Runners often look for the magic bullet to help them run faster, get leaner, and feel better. This makes diet books and supplements appealing. But do they work? Let's take a look at the evidence for a few popular diets.
The Paleolithic Diet
The Paleolithic Diet is often shortened as the Paleo diet. It is the diet plan that best resembles how early cavemen ate thousands of years ago, eating plants and wild animals. Meat, fish, shellfish, eggs, tree nuts, vegetables, roots, fruits, and berries are allowed, while grains and dairy are prohibited. A major advantage of this diet is that processed foods are eliminated and foods high in protein, vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals, and antioxidants are consumed.
The creators of the Paleo diet adapted it for athletes, recognizing that athletes do need more carbohydrates before, during, and after exercising. The Paleo diet for athletes allows for inclusion of grains and higher glycemic carbohydrates, especially for recovery after exercise.
If following a Paleo diet, one needs to consume enough variety to obtain all of the nutrients needed for optimal health. Following this diet by picking and choosing only certain foods can lead to deficiencies. Since it is toughest to consume enough calcium and vitamin D with this diet, it may be wise to take a calcium and vitamin D supplement. At this writing there is no conclusive evidence that this particular diet is superior to others in optimizing health and performance.
The Raw Food Diet
Raw foodism is a belief that plant foods in their most natural state are the most wholesome for the body. The raw food diet is 75 percent fruits and vegetables. Food choices include seaweed, sprouts, whole grains, beans, and nuts. Food preparation involves a food dehydrator that heats to a temperature no higher than 118 degrees Fahrenheit so that vitamins, minerals, and food enzymes are not destroyed.
Although many benefits can be achieved through a high fruit and vegetable diet, some fruits and vegetables are more available to the body when cooked. For example, the lycopene in tomatoes is more beneficial for the body when the tomatoes are cooked. Foods prepared at temperatures at or below 118 degrees may not destroy all harmful, food-borne bacteria and can be dangerous. People following this diet may have difficulty obtaining sufficient vitamin B12, calcium, iron, and omega-3 fatty acids, thus requiring supplementation.