• How to Eat Paleo While Training

    For me, athletic performance = training + recovery + nutrition. If any part of that triad falls by the wayside, my performance suffers. Nutrition is such an important aspect of the total package, and it can seem really hard to dial in. Several folks have asked that I share some suggestions for how to fit paleo into pre-, intra- and post-workout scenarios.

    There are a ton of factors to consider before you adopt some of these nutrition strategies though, so be sure you pick something appropriate for your needs…in other words, don’t go out for a 5 hour mountain bike ride and only bring water and one Lara bar.

    Metabolic Demand

    What type of exercise are you doing? How long of a time domain? Are you doing long slow distance training, intervals, weightlifting, etc? You must know the metabolic demand of your training if you’re going to adequately fuel. A traditional CrossFit metcon is going to really tap into your glycogen stores while an Olympic lifting session is going to run off of your phosphagen system. A 3+ hour mountain bike ride/race is going to probably necessitate a supplementation of protein while a set of short intervals will not. You can go pretty far down the rabbit hole (as Robb Wolf would say) in terms of dialing in the adequate ratio of macronutrients for your needs. Check out this article to see what I mean. One of the biggest mistakes athletes in the CF/Paleo camp seem to make is eating too low carb, running down their glycogen stores and feeling flat and worn out. If you do high intensity metcon-type workouts, you will want to seriously consider your intake of carbs (like sweet potato/yam/plantain/squash, etc) post-workout.

    A good (very general) rule of thumb is: pre-workout fuel should be a mix of fat and protein while post-workout recovery should be protein and carbs (fat slows down the process of digestion and in the post-workout window, it’s widely accepted that fat should be avoided). How much you eat and how much you replenish with is totally dependent on your own needs and the demands of your sport.

    During your workout, you may decide to supplement with BCAAs (branched chain amino acids), for example, if you are doing a strength workout. If you are a cyclist out doing a 50 mile endurance race or ride, again, your context changes the scenario completely and you may need a mix of carb and protein while you’re on the bike.

    Personally, in the post-workout window, I stay away from protein powders and shakes because I honestly feel like the nutrients I need I can get from food. Isn’t that where these products come from anyway? It does take a bit more preparation and planning to bring actual food for your post-workout refuel but it’s something that’s easily do-able.

    Here are some of my personal favorites that I’ve used for training, whether it’s for CrossFit, mountain biking, triathlon or running:


    • Elete electrolyte replacement
    • Coconut water


    • Baked yam/sweet potato, this can be pureed with a bit of water and put in a gel flask
    • Fruit/vegetable blends from Peter Rabbit Organics and the like, this is basically baby food in a squeezable pouch. Be sure to scan the label for any non-paleo friendly ingredients
    • Fruit leathers
    • Dates or other dried fruit
    • Fresh fruit such as banana


    • Homemade beef jerky
    • Chunks of meat or ground beef (when I’m in the gym and can bring a personal-sized cooler)
    • Hard-boiled eggs


    Incorporating New Foods

    As always, please don’t make the mistake of trying something new in your nutrition plan on the day of a competition or race. It’s a common rookie mistake but one that can lead you dehydrated, under-fueled and bonking or with food/drink sloshing around in your gut.

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    13 thoughts on “How to Eat Paleo While Training

    1. Thanks for posting. I have been doing CrossFit for a year and this is the first comprehensive article I have found regarding this subject! Yahoo:)

    2. I read a few months ago on the Health Correlator blog that consuming fat or carbs “tend to blunt the dramatic rise in growth hormone that is typically experienced in response to weight training.”

      here’s a link – http://healthcorrelator.blogspot.com/2011/12/protein-powders-before-fasted-weight.html

      Currently taking BCAA shake w/ a bit of rice syrup (1/2 tbsp just to give me an energy boost – using rice since mostly glucose).

      Post workout I am eating whole food, which seems to be working great. It’s the really the pre workout I am bit confused on.

      My routine is mostly strength training w/ a small metcon finisher (about 10 minutes). I workout first thing in the morning.

      1. I think the topic of pre-workout nutrition is a bit personal. Some people perform well in a fasted state or on an empty stomach if they train later in the day but have eaten breakfast. I know that I personally don’t do very well if my stomach is grumbling or feeling super empty or if I feel hungry. My pre-workout food often consists of a hard-boiled egg and a handful of nuts. Try it and see what works for you! 🙂

    3. Thanks for the training food info Steph, I have a cross fit competition next week and will try some of your suggestions.

        1. I did a local “garage games” competition, got 4th , lived off jerky, chix breast and lara bars. gonna try your eggs next. Thanks.

          1. That sounds like a blast! I can’t wait until our local competitions start up again. We just had Regionals here in SoCal, and I’m really fired up now. Glad the fueling worked out for you and CONGRATS!!

    4. My CF coach has told us in nutrition seminars to have the least amount of fat before and after our workouts. I never really looked up to see why. I usually can’t follow the “timing” recommendations as well anyway since I have such a high number of macros to hit, that I’m usually short if I don’t start eating early and often. Thanks for the article!

      1. Hi Jennifer!

        I sort of disagree with the recommendation of eating least amount of fat before a workout. Did he give an explanation why?

        As far as macros I totally understand. I counted macros recently leading up to a big meet for 3 months and I had to be conscientious about how much I ate. I kept it to three meals a day though so I didn’t go crazy 🙂

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