Why Athletes Eat Like Cavemen
LeBron James, Phil Mickelson, Jason Dufner, Aaron Rodgers, Andrew Flintoff. They’re all athletes, but what else besides sports does a basketball star, two pro golfers, an NFL quarterback and a British boxer have in common? They’re all losing weight while eating like cavemen, and getting better and faster. Mickelson, for instance, says his new diet has helped him lose 20 pounds and increase his club head speed by 10 mph. And, as the pro-golf season gets underway, that could be a big advantage.
It’s the Paleo diet, basically, a low-carb, sugar free, higher healthy fat diet. It’s called Paleo because its set up to mimic what our caveman ancestors ate back in the Paleo era – meats, fruits, veggies, nuts, whatever they could hunt or gather. That means no processed foods, no fast foods.
For athletes, the approach is not really that new: two years ago, Dr. Cate Shanahan helped the Los Angeles Lakers make the switch from high-carb to low-carb, and in the process, become so-called fat burners, meaning their bodies burned fat as a primary fuel, instead of carbohydrates. It’s how you can lose weight while keeping muscle, extremely important for players, and for everyone else.
Dr. Shanahan says the best way to make the switch is to do it slowly, over the course of a month. You can find her four-week plan on her website at: www.drcate.com.
The three guiding principals:
1. 50/30/20: Aim to get 50 percent of your calories from healthy fats, 30 percent from protein, and 20 percent from healthy carbohydrates, ideally whole fruits and vegetables.
2. Embrace healthy fats: Going low carb means going high fat, and you have to know the good fats from the bad. Avoid Canola and other vegetable oils. Eat walnuts, almonds, avocados, olive oil, and fatty fish like salmon and sardines. But, don’t be afraid of saturated fats from whole food sources like poultry, butter, and meat, especially grass-pastured.
3. Don’t snack: Lots of folks suppress their appetites by having frequent small meals throughout the day. But Dr. Cate says that keeps your insulin levels elevated, and interferes with your switch to fat burning. The key is not starving yourself, which may be tricky at first.
Some meal suggestions:
Zero Carb Breakfast. Example: two eggs scrambled in extra-virgin olive oil, topped with avocado. Or cold leftover chicken.
Pack your lunch. And, make it low-carb: try a salad with chicken, tuna, steak, or even a hardboiled egg, plus walnuts, avocado, extra-virgin olive oil.
Low carb dinner: roasted, pan-seared, or grilled lamb/chicken/steak/fish, with sauce; heaping helping of vegetables or salad, add some cheese; fresh fruit dessert; but skip the rice/bread/pasta/chips.
Professional athletes depend on their bodies to make a living, perhaps the biggest argument for them to eat like cavemen. For the rest of us, being able to feel better, look better, and perform at the highest level we can should be reason enough.
If you are an athlete looking to improve performance try the New Athlete Paleo Diet.
Sports Performance Coach at Icelandic Fitness