Paleo Diet and Running

Dear GTfitters,

Quick article – its very interesting to see how the caveman diet is evolving.  I don’t follow it strictly but I believe in it’s nutrional boost especially with the type of training I do.  Read and evolve!


The paleolithic lifestyle has been gaining a lot of traction lately. Adherents are finding they lose weightquickly as well as generally feel better once their bodies adjust to it.


What is the Paleo or Primal Lifestyle?

1. Diet

The paleo dieter’s goal is to eat like our ancestors, and I don’t mean your grandparents. This is the kind of food homo sapiens survived on for millions of years before a relatively recent event, the agricultural revolution, completely changed the way humans eat.

For paleo types, that means no grains, no bread, no pasta, no rice, no potatoes, and especially no sugar or processed carbs—nothing that comes out of a box, and no vegetable oils. Nothing labeled “low fat” or “light”, because when fat is removed, there is generally processed sugar added.

The primal diet is high fat, medium protein, and low carb. Lots of meat (hopefully organic, grass fed), eggs (free range), fish (not farmed), non starchy vegetables, berries and nuts.

Hardcore primal foodies also avoid dairy. Dairy is a grey area; some full fat dairy products are perfect for this diet.

The dietary emphasis is on eating fats of all kinds, except polyunsaturated fats which are mainly found in processed vegetable oils like canola oil. Primal cooking means using tallow, lard, butter and coconut oil if you’re frying anything.

2. Exercise

Primal followers believe in working out like a caveman, and that does not include running with gels and Gatorade. Yet more runners are starting to explore the paleo diet. Is running compatible with a paleo lifestyle?

The premise of the primal diet is that it teaches your body to burn fat for fuel, since there are little or no carbs readily available for energy. Some athletes work at training their bodies to run for a long time without carbs.

A typical non-paleo run might look something like this:

  • Breakfast bagel with peanut butter or jam
  • A bottle of Gatorade pre-run
  • Gels every 30 minutes during morning run

However, a primal run could look more like this:

  • Pre-run breakfast of a cup of coffee with whipping cream and a bottle of water with electrolytes
  • For longer distances, natural foods such as fruit for fuel
  • Generally no carbo-loading the night before a race
  • There is also a theory that if you starve your body of carbs in the week before a race, then load up a day or two before, your body is much more efficient at storing those carbs for energy.

    One example of an elite paleo ultra runner is Rob Evans, who is running better as a masters runner than he did when he was younger. He credits his success to going primal. You can read about his diet transformation here.

    The primal diet uses the 80/20 rule, which means eating primal 80 percent of the time. If you feel like eating a burger and fries every once in a while, that’s no big deal.

    3. Footwear

    Another facet of primal living is running in minimalist shoes, or barefoot. Hunter/gatherers didn’t wear padded running shoes, so the reasoning is that neither should we.

    The thinking here is that the more you interfere with the foot’s natural movement (i.e. the more you support, cushion the foot) as well as inhibit pronation, the more chance of injury you have. Orthotics are also very anti-primal.

    Think of the arch of your foot as a bridge. How do you weaken an arched bridge? You push it upwards from the middle, just like an orthotic does. And those raised heels on most running shoes? They don’t allow your Achilles tendon to stretch out and cause you to land heel first, which can lead to knee and hip pain.

    If you are going to transition to a minimal type shoe (or go barefoot), do it slowly or you could damage your Achilles as it finally is allowed to fully lengthen. You may begin to land on the ball of your foot instead of the heel. And remember—cavemen ran trails, not roads.


Posted on 12/11/2011, in Paleo Living. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: