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What do elite athletes eat

The paleo diet is a new trend found on all crossfit websites. This diet is simple and extremely effective: meat, fish, vegetables, fruit, water!

We will be able to reach our goals by avoiding many tasty foods that include: sugar, flour and salt.

A famous culinary law says that the perfect synergy between fats, sugar and salt creates a tasty product… but it is now understood that what is tasty in life either kills you, it’s illegal or makes you fat.

Obviously, dairy products and legumes are also prohibited since they did not exist during the Stone Age era!

Be careful of what foods you choose, for example peanuts… they are also legumes!

To follow the paleo diet, 5 simple steps should be followed:

  1. By cutting out refined sugars
  2. By cutting out flours
  3. By cutting out dairy products
  4. By cutting out legumes
  5. By cutting out alcohol

By following these steps you will be on the authentic paleo diet, belonging to the Stone Age era when man discovered stone and used to hunt and fight for survival without knowing if he was going to survive up to next day because of the hunting sessions, which had only two outcomes: fighting for life or death.

Considering we are not neanderthals anymore, let’s analize what our body needs during WOD, the type of training organized by coaches for their students, a routine outlined on a board, followed step by step with vigour by all students who have been molded by this new and marvellous sport: crossfit.

By muscle contractions a crossfitter accomplishes different moves and this requires energy. The only muscle fuel used for contractions is ATP or Adenosine triphosphate.

ATP is formed by a protein (adenosine) and also three high energy phosphoric radicals. To provide the energy required during muscle contractions, ATP divides in to ADP or adenosine diphosphate and phosphoric radicals (P).

ATP muscle concentration is limited and needs to be constantly resynthesized. The energy needed to resynthesize ATP levels is provided through phosphocreatine (PC). The problem is that phosphocreatine supplies run out quickly.

The problem is solved by glycogen, fatty acids and partly by proteins. By burning oxygen, these substance provide the needed energy to resynthesize ATP levels. This mechanism works until oxygen supplies are available.

When oxygen levels are not enough for replenishing muscle needs, glycogen provides the energy needed for ATP synthesis, which in turn produces lactic acid.

When forearms scream or quadriceps give up, this means our acid lactic production is above the threshold of tolerance, which is around 4 mmol.

Borderline cases exist, for example motorcyclists reach acid lactic quantities that are 5 times superior to the threshold of tolerance and keep racing undeterred: it looks like the adrenaline rush allows them to ignore the burning sensation.

To replenish ATP supplies our body uses two systems

Aerobic system: when energy reactions within the muscle system benefit from the oxygen carried by blood

Anaerobic system: substances stocked within muscles are transformed without using oxygen. Replenishing these substances entails a certain amount of time, a limitation of the system.

The body chooses the most convenient and immediat mechanism according to the activity performed:

Aerobic mechanism (slow pace activity)

Anaerobic-alactic mechanism (explosive activity)

Anaerobic lactic acid mechanism (intense and prolonged activity with the production of lactic acid)

As someone who practices crossfit I believe that the energy supply system used by our body during this sport is the anaerobic lactic acid, nearly an anaerobic immersed in acid… the lactic one!

It will be therefore beneficial to have a full supply of glycogen up to 100%, keep in mind that the quantities a man keeps in “stock” are around 400g – 500g within the muscles.

Introducing rice, potatoes and brown pasta for those who really cannot do without, proves to be very useful for this type of intensity training. We exercise to increase the anaerobic threshold, to give our best we make use all the available tools. Non of the above mentioned foods will become the primary one within the food pyramid, but they may be surely positioned at the top.

Supplements may help in various ways, for example during pre-workout athletes use them a lot.

The 3 elements that CANNOT be omitted:

  1. creatine (see all the information on ATP)
  2. citrulline malate (it will be converted in to arginine)
  3. beta alanine (it prevents acid lactic effects)

Back to the diet subject, the following are some suggestions on what to buy at the supermarket in order to have a perfect “paleo fridge” and “paleo pantry”:

  • All fresh and seasonal vegetables are allowed.
  • Proteins: white meats, red low-fat meat, fish of any kind and eggs. Cold cuts should be limited choose low-fat ones like bresaola or raw ham. In our area we have parmesan… pay attention to high levels of sodium and fats even if its an excellent protein source.
  • Fats: all fresh fruit except peanuts, they are not fruits but legumes! The best omega 3 and 6 ratio is found in nuts and macadamia nuts. Extra Virgin olive oil in a dark bottle (fat is photosensitive and thermolabile) and avocado.
  • Carbohydrates: all fresh and seasonal fruit, basmati or brown rice and whole pasta.

To keep insulin levels under control, if exercising during the afternoon for example, eat rice and pasta in the morning and/or during the meal after exercising, this will help in preventing blood sugar spikes during wod, this would affect negatively on performance levels.

After working out, blood sugar spikes are exactly what is needed in order to replenish quickly glucose supplies affected by multiple and continuous repetitions.

Remember to always leave 1 meal free during training days (3 usually) and one during resting days.

Alcohol, cakes, pizza, fast food, fried food and all the other inventions belonging to the industrial cuisine may be eaten during your free day!!!


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