Athletes Should Go Back to the Stone Age for a Better Diet, According to Colorado State University Researcher

Humans who lived some 10,000 years ago chased after their food, sometimes traveling more than 10 miles a day to hunt for lean meats and forage for fresh fruits and vegetables.

The carbohydrates of today weren’t in the picture in the Paleolithic diet – proof that they aren’t necessary for today’s athletes who are expected to load up on breads, pastas and other carbohydrates before exercise, according to "The Paleo Diet for Athletes: A Nutritional Formula for Peak Athletic Performance," a new book by Loren Cordain, professor of the health and exercise science at Colorado State University, and Joel Friel, a U.S. triathlon and cycling elite coach and founder and president of Ultrafit Associates LLC, an association of elite endurance coaches.

The book offers a series of dietary strategies to help athletes maximize performance, normalize body weight and reduce risk of heart disease, cancer and osteoporosis.

"This trend of ‘carbo-loading’ has caused a detrimental shift away from quality, fresh foods and has had negative consequences on health, an athlete’s capacity for recovery and the subsequent quality of training," Cordain said. "This trend must be reversed."

Cordain has found through research that the diet of our Stone Age ancestors actually improves athletic performance, normalizes body weight and reduces the risk for many diseases while playing a significant role in treating certain autoimmune diseases.

Cordain also is the author of "The Paleo Diet," a book that advocates returning to the days of our hunter-gatherer societies when humans subsisted on diets filled with high protein from wild game and fresh fruits and vegetables.

The Paleo diet contained much more vitamin C, B vitamins, fiber, iron, zinc, folate and essential fatty acids and less sugar, salt and saturated fats than the modern day diet does.

"The Paleo diet increases your protein and fat consumptions while modestly lowering your carbohydrate intake," Cordain said. "But since the carbs you do eat will come largely from fruits and vegetables, you’ll be consuming healthful micronutrients. The protein comes from lean meats with low levels of saturated fats and from fish with high levels of healthful omega-3 fats. You’ll get more healthful monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats."

"The Paleo Diet for Athletes" takes that a step further and offers athletes specific guidelines on what to eat before, during and after intense workouts. Cordain and Friel don’t believe that athletes should completely abandon carbohydrates, so in the book they detail which carbohydrates are the best to consume before, during and after race workouts. The book includes 80 recipes and tips for choosing healthy meals and snacks at home and on the road.

"The Paleo Diet for Athletes" also goes into detail about understanding the scientific basis for Paleo diet’s effectiveness.

"Our Paleolithic ancestors were universally lean, fit and virtually free of obesity, hypertension, high cholesterol, diabetes and other chronic diseases that are epidemic in our world," Cordain said. "Unfortunately, the typical athlete diet today is top heavy with grains, starches and refined sugars, which is hurting performance and health."

Cordain is world-renowned for his knowledge on the Paleolithic diet and is a member of the American Institute of Nutrition and the American Society for Clinical Nutrition.

Cordain will be signing his new book, "The Paleo Diet for Athletes," at 7 p.m. Nov. 10 at Barnes & Noble at 4045 S. College Ave. in Fort Collins. For more information about the book signing, call Ginny Cross at (970) 226-0166.