Tag Archives: exercise

Are You Eating Enough Carbs For Optimal Recovery?  | The Paleo Diet

While a low-carb Paleo diet is phenomenal for supporting weight loss and improving health if you are overweight, out of shape, or obese, not everyone is trying to lose weight.

For athletes training to achieve a personal best running a 10k, triathlon, or qualifying for the CrossFit Games, your eating strategy will not be one in the same.

Exercise is a catabolic process, triggering a release of stress hormones cortisol and adrenaline in order to raise blood sugars to fuel your activity. If you are exercising at a slow pace (less than 65% heart rate) your body has the time to use fat as a primary fuel source. However, as your exercise intensity increases your body quickly shifts to using muscle and liver glycogen (your body’s carb stores) to fuel exercise.

You have a limited capacity to store glycogen, which means after about 1-hour of training at a high intensity, you’ll likely have exhausted all your body’s glycogen stores.


The research is quite clear that if you start your next training session with low or sub-optimal glycogen status, you’ll significantly reduce your capacity to work and your performance will suffer. A recent study of athletes who consumed only 40% of their total calories as carbohydrates and performed “two-a-day” training sessions suffered a significant decrease in their performance during the 2nd session because they did NOT adequately replenish muscle glycogen stores.1

If you are training at high intensity and following a low-carb diet, you are treading a fine line. If your goal is to be fit and lean, this isn’t really a problem. However, if your goal is optimizing your performance potential, eventually you will exhibit signs of overtraining and exhaustion.

Overtraining happens when you train intensely for too long, without adequate rest periods or tapers built into your training regime. While you do want to push yourself to the edge to stimulate a training adaptation (‘over-reaching’), you don’t want to push yourself over the edge!

Short-term symptoms of inadequate glycogen repletion include fatigue, reduced work capacity during training, poor recovery and extended delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS). Long-term symptoms are pronounced fatigue, reduced strength levels and increased muscular weakness.


The best way to replenish glycogen after training is to consume high-glycemic index (GI) carbs. High GI carbs enter the bloodstream quickly, allowing you to rapidly replenish glycogen stores in the first 30-60 minutes after training, when glycogen synthase enzyme activity is elevated and allows for optimal replenishment.2 Root vegetables make a great post-workout carb choice, especially if you bake them, which naturally raises the glycemic index of these foods, such as sweet potatoes, yams, yucca, plantains, carrots, beets, parsnips, etc.

If you are on the go and don’t have time to sit down for meal, try adding some dried fruit to your post-workout nutritional arsenal. Dried fruit is very high-glycemic, and while not ideal as a midday snack when sitting at your desk, it’s a great option after vigorous activity. Try 2-4 Medjool dates for 36-72g of carbs, or half a pack of dried mangos (1.5oz provides 36g of carbs).

The total amount of carbs you consume post-training depends on a few variables: your genetics, current body-fat percentage, training phase, etc. Aim for one gram of carbs per kilogram bodyweight in the first hour after exercise (divide your bodyweight in pounds by 2.2 to achieve your weight in kilograms).2,3 This can be repeated every two hours for up to 6 hours post-training for elite level trainees and sports that require two-a-day training, such as triathletes, Olympic weightlifters, and Ironman competitors.

In China, a recent study examined the effects of high-glycemic meals after exercise on performance in runners. The results showed athletes consuming high-GI meals post-training had significantly improved work capacity during their subsequent run four hours later.4 This highlights the importance for refilling your glycogen stores and ensuring your best performance in your next training session or race day.


Carbs directly replenish glycogen stores and after exercise your capacity to soak up carbs and top up glycogen is heightened. Research shows that if you wait several hours post-training you will reduce your glycogen repletion rate by as much as 50%!5 Not consuming enough carbs after exercise can also exacerbate inflammation, depress immunity, and lead to prolonged muscle soreness.6

If you’re already following a low-carb (LC) or very low-carb ketogenic (VLCK) diet you can still benefit by incorporating more carbs than normal post-training, without affecting your capacity to burn fat.7 For some, this may be the added boost you need to upgrade your performance. However, at higher intensity exercise the research shows a LC or VLCK diet does not likely support better performance.8

Remember, if you’re gearing up for a 10k run, triathlon, CrossFit Games or your competitive season, fatigue is directly related to muscle glycogen depletion when exercising at higher intensities. For optimal athletic performance, refuel with the right amount of carbs post-exercise and take your game to the next level.

Happy training!




1. Ivy JL et al. Muscle glycogen storage after different amounts of carbohydrate ingestion. J Appl Physiol. 1988 Nov;65(5):2018-23.

2. Jentjens R, Jeukendrup A. Determinants of post-exercise glycogen synthesis during short-term recovery. Sports Med. 2003;33(2):117-44.

3. Ivy JL1.Glycogen resynthesis after exercise: effect of carbohydrate intake. Int J Sports Med. 1998 Jun;19 Suppl 2:S142-5.

4. Wong SH et al. Effect of glycemic index meals on recovery and subsequent endurance capacity. Int J Sports Med. 2009 Dec;30(12):898-905.

5. Jentjens R, Jeukendrup A. Determinants of post-exercise glycogen synthesis during short-term recovery. Sports Med. 2003;33(2):117-44.

6. Flakell PJ et al. Postexercise protein supplementation improves health and muscle soreness during basic military training in Marine recruits. J Appl Physiol 2004;96:951-956.

7. Burke LM, Hawley JA, Angus DJ, et al. Adaptations to short-term high-fat diet persist during exercise despite high carbohydrate availability. Med Sci Sports Exerc 20002;34:83-91.

8. Antonio J, Kalman D, Stout S, et al. Essentials of Sports Nutrition and Supplements. International Society of Sports Nutritionists. Humana Press, NY 2008.

Fight Fatigue with Energizing Workouts | The Paleo Diet

Are you too tired to work out? You’re not alone. Finding natural ways, meaning without caffeine and sugar, to feel invigorated is important. One in five adults worldwide experience persistent fatigue, including 24% of the US.1 The last thing you might feel like doing when you’re low on energy is exercising. However, it turns out that one of the best ways to fight fatigue is with regular exercise.2  12 population-based studies conducted between 1945 and 2005 measured the relationship between physical activity and feelings of energy and fatigue. All of these studies found an association between physical activity and a reduced risk of experiencing feelings of low energy and fatigue.3

Despite how active our hunter-gather ancestors were, they did spend a significant amount of time resting and recovering.4 Our modern environment and technological advances have changed both the way we move and rest. How exercise helps fatigue isn’t exactly clear, but research suggests it directly impacts the central nervous system to increase feelings of energy and lessen feelings of fatigue.5

Lifestyle factors that lead to fatigue should always be considered first, such as getting adequate sleep (maybe even more than 8 hours),6 proper nutrition, and managing stress, as they all contribute to a restored well-being. Over-training your body without programming the correct recovery time can also lead to feeling tired or weak. Resolving the lifestyle factors can significantly improve any sluggish feelings you may be struggling with.

If exercise is good for us mentally and physically,7 why is it so hard to get going? There’s no one answer. Research indicates that the perception of fatigue leads individuals to believe it takes too much effort to push through their feelings of discomfort during exercise, even when their bodies have the capacity to do the work.8 As tempting as it might be to skip your whole workout when you’re tired, it is better to attempt to participate in something rather than nothing. Specifically, a shorter duration or less demanding program is more beneficial and energizing than sitting in front of the television.

Here are some ideas, based on the exercise principles of duration, frequency, and intensity,9 to get you started:

Low intensity exercise

Skip your regular trip to the gym and take a leisurely walk or bike ride in the outdoors.  Exposure to natural light can increase energy10 and improve your mood.11,12

Alternatively, you can practice yoga in the comfort of your home or at a professional studio. In addition to providing a chance to relax your mind and stretch your body, it has been shown to increase energy and improve the quality of life of those with cancer and multiple sclerosis.13,14

Body weight or weighted resistance exercises can also be performed at lower intensity and lower volume. Low-intensity strength training has been shown to have similar results on muscle strength and tissue composition compared to higher-intensity lifting.15

High intensity exercise

There is compelling evidence on the benefits of high intensity training.16 However, on the days when you’re especially tired, consider doing a very short duration workout, for 8-10 minutes, of high intensity training to maximize the effects on your energy level.17

Performing a grueling, endurance-type high intensity workout when you’re tired can lead to an increased stress response from the body,18 as well as lead to injury from failure to maintain proper form through the movements.

When you’re low on energy, choose to do something you enjoy doing for exercise, even if it’s much easier than how you normally move. You can make up the heavy strength training or long endurance rides after you’re feeling rejuvenated enough to tackle the task. Listening to your body while maintaining your active lifestyle is a key habit to maintain the life-long habit of healthy living.


[1] Chen, Martin K. “The epidemiology of self-perceived fatigue among adults.”Preventive medicine 15.1 (1986): 74-81.

[2] Puetz, Timothy W., Patrick J. O’Connor, and Rod K. Dishman. “Effects of chronic exercise on feelings of energy and fatigue: a quantitative synthesis.”Psychological bulletin 132.6 (2006): 866.

[3] Puetz, Timothy W. “Physical activity and feelings of energy and fatigue.” Sports medicine 36.9 (2006): 767-780.

[4] O’Keefe, James H., et al. “Exercise like a hunter-gatherer: a prescription for organic physical fitness.” Progress in cardiovascular diseases 53.6 (2011): 471-479.

[5] Puetz, Timothy W. “Physical activity and feelings of energy and fatigue.” Sports medicine 36.9 (2006): 767-780.

[6] Czeisler, Charles A., et al. “Human sleep: its duration and organization depend on its circadian phase.” Science 210.4475 (1980): 1264-1267.

[7] Stathopoulou, Georgia, et al. “Exercise interventions for mental health: a quantitative and qualitative review.” Clinical Psychology: Science and Practice13.2 (2006): 179-193.

[8] Marcora, Samuele. “Perception of effort during exercise is independent of afferent feedback from skeletal muscles, heart, and lungs.” Journal of applied physiology 106.6 (2009): 2060-2062.

[9] Shephard, Roy J. “Intensity, duration and frequency of exercise as determinants of the response to a training regime.” Internationale Zeitschrift fuer Angewandte Physiologie Einschliesslich Arbeitsphysiologie 26.3 (1968): 272-278.

[10] Eastman, Charmane I., et al. “Light treatment for sleep disorders: Consensus report VI. Shift work.” Journal of Biological Rhythms 10.2 (1995): 157-164.

[11] Terman, Michael, and Jiuan Su Terman. “Bright light therapy: side effects and benefits across the symptom spectrum.” Journal of Clinical Psychiatry 60.11 (1999): 799-808.

[12] O’Keefe, James H., et al. “Achieving Hunter-gatherer Fitness in the 21< sup> st</sup> Century: Back to the Future.” The American journal of medicine123.12 (2010): 1082-1086.

[13] Chandwani, Kavita D., et al. “Yoga improves quality of life and benefit finding in women undergoing radiotherapy for breast cancer.” Journal of the Society for Integrative Oncology 8.2 (2009): 43-55.

[14] Oken, B. S., et al. “Randomized controlled trial of yoga and exercise in multiple sclerosis.” Neurology 62.11 (2004): 2058-2064.

[15] Taaffe, D. R., et al. “Comparative effects of high‐and low‐intensity resistance training on thigh muscle strength, fiber area, and tissue composition in elderly women.” Clinical Physiology 16.4 (1996): 381-392.

[16] Laursen, Paul B., and David G. Jenkins. “The scientific basis for high-intensity interval training.” Sports Medicine 32.1 (2002): 53-73.

[17] Babraj, John A., et al. “Extremely short duration high intensity interval training substantially improves insulin action in young healthy males.” BMC Endocrine Disorders 9.1 (2009): 3.

[18] Urhausen, Axel, Holger Gabriel, and Wilfried Kindermann. “Blood hormones as markers of training stress and overtraining.” Sports medicine 20.4 (1995): 251-276.


How Obstacle Races and Competitions Tap Into Our Ancestral Past | The Paleo Diet


An evolution in optimal exercise is taking place, inspired by how our primitive ancestors moved. In 2013, nearly 3.4 million people participated in an obstacle race, and in 2014 these races generated close to $362 million in registration revenue.1 Similarly, in 2014 over 209,000 people signed up for the CrossFit Games Open, a 5-week qualifier to find the fittest person on Earth.2 Their appeal can be linked to desire to focus on functional forms of fitness, meaning performing movements that have implications to improve the ability to engage fully in daily activities, especially as we age.3,4

These types of competitions require endurance, speed, strength and agility to swing on ropes, scramble over walls, swim through mud, to lift heavy objects, and navigate other barriers. Physical training with such obstacles has been shown to improve overall fitness levels and body composition.5 Every part of the body is needed to complete the activities, as well as willpower to push through the unexpected and uncomfortable. Think swimming through mud.

If you repeat the same workout routine each time you go to the gym, it may be time to add tasks that test both your mind and your body. Hunter-gathers were constantly challenged with unexpected obstacles, such as crossing water or climbing hills and boulders to procure food and water.6 Their movements were constantly varied, with endurance and peak strength effort activities, which they alternated with adequate rest.7

These conditions cannot be replicated by routine workouts, such as walking on a no-incline treadmill for 45 minutes while watching a television screen and doing the same weight machine circuit three times a week. Modern exercise patterns (or lack thereof) have been linked to most chronic diseases8 and to repetitive injuries to joints and muscles.9

What additional benefits can you experience through obstacle and CrossFit-style competitions?

They offer a motivation to push through the ideas you may have about your body’s limitations, and they can tap into the human drive to move for a reason 10 – in this case to complete the complex tasks offered by the competition. Further, they require your brain to work in order to problem solve and strategize, in a way that can be argued mimics the mental skills of hunter- gatherers. 11,12

These sports also provide a social aspect to movement that is lacking from most traditional gym programs.  Hunter-gathers were required to work together as a social unit in order to thrive.13 This involved collaboration for hunting wild game, butchering the animal, as well as foraging collectively to reap the largest and most varied foods.14  Every person in a mud run participates as a team and collaborates to conquer the barriers presented.15

While competitions offered through CrossFit, Spartan Race, and Tough Mudders offer many benefits to mimic hunter gather challenges, you can still improve your fitness level by mixing up how you exercise on a regular basis. Use activities you already like, such as walking or weight lifting, and make small adjustments in how you perform them. For example, add more hills or speed intervals to your walk or vary the number of sets and repetitions you do when lifting heavy objects. Be open to participate in new activities to challenge yourself outside of both your physical and mental comfort zone, especially those that are outdoors as it has been linked to improved mental wellbeing.16 Any variety you incorporate into how you move your body on a regular basis can have a big, lasting impact on your overall fitness level.

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[1] Available at: //www.pr.com/press-release/567322 . Accessed on January 20, 2015.

[2] Available at: //games.crossfit.com/article/209585-rise-open. Accessed on January 20, 2015.

[3] Thompson, Christian J., Karen Myers Cobb, and John Blackwell. “Functional training improves club head speed and functional fitness in older golfers.” The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research 21.1 (2007): 131-137.

[4] Suomi, Rory, and Douglas Collier. “Effects of arthritis exercise programs on functional fitness and perceived activities of daily living measures in older adults with arthritis.” Archives of physical medicine and rehabilitation 84.11 (2003): 1589-1594.

[5] Frykman, P. N., E. A. Harman, and C. E. Pandorf. Correlates of obstacle course performance among female soldiers carrying two different loads. Army research Inst of Environmental Medicine Natick MA, 2001.

[6] Cordain, Loren, R. W. Gotshall, and S. Boyd Eaton. “Physical activity, energy expenditure and fitness: an evolutionary perspective.” International journal of sports medicine 19.05 (1998): 328-335.

[7] Åstrand PO. J. B. Wolffe Memorial Lecture. Why exercise? Med Sci Sports Exerc 24: 153-162, 1992.

[8] Chakravarthy, Manu V., and Frank W. Booth. “Eating, exercise, and “thrifty” genotypes: connecting the dots toward an evolutionary understanding of modern chronic diseases.” Journal of Applied Physiology 96.1 (2004): 3-10.

[9] Carpenter, James E., et al. “The effects of overuse combined with intrinsic or extrinsic alterations in an animal model of rotator cuff tendinosis.” The American journal of sports medicine 26.6 (1998): 801-807.

[10] Roberts, Glyn C., Darren C. Treasure, and David E. Conroy. “Understanding the dynamics of motivation in sport and physical activity: An achievement goal interpretation.” Handbook of Sport Psychology, Third Edition (2007): 1-30.

[11] Binford, Lewis R. “Willow smoke and dogs’ tails: hunter-gatherer settlement systems and archaeological site formation.” American antiquity (1980): 4-20.

[12] Price, T. Douglas, and James A. Brown. “Aspects of hunter-gatherer complexity.” Prehistoric hunter-gatherers: The emergence of cultural complexity(1985): 3-20.

[13] Apicella, Coren L., et al. “Social networks and cooperation in hunter-gatherers.”Nature 481.7382 (2012): 497-501.

[14] Gurven M. “To give and give not: the behavioral ecology of human food transfers.” Behav. Brain Sci. 27, (2004 ): 543–559.

[15] Wing, Rena R., and Robert W. Jeffery. “Benefits of recruiting participants with friends and increasing social support for weight loss and maintenance.” Journal of consulting and clinical psychology 67.1 (1999): 132.

[16] Thompson Coon, J., et al. “Does participating in physical activity in outdoor natural environments have a greater effect on physical and mental wellbeing than physical activity indoors? A systematic review.” Environmental science & technology 45.5 (2011): 1761-1772.


Full Range of Motion Exercise: Part 2 | The Paleo Diet

Did you miss Full Range of Motion: Part 1? Read it HERE

In part one, we discussed how critical it is to perform multi-joint, functional movements that mimic the physical requirements of our hunter-gatherer ancestors. Functional movements increase and preserve both joint mobility and flexibility, and support strong muscles and overall physical fitness. Even though our modern lifestyle doesn’t demand the same, we shouldn’t shy away from regularly engaging in the three basic functional patterns typical of the Paleolithic man.

Contrary to popular belief, while exercising for an hour a day is good for our health,1 it doesn’t make up for being sedentary the rest of the time. We need to resist our natural urge to conserve energy to avoid the metabolic and long-term health consequences of too much sitting and not enough physical exertion.2 Get started by incorporating three basic movements, even when you aren’t in the gym.

Get Squatting

Imagine what your life would be like if you didn’t have any furniture. You would be  sitting cross-legged or kneeling to take a break from standing. If we look to cultures outside of western society,  we see individuals spending hours squatting in their day-to-day activities, especially when first world amenities are not available.3 Characteristically, the squat is considered a comfortable resting position.4

Let’s put it into practice. See how long you can rest, with a straight back and your feet on the ground in a squat position. Then begin to squat for various intervals through the day. In the privacy of your own office while you’re on a conference call? Squat. Playing with your kiddo? Squat.

Pick Up Heavy Things

Dead lifting is the practice of picking something heavy off the ground to a full standing position. It’s widely accepted by strength coaches as one of the top exercises to develop total body strength, including the hip and knee extensors, spinal erectors, quadratus lumborum, core abdominals, as well as the back and forearm muscles.5 Hunter-gathers didn’t have baby strollers, grocery carts, or more complex equipment like forklifts to move and lift the heaviest objects. All things were moved by manpower.6

Challenge your body by picking up heavy things regularly. Keep a traditional weight, like a kettlebell, next to your desk to use throughout the day. Make a conscious effort to lift other objects that you come across, like the extra-large bag of dog food. My favorite thing to pick up repeatedly? My toddler! The laughs alone are worth it.

Carry Heavy Loads

Anthropologists estimate that the typical hunter-gatherer mother carried her child until about age 4, covering upwards of 4,800 km with the child in her arms over this period of time.7

Moreover, our ancestors carried heavy loads to transport drinking water, killed game, and bundles of gathered foods.8 Now these activities seem to physically demanding for modern day. Carrying heavy backpacks has been attributed to nonspecific back pain in over 50% of teenagers by the time they are 16 years old.The solution isn’t to avoid carrying heavy things, but rather to learn how to do so safely by gradually building the necessary total body strength.

If you’re a hiker, snowshoe, or cross country ski, load a couple of extra water bottles in your backpack. If it gets too heavy you can simply empty the water. As you gain strength and endurance, add a couple rocks or weights. For everyday activities, carry two grocery baskets while shopping and if you’re child is walking, leave the stroller at home and opt instead to hold them if they get too tired.

Stephanie Vuolo

Stephanie Vuolo | The Paleo Diet Team

Stephanie Vuolo is a Certified Nutritional Therapist, an American College of Sports Medicine Personal Trainer, and a Certified CrossFit Level 1 Coach. She has a B.A. in Communications from Villanova University. She is a former contributor to Discovery Communications/TLC Blog, Parentables.

Stephanie lives in Seattle, WA, where she is a passionate and enthusiastic advocate for how diet and lifestyle can contribute to overall wellness and longevity. She has been raising her young daughter on the Paleo Diet since birth. You can visit her website at www.primarilypaleo.com.


[1] Fletcher, Gerald F., et al. “Statement on exercise: Benefits and recommendations for physical activity programs for all Americans a statement for health professionals by the committee on exercise and cardiac rehabilitation of the council on clinical cardiology, American heart association.” Circulation 94.4 (1996): 857-862.

[2] Katzmarzyk, Peter T., et al. “Sitting time and mortality from all causes, cardiovascular disease, and cancer.” Med Sci Sports Exerc 41.5 (2009): 998-1005.

[3] Done, What Is To Be. “Using a Squat Toilet: Aging in a Developing Country.” Journal of gerontological nursing 39.7 (2013): 2-3.

[4] Hewes, Gordon W. “World Distribution of Certain Postural Habits*.” American Anthropologist 57.2 (1955): 231-244.

[5] Bird, Stephen, and Benjamin Barrington-Higgs. “Exploring the deadlift.” Strength & Conditioning Journal 32.2 (2010): 46-51.

[6] O’Keefe, James H., et al. “Exercise like a hunter-gatherer: a prescription for organic physical fitness.” Progress in cardiovascular diseases 53.6 (2011): 471-479.

[7] Panter-Brick, C. Sexual division of labor: energetic and evolutionary scenarios. Am J Hum Biol. 2002; 14: 627–640.

[8] Cordain, L. and Friel, J. The Paleo Diet for Athletes: A Nutritional Formula for Peak Athletic Performance. Rodale Books, New York; 2005

[9] Sheir-Neiss, Geraldine I., et al. “The association of backpack use and back pain in adolescents.” Spine 28.9 (2003): 922-930.

Multi-Joint Exercise | The Paleo Diet

You sit at a desk all day. Relax on your couch while watching TV at night. Travel by car or public transit. What are the chances you could improve the physical demands being placed on your body to be more in line with how we were designed to live and move? Pretty good. We know activity was innate to hunter-gatherers to survive and sustain their lifestyle.1 And yet, while these instincts are still coded into our genes, western societies no longer demand the same physical activity.2

The majority of the time we are awake is spent in either sedentary behavior (58%) or light-intensity activity (39%), and only 3% in exercise time.3 The lack of movement in our society plays a significant role in an increased risk for obesity, poor physical fitness, depression, debility, and other disease. 4 Specifically, we are deficient in engaging in functional movements, positions that require more than one group of muscles and work from the core to the extremity. The three basic movements of squatting, lifting heavy objects, and carrying heavy things all require high ranges of joint motion.

In modern day, western society, the threat for survival is slim, comparatively. Nonetheless, these activities build overall strength, increase joint mobility, and can enhance our overall ability to perform essential daily activities as we age.5 6 Successful aging is measured by the physical, psychological, and social success with which adults are able to independently take care of themselves.7 In fact, the elderly in the Kung! hunter-gathers have been described as playful, vigorous and independent.8

Strong muscles help keep weak joints stable, comfortable, and protect them against further damage. The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) recommends that every exercise should be performed through a full range of motion when engaging in resistance training,9 which allows for strength adaptations to occur at every angle the joint moves through. These movements can potentially reduce injury and maintain flexibility for healthy joint integrity.10

Full range of motion exercises, like a deep squats, help maintain normal joint function by increasing and preserving joint mobility and flexibility.11 Passively sitting on chairs and couches, where we all spend a majority of our time whether at work or at home, completely turns off the functioning of the bones, muscles, and joints. This has biological consequences beyond reducing the strength of our muscles and the health of our joints.12 Physiologically, the loss of local contractile stimulation, induced through sitting, leads to both the suppression of skeletal muscle lipoprotein lipase (LPL) activity, which is necessary for triglyceride uptake and HDL-cholesterol production and reduces the uptake of glucose into the skeletal muscle.13 14

It is not uncommon in non-Western cultures for artificial hip and knee transplants to be rejected due to the resulting limited range of motion. Their daily living, compared to ours, involves many postures that require a much higher range of flexion at the joints.15 Even stair ascent and descent has been shown to be ergonomically demanding enough to work the joints of the ankle, knees and hips.16 Kneeling, squatting and sitting cross-legged on the floor are all basic movements we should be able to perform if our bodies are functioning at a healthy capacity.

Hunter-gatherers would not have been able to survive without being able to move completely, without restrictions, in a variety of positions. This same standard of being able to use our bodies to their fullest capacity should still be our goal today. Challenge yourself to break the norm of sitting in a chair throughout the day, and explore the possibilities of what you can do with your body. Get a standing desk, hang from a pull up bar in your door jam, squat, or even carry heavy items periodically throughout the day. Not only will you feel better, your body will thank you.


[1] Platek, Steven M., et al. “Walking the walk to teach the talk: implementing ancestral lifestyle strategies as the newest tool in evolutionary studies.” Evolution: Education and Outreach 4.1 (2011): 41-51.

[2] O’Keefe, James H., et al. “Exercise like a hunter-gatherer: a prescription for organic physical fitness.” Progress in cardiovascular diseases 53.6 (2011): 471-479.

[3] Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey Data 2003-2004, 2005-2006. Atlanta, GA: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS); 2009-2010. //www.cdc.gov/nchs/nhanes.htm Accessed November 5 2014.

[4] Eaton SB, Shostak M, Konner M: The first fitness formula. The paleolithic prescription. New York, NY: Harper & Row; 1988.

[5] Penninx, Brenda WJH, et al. “Physical exercise and the prevention of disability in activities of daily living in older persons with osteoarthritis.” Archives of Internal Medicine 161.19 (2001): 2309-2316.

[6] Ericsson, Y. B., L. E. Dahlberg, and E. M. Roos. “Effects of functional exercise training on performance and muscle strength after meniscectomy: a randomized trial.” Scandinavian journal of medicine & science in sports 19.2 (2009): 156-165.

[7] Dogra, Shilpa, and Liza Stathokostas. “Sedentary behavior and physical activity are independent predictors of successful aging in middle-aged and older adults.” Journal of aging research 2012 (2012).

[8] Biesele, Megan, and Nancy Howell. “The old people give you life”: Aging among! Kung hunter-gatherers.” Other ways of growing old (1981): 77-98.

 [9] Franklin, B.; Whaley, M.; Howley, E.; Balady, G. ACSM’s Guidelines for Exercise Testing and Prescription: Testing and Prescription. Lippincott Williams and Wilkins; 2000

[10] Cotter, Joshua A., et al. “Knee joint kinetics in relation to commonly prescribed squat loads and depths.” The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research 27.7 (2013): 1765-1774.

[11] O’Shea, Pat. “Sports performance series: The parallel squat.” Strength & Conditioning Journal 7.1 (1985): 4-6.

[12] Dunstan, David W., Alicia A. Thorp, and Genevieve N. Healy. “Prolonged sitting: is it a distinct coronary heart disease risk factor?.” Current opinion in cardiology 26.5 (2011): 412-419.

[13] Bey L, Hamilton MT. Suppression of skeletal muscle lipoprotein lipase activity during physical inactivity: a molecular reason to maintain daily low-intensity activity. J Physiol. 2003;551(Pt 2):673–82.

[14] Hamilton MT, Hamilton DG, Zderic TW. Exercise physiology versus inactivity physiology: an essential concept for understanding lipoprotein lipase regulation. Exerc Sport Sci Rev. 2004;32(4):161–6.

[15] Hemmerich, A., et al. “Hip, knee, and ankle kinematics of high range of motion activities of daily living.” Journal of orthopaedic research 24.4 (2006): 770-781.

[16] Protopapadaki, Anastasia, et al. “Hip, knee, ankle kinematics and kinetics during stair ascent and descent in healthy young individuals.” Clinical Biomechanics 22.2 (2007): 203-210.

Injury Prevention | The Paleo Diet

We exercise because it is good for our health. Many are motivated to move their bodies in order to maintain strength, support cardiovascular health, and because it is fun – especially to compete and push physical limits. Despite good intentions, people often hurt themselves during workouts, and in contrast to popular belief, clinical evidence shows stretching prior to exercising doesn’t reduce the incident of injuries.1 Fortunately, it’s possible to mitigate the risk factors to prevent unnecessary ailments while still enjoying your favorite physical activities.

Are some fitness programs more dangerous than others? A recent study reported the average rate of injury from participation in CrossFit was roughly 20%2 and another more controversial study3 found over 73% of participants were injured at some point during their training.4  These two studies, which relied on self-reporting surveys of injuries, could unnecessarily alarm many participants and dissuade them from the well-researched benefits of high intensity training. 5,6,7, A wider look at the analysis of injury rates among other types of exercise, like running, indicate similar results. For example, one study found a 19.4% to 79.3% rate of injury among runners.8 This same percentage of injuries was also identified among elite power and weight lifting athletes.9

Ultimately, your body is a machine. How you maintain and take care of it determines how well it will work for you, especially as it ages. Injuries happen, both in physically active and sedentary individuals, and if you’re aware of the risks, you can take the necessary steps to prevent getting hurt. 10,11,12,13

Dial in Your Nutrition

Our bodies are designed for movement, but need to be fueled for optimal performance, especially for high-intensity and endurance athletes. In The Paleo Diet for Athletes, traditional diets for athletes are often lacking in total calories, protein, or micronutrients. So it begins with quality and quantity:  eat the right Paleo foods (vegetables, fruits, and lean animal protein), and eat them at the right time (pre, during, and post- workout),14 meanwhile adequately hydrating. The anti-inflammatory benefits, such as a higher dietary emphasis on Omega 3 fatty acids15 and branched chain amino acids (BCAA), from following a Paleo Diet can aid in the prevention of injuries.16

Program Rest into Your Routine

Lifestyle stress, overtraining and not allowing the body to recover with enough rest are all major risk factor for injuries.17,18, 19 Further, many recreational, often competitive athletes, aren’t equipped with proper knowledge of training principles, and accelerate their program too rapidly without adequate recovery time.20

In The Paleo Diet for Athletes, Dr. Cordain explains, “it is far better to prevent overtraining in the first place than to deal with the aftermath of it. Effective training is a carefully balanced state of well-being between stress and rest.” The most important and overlooked factor in recovery is sleep,21 and research shows we are chronically sleep deprived.22 The equation is simple: improve sleep quality, recover faster, and improve your performance.23,24

Incorporate Strength and Balance into Your Fitness Regime

Improving joint stability through balance and strength exercises has been shown to lower the risk of injury by 45%- 68%. 25 According to the American College of Sports Medicine, “reducing the incidence of injury by engaging in a resistance training program is as beneficial for the noncompetitive beginner as it is for the professional athlete.”26

While CrossFit specifically focuses on heavy lifting with barbells and other weights, evaluate how strong you are in performing body weight exercises. Body weight exercises are easier on joints than traditional weight and resistance training exercises because they allow for a more natural range of motion.27 Challenge your muscles and improve your joint stability with handstands, one-arm handstands, pistols, pull-ups, and planks.

Obviously we cannot guarantee taking any or all of the measures will prevent injuries. We recommend working with certified trainers who provide detailed instruction on proper form and technique, especially when lifting very heavy weights. The whole emphasis of any training methodology should be focused on the goal of keeping your body healthy and fully functioning.  Making small increments of progress on a regular basis is not only beneficial in the long run, but will also assist you in preventing unnecessary injuries.


[1] Witvrouw, E, et al. Stretching and injury prevention. Sports Medicine 34.7. 2004; 443-449.

[2] Weisenthal BM, Beck CA, Maloney MD, DeHaven KE, & Giordano BD. Injury Rate and Patterns Among CrossFit Athletes. Orthopaedic Journal of Sports Medicine 2.4 2014; 2325967114531177.

[3] Available at: //ftw.usatoday.com/2014/07/crossfit-sues-over-study-that-alleges-high-injury-rate. Accessed on October, 21, 2014.

[4] Hak PT, Hodzovic E, & Hickey, B. The nature and prevalence of injury during CrossFit training. Journal of strength and conditioning research/National Strength & Conditioning Association. 2013.

[5] Boutcher SH. High-intensity intermittent exercise and fat loss. Journal of Obesity. 2011; 868305.

[6] DiPietro, L, Dziura, J, Yeckel, CW, & Neufer, PD. Journal of Applied Physiology. 2006;100(1), 142-149.

[7] Talanian,  JL, Galloway, SD, Heigenhauser, GJ, Bonen, A, & Spriet, LL. Two weeks of high-intensity aerobic interval training increases the capacity for fat oxidation during exercise in women. Journal of applied physiology. 2007; 102(4), 1439-1447.

[8] van Gent, BR, Siem, DD, van Middelkoop, M, van Os, TA, Bierma-Zeinstra, SS, & Koes, BB. Incidence and determinants of lower extremity running injuries in long distance runners: a systematic review. British journal of sports medicine. 2007.

[9] Raske A, Norlin R. Injury incidence and prevalence among elite weight and power lifters. Am J Sports Med. 2002;30:248-256

[10] Langevoort G, Myklebust G, Dvorak J, Junge A. Handball injuries during major international tournaments. Scand J Med Sci Sports. 2007;17:400-407.

[11] Nilstad A, Andersen TE, Bahr R, Holme I, Steffen K. Risk factors for lower extremity injuries in elite female soccer players. Am J Sports Med. 2014;42:940-948./

[12] Robinson TW, Corlette J, Collins CL, Comstock RD. Shoulder injuries among US high school athletes. 2005/2006-2011/2012. Pediatrics. 2014;133:272-279.

[13] Hootman, Jennifer M., et al. Epidemiology of musculoskeletal injuries among sedentary and physically active adults. Medicine and science in sports and exercise. 2002; 838-844.

[14] Zajac, Adam, et al. The Effects of a Ketogenic Diet on Exercise Metabolism and Physical Performance in Off-Road Cyclists. Nutrients 6.7. 2014; 2493-2508.

[15] de Mattos Machado Andrade, Priscila, and Maria das GraÁas Tavares do Carmo. Dietary long-chain omega-3 fatty acids and anti-inflammatory action: potential application in the field of physical exercise. Nutrition 20.2 (2004); 243.

[16] Frassetto LA, Schloetter M, Mietus-synder M, Morris RC, Sebastian A. Metabolic and physiologic improvements from consuming a paleolithic, hunter-gatherer type diet. Eur J Clin Nutr. 2009;63(8):947-55.

[17] Kuipers, H, and HA Keizer. Overtraining in elite athletes. Sports Medicine 6.2. 1988;79-92.

[18] Croisier, Jean-Louis. Factors associated with recurrent hamstring injuries. Sports medicine 34.10 (2004): 681-695.

[19] Satterthwaite, Peter, et al. Risk factors for injuries and other health problems sustained in a marathon. British journal of sports medicine 33.1. 1999; 22-26.

[20] Pearce, P. Z. A practical approach to the overtraining syndrome. Current sports medicine reports 1.3 (2002): 179-183.

[21] Available at: //journals.lww.com/nsca-scj/Citation/2002/04000/Sleep,_the_Athlete,_and_Performance_.5.aspx. Accessed on October 21, 2014.

[22] Ferrara, Michele, and Luigi De Gennaro. How much sleep do we need? Sleep Medicine Reviews 5.2 2001;155-179.

[23] Halson, Shona L. “Nutrition, sleep and recovery.European Journal of sport science 8.2. 2008;119-126.

[24] Available at: //sleepfoundation.org/sleep-tools-tips/healthy-sleep-tips. Accessed on October 21, 2014.

[25] Available at: //www.foxnews.com/health/2013/10/17/strength-balance-exercises-may-prevent-sports-injury/. Accessed on October 21, 2014.

[26] Available at: //www.acsm.org/docs/current-comments/rtandip.pdf. Accessed on October 21, 2014.

[27] Available at: //jasonferruggia.com/is-bodyweight-training-effective-for-building-muscle/. Accessed on October 21, 2014.

Natural Movement Workouts: Hang Time

The Journal of Clinical Psychology reported jungle gym pastimes are a thing of the past, and gone are the days when swinging from the monkey bars is a safe activity on the playground.1 But is the related danger really something adults and children should be overly concerned about? Exercise today neglects to include many functional movement patterns, like hanging or brachiating (swinging from rung to rung on an overhead ladder or bar).2 “Hanging and the much more challenging action of swinging from object to object, uses upper body strength in a general sense. Swinging requires the full participation of every bit of tissue from the fingers to the lower body,”3 said Katy Bowman, a biomechanics specialist on natural movement and development.

Although our physical exercise capabilities have not changed from our Paleolithic ancestors, we have mechanically engineered the functional movements of climbing and carrying very heavy loads out of our modern life.4 Our bodies are paying the price. Increased rates of osteoporosis, osteopenia, and sarcopenia,5, 11 in addition to common shoulder and back problems can be attributed to muscle and joint weakness or imbalance. In 2006, approximately 7.5 million people were treated for shoulder injuries,6 and the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases estimates 8 out of 10 people will experience back pain in their lives.7 So, how might we incorporate hanging and brachiating into their exercise regime?

Our bodies were genetically designed for these kinds of movements. Paleoanthropologists suspect bipedalism in humans was directly correlated to swinging and suspensory climbing, rather than for walking.9 Just look at all babies today. The palmer grasp reflex that enables them to grab a finger is the very same mechanism our hunter-gatherer ancestors used to grab a branch.8, 10 In fact, babies are even strong enough during their first six months of life to be able to suspend their entire body when gripping a bar.12 The grasping reflex begins to disappear at 6 months of age, however research suggests it is only the lack of cultivation of the capability that reduces its appearance.8 For this reason alone, we should encourage our children to hang on their arms, and join in on the fun.

Where to get started?

Begin to add isometric hangs and brachiation movements to your fitness routine a few times a week, working up to daily sessions of up to 7 minutes.13 You can install a pull-up bar in your home for convenience or visit your local playground.

Passive hang

Begin by holding onto an overhead bar with your hands about shoulder-width apart, and your arms completely straight. In this passive position, your shoulders are relaxed and up close to your ears. Ideally, you are able to support your full body weight.

However, if you are a beginner or rehabilitating a shoulder injury take some of the weight off of your arms by placing your feet on the ground, either by using a low bar at playground or placing your feet up on a bench. In the supported position, your hands, wrists, elbows, shoulders and hips will be in alignment, and your knees and feet will form a 90° angle.

Active hang

From the passive position above, retract your shoulder blades back and down towards to the ground. Return to the passive position and repeat for your desired amount of time.

Active Hang

Brachiation Basics

Once you have built enough endurance to successfully perform passive and active hangs, experiment with brachiation. Test your strength to see if you can perform passive or active hangs on one arm at a time before adding in the momentum. Try swinging from side-to-side, using each arm as you move across an overhead ladder, like monkey bars at a playground. As you become more skilled, the options for where you can go with your arms are unlimited.


1. Schwebel, D. Safety on the playground: Mechanisms through which adult supervision might prevent child playground injury. Journal of Clinical Psychology in Medical Settings 2006:135-143.

2. Available at: //www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/health-topics/topics/phys/types.html. Accessed October 7, 2014.

3. Available at: //breakingmuscle.com/family-kids/katy-bowman-and-biomechanics-human-growth-necessity-monkey-business Accessed October 7, 2014.

4. Gordon AM, Forssberg H. (1997) Development of neural mechanisms underlying grasping in children. In: Connolly KJ, Forssberg H, editors. Neurophysiology and Neuropsychology of Motor Development. Clinics in Developmental Medicine No.143/144, London: Mac Keith Press. p 214–31.

5. O’Keefe J H, Vogel R, Lavie CJ, Cordain L. Exercise like a hunter-gatherer: a prescription for organic physical fitness. Progress in cardiovascular diseases 53.6.2011: 471-479.

6. Available at: //orthoinfo.aaos.org/topic.cfm?topic=a00327. Accessed October 7, 2014.

7. Medline Plus. Back Pain. //www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/backpain.html. . Accessed October 7, 2014.

8. Crompton, RH, Vereecke EE, Thorpe SKS. Locomotion and posture from the common hominoid ancestor to fully modern hominins, with special reference to the last common panin/hominin ancestor. Journal of Anatomy 212.4 2008: 501-543.

9. Jones, D., Hoelscher, D. M., Kelder, S. H., Hergenroeder, A., & Sharma, S. V. (2008). International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity. International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity, 5, 42.

10. Hadders-Algra M. The Neuronal Group Selection Theory: a framework to explain variation in normal motor development. Developmental Medicine & Child Neurology, 2000: 42: 566–572.

11. Cotter M, Loomis D, Simpson S, Latimer B, Hernandez C. Human Evolution and Osteoporosis-Related Spinal Fractures. PLoS ONE 6(10): e26658. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0026658.

12. Pennock E. From Gibbons to Gymnasts: A Look at the Biomechanics and Neurophysiology of Brachiation in Gibbons and its Human Rediscovery. 2013. Student Works. Paper 2.

13. Available at: //www.idoportal.com/blog/hanging. Accessed October 7,2014.

Junk Food | The Paleo Diet

When it comes to raising school aged children, many health conscious parents are dismayed with the choices their older children make when it comes to snacks and eating out. Kids are bombarded on a daily basis with advertisements glamorizing fast food, junk food, cereals, and dairy products, to name just a few. We want our children to live active and healthy lives, participating in sports and social events on a regular basis.

Along with these life experiences comes healthy and not-so-healthy food adventures. When our boys were growing up they were very active with team sports. Every weekend we enjoyed cheering them on in soccer, football, baseball, hockey, lacrosse, cross country, swimming, and track. I will never forget our oldest son’s first soccer game when he was just 6 years old. Parents of the players were each assigned a game during the season to bring snacks for the boys after the game. After running up and down the soccer field and working up a healthy appetite, the kids were presented with a large box of sugary doughnuts for their post-game “treat.”

We were a bit taken aback that anyone would think that this was a good idea, but more astounded with the message to young children that this is an appropriate food to eat any time, let alone after exercising. When it was our turn to bring the post-game snacks, we brought fresh strawberries and grapes for the kids to enjoy. These healthy snacks were met with just as much enthusiasm and were devoured by the hungry athletes.

Before our children are able to drive themselves around, we had quite a bit of control over the foods we provide, both inside and outside of our home. The key to raising children to live healthy and active lives is not so much in controlling their food choices as it is in educating them about the importance of making their own positive lifestyle decisions. Throughout their growing up years, our sons were learning about the Paleo Diet and the importance of good nutrition. Children learn by example, so we educated them as to why were eating certain foods and why non-Paleo foods are detrimental to their health, consistently gave them the information they would need as teens and young adults when making personal choices.

It is important in all aspects of life to allow our kids to make choices and experience the consequences, good or bad. This is especially true with nutritional decisions. Now that two of our kids are living on their own, and our youngest is in high school, we are thrilled to see that they enjoy an active and healthy lifestyle that includes eating mostly Paleo foods.

So, what can you do? Give your children the information and include Paleo meals on your menu. Teach your children to cook and prepare meals so that they will be able to care for their nutritional needs when they are no longer living under your roof. Bring your children to the grocery store and show them how to pick out organic produce and meats. Walk down the cereal aisle and let them read the ingredients, discussing the health implications for eating sugar, grains, and dairy. Model healthy attitudes, refraining from presenting food as a reward or punishment. Most importantly, allow them to make their own choices. There will be times when you will cringe at the foods they choose, but remember that you have established a strong foundation. Once your child experiences the after effects of downing a greasy hamburger, french fries, and soda, the probability of them returning to healthful habits is high.

Stay the course! Your mature, adult children will one day appreciate your efforts and pass them on to future generations.

All the Best,

Lorrie Cordain, M.Ed., Co-Author of The Paleo Diet Cookbook

Modern Workouts | The Paleo Diet

Very few modern people have ever experienced what it is like to “run with the hunt.” One of the notable exceptions is Kim Hill, Ph.D., an anthropologist at Arizona State University who has spent the last 30 years living with and studying the Ache hunter-gatherers of Paraguay and the Hiwi foragers of southwestern Venezuela. His description of the amazing hunts which follow represents a rare glimpse into the activity patterns that would have been required of us all, were it not for the Agricultural Revolution.

Kim shared his story with me about a decade ago, which should be read by all contemporary athletic trainers, CrossFit enthusiasts and by The Paleo Manifesto‘s John Durant and Breaking Muscle’s Erwan Le Corre, both good friends and colleagues who espouse ancient activity patterns for modern humans living in the western world.

“I have only spent a long time hunting with two groups, the Ache and the Hiwi. They were very different. The Ache hunted every day of the year if it didn’t rain. Recent GPS data I collected with them suggests that about 10 km per day is probably closer to their average distance covered during search. They might cover another 1–2 km per day in very rapid pursuit. Sometimes pursuits can be extremely strenuous and last more than an hour. Ache hunters often take an easy day after any particularly difficult day, and rainfall forces them to take a day or two a week with only an hour or two of exercise. Basically they do moderate days most of the time, and sometimes really hard days usually followed by a very easy day. The difficulty of the terrain is really what killed me (ducking under low branches and vines about once every 20 seconds all day long, and climbing over fallen trees, moving through tangled thorns, etc.). I was often drenched in sweat within an hour of leaving camp, and usually didn’t return for 7–9 hours with not more than 30 minutes rest during the day. The Ache seemed to have an easier time because they “walk better” in the forest than me (meaning the vines and branches don’t bother them as much). The really hard days when they literally ran me into the ground were long distance pursuits of peccary herds when the Ache hunters move at a fast trot through thick forest for about 2 hours before they catch up with the herd None of our other grad students could ever keep up with these hunts, and I only kept up because I was in very good shape back in the 1980s when I did this.

The Hiwi on the other hand only hunted about 2–3 days a week and often told me they wouldn’t go out on a particular day because they were “tired.” They would stay home and work on tools, etc. Their travel was not as strenuous as among the Ache (they often canoed to the hunt site), and their pursuits were usually shorter. But the Hiwi sometimes did amazing long distance walks that would have really hurt the Ache. They would walk to visit another village maybe 80–100 km away and then stay for only an hour or two before returning. This often included walking all night long as well as during the day. When I hunted with Machiguenga, Yora, Yanomamo Indians in the 1980s, my focal man days were much much easier than with the Ache. And virtually all these groups take an easy day after a particularly difficult one.

By the way, the Ache do converse and even sing during some of their search, but long distance peccary pursuits are too difficult for any talking. Basically men talk to each other until the speed gets up around 3km/hour which is a very tough pace in thick jungle. Normal search is more like about 1.5 km/hour, a pretty leisurely pace. Monkey hunts can also be very strenuous because they consist of bursts of sprints every 20–30 seconds (as the monkeys are flushed and flee to new cover), over a period of an hour or two without a rest. This feels a lot like doing a very long session of wind sprints.

Both my graduate student Rob Walker and Richard Bribiescas of Harvard were very impressed by Ache performance on the step test. Many of the guys in their mid 30s to mid 50s showed great aerobic conditioning compared to Americans of that age. (V02 max/kg body weight is very good.) While hunter-gatherers are generally in good physical condition if they haven’t yet been exposed to modern diseases and diets that come soon after permanent outside contact, I would not want to exaggerate their abilities. They are what you would expect if you took a genetic cross section of humans and put them in lifetime physical training at moderate to hard levels. Most hunting is search time not pursuit, thus a good deal of aerobic long distance travel is often involved (over rough terrain and carrying loads if the hunt is successful). I used to train for marathons as a grad student and could run at a 6:00 per mile pace for 10 miles, but the Ache would run me into the ground following peccary tracks through dense bush for a couple of hours. I did the 100 yd in 10.2 in high school (I was a fast pass catcher on my football team), and some Ache men can sprint as fast as me.”


Loren Cordain, Ph.D., Professor Emeritus

Ergogenic | The Paleo Diet

Many athletes worldwide, including those in the CrossFit community have adopted the Paleo Diet because they have observed that it helps them to increase muscle mass, reduce body fat and train at greater intensities. These characteristics ultimately result in enhanced performance. In a nutshell, there are four basic reasons why the Paleo Diet enhances athletic performance or is ergogenic.

1.Branched-chain amino acids

First, the diet is high in animal protein, which is the richest source of the branched-chain amino acids–valine, leucine, and isoleucine. Branched-chain amino acids (BCAA) are different from other amino acids that collectively make up protein in that they are potent stimulants for building and repairing muscle. This information is relatively new and has been reported in the scientific literature in the past decade or so. But the caveat is this: These amino acids work best when consumed in the post exercise window.

Lean meats and fish are far and away the greatest source of BCAA. A 1,000-calorie serving of lean beef provides 33.7 grams of BCAA, whereas the same serving of whole grains supplies a paltry 6 grams. Because many endurance athletes focus on starches (breads, cereals, pasta, rice, and potatoes) and sugars at the expense of meats, particularly following a hard workout, they get precious little muscle-building BCAA in their diets. By consuming high amounts of animal protein (and hence BCAA) along with sufficient carbohydrate, athletes can rapidly reverse the natural breakdown of muscle that occurs following a workout and thereby reduce recovery time and train at a greater intensity at the next session. Athletes worldwide who have adopted the Paleo Diet typically report of improved recovery with these dietary recommendations.

2. Blood acidity versus alkalinity

In addition to stimulating muscle growth via BCAA, the Paleo Diet simultaneously prevents muscle protein breakdown because it produces a net metabolic alkalosis. All foods, upon digestion, report to the kidney as either acid or alkali (base). The typical American diet is net acid producing because of its high reliance upon acid-yielding grains, cheeses, and salty processed foods at the expense of base-producing fruits and veggies. The athlete’s body is even more prone to blood acidosis due to the by-products of exercise. One way the body neutralizes a net-acid-producing diet is by breaking down muscle tissue. Because the Paleo Diet is rich in fruits and veggies, it reverses the metabolic acidosis produced from the typical grain-and starch-laden diet that many athletes consume, thereby preventing muscle loss.

3. Trace nutrients

Fruits and vegetables are also rich sources of antioxidant vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals and, together with fresh meats (excellent sources of zinc and B vitamins), promote optimal immune-system functioning. The refined grains, oils, sugars, and processed foods that represent the typical staples for most athletes are nearly devoid of these trace nutrients. From examining the training logs of numerous people he has coached, my colleague and co-author, Joe Friel (an internationally known triathlete coach), has found that the frequency and duration of colds, flu, and upper respiratory illnesses are reduced when athletes adopt the Paleo Diet. A healthy athlete, free of colds and illness, can train more consistently and intensely and thereby improve performance.

4. Glycogen stores

One of the most important goals of any athletic diet is to maintain high muscle stores of glycogen, a body fuel absolutely essential for high-level performance. Dietary starches and sugars are the body’s number one source for making muscle glycogen. Protein won’t do, and neither will fat. Athletes and sports scientists have known this truth for decades. Regrettably, they took this concept to extremes; high-starch, cereal-based, carbohydrate-rich diets were followed with near-fanatical zeal 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

It is a little known fact, but, similar to the situation with branched-chain amino acids, glycogen synthesis by muscles occurs most effectively in the immediate post-exercise window. Muscles can build all the glycogen they need when they get starch and sugar in the narrow time frame following exercise. Eating carbs all day long is overkill and actually serves to displace the muscle-building animal proteins and alkalinity-enhancing, nutrient-dense fruits and veggies that are needed to promote muscle growth and boost the immune system. Many Paleo friendly fruits and veggies are effective in restoring muscle glycogen, particularly net-alkaline-producing starches found in bananas, sweet potatoes, and yams.


Loren Cordain, Ph.D., Professor Emeritus


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