Posts Tagged ‘crab backloading’

Paleo vs. Performance

 As the Paleo-sphere grows in diameter it is pushed and twisted out of its uniform, aesthetically pleasing existence into the misshapen polygon of modern life. A life where surviving long enough to pass on your genes is not the only goal. As a result, we are seeing an uprising of paleo sub groups not unlike that of vegetarians, e.g., ovo-lacto, pescitarian, etc. In paleo land they appear as; very-low-carb-paleo, paleo+dairy, paleo+safe starches, and perhaps the most obtuse, 80/20 paleo. All of this variation leads to a great deal of confusion for the uninitiated and frustration for the well-steeped zealot.  Having diligently ground my way up through the ranks of the “uninitiated” to finally arrive a “well-steeped zealot”, I find I am now moving on to the third faze of paleohood known as “well, it depends”. Those in the “well, it depends” camp are viewed by the “uninitiated” as waffelers and by the “well-steeped zealot” as sell-outs.  The ethos of the “well, it depends” camp is that while we all benefit from ancestral dietary principals, our individual goals need to be coupled with our individual genetic expression to forge the most efficient path to said goals. Per usual the intro seems not to fit the title of the article so I’m going to get to the point…

In the simplest terms, strength & conditioning and nutrition strategies can be split into two distinct paths, one oriented toward health and the other performance. While these strategies are not mutually exclusive and do share common ground it is important to identify which you are using. For example an overweight or metabolically deranged person will see significant performance gains as a result of their improved health and vice versa. The point at which these paths diverge is difficult to identify if the person did not intentionally set off on one path or the other to begin with and set some benchmarks to track progress. Benchmarks on the path to health might include risk factors for heart disease like blood lipids, fasting blood glucose, and blood pressure; while the benchmarks for performance might include max back squat, 400 meter run time, or body composition. You may notice that the benchmarks of both health and performance require testing; this is one of the inconvenient truths of optimizing your health and fitness, test re-test will necessarily become a way of life.

Health: For this path it is recommended that you track blood lipids and blood sugar under the direction of your doctor; absent blood work, you can use body composition, which tends to correlate well with both. Generally as body fat percentage decreases so do the risk factors for heart disease and diabetes. This is only true to a certain extent and the correlation becomes less relevant as body fat decreases. For example, a person who moves from over 25% body fat to 12% will likely see dramatic improvements in all biomarkers of health whereas a person who goes from 12% to 6% may see little change. This is, of course, because body fat itself is more a symptom of underlying issues than a cause.


Greater than (>) 25% Body fat and or metabolic derangement and dyslipidemia.

Eat low carb paleo/primal; shoot for less than 50 grams per day from low glycemic index sources like dense veggies, roots, and tubers. Get about 0.7 -1.0 g/lb of protein and fill up the rest of your diet with monounsaturated and saturated fats.

Exercise should be eased into and strength based to increase basal metabolic rate.

Between 25% and 12%

Eat low carb paleo/primal but feel free to eat some carbs post work out when your body is more apt to put them directly to work. The body stores about 300-400 grams of glycogen between the liver and skeletal muscle so if you are still trying to lean out think about replacing only what you used, or a little less; typically 70-100 grams for a 1hr. workout, depending on intensity and duration of exercise.

Exercise in this category should become more intense but still be primarily strength based with just enough conditioning built in to suit lifestyle needs.

Below 12% the odds are you are transitioning into some sort of performance based goal so skip ahead to the next section. If not, meaning that you are under 12% and still have not reached the biomarkers you are looking for read on. Blood sugar and insulin levels affect a great many of the common biomarkers of health, this is reason for the low carb approach. The trick is that ingested carbohydrate is not the only thing that affects these. Sleep, stress, exercise (added stress), and carb intake need to be evaluated and tinkered with. Change one thing for 30 days and retest…

Performance: For this path tracking performance goals is critical and keeping an eye on biomarkers of health and disease is optional but recommended; do it so that you can make an informed decision about how much health detriment you are willing to deal with in pursuit of a performance goal. For example; say you want to cut 10 seconds off of your Fran time, you realize that to do this you will have to start training harder and eating more carbohydrate. If you have been tracking your blood sugar you will know how much of an effect, if any, this increase in training and carbs has on your fasting blood glucose. If your fasting blood glucose gets over 100 and starts climbing to 110 you will be faced with the decision to continue chasing that 10 seconds and increase your risk of heart disease by 400% or, be ok with your Fran time and increase your longevity.


Greater than (>) 25% Body fat

The greatest performance gains for people in category will be as a result of lost body fat. Eat low carb paleo/primal; shoot for less than 50 grams per day from low glycemic index sources like dense veggies, roots, and tubers. Get about 0.7 -1.0 g/lb of protein and fill up the rest of your diet with monounsaturated and saturated fats.

Exercise should be eased into and strength based to increase basal metabolic rate. Again, the greatest performance gains for people in category will be as a result of lost body fat.

Between 25% and 12%

Eat low carb paleo/primal most of the day, all day on non-training days, but be sure to eat some carbs post work out. Those who are training intensely in this range should take full advantage of the non-insulin mediated glucose transport in the 1-hour window after your workout by smashing 1-2g/kg of fast absorbing starches like white rice and white potatoes. If you fall in the upper reaches of the body composition range don’t go crazy on the carbs or total calories because you will still see significant performance gains from dropping some fat, especially if you are already an advanced lifter. For strength and power athletes this is a place where dairy might become part of your life but I would steer clear until your <15%.

Exercise in this category will vary greatly as some people will just be starting and others will be at peak performance.  Again performance goals are the name of game and should govern most decisions.

Below 12%

Depending on the performance goals, paleo/primal carbohydrates should probably be a significant part of the diet for these people. I still really like the cyclic-low-carb approach wherein you eat a ton of starches post workout and virtually none on non-training days. I think this is a nice medium where people will likely see benefits from the low carb days but still enjoy the anabolic effects of insulin after a tough workout. As I described above, this is the place where health and performance often become divergent paths. It is important to set a of level health that you are unwilling to go below and monitor that as you work toward your performance goals.

Exercise here will depend entirely on what type of performance you are looking for. Figure competitors might use a combination of high intensity interval training (HIIT) and body building whereas sprinters will O-lift and sprint.

The moral of the story is that goals are the foundation of every program and will set the priorities for everything included therein. If your goal is to lower your fasting blood glucose don’t stress if your 400m run time isn’t world class. If your goal is a 1000lb back squat don’t stress if you cant see your abs during the winter…



Mobility WOD


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