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It lacks grains, processed sugars and starches, but the paleo diet has its advantages for athletes.

After Nell Stephenson contracted a parasite during an Ironman race in 2004, she took the medication prescribed, but for months continued to feel worse. Though Stephenson had always eaten healthy foods, it turned out she had developed a gluten-intolerance and stomach problems.

Stephenson decided to try the Paleo diet—a diet that mimics what people would have eaten naturally during the Paleolithic Period, before the Agricultural Revolution.

“I felt better in three days,” says Stephenson, a trainer and nutritional coach who now runs a popular Paleo informational blog, Paleoista, and has come out with a book of the same name.

Paleo has been growing in popularity among the general community. But its basic tenets seemed to counter to the traditional carbo-loading of runners and endurance athletes. Paleo prescribes a diet of just lean protein, healthy fat, and fresh fruits and vegetables. Dairy, grains, legumes, and refined and processed food are completely avoided.

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