Thursday, June 16, 2011

Paleo + Crossfit = Confusion

The paleo diet can be great for many.  Crossfit can also be great for some people too.  Paleo and Crossfit being perceived as an all encompassing solution to health can be confusing for outsiders.  The Crossfit community has much to do with the increase in the popularity of the paleo diet.  Thank you for that Crossfit.  Crossfit gyms very often recommend a paleo diet to their members as part of a path to health and fitness.  It seems the paleo success stories I read online are usually (but not always) from someone who does Crossfit.  I feel an iteration of the paleo diet is healthy and accessible for just about anyone.  Crossfit and their gyms are much less accessible for our population.  

I got interested in Crossfit in 2006 when I stumbled upon their website.  The program of randomized, varied, and intense workouts where strength and coordination were emphasized appealed to me.  I never joined a Crossfit gym as there weren't any nearby at that time.  Now it seems like there are at least ten within 30 minutes of me.  Although I never did join a Crossfit box, I immersed myself in the techniques and theories.  I invested in a Concept 2 Rower, a couple kettlebells, and gymnastic rings (the most versatile piece of exercise equipment I've ever owned).  I created my own workouts while also following some of the workouts of the day from the main site.  I loved it for about 2 years but a job change made it very hard to continue these workouts at the gym where I was training (miss you Evolve).  I joined a Bally's near my office and my freedom of training was lost.  I can still do most of the exercises I did but just cannot monopolize multiple pieces of equipment needed for a Crossfit type workout.

I also have Crossfit to thank for introducing me to the paleo diet.  While reading the Cossfit message board I saw some people discussing this diet and was eventually led to  After reading that blog for several months I jumped into paleo with both feet in January of 2007.  It just made so much sense to me.  I was getting chubby and something had to change.  I never looked back although my paleo diet has evolved over the years.

The exercises and intensity of Crossfit sessions are not appropriate for many of our citizens.  Although workouts can be scaled in weight, duration, and intensity it still cannot fit the needs of many Americans.  So many are extremely detrained, decrepit, and out of shape that they cannot even dream of doing the most common Crossfit exercises.  Also, the cost of $100-$200/month for a membership makes this another reason it is not realistic for the masses.

Paleo is realistic for the masses.  As I've said before, paleo can be very effective without being organic, all natural, and pasture raised.  This makes it affordable too.  Once people are educated on what to eat and what not to, they can make wise food choices that will have short term and long term benefits.

My problem is when the general population sees Crossfit and Paleo together so often they may assume they need to be doing these gruelling workouts to get those results.  It perpetuates the myth that you must exercise like a maniac to get positive health outcomes.  This can be misleading.  Achieving positive health changes is much more dependent on diet than on exercise.  Paleo is very effective in absence of exercise and independent of the exercise program used.  I think its wise that paleo diet experts have separated themselves from Crossfit or never attached themselves to it.  If the paleo diet is going to advance further, it cannot be only because of results Crossfit members achieve.  It must appeal to the masses for it to be attainable by them. 



MAS said...

Absolutely true.

IMO CrossFit violates Law #9 in the Primal Blueprint, which says to avoid risky behavior. Rope climbing to the ceiling, flipping weights and sprinting downhill over rocks is the kind of nonsense that would have killed off our ancestors.

Jan said...

I am one who could not conceivably perform many of the exercises required for Crossfit. I like the Primal Blueprint approach to exercise much better: move slowly daily, lift heavy things occasionally, and sprint like a mad bastard once in awhile. It certainly makes the exercise portion of a paleo lifestyle much easier (to say nothing of enjoyable) for this chubby, middle-aged babe. ;)

Chuck said...

u keep aging in reverse and you will be doing pullups and overhead squats any day now ;)

Be said...

You hit the nail on the head. We have a good friend whose husband is in the hospital with rhabdomyolysis. They are both in the military and he is heavy in Crossfit. She just joined him in a paleo diet just this week. Which brings up another point you have made before: I sure hope these two young, healthy, and active people are eating tubers and not restricting carbs like those of use that are less active and have a few pounds to lose. They need the extra glucose. But, I fear they will drop the diet before dropping Crossfit. See

The bottom line is that it's all got to be balanced to the individual.

Jan said...

Chuck, no pullups or overhead squats yet, but I AM doing 30 squats, 60 situps, 30 push ups and 60 second planks when we do our body weight exercises a couple of times a week. And I'm walking up to 3 miles 2 or 3 times a week! It may not seem like much, but there was a time not too long ago when 1/4 mile was hard for me.

Chuck said...

@BE I am familiar with rhabdo. Crossfitters joke about it. Paleo can be tweeked in many directions to be a life long solution. Not true re: Crossfit for many of Americans today.

@Jan Good for you...have fun.