“It is dangerous to be right when the government is wrong.”
The following is a paraphrased question from a TTP reader, Clay, regarding endurance athletes and adherence to a Paleo-like diet in general, and the TTP fitness lifestyle in particular:
I really like your blog and have been following it and a few other Paleo type blogs (De Vany etc.) for a couple of months now. I am pretty new to the whole Paleo style of eating and have had my ups and downs with it, but I have decided to give it a real try. I’m 49yrs and unfortunately I just tore a meniscus in my knee : (
I see you are a fixie rider and have mentioned mountain biking a few times in your blog as well as Dirt Rag magazine, I’m pretty much a cycling geek and wanted to ask about your thoughts on eating paleo and the whole cycling thing in general and mountain biking in particular. It seems most people eating this way are into heavy strength training and sprinting and Art De Vany seems to really believe that any cardio over an hour is unhealthy. So it seems to me that fixie riding and/or single speed mountain biking would really fit the fractal type of thing, De Vany talks about. Seeing as hills are random and with one gear you know you are going from super easy to super hard and everything in between. The problem for me besides my injured knee (I’m using all the gears I can find right now), is I like to get out in the woods on my bike and ride several hours, two hours at the very least. Also the last few years when it’s warm, I have commuted on my bike a few times a week (40 miles round trip) Do you think this is really unhealthy and or injurious? Any ideas for incorporating cycling into a paleo life style? (I know the easy answer is fixie sprints and an hour ride once in a while, but I would actually like to ride a little more then that ha ha). Maybe it’s just a trade off?
I lift weights as well, but nothing on the level that you are at, it is mostly things I can do with dumb bells although I have gotten stronger then I have been in a long time. Anyway, sorry for the rambling, confused e-mail, but it seemed like too much stuff for the comments section.
Any thoughts or advice would be greatly appreciated.
My short answer here, as many of you will undoubtedly expect, is that I consider endurance work much more a detriment to, rather than a positive influence upon, health and overall fitness. That said, though, I do feel like we all need to live our lives as we see most fulfilling – for both our spiritual and our psychological health — and if that happens to include some (or an abundance of) endurance activities, well — so be it. It’s hard for me to cast stones at someone for engaging in endurance work even as I’m enjoying my daily coffee, nightly beer (occasionally) and/or wine (most every night). What I would suggest, though, is an up-front and informed acknowledgment of, and an attempted mitigation of, those known negatives. In other words, tighten-up on the things you are willing to control. Training wise (if you’re an endurance athlete), this could be as simple as incorporating more sprint intervals in your overall workout plan, vice simply tallying-up extended road miles.
I have found that, though I rarely (actually, this is one of those instances where I really can say “never”) train for endurance activities, on those rare occasions when I do perform in the endurance realm, I always do surprisingly well – even against those who train exclusively for endurance – and even in spite of my more muscular, sprinter’s build. I’ll never win a triathlon, that’s for sure, but I can hold my own on extended mountain and road bike outings. This is due, I’m convinced, to the extensive conditioning base I’ve built via performing short duration, high-intensity sprint intervals. And, I don’t suffer unnecessarily, either – no “bonk” or “low blood sugar shakes” that I see exhibited in others — even as compared to those who’ve trained for endurance. People are amazed that I can “hang” on long, tough rides without continually sucking down energy drinks and other high carb crap during and post-ride. Old paradigms and habits die hard, though, (and in the athletic comunity, especially), and the “high carb is best” diet, along with the “slow and extended, rack-up the miles” training regimens prevail.
Actually, what I would suggest to Clay, or any endurance athlete for that matter, is in many ways what I would suggest to any athlete who still thinks that the high carb or extended workout regimen is the best of methodologies, and that is this: try the Paleo/TTP way for a year – what have you got to loose? Now, if you’re going out and continually smoking the competition handily with your current regimen, then just disregard my suggestion (as if I needed to tell you that 🙂 I’ll be willing to bet, though, that you’re either not performing to the level that you feel that you ought to, or that your health is in some way suffering. My own example of this was a chronic, unexplained elevated blood pressure and a bit of a “soft” look in my abdominal and lower back area — the last holdings-on of a thin, subcutaneous fat layer that never would seem to go away, no matter how stringent I was (and believe me, I am, if noting else, a man of discipline!). Also – and this may just be purely coincidental, but I’ll throw it out there anyway – I had a small but irksome wart on my index right finger that lingered for years and had withstood all manner of treatment (even nitrogen freezing), but fell off completely (never to return) after I’d been 3 months Paleo. After about 6 months of my new, “TTP” lifestyle, my blood pressure stabilized at a normal 120/80. Lately, it’s trended even lower than that. Of course, the abdominal and lower back fat vanished almost immediately after adopting the lifestyle.
Dr. Loren Cordain advises endurance athletes consume a Paleo-like diet, albeit with a higher percentage of (and amount, too, obviously) of tuber starches (sweet potatoes are a good choice). My own suggestion is (1) cut down on both the overall training mileage and overall training time, and replace that with more sessions of high-intensity sprint intervals, and (2) simply increase the overall calorie intake (it really won’t require much) of protein and especially fat. If I were actually a competitive athlete, I’d make “the switch” immediately following the competitive season so as to give the body time to convert (or remember how, actually) to be a fat burner prior to the start of the next season.
I really do think that it is just a matter of time before competitive athletes of all stripes buy into the Paleo way. The competitive advantage gained by following this diet (and I say “diet” for lack of a better term) is just too hard to ignore.