Thursday, September 27, 2012

Carb Up Paleo-style

No Pasta.  No bread.  No tortillas.  No potatoes.  HOW DOES A PALEO RUNNER CARB UP????

It's widespread knowledge now that runners love their Pre-race Pasta Parties.  That's because you need to store up carbs for an endurance run of over 2 hours.  For some, that's a marathon. For slow little me, that's a half marathon.  In 10 days I'll be running the San Jose Rock N Roll Half Marathon.  That means I'll be traveling and staying paleo will be a challenge to both me and my momma (who may or may not realize that my specific dietary needs will be travelling with me).  But we're going to try, and I follow some pretty simple guidelines for runners who are Paleo.

WHY do you need to "Carb Up?"

The process I refer to as "carb up" is also known more commonly as "Carbo Loading".  It increases the glycogen in your muscles.  Glycogen in how your body stores "energy" in the form of carbohydrates in your muscles.  Muscles NEED that energy to function and if you plan to exercise for more than 90 minutes, you should plan to carbo load.

How can a Paleo Runner Carb Up without breads or pasta?

Most endurance runners carbo load using carbohydrate sources that are found in the low glycemic index.  Examples are Whole wheat pastas, bananas, sweet potatoes.  These foods contain carbohydrates but don't cause a sugar crash like foods that are in the high glycemic index.  Candy, baked goods, apples are examples of foods that aare int he High GI.  The difference is sometimes referred to as "good carbs" and "bad carbs".

Image found at the Dreamfield's pasta website

By eating a large quantity of foods that are in the low GI, runners can insure that the carbs they take in will be stored as fuel and not just used up and cause them to crash.

Paleo runners have the benefit of having trained their bodies to ONLY use foods in the low glycemic index.  Our diet does not allow any processed carbohydrates, grains or sugars.  While whole wheat is a good source of a low GI carbohydrate, it isn't the only one.  By eating things like sweet potatoes, bananas, gluten-free waffles or pancakes (usually made with coconut flour), a Paleo Runner can successfully increase their glycogen stores without resorting to breaking from their Paleo lifestyle.

I usually carb up before a long run with sweet potatoes and fruit.  These are foods I enjoy and normally have to watch my intake in order to maintain weight loss.  One of the benefits of endurance running IS the carboloading cycle and you should enjoy it!!  I start my load process two nights before my race, at dinner.  I then have a carb heavy breakfast the next morning (day before the race) and then eat light for the next 3 meals.  I do not restrict my calories during this time.

What are the benefits of doing a Paleo Carb Up?

The first benefit is NOT breaking from your Paleo lifestyle.  I know for me, when I have taken a quick break for a special meal or to try add foods back in to my diet, I've experienced quite a bit of pain due to Gastro-intestinal problems.  This is VERY common for followers of the Paleo Diet.  Your body no longer has the forced immunity to the effects of the foods on your body now that you're "cleansed".  Race day is NOT the day to be experiencing gas, diarrhea or nausea.

You also have the benefit of all the carbo loading without the bloating.  Pre-race carb up used to leave me feeling big and heavy.  Now I still feel good in my race gear.

Paleo Carb Loading also allows you to be certain the foods you're using to increase your glycogen stores ARE in the low glycemic index.  You can't use the excuse that you can eat a candy bar or a donut because you're going to run a marathon the next day.  I personally think it makes it easier to  continue eating healthy while training and racing.

What about DURING your races?

During an endurance event of over 2 hours it is VERY important to have access to carbs and electrolytes to replenish those that you're using.  I have not found a reliable and Paleo-friendly source of these . . . yet.  I like a combination of caffeine and carbs during my runs, to keep the pep in my step.  So I still use Gu Jet Blackberry and Gu Peanut Butter.  I also still prefer Cytomax sports drink over any Paleo-friendly "gatorades".  I do have to deal with the side effects of putting those processed sugars, legumes, and carbohydrates into my body.  Luckily, they dont' show up until AFTER the race.

In his book, Paleo Diet for Athletes, Dr Cordain does encourage endurance athletes to continue to use whatever forms of endurance supplements they find works for them.  He also encourages athletes to use a 30 minut window AFTER the event to ingest large amounts of carbohydrates, even if they're non-paleo options.

You will still feel the effects of these supplements and your post-race meal.  For me, its worth the pain to enjoy a meal that I miss from my non-Paleo days.  My favorite post-race carb replenishment is a California Burrito.
Post-race burritos are SO good!
If you have any questions about the process of carbo loading or about staying paleo while training and racing, feel free to ask me!  I am happy to share my experiences with you.  I also welcome any stories of successful AND failed attempts at racing Paleo.

1 comment:

  1. Great post. I want to start getting in shape and eating better so I have been doing research on all different kinds of diets. I was told I should start using endurance supplements and stop eating anything that is white. I am going to give it a try but I know its going to be hard. I am a huge potato fan. Thanks for the great information.