Empowering The Bicycle Traveler

Paleo Diet, Gary Taubes and Cavepersons

The so-called paleo diet or caveman diet is a low carb high protein diet claimed by some to be a good way to lose weight. It has some proponents in the bicycling world too. One needs to be careful when considering extreme changes in their diet or just extremes in general. Bike touring is very demanding and your body is another piece of equipment you need to depend on. I was reading this thread on Bike Forums this morning. Try to ignore the name calling from the original poster and read the rest of the posts. Interesting stuff.

Gary Taubes is the latest proponent of a high protein low carb diet. From his blog: “My message and the message of Why We Get Fat was not that we should all be eating nothing but animal products–…… but that carbohydrate-rich foods are inherently fattening, some more so than others, and that those of us predisposed to put on fat do so because of the carbs in the diet“. (emphasis added). Mostly he is talking to obese or overweight people or people with that metabolic tendency  and it might be easy to see him as a person feeding on people’s desire for a quick and easy way to lose weight.

I wonder if anyone has personal experience with a high protein low carb diet and bike touring? We’d love to hear about it!


8 comments… add one
  • Knuckedhead March 28, 2011, 7:17 pm

    I think it may not work if you are bicycle tourer. You actually have to do the reverse. If you are bicycle touring, your body needs carbohydrates after a long hard ride to replenish itself and this is the best time after any type of physical activity. Bodyfat wont be an issue if your body is looking for carbohydrates to replenish itself. A high carbohydrate is not good if you are not physically exerting yourself because your body does not need it.

  • Jeremy Vaught July 14, 2011, 3:16 pm

    I’m asking this very same question. I’ve been eating low-carb (which means high protein and high fat) for the last 6 months. I also have been doing exercise for the last three months (about an hour a day. P90X) And have lost 25 pounds and have had zero issues with energy.

    But I’m thinking about doing a long bike tour so I’m trying to find the answer to this. An argument might be though that doing an activity like bike touring, which is slow, and your heart rate doesn’t get very high (for long periods anyway) which means you mostly burn fat rather than carbs. So I wonder if a high good-fat diet might serve you well on a bike tour. But plenty of good carbs like veggies are a good thing I’m sure. But not the focus.

    Just a thought. I’m not saying this is scientific. Just trying to piece this all together.

    • Bike Hermit July 14, 2011, 4:35 pm

      I’m not a dietician or a scientist either but I have studied diet and exercise for the last 20 or so years since 15 of those years were spent racing the road bike, and complex carbohydrates are the easiest food for the body to use for conversion to fuel. At touring speeds the body does burn relatively less carbohydrate than at racing speeds, but it still does burn carbohydrate The best percentage of fat to carbs will vary for each individual. I would encourage you to experiment as you are preparing for your tour. I don’t know what a “high good-fat diet” looks like, but a diet of protein and fat will not cut it on a bike tour. Good veggies and fruit might be hard to find and is difficult to carry.
      I have a serious problem with the paleo diet people who claim a person should eat only stuff that can be found in the wild, and nothing cultivated. That’s too extreme and possibly dangerous and might work for a sedentary endomorph, but sustained effort, day after day, requires carbohydrate, fat and protein. Fat and carbohydrate are used for fuel. Protein is used to rebuild the muscles which are torn down during exercise and the body needs a relatively small percentage. That’s how it works.

  • Zack August 5, 2012, 11:48 pm

    I’m getting ready to do a worldwide bike tour and have been on the paleo diet for about half a year now. I do replenish after rides / workouts with lots of starchy carbohydrates, including grains. Otherwise, I stay paleo because I feel great on it. I’ve been making my own “goo” for long rides. It does have brown rice syrup but also lots of coconut oil, which is a good fat for easy conversion for energy. This fuels me really well, better than other sugary goos like Clif shots. I think Bike Hermit is right…cavemen certainly didn’t require sustained energy output over long periods of time, and thus didn’t need the carbs we need.

    For my tour, I have no delusions that I’ll be able to stay paleo. Logistically, there’s no way. I hope I can get fruits and veggies most of the time, and I hope most stores I encounter sell canned sardines and other seafood – a mainstay for paleo protein. But I know I’m going to be eating a lot of processed stuff, and there’s no way around it.

    • Bike Hermit August 6, 2012, 10:57 am

      It’s good that you can be flexible. Especially on a round the world trip. Moderation and balance in bike touring and in life!

  • mike krasovec October 10, 2014, 6:25 pm

    One of the main pillars of the whole paleo thing is no grains. If you want starch then eat starchy veggies such as potato, sweet potato, squash, parsnip, turnip, jicama…


Leave a Comment

Cancel reply