While the general public hops on and off diet bandwagons with reckless abandon, athletes are no different. The truth is that many professional athletes try the same diets as the rest of us. Admittedly, there are some important differences between athletes and the rest of us. Professional athletes often have full-time chefs creating most of their meals. They also receive advice from professional nutritionists and can burn off just about any kind of junk food thanks to their remarkable level of physical activity. Yet they experiment with diets just like everyone else. Let’s take a look at some of the foods, diets and treatments that are popular with today’s professional athletes.
The paleo diet has exploded in popularity with the masses and plenty of professional athletes have adopted it as well. Athletes who follow the paleo diet scrap carbohydrates like pasta, breads, muffins, crackers, and bagels. Foods with healthy fat are substituted in place of these nearly useless carbs. Although carbohydrates provide energy, they don’t offer anything else that benefits the human body. Common foods that are popular in the paleo diet include avocados, eggs, all different types of meat, cashews, string beans, coconut oil, protein powder, ghee butter, and onions. The simplicity of this diet is why it is often called the caveman diet.
This diet is especially popular amongst professional cyclists and marathon runners. Athletes on the paleo diet swear that it optimizes performance and it even extends professional athletic careers. Numerous athletes swear that the diet has negative effects on the aging process. When the body runs primarily on the ketone bodies found in animal fat, it obtains anti-inflammatory components that reduce oxidative stress. Some athletes have adopted the paleo diet and upped their fat intake to 60 percent or more of the calories that they consume. The diet eliminates grains and emphasizes animal fat to train the body to operate on fat as its main fuel source. Athletes also like to claim that it boosts testosterone while carbohydrate-heavy diets tend to lower the hormone.
One of the latest nutritional trends amongst professional football players is enzyme treatment. Enzymes are generated by living organisms and spur specific biochemical reactions in the human body. These reactions help athletes perform at optimal levels. Enzyme treatment is especially helpful for athletes who need assistance in overcoming food intolerances and nutritional deficiencies. Enzymes really are another type of supplement just like protein powder.
While a professional athlete can eat as much healthy food and take as many vitamins as possible, it won’t make much of a difference if their bodies can’t absorb the nutrients. Enzymes help with the absorption of vitamins, minerals and other nutrients that are critical to athletic performance. Enzymes also assist in the digestion of food. These treatments are often catered to the specific biochemistry of individual athletes. A doctor will perform a urine collection, perform an examination and ask a series of dietary and health related questions. He’ll then provide enzymes that boost nutritional deficiencies and assist with food intolerances.
A number of professional athletes have ditched gluten. Just like the general public, athletes have hopped onto the gluten-free bandwagon in an effort to prevent joint pain and settle the stomach. Gluten is proven to cause bloating, diarrhea, and pain in certain individuals. While a diagnostic test for gluten sensitivity does not exist, celiac researchers estimate that at least 6 percent of Americans will significantly benefit from avoiding gluten. That seems like a small number for all of the hype that gluten-free products have gotten over the past couple of years. However, from an athlete’s perspective, why should he risk consuming foods with gluten that might irritate the stomach in the slightest?
There’s also the potential that individuals with even minor sensitivities to gluten will suffer joint pain. Plenty of athletes have decided that gluten just is not worth the risk. Endurance athletes have widely changed their diets after they’ve found out about the dangers of gluten and the evils of carbohydrates. Years ago, about two thirds of the typical endurance athlete’s diet was made up of carbohydrates. Today, this percentage has been whittled down to 50 percent or lower across the board. Athletes who’ve cut out gluten tend to sing the praises of the diet quite loudly. They overwhelmingly agree that a gluten-free diet improves digestion, improves sleep, and evens out energy levels.