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The Paleo Diet and Professional Athletes

The Paleo Diet and Professional Athletes

Many professional athletes have adopted the paleo diet (or something closely resembling one if you want to get technical). Not only do the athletes that have adopted the paleo diet not perform poorly, many of them begin to perform at a higher level. Some of the best athletes in their respective sports eat a paleo diet, and they’ve shown the world that it’s possible to not only perform at a high level on the paleo diet but to outperform the competition as well.

Who said endurance athletes have to eat a high-carb diet?

Mountain biker Greg Parham wins 24hr races on the paleo diet and believes grains increase inflammation and make him more prone to injury. He also credits the paleo diet with helping him keep his weight steady, and he touts its ability to help speed recovery as well. Greg’s one of the best in his sport, and he even has his own blog where he refers to himself as Greg “Caveman” Parhan. Greg doesn’t just eat a paleo diet, he’s an advocate!

Professional cyclist Dave Zabriskie, a rider for team Garmin-Sharp, gets 60% of his calories from high-quality fats. Cyclists are often performing at high levels for days on end, and Dave certainly goes against the “grain” in his sport. This guy certainly isn’t sponsored by “conventional wisdom.”

Ultramarathon runner Timothy Olson won the 2012 Western States 100, a 100-mile race through mountainous terrain in record time…and he eats a traditional diet. He often describes his diet as low-carb and is an advocate for the paleo diet and the like on his blog.

Triathlete Simon Whitfield laughs at his old nutritional approach, which wasn’t the paleo diet, of course. But, that was before he linked up with Mark Sisson, a guy who also laughs at his own old nutritional approach. Today Simon Whitfield is a primal dieter and eats a lot of coconut oil, bacon, and butter. He credits his 10 consecutive Canadian Triathlon Championship Titles and his gold and silver Olympic medals with his switch to a traditional diet.

Popular athletes in more mainstream sports have also adopted a diet similar to the paleo diet.

Kobe Bryant and some of his teammates are some of the newest athletes to adopt a paleo diet. When L.A. Lakers trainer Gary Vitti was looking for a new nutritional program for the team, he contacted Dr. Cate Shanahan, whose book, Deep Nutrition: Why Your Genes Need Traditional Food, is the basis for Bryant’s eating regimen. Vitti says, “we’ve turned the whole [food] pyramid upside down.” And indeed they have. Bryant is eating a diet that is 50-60% fat, and replete with grass-fed beef and butter. No margarine or vegetable oils for the Lakers!

UFC fighter Frank Mir went vegan for a whole year! Then he adopted the paleo diet. And why not? I’d imagine that going vegan would draw a lot of people to a more traditional diet when it didn’t work out so well. Frank Mir says that the paleo diet helped him keep his weight down and that when he ate vegan he got “softer”, and got injured a lot more as well. He credits the paleo diet with increasing his strength and endurance, and for giving him back his “umph”, which he said he lost while vegan.

Recently retired NFL player, John Welbourn adopted the paleo diet a long time ago. In fact, the 37-year-old former offensive lineman even has his own company that markets paleo foods.

San Francisco Giants outfielder Hunter Pence eats a paleo diet. The guy eats kale dripping with olive oil in the clubhouse and says the paleo diet has made him leaner than ever.