Tuesday, 20 July 2010

History of a Time to Come

Veganism, vegetariansim and arguably raw foodism are 'mature' eating models having their roots in the political movements of the 1960s (and raw-ism enjoying a renaissance in the 1980s).

By comparison, the modern paleo model (ignoring its 2.5m y.o pre-history), is a much more modern phenomena - so it is likely that it has yet to permeate modern athletic endeavours as it is an unknown quantity and has to be 'formally tested' in various capacities before it is to gain traction in the world of sport.

'Paleo' is also hindered by 50 years of nutritional disinformation (saturated fat anyone?), which has corrupted nutritional knowledge in sports science (complex carbs come to mind).

But a change is beginning to happen. Elite athlete Greg Parham is a Cat 1 mountain bike rider who has adopted 'paleo'.  In the interview linked, Parham lists the benefits of paleo as:
1. Less recovery time following difficult workouts or races.

2. I don’t have to rely on carbohydrates for long rides anymore. In fact, if I’m just out doing easy long rides, I don’t have to eat anything at all because my body now relies primarily on fat, with which I have a super abundant supply, even at 6% body fat.

3. Once my body learned to metabolise fat more efficiently, I could maintain moderate levels of exercise for longer periods of time without supplementation. However, supplementation extends the length even longer. I’m less likely to “hit the wall”.

4. In general, I have this huge weight lifted off my chest not having to worry so much about what I should eat and drink. Athletes are bombarded by supplement companies, all claiming their products are better than the other. Should I use Gatorade? Hammer Nutrition? Eas? Clif Bar? Cytomax? Powebar? The list goes on and on. The answer: none of them. Nature is smarter than science. By rejecting these claims and having all out faith in the Paleo diet, I not only save a lot of money on supplements, but have a mind at ease that I don’t need them.

Although it has been popular amongst the political vegetarians to accuse meat eaters (and by implication paleo dudes) as being environmentally irresponsible, genocidal, uncaring about animal welfare etc.... Parham goes on to express green credentials. 

He commented on his blog that 'Even more of the food I eat will come straight from the good earth, and less of it from a package'.  A comment he qualified as having  'a little more to do with a “spiritual” side of food sources and responsibility'.

He goes on:
  • I’ve taken up hunting and fishing as a new hobby and hope to be fortunate enough to harvest a lot of game on my own from now on. I also hope to procure more of my vegetable sources straight from a local garden, either my own, or from a farmer’s market. Maybe I can even forage fruits and nuts from friends or neighbors that have more than they can eat. In all these instances, I know directly where the food came from and can trust it has maximum nutritional value. Even buying organic produce from Whole Foods, I don’t know where it came from or how early it had to be plucked in order to be ripe by the time it reached the shelf. Regarding my preparation for the upcoming 12 hour race, nutritionally I won’t be doing anything different than I already am.
What I like about these comments is that they are unsolicited - and yet they are sentiments that have been expressed by many of the paleo enthusiasts I have met over the years.  You don't hear many athletes prompted to express such a 'green' conscience - nor the guys on T-Nation, when talking about their diet.  But it is part of the paleo territory.  (Even our gyms are wild, 'natural' and edible - check out Erwn Le Corre)

Moreover what could be 'greener' than local hunting and foraging?  You are directly connected to your food supply so it is in your interests not to over graze or over hunt.  The sustainabilty and health of the habitat is of direct interest to you.

Hunting requires 'un-farmed' land.  To sustain 'food sized' animals you need a 'natural' habitat.  A complete biosystem of plant and animals that are then allowed to develop their complex interplay which allows higher order life to build upon the work of simpler pioneer species.

The healthy habitat is self fertilizing.  No pesticides. No irrigation.  No dependence on oil.  No air miles.  Species diverse.  Abundant.  And it requires an apex predator to manage the herbivores and larger fauna - that is where we come in.  Seasonal plant food.  Sustainable meat from animals that live in optimal conditions.

'Green harmony' rather than some simplistic and misguided anthropcentric distortion of how life on earth is integrated and co-dependent.

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