I was recently interviewed by Joseph Harvey author of the blog Tri for Time about being the “Primal Triathlete”. Tri for Time is a great blog which provides tips for the time crunched triathlete. Below is the interview from the Tri for Time blog:
Here’s the first interview with a fellow triathlete who follows a paleolithic style of eating. Garett is the author of Primal Triathlete, which includes Garett’s diet and fitness logs, along with various motivational posts. It’s a fascinating read for anyone wondering what exactly does a triathlete who trains off of a paleolithic style of eating actually do (and eat).
Joseph: How did you discover the diet?Garett: I have always been fascinated with nutrition and how it effects your overall health and performance. I discovered the primal diet about two years ago by stumbling onto Mark’s Daily Apple while doing some research. The idea of eating an evolutionary based diet just made a lot of sense and after reading his blog religiously for about six months I bought the book Primal Blue Print. The “Primal Blue Print” is a great introductory book for anybody wanting to learn the science behind a Primal/Paleo diet. I have been nearly 100% Primal for 1 year.Joseph: Have you ever had a run-in with a fellow runner or triathlete about not eating enough carbs?Garett: Yes, I have had a lot of “run-ins” with fellow triathletes. Most of them think I am crazy and I also think they are secretly hoping I fail at my attempt to be a competitive “Primal” triathlete. I do eat carbs, mostly sweet potatoes, white potatoes, and lots of veggies, however I do not eat as many carbs as most triathletes. I would say about 25% of my diet consists of carbohydrates where most triathletes eat anywhere from 50% -60%. A lot of my “run-ins” have to do with fueling during a training session. I refuse to drink sports drinks and eat gels during training and for whatever reason I believe this offends many triathletes.Joseph: What’s the hardest part (if any) about living primally?Garett: Living “primal” has not been too hard but I would say the hardest part is not being able to eat the “quick fix” foods such as pizza and pastas. While I never ate a whole lot of pizza in the past it was nice to be able to order a pizza when I did not feel like cooking. Same thing with pasta, I could get a jar of sauce and noodles and have a meal in 10-min. So eating a primal diet definitely takes a little more planning.Joseph: Do you ever miss your formal lifestlye?Garett: No! I have never felt better or been healthier. I no longer have food cravings or binges, I no longer suffer from seasonal allergies and I am around 6% body fat! Plus my new lifestyle allows me to eat bacon! I eat as much real whole foods as I want and don’t count calories, or weight my food like all the other “suckers” that follow conventional wisdom. Life is good!Joseph: Do you think your athletic performance has benefitted because of your switch to the primal diet?Garett: I have made slight improvements in my racing times over the last year. While the improvements are not as big as I would like right now my times are still going in the right direction. I still have some work to do before I start winning events but I don’t feel as if I am being limited by my diet choice.However, since being “primal” I do feel I have made major improvements in strength and body composition. While I may not be winning races, I definitely have one the better looking bodies on race day. Many triathletes and endurance athletes are “skinny fat”, which means they are skinny but have zero muscle definition and even look a little flabby. My overall fitness goals are not only to be a competitive triathlete but also look good. I am definitely proud of my body composition improvements!Joseph: You mention on your blog that you use unconventional training methods. Besides more strength training than the typical triathlete, what are those methods?Garett: Well beside strength training and CrossFit I also tend to do shorter more intense workouts, typically 45 min to 1 hr instead of the long slow distance that is common place for many triathletes. I also do regular intermittent fasting sessions as described here (my other blog).I would say that while strength training may not sound that unconventional I would argue that my methodology and priority is definitely unconventional. Many triathletes may think they strength train but it is usually very low on their priority list. Once they feel that they have done enough swimming, biking, and running, if (and that’s a big IF) they have time they may wander around a gym for a little while. But the sport of triathlon is usually demanding enough that most triathletes never get into the gym.For me strength training is priority number 1. I refuse to sacrifice muscle mass for race performance. Most triathletes are willing to lose muscle mass in order to get faster however I am OK with being a litter “slower” if it means I look better with my shirt off!Joseph: What advice would you give to other triathletes considering switching to the primal diet?Garett: First read the Primal Blue Print and watch the documentary FatHead this will help with a lot of the science behind the diet. Second, determine what your fitness goals are; if you want to be the fastest triathlete in the world the primal diet may not be the best choice. However if you want to still be competitive and maintain better body composition and overall health I suggest getting started right away!