving of fruit won’t hurt if you have a hankering for a little sweetness.
Snack: Same as before – protein and fat, about a half-meal size, enough to keep you energized and on task.
Dinner: This is the smallest meal of the day. You have fewer hours left to digest and utilize this meal, so keep it lean and mean: protein and fat. Resist the urge for sugars like chocolate or even dried fruit. Try to get this meal consumed with a few hours to spare before bed.
Pre/Post Workout Meals: If you workout, eat some protein and fat (no veggies!) about 30 minutes to an hour beforehand and some carb-dense veggies (yams, squash, beets, parsnips) and some easily digestible protein (little to no fat) within 30 minutes after your workout. You should be eating again – one of your normal meals – within an hour or two after this.
How much food do I eat?
Don't be afraid to eat! Simply following a primal lifestyle pattern is damn good. If you are looking for some guidance on some general rules of “thumb” for intake, here are some easy to remember general portioning guidelines. These are good portions for all, for a general lifestyle.
Protein: The size and thickness of your palm. Or as many eggs as you can hold in your hand.
Vegetables: As much as you can fit on your plate! Eat them cooked, raw, however you can. Save the carby ones for post-workout (yams, sweet potato, squash, beets, etc).
Fruit: A fist sized portion. Limit 2 per day.
Fat: A couple sources/servings per meal: A serving =
Oils/butter: 1 thumb Coconut milk: 1/3 can
Avocado: ½ avocado Nuts: fist-sized
Olives/coconut: a very full handful
Eggs/egg whites – omega-3 enriched eggs are best.
Beef/bison/buffalo – grass-fed, hormone-free is ideal.
Chicken/turkey – organic, hormone/antibiotic-free.
Fish/shellfish – wild caught if possible.
Lamb – grass-fed, hormone/antibiotic-free. Make sure it’s lean and trim off excess fat.
Other – limited quantities of sausage, bacon, deli meats and jerky.
Acorn squash Mustard greens Apples*
Arugula* Onions Apricots
Artichoke Parsnips Berries (any kind) *
Asparagus Peppers Cantaloupe
Beets Pumpkin Cherries*
Beet greens Radish Dates/ Figs
Bell peppers* Spinach* Grapes*
Bok Choy Sweet potatoes Grapefruit
Broccoli Swiss chard Guava
Brussel sprouts Tomatillos Honeydew
Butternut squash Turnips Kiwi
Cabbage Greens Lemons/Limes
Carrots* Watercress Nectarines*
Cauliflower Yams Oranges
Kale* Star Fruit
Romaine lettuce* Watermelon
Veggies and Fruit Key
* = organic highly recommended (due to toxicity levels of common pesticides in this food)
BOLD = nutrient dense foods
Italics – high glycemic index (limit consumption, eat early in the day and post-workout)
Coconut – (unsweetened, organic, raw) coconut flakes are a great snack and coconut milk makes a great base for sauces.
Avocados – great as mid-day snack, sliced on top of eggs, in a salad, whatever.
Oils – preferably coconut for high heat. Avocado and olive for dressings.
Olives – black or green.
Nuts – best is cashews and macadamia nuts, but almonds, brazil nuts, chestnuts, pecans, and pistachios are ok. Limit or stop consumption for best fat loss.
Some pre-made sauces may be ok, but pay close attention to the ingredients – no dairy, no added sugar, nothing you can’t pronounce, and preferably organic.
Stock up on herbs/spices – fresh and dried. Start getting creative with flavors and you’ll probably never even notice that you’re missing that bread, rice or pasta.
If you really feel you are still lacking nutrients, start taking a multi-vitamin each day. Other supplements safe and beneficial for HS athletes: Omega fish oils, protein powder, BCAAs (if necessary).
Keep it simple and remember it's so easy a caveman can do it (if a caveman could eat it, so can you. If it wasn't around, then don't eat it! Enjoy!