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Thread: CrossFit on a Low-Carb Primal or Paleo Diet

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  1. #1

    Question CrossFit on a Low-Carb Primal or Paleo Diet

    In a prior thread I asked about frequency of CrossFitting for a relatively out of shape 40-something year old. This past week I started CrossFitting and so far so good, but after the intro/"Baseline" workout I was really dizzy and felt a bit 'out of it' the next day. So I ate a lot more carbs than I usually do, mostly in the form of bananas and coconut milk, and some yogurt.

    But I'm concerned that adding in these carbs will cause me to either bulk up or gain weight, which I don't want to do. I don't care about the scale number, but after successfully dropping 65 pounds and maintaining it for 6 months pretty effortlessly, the last thing I want to do is see it come back.

    After only two CrossFit sessions (the baseline and a single one-on-one 'Fundamentals' class), I already see and feel noticeable physical changes, which is astonishing to me - I see the "V" shape more clearly from my chest to gut, though my gut still is flabby. And I definitely notice more muscular definition. So I'm STOKED about the possibilities of CrossFit. BUT....I don't *feel* as good. I feel a bit sluggish still. And I'm eating a lot more, thinking I need to to compensate for the increase in physical activity. This has concerned me as I have a fear of getting fat again, and I don't want to do that just to crossfit : )

    Then, this morning I saw this:

    CrossFit On a Low Carb Paleo Diet: Mat Lalonde Reporting

    Mat Lalonde states it took him a couple of weeks to get acclimated to a low-carb paleo diet while crossfitting, but once he did, he excelled. Something tells me that a super-fit guy like him is someone I probably shouldn't be comparing my flabby-gut 40-something self to, but it's the best I've come up with in terms of my simple question:

    Aside from the carbs I get from non-starchy vegetables, do I need to add more carbs? Or should I just focus on adding more fat and protein?

    This past week I was thinking I need to carb-load/refeed/delve into gluttony : ) But after reading Mat's article, I'm thinking I'm going to try sticking out a couple of weeks of CrossFit (and later this coming week it will be real WODs, as I am set to finish Fundamentals on Tuesday with a monster 1.5 hour personal training session).

    Has anyone here been through this? I'm really hoping someone has had this same concern, experienced the sluggishness/lethargy when starting CrossFit (or a similar high-intensity program) and 'stuck it out' for a couple of weeks and can state their results?

    mark
    Low Carb Learning

  2. #2
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    How low-carb are you going?

    I ate a ton of carbs when I first started Crossfit and still felt like crap for weeks - it's not an easy workout program!

  3. #3
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    I tried low carb and Crossfit together for a while, but I've found I do better with more carbs (100-150g range generally) and have still been successfully leaning out at the same time.
    “If I didn't define myself for myself, I would be crunched into other people's fantasies for me and eaten alive.” --Audre Lorde

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  4. #4
    I didn't do well with low Carb either. I upped my carbs to 125g and feel amazing now and I'm still dropping weight every single week. I started with needing to drop 35lbs.

  5. #5
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    Don't trust that article, it irks me that it was never updated by Lalonde himself said on a podcast that going low-carb and keeping up crossfit eventually caught up with him and he bottomed out hard. According to the podcast he had to eat two pints of ice cream after a workout once because he needed to get his sugar up quick. I can't remember what podcast it was, but if you do a search for one with lalonde on it, a few months after this article it was one of the topics. They really should make a note on it, it's very misleading as is.

    If you ENJOY eating low-carb (don't care not to eat much fruit, don't care for rice, etc), then make sure to carb refeed every now and then. If you're somebody that LIKES to eat starches daily (or you don't want to cut down on fruits, etc) then just eat conscious carbs everyday to fuel your performance.

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by iniQuity View Post
    Don't trust that article, it irks me that it was never updated by Lalonde himself said on a podcast that going low-carb and keeping up crossfit eventually caught up with him and he bottomed out hard. According to the podcast he had to eat two pints of ice cream after a workout once because he needed to get his sugar up quick. I can't remember what podcast it was, but if you do a search for one with lalonde on it, a few months after this article it was one of the topics. They really should make a note on it, it's very misleading as is.

    If you ENJOY eating low-carb (don't care not to eat much fruit, don't care for rice, etc), then make sure to carb refeed every now and then. If you're somebody that LIKES to eat starches daily (or you don't want to cut down on fruits, etc) then just eat conscious carbs everyday to fuel your performance.
    i think it was an old robb wolf podcast from a while ago. if i remember correctly, matt had to run in tothe ben and jerry's in harvard square and gobble down all that ice cream to basically keep from croaking.

    on a side note, i've been having success in cycling my carb intake to one day of high carb and then one day of low carb. high usually is about 150-200 grams and low is about 50 grams. i don't do crossfit, but my training tends to be just as intense/if not more intense and of all the carb methods, this one has worked out the best for me in terms of muscle growth/fat loss, and not having a negative impact on my performance

  7. #7
    Thanks iniquity. I will look for that podcast.

    In the meantime - I'd better start adding more carbs to my diet just in case. I'd rather put on a few extra pounds that walk around in a haze and not be able to put 100% effort into my CrossFit sessions. Thinking about this topic more...it makes sense that carbs would be necessary. My limited (mainly due to lack of interest) understanding in the science is that the body uses carbs for intense movement, particulary for short 'fight or flight' periods, but fat is utilized best when doing low-intensity movement. If this is in fact the case, then to be on the safe side I'm going to add more carbs into my day to day, particular the day before/of CrossFit sessions, and see how it goes.

  8. #8
    Join Date
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    Quote Originally Posted by mark2741 View Post
    Thanks iniquity. I will look for that podcast.

    In the meantime - I'd better start adding more carbs to my diet just in case. I'd rather put on a few extra pounds that walk around in a haze and not be able to put 100% effort into my CrossFit sessions. Thinking about this topic more...it makes sense that carbs would be necessary. My limited (mainly due to lack of interest) understanding in the science is that the body uses carbs for intense movement, particulary for short 'fight or flight' periods, but fat is utilized best when doing low-intensity movement. If this is in fact the case, then to be on the safe side I'm going to add more carbs into my day to day, particular the day before/of CrossFit sessions, and see how it goes.
    Carbs generally don't "bulk" you if you work out hard. If you are really concerned look into something like Rennaisance and follow that (you eat carbs related to our workout levels and they have it down to a science and you just plug in foods and can still eat paleo approved foods). You might gain some weight, but it's water and tends to go away quickly. That plan is a template and tells you "eat X carbs, Y fat and Z protein at this time....". I followed it for about 2.5 months and lost 13 lbs and felt amazing. I did lose 5lbs off my squat pr and 10 off my deadlift, but set a new bench pr by 10 lbs (and was not focusing on strength). So I assume most of my loss was fat.

    Anyhow, I feel like they know their stuff and its a good compliment to paleo or primal eating if you want to be athletic. I felt AMAZING following their plan, and am starting back Sunday.

    I have seen men be fine doing low carb and crossfit though.

    http://maggiesfeast.wordpress.com/
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  9. #9
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    This fella does as much if not more intense stuff Keto Peter Attia | The War on Insulin | Peter Attia, M.D., explains why everything you think you know about nutrition is wrong. Eating fat does not make you fat.

    Oh, for the record I do eat low carb, but I don't do crossfit. I also go to a sushi buffet once a week. Not for a carb refeed or anythin, I just love sushi and they also have seaweed salad and some good bivalves and stuff. I recognize that although not a conscious effort this may be working as a refeed for me. Either way have at it!
    Last edited by Neckhammer; 05-28-2012 at 07:01 PM.

  10. #10
    Neckhammer,

    I actually asked Dr. Attia via the comments on his blog about this (though this was long before I started CrossFit). He said that it took him quite a while to adapt to being able to exercise hard on low carb. IIRC, a year and a half or so.

    From my standpoint - I don't understand why one would have to condition themselves to exercise hard while eating low carb. I can see a week or two, but months? Years? Doesn't seem right to me. I defer to Dr. Attia of course but for me, I'm going to try 'carbing up' to avoid hitting the wall like I've been doing repeatedly when exercising at high-intensity. This is a problem that's been holding me back for almost a year now - last Summer it was typical weightlifting (with rest between sets). So I was/am very concerned about being able to sustain a CrossFit routine. Based on Matt's experience, my concerns were warranted.

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