Anymore when I hear the word “CrossFit” I associate it with the Paleo Diet. CrossFit, a fitness program founded by Greg Glassman, involves explosive, cardiovascular, and strength training exercises.  CrossFit gyms and competitions can be seen around the world.  A basic CrossFit workout includes:

100 Squats
5 Muscle ups
75 Squats
10 muscle ups
50 Squats
15 Muscle ups

…all while being timed to see how fast these exercises can be done.


In addition, CrossFit has it’s own diet, the Paleo diet.  The Paleo diet are a set of guidelines that are based upon the Paleolithic period in history where refined carbohydrates, dairy, legumes and processed foods are excluded. The basis behind the Paleoithic diet that the human genome was developed based on the diet available to Paleolithic humans during the pre-agriculture period, 2.5 mill-10,000 years ago. Theory is that by following a Paleo diet the nutrition provided will what most closely batches the biologic design of humans which in turn will help decrease the risk of chronic disease and improve human physical performance.

However, from a research standpoint, these theories are very controversial.

1) Paleo Diet for Athletes- The “Good”

-Many Registered Dietitians (RD’s) who work with athletes would disagree with the idea that athletes should eat fewer refined carbohydrates, as recommended in the Paleo Diet. Carbohydrates are an athletes primary source of fuel and depending upon the exercise, training schedule, and competition, a variety are carbohydrates are needed during different time periods for greater athletic performance.

2) Paleo Diet for Athletes – The “Bad”

-A key shortcoming of the Paleo Diet from a Registered Dietitian perspective is the complete elimination of entire food groups.  This not only restricts dietary variety but it also makes it harder to consume key nutrients, like Calcium. By avoiding: Diary products, cereal grains (wheat, re, barley, oats, corn, rice, millet, sorghum) cereal grain seeds (amaranth, chia, quinoa, buckwheat, legumes, potatoes, yeast-containing food, and processed meat it leaves an individual to eat only fish, meat, poultry, eggs, and fruits and vegetables.  Yet, alcoholic beverages are allowed on the Paleo Diet!

3) Paleo Diet and the Research

-When it comes to diet recommendations, most diets have sound research indicating the positive health outcomes when consuming such as diet, for example the DASH diet.  To date, there are no research studies on the Paleo diet in athletes and its effect on their performance.

4) Cost of the Paleo Diet

-Paleo diet is not only expensive when it comes to groceries but also supplements.  By eliminating entire food groups, such as dairy, it means more supplements, Calcium, Vitamin D, etc., need to be consumed elsewhere.  Studies have shown that when following a Paleo diet, calcium intake is 50% below the recommended 1000 mg/day. It is also not affordable for low-income consumers.  Anymore, the price of protein, fruits, and vegetables are increasing so get ready to shell out $50+ a week on food!


Even though I have only touched the surface of the Paleo Diet it is with high recommendations that reputable resources are research prior to making lifestyle changes of following a strict diet. Even though in theory, the Paleo diet sounds great as it focuses on whole foods and lean meats, the dietary recommendation’s are inappropriate for most athletes, particularly endurance athletes.  How about sticking to the USDA guidelines of myplate?




Scan’s Pulse: The Paleo DIet: Stone Age Nutrition for Today’s Athlete? by Steve Hertzler, PhD, RD