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The Paleo Athlete: Fueling Performance with a Hunter Gatherer Diet

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The paleo diet has gained popularity in recent years, especially among athletes and fitness enthusiasts. Also known as the caveman diet or stone-age diet, the paleo approach to eating is based on the idea that our bodies thrive best on the foods our ancestors ate during the Paleolithic era.

The Hunter Gatherer Diet

Like any diet, there are variations and interpretations, based on personal preference. Since it’s only restricted based on ingredients that are thought to be available during that time period, there’s still plenty of room to make the diet unhealthy. If you’re training or trying to get yourself in shape, there’s a right way and a wrong way to do paleo.

What Does the Paleo Diet Consist Of?

The paleo diet consists primarily of lean meats, fish, fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds. It excludes processed foods, grains, legumes, dairy products, and refined sugars. The idea behind this is that our bodies are genetically adapted to the foods we ate earlier on in our evolution.

By eating a diet similar to the one that got us to this point in civilization, we can optimize our health and bodily performance. Some people may choose a raw paleo diet, but this restricts your eating even more. If you love cooked meats, this won’t be a good way to get enough protein as an athlete.

Is the Paleo Diet Good for Athletic Performance?

Anecdotally, many athletes have reported improved performance and overall well-being while following a paleo diet. There are a few reasons for this:

  • Increased nutrient density from whole, nutrient-dense foods
  • Extremely low consumption of simple carbohydrates and processed foods
  • Improved recovery times with anti-inflammatory foods
  • Weight management and potential fat loss
  • Improved gut health due to the elimination of certain inflammatory foods

However, not everyone will enjoy the same benefits. The paleo diet can be high in saturated fat if not properly regulated, according to insights from Medical News Today. Additionally, athletes with high-intensity training often require a higher carbohydrate intake for energy, which can be challenging to achieve with a paleo diet.

Can Supplements Be Paleo?

While it doesn’t immediately seem like modern-day supplements can fit into the paleo diet, there are some natural supplements that can be considered paleo-friendly and beneficial for athletic performance. These include:

  • Creatine monohydrate for increased muscle strength and endurance
  • Plant-based protein powders
  • Collagen protein for joint and muscle health
  • Probiotics for gut health
  • Omega-3 fatty acids from fish oil for anti-inflammatory benefits
  • All-natural super greens powders (try this brand next time)

Adapting Paleo to Different Sports and Fitness Goals

Since athletes have varying energy needs and fitness goals, it’s important to adjust the paleo diet accordingly.

  • Endurance athletes should incorporate more carbohydrates into their diet by including starchy vegetables, fruits, and gluten-free grains like quinoa and buckwheat.
  • Strength athletes should increase their protein intake by incorporating more lean meats, eggs, and nuts into their meals.
  • Amnone focused on weight loss will benefit most from reducing their calorie intake while consuming nutrient-dense foods to fuel their workouts.

It’s also essential to listen to your body and make adjustments as needed. If you feel like you’re lacking energy, it could be a sign that you need to incorporate more carbohydrates into your diet or consider adding in a supplement to support your training.


The paleo diet can be a fantastic way to fuel your athletic performance when done correctly. That said, it’s absolutely essential to make sure you’re getting the right balance of nutrients and adjusting for your specific needs as an athlete. As with any diet or lifestyle change, consulting with a healthcare professional is recommended before making sign significant changes.

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