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Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Michael Phelps' Version of the Paleo Diet


The discussion is pretty silly. The guy keeps calling Phelps a long-distance athlete, but of what Phelps swims, only the 400 IM is really considered a distance event.

But, in any case, the paleo diet folks are proven correct: look how sickly all of those starches have made Phelps.

3 comments:

  1. Oh, Gene. You've apparently never done real hardcore training before. One of the hardest things to do when you're training is to get enough calories in you so that you don't start ingesting your own tissues (i.e. eating your muscles). Now I've never had to eat 12,000 calories in a day, but I have had to take in about 5000-6000 during a gain-cycle, and it is a real pain in the ass to get that much food into you in a single day. Even prospective Navy SEALs only take in about 7000 calories a day during "hell week", and they still lose weight.

    First of all, there is a limit to how much protein you can take in before it begins to put a heavy load on your kidneys and liver. A good rule of thumb is to not exceed 3 times your body weight in grams of protein. So, if you weigh 150 lbs, you don't want to exceed about 450 grams of protein per day. Most athletes when they are training usually keep their protein intake in grams at around 1.5 to 2 times their body weight.

    Also, I agree, Phelps is not an endurance swimmer, however, he was in need of an endurance diet because he was training all day (the fact that he's taking in 12,000 cals a day is a good hint that his training regimen is high-endurance). Most endurance athletes will usually take in a great deal of fats because they are a slow-burning macronutrient, however, once you start exceeding your bodies upper limit, you begin to find that your body cannot possibly digest fats fast enough to keep your body fueled, so even though you've eaten enough cals in fat, your body will still start ingesting itself with easier burning proteins (muscle) because it simply cannot digest the fat fast enough. Once you reach the upper limits of fat and protein intake, the only other choice is carbohydrates.

    What I see in Phelps' diet is that he has maxed out the macronutrients fat and protein to their upper limits of what he can digest in a single day. Also, you will notice that his protein intake includes a lot of one of the easiest proteins for the body to digest: eggs. In fact, the quality and digestibility of all proteins are based upon the egg because of all of the natural sources of protein, it is the easiest to digest and is a high quality protein. Only processed proteins such as whey protein are easier to digest and have a more balanced amino acid profile.

    If you're burning 12,000 calories a day you have to eat foods that your body will be able to digest fast enough to fuel that amount of calories. Once you've maxed out on fats and proteins, you have no choice but to go with carbs from that point on. And, not just carbs, but simple carbs because they are the fastest burning. This means that you have a choice between sugars and starches. As you can see, Phelps is taking in quite a large amount of both sugars and starches (with starches being the greater of the two).

    Phelps' diet has less to do with health and more to do with being able to actually digest 12,000 calories worth of food in a single day to fuel his training. Once he's reached the upper limits of proteins and fats, he has no choice but to take in a huge amount of simple carbs. Otherwise, his body won't be able to digest that much food and it will start eating itself-- not a good things for an athlete.

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  2. I just wanted to say that I was not trying to give the impression that carbs are bad, your body needs carbs just as it need proteins and fats. However, if you're not an athlete, there simply is no reason to base your diet around carbs the way that many Americans do. Other than as a source of energy and glycogen, carbs don't serve any other real function. So, as long as you've got enough carbs to fulfill your basic glycogen and energy needs, there's simply no reason to ingest more. Fats and proteins, on the other hand, serve very important biological functions, too many to get into here. Once you've found a good balance of macronutrients that fits both your activity level and biological needs, then all you have to do is ensure that you're getting enough micronutrients.

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  3. Oh, Joseph, I once swam thirty-five miles straight. At that time, while I was in training, I would eat a pound of pasta for my fourth meal of the day.

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