Nell Stephenson on Paleo Endurance Athletes

Nell StephensonI recently had the opportunity to interview Nell Stephenson of Nell is a highly successful endurance athlete, having placed 1st, 2nd, or 3rd several times in her age group in Ironman races around the country. And she does these feats of athleticism while eating a Paleo diet! She also co-authored The Paleo Diet Cookbook with the esteemed Dr. Loren Cordain, and her new book, Paleoista, is available for pre-sale right now on Amazon. She does Paleo lifestyle coaching with clients around the country, as well. Quite an achiever this one is.

I’m delighted to be able to share with you the detailed info of our interview, as I think the technicalities are often missing in blog posts about endurance athletes and Paleo.

You’ll have to excuse my slight nerves throughout the interview, as it’s the first one I’ve ever conducted. For instance, I mean to say “high intensity interval training” – not “high interval training” :) Also, please forgive that the interview begins mid-sentence when I realized that even our introductory chitchat was interesting. Below is an outline of our conversation. Please comment below if you still have questions or contact Nell or me for consulting if you need personalized help.

Intro How Nell and Neely’s bodies changed when they went Paleo

1:35 Who is Nell?

3:25 What are her athletic accomplishments and goals?

4:50 What are her thoughts on “chronic cardio” and does she think endurance training is unhealthy? Is it good for everybody?

7:50 What does her weekly training schedule look like?

11:00 How can eating Paleo work for endurance athletes? And why are people “failing” on Paleo when they’re very active?

14:25 What are the details of Nell’s diet? Includes particulars about breakfast, lunch, dinner, salt, smoothies, yams, fasting, what she eats during her long workouts, timing of meals, her non-Paleo foods, etc. If you want to know more details about her diet, she’s blogged extensively about it here.

24:10 Nell’s thoughts on calorie counting for herself and endurance athletes in general.

27:55 Does Nell use intermittent fasting? And what are her thoughts on IF for the general public? If you want to know more about what Neely thinks about intermittent fasting, read this.

29:44 How was Nell’s transition from non-Paleo to Paleo? And how did her athletic performance and health change?

33:10 What does Nell think about using mostly fat for fuel during long endurance workouts/races? And what are her thoughts on the very low-carb Paleo philosophy?


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  1. Maryann Ramirez

    This was a great interview. Lots of great information, and yes, you can do endurance activities and follow a Paleo diet. It works!

  2. Maryann

    wondering… I referred a friend who is an endurance athlete to this page, and the interview won’t load. help?

    • Neely

      @Maryann – Thanks for the heads up. I think I fixed it.

  3. Anonymous

    I don’t see the interview today, can you reload the interview?

  4. Anonymous

    The questions seem to be there but none of the answers.

  5. Jacob Christiansen

    The reason the endurance cross-fit guys train with low carbohydrate is to increase PCG-1-Alpha (which is important for mitochondrialbiogenesis) and AMPK. They actually advice people to race with carbohydrate. So it’s a train low, race high kind of approach.

  6. Bri Guy

    If you are worried about eating some carbohydrate gel, why wouldn’t you just eat a date! Don’t deprive yourself of the fruit, beautiful sun soul!

  7. Robert Oates

    Jacob, that’s really interesting. Where can I read more about this?

  8. Mathieu Corriveau

    How do you replenish glycogen level in a long race, like 5-6 hours ?
    Having dry fruit is not always possible and not easy to carry.

    On the other end, bars and gels are much easier.
    What’s your take on that ?


    • Neely Quinn

      Mathieu Corriveau – Nell actually goes over that in her talk, about how she uses gels and that she doesn’t see how endurance athletes would do without them really.

  9. rick conger

    Is there supposed to be a link here because I do not see it?

    • Neely Quinn

      rick conger – Yes, it should be at the top of the post?

  10. Pinkie B

    Thanks for this interview!

    I think your guest sounded more nervous than you did ^^

    And thank you for keeping her on track. As an endurance athlete I can easily burn over 1800 calories on a ride (I once went out for a day and came home 2500 in the hole). Because of various health problems I’m on something close to a paleo diet, but I can’t have starchy vegetables which means all my calories are coming in from protein, fat, greens and dairy (sorry if that’s not true paleo, but a girl’s gotta eat). It is always a struggle for me to feed myself without grains or simple sugars, but since I’m not a sedentery person trying to lose weight, but rather a highly active person trying *not* to lose weight, it’s nearly impossible to find recommendations for food.

    So thanks for your interview and your persistence. I hope in the future there will be more real information and less marketing and pandering so that we can really and truly excel in our health and our sports.

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