Given my previous debut on balancedbites.com, and because a lot of you paleo athletes have been contacting me about how eat smart when training hard for certain certifications, fitness competitions, etc, I have decided to dedicate today’s blog post to troubleshooting some of the most common mistakes made by athletes who have switched over to a paleolithic diet. Please note, I am not a certified nutritionist so I cannot tell you what to specifically eat in terms of meal plans and all that jazz. However, what I can do is rehash all my prior experiences for you to give yinz a taste of what I have learned over the years and how you can apply some of the same principles to help you reach a new level of awesome! 🙂
For those of you who have followed my feeds for the past month and a half, you’ll probably recall me referencing some areas in my life when I had either A) under eaten or B) over trained or C) did both at the same time. I have learned the hard way about how God awful you can feel when this happens. Recently, I had received some emails from other paleo athletes who were going through the exact same “I feel like I’m dying” complex when it came to fueling their workouts with the paleo diet. In an effort to help you die hard athletes remain as paleo as possible while going for your certifications and competitions, here’s a list of Do’s and Don’ts I have compiled from my own mistakes when jumping into the world of primal fitness. Keep in mind, this is not just about nutrition but it is also about lifestyle habits. Living a primal lifestyle is about paleo nutrition AND functional fitness. I am hoping that this blog post opens up a discussion for us all so we can learn from each others experiences when it comes to our nutrition and fitness levels. So…here are my list of do’s and don’ts compiled form my own real life experiences.
Eat enough to sustain your workout. I realize that may sound like common sense, but I have found that the paleo diet can really curb your appetite given the fact that a higher protein and fat load will by nature, curb your appetite. That 1600 calories a day may be great for the average person who isn’t into high volume training, but for us athletes, you’re looking at a baseline of AT LEAST 1800 calories and for serious hardcore training, over 3,000 calories a day. Don’t believe me? Take a look at this article and read what I learned from under eating from my previous blog post.
Get enough sleep at night. Speaking from person experience, I can tell you that just by decreasing my caffeine intake and scheduling (yes, blocking out time to sleep) has made all the difference in my life. On average, I get anywhere from 8 to 10 hours of sleep. As of recently, the extra sleep has paid off in my own mood, energy , and overall strength gains. Guess who is able to do Turkish get-ups with a 20kg kettlebell? MUAH! And I blame that entirely on getting rest. When you’re not rested, you can’t train hard. Period! For more on sleep and strength gains, read this!
Fuel your workouts with fats. Whether it’s avocados, coconut milk, olive oil, or good ol’ grass fed butter, make sure you are getting enough fat to keep your blood sugar stable through your workouts. An athlete will often require twice as many good sources of fats for their activity level in comparison to someone working out at a more moderate pace. Please read my previous post on balancedbites.com for a run down on my own fat intake and take a look at this article for how to fuel your workouts from fat sources.
Refeed with carbohydrates. BAH! I said “carbohydrate”! UH OH! 😉 After a lot of trail and error with this aspect of the diet, I have found that refueling with some solid carbohydrate sources helps even out your energy and maximizes your recovery post workout. What I have noticed though is that certain carbohydrates sustain my energy levels better in comparison to others. Speaking from personal experience, complex carbohydrates are better post workout. For example, if I have to workout first thing in the morning, a typical breakfast for me will consist of a 3 egg and spinach scramble with s side of left over mashed sweet potatoes whipped up in some grass fed butter. I don’t typically eat fruit post workout because I find keeping my overall sugar intake low evens out my energy better than when I consume food with more sugars in them. That is not to say fruit is particularly bad post workout, but that I personally don’t find eating fruit necessary post workout. For more on the effects of carbohydrate refeeds, please read this article.
Abuse supplements. To date, there are only 3 supplements I take on a regular basis. I take selenium to aid my thyroid, a high grade fish oil supplement, and Vitamin D3 (I live in Pittsburgh, and the sunlight isn’t as plentiful in the Burgh as it is elsewhere in the U.S. ). Over the years, I have found that I only need these three things to keep my body in check. Most of the nutrients I receive come from whole foods, and that should hold true for the rest of you. If you are going to use supplements, please read the labels on what you’re using. I have noticed a lot of “under the radar” stimulants going into performance enhancing supplements which can be potentially dangerous for someone working out intensely. Be aware of what you’re putting into your body at all times and do your homework on what goes in to certain product lines. Whole food should be the basis your fuel. Anything else you’re adding to your protocol in terms of supplements should be used to aid a particular health concern or otherwise deficient nutrient you can’t get from your diet.
Consume alcohol. With the RKC certification in Vienna Virginia only 5 months away, I have decided to remove all alcohol consumption out of my life while I train for this upcoming event. Granted, I rarely drink anymore as it is, but when you’re training hard for a certification or competition, it is best to leave what little alcohol you are consuming out of the picture until further notice. Alcohol hinders athletic performance. Period! Put down the glass and gear up for some heavy squats instead. You’re body will thank you for it later. I promise!
Sweat the small stuff. Stress can adversely affect your training. When you’re overworked from your day job and force yourself to take on a billion and a half tasks to maintain your daily life, you will burn out fast! Believe me, I have been there. Perhaps the most beneficial thing I have done for myself is actually blocking out time to practice some Russian Systema breathing techniques I learned from a close friend of mine. Check out this book for more information on how to breathe to reach a level of total tranquility. This book has helped me immensely with dealing with stress and even helped me increase my overall endurance. No joke!
Forget to stretch. When I passed my HKC in September, I was left with a word of advice from Master RKC Brett Jones. I had sustained an injury years ago from a pretty horrific skateboarding accident that left me with a compensated problem in my right shoulder. Master RKC Brett Jones pointed out that if my goal was to pass my future RKC, I’d need to fix my shoulder mobility issue left from my accident. For a while, I was doing a lot of arm bars with kettlebells to fix this, but I found that I had negated some much needed stretching as well. Granted, the arm bar is great for shoulder mobility, BUT sometimes tension is held in the body in one area due to tension in another area of the body. Oddly enough, I found out that tight hip flexors were causing me a lot of issues with my back, which was causing my right shoulder to tense more so than normal. After a few months of arm bars in combination with hip flexor stretches, my right shoulder has gained a ton of mobility, strength, and it is almost entirely pain free. Not to mention my back is FINALLY looking solid, straight, and super! 🙂 Can it get a “Woot Woot!” ? So hey, remember to stretch n’at. Ya heard?
That’s all I have for you guys today. I hope this blog post was informative and I hope this post serves to aid you all overcome some common mistakes in the world of paleo athleticism. Send me your comments and experiences too! I’d love to hear your feedback on this post. As always, remember to eat smart, train hard, and enjoy your life!