Marks Daily Apple
Serving up health and fitness insights (daily, of course) with a side of irreverence.
24 Feb

Can You Be an Endurance Athlete and Primal?

Jonas ColtingBy now you know I have a biased point of view that rigorous endurance training is antithetical to health. Yes, I competed and loved it for 20 years, so I get the appeal it has for so many, but these days my personal focus is on maintaining the highest level of fitness and health on the least amount of work and sacrifice. I want to play and have fun. Still, I get asked a lot by endurance athletes whether there’s any chance they can continue to compete at a high level while eating and training Primally. I used to think it probably wasn’t feasible if you wanted to be world class, assuming as I did (erroneously) that you just couldn’t overcome the need for copious amounts of carbs on a daily basis without crashing and burning. However, recent research into the concept of “train low-race high” (vis a vis glycogen) and modified approaches to low level aerobic training that focus largely on reprogramming genes to more preferentially burn fat AS WELL AS the use of techniques like HIIT and barefoot training now all seem to show that training and eating Primal could not only maximize performance, but extend your career. If that’s your choice and if you approach it carefully (like Gold and Silver Olympic medalist Simon Whitfield). Since the book came out last June, I have heard from several elite athletes who have not only adopted Primal styles but have improved their performances (and reduced injury, and decreased body fat). Today I thought you might be interested in this “testimonial” from my good friend Jonas Colting (of last week’s Cocoa and Coconut Snacks), a long-time professional triathlete who has gradually incorporated Primal techniques into his training style.


As to the main question I would say that I’m living as primal as I can, given my profession. I’ve always been a huge advocate for developing health along with fitness but I’ve also accepted that professional endurance athletics (triathlon) is not a health contest per se. In its rawest form pro triathlon is a contest in resilience, pain and fatigue with a lot of stress on body and mind.

Naturally, my training load is way and beyond what’s recommended in the “Primal Blueprint” and I’m surely guilty of being a chronic cardio participant. However, a big part of my distance training would be on the intensity level of that which a normal person would have on a hike or similar. I’m not spending an inordinate amount of time in a carbo burning or lactic acid laden state which so often is the case among many endurance athletes. Rather, after 25 years of endurance training my fat burning capacity enables me to stay primal even at relatively high efforts and speeds.

I’m from a swimming background and now favor rather intense sprint- and stroke challenging workouts to get the most from time in the water. Running is otherwise my favorite discipline of the three and especially in the forest and on the trails with an asymmetric and varied stride that promotes overall strength and a stride with a full range of motion, hence not requiring as much stretching post running.

Over the years I’ve been working a lot on functional strength and posture through various programs and have over the recent years taken this a step further by developing the “Primal Walk”, done in the forest with a mix of barefoot walking in the Vibram shoes and primal strength exercises such as lifting, pulling, pushing, squatting, throwing, hitting, sprinting and so forth.

Jonas Colting Jonas Colting Jonas Colting
(click to enlarge)

I always run in very thin shoes and low to the ground and will increase my barefoot running even more with regular runs in the Vibrams, besides doing the Primal Walks.

Nutrition wise I do eat some carefully chosen processed carbs, which is inevitable given the high amount of exercise I’m doing. However, it’s a far cry from the standard among Swedish nutritionist that recommend athletes to eat 10 grams of carb per kilo of bodyweight which for me would mean amounts in excess over 800 grams per day, levels that could be described as downright toxic in my estimation!

I eat loads of eggs (I love the banana-almond butter-egg pancakes featured on MDA), red meat, salmon, avocados, leafy greens, nuts and seeds. I eat sparingly with dairy but I´m generous with butter and drink some whole fat milk as well as some occasional yoghurt. I´m a big fruit eater with my favourites now being pomegrenate, blueberries, mango, citrus and bananas.

I also eat a fair bit of raw foods as in red meat, eggs, fish, milk straight from the farm. I eat some bread, mostly because I’m not really sensitive to gluten and bread is quite easy for me to digest. I can have a bowl of pasta sometimes as well as veggies like potatoes, carrots, red beats and turnips. I love sweets and pastries but mostly refrain from eating them but I’m weak for temptation so I’m terrible at hotel buffets and parties but I’m not into making life hard for myself. I’ll use self control when it’s necessary but I also know when to relax and purely enjoy the taste and feel of a savory dessert or treat.

I stay way clear from the typical athletes’ addiction to sports nutrition like bars, powders, gels and drinks which in most cases really is just candy in a more sophisticated package. I do use some electrolyte drinks on long and hot sessions and obviously for races all rules are off. When applying a “train low-race high” philosophy it would be foolish not to maximize both fat burning and carb utilization. For really long sessions or on the run portion of triathlons I find that Red Bull or soft drinks works wonders with the simple formula of sugar and caffeine.

I work closely with Organic Food Bar, and their products are a great option for athletes to use while training or racing.

I use the Damage Control Master Formula and take two capsules of Quercetin/Vitamin C every day and no other supplements.

My first influence that showed me the right way was the books of Phil Maffetone which I read during the mid-90´s, and they promoted the use of good fats and the dangers of sugars, stress and exercising too hard. Following MDA has further widened my knowledge and added to what I believe is the right way to approach eating and exercising and the framework of these philosophies is what I believe is the answer to having a +15 year pro triathlon career without hardly any injuries or illness and a continued improvement and enjoyment.

This is the message I talk, lecture and write about in Sweden.

Jonas Colting, Sweden
37 years old

2 medals, ITU World Championships, Long Distance
2 medals, ITU European Championships, Long Distance
2 times winner of Ultraman World Championships, Hawaii
Several times Swedish Champion Triathlon
Swedish Champion, Open Water Swimming
2 times winner of Island to Island, hardest one-day race in Sweden
Only person ever to complete the Swedish Classic nonstop in 25 hrs (3 k swim, 90 k roller-skiis, 300 k cycling, 30 k cross country run) including transports between venues.


I’d love to hear from all the endurance junkies out there. Is it possible to be both Primal and a triathlete? Share your thoughts and stories in the comment board. Thanks everyone and Grok on!

You want comments? We got comments:

Imagine you’re George Clooney. Take a moment to admire your grooming and wit. Okay, now imagine someone walks up to you and asks, “What’s your name?” You say, “I’m George Clooney.” Or maybe you say, “I’m the Clooninator!” You don’t say “I’m George of George Clooney Sells Movies Blog” and you certainly don’t say, “I’m Clooney Weight Loss Plan”. So while spam is technically meat, it ain’t anywhere near Primal. Please nickname yourself something your friends would call you.

  1. Awesome! What an inspiring post. At last, the Primal reply to “Born to Run.” We’re all on our own Primal journeys, and I love seeing how Jonas has adapted PB to reflect his work. Now if only more stories like this could get out into the CW endurance world.

    I’ve got to say that Jonas makes his life sound very tempting for a recovering recreational endurance athlete like me. This post really makes me want to get out there and go for a trail run (in that nice “move slowly” zone Jonas writes about, of course).

    Thanks, Mark, for posting this.

    Geoff wrote on February 24th, 2010
    • I just wanted to say that I’m excited about all the things I’m seeing on this site. One of my patients recommended it because he thought it would be “up my alley.” Well, he was spot on. I totally agree with your viewpoint on things and I look forward to learning from Mark and all the other followers of this site. Everything you say just makes sense, despite the obvious clash with “conventional wisdom.”

      drplemon wrote on February 25th, 2010
      • Mark is the best. Ever since I started following his advice I feel vivacious, energized and have become leaner and stronger with a minimal time commitment.

        This website has changed my life and I am thankful for Mark and how approachable he makes this lifestyle – all while educating his readers at the same time.

        Sue wrote on February 25th, 2010
    • Keep abiding, Dude!

      Walter wrote on December 5th, 2011
  2. I try to eat and live as primal as I can, but I don’t think I could give up long-distance running. I am definitely guilty of chronic cardio and carbo-loading, but I try to do it in a primal way (if that makes sense.) I still avoid grains and legumes, and usually stick with (sweet) potatoes, bananas, and other fruits to get carbs. I’ve also realized the importance of fats, a spoonful of coconut oil goes a long way in terms of energy. I also plan to start running barefoot-ish (with VFFs) after my first two half-marathons.

    Tyler wrote on February 24th, 2010
    • I am also a long distance triathlete. I eat mostly primal; one meal and one snack a day would have a grain in it. I HAVE found since going primal that I am incredibly sugar sensitive: I had some truffles today and felt sick after.

      My condundrum is that fruits are good sources of CHO but they’re SUGARY, and eating some grains – lets say oatmeal – provides some slow digesting, complex CHO… seemingly better in my mind than sugar from fruit, when you do need those extra CHO.

      I feel better and am getting leaner since becoming more primal.

      AlyieCat wrote on February 24th, 2010
    • Hello
      When would you include a spoonful of coconut oil in your day? I am currently training to run a marathon and I am interested in going primal! Find it agrees with be a lot better. Starting to really look into everything I need to know to run a Marathon

      Sonia wrote on April 17th, 2016
  3. As a lover of running, I really appreciate Jonas’ many practical suggestions. Especially interesting is the bit about training with asymmetric stride, uneven ground, and parkour asides like jumping and swinging.

    We can’t all live in Jonas’ arboreal wonderland (what I wouldn’t give for a nice tree to smash with my hammer!) but the same opportunities exist in the concrete jungle. Curb-running, stoplight pull-ups, flagstone quick-stepping, puddle-leaping and jogger-chasing are all integral parts of my runs these days. It’s a much more balanced and entertaining workout than just pounding the pavement.

    Timothy wrote on February 24th, 2010
    • Timothy, Your second paragraph is golden :)

      Grok wrote on February 28th, 2010
  4. I would like to know what Mr. Colting’s choices of “carefully selected processed carbs” are, just for curiosity’s sake.

    Bret M. wrote on February 24th, 2010
    • im guessing this:

      “I eat some bread, mostly because I’m not really sensitive to gluten and bread is quite easy for me to digest. I can have a bowl of pasta sometimes as well as veggies like potatoes, carrots, red beats and turnips. I love sweets and pastries but mostly refrain from eating them but I’m weak for temptation so I’m terrible at hotel buffets and parties but I’m not into making life hard for myself. I’ll use self control when it’s necessary but I also know when to relax and purely enjoy the taste and feel of a savory dessert or treat.”

      dawn wrote on February 24th, 2010
  5. At least if you’re going to do the chronic cardio thing you’re aware of what you’re doing to your body. I see it as kind of like a drug, you know it’s bad for you, but your “addicted”. Check out this post from Dr. Kurt Harris:

    Dave, RN wrote on February 24th, 2010
  6. I was just discussing this very thing with a friend. How can you not eat a ton of carbs and still enjoy endurance sports? Very timely, it seems as always, Mark.

    Sterling wrote on February 24th, 2010
    • You can. Increase your fat intake, and train at the right intensity – this will help reprogram your genes to burn more fat as a fuel!

      Ryan Denner wrote on February 24th, 2010
      • Sample of one — Multi-day Adventure Racer here, but ditto the above:

        Outside some winter periodization, I train short and intense sessions (10-30min max) resembling a program similar to Crossfit Endurance program with additional longer, loaded and rambling trekking/paddling/biking sessions mixed in on top (~4 hours each).

        165lbs, I train on a strict dairy free Primal diet with about 50g of carbs per day, primarily from green veggies, berries and 85%+ dark chocolate. I try get everything from two meals per day.

        My protein intake from quality meats is in the 160-180g/day range and fat ranges in the 200-260g/day range. I train/recover very well on this diet even over the extended sessions which I generally don’t take anything but water and a small bag of home made trail mix for the extended sessions.

        I don’t think I could ever keep my current training load on any other lifestyle. I just wouldn’t recover quick enough or sleep well enough.

        However for race’s, it’s all fair game. I carry a mix of Primal and Neolithic fuels. I use some staple fuels like Hammer Perpetuem and the occasional fast food joint on the racecourse. But thats somewhat out of the demands of an Adventure Race.


        Matt wrote on February 24th, 2010
  7. USAT nutrition expert Bob Seebohars recently releases a book called “Metabolic Endurance” – and while he personally says he does not embrace low carb diets, if you read his take on Aerobic base training he essentially says for long slow rides up to 3 hours, you should not be eating any food and taking in water and a little salt for hydration. His “Plates” concepts also indicates that for the base building stage, the only carbs he actually recommends is fruit and veg (no grains) – the other component is meats / proteins and healthy fats. I personally find that if I load up with a primal shake – Avocado, coconut milk, berries, whey protein and whole milk – I can do the swim workout and ride 50 miles plus 20 min brick of the bike and come home and have a salad with chicken and feel great – I just drink water with a little salt tab dissolved in it on the bike.

    John M wrote on February 24th, 2010
  8. Very timely, indeed. I ordered the PB book yesterday, and was wondering why long distance running would be incompatible with primal living. In ‘Born to Run,” it talks about the Kalahari Bushmen’s persistence hunts and says they were running 10 minute miles – well within the range of what you’d call ‘low intensity.’

    Also interesting that BtR says we only invented tools around 50k years ago, but we’ve been eating meat consistently for close to 2m years. Maybe low intensity cardio persistence hunting isn’t so alien to primal man as we think! =)

    Jim wrote on February 24th, 2010
  9. I’m training for the LA Marathon and on Sunday past, I ran a 15 mile run on eggs for breakfast, and dried beef and salty almonds on my run. That’s it. I was fine. The night before I’d had two small slices of traditional sourdough bread (made with natural sourdough starter) with lots of butter and olive tapenade and lots of ground beef and veggies. I’ve found that eggs before a long run and salty almonds is the best combination for me. If I try to consume starches before or during my run, I crash.

    gilliebean wrote on February 24th, 2010
  10. Thanks so much for posting this today. I’m an endurance athlete that has been eating a modified primal diet for over a year and am still trying to convince my coach that its a good thing. I’ve seen an increase in VO2 max, increased muscle mass, decreased fat mass, increased LT, decreased times and have the ability to burn fat at LT. No injuries, less fatigue and shorter recovery times… who needs convincing?

    Jeanine wrote on February 24th, 2010
  11. I’m a triathlete and training for my first Ironman this season. 6 months Primal and I feel fantastic. My workouts are better, I’m running faster, and I feel no need to carb-load in the traditional sense. I just add a few more carbs from fruit and veggies after long workouts. Banana coconut milk custard is a delicious post-run treat. :)

    TriCiCi wrote on February 24th, 2010
    • Banana coconut milk custard?? detailed recipe please!!!

      Heather wrote on February 24th, 2010
    • I am a Primal eating Ultra Runner/Triathlete, also training for my first Ironman.I did a half Ironman last year while eating like Grok.I’m getting the same effect as you,I don’t feel the need to carbo load but do take gels and electrolyte drinks while competing.I actually feel better when I don’t eat anything before a competition,but start consuming gels after an hour.
      I never eat bread or any grains,no pasta,rice ,or potatoes except for one cheat night per week, when I will have something with French Fries.And beer.
      But that’s the fun of the 80% rule for me.
      As I mentioned in a post on “over training” Friel and Cordain have a new book out about Low Carb diets for Endurance athletes.

      Digger wrote on February 24th, 2010
  12. I would argue that any type of endurance athlete type training is completely UNnatural. No way Grok would have done such a thing. It would use up massive amounts of energy, tear through tons of muscle (to break down and refill glycogen stores) and quite literally endanger his life. And WHY? What is a bear gonna’ chase him, slowly for 26 miles?? No. Ridiculous. But I do understand why some people do it. Man loves to compete and push himself.

    My theory is this. Since it IS such an unnatural thing to do, this is the one area to USE the food technology to your advantage. Yeah red bull doesn’t occur in nature. But neither did triathalons! If you’ve just spent 2 hours doing medium-hard cardio burning primarily glycogen, then absolutely, positively reach for processed carbs and refill that muscle glycogen ASAP! If you don’t, your body will tear down your own muscle to do it for you. I say in this one instance, EMBRACE those manufactured, high GI foods. White flour and sugar is POISON for normal day-to-day primal life. But if you just depleted all your glycogen go for it. In fact if you don’t go for it, you’re going to experience muscle loss.

    fixed gear wrote on February 24th, 2010
    • “But if you just depleted all your glycogen go for it. In fact if you don’t go for it, you’re going to experience muscle loss.”

      I’m not sure this is true. If you consume adequate, quality protein/fat before and after a two hour run why would you loose muscle?

      Good ol’ ketogenic gluconeogenesis me thinks. I run half marathons in the 1:45 range and eat only meat and vegetables. (I can clean and jerk my body weight overhead for reps too and I’m 39, weigh 175.)

      chris wrote on February 24th, 2010
    • I completely disagree. Ever hunted? It wasn’t training for Grok… it was life.

      Grok wrote on February 28th, 2010
  13. Great info Mark! I started eating primally last fall only because I thought it would help my endurance training for my first Ironman this fall. So far so good! I have quite a few Ironman friends (some at a pro level) who eat primally too. One had a serious long term case of plantar fasciitis disappear after switching from vegetarian to primal eating!

    Heather wrote on February 24th, 2010
  14. Doesn’t he look a bit too old for 37? Has it something to do with oxidative damage?

    Kishore wrote on February 24th, 2010
    • I agree. That’s about what I look like (my abs are almost there…, except a bit more slender and I’m 50 next month. Not that he looks bad…

      Dave, RN wrote on February 24th, 2010
    • I think it’s the bad hairdo that makes him look old!

      Eileen wrote on February 24th, 2010
    • you kidding me;)

      People often ask if I´m in my upper 20´s..
      Don´t let the look of strain on my face fool you ha ha ha.

      Jonas Colting wrote on February 25th, 2010
      • Sorry, Jonas- really, you look phenomenal! I am awed by your incredible discipline. Just update the haircut!

        Eileen wrote on February 25th, 2010
      • Don’t sweat them Jonas. Where’s their pictures? You’re the man!

        Grok wrote on February 28th, 2010
  15. Great post. I also use to do what Jonas call “primal walk” in the very same forest as he does. When I was a swimmer a couple of years back I meet Jonas sometimes at our trainings and it was probably when I read his book I started living more primal. I think that walking (running slow) in the forest at low peace, do some sprints and lift heavy trees is as primal it can be.
    And it’s a awesome feeling to take the vibrams on and feel moss under the toes.

    Micke wrote on February 24th, 2010
    • What is his book?

      AlyieCat wrote on February 25th, 2010
  16. Thank you so much for posting this article! Great reaffirming article that I’m on the right track with my diet and training. This upcoming tri season will be my first season to race on a primal diet. My fellow tri club members think I am crazy – no grueling super long slow runs or all day bike rides and no bread! I look forward to proving that this stuff works. At least now, I can point to someone much more accomplished and famous in the sport for credibility as well as Sisson, Wolf, Cordain, ect….

    Stacy wrote on February 24th, 2010
    • Not to mention Simon Whitfield……
      Actually, going through the blogs Simon follows, there are quite a few primal upper echelon triathletes.

      Digger wrote on February 25th, 2010
  17. Love reading articles like this one. Can someone respond to this part:

    “…and especially in the forest and on the trails with an asymmetric and varied stride that promotes overall strength and a stride with a full range of motion, hence not requiring as much stretching post running.”

    Is this like sort of Parkour style of trail “jogging.” Interested in this wisdom.

    Daniel Merk wrote on February 24th, 2010
    • Trail running is completely different than road running. When you run trails, you engage your core and all your little stabilizer muscles you because your body is always shifting and adjusting to the terrain, which is usually rocks and roots.Your speed while running technical trails is also much slower than road running.
      I believe this is why trail runners look so much healthier than road runners. Fewer repetitive strain injuries as well,since road running is just pounding the same muscles(hamstrings,calves) and joints(hips,knees) with the same motion over and over.

      Digger wrote on February 24th, 2010
      • I don’t agree.

        Daniela wrote on December 11th, 2011
  18. Completely primal – no.

    But a slight variation – yes.

    My whole approach to the nutrition part of endurance training is to maximize fat burning. This is done primarily through 2 ways: training at the right intensity (ie. aerobic), and consuming the right CHO/Fat mix. As Mark has said before, a higher (healthy) fat intake will reprogram our genes to burn fat as a primary fuel source. So, I eat more healthy fats. In fact, my fat % intake never dips below 50%.

    As for CHO – yes, we need them, but I choose wisely: sweet potatoes, yams, brown rice, fruits & vegetables. Not breads, pastas and the like.

    Generally, my CHO consumption is part of a well balanced meal to reduce insulin spike. Except right after a workout, I will consume a high glyecmic “smoothie” drink (berries, banana and protein).

    Mark, I have waited a long time for this post. Thanks for doing this.

    Ryan Denner wrote on February 24th, 2010
    • You should also look in to adding glutamine and BCAA in your supplements.
      Glutamine can help you restore glycogen levels without elevating insulin, helps improve immune function and is an adaptogenic amino acid. BCAA will signal your body to spare muscle and also can be used as a fuel substrate.

      Kishore wrote on February 24th, 2010
      • Thanks Kishore.

        I do supplement with sportsquestdirect amino acids, L-Glutamine, and Alpha Lipoic Acid.

        Ryan Denner wrote on February 24th, 2010
        • Ryan, a better form of glutamine is glutamine alpha keto glutarate (AKG). It can by-pass the intestinal barrier and directly enter the cells. Good stuff.

          Kishore wrote on February 24th, 2010
        • Ryan, the sportsquest aminos have a good amino profile, but the dosage seems low (for 6 capsules). Top strength coaches recommend atleast 20-40g of BCAA and 10-20g of glutamine for a serious athlete. You can find USP grade powders at nutrabio. Best!

          Kishore wrote on February 25th, 2010
        • Does anyone else use Vespa? It claims to “make your fat your fuel belt”.I find I bounce back faster and require less carbs during any endurance event.It’s basically amino acids+ extract from a giant Japenese wasp ,bee propolis and royal jelly.I have completed several 50k trail races on an empty stomach, Vespa, then one gel starting after an hour.I did one flat 50k in 5 hours, so basically was able to run 50k on 4 gels.
          I actually was toying with the weight loss idea of having a Vespa in the morning for energy, then nothing until dinner.

          Digger wrote on February 25th, 2010
  19. I started going primal (still not quite there yet) in the summer of ’09, before my first Ironman in September. I attribute going primal to getting lean, quickly, before the race. I truly believe this helped me get through the run. Of course my commitment to training was the major contributing factor, but living primal helped. So I’m still trying to live primal, continue to get more lean, and feel considerably lighter on my feet because of it, so that I can still compete in a sport that I have a passion for. Before going primal, I felt like every session was a suffer fest, and I doubted my choice to participate, now I feel like running is just easier. I continue to improve, and I’m in my 30s.

    Jason wrote on February 24th, 2010
  20. I’m a climber, and an alpine climber at that. I’ve had great success in using relatively low volume, high intensity gym type training sessions to get ready for the demands of the mountains. I wonder though if this approach would work for someone who hasn’t already established a solid base with a good amount of volume underneath them to begin with.

    However, I’ve still found no substitute for the requisite volume of sport specific training. I.e. if I’m not spending 10s of hours a week in the climbing gym/on the rock, my climbing skills will definitely deteriorate. I’ve wondered if there is a way to reduce this volume, but as yet haven’t discovered it or heard of a way it could be done.

    furrymurry wrote on February 24th, 2010
    • Probably not.

      Principle of specificity.

      AlyieCat wrote on February 24th, 2010
  21. still i’d like to see athletes like this who eat no grain or processed sugars that we could use as role models. i think there is still a difference between an athlete who eats ‘clean’ and one who is primal.

    mike wrote on February 24th, 2010
  22. Check out NUTRI-SPEC.NET search for GRUNT AND GROWL…great format for high intensity/low duration workouts

    DR E

    Dr. Ezra wrote on February 24th, 2010
  23. I enjoyed Jimmy Moore’s interview with Jonas Colting

    I hope it’s ok to post this link…

    pieter d wrote on February 24th, 2010
  24. Olympic skater Apolo Ohno recently went low-carb semi-paleo, from the look of it:

    “Schaeffer also changed Ohno’s diet, using lean fat for energy instead of carbohydrates, eliminating toxic nutrients. Ohno ate only vegetables, fruit and fish, except for the night before and the morning of each race, when he gorged on brown rice pasta prepared with coconut oil and essential fats.”

    ‘Lean fat’ being an oxymoron :) But what were the results?

    “Ohno lost nearly 16 pounds, doubled his strength, cut his body fat to 2.8 percent and sacrificed not one ounce of speed.”

    frogfarm wrote on February 24th, 2010
    • He is not now, nor was he ever 2.8% bodyfat. Come on now….

      fixed gear wrote on July 10th, 2010
  25. Hello Mark,

    How do you feel the selection for less endurance training in the Primal Blueprint accounts for the evidence that the human species evolved to have a high capacity for long distance running, ie. Endurance Running Hypothesis, “Born To Run”, etc.

    ~ Dave C.

    Dave C. wrote on February 24th, 2010
  26. I will definitely pass along this post to all my former marathon/triathlon/century ride training team members. However, as a recovering endurance athlete, I still feel as if I’m somehow enabling their vices.

    Steve wrote on February 24th, 2010
  27. I’m not an “endurance athelete” but I am a hawaiian pig hunter. Pig Hunting with dogs in the dense, mountainous rain forests in Hawaii is a very rigorous, endurance-based activity. We often can start the hunt before the sun rises, and get out of the mountains long after it’s set…oftentimes covering up to 14 miles of mountainous terrain. If we catch a good size hog, it also involves taking turns with your partners carrying the hog out on your back. I think it’s safe to say, Carrying 150 lbs. of dead hog on your back up the steep side of a thick-brush mountain certainly requires endurance.

    I’ve been hunting for over 16 years…and over time, I’ve noticed a significant difference in my endurance from before and after going primal with my diet.

    When I was younger, I would often fill my pack up with all sorts of foods, so that I could constantly eat while exerting all the energy when we are out on an all-day hunt. My friends and I would also “carb-load” before hunting. We’d eat a lot of pasta and rice based dishes the night before.

    Within the past three years, after going Primal, things are much different now. Instead of “carb-loading,” I protein-and-fat load. I’ll cook up twice the amount of bacon and eggs, sausages and mushrooms – all fried in grassfed butter – and eat until I’m positively stuffed before heading out on the hunt.

    I now no longer have to carry any food in my pack. Eating like that gives me the energy and endurance to walk all day long, and I don’t even begin to feel hungry until evening time. I also find I no longer feel so exhausted the day after a rigorous hunting expedition.

    Meanwhile, my hunting partners are all still carb loading and continually eating while we trek through the mountains. They don’t understand how I can hunt all day without eating, and how I easily keep up with them.

    I know it has everything to do with my diet.

    Dave from Hawaii wrote on February 24th, 2010
    • that is … AWESOME.

      Ryan Denner wrote on February 25th, 2010
    • aloha dave,

      I’ve been on Oahu 5 years and could use an introduction to hunting. I get around the islands a lot for work. I’ve killed a couple small ones (~60lb) that were in unlucky situations but never been out with somebody who knows what they’re doing. if you ever need a hand carrying the load: jwin74 at gmaildotcom

      jon w wrote on February 28th, 2010
      • That IS aweseome. That should be a guest post, or success story of some sort! 😉

        fixed gear wrote on July 10th, 2010
  28. I compete in mountain biking with races typically from 90 minute to 9 hours long. When my training is light and I’m not competing, i eat a fairly typical low-carb primal/paleo diet. When the training and races crank up, so do the carbs – tons of veggies, nuts, fruits, tubers and occasional starchy non-gluten grains in addition to my typical fat&protein filled diet.

    Still I fall WAY short of the “recommended” carb consumption (On a typcial 5k calorie day, I “only” eat 350g of carbs). This is a benefit as I feel generally less hungry, have less tendency to “bonk”, have more even energy levels and I get used to training hard on moderate-to-low glycogen levels which makes me a much more efficient fat-burner for the longer races.

    Matt Perry wrote on February 24th, 2010
  29. Yeah, I was very excited to read this!! I haven’t followed the blue print because I am a marathon runner and just couldn’t see how it would work to be so low carb. Now I do generally eat fruits and veggies, but I feel better with my oats.

    I woudl love to know if I could follow Jonas somewhere to keep getting great information

    RunToTheFinish wrote on February 24th, 2010
  30. I am an ultrarunner & I train at low intensity volume doing hiking/trailrunning up to 12 to 14 hours in training (50-60 miles) I can spend all day eating & drinking & be under 200g of carbs. I eat mostly nutmixes & almond butter on my hikes supplementing w/ some Ensure drinks along the way. The book paleo diet for Endurance Athletes does a good job of showing how one can race/train up to 24 hours & still stay paleo/primal. I believe my training has increased & recovery has been shorter on this diet, I am doing the Moab 100 in March & even though my training has been less intense I will be faster than any other ultra i’ve ran. This diet made more sense nutrition wise then eating all processed carbs. Being a nurse I see a lot of patients who are diabetics & eat a high processed carb diet & they are in the hospital w/ numerous health problems. Well thanks Mark for your info in leading me down the right path to a great life.

    Stephen wrote on February 24th, 2010
  31. We should start a WoD thread and food log for some of us endurance athletes, I am curious what everyone’s days look like. Specifically how you manage to take in enough energy to be primal and train; I have trouble keeping caloric intake (even though primal doesn’t measure in calories…) enough for training w/o grains.

    AlyieCat wrote on February 24th, 2010
    • You can follow me on twitter/twitpic. I post quite a few of my meals and PWO.

      I have a different problem though… keeping calorie intake low enough.

      Grok wrote on February 28th, 2010
    • Agreed, it’s tough. A central collection of Primal Endurance info would be great.

      I based my diet off one part blog browsing and reading about folks like Jonas and about 3 parts trial/error.

      I know how I eat/train/race for Multi-day races is way different than Jonas, but also differs from other Primal Adventure Racers I’ve read accounts of (way lower carbs, don’t even touch Gluten and as clean of race fuel as I can find).

      I recover super-fast, but also have an issue with keeping my weight constant.

      I’ve developed a method of feasting on rest days until I can’t eat any more. Which holds me over well for my next 3-4 days of training.


      Matt wrote on February 28th, 2010
  32. I am no triathlete or marathon runner but I LOVE 5K runs to death!

    I starting running in 5K runs last summer – did 5 total. For each one I would always enjoy a large pasta dinner the night before. And, at the biggest one, the fifth third river bank run, they provide a pasta buffet the night before!

    Over the past month I have significantly cut out my carb in take (a lot less grains) and I feel better than ever. I am beginning to fuel up on protein and fats as well. This summer should go real well! My best 5K time is 21:02 which comes out to a 6:47 mile pace. Wish me luck this summer!

    Todd wrote on February 24th, 2010
  33. It’s probably more strength endurance but what about the kettlebells folks who do the V02 Max workouts? Pretty hardcore kettlebell snatching.Can you do that and be primal?

    James wrote on February 24th, 2010
    • I do Kenneth Jay’s hardcore VO2Max protocols, and am training for a marathon – all the while I eat primally. My only exception is during my long runs, on those I use perpetuem then recoverite, but for everything else it’s primal.

      Ryan wrote on June 12th, 2010
  34. I too would like to see the typical training regime for endurance athletes following the paleo diet. I am currently trying to get over my burn out from high mileage running. I think the cold and monotony are the main factors. I am trying to take on the Crossfit idealogy of short, intense workouts with some sport specific training so I can still run a half or full marathon. Anyone have any personal experience with low mileage running and crossfit workouts and still complete marathons? I love this site, Mark, thanks for the motivation you provided for me to switch!

    RC wrote on February 24th, 2010
    • High mileage is good when you’ve got a particular goal that requires it, but it’s only natural to need a break. Use the downtime to do some other training, build strength or something. I know one runner who takes a break from running every year to do a figure competition, and uses that opportunity to get her body fat down and muscle up.

      Cynthia wrote on February 25th, 2010
  35. Nell Stephenson – Ironman athlete Primal/Paleo.

    She has a great blog with good recipes:

    Judy wrote on February 25th, 2010
  36. Thanks for posting this Mark. The comments from everyone are pretty awesome.

    I second the praise of trail running. It is just so fun (even when it turns into trudging up steep hills). We did a 10 mile loop last weekend that included climbing up and down over boulders, and playing mountain goat over the rocky trail. I felt like a kid again, smiling and laughing with joy. The previous weekend we did a trail marathon, and I tried to explain to a friend there that she needed to eat more fat and stop burning so much sugar for fuel, and her endurance would improve. For endurance recovery, I feel more protein and fat, together with veggies, is better, though I’m not afraid to throw a small amount of beans or corn into the mix. I have used mashed potatoes mixed with chicken broth as race food (it went down very well), roast beef, ham, tamales, nuts, dried fruit, as well as electrolyte-type drinks, though coke and potato chips are good for a while too. For long events, real food is great. I’ve never gotten the debilitating nausea that is common when depleted. But everyone is different, so you have to keep experimenting until you find what works for you.

    Cynthia wrote on February 25th, 2010
  37. Mark – very timely post. I am just experimenting with more endurance-like activity after reading Born to Run, and this has given me some inspiration. I think for us mortals, with modest aspirations, it’s possible to find a fantastic balance between long and short workouts without compromising the types of event we compete in or the diet we eat. I ran the hills for 3 hours on Sunday without needing any food or going into the chronic cardio zone. It was great. And I didn’t need to eat a bowl of pasta when I got home 😉

    Methuselah - Pay Now Live Later wrote on February 25th, 2010

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