The Paleo Diet and Crossfit: A Match Made in Heaven?

Only 6 Days until the launch of my free e-book: A Newbie’s Guide to Fitness!

Recently I was put in touch with Adam and Brandi Long, a couple that run a Paleo Diet website (The Paleo Kitchen), and exercise at a Crossfit gym here in Atlanta.  Considering I’ve adopted a mostly Paleo diet recently (which you can read about here), and I started researching the whole Crossfit philosophy, this seemed like a tailor-made interview for Nerd Fitness.  Adam and Brandi were nice enough to answer a bunch of question about both the Paleo diet and how it affects performance in  a hardcore training practice like Crossfit.

Picture 1Steve: When did you first hear about the Paleo Diet?

Brandi: Adam told me about it and that he was going to start trying it.

Adam: I heard about Paleo through Crossfit. Crossfit suggests two diets depending on your goals and commitment level. Paleo is suggested for quality and can provide a great way to be healthier without having to measure calories or go hungry. The Zone is suggested for quantity and gives the most benefits in performance. Of course the combination of these two would be great, but it takes a lot of effort.

Steve: Did you buy in right away to the philosophy, or did it take some convincing?

Brandi: I watched Adam do it for a while. I already liked to eat organic but wasn’t sure about giving up pasta and breads. I saw his body become leaner and started listening when he was explaining the fundamentals and why he was doing it.

Adam: The whole idea of Paleo made a lot of sense to me. When things have a simple, logical explanation, I can buy into them quickly. But I couldn’t convince anyone else until I started seeing results.

Steve: How long have you been on the diet?

Brandi: 4 months-but I like to call it a lifestyle not a diet J because I’ll be eating this way the rest of my life.

Adam: Well, it’s more of a way of life, like Brandi said. It’s not really as much about being strict and feeling like you “failed” if you eat something that is not Paleo. It’s more of a daily choice when thinking about what you want to eat. That being said, I’ve been trying to eat Paleo as often as possible for about a year now.

NF: What kind of physical changes have you seen in yourselves since changing?

Brandi: I have lost fat on my stomach the most. I think I’ve lost fat all over but it’s very hard to tell on myself. I had pictures taken of myself right when I started but I’m not going to do a second set for 1 whole year. I’m small so I know my changes will be subtle.

Adam: I’ve lost probably 10 pounds, I’m stronger than I was when I was on the rowing team in college, and I almost never get sick. Another “physical” thing I’ve noticed is that I don’t crave bad things anymore. For example, I treated myself to a blizzard a few months back, and I felt sick for almost a day. Last blizzard I’ll have for a while.

NF: My concern with the diet right now is getting enough calories every day (I’m a hard gainer), any advice there?

Brandi: You will feel like you are eating a LOT. Americans have become obsessed with cutting calories and fat. The Paleolithic Diet does not follow that. The difference in eating 2 cups of broccoli (which is a carbohydrate) versus 2 cups of pasta is astounding. The pasta only serves to spike your insulin levels which slows you down. Paleo is all about treating food as fuel for your body.

Adam: Like I said earlier, Paleo has nothing to do with quantity, it’s all about quality. You can eat 5000 calories a day if you want. Although I will tell you you’ll be eating a lot more food. 5000 calories of crap is a lot smaller than 5000 calories of quality. If you have a hard time gaining mass, eat lots protein, drink whole milk, and get plenty of healthy fats. And when I say “plenty”, I mean half a bag of almonds in one day if you can stand eating that much. I guarantee you will grow. (As a side note on the subject of natural mass growth, google search “GOMAD”)

NF: Describe what Crossfit is, and how you got involved?

Brandi: Crossfit is general fitness.  The workouts involve functional movements. You don’t step on a box for an hour.  Simply put you pick a weight up off the ground and move it above your head. Everything is simulating functional everyday movements like putting something heavy on a high shelf.

The workouts are online (www.crossfit.com) for free everyday. We began doing the WOD (workout of the day) on our own at our gym. We made the decision after a few months to try out an actual Crossfit gym where everyone would be doing the same workout as us and we’ll NEVER go back to a “globo” gym!

Adam: Constantly varied, functional movements, done at high intensity. That’s what I’m supposed to say. What Crossfit really is depends on who you ask. Crossfit could be social time, someone’s stress relief, or your grandmother’s rehabilitation program (I’m not kidding). Crossfit is a community of people that know you don’t get anything for free. You have to work hard for it. We do only functional movements, meaning things you would do in real life that mimic what our bodies were made to do. And we do them at high intensity for what most would consider short durations (between 2 and 30 minutes). Oh yeah, and it’s always varied. This makes your body constantly adapt and gives you the best ability to be ready for anything. I could go on for 10 pages, but you can find all this at crossfit.com.

I got started after seeing the movie 300. I did a google search on how they got in shape and found Crossfit.

15i_gerard_butlerSteve: Ha, I just did the 300 challenge yesterday morning (those floor swipes are BRUTAL).  So, what keeps you coming back?

Brandi: The people.  I love being surrounded by a community of people who care about health, and fitness; and who also care about me. Everyday after work I get to push myself to reach personal goals. The workouts and the friends I have made relieve stress.

Adam: Everything about it. It’s a different workout everyday. The people are great. We’ve made some amazing friends. Everyone is supportive. It’s the best part of a lot of days.

Steve: Do you find that you have enough energy by eating with a Paleo Diet to get through the exhausting Crossfit workouts?

Brandi: Yes. Crossfit actually encourages you to eat better. When you know you’re going to be working out-eating an ice cream or drinking a coke does not sound appealing! Eating the healthy food, that is packed with goodness will carry you through any workout. You will quickly find the days you do not stick to paleo are the hardest to get through.

Adam: I find that if I don’t eat Paleo I can’t get through the Crossfit workouts. You eat a bad lunch before you do a workout at 5pm, and you’re going to be gassing half way through. I need those lean meats and healthy fats or I don’t stand a chance.

Steve: How would you change the diet for hardcore athletes or competitive Crossfitters?

Brandi: The rule of thumb for hardcore crossfitters is more fat. Fat gives you energy so usually if you find your energy levels to be low, adding in more olives, almonds or other good fats will help with this.

Adam: Brandi hit the nail on the head. Up the fat. You can also increase the overall quantity eaten.

Steve: For somebody on the fence looking to start a Paleo diet , what would you recommend?

Brandi: To start out I wouldn’t start “cutting” things out I would start to view your food as fuel. When you make a meal, look at what you’re eating. Is that crescent roll giving you any good energy? Try replacing it with some veggies.  Then after that I would cut out pasta, rice, bread and sugar. You can replace each high-glycemic carb with a low-glycemic carb (like fruits or veggies) slowly as you get more into it.

This is a lifestyle change. Do it at your own pace that makes you happy, not angry that you can’t have bread!

Adam: I would recommend using some simple guidelines. Buy as much as possible from the outside perimeter of the grocery store. If it doesn’t expire for two years, you probably shouldn’t be eating it. Most of the stuff in the isles will be the only thing still “fresh” after an apocalypse. Probably not what our evolution has prepared us to eat. The other thing I would suggest is just to ease into it, very slowly. This is a lifestyle. You can’t give up everything your brain thinks it wants and be ok. Try this lifestyle on your own time.

Steve: What about those looking to get into Crossfit?

Brandi: Look up a local Crossfit Affiliate on (www.crossfit.com) and call and schedule a time to go in. A trainer will walk you through a warm up and beginners work out.  They will answer all your questions and tell you all about Crossfit.  When you go in you will immediately be introduced to other people working out. This community thrives on a friendly and open environment. Most people are so intimidated to go to a gym until they’re “in shape”! That’s what a gym is for! At a Crossfit gym no matter what you’re fitness level, everyone will encourage you and give you tips and share their story along the way.

Adam: Crossfit is for everyone and every fitness level. Everything is scalable, so don’t be intimidated if you see something you don’t know how to do. The trainers at a Crossfit gym would love to teach you. Globo gyms run on a business model of getting you to sign up for a year and then getting you to never come back again. They wouldn’t be profitable otherwise. Crossfit gyms want to get you in shape. That is the only way they get repeat customers and the only way they survive.

And, if you don’t want to pay for a Crossfit gym, do it in your back yard.  Crossfit.com puts every workout online daily for free. They even have hundreds of videos on how to do the exercises. I did Crossfit on my own for over a year before joining a gym.

Steve: Thanks a lot guys!  Looks like I’ll be joining you at your gym in a week or two for my complimentary Crossfit ass-kicking.  I can’t wait!

Brandi Long is a freelance graphic designer (www.longviewdesign.com) and blogs about the paleo lifestyle (www.thepaleokitchen.blogspot.com).

Adam Long is a Software Engineer and Crossfit Level 1 certified trainer.

-Steve

Six days until the launch of my free e-book: A Newbie’s Guide to Fitness, Vol. 1.  I’m not attached to the title, so if you guys have any suggestions for other kick-ass names, let me know!

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