Tuesday, September 8, 2009

What Do Endurance Athletes Eat?

A recent blog post from Robb Wolf

The author recommends that individuals who wish to succeed at BUD/S should “…learn to eat like an endurance athlete”. The seems like sound advice until one realizes there is NOT solid consensus in what that actually means! One might assume this to mean an exceptionally high carb, grain based diet and in fact this does reflect the diet of many top endurance athletes, but by no means does it reflect ALL endurance athletes. In particular several of the worlds best regarded, highest paid and most successful endurance coaches employ nutritional strategies quite consistent with the Zone. Joe Friel who has authored more than 10 endurance oriented books including: The Triathletes Training Bible, The Cyclists Training Bible, and the Paleo Diet for Athletes (co authored with Prof. Loren Cordain) has coached athletes at the Olympics and World championship level, and was founder and past Chairman of the USA Triathlon National Coaching Commission. Joe is quite successful and highly sought after for his coaching not only of the technical elements of training but also for his nutritional approach. What IS that approach? A moderate carbohydrate, grain-free paleo diet sliced and diced into approximately 30% protein, 30% fat and 40% carbohydrate. Joe DOES alter fueling somewhat during races and to emphasize post workout recovery, but his basic approach is quite at odds with what Caviston seems to imply. Here is an excerpt from the Paleo Diet for Athletes in which Joe describes his experience switching from a standard high carb, low fat, grain based diet to a paleo/Zone diet:
“I have known Dr. Cordain for many years, but I didn’t become aware of his work until 1995. That year we began to discuss nutrition for sports. As a longtime adherent to a very high-carbohydrate diet for athletes, I was skeptical of his claims that eating less starch would benefit performance. Nearly every successful endurance athlete I had known ate as I did, with a heavy emphasis on cereals, bread, rice, pasta, pancakes, and potatoes. In fact, I had done quite well on this diet, having been an All-American age-group duathlete (bike and run), and finishing in the top 10 at World Championships. I had also coached many successful athletes, both professional and amateur, who ate the same way I did.”
“Our discussions eventually led to a challenge. Dr. Cordain suggested I try eating a diet more in line with what he recommended for one month. I took the challenge, determined to show him that eating as I had for years was the way to go. I started by simply cutting back significantly on starches, and replacing those lost calories with fruits, vegetables, and very lean meats.”
“For the first two weeks I felt miserable. My recovery following workouts was slow and my workouts were sluggish. I knew that I was well on my way to proving that he was wrong. But in week three, a curious thing happened. I began to notice that I was not only feeling better, but that my recovery was speeding up significantly. In the fourth week I experimented to see how many hours I could train.
“Since my early 40s (I was 51 at the time), I had not been able to train more than about 12 hours per week. Whenever I exceeded this weekly volume, upper respiratory infections would soon set me back. In Week Four of the “experiment,” I trained 16 hours without a sign of a cold, sore throat, or ear infection. I was amazed. I hadn’t done that many hours in nearly 10 years. I decided to keep the experiment going.”
“That year I finished third at the U.S. national championship with an excellent race, and qualified for the U.S. team for the World Championships. I had a stellar season, one of my best in years. This, of course, led to more questions of Dr. Cordain and my continued refining of the diet he recommended.”
“I was soon recommending it to the athletes I coached, including Ryan Bolton, who was on the U.S. Olympic Triathlon team. Since 1995. I have written four books on training for endurance athletes and have described and recommended the Stone Age diet in each of them. Many athletes have told me a story similar to mine: They have tried eating this way, somewhat skeptically at first, and then discovered that they also recovered faster and trained better.”

1 comment:

Web Smith said...

Two buddies at BUD/S right now. With CrossFit's influence over Phase I and II of SEAL training, I am sure that they ate that way.