Are CrossFit and Primal Compatible?

Different crossfit equipment used for crossfit training at fitness clubBack when they were infants, CrossFit and paleo were the best of friends. Robb Wolf was giving CrossFit nutrition seminars. CF boxes were running paleo challenges and offering meal plans to clients. Tens of thousands of people were introduced to paleo through CrossFit and CrossFit through paleo.

Over time, however, they drifted apart. CrossFit met and fell in with the Zone Diet—a calm, well-mannered lad with impeccable balance, and paleo’s dad got a job in another city. They ended up going to different schools. These things happen. It’s fine. Both CrossFit and paleo are better versions of themselves for having met each other.

I’ve been interested in CrossFit for the better part of a decade. I’ve been to several of the Games. One of CrossFit’s best (and best-known) coaches, Kelly Starrett, was a presentee at PrimalCon Oxnard and a contributor to MDA. The infamous Grundler Brothers were early supporters of the Primal Health Coach certification program. Without CrossFit’s early endorsement, I’m not sure ancestral health would be as big and influential as it is today.

For the past year, my Primal Health Coach team and I have been working with Absolution CrossFit (of LaGrange, IL) co-owner and coach Laura Rupsis to understand what CrossFit athletes are missing in their diets and lifestyles. We’re convinced we can help them. I’m convinced we can help coaches help their clients using a Primal approach.

CrossFitters want:

To perform better. They’re interested in eating healthy food, but they don’t want their performance to suffer because of it.

To lose body fat and gain muscle. Who doesn’t? Losing body fat can improve performance in exercises where you manipulate your own body weight, but not if it means losing muscle and strength.

CrossFitters worry about:

Getting enough calories. With Paleo diets it’s notoriously hard to overeat, which is great if you’re trying to lose weight, but not so great if you’re trying to support an active training and competing schedule.

Getting enough carbs. I don’t blame your average CrossFitter for giving up on paleo. Keeping up with WODs while eating lean meat and getting your carbs from broccoli and asparagus sounds like hell. It doesn’t have to be that way on Primal, and I’ll show you how.

Burning out. CrossFit is taxing. There’s no way around that. And our real lives are busier than ever. Between kids, work, commuting, cooking, cleaning, and, hell, living, we all have a ton on our plates. Throwing one of the most intense training programs in the mix can push people to the breaking point. I’ll explain how going Primal can help prevent or mitigate burnout.

Many of the top CrossFitters have given up on paleo, opting for more flexible diets. Orthodox paleo just doesn’t work for the highest level of CrossFitters, who expend a ton of energy and eat a ton to compensate. And we can guess that this isn’t a spurious breakup. CrossFitters are students of the body and the inputs that make it run smoothly. If they’re moving on from paleo, something isn’t working.

But there’s a problem: Many of the most influential CrossFit bloggers, thinkers, and coaches are throwing the baby out with the bathwater. They assume if paleo doesn’t work, Primal doesn’t either. Researchers even released a study showing that paleo eating undermines the benefits of CrossFit training. It was just retracted for being, well, completely wrong, but it goes to show the forces arrayed against the union of CrossFit and paleo.

Although paleo and CrossFit have drifted apart, parallels remain. CrossFitters don’t fear fat, eat plenty of animals, understand the importance of plants, and love them some bacon. Even the movements prescribed by CrossFit are ancestral at their core—squatting, picking things off the ground, running, jumping, bending, reaching, climbing, hoisting, pressing things overhead, pulling—only performed at greater intensities.

Rather than merely recreate the paleolithic movement milieu, CrossFit transcends it in many ways.

CrossFit asks you to go as hard as humanly possible without breaking down, sacrificing your quality of movement, and hurting yourself, all while paying homage to your heritage as a human animal. That’s no joke, man. And they take it seriously. All the CrossFitters I know spend almost as much time warming up and doing “prehab” mobility work than they do working out. Sure, people get injured—as they do in every sport. Contrary to popular belief, CrossFit has never been shown to be more dangerous than other types of training. Recent studies show that CrossFitters experience no more shoulder injuries than other athletes, for example. If anything, CrossFitters get fewer injuries than athletes on other programs.

My point is this: CrossFit asks a lot of your body. I’m here to argue that Primal eating and living can provide the answer. There are many reasons why the Primal Blueprint, in contrast to paleo, can make CrossFitters fitter, faster, and recover better. I’ll just list a few for now:

  1. Primal is a more flexible version of paleo. It’s more malleable, allowing use of some of the most potent foods for recovery from intense training—dairy, whey protein, and dense starchy carbohydrates. Early incarnations of paleo restricted dairy, assuming universal intolerance, and cautioned against starchy plants, assuming everyone was sedentary.
  2. Primal isn’t paleo. Paleo is a great approach to diet for most people. You could do a lot worse than eating animals and plants and avoiding potentially allergenic foods. But the paleo diet people are criticizing is an archaic, narrow version that just doesn’t apply to the Primal Blueprint. As new evidence unfolds, Primal adapts. It’s the only way to stay honest in this business, even if it means dining on crow (which, by the way, is totally Primal) from time to time.
  3. Primal gets you fat-adapted. While the most intense WODs definitely burn through—and require that you replenish—a ton of glycogen, fat adaptation benefits every athlete. A fat-adapted athlete will burn more body fat at any given intensity. A fat-adapted athlete will hold on to muscle glycogen longer, saving it for later. A fat-adapted athlete has more and better mitochondria with the metabolic flexibility to burn fat, ketones, and carbs. And once you become fat-adapted and build those fat-burning mitochondria, they don’t just disappear. You can even eat more carbs, and your muscles will maintain the upregulated ability to burn fat.
  4. Primal is macronutrient-agnostic. My personal flavor of Primal is definitely higher fat and lower carb, but that’s me. That’s what works for my goals and lifestyle. For a top CrossFitter, Primal might be higher carb and lower fat. It’s really up to you and your goals.
  5. Primal is way more than diet. Heck, your average CrossFitter could maintain whatever diet they want, only follow the Primal lifestyle laws, and see huge improvements to their performance and recovery. Sleep, sun exposure, social contact, mental stimulation, circadian health, nature exposure, and other lifestyle factors all have huge impacts on not only your physical health, but also your physical performance.

The primary goals of the Primal Blueprint are to offer information about how various macronutrients, micronutrients, and other food compounds affect your health and performance, and allow—nay, force—you to chart your own course. Some say that’s a weakness, a lack of conviction. So what? Ideological conviction is exactly what we don’t need.

In the coming weeks, I’ll address the common criticisms CrossFitters make about paleo, why they don’t apply to Primal, and how going Primal can actually solve many of the most common issues CrossFitters face.

Tune in tomorrow for the first official post in this series. Thanks for stopping by today, everyone. Have questions you’d like me to take up around CrossFit (or other intensive training program) and the Primal Blueprint? Share and discuss in the comment board.

This article was co-written with Laura Rupsis, Level 1 CrossFit Certified, Primal Health Coach Certified, and owner of Absolution CrossFit in La Grange, IL.

TAGS:  mobility

About the Author

Mark Sisson is the founder of Mark’s Daily Apple, godfather to the Primal food and lifestyle movement, and the New York Times bestselling author of The Keto Reset Diet. His latest book is Keto for Life, where he discusses how he combines the keto diet with a Primal lifestyle for optimal health and longevity. Mark is the author of numerous other books as well, including The Primal Blueprint, which was credited with turbocharging the growth of the primal/paleo movement back in 2009. After spending three decades researching and educating folks on why food is the key component to achieving and maintaining optimal wellness, Mark launched Primal Kitchen, a real-food company that creates Primal/paleo, keto, and Whole30-friendly kitchen staples.

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73 thoughts on “Are CrossFit and Primal Compatible?”

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  1. I’ve never done Crossfit (or anything that intense!) but love how you pointed out the differences between Paleo and Rrimal. I look at Primal as much more of a lifestyle than just a diet. And lol to the term “macro-nutrient agnostic”! I definitely look and feel my best on a high fat/low carb template, but totally believe that some people may need more starchy veggies, etc. I look forward to this series of posts!

    1. I totally agree, Elizabeth! It wasn’t a “diet” that changed my life, it was adopting the whole lifestyle. I feel more alive, confident and radiant in my 40s than I did in my 20s.

  2. To improve your health by working with your body, not against it. Aside from general guidelines – focus on natural movement and consistent physical activity, emphasize briefer periods of high intensity work over endless cardio

  3. Yay! Thanks for expanding on this subject, very much looking forward to your thoughts and research.

    1. From my understanding, keto can be part of a primal lifestyle. At least that is the way I look at it. I follow a primal lifestyle, but I am in ketosis for much of the time.

    2. I’m interested in hearing more about keto vs. primal. Recently I’ve been considering keto but wasn’t sure if I wanted to commit to all the macro counting.

      1. Keto and Primal aren’t necessarily each at one end of a spectrum, so I don’t know what gain there is comparing the two really.

        Keto seems, from what I’ve seen, be more extremely low in carbs than the carb-cure of roughly 100–150g per day that the primal blueprint allows for.

        Both Robb Wolf (Author of the Paleo Diet and Wired to Eat) and Mark Sission dabble in keto. Depending on your lifestyle, health, activity level etc, strict keto could be either beneficial or detrimental.

        From what I’ve seen, keto and primal share the concept of regulating blood glucose levels and insulin production; so, the fuel aspect is pretty similar. However, the kinds of fuel between the two approaches differ. If you only focus on one macronutrient, carbs, as in keto, you could justify downing tons of dairy, processed fats and any other “food”, ignoring the other potential of these. Primal, on the other hand, focuses on natural, whole foods and holistic nutrition aside from regulating insulin production.

        Keto seems more specific, Primal/paleo more over-arching.

        I believe though that the two approaches are overlapping more and more. In Sweden, the LCHF (Low Carb High Fat) diet is slowly changing to becoming more similar to a paleo/primal approach.

    3. If I read you correctly, you have the impression that Mark is now advocating Ketogenic diet over Primal; right? Where in fact he is advocating (and that’s what I’ve been doing for a while) cycling between the two, as being ketogenic 24/7 should be reserved to particular medical conditions and a select few. Ketosis is very low carb (0-50 grams), while primal is anywhere from 50-100 with 150 at the extreme, depends on once metabolic health and physical activity. The main source of calories is still the percentage of fat consumed, while protein is fairly constant and it’s the carbs that very.

        1. Extreme as not eating bread anymore? 🙂 The differences are far more then not eating sweet potatoes. Fats constitute around 75% of keto diet.

  4. For the weekend warrior, Crossfit is dangerous at best. Too many CrossFit centers offer as the daily workout, routines which include Olympic style lifts.

    All Olympic lifts should be nixed as Oly lifts require hundreds of hours of training conducted by Olympic lifting coaches. Olympic lifting is a real sport that demands real training.

    About the worst exercise anyone can do is the behind-the-neck squat as it transfers the load through the spine to the hip joint and onto the knee joints and ankle joints rather than transferring the load through the muscle chain from core to quads, hams and calves. Yet, at many to most CrossFit centers, the behind-the-neck squat likely is a staple exercise.

    CrossFit is predicated on the same model as Gold’s Gym, 24 Hour Fitness, every “gym” (in truth weight-lifting club) since the 1980s. You pay a membership to access a facility, one which will have various weighted objects to lift along with the occasional bonus, like a rope to climb.

    All almost everyone who aspires to be a weekend athlete at most only needs are these: weighted bodyweight exercises, sprint intervals. And anyone with YouTube can learn how to do these. Anyone with a smartphone can get free stopwatch style apps.

    So why pay for CrossFit? Many might claim they need the discipline CrossFit offers because those running CrossFit offer up a daily exercise schedule/ class. Anyone who has discipline issues ought to work out the mind to discover why that is so.

    1. Im not a CF-er, but I am a gym rat. Some ideas of what big box gyms/CF class offer over working out out at home/neighborhood with youtube and your smart phone: 1. offer a safe place to workout, especially at night, or if the alternative would be a sparsely populated public place 2. offer a spacious, air conditioned workout, which is no joke for tiny apartment folks and those of us in Texas, who need AC 9 months out of the year 3. offer childcare
      . And let me challenge your further – what is more mature – to know you need a scheduled class to maintain discipline and accept and embrace what is needed, or to label a human need for comaraderie as weakness/lack of discipline and just do your best to get by without getting it met?
      I think its safe to say lots of people are at CF classes, big box gyms who don’t have discipline issues.

      1. You have not challenged me at all.

        Facts remain.

        The behind-the-neck squat is a dangerous exercise that is inefficient for muscle stimulation relative to other leg exercises (e.g., weighted step ups, Zerchers).

        CrossFitters come across as dopey cultists.

        Enjoy your weak-character CrossFit friends!

          1. Troll? Ha! The name is merely coincidental.

            Facts remain. CrossFitters seem to be cultists. There is zero science behind their scattered pseudo-training approach.

            And their Oly lifts put their cult members in harm’s way.

          2. OH my goodness, the “cult” of CrossFit. No, what results is a support system of people who are deeply passionate about what they are doing. There are also “cults” of cyclists and “cults” of runners. Oh, and perhaps the most dangerous of all – the yoga “cults.” Watch out for those because yoga is known to cause tons of injuries, and those people are also religiously dangerous.
            Sarcasm briefly aside, yoga used to get the bad wrap for causing injuries, and (thankfully?) CrossFit is now getting that blame. The truth is, you can hurt yourself walking across your living room (I did last month – I broke my toe). But, you can reduce your risk of injury if you are smart, honor your own body, and pay attention. (I was not paying attention, so I can speak to that). You can even do Oly lifts if you have a good trainer and you pay attention. And, no one is making you do these lifts if you are not comfortable with it. Just like no one ever made me do backbends in yoga.
            Having been a member of the yoga cult for 15 years, the cycling cult for 10, and the CrossFit cult for 2 (not all at the same time), I can tell you no one can force you to do what you are not ready to do. Only you do that. There are excellent trainers/teachers and there are terrible ones – it is up to you to know which you are dealing with.
            I can also tell you the five most “dangerous” yoga poses and why they are so deadly, too, but then I can also tell you about how dangerous it is to drive a motor vehicle. I mean, really, just about anything you do could cause injury.

          3. Guys and girls it’s not black or white; there’s a middle and many forms of training that deliver in so many ways then just raw strength. Some excel in CF, some at Calisthenics and body weight training and some find that freeletics works best for them. And then there’s GMB which I was recently introduced to via MDA, where strength is just part of the equation; the others two being agility and body control. Just like there are Olympians that excel at sprinting and others at long distance.

          4. Yes, there are cultists everywhere. Crossfit is a prime example of one.

            What you claim to be sarcasm is merely you lashing out in expression of immaturity.

            Good luck!

        1. I’m 56 and enjoy CF and most of the people I know in the gym are about the same age. It’s fun, I haven’t been injured and am stronger biking, hiking and paddling because of the weightlifting in CF. I think I have a much greater chance of injury riding my bike on PCH these days. I assume behind the neck squat = back squat; it’s very effective for strengthening your posterior musculature; just do it correctly. Crossfit is not populated with dumb cultists blindly following their trainer. You enjoy your sprints and push-ups, and I enjoy what I do.

          1. Behind the neck squat is resting a laden bar on the Images of cervical vertabrae. The load transfers through spine and into the lower joints the through the movement.

            Contrast such a poor, inefficient exercise with the Zercher, which transfers the load from the abs into the glutes, hams and quads.

            You simply do not know what you’re talking about Kristin.

            At 56, good luck wasting valuable training time. You don’t have that many years left.

          2. Zercher squats and back squats are different movements and can both be safely performed. Don’t worry I won’t waste my little precious time “resting a laden bar on the Images of the cervical vertebrae”.

          3. Keep telling yourself these things Kristin.

            Enjoy your CrossFit cult.


          4. If that is what you think a low or high bar squat is then you are doing it wrong. You never rest the bar on your vertebrae. The bar rest on your rear delts and traps depending on position. You have a very bad idea of a high bar squat of stupidly putting the bar on that bone behind your neck. You do not put the bar on your vertebrae. Done right the squat is the best exercise you can do. In a properly done squat at proper depth, the weight rests on your shoulders loads on your quads and uses your glutes and hamstrings. The core is solid keeping the spine neutral that means engaging your abs and keeping your chest up.

            What you describe is an improperly set up squat with bad form which is very dangerous. It also probably involves a quarter squat to add more weight. Going parallel or slightly below efficiently loads the hamstrings and glutes not the knees like a quarter squat does.

          5. You proved my point.

            Most are incapable of holding a laden bar away from their neck. Even if you rest on your delts or traps, you’re resting on your spine.

          6. Totally agree – I’ve done my fair share of weighted squats (non cross fit – weightlifting style), and I have never rested the bar on a vertebrae – it rests across my shoulders – in fact I would find it impossible due to the sheer gargantuan size of my shoulders and traps that are constructed of rock hard steel.

          1. And you should get your effeminate tendencies under control.

            Good luck!

    2. I started CrossFit in my 40s as a woman who was an avid cardio bunny. A solo runner and workout from home kind of Mom. I was hooked on many things once I stared CrossFit. Feeling stronger, the commraderie of the community, always having a new goal to shoot for that I can share with others who care. I still workout from home but there are days when I just want to be around my fellow CrossFitters. It doesn’t mean I’m not motivated or undisciplined. My coaches are talented and committed to safety and progression. No weighted behind the neck squat or “back squat” until after you’ve earned it and after you can do a proper unweighted squat with proper mechanics. The weighted squat is also used with many different types of equipment and not always racked across your back.

      CrossFit is growing. It’s not going away. Most gyms I know and have been to during travel are all aware that there is a wrong way to program crossfit. As a matter of fact, my gym no longer allows people to only come on weekends except under specific circumstances and on a case by case basis.

      If you don’t see the value then there is no need to pay for a crossfit gym membership. Crossfit HQ posts are their workouts online for free. It all depended on which environment and experience each individual is looking for.

      1. I am in the personal training business and have gone to Crossfit. It is all about the coaches. Good, safe coaches, good safe workouts. Every instructor of any group workout needs to provide safe workouts with modifications for new members and advanced members. Unfortunately, everyone, even those who are very aware of their own bodies, can get injuries.

    3. Yes, A funny story about that – I was out doing pistol squats once, and a cross fitter came up and said “great form, who taught you how to do that”, I just said “books and youtube”.

  5. I did Crossfit for over two years as an older person (late 50’s) and ended up with two permanent injuries, arm (from Death by Pull Ups WOD), and lower back (from Death by Deadlifts WOD). In my demographic I don’t know of anyone who avoided serious injury. Of course trainers always blamed the customer for their injury. Funny how the owner told me to come in more often, and the trainer told me to back off and not do too much. Completely Nuts..

    1. I’m in your demographic. I did Crossift for a couple of years 3x a week, and sustained no injuries. It was great for me, and taught me that physically, I can do more than I think I can. I was outdoing many of the 20 somethings! To this day when I get home from work, I grab my Rx Jump rope and knock out a hundred or so, then make sure I can still lift 100lbs over my hear 5 times, then do squats with that same weight. And now, I’m starting to miss those kettlebells… It worked for me.

      1. Not knocking working out. I love a good workout. But not one that’s fing nuts, like multiple heavy Olympic lifts for speed for 25 minutes, mixed in with other fun and games.

        But like they say, it’s “elite fitness”. If you are not elite then Crossfit is VERY likely to injure you, maybe permanently.

        There are better options. Watch Ted Naiman’s video on exercise, for example.

        1. I tried it in my early 40’s for 6 months. I found it to be inefficient and I was injured often (heavy kettlebell “American Style” swings for a ridiculous number of reps/rounds). For most people who aren’t slackers, if you put a timer on the workout and keep score, they are going to give it more than their all…unfortunately…but the last straw for me was when I realized after 6 months that no one was really getting better except at insignificant (to me) “Fran” times, etc.

    2. There are many more of you than CrossFit cult nutter would care to acknowledge.

      CrossFit is an effort to brand something that anyone can do down in his garage or backyard coupled with some bootcamp style psychological tactics.

      CrossFit is really a cult that appeals to dummies and easily sucks them into it. No self-respecting individual would ever champion CrossFit who lacks an investment position in what appears to be an exercise cult.

      1. Is this like a Napster type thing? Did you actually create CrossFit and now you’re angry bc someone stole it from you? Lol you got anger issues bro Montana

        1. I think he might be psychologically increasing CrossFit’s reach, I am sure there is a very high % of people who are thinking “lets check this out” just because of the pure passion he has for hating on it. Maybe he works for CrossFit marketing? lol

          The simple truth’s of CrossFit:

          -Its brought so many good things to the masses, its hard to deny it. Sure CrossFit existed in some trainers arsenal before it was formed, and thus is not “new” to everyone – but CrossFit brought it to everyone.
          -It isn’t perfect.

          You can get hurt doing CrossFit, but I know people who have messed up their bodies walking, hiking, or even bending over wrong to pick up a pen. Where are the anti-walking/hiking/bending over people??? They don’t really exist because it would be stupid to tell people to never walk again its too dangerous. But truth be told and there are no 100% fail safe injury free workouts, even with the best coaches in the world watching and programming for you. You could have an entire fleet of coaches, but accidents/mistakes happen – don’t believe me? Look at professional athletes, they are not immune to injury and they have complete staffs of professionals to keep them healthy.

          Any workout you actually “try” to improve at can cause injury, sometimes its poor nutrition, lack of rest/recovery, or maybe just dumb luck among many other reasons. There is a lot of self awareness that needs to be involved when pushing your body, sometimes its not knowable beforehand and injury’s happen, but often your body is telling you things you just aren’t listening.

          My experience with CrossFit is that it is great for shutting down the couch potato way of thinking and for letting you know how powerful, strong, agile, capable, and enduring our bodies are in comparison to where we thought they were. It is however not so great for reigning you in from the edge. But to me that is OK, there is some personal responsibility involved there that cannot be denied. Also with the “dangerous lifts” ALL lifts are dangerous and in case nobody noticed – our physiology is also very different from person to person. The path the bar takes for you, might not be EXACTLY like me because our angles our body works in may not be the same. For the technical lifts, your a fool to try to Rx a WOD with them, but really the same can be said about any movement. It is always best to start low and work up over time than jump into what you think you can do immediately. And also there is no shame in scaling, or even scaling mid WOD if you find yourself not able to keep your form. It is usually our ego that breaks us, not the programming.

  6. The main difference is that primal man would have listened to his body. They would have slowed down when fatigued and rested when sore (the whole “purpose” of those mechanisms). Serious crossfitters often ignore the signs which is when injury occurs.

    1. I agree but primal man did not have all the supplements, nutrients, macros, recovery techniques, and the like at their fingertips either – they had to subsist on whatever they had and likely didn’t have a choice to stop at times to “listen to their body” or risk death. And while we might think they had life easier in the daily stress department which makes recovery and overall health better, the reality is they had constant stressors too, its just they were just more critical for survival than the ones we have today (even though we make simple things into seemingly critical issues).

      Because of this, it is likely we can push a bit harder and for longer, and use all the modern knowledge to recover from it. It is similar to strength, I am sure there were extremely strong primal humans – but unless they had a boulder lifting regime or something where they consistently pushed themselves towards their genetic potential, they likely didn’t achieve the levels that can be seen today.

      i am not advocating that you blast your body every day, I do believe there are recovery periods that need to be included in any workout regime, but I don’t think CrossFit should be singled out in this subject either. I know many powerlifters that push until something breaks, many marathoners that push till something gives, pretty much any activity with intensity or repetition is subject to this need.

  7. “CrossFit asks you to go as hard as humanly possible without breaking down, sacrificing your quality of movement” – look, while that might be the CF goal, I can’t tell you how many burpees I’ve seen at the gym with flailing elbows and swaying backs!!!!

  8. Have been waiting for a series like this. The guy who sent me to Mark’s works is a crossfitter. I love what Primal has done for me, but am always looking around for a compatible ‘exercise style’

  9. Perfect timing. Thank you for doing this and NOT bashing CrossFit in the process. The best way to help people is to not trash their method of training. In 2010 I found Primal. Then Paleo. Then CrossFit. LOVE all three. Last year noticed needing to recover better and tried Macros. Which lead to if it fits your macros. Didn’t last long with that. Back to trying to find the perfect balance between nutrition and performance through Whole Foods. Looking forward to your posts. Please let me know if there is somewhere to go research or get answers faster regarding a good starting point for proteins, fats and carbs through Primal.

  10. I love your common sense approach to life! I have delved into many different ways of eating and exercise and always come back to you and Dr. Maffetone. I too, do better on a lower carb/higher fat diet but also realize that it is too stressful to continuously count macros. I love love love your philosophy! Keep up the great work!

  11. I’m a 43-year-old male. I started CrossFit 1.5 years ago. Initially my goals were to lose weight and “get back in shape.” As such I went hard core paleo. Eating a single sweet potato was a massive treat back then! It worked. I lost weight and felt better than I had in years. But, as my CrossFitting intensified I quickly learned I personally needed more carbs. So I re-introduced white potatoes and then, eventually, white rice. I now eat white rice for lunch every day along with a bag of organic veggies, chicken, and some hot sauce. My morning smoothie is also the same every day – raw milk from local farm, grass fed whey protein, 1 frozen banana, creatine, and glutamine. I say all of this since I think I’m far closer to what Mark would call “Primal” than I am Paleo. I can also say it’s working. I’m in the best shape of my life… and I even did the famous Murph workout this past Memorial day doing STRICT pull-ups and a 5# vest (next year I will go for the 20# vest). Had you told me I would be able to do Murph a few years ago I’d have laughed in your face.

    1. But be honest…did you join Crossfit to do the “Murphy” or “Fran” or to maximize your deadlift reps, etc.? No one does. That’s why it’s inefficient and for many, dangerous. And honestly, I never met anyone who did it and went from fat to ripped (or even not fat…and I’m not talking about losing 20lbs but still needing to lose another 20+). They just kinda stayed the way they were physically….but boy did their “Fran” time increase! woohoo! lol

  12. Looking forward to this discussion. Been doing Primal Paleo for two months. Feel and look better than I ever have, but I’d love to get some kind of weight routine to do at home. Been doing things on my own but would appreciate guidance in this regard, Thanks!

  13. Often times I think the BIGGEST issue with Crossfitters using Primal is that they tend to restrict too much. The flexibility of primal, as pointed out, allows one to eat more food, provided they can “handle” it and eat unlimited quantities. While a lot of the Crossfit community focuses on starches/carbohydrates, there are studies that show overall calories are more important to avoiding certain metabolic issues related to under-eating and over training.

  14. Living primal is a lifestyle with a minimalist approach. It involves settling for what you “need” in life as opposed to “wanting” everything that is convenient. To often we want to be comfortable because it feels good or tastes good at the moment. But the comfort could be death by a thousand cuts such as over consuming gluten, dairy, sugar…..

    Develop a more rugged individualist approach to life:

    hang the laundry on a clothes line instead of using the dryer
    occasionally walk or ride your bicycle to the store instead of driving 3 blocks
    turn off the air conditioner or heat and rough it occasionally
    go for a hike through the woods
    rent a canoe and paddle for an hour
    chop some wood
    do a fast 1 day/month
    unplug occasionally( no electronics)

    It is very possible to be happy without having all the comforts of the 21st century!

  15. I love this blog and believe virtually everything talked about. However, I do not believe the traditional way of Crossfitting is healthy. It’s too frequently intense and incorporating movements ( power cleans, etc) that are designed for neurological technique and power improvement, not muscular endurance nor creating fatigue in the sense of (wanting to pass out or absolute form compromise) just get it done. As humans who perform these challenges, we innately turn on our primitive genes to compete and win any way we can – we don’t give up until we finish, ‘pass out’ or acquire some form of injury. Now I’m not saying what is learned through Cross Fit isn’t valuable, it’s the manner of which the movements (exercises) are implemented.

  16. Try not to get too Cross when you’re working on getting Fit. 😉

  17. I’m 51 and have been following the primal blueprint for five years. I have also been a regular at Crossfit gyms and try to get in 3-5 WODs a week. I’ve lost 20 lbs on the scale but more importantly I’ve gained muscle, flexibility and durability. From my perspective Primal is the perfect pairing with Crossfit for everyone but the most hardcore Crossfit competitors.

    In response to the Crossfit criticism I feel I have seen a fairly wide cross section of Crossfit boxes. I travel for work and have probably been to thirty different Crossfit affiliates in the US, S.America and Europe. While the quality of instruction may vary from box to box, I have never seen unsafe lifts or poor technique encouraged. Fatigue is certainly not kind to form but I’ve never seen any dangerous breach tolerated much less encouraged. Unlike the Crossfit videos online which feature professional Crossfit athletes the average class at an affiliate box is full of individuals of various skills and the workouts are scaled to ability.

    Crossfit is almost oxymoronic as it is a self selecting association of rugged individuals. The ethos is very much individualistic and although the gyms use the Crossfit name and training methodologies the entrepreneurs at any box can run their business as they see fit. Each box is different and reflects the personality of the membership as much as the owner. Also the Crossfit brand does not issue territory so if you don’t like the way your box is run there is nothing stopping you from opening one across the street or next door. Diet or nutrient advice is as varied as the personalities in the box. The core tenants of Primal are widely accepted and encouraged by most and tweaked from there. For guys like me in the early part of my sixth decade Primal is ideal. Crossfit combined with long hikes, occasional swims and weekend bike rides fits perfectly into the Primal way of life. I tend towards the higher fat and lower carb with asparagus, broccoli and sweet potatoes as my treat. A 28 year old crossfit athlete with a desire to compete at a higher level will eat more cards but most will rigorously avoid processed foodles, simple sugars and most grains.

    The view that Crossfit is a cult where participants blindly follow either the physical training regime or dietary advice couldn’t be further from my experience. In my experience Crossfit and Primal are natural bedfellows precisely because they both encourage natural experimentation within a very wide set of natural principals based on a long term lifestyle focused on overall health.

  18. Chronic cardio anyone? Crossfit would be great if it didn’t require pushing as hard as you can possibly go for 10-15 minutes before being allowed to catch your breath. Major recipe for excess cortisol, which for some types will lead to weight gain or difficulty losing fat. This type of glycogen demand will also make many people eat like crazy a few hours later. There’s a reason why many female crossfitters aren’t very lean, considering how insanely hard they work out and watch their diet. I feel like this philosophy of burnout does a real disservice to people’s health goals, especially those who have a type A personality and are willing to work really hard if they are made to believe that it’s a good idea. I’ve read Mark’s books and cannot see how Crossfit is compatible with his philosophy at all. With much shorter intervals (determined by the individual, not the stop watch), Crossfit could be a great option. It’s too bad.

    1. +1 for a logical approach. I’ve never done Crossfit and don’t plan to. It’s too extreme for the average person. You’re right; it could be a great option if a little common sense is employed. Personally, I’ve never understood the need to push the body that hard, or the reasoning behind it.

    2. This! If Mark says Crossfit is anything BUT chronic cardio, he’s a hypocrite. Because just because they incorporate weightlifting into the WOD, the fact that it is almost always “AMRAP” or for time, etc. by its very nature means it will be a mostly cardio-focused workout. It is chronic cardio if you do it more than once a week (or twice, if super fit).

      1. I agree, so much cardio! Hard to recover, and hard to understand how 3 on, 1 off aligns with the Primal Blueprint.

    3. Yes, I tried Cross fit, and if it doesn’t fit the definition of chronic cardio then I don’t know what does. The original Primal blueprint called for a WOW, performed once per week,15-20 minutes of high intensity,but no more regular than that.

  19. This is literally exactly what I’m looking for. I know you are probably going to be talking about the average crossfitter but what about the “Rich Fronings” of the world. What would a diet look like for them to support such a physically demanding lifestyle?

    1. Their diet is that of most professional athletes (high carb, low fat). And their training is that of a professional athlete (i.e., not Crossfit WODs). Keep in mind Froning had never done crossfit before he entered his first games. He would have won the whole thing had he practiced climbing a rope. The skill test got him in the end.

  20. I did a free Crossfit workout at a local box just to see what it was like and it kicked my butt! The brutal and punishing nature of this style of training definitely lends itself to higher carb intake since it’s highly glycolitic. This could easily be accomplished while adhering to primal friendly sources of carbohydrates like starchy tubers and some fruit.

  21. Appreciate the work. Great work.
    Could it be a good idea to put it in tabular form for quick visuals?
    Really, many thanks.

  22. I take exception to…”sacrificing your quality movement and hurting yourself”… 61 year young discovered Crossfit 4 1/2 years ago. Form first is what I’ve been taught and try to practice. Strength, endurance, power come from technique not sacrificing body parts (injury) to lift more or move quicker. Intense, heck yes. More mental than physical. Know your limits, listen to your body.
    And thank goodness for Crossfit, for a guy at the box turned me on to MDA. Great stuff. Articles prompt thought. Recipes prompt yum! Move, learn, try new stuff. Balance grasshopper.

  23. Ketogenic diet helps in improving the overall body’s strength, power and hormonal profiles in males who prefer resistance training.

    Great Article, loved to read.