Olympic Hopeful Credits Success to The Paleo Diet

Mary Maginnis | The Paleo Diet

2014 Royal Canadian Henley Regatta Championship Women’s Single Champion

Dear Professor Cordain,

My name is Mary Maginnis, I am a Paleo athlete training for the Olympics, and I am writing to thank you for your work, The Paleo Diet for Athletes.

To offer you some background: I began rowing in high school and continued my career on the Division I level at Harvard. Although I was always on the shorter and leaner side for a rower, I spent these first eight years of my rowing career competing as a heavyweight. I was lucky that I was able to find as much success in that weight category considering my size, but I knew that if I wanted to continue rowing on the elite level, I would have to make the switch to lightweight.

To be clear, I spent most of my rowing career eating as anti-paleo as possible. I abhorred most vegetables, and I viewed pizza and cheeseburgers as the best-tasting foods (and I admit that I still think that they–retrospectively–taste awesome).

While I considered training full-time after college, I was instead initially drawn to a corporate position in New York City. I certainly gained a lot from this experience, but I knew after the first six months of work that I was giving up my only opportunity to achieve my long-standing Olympic dream. Corporate life will always be there for me, but competing in the Olympics is only achievable for a limited period of time. I left New York in the beginning of March and began training full-time as a lightweight in Philadelphia with a high performance group.

The switch to lightweight necessitated a change in how I viewed food. It made me especially conscious of how and when I was fueling my body. At this point, I had already been on the Paleo Diet for almost a year; my mother and brother had been Paleo for some time and inspired that change in my eating. “Being Paleo” not only made losing weight much easier in the transition from heavyweight to lightweight, but it also positively affected my energy levels and my performance. I noticed that I felt better most of the time while I was training compared to how I had felt throughout high school and college. I knew that the Paleo Diet was positively affecting my speed, and I became eager to learn more about how diet can affect athletic performance.

After doing some research online, I came across The Paleo Diet for Athletes and picked up a copy from a local Barnes and Noble. Since reading it, I have been able to make the Paleo Diet work to my athletic advantage even more. Understanding, specifically, what my body needs and when, has had an incredible impact on my training and performance.

In what has been only my first season competing as a lightweight and on the elite level, I have, to the surprise of many, managed to put myself in contention for this year’s national team. I am beginning to see my Olympic dream as more of a potential reality, and I certainly have you to thank in part for that. When asked what the “secret” to my speed is, my response always includes a recommendation to read your work.

Reading your work and implementing it in my own life has also inspired a passion in me for the cross between food and fitness. Too many of my fellow elite rowers take food for granted as fuel. I firmly believe that diet can be what I like to call “free speed,” and I am interested in learning more and inspiring others to make this change in perspective. As I train for the Olympics, I am hoping to involve myself in this in some capacity professionally and/or academically, whether that be through research, study, or otherwise.

Again, I cannot emphasize enough how significantly your work has influenced my life. Thank you for giving me a competitive edge, and thank you for helping put me on the track to achieving my goals.

Kind regards,

Mary Maginnis
Elite Rower Champion
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