Paleo Running

Originally published for another blog a long long time ago. Posted here for posterity (I guess?).

In the world of training, we are all experiments of one. How much should you run? When should you run? How Fast?  What kind of shoes should you wear? What should you eat? How much should you eat? All these questions get debated endlessly in the running community with few definitive answers ever emerging. Whatever makes you faster is usually the right answer.

I’m not training for anything in particular right now, and I’m feeling like a little experimentation, so here goes. I’m going to try to answer a question I’ve wondered about for some time – can I a relatively big, relatively slow, runner train successfully on a “paleo”, “primal” low carb type diet?

The Paleo/Primal diet thing is based on the concept that our prehistoric ancestors did not eat the type of processed food, nor the amount of grain based products that we eat today and that it would be healthier for humans to return to a diet based on meat and vegetables with little to no carbs or sugar. The science behind all of this is hotly contested, and I am not in a position to judge it. Many people think this is merely a fad, the repackaging of the Atkin’s diet for the crossfit crowd, Maybe it is.

The diet its applicability to the world of endurance sports is still in question. Most of the leading internet promoters of the Paleo diet hate “chronic cardio” and advise against running the kind of distances I run. But, never ones to miss an opportunity to promote the diet, they are willing to make concessions and highlight some athletes, including a triathlete and world class long distance rower, who use the paleo diet with some success. Other corners of the internet more focused on running are generally less impressed with the diet. But then again, that corner of the internet is populated largely by very skinny, very fast people who love beer.

All that said, the diet, broadly defined, has been gaining support in some sectors and has worked for some of my fittest friends. That has made me curious. Would it work for me, A large runner with plenty of fat to burn or would have me bonking on my easy runs? I think it’s time to find out.

So, for the sake of pseudo internet anecdotal “science”, here is the experiment:

What happens when Sean continues to train between 40 and 50 miles per week while maintain a “paleo” style diet? For the sake of this experiment I am going to define the paleo diet as one in which I eat meats, fish, vegetables, fruit and nuts, and do not eat grains, legumes and refined sugar. Dairy, caffeine, and alcohol are debated topics within the world of this diet. I’m going to drink coffee, drink wine (but not beer or spirits), and eat dairy sparsely. I am going to try and maintain the diet for 21 days starting on Monday.

I’ll try to blog here as often as possible describing what I eat and how my runs feel. I am going to make a real effort to go the full 21 days, but if I start to get sick, injured, or otherwise begin to this this is an incredibility stupid ideal I reserve the right to quit. We’ll see how it goes.

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About seanv2

Scholar, gentleman, jock. I run the website Milo and the Calf. There you will find the Boston Qualifier Questionnaire where runners share their stories of qualifying for the Boston Marathon. You'll also find my thoughts on endurance sports, ancient history, Judaism, and hundreds of book reviews.
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