Cycling (training and racing) on a Paleo Diet

I’ve already talked a little about my “experiment” with a Primal/Paleo Diet. It was easy to do at the time since I was taking a break from the bike.  However, now I’m riding 200+ miles per week again and preparing for the 2011 season – so is the diet hard? Easy? Did I fall off the wagon?  I’m proud to say I’m still eating Paleo and it has been much easier than I expected.

I won’t go into a lot of detail about the Paleo Diet (or the Primal Blueprint diet, which is closer to what I’m doing), but I will summarize it for you:

  • Fruits and veggies are OK
  • All meat is OK
  • Eggs are OK
  • Nuts are OK
  • Dairy is OK in moderation
  • NO grains (including corn)
  • NO legumes (including peanuts & soy)
  • NO processed food
  • NO processed sugars

This diet may seem impossible for a cyclist (or any endurance athlete). No pasta? No bread? No Clif Bars? For me, it’s actually been pretty easy.  I’ll break it down to two categories – regular eating and pre/during/post ride eating.

Regular Eating

What’s a typical day look like?

Breakfast:

  • 4 egg omelette (including the yolks)
  • half an avocado
  • coffee with cream
  • 1 large apple

Morning Snack

  • Pack of almonds (1.5 handfuls)

Lunch

  • Big ass salad. Example big ass salad above includes:    
    • Mixed Greens
    • Green Peppers
    • Orange slices
    • Red Grapes
    • Avocado
    • Sliced Turkey Burger (leftovers)
    • Pecans
    • Feta Cheese
    • Olive Oil
    • Balsamic Vinegar

Afternoon Snack

  • Apple or Orange

Dinner

  • Grilled meat (chicken, steak, hamburgers, etc.)
  • Grilled Veggies
  • Fruit

Late Night Snack

  • Whey protein shake, frozen to have an ice cream consistency

Eating Out

Eating out on the Paleo Diet has been very easy. Most restaurants have “gluten free” options, which are basically Paleo. You can also do salads or breakfast joints. One of my favorite things about going Paleo is rediscovering my love of bacon.

On the Bike Eating

The biggest change I’ve made here is switching from Clif products to LARABARs.

I used to exclusively eat Clif Bars and Clif Shot Bloks on the bike. Now I eat LARABARS, which are all Paleo as long as you get a flavor without peanuts. I’ve actually found I like the taste and texture of the LARABARs much more then the Clif Bars, so this change has been pretty easy too.

Hydration is a little more complicated. Pre-Paleo I would fill my water bottles up with Accelerade for any ride over an hour. Now I’ll go with just water (or water with nuun hydration tabs) & LARABARs for any ride up to 3 hours. If I know I’m going for more than 3 hours, I’ll go ahead and top off the bottles with Accelerade. I’m not a Paleo-Nazi. I don’t mind “cheating” here and there, so I would rather go with calories in the bottle rather than the dreaded bonk.

I’ll admit that after a 4+ hour ride it sure would be nice to have a big bowl of pasta or my old favorite -  GoLean crunch cereal with bananas and chocolate milk. However, the Paleo Diet has forced me to eat better post-ride. Previously I would get back from a long ride and eat whatever (typically lots of grains and sugary stuff). Now when I get back from a ride I have a recovery smoothie consisting of frozen berries and some whey protein mix. Then I shower up and fix a sensible lunch.

Results

So how has the Paleo Diet impacted my riding/training?

  • I’ve leaned up. I’ve been blessed with good genes. I’ve never struggled with my weight and most people would consider me “skinny”. However, I’ve lost about 5 lbs of body fat (taking me down sub 7%) since I started eating Paleo.
  • Soreness. I have less post-ride soreness and general inflammation since I started the diet. I’ve had chronic shoulder issues over the last 10+ years that have been noticeably reduced.
  • More energy. I have more energy, consistently through the day now. No more 2:30 crash (I sound like a 5 hour energy commercial).

So far the Paleo experiment has been a big success and I’m moving it from “experiment” to “lifestyle”.

5 responses to “Cycling (training and racing) on a Paleo Diet

  1. I like your post.. I’ve gone down this road.. its nice to know im not on my own.. I am struggling with the cravings.. i tend to use the bike as an excuse to eat the ‘cheat foods’.. like stopping off for coffee and berry scone with white chocolate on a 80+ mile ride!!! I also struggling with what is enough food to eat and will i bonk, will i not?? so far i havent but its early days..i lost serious weight in a short space of time.. body fat is at 5% and weight went from 90kg to 83kg in 8 weeks..if youve any tips feel free to send them my way..
    bryan

  2. are veggies and fruits your main source of “carb loading” for big races/rides? Do you find this to be sufficient?

  3. Hey there your blog is one of the few I have found addressing paleo and cycling. I’ve been paleo/primal for the last few years but have struggled maintaining it on the distance rides. I do a distance ride 40+ miles about twice a week in preparation for centuries and multi day rides coming up in 6 months. So… what did you eat on the bike? Lara bars? What about at rest stops?

  4. Finally, this is the first sensible paleo diet I’ve read. I am a cyclist too and all the paleo diets I could find were from people who went to the gym to WOD and bring meat with them to every session in a cooler. I work in an office and try to ride in the afternoons and especially on the weekends, and I just don’t find eating meat at every meal and snack is going to make me a better cyclist. I rely on carbs for the most part too, so the transition has been hard, but most paleo plans tell you fruit is the devil and to avoid it all costs. Yours incorporates it in a way that is limiting but not cutting it out completely. I’m glad you posted about the larabars too, people who spend 20 mins in the gym don’t understand the need for that on a 4 hour ride. Your post is printed and tacked on my wall in my office to remind me I’m not alone. Thanks for your inspiration :)

  5. Thanks for laying out what you use for fuel.
    Did you adapt pretty quickly to fatburning or was the transition painful (it was for me).
    I’ve tried sweet potato baby food (in pouches, and a homemade concoction with coconut milk). I like RXBars too, even tastier than Larabars. I also find getting some protein in about 2-3 hours in really, really helps.
    More on my blog about what I use now, if anyone’s interested.

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