Thursday, October 11, 2012

Confessions of a Paleo Runner

I know some of you have been waiting for the post about my in-race fueling.  WHAT DO I EAT DURING A RUN?  It's a question asked by every beginner endurance runner.  And for those of you who have come looking for Paleo solutions to that question, I have a confession.  *stage whisper*  I don't stay Paleo during my races!

Before you close your browser tab in a huff, please consider this:  Dr Cordain supports using non-paleo  foods during an endurance event in his book The Paleo Diet for Athletes.

If you are participating in training or a race that's longer than 1.5 hours, you will need to supplement with high-glycemic index carbs.  You COULD carry a candy bar with you, but if you're trying to be as paleo as possible, sports drinks are a better option.  I prefer CYTOMAX brand sports performance drink.  It's a bit lower in sugar than Gatorade.  Rob Wolff also prefers CYTOMAX for endurance events.  

You will need 200-400 calories of some sort of carb replacement for every hour that you're performing.  This is of course based on your body size.  Smaller people need less than those big burly guys.  I sip on one serving of cytomax the first hour, then I use a GU with caffeine at the beginning of the second hour  and if I'm nowhere near the finish line, I'll use another GU without caffeine at the beginning of the third hour.  That's a total of 300 calories over 2 hours for me.  I feel great using this combo, and only occasionally have had GI distress after a race.  

If you are determined to stay paleo, I would recommend carrying 1/4 cup of raisins in place of gu and you can make your own electrolyte drink.  The raisins are an EXCELLENT source of carbs.  I found this electrolyte replacement drink at Mark's Daily Apple:
  1. Slightly heat some coconut water on the stove. Don’t let it get anywhere near simmering. Just let it get warm enough to melt the next three ingredients easily.
  2. Add a few dashes of sea salt, preferably one with high mineral content. Sea salt provides sodium, an important electrolyte, plus trace minerals. You’re going to be burning through a lot of it during the race.
  3. Add honey, preferably raw and from a local farm (remember, many store bought honey isn’t actually honey anymore).
  4. Add blackstrap molasses. Blackstrap molasses comes after the third boiling of sugar cane. It contains less sugar than either white sugar, brown sugar, regular molasses, or dark molasses, but far more minerals and electrolytes. See, sugar cane is a plant with roots that stretch deep into the soil to extract nutrients (some research suggests sugar cane roots may go down as far as six meters). Very few of those nutrients make it into white or brown sugar, and regular and dark molasses contain some, but it’s blackstrap molasses which gets the bulk of the minerals. So, when you add just a couple tablespoons of blackstrap molasses to your energy drink, you’re getting more than twice the potassium than a banana, more calcium than a cup of raw spinach, and almost 100 mg of magnesium.
  5. Mix it all together until everything melts and it’s a dark brown murky viscous fluid. I didn’t include specific amounts, but start with a couple tablespoons of each sweetener and the juice from one coconut (or one carton of coconut water). You’ll be cruising for the first bit of the race, thanks to your effective pre-race training and fueling, but when you really start dipping into your glycogen stores, having a banana or two and a bottle of high-potency Primal energy drink will prove useful.

  6. Read more:


  1. Cheaper option for sports drink than CYTOMAX or Gatorade: Make your own. 1 packet unsweetened drink mix (think Kool-Aid), 6 T sugar, 1/2 t salt, and 1/4 t lite salt. I can get about six 16-oz bottles of drink out of one of these, and it's a lot less sugar than Gatorade. Obviously you can add more sugar if you want it sweeter; Kool-aid typically calls for something like 1/2 to 1 c sugar per packet, so this is a LOT less than that.

  2. Thanks for sharing that recipe! I'm sure my non-paleo readers will love having a cheaper alternative.