We may use different words but one of the most common reasons why we work out and make positive health changes, whether you admit it or not, is that we want to look good physically.
There’s no shame in wanting a six-pack, a beach body, losing the love handles and looking great naked. It might seem like just vanity but aside from the aesthetic benefits, you also stand to gain:
- Performance benefits at work, sports and any physical activity that you engage in.
- An elevated mental state that includes confidence, a sense of accomplishment, sense of control, self-control, happiness and better sense of well being.
- Physically-fit people are seen as more presentable, disciplined, credible and trustworthy and are granted more opportunities than an unfit individual.
Here are popular CrossFit nutrition plans:
- The Paleo Diet
- The Primal Blueprint
- The Zone Diet
- Intermittent Fasting
- Ketogenic Diet
- Slow Carb Diet
- Good habits to implement
The Paleo Diet
Our ancestors didn’t have access to sugary drinks, processed food and grains. Paleolithic humans are fitter, stronger and have more energy than the average modern human.
Some would argue that ancient humans lived short violent lives. They only did so because they were exposed to harsh conditions, elements, war, predators and had no access to modern medicine.
Along with CrossFit, a Paleo meal plan can enable you to have both the benefits of the vitality of the primitive human and the technological advantage of the modern man.
Pros of Paleo
- Paleo is a healthy and natural way of eating
- More efficient workouts
- Stable blood sugar
- Less stored fat in the body
- Balanced energy throughout the day
- Clear skin
Cons of Paleo
- Paleo can be expensive. Grass-fed beef and butter costs more than mass produced meat.
- Avoiding grains and dairy temporarily affects your energy levels at the early stages as some people experience widrawal.
- Paleo requires a lot of prep work as you are likely going to have to make most of the meals yourself.
- Paleo requires some skill and/or learning curve in food preparation and handling as poor handling i.e. undercooked meats tend to possess various health risks.
Is Paleo beginner friendly or only for the serious athlete?
The Paleo diet is relatively easy to follow if you are already eating healthy. If you have previously eaten mostly fast food and processed meals, you’ll find the Paleo diet moderately difficult to follow.
If that’s the case, we recommend that you start with easier diets.
The Mediterranean diet follows similar rules to Paleo because it encourages the consumption of healthy fats, fruits and vegetables from natural sources and recommends avoiding fast food and processed food.
The difference is Mediterranean diet it allows dairy, whole grains and legumes in moderation. The Mediterranean diet is how a normal person would imagine healthy diet and can be a good start as you transition into Paleo.
The Primal Blueprint
The primal blueprint is created by athlete Mark Siddon in 2009 based on the way our ancient ancestors lived.
The primal blueprint is very similar to the Paleo diet save for a few distinct differences.
Here are the 9 Rules of the Primal Blueprint
- Eat real food.
- Avoid sugar, grains, unhealthy fats, beans/legumes.
- Align your carb intake with your weight goals and activity levels.
- Move frequently at a slow pace. Get between 2–5 hours per week of moderate aeorobic exercise.
- Lift heavy things. Conduct 1–3 brief intense sessions of full body functional movements.
- Sprint. Go “all out” once a week.
- Get 8 hours of sleep at night.
- Get 15 minutes of direct sun exposure each day.
- Play. Find time to let go, disconnect, unwind and have fun each day.
Mark packages the primal blueprint as a lifestyle rather than just a diet.
About the Primal Blueprint
The primal blueprint appears to allow more breathing space for new adapters.
- You’re free To eat as much as you want as long as you eat natural foods like meat and vegetables (of various colors) while avoiding carbohydrates from sugar, grains and legumes.
- There’s no calorie counting but should you choose to include fruits that have sugar you’ll need to take not that 100 grams of carbs are acceptable and 150 grams of carbs should be the maximum amount per day.
- Unlike the Paleo diet you are not restricted to lean meats. You are free to eat fattier cuts of meat. In fact, it is recommended to have a generous servings of fatty meat for dinner.
- Nuts (macadamia, walnuts, almonds, Brazil nuts not peanuts), seeds (sunflower), nut flour and nut butter are sources of healthy fat and snacks.
- Healthy oils include palm oil, coconut oil and various nut oil.
- Use natural herbs and spices to make your meals tasty.
- Dark chocolate is allowed in small amounts but make sure it’s the higher percent dark chocolate variant.
- Limit caffeine intake but tea is acceptable. White is best, green is good, oolong and black tea are okay.
- The Primal blueprint acknowledges that the consumption of some processed foods are unavoidable. Instead of leaving strict compliance at the mercy of a person’s willpower, the primal blueprint allows some instant food for convenience in small to moderate amounts. Examples include jerky, dried fruits, some cheese, canned vegetables and tomato paste.
- The Primal blueprint is also sometimes paired with intermittent fasting.
Here are some food that’s allowed in Paleo that’s not allowed at the Primal Blueprint:
- Canola oil.
- Artificial sweeteners.
Pros of the Primal Blueprint
- Simple and easy to follow.
- No measuring.
- All you need to do is to periodically look at the list of allowed food and the list of food to avoid.
Cons Of the Primal Blueprint
- Similar to Paleo, natural, grass-fed meat and organic vegetables can be expensive or inconvenient to access.
- The Primal blueprint also has the same cons of the Paleo diet.
Beginner Friendly or Pro Athlete
The Primal Blueprint appears to have a wider selection of allowed food.
Fatty cuts of meat are also tastier. This adds points to overall happiness and compliance which is important for beginners.
Following the diet also appears simpler and the explanation on Mark’s website is fun to read and beginner friendly.
Paleo appears to be “too serious” for people who are making healthy eating habits for the first time. The primal blueprint is beginner friendly.
The Zone Diet
The Zone Diet is a high-fat, low carbohydrate diet devised by biochemist Barry Sears. The Zone Diet is also closely followed by several CrossFit athletes.
Here’s what you need to know about the Zone Diet
- Eat five times a day (three meals and two snacks) so you feel satisfied and avoid overeating.
- Eat every five hours.
- Follow a specific macronutrient (carbohydrate – protein – fats) ratio 30–40–30 for your food intake.
- You can use your fist to measure the ratio. A fist full of vegetables for your carbohydrate source, a meat the size of your palm.
What to eat
- Favorable carbs: This means, the selection of nutrient dense carbohydrate sources that are usually also high in fiber. Examples include green vegetables, Etc whole grains.
- Low glycemic index food. This enables you to avoid spikes in your insulin release.
The Pros of the Zone Diet
- The Zone Diet has a wide range of eating options and few food restrictions. You only need to remember to limit or avoid high glycemic index food.
- Following the basic principles of this diet is simple to an extent.
The Cons of the Zone Diet
- There’s a lot of food measurement involved if you want to strictly follow the zone diet.
- Following this diet to the letter is complex and requires a significant amount of research, reading, computations and planning.
Is the Zone Diet Beginner Friendly or only for the Pro Athlete?
If you want to follow the zone diet casually, it’s simple to implement at the beginning. You can use your fist to estimate or you can use the plate to approximate by putting about a third of each (protein, carbohydrates and fat) on your plate.
You can copy meal plans from several websites, there’s charts, apps and calculators that you can use for free.
You’ll also need to do a lot of research so you can understand.
If you want to follow this diet to the letter, you’ll need to go deeper and make a lot of calculations until you know what you want and how much you can eat.
Fasting has several time tested benefits.
What happens when you fast
- Insulin levels drop significantly along with insulin the resistance and facilitates fat burning.
- Human growth hormone increase exponentially which also assists in muscle gain and fat burning.
- Removal of waste materials from the body and cellular repair.
- You eat fewer meals and take in fewer calories.
- Reduction of oxidative stress and inflammation.
Pros of Intermittent Fasting
- Intermittent fasting thrives on simplicity. No meal change required. We still recommend you eat healthy though.
- You can pair intermittent fasting with whatever other diet you decide to implement.
- Intermittent fasting is safe. In fact, fasting is a common religious practice for thousands of years.
- Intermittent fasting requires a good amount of discipline.
- You’ll eventually skip breakfast or dinner.
Beginner Friendly or Pro Athlete?
Intermittent fasting is already common practice among pro athletes.
Although intermittent fasting, can be intimidating, it is actually one of the simplest changes to implement.
Do you ever remember skipping breakfast? You won’t have to at the beginning.
You can simply, move breakfast an hour later and dinner (your final meal) thirty minutes to an hour earlier. Over time move it by 15–30 minutes to create a smaller eating window for yourself. Eventually, you’ll have a four to six hour window.
Some prefer to have their eating window at the start of the day and some close to the end. If dinner is a social activity for you then move your eating window closer to the end of your day.
The Ketogenic Diet is a way to replicate the benefits of fasting without actually fasting by limiting (or eliminating) the consumption of carbohydrates and sugar.
Follow this ratio
- 75–80% fat
- 20–25% Protein
- 5% carbs (preferably from green leafy vegetables)
Sample Grocery List
- Chicken Thighs
- Kale or any leafy green vegetables.
- Heavy Cream
- Coconut oil or MCT oil.
- The Ketogenic Diet is safe and effective and has been used as a treatment for epilepsy for decades.
- You get to eat as much butter, bacon and cheese as you want. You can practically consume as much fat as you want until you’re satisfied. Eating fat can make you feel full.
- Ketogenic diet can require a lot of discipline and willpower.
- No fruit, no sweets.
- In order to maximize the effects of the Ketogenic Diet, cheat days are discouraged.
- At the beginning you can get constipated or experience diarrhea.
- Despite not having restrictions on the volume of food, over time, you’ll eat less with the Ketogenic diet. Your breakfast is likely bulletproof coffee (coffee mixed with butter and coconut oil) and later in the day you’ll have eggs, some vegetables and some meat. Over time it can get boring.
Beginner Friendly or Pro Athlete
The Ketogenic Diet is beginner friendly, half the time. It requires a lot of willpower and lifestyle adjustments. If it’s your first time making dietary changes, we recommend reducing you carbohydrate intake to a significantly low amount and eating more healthy fats and eventually going full keto.
You may also use supplements that aids ketosis.
Slow Carb Diet
You can see elements of Paleo, Primal, Zone and Ketogenic Diets. Sometimes it’s referred as a modified Atkins diet.
According to Tim the Slow Carb Diet is based on the minimum effective dose of the best eating practices to lose weight. Strict dietary rules that caused the most frustration and identified as points of failure had been identified, modified and/or eliminated in order to ensure compliance.
- No white carbohydrate sources along with their non white variants. No rice, corn, potatoes, pasta, corn etc.
- Eat the same meals every day until you’re full. More simplicity less variety. Here’s a quick list of allowed food. Allowed food include protein (meat, poultry and fish) green leafy vegetables, beans and lentils (cooked or canned).
- No liquid calories. To avoid sugar. Milk is not allowed. Unsweetened coffee and tea is allowed.
- No fruits. Again, to avoid sugar.
- Have a cheat day once a week and go crazy. If you can, limit to 12 hours.
- Follows the best practice of all the diets 70% of all the rules.
- Not as restrictive.
- Easier, simpler and has less failure points.
- The results are 20–40% slower than the other options.
Good habits to implement
Whether you decide to follow one or some of the rules of each of the CrossFit nutritional plans, here are a few key tips to improve your eating habits.
- A diet is not restriction, it’s a healthy way of eating.
- Many of our current poor eating habits are a result of conditioning and years and years of marketing. You always have the option to opt out of it.
- Start with a few changes and gradually omit unhealthy foods from your diet by replacing it with healthy foods.
- Avoid sugar. Fat is not the enemy, sugar is.
- Don’t depend on processed food.
- Whenever possible, eat natural food or whole food.
- Don’t try to do it all at once.
Paleo is a natural way of eating based on imitating the natural eating selection and habits of early humans who had no access to processed food.
Primal is a variant of Paleo that allows fatty meats and 100 to 150 GSM of carbs.
The Zone Diet implements a balanced mix of protein, healthy carbs and healthy fats.
Intermittent fasting enables you to use your body fat instead of food intake as an energy source for a period of time. By pushing your first meal to later in the day, you can reduce your eating window.
Ketogenic Diet enables you to experience the benefits of fasting without actually fasting by eating a high fat and light to moderate protein intake and close to zero carbohydrates.
The Slow Carb Diet is a combination of the best practices from all the CrossFit nutrition plans that we presented but bypassed the most difficult rules that causes the most frustration, or failure points that led to quitting.
Let us know what diet you are implementing in the comments below!