Sprinting is a great form of exercise that everyone should try to incorporate into their regular exercise routine. Sprints can help to burn fat, build some muscle in your legs and improve your overall speed and power.

Sprinting should not to be confused with middle- and long-distance running. When you run longer distances, you are getting good cardiovascular exercise, but low-intensity, steady-state exercise burns a lot of calories. Strength athletes often struggle to eat enough calories to offset long-distance running, which means that it is not beneficial for them to engage in such cardiovascular exercise on a regular basis. Sprinting is anaerobic and is beneficial for boosting explosive power, which is important for many sports.

Diets for Sprinters

Sprinters need to consume a balanced mixture of proteins, carbohydrates and fats. Each of these macronutrients serves an important purpose. Carbohydrates provide a rapid and convenient source of energy, while proteins contain the amino acids necessary for building muscle, and fats offer a secondary source of energy along with the building blocks of essential hormones.

Many sprinters follow the Paleo diet. This diet tends to be lower in carbohydrates than the diets followed by long-distance runners, but this is not a problem for sprinters while they are in training. The lower carbs, healthy fats and high protein focus of the Paleo diet means that this diet is ideal for sprinters who want to increase their muscle mass and get lean. Some sprinters find that when they first start the Paleo diet, they lose some speed during their lactic training phases. They can feel that tempo training is harder work than it was on a high-carbohydrate diet. However, as they get used to the diet their bodies adapt to the reduced carbohydrate intake and enter ketosis.

Note that it is possible to achieve the relatively standard 40% of your calories from carbohydrates while eating Paleo-style. However, this will require you to eat a lot of fresh fruit and vegetables. It is up to you, as an athlete, to experiment with different macronutrient ratios until you find what works for you. Many sprinters find that they can do well in training on a low-carbohydrate version of the Paleo diet, and that they shift focus to increase their carbohydrate intake when they are doing more intense sprinting training. A certain amount of experimentation may be required until you find the optimal balance.

Why Go Paleo?

Ignoring the macronutrient balance, there are several reasons to follow a Paleo eating plan as an athlete. The focus on fresh fruits and vegetables, high-quality meats and non-processed foods helps to increase your energy levels and boost your immune system. It also makes it easier to maintain a healthy weight while still eating a varied enough diet to ensure that your micronutrient requirements are met.

As an athlete, it makes sense to ensure that everything you put into your body serves a purpose beyond simply providing empty calories. Avoiding processed foods and the additives that they contain is a good first step towards optimizing your body’s athletic performance.