Crossfit and paleo: which side of the controversy are you on?
CrossFit founder Greg Glassman’s mantra was to prepare the body for not only the known, but also for the unknown and claims that his “speciality is not specializing”.
If you’ve been living under a rock and haven’t heard the term CrossFit, it is a combination of body weight exercises, strength training, gymnastics, powerlifting, speed training, kettlebells, and endurance exercises that are meant to target cardiorespiratory fitness, stamina, muscle strength and endurance, flexibility, speed, balance, agility, accuracy, and coordination.
– 3-5 days a week of work
– High intensity circuits
– 5 to 15 minutes to completion
– Very little rest between exercises
Each day consists of a WOD (workout of the day) and is different everyday but are all equally as demanding. The following example is called the “Barbara”
5 circuits- 20 pull-ups, 30 push-ups, 40 sit-ups, 5 body weight squats…performed in that order with only a 3 minute rest after each circuit.
-High intensity and great when time is of the essence.
-Athlete/ex athlete alluring as it closely resembles sports conditioning
-With a variety of WODs, there is a lower risk that you’ll get bored
-Creating an at home CrossFit gym won’t break the bank
-Access to the CrossFit website and workouts is free
-Along with proper diet, results can easily accomplished
-Performing some of these Olympic-style lifting exercises in the fatigued state that you are in from such intense circuits, exposes you to an increased risk of injury
-A very serious muscular injury called Rhabdomyolysis is becoming more prevalent amongst crossfitters.
Brought on by extreme physical exercise, skeletal muscle is so damaged it rapidly breaks down which can lead to muscle cells rupturing causing a leak into the bloodstream.
Making sure to start slow and then gradually increasing the intensity, staying hydrated, and avoiding intense exercise in hot, humid, weather can help reduce risk of Rhabdomyolysis
-To a certain degree, a foundation of sufficient strength is necessary when venturing into CrossFit
-Geared towards already healthy individuals who enjoy rigorous exercise
-Though CrossFit has made the claim that this program is “empirically driven and clinically tested”, there are no published studies about it in any peer-reviewed strength and conditioning or physiology research journals.
The paleo diet, also known as the primal or caveman diet, has two central concepts; we adapted to eat particular foods and to stay healthy, strong and fit, and to avoid modern chronic diseases by eating like our ancestors. The paleo diet includes:
-Animals: meat, fish, reptiles, insects, etc., and all the parts such as organs, bone marrow, and cartilage
-Animal products; eggs or honey
-Vegetables: roots/tubers, leaves, flowers, stems
-Nuts and seeds that can be eaten raw
Later it is suggested to slowly introduce grass-fed dairy and legumes
When comparing a paleo diet to a Mediterranean diet (which focuses on whole grains, low-fat dairy, vegetables, fruits, fish, oils, and margarine) participants in one study lost 70% more body fat.
Research also found that paleo eating is more satiating per calorie and that it can improve blood pressure, glucose tolerance, and blood lipids.
So what are the challenges?! There aren’t many, but like with all diets paleo is not a one size fits all diet.
Certainly, there are some people that should avoid dairy and gluten while being more modest when it comes to consuming legumes and grains.
However, the evidence to completely exclude dairy, legumes, and grains isn’t quite strong enough, most of us can make improvements without the complete elimination of these foods.
The only other challenge is the anxiety people feel over a strict list of “good” and “bad” or “allowed” and “not allowed” foods. It’s an all-or-nothing mindset.
Things to consider:
The positives of our caveman ancestors- fresh food, fresh air, lots of movement, and good sleep. How can you progress along the same spectrum?
What I mean is, how can you progress from an over processed 21st century diet to foods that are more in tune with what your primal body needs?
Keep it simple- doing a few good things kind of well is way better than trying to be “perfect” all at once and potentially failing. And always, always, stay skeptical and informed.
Question everything, research, look for evidence and consider all the options.