Mountain Biker’s Guide to Paleo: Reviewing the Whole Foods Diet for Riders

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It can be a little concerning when we think about how disconnected from our food we are these days. For example, peanut butter probably shouldn’t be anything more than some smashed up peanuts and salt, but it’s often full of sugar and vegetable, palm, and seed oils. While the peanuts might be harvested in the U.S. of A., the oils could be sourced from across the globe.

Trust me, I don’t want to pick on peanut butter too much, but it’s a prime example of a seemingly simple staple in our kitchen cupboards can be stretched and molded into a mixture of foreign oils and chemicals. It’s also one small example of why someone may be interested in a diet like paleo, also known as the caveman diet, which shifts practitioners to a diet of natural foods and away from processed foods.

The rules are simple: If cavemen and cavewomen ate it, eat it. If it’s something that couldn’t be harvested or hunted, don’t eat it.

In theory, it sounds great for the body; but is it healthy or practical? As a mountain biker, I was unsure but wanted to try this fall. This meant veering away from things that aren’t harvested; granola, tortillas, flippy-cup yogurts, stroopwaffles and goos, and relying entirely on carbs from natural sources like fruits and vegetables.

The transition felt abrupt, but I stayed mostly satiated, eating a lot more nuts, avocados, and meat and eventually I craved bready or grainy carbs less. The first week was the toughest and I experienced a huge drop in motivation and energy during rides, but I also didn’t need to fuel as often.

The transition reminded me of a piece about the keto diet and potential benefits for mountain bikers earlier this year. I spoke to Hunter Allen, CEO of Peaks Coaching Group, who has trained many keto cyclists. The keto diet is meant to be a very low carb diet that is short even on some fruits and vegetables and very heavy on protein and fat, including dairy. It can be done with patience and practice.

Paleo on the other hand consists entirely of fruits, vegetables, nuts, and meats, skipping dairy and grains. For cyclists, paleo might be more practical considering the amount of carbohydrates our…

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