Paleo + CrossFit: It might save your life.

66 Comments

Check out the email I received from Hans:

Robb-
I have had loads of clients lives changed from Paleo eating and CrossFit.  Much of it do to your site and work.  I have been stoked to get to see lives changed for real.  As for me personally, when I adopted paleo (Oct 2008 after your cert at GSX) in place of decent success from the zone, and I too was pleased.  Much leaner, much stronger, performance took huge leaps after being flat lined for some time.  I noticed sleep quality increased and common allergies went away.  This was cool no doubt.
However in April of this year I contracted the very rare Group A Streptococcus blood infection leading to streptococcal toxic shock syndrome.  This is the same shiz Oprah did her big “Super Bugs” episode on. (this actually aired while I was in the hospital leading to a near breakdown by my wife and family)  The first double hand transplant recipient lost both hands from this nasty stuff.
Long story short I was moments from being placed on a ventilator due to my lungs shutting down from the infection.  My liver was nearly non-functioning and my kidney’s were enlarging.  I was under the care of numerous specialists who collectively told my wife I most likely wouldn’t pull through.  She was preparing to tell my 8 and 6 year old boys daddy isn’t going to be around anymore when I made a turn for the positive.  After 3 day’s in ICU and a week in the hospital I was released to go home.  My infectious disease specialist visited me before I left.  He asked my about the foods I ate.  I explained the paleo deal and asked him “why do you ask?”  He said, “because I have no doubt this saved your life.  I have seen very fit, healthy people die from this stuff (10,000 people a year get this bugger and over a 1/3 die) and you are the first patient that didn’t need insulin during your stay in the hospital. (I’m unsure of the significance of this, but he explained when under serious infections most people are given insulin…)  Then he said while I was in a delirious state in ICU I must of heard him talking about administering insulin to which I argued “I don’t need insulin!  I eat in a way to control insulin sensitivity.  It’s why I don’t eat any freaking grains”  My wife was shaking her head thinking “even while he’s dieing he’s telling people to cut the grains.  he is crazy!”  What can I say, I believe it!
My pulmonary specialist was the next to visit.  He asked if I exercised.  I then told him about CrossFit and my recent love with oly lifting.  He said, “it’s a miracle you don’t have any permanent damage to your lungs.  The capacity and strength of them is quite impressive and your fitness is the reason you survived this.”  He said once you recover get back to it!  He actually may drop in our box and try CrossFit out for himself…
So I entered the ER at 203#’s and 8% body fat.  No weighing or measuring.  The few weeks before had PR’d C&J, Fran, Mile time trial, and max height box jumps.  I left at 178#’s a non functioning right shoulder (still rehabbing and getting functionality back) and a bit of pneumonia.  Now I am not complaining about the shoulder, since I have ALL my limbs and digits still!
From all my medical folks, I was lucky to be alive.
From myself and my wife and kids THANK YOU FOR WHAT YOU ARE DOING!
-Hans

One of the most interesting things about this is the profoundly improved insulin/blood glucose control Hans displayed while sick. LPS (lipopolysachride) is shed by bacteria and it seriously arouses the immune system. Sometimes to such a degree that the subsequent cascades of cytokines end of killing the individual. All of this represents a form of inflammation that has gone wildly out of control. If we have attenuated our basal inflammation by controlling insulin levels, reducing gut irritation, and keeping our n-3/n-6 fats in balance we are not only protecting ourselves from chronic disease but also acute illness such as bacterial infection and I’d wager things like the H1N1 flu strains. Rip appears to be spot on:

“Strong people are harder to kill than weak people, and more useful in general”.

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  1. BullFrog
    October 23, 2009 at 4:53 pm

    Amen to that.

  2. Chuck O
    October 23, 2009 at 5:11 pm

    Good stuff as always Robb, i’ve been tossing the ideas about getting the H1N1 vac, just kind of makes you think about CF and eating paleo can keep a guy out of a coffin. “Train for the unknown” as they say.
    …Now back to Lurking….

  3. Roelant
    October 23, 2009 at 7:09 pm

    Wow….been doing a Paleo on ramp of sorts, at first moderating and then cutting out slowly but surely all the grain products I’ve been eating. I’m down to drinking 1L of milk a week (organic, whole) where it used to be 4 (I was a shake monster, too). This only encourages my efforts. Cut out bread completely.

    Is it normal though to feel dead tired after cutting grains out though? must be an insulin response…

    • robbwolf
      October 26, 2009 at 1:37 pm

      Roelant-
      Read the post on the zone and exercise performance.

  4. JD
    October 23, 2009 at 7:36 pm

    WOW!

    I’m starting to think maybe this ‘Paleo’ thing actually works…;-)

    Keep ‘em coming Robb!

    JD

  5. kathleen
    October 23, 2009 at 7:50 pm

    Great story! I work in an ICU and have seen the “normal” course of this ‘superbug’. Glad to hear someone was able to make it through relatively unscathed :)

  6. Danielle
    October 23, 2009 at 8:50 pm

    The more I read here the more I am dying to see all you have to say in YOUR BOOK!!! Robb, you are one of the most exciting and thought-provoking fitness and nutrition experts I have come across in a long time. Let’s get you published!!!

    • robbwolf
      October 26, 2009 at 1:36 pm

      Danielle!
      Are you conspiring with my wife!!?? I’m hammering on the book. it will be sooo good once it’s done.

  7. Jon Gilson
    October 23, 2009 at 10:27 pm

    Hans, that is f-ing fantastic. I’m speechless. Way to live.

    Best,

    Jon

  8. Angela
    October 24, 2009 at 1:06 am

    This is an amazing story, thanks for sharing it with us. Hans, I am so glad you are okay, I hope your recovery is speedy.
    This story has really renewed my commitment to this lifestyle.

  9. Dave Wells
    October 24, 2009 at 1:07 am

    I am very impressed with you and am signing up for your nutrition seminar towards the end of January. This post will appear (with a link to your sight) on my web site to encourage my folks to continue to move towards better eating.

  10. Welbourn
    October 24, 2009 at 6:25 am

    Robb – When you forwarded this to me today I realized a few things are true about training and diet. They are not merely just things we do to keep ourselves in shape and keep our bodies running…they have a much deeper meaning. The things we do to feed and take care of our bodies are so far ingrained in our DNA, spanning millions of years and hundreds of thousands of generations. And by paying attention to our genetic coding we are able to protect, and in this case, save ourselves from the body turning on itself and the predatory elements in the world. This is amazing stuff and I would say if all this research and information can make the difference in one person’s life then it has been worth it. We will get Hans some Paleo Brands gear asap, he represents the best part of what we are trying to do.

  11. Jason
    October 24, 2009 at 6:11 pm

    Great post! Robb could you please post more about getting kids to eat Paleo please. Maybe recipes, hints, goods ideas from parents who have had success.

    Btw, I heart robbwolf.com.

  12. Ido Portal
    October 25, 2009 at 8:38 pm

    Amazing story. It kind of reminded me of myself with the ‘no grains’ on the verge of death remark…

    Thanks for sharing,
    Ido.

  13. mikek
    October 26, 2009 at 2:48 am

    Robb,

    I am confused as to how sweet potatoes are such good pwo food (replenishing glycogen etc.) and also are good for controlling blood sugar levels (as they are often recommended as a starch for diabetics). this seems to be contradictory. Also, it is my understanding that fructose is not a good source of sugar for mucsle glycogen replenishing. if your liver only holds so much glycogen then won’t the excess be pushed to your muscles in time to take advantage of the pwo window of increased sensitivity? also, do sugars like dextrose and maltodextrin still replenish liver glycogen? the more I research the more I get conflicting information. I try to keep paleo as much as possible, which is most of the time, as I feel and perform much better when I do. The other day I combined coconut water/acai berry juice/50g of whey protein isolate (jay robb brand) to make a pwo shake, besides being delicious, I think It worked pretty damn well- i had just done the Kalsu as Rx. would like to stay away from sugars like dextrose and maltodextrin. if you would give me your thoughts on my concoction as well i would greatly appreciate it. Thanks for all of the information you share every day!

    • robbwolf
      October 26, 2009 at 1:17 pm

      Mike-
      It is contradictory. The recommendations for diabetics are ridiculous….I can see no distinction between the ADA recommendations and standard definitions of malpractice.

      Fructose is a bad idea except for long events or multiple events in a given day.

      the shake sounds delicious but I’d be in a carb comma. I’d have stopped at the coconut water and whey.

  14. Nathan Magniez
    October 26, 2009 at 11:41 am

    That does put that Rip quote to good measure. That’s awesome.

    In the Marine Corps we used to say, “The more we sweat in Peace, the less we bleed in War.” This was obviously relating to metcon conditioning, traing, etc but also that people that are fit generally recover from injuries and illness better.

    Congrats Hans! Truly, AWESOME!

  15. Roelant
    October 26, 2009 at 1:46 pm

    Tracked it down yesterday. Thanks though, Robb. My search-fu is getting better, so I won’t pester you, don’t worry! BTW, signed up for Nut Cert Jan 30th in Ottawa, gonna be AWESOME!

  16. Ben W
    October 26, 2009 at 3:46 pm

    Robb,

    When you get the time, just wondering if you could clarify your stance on Cod Liver Oil. As you discussed very briefly in Toronto, Cordain was mentioning to you that the Vit A Blocks the Vit D. Doing some further readings myself I came across this from the WAPF.

    http://www.westonaprice.org/basicnutrition/CLOUpdateDec2008.pdf They source several papers in there.

    It seems that by taking the high vitamin Cod Liver Oil (better Vit A: Vit D ration) none of the antagonizing effects occur?

    Thanks Robb!

    Ben Wheeler

    • robbwolf
      October 26, 2009 at 7:53 pm

      Ben-
      I’ll check out that paper but as a basic thing I tend to throw my hat in with Cordain over WAPF. Cordain’s stance was strongly that one did not want to supplement the vit-a and it did antagonize the vit-d. I’ve not researched it beyond that so Im currently just going on Loren’s word on this… but I’m pretty comfortable with that. I’d researching vit-d for my book, I’ll try to tackle this in that context.

  17. Jason
    October 26, 2009 at 4:58 pm

    Thanks for the website Robb, very much appreciated.

    John, very classy of you and The Paleo Brand, keep up the good work.

  18. LG
    October 26, 2009 at 5:00 pm

    Robb
    This post was very powerful. I am 5 weeks into Paleo and spent the 3 days before reading this post cheating.
    Hans story helped me get back on track and be grateful for my health. I have forwarded this post to many of my friends and family in the hopes that even just one of them will give Paleo a shot.
    Sean at CF Cowtown told us Paleo will change your life. I never imagined it would change it to this extreme!
    Thank you for all you do
    *Hugs*
    Lisa

  19. Ricky Hall
    October 26, 2009 at 6:32 pm

    Robb,

    I have a question about an unrelated problem and would like to know what you think? For the past 8-10 years, I have had recurring “acid” buildup to the point of extreme heartburn and when I exert myself (running, lifting, even brushing my teeth) I throw up. A couple years back, I saw a doctor who advised me to take a Prilosec every morning and “if that fixes it, you have nothing to worry about”. That does help, but last Saturday I was out of town for a tennis tournament and forgot to take the pill. The problem was there that morning again even though I had not missed that pill once in at least a year! This kind of got my attention about it again and I wondered what you would advise. I am eating maybe 70% paleo for the past 2-3 months but know I need to get more compliant. Should I be really concerned or would simply going 100% paleo maybe solve this problem?
    Any thoughts?

    Thanks for all you do.
    RH

    • robbwolf
      October 26, 2009 at 7:45 pm

      Ricky-
      I’d say low carb paleo. Grains can cause over production of acid, as can elevated insulin. I’d keep carbs under say 75g/day, 100% paleo. you will know within a week if it will work so take it seriously. I have never really heard of this NOT working for acid reflux so let me know how it goes if you give it a shot.

  20. mikek
    October 26, 2009 at 7:08 pm

    Thanks robb, one last question. I know John reccomends raw whole milk pwo,while I am pretty sure I understand Milk’s uniqueness and effectivness as pwo nutrition, Dairy doesn’t do well with my system. would raw goats milk be a comparable substitute for what I am looking to do- increase strength and size (I am under 7% body fat)? Thanks again man

    • robbwolf
      October 26, 2009 at 7:42 pm

      Mike-
      I find I do better on goats milk, you just need to try and see!

  21. mikek
    October 26, 2009 at 8:59 pm

    Ricky,

    I used to have really bad heartburn. going gluten free then paleo definitley did the trick permanantly, but RAW apple cider vinegar cured my heartburn when I did/do eat grains.. I was foolish enough to let my doctor put me on Nexium about 5 years ago-stopped my reflux and totally jacked up my gut! Huge mistake! I was informed by someone at the local health food store that acid reflux is actually caused by not having enough stomach acid (or at least not having the right environement) to properly digest whats causing the problem. The exact cause I am unsure of, but what ever the cause, the result is your lower esophageal sphincter (LES) fails to do its job which is to close, and prevent stomach acid from coming back up your esophagus. It seems counter intuitive that something acidic would counter acid reflux- but it does. I assume the ACV helps correct any issues the LES experiences, but don’t really know (Robb?). but I do know the stuff works (I would also guess that it has something to do with ACV’s alkalinizing properties), and if you google natural remedies for heartburn/reflux you’ll probably get a better explanation and a whole bunch of folks who will swear by it much like I do. it also is good for digestion-full of prebiotics and good enzymes to feed the probiotics you might supplement. also good for inflammation in general, appetite control (i.e. on those low carb days), and balancing the body’s PH, and not to mention a big swig will certainly wake you up. Be sure to get a brand like Mrs Bragg’s that is RAW, UNFILTERED, AND UNPASTEURIZED. I would not drink on an empty stomach either as it may upset. Let me know if it works for you

  22. Alex
    October 27, 2009 at 1:52 pm

    Two things:

    1. Robb: I NEED THAT BOOK!

    2. My life has never been “saved,” but this summer I took a nasty tackle from a drunken friend that severely damaged my knee. It’s been bothering me nonstop for months. For 1 week I did dedicated paleo/zone, and bam, the pain is significantly reduced. I think another few weeks of this great anti-inflammatory diet, and the pain should be gone entirely.

    Robb, I’ve read some of your stuff on IF for severe immediate trauma. Have you found IF effective to help this more chronic stuff?

    • robbwolf
      October 28, 2009 at 2:27 am

      Alex-
      yes I have…again, you just need to tinker with that. Anything that ocntrols insulin controls inflammation. sleep well, big dose fish oil…keep me posted!

  23. marc
    October 27, 2009 at 3:03 pm

    Robb,

    What are your thoughts about a Low-Antigen-Content diet for inflammatory kidney diseases versus a Paleo diet? It seems real restrictive, any food that can be considered an allergen is avoided, (eg: eggs, nuts, dairy, citrus fruits, berries, chocolate, shellfish, etc.) Not to be confused with a renal diet for people on dialysis.

    Thanks,

    Marc

    • robbwolf
      October 28, 2009 at 2:26 am

      Marc-
      Although technically paleo, eggs, nuts and nightshades DO pose some gut irritation. I think you could simply tackle this in stages however:No grains, then no dairy, then nuts, then berries…etc. Let it run for 3-4 weeks and then see what the blood work shows.

  24. JC
    October 28, 2009 at 3:01 am

    nice little video and story on 5 year old Romanian weightlifter
    http://sports.yahoo.com/blogs/post/Video-Five-year-old-Romanian-weightlifter-becom?urn=top,198525

  25. marc
    October 28, 2009 at 1:12 pm

    Robb,

    Thanks, I have a real mild case of IgA nephropathy, labs have been stable for the last 2 years (upper end of normal). I have persistant microscopic hematuria, no proteinuria (which is good). Just started a Paleo diet will adjust accordingly.

    -Marc

    • robbwolf
      October 28, 2009 at 7:27 pm

      Marc-
      Please keep me posted on this. Keep your intake of lutein rich veggies solid (kale, beets, chard) that stuff is great for the vasculature.

  26. chris
    October 28, 2009 at 3:55 pm

    Howdy Coach Wolf:
    I have a tough question that may require an extensive response not fit for this post but still on the same topic. My gf’s dad recently just had surgery for cancer. It was in and they removed his :large intestine, parts of the small, some of the lymph nodes (theres a lot in his lymph nodes) and parts of the colon. The surgery took place 2 months after showing signs of sickness (blood in stool and vomit). Of course when he was good to eat solid foods they gave him…drumroll….a cheese burger….. :( I damn near fainted when I heard that.
    My question (finally) is how should I adjust paleo/proper nutrition for this situation? He is drastically under weight so I think more calories + lean pro would be needed? If this requires a consultation I would be more than happy to set one up. All this stuff you do for free is amazing but as a trainer I know about spreading your charity too thin. Please respond whenever you can. I feel bad stopping progress from the book. My email is attached if you need to reach me directly. Thank you so much and take care.

    • robbwolf
      October 28, 2009 at 7:20 pm

      Chris-
      Soups and stews will be helpful as they will be easier to digest. I’d do a consult with Amy Kubal (from the consulting page) and have her cc me on that. I’ll throw in my thoughts but she can help you get the basics hammered out. Really this boils down to paleo foods, cooked well (soups/stews) then see how he handles it. Things will likely need to be on the lower fiber side, fats might shift towards coconut as it can help heal the gut and is easier to transport.

  27. Tim
    November 2, 2009 at 10:17 pm

    Robb,

    When determining carb amounts do you subtract fiber to arrive at net carb amount? Thanks, Tim

  28. Dylan
    November 3, 2009 at 8:19 pm

    Robb, based on my experience with the flu lately (anecdotal evidence), I would say you are probably right about the flu. I got the flu 1 week ago, along with my roommates. I eat paleo (most of the time as you’ll see), while my roommates do not. I never had it to the degree that they did and seemed to recover much faster. At least until yesterday, which followed a day where I didn’t eat anything considered paleo – things like sandwiches and burgers. In my defense it was a football day. Anyway, it appears that eating paleo seems to significantly affect the degree and recovery against the flu. My roommates are all still sick

  29. Mark
    November 4, 2009 at 11:49 pm

    Hey Robb,
    I understand and accept the omission of fat consumption in a post-WOD snack. I also understand and accept the fact that the Nordic Nats liquid cod liver oil I take is not counted toward daily fat consumption.

    My question: is it detrimental/beneficial/insignificant if I add a dose of the cod oil to my post-WOD snack?

    Thanks,
    Mark

    • robbwolf
      November 5, 2009 at 6:48 pm

      Mark-
      Potentially very beneficial. N-3′s turn on the MAPK signalling pathway…it;s stress adaptation pathway that is very powerful when tweaked to your benefit. Art Devany had some good stuff on this, I have no idea if that stuff is still available given the way he has changed his site.

  30. JC
    November 5, 2009 at 6:11 am

    Robb,
    NBA’s Spurs adopt our way of thinking regarding practice and sleep

    http://www.mysanantonio.com/sports/spurs/Can_practice_schedule_make_Spurs_dream_team.html

  31. Kevin
    February 22, 2010 at 8:41 pm

    I work with Hans at the box in OKC and have to say, his story in large is what convinced me to commit to paleo way of eating. I am happy to say as a result I feel much better and my WOD times are through the roof. Plus I noticed my joints hurt much less after long training BJJ sessions.

  32. Tessa Bertsche
    October 23, 2010 at 6:02 pm

    Some good info here. I am still looking for supplemental data on natural health and would love any recommendations. Thanks!

  33. Jason G.
    February 17, 2014 at 11:45 am

    Great post. One of the first things I noticed after going Paleo was that the monthly cold going around the office never bothered me. Haven’t had one in over 2 years (been Paleo for 30 months). I’ve seen so many profound changes in everyone I’ve convinced to try it, it’s hard to not try to convert everyone you meet.

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