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Daughter runs x-country @ National level, now wants to switch to primal

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  • Daughter runs x-country @ National level, now wants to switch to primal

    My 18 year old daughter is a x-country runner - and has been competing successfully at All Ireland level for a few years. She trains hard several days a week. Her competition distances vary between 3 km to 5 km.

    I recently noticed that her diet was slipping- especially on her training nights. She tends to come into the house, grab a sandwich and head straight out to training. Then doesn't eat the dinner left for her and grabs a bowl of cereal....

    I have recently switched to Primal eating, and my daughter has now decided that this would be good for her to....

    Has any-one made this sort of change over while still in training?

    She should be able to reduce the intensity of her sessions for a couple of weeks over Christmas, but will need to build up again for another race near the end of January.

    I am happy for her to cut out bread and breakfast cereals so that she can see just how dependent she was on these foods, but am concerned that she may need a slower transition in order to allow her body a gentler change over....

    Advice from athletes who are competing on a Primal diet, or folk who have made a switch over whilst in training would be gratefully appreciated.

    She is aware that there will be an adjustment period, just not sure how long it might take or how best to approach the change.

    Many thanks.

  • #2
    I do not have first hand experience. I've never been much of a distance runner myself. Mark wrote a few posts about how to tailor the diet for endurance training a while back. The information focused on marathons, but I think some of the principles could be applied to shorter distances also:

    How to Train for a Marathon | Mark's Daily Apple
    How to Fuel a Marathon | Mark's Daily Apple


    • #3
      Thanks for these yodiewan... will read up.

      My one concern is that primal may fuel a marathon better than the middle distances she does.

      One of her problems is that she often can't put on a sprint for the finish so ends up a place or two back after the last 20 metres or so. I wonder if more of the race could be run on fat (even at the speeds of 3 -5 km) then perhaps she would have more glycogen left to fuel the final sprint....

      Will go and read now!


      • #4
        Since she needs endurance as well as speed (I assume most of her race distances are around 5K?) then she could convert to more of a fat-burner and save the glycogen (I think you're right - she's running out of gas). If she goes low carb (not required to be Primal), then I HIGHLY recommend reading Peter Attia's personal history, with attention to how his performance changed in part 4. My Personal Nutrition Journey The Eating Academy | Peter Attia, M.D. The Eating Academy | Peter Attia, M.D.

        One other factor which might help the kick - some strength training. She won't bulk up, but her drive per stride can become much more powerful - and her finishing sprint could markedly improve. I'd suggest explosive moves (bodyweight, dumbbells, or especially kettlebells) to strengthen the core and provide power.


        • #5
          Good thoughts Annlee.. will pass on to my daughter. I don't think she's aiming for "low carb" as such, but rather to get carbs from somewhere other than the high emphasis she had on grains before. I'm guessing 100 - 150g of carbs a day minimum would be good for her......

          Ooooo Just followed your link ---- brilliant information! I've skimmed the first 4 parts and bookmarked it for closer reading shortly. Many thanks for that. I love facts, figures and evidence! That blog looks really thorough and should answer loads of my questions.


          • #6
            I am not a cross countrier, but I do heavy cardio workout (which is not recommended by Mark, but it works for me). 1.5 hours a day of stairmaster/crosstrainer at high intensity, and I can say that the switch to Primal was not hard at all for me. I am not low carb, I'm high on starchy vegetables, probably 150-200g a day, and lower fat and protein, and I see no change in my energy levels. Everyone is different, though, I'd advise your daughter to try it for herself first, but there can't be too much harm in eating natural, unprocessed foods.
            F 28/5'4/100 lbs

            "I'm not a psychopath, I'm a high-functioning sociopath; do your research."


            • #7
              I would recommend keeping a food diary in parallel with her training diary and tweek as she goes. Deffo carb before her races and more intensive sessions. On lower intensity days try to fuel on fat. I know they are general rules but I coach a 2:20 marathon runner and a sub 1:50 800m runner using very general Paleolithic approaches with good results. The biggest success we have is injury reduction. I would also recommend that a conscious decision is made on her cardiovascular effort. High fat days keep those runs slow this has really helped my guys. Why I am not sure, but the diary shows good results follow high fat slow run days so I follow the data and accept the science could prove 5 different things but the data shows progress.

              I moved them both to a general Paleolithic approaches mid season with no ill effects. Only issue was on the tougher 2 hour runs for my marathon guy he bonkers a couple of times. Diary showed he was probably a bit low on the fat coming into it, so we increased and he ran strong.

              800m runner no issues.


              • #8
                Thank you Thank you both for your replies. This is all very interesting. She has been doing some "lower heart rate" training sessions recently and then has some higher intensity sessions too - so I'll mention what you say Mr T. It's all starting to make sense to me. A food diary would be good idea - I think she really needs to think about what she's eating.... fuel is important and I think she had gotten a bit lax recently.

                So far so good with the transition to Primal (she still takes milk) - although she did have a headache for a few days on cutting out all the bread products!

                She's keen and really making a good effort with this, so I need to go shopping again for more of the right foods!


                • #9
                  yeah,i think so,Good thoughts Annlee.. will pass on to my daughter. I don't think she's aiming for "low carb" as such,


                  • #10
                    The Paleo Diet for Athletes is a great read. Easily applied to Primal or wherever you fall on Primal..................|....................Paleo


                    • #11
                      Generally, she will feel weaker in her runs for the first 2-3 weeks, then her body should have adapted. I'd recommend the book Art and Science of Low Carbohydrate Performance for information on low carb athletic adaption.

                      Low carb can work with endurance sports - last years winner of the Western States 100 ultramarathon was a low carber.


                      • #12
                        To echo what someone else said, get her doing some strength training, especially stuff for hip drive, like squats and deadlifts. Cross-country really isn't much of an endurance thing- it's rare that the races last more than a half hour. She'll gain a great deal from getting faster.

                        Some ways to get faster are better than others: reaching farther forward (bad bad bad), moving the feet faster, or to push off harder, which uses mostly the muscles in the hamstring and gluteus area. Having stronger muscles there will help her cover more ground in each step without overstriding. This works well with moving the feet faster.

                        As far as nutrition goes, if she's 18 and still has a normal metabolism, then rice and potatoes (and maybe even some honey) are not bad things. She probably can't overdo the fruit, either. These things will help mitigate the low-carb issues that many people have to deal with. She doesn't need to do any kind of low-carb plan at all, really, if that's what works. She could also taper off the carbs slowly, to reduce the low-carb flu, but there really isn't any reason for her to be particularly low-carb.
                        Last edited by jfreaksho; 01-04-2013, 06:58 PM.