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Why the Paleo Diet should be your last choice.


I’ve started spending more time over at the main message board at Crossfit.com and one of the things that I see alot is folks new to Crossfit asking what the need to do from a diet perspective. The first reply always says “You have to go on the Paleo Diet.” Period. Bottom line. End of Story. But is that always accurate?

One of the biggest problems with society (at least American society) is the prevelance of processed food and an abundance of sugar in our day to day diet. The first step when someone, espeically someone new to Crossfit asks “What should I eat?” Should be, “Here’s what you DON’T need to be eating.” You’ve got someone that’s new that has just walked into your box and started Crossfit, they are already getting bombarded with new terms and techniques and lifestyle ideas. Throwing one more at them won’t help in the long run. Start small.

Like everything in Crossfit your diet is a progression. Think about how you learned to snatch or split-jerk: you did it step by step. Why can’t we learn to control out diet the same way? Smaller changes have a higher statistical average of sticking when compared to larger lifestyle changes. For example: Telling someone: “Don’t drink soft drinks” has a much better chance of taking affect than “Cut all sugar out of your diet.”

So instead of immediately jumping on the Paleo diet or Zone diet bandwagon, let’s jump on the whole foods idea FIRST. Let’s tell folks, here’s what you need to do: “Drop processed food. If it comes in a box, it’s probably not gonna work. Stick to the outside of the grocery store.” In fact, here’s a simple quick list that you can give folks to know what foods to avoid:

Simple Everyday Foods to Stop Eating

Give that short list out as a start, most Americans eat a large quantity of just those 7 items, cutting that out will be a challenge in and of itself. It may take some time for them to adjust their diet fully. Studies have shown that coming off an addiction to processed foods (and yes your body does get chemically addicted to it) will have the same chemical effect as coming off of a drug addiction. Once they’ve conquered this, give them the longer list, let them conquer that and THEN start talking to them about Zone vs. Paleo.

Why the Zone Diet vs. Paleo Diet?

Well, Crossfit recommends the Zone diet in it’s Coaches Certification classes. Both emphasize  quality foods, but Paleo is really a stricter subset of Zone. To put it simply: Zone controls your portion size, The Paleo diet takes it one step further and focuses on a (much) higher quality of food. Talk to you’re athletes about HOW MUCH they are eating to determine if they are overeating good foods or if they eating right amounts..just maybe not the best quality. This is where you can then start having conversations about organic vegetables vs. non-organic. Grass-fed beef, antibiotic free chicken, etc…

The key takeaway here is to remember that your athletes that are new to your gym are coming to you because they feel that you know best. Don’t overload them, give them small attainable goals that they can reach. And then take them further from there. No one is saying that Paleo is bad, or Zone is better. All that’s being said is phase it in with gradual changes to increase the success rate of making positive changes in your athletes lives.

  • http://brendancosgrove.com Brendan Cosgrove

    Great post…I’m new to CF and I come to CF after having lost over 45 pounds on the 4HB. I did it with constant small adjustments not overnight radical changes… and I have to imagine that if I was a gym owner I would always want to give advice that has the best chance of sticking with my members. It not only helps them see success that they can stick with, it probably has a very direct correlation to revenue/membership renewals.

    • EveryLastRep

      Congrats on the weight loss. I’ve been reading through the 4HB as well too, what are your thoughts on it? Overall I’m a big fan of Tim Ferris.

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