In this guest interview, we talk with Steve Kamb and Jason Fitzgerald on the Paleo Diet and whether it makes sense for us runners. Steve blogs at nerdfitness.com and Jason blogs at strengthrunning.com
What is Paleo? Why should they care?
Steve: The Paleo Diet is an effort to eat the foods that we’re genetically designed to consume, and eliminating foods that came along further along in our development as a species. In normal people terms: eat vegetables, fruit, meat, eggs, fish, and nuts, and minimize consumption of processed foods, grains, and dairy.People like Saint and Staci are two great examples of what can happen to a body when these dietary changes are made.
It’s also important to note that Paleo doesn’t necessarily mean “low-carb”—you can get plenty of carbs from fruit, sweet potatoes, yams, and other vegetables. You can time the consumption of these carbs for your longer runs; the carbs are burned as fuel, and the rest of the time your body is fueled by the fat stores you already possess.
So, the Paleo Diet can help you decrease your body fat percentage, increase your energy, help you look better naked, and still allow you to run well for long distances. What’s not to like?
My Beginner’s Guide to the Paleo Diet has been viewed by millions of people and breaks down everything a beginner could possibly need to know about the diet!
How can Paleo and distance running co-exist? Do trade-offs need to be made to the diet, the training, or both?
One of the biggest benefits for the coexistence of Paleo and Distance Running is that Paleo can help you reduce your body fat percentage, which reduces the stress placed on your joints and other parts of your body. Less weight to carry = less effort required to move faster! Win!
However, there are some trade-offs that need to be made should you want to eat a Paleo lifestyle while also running long distances. For one, you have to decide what type of runner you are.
If you want to achieve a particular time goal (in other words, you’re performance-oriented), then your diet will need to be modified.
If you just want to run for fun or general health, you can reduce your mileage or intensity so you don’t need the fuel that extra carbs provide.
Runners who eat more Paleo (there’s no harm in being Paleo 80% of the time by the way) will need to include good sources of carbohydrate before, during, and after long duration workouts. But for other meals, you can eat predominantly Paleo to get its benefits.
A great source for how to properly mix a Paleo diet in with long distance endurance training is Dr. Cordain’s “The Paleo Diet For Athletes.”
Any advice for beginner runners?
Jason: There are a few pieces of advice for new runners that can make an immediate impact in their running. First, recognize that running by itself is not a complete exercise program. You have to do your strength work! This is why the Rebel Running Guide includes so many strength exercises—they’re critical to staying healthy and feel good on a day-to-day basis.
Running is, also, a long-term sport. If you want to see success, you have to stay consistent over months and years. If there’s a “secret” ingredient to success for runners, it’s consistency! I like to call it the “special sauce” of successful runners.
What are the biggest themes in health/fitness research right now?
Steve: Personally, my favorite theme that’s becoming more popular is the focus on long-term success—that low-fat diets, exercise machines, and supplements aren’t the keys to a healthier life.
I know the Paleo Diet is super popular right now (and thus gets labeled as a fad—even if ironic for something that’s based in principles hundreds of thousands of years old), but it’s popular because it’s simple to understand and it works. I’m excited to see more studies done on this type of healthier eating, and can’t wait for more talks like this must-watch one from Peter Attia to emerge.
Now, with popularity comes scrutiny, and critics love to point out that a caveman might have consumed grains occasionally, or that it’s impossible to eat exactly like a true caveman today. They highlight these examples and claim the diet doesn’t work. Personally, I don’t care what cavemen ate. I’ve seen this style of eating help people take an active role in how they fuel their bodies and change lives.
Jason: Over the last 5-10 years, research into running and fatigue has shown that people slow down in races not because of some imminent catastrophe (like we previously thought) but because of the brain. Before this research, we thought that runners slow down because there’s too much lactate in the blood or that the heart rate gets too high. Since your body tries to maintain homeostasis, it’s close to some type of catastrophe so you necessarily slow down.
But that’s not really what’s happening. The brain acts as a “central governor” that monitors the input from your respiration, blood lactate levels, fuel supply, and all this other great feedback. When you’re hurting in the last 1 or 2 miles of a 10k, you slow down because your brain just thinks you’re close to catastrophe. But you’re not. Instead, your brain slows you down as a form of insurance.
Through repeated exposure to the stress of racing and pushing beyond those boundaries, you show your brain that you’ll live through a painful race. It learns that the stress is manageable and you’re actually not close to destroying your body’s homeostasis. It’s just running, after all.
So the next time you’re in a race and you’re really hurting and you start slowing down, recognize that your brain is taking control; you can regain control by speeding back up! Sure, it hurts. But you’ll be just fine after the race.
What’s it like being a health blogger? What’s your typical day like?
Steve: It’s great, though I wouldn’t consider myself a health blogger, really. I’m more of a nerd and community leader who is one tiny part of a big group of worldwide nerds helping each other get healthy. So, what’s one of the best benefits of running a site dedicated to helping people get healthy?
I have a built in accountability system: I know I need to keep myself in great shape to earn the respect and support of the Nerd Fitness community, so skipping workouts is not an option.
When I’m not traveling, I spend my time blasting music and writing articles. I work out between 11 and 12:30 (generally weight and body weight training). Then I come home, eat a MASSIVE lunch, spend my afternoons connecting, doing interviews, and checking in with various teams on projects. I try to keep my evenings free so that I can play basketball, read books, play video games, or try this new thing out called a “social life.” I’ll let you know how it goes.
When I’m traveling, anything goes. In the past month alone I’ve been in Oregon, Seattle, Massachusetts, Maine, Tennessee, Georgia, Ohio, and Nevada. While on the road, I’ll do bodyweight workout routines in a hotel room or in a park to make sure I stay on target, even though the rest of my schedule is chaotic.
Jason: No day is like the one before it! As an online running coach, my job is to write about running and create programs that help runners get stronger, prevent injuries, and race faster. I’m always doing something different which keeps things interesting. But I work from home, and, of course, have to motivate myself to do work when I sometimes would rather be out running!
** It is important to note that Steve and Jason are not doctors, therefore, are not qualified to prescribe medical advice. They are simply sharing their personal stories, as well as their readers’ experiences. Actual nutrition and training routines will vary per person so please take it easy and don’t hurt yourself! **
Featured Photo credit: Food Swing