If you’re aware of the paleo diet movement, you can thank Dr. Loren Cordain. He’s the foremost authority on the evolutionary-minded diet and author of more than a hundred peer-reviewed scientific articles on the subject. He authored the now world-famous book The Paleo Diet and runs the website of the same name, advising millions of people on a diet that looks to our Stone Age ancestors for guidance.
Cordain became interested in nutrition early in life and this enthusiasm carried through his educational years, eventually becoming influenced by books like Diet For A Small Planet. By the time he published his famous book in 2002, he was influencing dietary guidelines for people across the planet.
How did your parents lay the foundation for your ideas about paleo eating?
My father was born in 1914 and my mother was born in 1916. My father died in 1979 before I completed my Ph.D. at the University of Utah. So the Paleo movement occurred long after his death. My mother died in 2009, so she lived long enough to see my books become popular. My mother always ate lots of fruits and veggies and was health conscious most of her life.
What are the unique benefits of paleo eating when it comes to athletic performance?
There are four basic reasons why the Paleo Diet is ergogenic (enhances athletic performance).
1. Because the Paleo Diet contains generous amounts of animal protein (eggs, fish, poultry, seafood, pork, beef) at nearly every meal, it there fore contains high amounts of the branched chain amino acids (BCAA) (valine, leucine and isoleucine. BCAA help muscles to recovery more rapidly following workouts and stimulate the growth of new muscle tissue.
2. Because the Paleo Diet is rich in fruits and veggies, it reverses the metabolic acidosis produced from the typical grain and starch laden diet for athletes, thereby preventing amino acid loss in the urine and ultimately muscle loss.
3. Fresh fruits and vegetables are also rich sources of antioxidant vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals and together with animal protein are excellent sources of zinc and B vitamins help to promote optimal immune system functioning. The refined grains, oils, sugars and processed foods that represent the typical staples for most athletes are nearly devoid of these trace nutrients. A healthy athlete, free of colds and illness can train more consistently and intensely and thereby improve performance.
4. Eating more healthy fats (fatty fish, olive oil, avocados, nuts and grass produced meats) such as occur in the Paleo Diet, it encourages the body use more fat (beta oxidation) and not to be so reliant upon stored carbohydrate.
Why have we seen such an explosion of interest in the paleo diet over the last five to ten years, when the ideas have been around for a long time?
I coined the word, “The Paleo Diet” with my first book, The Paleo Diet in 2002. The idea seemed to go viral starting in about 2009. The CrossFit community has supported the Diet, and social media really started to come into its own about the time the idea became mainstream.
How did the publication of your first book, The Paleo Diet, affect your career path?
It was the combination of my scientific papers and my popular books that seemed to increase my notoriety to the general public.
What do you enjoy most about your work as an author?
When I hear success stories about how this diet has improved the health and well being of people all over the world, it gives me the greatest pleasure and satisfaction.