When you start Crossfit, and during different stages of your Crossfit life, you’ll see it is one of two things – Crossfit as a fitness method or Crossfit as a sport. There are the people that come into Crossfit to get a bit fitter and to lose some weight, and there are the people that come into Crossfit as a sport that want to get stronger, faster, better at it. Now, that is not to say that people may not change during their time at Crossfit, but bear in mind these are two very different goals.
At the 2013 Crossfit Games a reporter asked the men’s finalists “Who eats 100% paleo?” not one person put there hand up. Not One! Matt Chan is the most well known Paleo advocate and even he said he has carbs sometimes after a tough workout. These are the fittest people on the planet and the pinnacle of the “sport” of Crossfit, and they understand that Paleo just will not support their goals of reaching their potential.
The fact that Paleo is being discussed so much is a great thing, as it has people looking at their eating habits and how they can support their lifestyle. When I was working out in a gym you had two options, bulking or cutting (trying to put on muscle or lose fat).
What Crossfit has done so well is to address the need to discuss your diet as part of a healthy lifestyle rather than a bolt-on.
Paleo is great for a large number of people that do Crossfit, and should definitely be tried at some stage by everyone, as should most “diets” to see how your body reacts. The problem I had whilst doing it, and still have is, if you are training 6+ times a week Paleo just doesn’t replenish enough glycogen between workouts to keep you at your best. I’m not saying there won’t be the exception to the rule that recovers amazingly, but generally most of us will not recover/get stronger without eating carbs. Also, you might not notice for a couple of weeks, but slowly your performance will start to tail off or stagnate as your body just runs out of fuel.
My favourite writings on this topic currently is by a group that started a few years back called Eat to Perform. If you haven’t seen them yet it is well worth a read. They focus on one main thing – eating to support your performance! It is a combination of paleo and carb cycling before and after workouts. The idea is that you eat Paleo 80-90% of the time, so your body uses fats as fuel, but 1.5 hours before a workout you have some carbs and then the 2-3 hours after a workout you have 90% of your carb intake for the day. The idea is that the better fuelled you are the higher the performance output, therefore the stronger/faster/etc. you are getting and the more calories you are burning.
As a real world example I did this for 6 months, put on 6kg, all my PRs went through the roof whilst still losing 2% body fat. In my opinion this gives you the best of both worlds, but read it, try it and see if it works for you. If you have been stuck at that PR for months now, and then suddenly break it, it is amazing how many people do that after a large breakfast or huge dinner (and dessert!) the night before – basically a “cheat” meal.. and then wonder why.
To me, the most important element of any diet is that it supports your goals. If you are trying to get stronger and faster limiting your calorie intake and restricting the fuel you are putting into your body seems counter intuitive (although so common!). Whereas if you are looking at trying to lose weight and are not too worried about performance in the short term than 100% Paleo might be the way to go.
Paleo isn’t Crossfit and Crossfit isn’t Paleo.
Decide what your goals are for the next 3-6 months and eat accordingly.. you might be surprised to see what happens if you start to add some healthy carbs back into your diet at the right times.
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