Photo: Scott Smith

Photo: Scott Smith

Elimination Diets: The Paleo Diet

Over the next few weeks, we're going to walk you through three of the most popular nutrition regimens, each of which could also be called an "elimination diet": paleo, gluten free, and vegan. With the increasing prevalence of "leaky gut syndrome," gluten intolerance and other health problems, the debate over which foods we should eat and which we should avoid has never been fiercer. And, for SUP competitors and other high level athletes, nutritional science is one area that can help provide a competitive advantage.

This week, we caught up with professional standup paddler Chase Kosterlitz to find out how the champion racer has overhauled his eating habits with the so-called 'caveman diet,' the mostly positive results, and how he had to move away from being 100 percent paleo to ensure peak performance. Before we get to Chase's story, let's go over the basics of the Paleo Diet.

The Paleo diet attempts to return people to the way humans ate thousands of years ago. Its founders claim that our bodies have not evolved to efficiently process many foods that are now staples of Western diets, and so these foods can be harmful.

Dairy products, grains and added sugar, highly processed foods, and uncooked beans are all eliminated in the Paleo Diet.

Reduced risk of heart disease and diabetes, fat loss, muscle gain, improved energy, and better sleep are reported as top benefits from adopting a Paleo diet.

The Paleo Diet's claims to reduce the inflammation that leads to disease, instead claiming that high intake of meat and eggs actually increases inflammation and heart disease risk.

Photo courtesy of Chase Kosterlitz.

Photo courtesy of Chase Kosterlitz.

When Chase Kosterlitz's fiancée told him about some of the benefits listed above and told him she was going to try the Paleo Diet, he agreed to join her.

Initially, the Paleo Diet worked as advertised. Kosterlitz found that he had more 'all day' energy, avoided sugar crashes and performed better in training for SUP and other watersports. All was going well with the dietary changes until Kosterlitz's first distance race, a 10km OC-1 event. With only a half-mile remaining in the race, Kosterlitz found himself among the leading group, which included friend and Quickblade founder, Jim Terrell. Then, everything unraveled. "I completely bonked with half a mile to go," Kosterlitz said. "I'd been trying to pass Jimmy, and when he responded, I just had nothing left."

Kosterlitz likes to finish fast in both sprints and long distance SUP events, but found that for the first time, his body wouldn't cooperate. Determined to at least finish, he struggled to the end of the race. Later that day, he examined what had gone wrong and what he had changed in the previous few months. The only variable was eliminating carbs, and particularly his go-to pre-race fuel choice: oatmeal.

Kosterlitz felt that he wanted to retain the benefits that Paleo provided, but knew he couldn't risk blowing up in another race. So, carbs came back. "I decided to add oats back in as my pre-race meal and to put them in my post-workout and post-race shakes to help replenish glycogen," he said. "I'm also eating some rice and a lot of sweet potatoes."

Since then, Kosterlitz has found that his energy reserves stay topped up all the way through long training sessions, distance paddles, and races. It's the Paleo Diet, but with a twist. "I'd advise anyone wanting to try the Paleo Diet to see what works for them with carbs, but to consider including whole grains," Kosterlitz said. —Phil White

Chase Kosterlitz's Post-Workout/Race Shake
• 1 Organic Banana
• 1/2 cup Unsweetened Almond Milk
• 1 teaspoon Vanilla Extract
• 2 scoops Organic Hemp Protein
• 4 Ice Cubes
• 1/2 cup Water
• 1/2 teaspoon Cinnamon
• 1/2 cup Organic Steel Cut Oats

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