I receive a lot of email from folks asking a variety of questions. Two questions tend to about send me over the brink: “How many blocks should I eat?” and “should I eat Paleo or Zone?” Both questions are troubling for several reasons but it’s actually the later question that just slays me and, is in fact, the causative factor FOR question number 1. You see, Barry Sears, The Zone, everything the man and the diet represent, are steeped in evolutionary biology. That folks, (Level 1 Cert crew teaching nutrition…) is paleo. For some damn reason CrossFit HQ (or elements so of it) can not wrap their minds around the concept that the basic premise of the paleo diet, that nice bit of writing from World Class Fitness in 100 Words: “…Eat meat and vegetables, nuts and seeds. Some fruit, little starch, no sugar…” is in fact everything that Barry Sears talks about in the Zone! Sometime ago I received confused emails from people who attended a closed to the public gig in which the HQ lecturer, when asked “What about paleo?” responded “Paleo is pseudo science and the individuals who purport it’s methods are pseudo scientists…”
WOW! Better than half of my Crossfit Nutrition Certification is pseudo science! That’s a bummer. Strike one for CrossFit Nutritional offerings. Strike two was delivered this past weekend when Dr. Barry Sears gave a seminar to a large group of avid CrossFitters. Kelly Frankson attended the seminar and was kind enough to allow me to link to her notes. What we find is that Sears is practicing Pseudo Science just like other scientists like Cordain, Eaton, Eades and, well, me. Sears talked at length about genetics that are mismatched for our current environment, the need to return carbohydrate and essential fats BACK to Paleolithic levels. It’s a pretty serious situation if myself, Loren Cordain and Barry Sears are all practicing pseudo science! How long until Dean Ornish or John McDougal will lead the vegan charge for HQ. Those guys are definitely NOT paleo, so they must be of credible scientific pedigree…
Of Weights and Measures
There is a common bit of “wisdom” that is shot around the CrossFit world that goes something like this: “No one will ever reach elite athletic performance without weighing and measuring food…”. Interestingly however, few of the top finishers the CrossFit Games weighed and measured. Would they do better WITH weighing and measuring? Sure, I think you need to keep track of your chow at some point if you are going to affect some additional changes above what a food quality (paleo) approach will provide. But THAT is not the statement, nor the sentiment. Despite defying logic AND the actual stated nutritional hierarchy within Crossfit (don’t piss in your gas tank) the order of operations out of HQ is NOT food quality first (paleo), weighing and measuring second. It’s weigh and measure, whatever you have on hand and THAT will guarantee your ultimate success. It’s an interesting proposition that is proving itself to be completely false. Laura Demarco was an ardent Zoner (weighing and measuring) using VEGAN foods. She had ass-kicking performance but she did one simple thing (always nice in science) she shifted her food from grains to paleo carbs and her proteins all became animal based (paleo). You know what happened? She saw remarkable IMPROVEMENT in her performance. For her it mainly focused on strength (former 1RM DL was 275, current 5RM DL 285!!), but the results are stunning. The only change was a shift in food quality. I have dozens of stories like this. Apparently, food quality DOES matter.
Back to the Barry Sears seminar, Dr. Sears, the developer of the Zone…DOES NOT RECOMMEND WEIGHING AND MEASURING. HE RECOMMENDS FOOD QUALITY FIRST. He makes the point that WAM may be more trouble than it’s worth. For the vast majority of folks I work with that is absolutely the case. When we shifted AWAY from weighing and measuring in our clinical practice our clients got far better and more consistent results. Wacky things like reversing autoimmune disease, something that weighing and measuring beer, Pringles and beef jerky will not accomplish. Which reminds me, I’ve received quite a number of emails about the nutrition lecture at given Level 1 cert. The gist of the lecture is that a well-known athlete weighs and measures his beer, Pringles and beef jerky. He kicks ass (he is about 23…wait till 10 more years are on the odometer), so this is what you should do too. The best spin on this I can provide is this is a method of portion control. Being less diplomatic, I’d say people paid good money to attend that cert and the nutrition portion was a failure. We can and should do a hell of a lot better than that. As a Fitness company I cannot figure out why a general policy on eating is not “Eat the best food you possibly can, as often as you can. Slice it and dice it into the proportions that help you to reach YOUR goals”.
I’m NOT trying to make a paleo cult, I am encouraging people to TRY things and then report back what works. In the mean time I’ll be developing a t-shirt that says “Paleo Diet: Pseudo Science Since 5-million BC”.
Jim Ryan says
Great great post. My issue has always been around weighing food. I have lost 35 pounds. I improved my diet gradually. I started by eating the right foods, not the wrong ones, but portions remained large. Gradually I became more stringent around food quality, improving the diversity of vegetables, less cheats, grass-fed and organic meats, etc. I have only recently begun to workout more than twice a week, so my weight loss is almost exclusively nutrition. Weighing food has never felt natural to me. I still eat a little more protein than the palm of the hand rule, and I am not afraid of a little fat. It seems natural to me. Frankly, I don’t have the time to measure everything, and I am not going to do it. I listen to my body and I am developing a feel for what works and what doesn’t. I just bought your article on grains, not for myself, but for a couple of friends that need some help. Thanks for your great work. I saw a post that you are working on a food distribution business, I can’t wait to hear more, if that is still on!
wow, that was a great read to wake up to this morning. I will be first in line to by a t-shirt.
I agree 100% robb, when we give nutritional advice out of our box we implicate the necessity for better food quality. We tell people about paleo and give them a paleo foods sheet. If after a month they further seek something more then we can prescribe them zone blocks and proportions. Oh….I love this site!
that is part of why you guys have a solid, growing gym. You guys give shit and are always looking for a better way to help folks.
Thomas Mosley says
So Robb should we not eat beef jerky even if its home made.
It was not the jerky that was the issue in that meal amigo!
Good stuff Robb.
It doesn’t take long before weighing and measuring drove me and my wife insane. Maybe if I had a lot of time but as I’m lucky to squeeze in a WOD, WAM is not high on my list. I’m trying to get in touch with an old friend called hunger so that I eat when my body tells me to. What a novel idea. What I still struggle with is the Paleo/not-Paleo divider and I’ve decided to stick with some stuff that falls outside of 100% Paleo and see how it goes. So I eat Paleo plus dairy and other ‘on the line stuff’ like corn tortillas that have been treated with lime, potatoes (sweet and white) ,some beans, and some chia seeds. Yes, I have been influenced by Chris McDougall’s book Born to Run (good read). I’m a bigger guy and I never really thought of running for fun but after reading his book, I have changed my view on things.
Also, I want to thank you for pointing out that intensity is good but that too much is not good. If I’m like most average Crossfitter’s out there, trying to keep up with multiple ass-kickings a week leaves me drained at work and at home. While I pursue fitness, I realize my priorities. It sounds simple but it’s easy to get sucked into another world when you look at the performance of CF Games athletes for example. As a non-Crossfit trainer said to me once after I asked his opinion of Crossfit, “Crossfit is a great program if you are a great trainer and you know how to implement it.” Sorry for the rambling.
Thanks and I need to do a post on the paleo/not paleo schtick. It’s all about what works for you. that said, if wee can keep folks off gluten, I think we are miles down the road.
I can’t agree more about the “measured” success of the Zone. I spent several months on fairly strict Zone proportions and saw some improvement in some of my personal athletic benchmarks, but boy was it a pain in the rear to measure everything. At one point I just got fed up with it all and started getting lax with the quantity but focused more on the quality of the food I was taking in. Overall I’d say I’m doing much better. The only thing I really use the Zone for is controlling my portions of carbs. For me, I think that is the sweet spot (no pun intended there) nutritionally without the hassle of breaking out measuring cups and the scale for every single piece of food I stuffed in my mouth.
I hear ya bro…I really, Really Hear ya!
freddy c._one world says
Awesome post. I have been trying to preach to the folks at One World that just eating better quality of food and not being so focused on quantity can help you see huge improvements in your performance and health. A lot of people just don’t believe it. The bazillion dollar a year diet business has everyone convinced that you must either weigh or measure your food or have your portions sizes specified or count calories, etc. I hate weighing and measuring. I hate telling myself exactly what to eat every meal. I like to eat meats and veggies. Lots of them (especially meat). I am not strict paleo, which is why I am not totally lean, but at 44yo, I feel pretty good and perform decently too. Am I right in saying that quality trumps quantity every time?
This blog rocks. I am going to make it the only link under “Nutrition Info” on the CrossFit One World site. Thanks for all your hard work and packing a site with a boatload of great information.
Dude, you are one of my CF heroes amigo, honestly. The props from you are HUGE for me.
all I’ve wanted to do with any of this stuff is help people and have fun. that’s it. Why this becomes such a contentious topic is…well, we’d need to have a few beers to figure all that out.
Food quality has only trumped quantity in every person I’ve worked with. i have not worked with everyone…so I guess it might not work for someone!
Thomas Mosley says
Thanx Robb lol I was sweating there for a second cause I just made like 6lbs of deer and turkey jerky.
Geoff Else says
Thanks for saying what many of us were thinking at the level 1 cert where somehow quantity (or at least a measure of) trumped QUALITY!
Scott Pauly says
Well said Robb. Psuedo Science? B.S. it’s common sense. Humans were not designed to eat the sh#@t that is common place in MOST American diets. People are addicted to this crap and just don’t want to give it up at any cost. Zone or no Zone, Quality is THE most important part of any good nutrition plan. How much more evidence do people need to convince them that the crap food that they consume is literally killing them.
Laura DeMarco says
Robb, I love your comment about just wanting to help people and have fun. I think that should be true of CrossFit, and it should be true of nutrition as well.
Yes, you can CrossFit and not allow reps if they’re not 100% perfect, only run on a track where you can run EXACTLY 800 meters and generally make yourself miserable by stressing about the workouts too much. The same can be said of eating.
You can certainly OCD-out and drive to a handful of stores to get EXACTLY the right foods and make sure they are in the EXACT portions and percentages all the time, refuse to eat out with your friends or socialize because you can’t control the food, etc. But you are miserable (and intolerable!) in the end!
As much as we would like to think of ourselves as machines, we can’t control the hormonal fluctuations and miscellaneous things in our life that influence our reactions to food. Even if we are absolutely perfect with what we eat, we won’t necessarily respond in a predictable, experiment-quality way. That’s why I stress to my clients how important it is to focus on food quality (which carries over to life quality) and be happy. How crazy is it to actually enjoy what you’re eating? 😉
Thanks again for everything you do, Robb!
THAT was a beautifully written pice girl. Thank you for the kind words and for generally kicking ass! You are BTW a damn talented writer.
I sincerely hope that people will start to understand that quality is of the utmost importance. I eat pretty paleo all week and the do a clinical experiment on the effects of poor dietary choices over most weekends (I have since slowed that habit because of some recent lab results) . The correlation between food quality and performance is quite obvious. Like Big Spoon Camacho said this blog rocks and is one we recommend at NSC.
Save me a t-shirt
I always felt people skewed the zone in their favour of what they wanted to eat, not should eat. Your title for this post is bang on. If you check the favourable only section of the food block guide what do you see? Not 100 % but pretty Paleo looking to me http://www.drsears.com/ArticlePreview/tabid/399/itemid/10489/Default.aspx. When I started zoning I stuck to the favourable list as best I could, yes dairy was there but a lot of other items were out.
I’m glad the jerky question came up, I see a lot of people reaching for it as a great protein source… all relative to what’s in it. Read the label. Do you see sugar as one of the main ingredients? If yes then put it back on the shelf.
Keep up the great work Robb it is appreciated!
Jordan Atwell says
Hey Robb great post! I was on the zone for a couple months and I got burnt out. Not only with all the weighing and measuring, but with the fact that it allows you to “cheat” without the bad feeling of cheating. I could substitute my carbs with tortilla and be ok with it because the zone diet said it was in my recommended blocks, but it wasn’t actually good quality. Since having switched to a pure Paleo diet (besides a cheat here and there) my performance has sky-rocketed and my body has leaned out far better than on the Zone only. I recently hit a new 505 pound 1 RM deadlift, my previous was 500 lbs, the amazing thing though is i am 15 pounds leaner than when i hit the 500. Paleo rocks! And I preach it to everyone in my gym and friends and family! Keep up the good work Robb! I am an avid follower of your blog!
Like I said to Cuby, you guys ar edoing great stuff in Redding. All I’ve asked of people is to give it a shot and see what happens…the results are pretty typical of yours. BTW- Nice fracking DL!!! I see the games in your future!!
Great post, Robb. …Great post.
I was always messing with the Zone and it wasn’t until Nicole and I fully committed to Paleo that we really started to notice significant improvements such as leaner bodies, PR’s on weightlifting, PR’s on Met-Con’s, no more severe allergies, and just feeling much better in general. I also have a yet undiagnosed food allergy (I really should get that figured out) that has put me in the hospital on previous occasion and left me with a scar on my forehead. While doing Zone, it was hit or miss as to when I might be stricken with the allergic reaction (through no fault of the Zone’s), yet since adhering strictly to Paleo food choices, regardless of ratios, zone or otherwise, I’ve not had a single reaction. The only time I had another food-allergy reaction during months of Paleo was when Nicole and I had Pizza as a “Post CrossFit Games Cheat Meal”, for which we planned months ahead. …Maybe I am allergic to gluten in large doses, I don’t know.
Anyway, I will be writing a more in-depth personal account as to my results since going Paleo soon. We love you, Robb, and we love everything you do. You are truly changing people’s lives. Thank you for everything you do!
Jason “J-Dogg” Highbarger
PS: Nicole and I really want to visit you for a weekend sometime soon.
thanks brother! You are literally family amigo, can’t wait to spend some time with you guys.
I can see why people ask the question, tho…from the Zone books you do get the impression that you should weigh/measure to keep everything balanced to check insulin levels…also, the book allows non-fat dairy…on the other hand, for people with autoimmune diseases, etc., Dr. Sears recommends a strict zone, which he then says is protein, a little fat and all carbs from vegetable sources. But I do agree that from the Zone books you won’t find an endorsement of eating junk, including most grains, rice, breads, sugars, and such foods.
Pierre Auge says
I want some of those T-Shirts…. I think you just stumbled on a great marketing idea for Paleo Brands, because they would sell like crazy at my gym!
C.J. Martin says
Well said Robb! As with the top of any industry, I think the similarities between the opinions of guys who have devoted themselves to researching nutrition and helping others live healthier, more fulfilling lives, are far greater than the differences. Sears seems to agree that a focus on Paleo foods eaten in proper proportions would provide the absolute best in performance nutrition. His only objection to Paleo was the effort that it required. There’s no doubt that it takes a certain level of commitment to avoid grains and sugars in our society, but is it more difficult than weighing and measuring food?
One of the most rewarding aspects of my job as a fitness coach is working with a group of 200 7th to 10th graders. We HAVE to teach these kids to eat better if they’re ever going to have a chance at expressing their genetic potential. So what can we teach them? It’s got to be simple and easy to implement. To my mind, the best we can do for them is provide them with the principles so eloquently stated in World Class Fitness in 100 Words – Eat meats and vegetables, nuts and seeds, some fruit, little starch and no sugar. By the end of a school semester our kids should be able to repeat that, on command and in sing-song fashion. I am doubtful that we can do better by teaching them to weigh and measure.
My understanding of optimal nutrition was strongly influenced by my introduction to CrossFit, and I still believe that what was said in World Class Fitness in 100 Words is the best and most concise advice we can provide to our clients. There is no mention of measuring, it’s simply about fueling your body with the best quality foods. Straying from that foundational principle is a step in the wrong direction.
Keep up the good work Robb. Your efforts have been tremendously beneficial to more than can be counted, and your heart and head are in the right place.
Thanks amigo. I think you are spot on, the World Class Fitness in 100 words is genius. to bad it is not in fact the cornerstone of the philosophy.
Awesome post Robb, thanks for being the ‘Pseudo Scientist’ that we can all depend on to give us accurate information.
thanks amigo, but Im wrong about alot…give this stuff a shot and let your own results be your guide. Thank you for the support and kind words.
To be fair at my level one (Vancouver BC, July 25th and 26th) they stated that eating a paleo diet will get you 80% of the way to optimal health/fitness, and that the Zone takes you the rest of the way. For me it seemed that they stressed quality first, then weighing and measuring. Greg Glassman also seems to stress “meat and vegetables, nut and seeds, some fruit, little starch, no sugar” in most of the talks I have seen. Having said that, I do believe that there is an overemphasis of the benefit of the Zone. Most in the CrossFit world view it as the be all and end all. I do believe there is lot’s to be had from balancing hormones and especially keeping insulin under control, but you can get pretty close on just a paleo diet with no weighing and measuring and be a whole lot happier. I personally haven’t noticed much of a difference in how I feel/look/perform between paleo with no measuring and paleo/zone, but I always notice a huge difference when I eat grains or sugar. For me, just paleo seems to be the most beneficial, with the Zone having minimal impact. Weighing and Measuring also makes me really cranky so I’m sure the stress of WAM outweighs the benefit.
If that was the message you got, good to go. For some reason however the signal to noise on that message gets tuned down frequently. hence this post.
Soooo food quality does matter and Paleolithic Nutrition is the key to health and performance…seems simple…glad I am in the know!
Careful…that is a huge leap! Make no false conclusions!
Also getting messed up in pseudoscience these days: a pretty good chunk of the UCSF med school research faculty.
I don’t have any particular allegiance to paleo, but it really irritates me when people who can’t be bothered to stay up on current research make assertions that something currently under legitimate study is bunk.
Very timely post since I seem to be running into this more and more in the questions I get about diet since opening our box. I don’t know what it is, but we tend to be so stat focused as a country. Did baseball do this to us? People need to stop thinking about stats and RDAs and just focus on quality. The Total box has like 22 100%s on the side, but not one ingredient I consider food! Thanks for reiterating what for some reason needs to be reiterated.
Also, thanks to you and Nicki for publishing your On-Ramp Curriculum! We’re implementing your framework (with some personalized tweaks), and our first month in the box has been going great. We owe you both a huge debt! I think your On-Ramp program emphasizes this same philosophy, but with movement. It’s all about quality! Quality of diet, quality of movement, THEN if you feel like it throw in some measuring or snatches, but not before we see some paleo ingredients and a rock-bottom squat first! Put me down for one of those shirts.
thanks for the kind words. We have been involved with Crossfit literally since the inception of the affiliate concept. We have always endeavored to help the community anyway we can and to help folks avoid the numerous mistakes we have made. You are spot on about the quality…if we are not focussed on quality food, training and business practices WHAT are we up to as a community?
Rob, do you have any published evidence that the Zone/Paleo diet does benefit performance?
Every sports nutrition text-book and any journal article (http://www.jacn.org/cgi/content/full/22/1/9) that I read typically states that the Zone diet is not recommended for athletes. It is hard to argue with their science but I know many crossfitters who swear by this diet. Thanks for any insight.
I’ll leave it to you to find the literature on that, it’s easy to find.
Great stuff as usual!
I just wanted to say that at the Lvl One cert that I attended with Pat Sherwood he definitely stressed food quality, and many of the trainers there swore by Paleo for improving performance.
Looking forward to the ATL Nutr. cert in Nov,
Thanks a million for the site!
that’s good, Pat Sherwood kicks ass at everything he does. He is one of, if not THE best public speaker we have in CF. It was not my intention to say this lack of information occurs at all certs, but that should not happen at ANY cert.
Jason M Struck says
any lack of clarity doesn’t make issues contentious, it’s people’s investment/involvement in the subject that matters.
at heart, everyone eats. so everyone is going to have an opinion, probably some strong ones if they’ve ever given the subject any thought. it’s like the way people fight over abortion or public healthcare or other issues that really affect us all, but we maybe have no right to choose for others.
in the end, it’s easier to get worked up than it is to be level headed. that’s a skill that takes patience to develop. Alwyn Cosgrove summed it up nicely, when discussing some other facet of training:
“People tend to overreact in the short term and underreact in the long term.”
I am sure he stole it from somewhere, but I can’t tell you how often I fall back on that line. It explains too much!
Excellent stuff. I’d add to the reaction analogy that many organizations, institutions and people prefer to react than plan…this leaves one always on the defensive and never thinking about proactive solutions. Not a fun situation to navigate.
Robb, I have text book sitting right in front of me which states “the zone diet should be considered more ergolytic (detrimental) than ergogenic to performance.” – Williams. Nutrition for Health, Fitness, & Sport. Ninth Edition. 2009.
I listed a journal article earlier which backs-up the text book by stating “diet books like the Zone rely on poorly controlled, non-peer-reviewed studies, anecdotes and non-science rhetoric. This review illustrates the complexity of nutrition misinformation perpetrated by some popular press diet books. A closer look at the science behind the claims made for the Zone Diet reveals nothing more than a modern twist on an antique food fad.” – Cheuvront. Journal of the American College of Nutrition. 2003
I know there are articles to support the overall health benefits for the paleo diet but what about sport performance??? All I want to know is are there any published articles which show the Paleo diet can increase your run time to exhaustion, decrease your muscle damage markers, etc…? I’ve search medline, pubmed, Dr. Cordain’s research and they all seem to support lowering your LDL levels and lowering your risk for CVD (which is great) but is there anything on sports performance?
I actually wrote a piece in response to the above piece. It was supposed to be a CrossFit Journal piece but I have a hell of a time meeting the CFJ “publishing standards” I think largely due to my insistence of including paleo material! Ah…that is in fact how the Performance Menu was born but that’s not really the topic at hand.
To my knowledge there have been no controlled studies of paleo on athletic performance. The work of Joe Friel is very compelling in that he ran with the standard high carb, low fat, grain based program for his athletes with good success, but found BETTER success with a paleo diet. I detail this in the write-up but it is not a study obviously, but there are plenty of interesting studies to draw information from. One involves athletes who are adapted to a ketogenic diet having the same time to exhaustion under aerobic (but no anaerobic) conditions. This is pretty compelling for me, and it points the way for a generally fat-adapted athlete experiencing a glycogen sparing effect and thus better overall performance. Keep in mind, it is hard as hell to get a study like you are suggesting “right”. it is much easier for a coach to simply tweak parameters till an athlete moves forward.
I’ll post that CFJ piece tomorrow…I’m over trying to make it show ready and I’m likely not going to be very popular for quite some time.
Pat Sherwood says
This is my first time posting on your site. I truly enjoy the information and guidance available on nutrition. However, I could not sit idly by and not post when I feel like the crosshairs are pointed at me and my friends. The “Folks” you refer to, then even specify as “Level 1 Cert Crew teaching nutrition” are myself, and a very small handful of others. I have probably given the nutrition lecture 50 or so times. That being said I am rather familiar with what information we put out to the participants.
I have NEVER heard a lecturer say that Paleo or anything of the sort is psuedo-science. I do a seminar every weekend, so chances are good that I would have heard it. Is it beyond the realm of possibility that some lecturer did say that?……absolutely not. For the sake of argument, let’s just make the assumption that it was said at a cert. If that was 1 cert out of 100, and the other 99 certs said nothing of the sort, then I feel grasping at that straw is an absurd, huge, erroneous misinterpretation that is utterly unfounded.
Trying to read emotion through typed text is next to impossible. Let me clearly state that the intention of my post here is not to be rude or start some back and forth debate. I simply want to clear the air about what information is put out out at the CrossFit Level 1 seminars. I take a tremendous amount of pride in those seminars, the way they are presented, the trainers that are produced, and the information that is put out.
In your post you state: “the order of operations out of HQ is NOT food quality first (paleo), weighing and measuring second. It’s weigh and measure, whatever you have on hand and THAT will guarantee your ultimate success.” As far as us “folks” who teach the nutrition part of the seminars go, what you posted is 100% incorrect. I don’t have to think very far back, as I just gave the lecture this past Sunday in Tampa, FL. We clearly state that STEP #1 is QUALITY. Then we teach people about the Zone and the wonderful manner in which it can bring accuracy and precision to the foods that one eats. Can you be on the Zone and not consume Paleo foods or the highest quality foods?…..yes, you can. That is an individual choice. We tell people to make the best food choices possible. We even sum it up by saying that eating foods of the highest quality available, while keeping an eye on portions(WAM), can reap tremendous benefits. We even go as far to state that we have a bunch of amazing athletes that solely base their diets on quality and have top notch results without weighing and measuring. We give people information, knowledge and resources to get on the right track and start to dig into the world of nutrition and find what works best for them individually. None of this info that I have typed should be shocking or new to a CrossFitter.
In closing, I don’t have any idea where the disconnect is, but I can tell you from the Level 1 certs that I have been a part of, we are all on the same sheet of music when it comes to nutrition.
Now, I must go work out.
I’m sorry you got drug into this Amigo. I’ve been that guy…some kind of a dust-up that I got called in on as “expert” witness. Not fun. Sorry you had to do that.
I made a point of highlighting what an excellent presenter YOU in particular are. I’ve said that elsewhere and no matter what happens I’ll continue to say that. If the person giving the Level 1 nutrition lecture covers the material as you describe above all is good. That however is NOT always how it plays out. that is unacceptable. There is also a ton of crap and subterfuge that goes on below the surface that I am seriously not happy with. I too would like to simply help people and do my own training. For some reason that is made difficult for me.
I’m sorry agin Pat, I know how much the call to duty sucks.
Oh I have been waiting for you to say this!!!! I’ll buy one of those shirts.
I have been following your blog for some time (thanks!!!) as well as reading all of the CF journal articles I can on nutrition, etc.
Is it just me or have the nutrition topics in the journal gotten a bit ‘distracted’.
Anyway – eat clean people.
Good luck with the article Robb and thanks for your insight and response!
Katie McNeilly says
Hi! I have never been to your nutrition cert before, nor have I gotten my Level1 yet. But, I follow your blog, and most of my friends HAVE been to your cert. I love your stuff…I try almost everything you throw out there.
I do organic (mostly) paleo zone. I weigh and measure EVERYTHING. I am totally OCD about it…hahaha. I also do the post-workout meal and intermittent fasting. It works for me. When I am being strict, my performance shoots through the roof. When I did only paleo, no weighing and measuring, I gained weight really fast…(obviously I was probably eating too much)…and my performance and energy declined.
My roommate, best friend, and owner of CF La Verne, Sarah, has performance declines when he weighs and measures, and has better performance when she does only paleo.
So, different things work for different people….like you have said all along!! Thank you for being our nutrition mentor in the CrossFit community for us!!
thanks for the input girl. I’d say gluten is waaay worse than sugar in genral, but im thinking more dark chocolate, not 64oz of slurpee!
Katie McNeilly says
Oh yea, question…in your OPINION, what is worse for you…sugar, or gluten?
Trish Davis says
Robb – Awesome post! You hit the nail on the head. Quality should be first and foremost before quantity. It applies across the board, from learning proper, functional movements to having a proper, functional diet. I don’t understand why it’s so hard for some people to grasp.
Keep up all of your inspiring work, you’re doing a great job!
Thanks Trish!! I hope you are doing great!
James Taylor says
From the title “Barry Sears IS Paleo” I was hoping that you would be reporting that Barry Sears had decided to dump Neolithic foods from his recipes and go purely Paleo. Sadly this is not so. Dr. Sears may acknowledge that a Paleo diet is our heritage but then he doesn’t put his books/recipes where his mouth is.
From the book Zone-Perfect Meals in Minutes:
The very first recipe, Texas-Style Omelette contains these non-paleo foods: egg substitute, kidney beans, bean sprouts, cornstarch.
Scrambled Egg Pocket: Egg substitute, cheddar cheese, pita pocket.
Herbed Omelette: Egg substitute.
Yogurt-Topped: Say no more.
Cottage Cheese Fruit Salad: Say no more.
Poached fruit with cheese: Again, title says it all.
From various recipes:
Egg substitute, chick peas, bean sprouts, soy sauce, cider vinegar, basalmic vinegar, low-fat cottage cheese, cornstarch, low-fat cheddar cheese, low-fat yogurt, BOILED POTATO,…need I go on?
From the book A Week In The Zone. Appendix B “Favorable Carbohydrates” Green Beans, Wax Beans, Black Beans, Chick Peas, Kidney Beans, Barley, Oatmeal…
From The Anti-Inflammation Zone:
Just glancing through recipes I see black beans, low-fat monterray jack cheese, skim “soft” cheese, soy sauce, nonfat yogurt, cottage cheese, oatmeal, kidney beans, cornstarch, …
I’ve not purchased his latest books so maybe Dr. Sears has gone strict Paleo since then. Though if I recall correctly at one point he was advocating soy as the ultimate Zone food.
I love his science but I dislike his follow through on recipes and some food recommendations for diet.
Yea…Sears follow through leaves something to be desired in some ways but it’s also an attempt to make things as accessible as possible to as many people as possible. that is a completely laudable desire BUT it misses a bunch of things like autoimmune issues.
I greatly enjoy your blog; please keep up the good work.
I have seen nothing but phenomenal results since switching to a Paleo diet a little more than a year ago, and this is measured by every conceivable metric. Your blog has been a great resource in helping me meet my goals.
Thansk for the input and please keep me posted on your continued progress.
I have to read the write up still.
Dr Sears said the ultimate anti-inflammatory diet would be a Paleo/Zone.
People that try to Zone a snickers based on the simple 40-30-30 philosophy drive me insane. I’ve been a Zoner for 2-1/2 years. I started 1-1/2 years before I had heard of CrossFit or Paleo. I was 90% Paleo for most of that time and didn’t know it. If you follow the favorable food choices instead of justifying the junk you are most of the way there.
My first cert was Robbs, and since then I try to attend some kind of CF function every month. I have heard no one saying anything about pseudo science on the west coast.
I used WAM for over a year religiously to lose 70#. I sometimes still use measuring cups but my scale hasn’t been used in some time.
I forgot to bring my topshelf tequila to the games. Next time I’ll remember. I already have your cert but maybe I’ll drop in at Monrovia to say hi.
Keep up the good work.
Swing by chico and we will take care of the Tequila issue!
Justin De Quim says
God i’m sick…..I knew it.Viscerally for years i had the awful feeling that you were a hoax and a charletan in league with all those idiots..Cordain, Konner, Eaton. And finally you came clean.
I put it to you Sir that you are an arse amongst men.. and make of that vis innuendo what you will.
BTW i have it from a close personal pal whose source is unimpeachable that Dirty Dean Ornish is a ttoal mini bar fiend i.e. he doesnee practise what ee preaches but also in the same (Blue?!?!?!) vein he canny be all that bad !
Write your book sunbeam…my buttocks are quivering at the thought of reading yr gibberish, nonsense and pseudo-science.
Knowing my book makes your bum quiver drives me to a frenzy of writing…
Chris Brown says
Nice post Robb. I’ve very excited to have someone of your caliber attempt to correct this piece of (mis)information in a public forum. I’ll drop you a private note with other thoughts.
Interesting article and even better discussion… I just want to clear a couple factual things up.
I’ve been involved in Crossfit since 2005 and I was at the recent L-1 cert where that comment was made about the Zone. Unfortunately, it sounds like it was severely taken out of context by many in attendance… which is sad because Pat was probably the most approachable person at the Cert and would’ve cleared up any confusion immediately if asked. He never said that he suggested or advocated the “Pringle and beef-jerky-Zone” — only that he AS AN EXPERIMENT had tried it before and experienced better athletic performance doing that than opposed to not paying attention to his macronutrient break down at all. His point was that even if you don’t want to put any effort into the quality of the food, you could still reap some benefits from the Zone just by eyeballing or weighing/measuring your food FOR TWO WEEKS as opposed to eating willy-nilly. Pat was convinced (and anyone who has tried the Zone) that two weeks of paying attention to macronutrient intake would persuade any Zone-doubters to start Zoning regularly (obviously with better food) and hence enjoy the many benefits.
I was also at Dr Sear’s seminar this last weekend too (I know – I get around). He did lecture for some time on weighing and measuring, and as an alternate taught about the “eyeball method”… to say he didn’t worry about weighing and measuring (even if it is just eyeballing) is simply false. He did say that a “paleo-zone” was ideal (assuming you wanted to exert the time and energy to follow it) as it got use closer to our genetic roots and that Loren Cordain was a good friend of his, and I don’t think many (if any) in the Crossfit community would disagree with Dr Sear’s statements. However, Dr Sears did not (nor would he) classify himself himself as “paleo” nor would he suggest following a unmeasured paleo-diet instead of the Zone. In fact he appeared visibly-annoyed at the number of paleo-related questions he fielded (several). He said that paleo is too difficult for many and to strive for high-quality food as possible, but that in reality the magic was in the macronutrient breakdown and fish oil supplementation. The paleo movement says that quality of food is king but Sears made it clear the entire day that quality and quantity go hand-in-hand (with quantity perhaps having more of an impact). He even discusses this topic his Zone books saying “The total intake of carbohydrates is most important. However, you will get even greater results on the Zone Diet by making sure most of your carbohydrates come from low-glycemic carbohydrates.” In his books he outlines several examples of following the Zone diet, which include pastas, bread, and other things blatantly non-paleo… he even goes as far as selling pasta on his website.
I have heard Coach say in person several times that his chief problem with the strict paleo-movement is their failure to produce top athletes and I think the production of such would sway many at CFHQ. However, I attended another Level 1 certification where he suggested following the “meat, vegetables, nuts and seeds, some fruit, little starch, no sugar” methodology of eating as closely as reasonable… then if you wanted elite performance to simply weigh and measure those foods.
Much of this “debate” is rather silly and seems to be more about titles and semantics than anything else. There is very-little disagreement from either side that measuring and weighing “meat, vegetables, nuts and seeds, some fruit, little starch, no sugar” will produce athletes at the pinnacle of elite fitness. The only difference is that the paleo-people would eliminate the starch and (many) the dairy and refer to this as a “Paleo-Zone” whereas everyone else (i.e. CFHQ, Dr Sears, etc) would refer to this simply as Zoning. I highly doubt any paleo person would say that paying attention to quantity is irrelevant and I doubt any Zone person would say paying attention to quality is irrelevant. Based on personal experimentation and experience, I would tend to say quantity first appears to have more of an impact than quality first – but I would never say quality is completely irrelevant. I think what many dislike about the paleo-movement is their rigidity in their elimination of many food groups (honestly it does start to get really ridiculous after a while – gluten -which I do understand the elimination of-, dairy -which is true for most-, nightshades… and the list goes on) , the resulting difficulty of following it as a lifetime habit, and the level of obsession many paleo people take this to. I kinda think that’s why CFJ has released those recent videos of depicting various individual’s nutritional habits and that if you are making good nutrition a lifetime habit then it’s ok to eat a burger, have some Ben & Jerry’s once in a while, or even eat one of those “super-mondo” protein bars from the store. Ultimately what seems to be happening is that titles have made both the paleo and the Zone people so closed to anything the other says that this weird division/debate is occurring. This is starting to remind me more of religion and church than a fitness community!
Hope everything makes sense… sorry for the length – I like to write 🙂
I appreciate the long and thoughtful comment. Without getting too deep I’ll just say that there is a lot more here than meets the eye. I’ll just leave most of this at that for right now.
You are absolutely right that this stuff starts looking like religion. All I can say is I encourage people to tinker and experiment. I recommend food quality first, WAM second. With this approach we see people improve performance above the levels of weighing and measuring lower quality foods. We also see people REVERSING autoimmune disease (see the type 1 diabetes threads). this DOES NOT happen by weighing and measuring sub-par foods. So, what I’m saying is the food quality approach trumps WAM at every corner and instead of being supported in this I;ve received massive static and have been equated to a charlatan. Not surprisingly, I have some issue with that, not the least of which it slows the spread of information that is more effective and helps people. That is certainly NOT open source.
I am picking up what you’re laying down and liking it.
We saw great results with few people, good results with some people, and okay results with most people when we prescribed the Zone. The problem kept coming back to adherence and food selection.
We’re just finishing up our Paleo challenge and had 50-members participate. We left the choice up to them, weigh & measure, or just eat from the list of paleo foods. The adherence and results have been pretty dramatic, which of course warms my heart, but (to quote Coach B) what fires my ass up even more, is that the members are excited about how easy it was to implement and are now firing each other up to stay on it and encouraging those that didn’t participate to try it out.
Stoked for Paleo Brands & your books to come out.
That is AWESOME!! This is pretty reflective of what we have seen. it is interesting also that some businesses like MMM-good meals in San Diego used to offer standard grain based Zone meals. They tried 100% paleo meals for one month and people LOVED it and reported better results. They now offer exclusively paleo meals. Either there is mass hypnosis in San Diego or food quality actually matters. Keep up the good work and keep me posted.
Ian M/32/84kg/1.85m says
Is there not a major difference between paleo and zone in regards to the consumption of grains and legumes? What about dairy? I have not read too much about the zone, but have been strict paleo (eating as much as I feel like, no WAM) for nearly a year, and have seen very good results.
When you get to the best recommendations of the Zone it is indistinguishable from paleo concptes. Neither are a tee-toteler approach but offer a spectrum of buy-in. Key elements of the Zone are predicated on research of folks like Boyd S. Eaton, a noted paleo diet researcher.
Awesome post! I love your blog and the way you teach. I am sad to say that this is a long overdue thank you. Please bear with me as I explain why this post inspired me to finally get er done.
I attended the level 1 cert in March with my boyfriend who is a chiropractor who specializes in corrective care. Myself, I have worked in the seminar industry for the past 10 years. I went to the cert excited. I was immediately impressed with the layout of the content and even more impressed with the speakers delivery of the information ( something by trade I always pay attention too). My boyfriend and I were excited to see the parallels of the science of movement and paid particular attention to movement in relationship to the stabilization of the spine. We did not need to be sold that we are encouraging all our patients to become crossfitters. In fact, we have referred a large majority of the members of our local affiliate because the congruency we share with the crossfit philosophy.
What would really make or break the cert for us would be the nutrition portion. We were really interested to see the information and in what sequence it was presented. We wanted to see what was emphasized with the plans to take it back to the office so we could do a presentation for our patients.
I have to be honest the presentation was awesome, but our balloons were quickly deflated when it came to the emphasis on food quality. The lay out of the overall content was good, but I must be completely honest that one of the examples of how to do a zone balanced meal was this: I would rather you eat a mcdonalds hamburger than not balance a meal. They then went on to show you how a mcdonalds cheesebuger was perfectly zoned block meal. While I would attend the cert again, my first recommendation would to increase the information on nutrition. WHile all the other info was great, this example stood out in my mind over everything else beucae i was just so surprised. WE would never teach our patients to sacrifice food quality ( or eat at mcdonalds) to stay within a block perscription. While i completely understand using WAM to reach a specific result, we look for accuracy in info that we can easily teach others how to implement into their daily lives. We have found that by focusing on teaching paleo while teaching them the fundamentals of the hormonal response described effectively in the zone we have got the best results.
Bottom lines is that Both my boyfriend and I agreed with you, The cert falls flat on the 45 minutes that is donated to nutrition that is known to crossfitters everywhere is such a critical component of not only our performance in the gym, but the underlying cause we see in the sick people that walk into the office everyday with no idea that what they are putting into their mouth might have everything to do with how they feel.
Out of frustration for the nutrition in the cert, We found out you would be doing a cert in boston. We both attended and were thrilled with not only the information you taught, but being from the seminar world I also pay attention to how concepts are taught and then built on and your delivery of the content was fantastic.
Since then we have insituted a 60 day weight loss challenge using the information you provided for our patients. The teeter totter has worked wonders and we cannot wait to see the results at the end of September.
Personally, I have seen my performance shoot through the roof. Before I was introduced to your teachings. My boyfriend had convinced me to give up gluten to see if a slew of digestive disorders would clear up and that they have. We both eat completely paleo and if we cheat we never break the rule of including gluten in the cheats which has become a saving grace.
We were so impressed with your cert I am sending two of my business partners who are both doctors to your cert in Honolulu at the end of the month with special instructions, beyond the info . I want them to see how they can take “psuedo science” and make it easy to understand so that people everywhere can gain access to this info that can change not only their health, their wod times but their lives. I would tell anyone wanting more to attend your cert.
Thank you for closing the gap and filling in the blanks when it comes to nutrition. Stick with the psuedo science, its your strike zone and we eat it up.
Thank you much for the kind words and I’m very glad you guys found the cert valuable. I love what I do and it’s a huge privilege to do it. I want to make the WHOLE offering better.
Charis Secor says
It looks like your attempting to keep hold of your crossfit gig by bringing Sears into your sinking ship with you. You couldn’t possibly get the boot for practicing pseudo science if Sears is too. Thats clever of you;) I realize you have a lot of people in the Crossfit community that are followers of you but I hope you don’t mislead them for the purposes stated above. However, at the Sears seminar, it was clear he is not SIMPLY Paleo. While you have painted yourself into that corner I don’t think he would do the same. Rather, he stated numerous times that he is a pretty big advocate of the Zone( wow!). The Zone, as it can be seen in his many books, promotes quality food in the right proportions. Seems to be a blend of both. Here are some random facts that I think you just need a refresher on…
– Sears does suggest the use of blocks! Sounds like a suggestive quantity to me. One would have to weigh and measure for a certain period of time in order to obtain the ability to EYEBALL food for the portion control you had mentioned earlier. I think that would be why crossfit would suggest two weeks of weighing and measuring.
– Sears stated numerous times at the seminar that Paleo is too difficult to do strictly. You’re taking jabs at the recommendations of Crossfit’s two weeks of weighing and measuring arguing its unhealthy YET you rant on and on about the condemnation that will befall all who eat dairy, legumes, nightshades, blah blah. Your suggestions remind of the typical American female diet… “Im cutting out bread from my diet…” Your throwing out any nutritional science regarding macronutrient ratios, etc.
– Sears has stated that he has not seen many athletes succeed with just Paleo.
– I do recall one comment you made to someone who had tweaked the zone slightly and had asked you why it wasn’t working. Rightly so, you told him that if he changes anything about it then he cant truly say he is zoning. Using the same principle of yours to Sears would indicate he too is not Paleo. He sells pasta on his site, he suggests beans in his recipes, and a host of other things would indicate, by your own measure, that he isn’t Paleo.
Im sure your a great guy as I have seen from your kind comments to others but everyone needs a cyber smack once in a while. While this is a sort of silly topic when you look at in with the Big Picture in mind, I hope this helps you look at things more objectively. Good luck in your pursuit of truth and health.
Brother, we are on two different planets. Thanks for stopping by though.
Dutch Lowy says
I find it only fitting for me to weigh in on a topic like this…
Everything you have ever told be in regards to nutrition and training for that matter has always been spot on. For the longest time i was in the dark on this topic and it always bugged me. I am glad that you put it out in the open and you are fighting for what you believe in. Meggie and I are behind you no matter what!
Thanks for the best info out there!
Love you bro.
Love the site. My mom has MS and has been doing Paleo for about three months now – the results have been amazing. Balance and fatigue were her biggest issues and they have dramatically improved. Thanks to you and others such as Cordain for putting the info out there. Seriously.
I just attended the Level 1 Cert at USD over the weekend. Great time, great info. Thought I’d chime in real quick. I heard the exact nutrition lecture you described in your post – Pringles, beer, nuts, and meat I think were the chosen “food groups”. Anyways, the lecturer did a good job of explaining that while he initially Zoned on Pringles, beer, nuts and meat, that it wasn’t IDEAL to do this. I’m sure a lot of people new to this whole topic only heard “Pringles, beer, nuts, and meat” and ignored the part where he said it wasn’t ideal, he was always hungry eating this way, and felt like crap most of the time. He did state, however, that his performance increased pretty dramatically following this protocol. He then gave an example of his CURRENT diet for comparison purposes, which contained much more high quality foods (i.e. – breakfast: 2 eggs, 3 strips bacon, 1 apple, 1/2c blueberries, and 9 almonds I believe). He also covered that performance will improve on a “primal” (meats, veggies, nuts, seeds, some fruit, little starch, no sugar) diet, but ultimately you want to end up on a “primal zone” diet. Was the lecture 100% flawless? No. But I can say for certain that a diet of “Pringles, beer, nuts and meats” was not recommended for anyone in the room. If people walked away from that lecture with that impression then I question if they should have been sitting there in the first place (not meant to be offensive, rather genuine concern!). I just wanted to take a couple minutes to offer another viewpoint of the lecture, hopefully this helps put a little bit better perspective on what’s being taught.
Thanks again Robb!
I really appreciate the input on that and honestly, I used that example to make a point. That said, the paleo concept has become a taboo subject and I’ve had “difficulties” related to the topic.
Robb – Looking forward to attending your cert in December in NC. I have only one bit to nitpick with your post. Not all of HQ is taking the position you indicate. At the level 1 cert I attended, the summary of the nutrition portion was the first sentence of the 100 words of fitness first (HQ staff referred to this as paleo) would get an athlete 70% of the way there. The second sentence (HQ staff indicated this as zone) would get you the rest. Yes, they did have the Quarter Pounder from McDonalds example, but the overall message was quality of the food first and then worry about the quantity if the quality only focus wasn’t giving the performance increases desired.
You are 100% correct and I was sloppy in my original post because I was trying to be a bit oblique. It is definitely NOT all of HQ who hold the pseudo science position.
Funny. A friend of mine told me a few days ago that CrossFit HQ was not really all that friendly to Paleo. I thought about it for a while and couldn’t quite wrap my mind around it. I thought she must have misunderstood something, becuase they actively advocate Paleo-Zone (with Paleo first in the name, if that means anything), and the fitness in 100 words basically describes a Paleo diet. Guess I was the one misunderstanding, if they actually are saying weighed-and-measured crap food is better than un-portioned good food.
Aaron Wilson says
thank you for writing exactly what I have felt for a long time and tried to debate/convince other CF friends who follow Zone without much, if any emphasis on paleo foods. I have always found that paleo is super easy to follow and if followed relatively strictly will give you amazing results, zone on top of this may give you something extra , but I am simply not convinced that Zone without paleo is anywhere near as good. This is my 4th year following paleo (37 yr old) and have tried zone on several occasions both super strict WAM and eyeballing.
On a side note I just heard Pat give the nutrition lecture at CF Lvl 1 Cert in Perth and he presented Zone, Paleo and food quality in exactly the way you would want him to. It was an excellent lecture. I know you know that , but just confirmation from a third party.
thanks for the input. You are right, Pat kicks ass at everything he does. Outstanding coach and athlete.
Robb, Patty and I attended your certification back in July in Monrovia, CA. Since starting Crossfit in 2007, I have wondered why you’re not a presenter at the Level 1 Certs. We’re supposed to be interested in results-based performance and nutrition, right? I would hate to think there’s something political going on at CFHQ.
I was at the lecture last weekend with Dr. Sears. Enlightening 4 hours! He didn’t seem very interested in talking about zone blocks or eating junk in the “Zone” amounts. He did however, say that you could eyeball portions quite easily and that he was a HUGE believer in L. Cordain’s work.
Here are my notes from the lecture:
Zone seminar part 1
Arachiodonic acid is the toxic fat that causes inflamm. And diet is the only way to cure this.
Silent inflammation is cause for 99% of all disease
Anti inflamm. Drugs are a bigger killer than AIDS.
Food as a drug used to prevent inflammation thru hormonal manipulation.
Eicosanoid- master hormone, manipulated by fat ingested
Insulin and glucagon- storage/mobilization
Each meal manipulates these 3 hormones
Nutritional storm: increased refined carb and veg oil and less N3 fat
Adipose can turn out inflammatory hormones
Dr Sears is a huge proponent of fish oil! Ridiculous amounts of clinical data for benefits of it.
Zone seminar part 2: PERFORMANCE
Metabolism- dietary en to chemical en.
ATP efficiency thru diet is what athletes desire
Suggested you ‘prime the hormones’ before exercise with about 100 calories of pro and carbs
Recovery 2 hour window is actually 30 min
Too much insulin release shuts down gh release
Regeneration phase is next 20-22 hours
‘it doesn’t matter where you get the protein, as long as it’s low in saturated fat’
Use low glycemic load foods
Type of fish oil: he recommends ‘toothpick test’ to avoid sewer of the sea fish oil.
***kids eating zone: pick food proteins they’ll eat, and make low GI desserts. Feed them cut up fruits.
Sugar is addictive as cocaine
Zone notes part 3
Ifosprogram.com – international fish oil stds program
Migraine can be treated with 5-7 grams fish oil per day
Prenatal fish oil is healthy for baby brain development, also during breastfeeding
5-10 g per day fish oil will not increase bleeding significantly
Arachiodonic acids are poisonous!
He suggests paleo zone. Called Cordain his friend.
Artificial sweeteners send signal to release insulin. More calories are consumed the next meal!
Grains plus high level of n6 fatty acids increase inflammation!
Thanks for the notes Amigo!! Nice overlap between yours and Kelly’s.
Counting almonds is retarded. Choosing real meat, veggies and good fats over a Big Mac, though, is not.
I support you, Robb.
Andrew McConnell says
Great article. I thought I’d weigh in on this as well because of my experience with Paleo and the CF community.
I remember a few months ago a t-nation article about cf came out, and I treated it the same way I treat most t-nation articles, with a big BS sieve trying to find that lump of gold. What concerned me in that article was the quote that at the level 1 certs eating McDonalds was condoned. Now I did my level 1 about 3 weeks ago, Pat was the presenter, the burger came up again but I realised how out of context it was. Pat was giving examples to try and re-jig our way of thinking when it came to food. Make us realise how the common healthy breakfast of cereal and fruit illicits an insulin response greater than a Mcdonalds burger, he then stated that didn’t give us the green light to eat Mcdonalds, but to think about macronutrient content.
From my own experience, I started Crossfit early last year. At the time I had chronic urticaria over my entire body only managed through steroids and some anti-histamines, migraines, was constantly stressed and very overweight. I went on paleo from the recommendations of my coach. In 6 months urticaria was non-existent to the point I didn’t have to worry about the environmental factors that used to trigger it, migraines gone, stress was gone, and I dropped about 6 kilos, body composition changed. Weight loss total is now around 15 kilos.
It has taken me 18 months of reading, including Sear’s books, your blog, MDA and others to get in my head what good nutrition should be. I now tell anyone who will listen; go paleo then think about quantities. I’ve tried WAM, currently 2 weeks in, but I can’t ever maintain it. Paleo I find very easy to maintain, even if it does annoy my friends sometimes.
A bit of a long post, but I guess it help lends evidence to your arguments, and thats what scientific folks like I guess…i’m an engineer myself, if it works, i’m happy.
Thanks again, it constantly astounds me how complicated people make nutrition to be. When can you get that shirt ready?
We see amazing improvements with anything autoimmune/allergy related with a paleo paleo/zone approach. It takes a little work but the results are amazing. If you are game for writing that up as a testimonial i’d certainly appreciate it.
James Hobart says
Robb *virtual high-five*, I’ll keep telling everyone I heard it from you first.
Oh, and if you want to have one of those slap-your-head-and-laugh-at-the-world’s-ignorance-moments: http://health.yahoo.com/featured/29/top-diet-myths-exposed
that link is like the WORST offerings from the WORS RD’s the world has ever known!!
The offer is still there to destroy your law career in Chico. Short of that you need to at least come hang with us for a week sometime. The unwashed hippy girls await.
Robb…Great blog and great discussion! I attended your cert in Austin back in March and have been strict Paleo since. It was the first time that I had heard someone talk about nutrition where it ALL made perfect sense! Not to mention, (and I have said this so many times since your cert), every question that was asked, you had an answer and research to back it up! I was super impressed with the amount of knowledge your brain can hold:)
I have an occational cheat with wine or a sweet, but I haven’t had gluten since March. The results have been amazing! I have definately seen a difference in my appearance with the weight I have lost, but more importantly, I feel amazing! I sleep great, I feel great and I don’t suffer from the allergies or little “bugs” that everyone around me battles constantly!I have been putting the most emphasis on my food quality and not the quanity. After changing to Paleo, I just wanted to get used to the types of food that my diet would consist of before I started WAM. A couple of people on here have said how difficult Paleo is, but I have to disagree! I eat great food that taste great and I feel good about eating it! I am someone who has tried every “diet” out there, and I find Paleo super easy. I never feel like I am missing out on anything when it comes to the types of food I eat! I recently convinced my roommate (who is a huge lover of food, and not very good food) to go paleo for a month. She is someone who lives to eat and enjoys food tremendously!! She is a tiny girl with a big appetite, not much will power and definately does not care that the food she is eating is going to have so many negative effects on her health. She is of the opinion that she is fine now…so the food she eats must be okay. I am telling this about her to show how easy Paleo really is. She really had no “reason” to do it…she didnt’ need to lose weight, doesn’t think her style of eating is unhealthy and wasn’t looking for performance gains (she doesn’t CF and swears she never will!) She agreed to do it for a month, and it was actually easy for her (without the motivations that most of us have when we make changes). She kept commenting on how easy it was. She occationally would crave her choc milk and fried mash potatoes, but she didn’t give in. 2 huge things I noticed with her were, 1. She started craving stuff like asparagus and zuchini…she would come home and ask me to cook it for dinner because she was craving it and 2. the first time she ate milk choc after being Paleo, she got an instant migrain and had to stay home from work (she swears that the choc had nothing to do with it though:)) When I started CF’ing in Dec., I tried WAM Zone style, and it drove me a bit insane. I found it much harder and restrictive. However, I would like to start Paleo-Zone now to see how it will affect my performance. Eating Paleo without WAM has definately helped me in my performance, but I am up for a new experiement to see what Paleo-Zone will do!
I have to say that if you did start a Paleo Cult, I would be the first to sign up and buy the T-shirt! Everything that you taught at your seminar and that I’ve read on your post are spot on!! I am currently on a mission to convert everyone I know (I might lose a few friends along the way, but it’s only out of love that I am doing it!). My dad recently agreed to cut dairy (gotta start somewhere) out of his diet and within a week noticed that the extreme shoulder pain he has battled for over 7 years disappeared. I am so grateful that you do what you do and that you share it with all of us!! You have definately changed my life with what I have learned from you!! Thanks so much and please keep doing it!!!
that’s awesome!! I totally encourage the experiment of WAM paleo…see where it takes you, see if you can tinker things into even beetter ratios. Use the 42 ways to skin the Zone as a guide to drive things. And yes, I totally agree, folks tend to overhype the “difficulty” of eating paleo. It’s not about perfection, just giving things a shot. Keep up the great work!
Dude, when is the nutrition cert coming back to Texas?!
We will start booking for 10 pretty soon. It will likely be Mat Lalonde and Bobbi Milsaps on this trip. you will LOVE them.
Robb, having read through Kelly’s notes I have a couple of questions:
“The underlying cause of every chronic disease known to man is silent inflammation. Sears emphatically believes that the leading cause of inflammation is “Toxic Fat” (arachidonic acid) which is caused by diet.”
I’m suspicious of anything that claims to be a panacea, but aside from that I had to dig around to find out exactly what Sears means by “Toxic Fat”. Checking Wikipedia (not the most reliable source, I know) told me that arachidonic acid is a) an “essential” fatty acid, b) is implicated in inflammation mechanisms, and c) is abundant in peanuts. I know you recommend the Crossfit “eat nuts, seeds etc.” does not include peanuts. Is this the reason? i.e. because other seeds have much better omega 3/6 ratios?
Question 2: the “inflammation bad” message is consistent with increased fish oil consumption (correcting omega 3/6 ratios), but Wikipedia describes a study where encouraging inflammation by supplementing with arachidonic acid aids muscle growth. Presumably, if true, the long term complications outweigh the short term benefits?
Also the “diet to reduce inflammation” concept (specifically use of fish oil) seems at odds with both the Wikipedia article, and the Kelly Starrett CFJ video where he advises against NSAIDs to reduce inflammation, since this inflammation appears to be necessary for muscle repair and performance development?
Okay, so not so much specific questions as a list of a few things this post threw up in my head. Basically what are your thoughts on the inflammation bad/good topic? (I’m guessing it’s a bit more complicated than that and inflammation of functional muscles is beneficial, while overloading the immune system with extraneous inflammation proves too taxing for the body, particularly over long time scales.)
I’m kicking aroudn the idea of a pod-cast or something…I just can’t stay on top of all this. It would take me 3 hours or writing to properly answer your questions…theya re great, but it’s fracking hard to stay on top of it. All I can say is focus on inflammation is indeed a panacea, there are good and bad levels of inflammation, muscle gain is a complex process with beneficial inputs occurring from both anabolic and catabolic signaling…better and worse ways of managing inflammation.
Ricky hall says
I read your stuff every day and am just beginning in the past few weeks to go paleo and follow other advice you’ve given. I’ve always been an athlete but for the first time in my life, nutrition is making sense thanks to the way you present it. I am looking forward to seeing where this takes me.
One of the comments above mentioned a nutrition seminar in NC in December? Where can I get more info?
Thanks for all you are doing
We will be at Crossfit Cape Fear.
Sorry. I just found Herm’s seminar notes above and there’s more information there regarding the question of inflammation and arachidonic acid (and touches on avoiding NSAIDs). I’d still be interested in your thoughts.
Peter Haas says
Hi Robb, didn’t know if you had already seen some of this guys research before. He’s a researcher at the med center here in town. The concepts aren’t revolutionary or anything, but it’s interesting to see some of the paleo/zone concepts getting more research behind them. I’ve just started to read into some of his stuff, and might try to get in touch with him to get his take on paleo.
Lloyd Chilton – Reducing O6/O3 ratio decreases expression of inflammatory pathway genes (pubmed) http://bit.ly/XgRhA
Apparently he’s written a couple of diet books also, advocating decreasing systemic inflammation through manipulation of dietary fats:
totally legit…thanks for those references.
The first 50 or so comments aren’t visible on this post–is there a way to go back and view them?
that’s weird…I’ll check that. Ok, just checked. You just need to fidn the little blue toggle at the bottom of the page. this will take you through all the comments.
Peter Haas says
No problem Robb. Here’s his bio page at the hospital also:
PXT Cody says
Thanks for the work you do, I can’t wait for the book!
Just a little FYI
Lisa Ray taught the nutrition portion of my L1 cert back in Feb and she lined out very clearly- get quility food FIRST, this is enough for some people, if you don’t get the results you are looking for THEN weigh and measure that quality to fine tune.
Sounds like there may be inconsistancy from one cert to the next but my experience seemed to fall in line with your teachings.
Awesome Cody, Lisa is awesome. Great coach, great athlete.
Steven Novick says
Robb, I believe Pat’s comments have been taken out of context. I attended the L1 cert in Longwood, FL and the nutrition lecture essentially recommended following a paleo/zone diet. The time allotted was definitely too short. In our lecture Pat recommended Paleo first; there really was not sufficient time to allow him to get deep into the mechanics of the zone except to describe its general principles. He did describe the macronutrient breakdown of the cheeseburger, however this was not meant as a recommendation. It was given in the context of how he tries to manage in a difficult circumstance to stay in the zone (eg. while traveling with limited resources at hand). He did not recommend in general eating crap. All that being said, Pat’s done an excellent job in his own training, during all of his travel he still managed to qualify for the CrossFit games. His summary was eat paleo/zone, if you would like to delve deeper go to the nutrition cert or check out this website.
Yes the “100 words” describes paleo. For CFHQ to call this pseudoscience is to shoot itself in the foot!
People who live in black boxes shouldn’t throw stones! ; )
Mixed metaphor for effect for all the concrete thinkers who will misinterpret that.
I’ve followed your blog for some time and enjoyed and benefited from your expertise and devotion to nutrition and sports performance. I’m looking forward to attending a nutrition cert with you and to reading your book.
Keep up the good work,
It was not my intention to hang Pat out, and unfortuantely it was y’all that named him. I just want a STANDARD to be met for the attendees. At the end of the day however I have no literal ownership in crossfit and my input is generally seen as ungrateful and attacking. I’ll keep my mouth shut for the most part from here on out.
You are spot on however, equating paleo with pseudo science is indeed a foot wound.
Jesse Ward says
Paleo T-Shirt – I want it, order form?? Rock on Robb!
James CFAddiction says
I’ve had an issue with HQ’s obsession with weighing and measuring since the beginning. Nicole Carrol gave the nutrition talk at my level 1 and she taught the zone with only a passing mention of starches and zero mention of lectins. I hope things have changed since 2008.
When I was zoning brown rice, oatmeal, and other starches/grains I felt like crap. Cut those out and started eating fruit/veg and everything got better. Bonus: I’m no longer that freak in the corner counting almonds…
I guess that’s the roll I play is filling in that gap.
Jason M Struck says
I will say in your defense Robb that if called upon I could easily name the HQ star that told me there was an athlete getting ripped on Beer, Jerky and Pretzels in blocks.
Remember that very distinctly, 18 months later.
Robb, I attended the Level 1 cert recently. This information is absolutely the truth. One 20-something trainer from a Central Coast CF did say that he weighs his Pringles out and went on to elaborate on the importance of the scale primarily. Similar questions were asked about food quality and similar responses were given. Cutting blocks and adding fat as needed were the only alterations to the Zone standard that were readily embraced.
Well….that’s part of this post. When it’s all said and done I will take a shit-load of heat for this post but the intention was to affect change, from top to bottom. A few years ago I tried doing something like this with no success…I might should have known better. This food quality piece is just too damn important…it’s right up there with “increased work capacity across broad time and modal domains” unfortunately however it is not championed the same way.
[email protected] says
I think people take things @ first glance alot without doing any research themselves. I am positive there are alot of people preaching Zone that have never even seen a sears book let alone read it multiple times. I absolutely agree that Dr. Sears is Paleo with a portioning twist.
If he weren’t interested in food quality why would he section food by favorable and unfavorable… While I still love my milk (and Japan’s milk is much cleaner) we promote both Zone/Paleo @ our box. Eat clean with portioning because alot of people will over eat if not given some sort of boundaries. I think its a good way to get someone to understand in the beginning what a portion should look like .. but that is just my opinion and why I use zone. We also don’t have the benefit of places like Whole Markets and the like. You may get heat for voicing your opinion but it was something that needed to be said by someone with the education and knowledge to back it up… People are telling their clients to do zone without even knowing anything about it but blocks blocks blocks
it is odd that the message of “food quality first, weigh and measure second” is somehow threatening, but it was. Mor especifically my focus on the paleo diet for a variety of medical interventions. Yeesh.
Dan Kallen says
Robb – We are right now caught up in a WAM vs. Paleo debate here in our little box… Thanks for this post and the clarity you bring to these discussions.
The DABATE is awesome!! Battle it out, seet up two camps and see what the 1-2 month results are. Just getting people to pay attention one way or another is soooo important.
Cash Reynolds says
There is one, minor caveat I think needs to be recognized by those of us who understand and thus champion the paleo diet. I think it necessitates some rational agnosticism on details of the paleo diet: Details of recent human evolution are significant; for instance, Greg Cochran’s work (The 10,000 Year Explosion: How Civilization Accelerated Human Evolution) gives compelling examples of selected adaptations differentiating, for instance, northern europeans from aboriginal australians or native americans, in their tolerance of agricultural grains, lactose, alcohol. I always have this caveat in mind every time I explain the basic argument for paleo: there is so much we don’t know about how we’ve changed in the last 40,000 – 10,000 years. It may be the case that “asians are well adapted to rice” — could be a possible upshot of forthcoming work on human evolution.
Aside from that – I own up to my ignorance of the Zone. But for some time I’ve been making the following argument, and perhaps it’s obvious, or perhaps there’s some novelty to the insight. I hope you’ll just say “Yeah that’s completely obvious and we’ve been saying it for years,” which is probably the case. Just this little point —
I think much of the explanation for the Zone’s success is that whenever carbs are consumed, they are always combined with fats, which indisputably buffer the body’s insulin response. You can dampen the stimulus of carbs by carefully combining them with a significant portion of fats, and it’s likely the proteins help as well (I cannot differentiate well using my Type 1 diabetic methods, but I can demonstrate clear as day how fats buffer blood sugar increases.) This does NOT decrease overall insulin load, but it does slow it down, which has implications for brain glucose metabolism, type 2 diabetes, and certainly energy levels; you can elaborate the further effects much better than I can.
When following the Zone faithfully, you’re consistently achieving much of the effect of a paleo diet by dampening the insulin response to the carbs. This point seems relevant to me. (Why is the zone effective even when it fails to differentiate bad calories from good calories? Because of its modest steps toward mimicking the Paleo diet.)
Anyway Robb, just wanted to let you know that I’m a thoughtless, clueless kool-aid drinker so if CFHQ gives you the boot I must immediately retract every instance of recognizing your sound work. Just a pack animal, I am. I leave integrity and intellectual honesty (and what seems to me to be a 3rd-grade level reading comprehension) to the leaders. Naturally I’ll wait for the status hierarchy to beat its chest before I even know what I think.
More seriously — That this conflict could persist is unimaginable. Coach Glassman is way too smart, and there are too many other independent thinkers within the crossfit community. You will triumph, just doing what you’ve been doing all along. Easy as breathing. You do not need to belittle your position or pretend your claims are modest; stand tall and keep smiling. And thank you so much for all your excellent work.
Thanks brother…very kind and timely words.
Steve Romer says
First I want to say this Blog is a great service to people like me. So I would like to say thank you.
I just started Crossfit workouts and need to lose about 60#s. I understand what I put in my mouth matters most so I am going to start Paleo this Sunday.
Do you think I will still get good results if I add Green Beans, Ezekiel Bread and humus to my Paleo Diet?
Also what can I add to tuna fish to make tuna fish salad?
Again thank you.
I’m a nut-case witht eh gluten…I;d prefer not have the bread, but that is your call. the other stuff I could live with but the humous is easy to overdo.
mayonnaise for tuna! this is not about perfection, just finding good options.
Sears and his zone were never on my list of good science or good diet. His all zones fits all is so far off the mark- His carb intake is way to high for many with Metabolism issues ( most folks). Sears is also one of the biggest bashers of low carb diets- the type of diet closer to Primal or paleo than anything he marketed and the diet that saved my life from diabetes that I can take him or this article seriously. Sears is bad news
Well…the old 40/30/30 approach IS too many carbs for most folks. He does make some silly distinctions between himself and “other” low carb diets (he said ketosis was dangerous AND that it was caused by protein consumption) but his was a pretty potent message for it’s time. It just needs some updating.
Jocelyn R says
Awesome post Rob! I’ve felt for a long time that we must be one of the few CF boxes that does NOT push the zone, but we are huge paleo advocates (zealots?). The first thing I ask of any new athlete is that they spend a month eating caveman food as a self-experiment to see how they feel. Almost nobody goes back to modern food… except for beer 🙂 Those that do go back inevitably fail to see the positive results they’re looking for by working out.
I used to majorly push WAM until I finally clued in that none of clients were successful with it for more than about 4 weeks. Einstein says the definition of insanity is doing the same things over and over and expecting different results. 4 weeks seems to be the point at which their patience for counting their almonds runs out and they fall totally off the wagon. But people can stick to ordering a steak and vegetables in a restaurant when they’re allowed to freely eat paleo food (and not have an anxiety attack of whether it’s 4oz or 5oz).
My own experience with WAM was equally as depressing. I felt AWFUL (what’s with the lack of cals on the zone anyway? 10-14 blocks for a female, are you kidding?? I eat that for lunch…). At the end of 4 weeks of diligent adherence to the plan, my performance across all domains had fallen, I was crabby, hungry, and ready to kick my kitchen scale out the window. Now I eat paleo food, ad libitum. If i’m hungry, I eat, if I’m not, I don’t. Easy. And everything has improved since then – body comp, performance, strength, mood.
I run a paleo recipe blog http://www.cavegirlinthekitchen.blogspot.com on the side to keep the inspiration going for delicious caveman (or cavegirl!) food. No boring grilled chicken and steamed broccoli for me!
This reflects the same experience we and so many other affiliates have had: weighing and measuring as a first intervention is NOT the best way to help your clients. The gyms that have tried a simple, paleo challenge have reported significantly better adherence to the program and consequently better results for more people. Like I’ve mentioned previously, some food preparation businesses like Mmmm Good Meals switched from Zone to paleo, saw better results AND better sales. the market is pretty adept at figuring out what does and does not work.
Craig Massey says
I’m sorry Robb, I haven’t been keeping up with your site as I should. In the interests of disclosure, I only caught up because I was going through Google reader to get to the latest Weta Workshop post about District 9 and Comiccon and noticed a heap of posts on your blog that I hadn’t read.
This one in particular is a far more eloquent and well researched version of a mini-rant I’m making increasingly when newbies dismiss the Zone as non-paleo and therefore somehow of lesser value.
I do a lot of work answering questions from beginners on the CrossFit Brand X forum for Jeff and Mikki and we have been pointing people over here when they ask for more detailed information about nutrition than we can deal with. I’m going to do that much more. In particular I’ll be linking this and the post on the Zone and athletic performance often.
Saves me typing and spares my blood pressure. 🙂
Thanks for your good work.
aka Metric on the BX forum
According to Sears’ book “Toxic Fat” the necessary purity of fish oil is really only shared by a handful of manufacturers, including Zone Labs. For the last year or so I’ve been taking 12-14 costco enteric coated fish oil tabs per day which have a combined epa/dha of 684 mg per tablet. The label says it’s molecular distilled but doesn’t give the actual PPB of PCB’s, Dioxins, etc… What is your take on the fish oil purity subject? Am I destroying my DNA with costco fish oil or is it safe?
as always, thanks for all the great info
I would not recommend the Costco stuff if I did not think it was safe! I pestered their quality control folks about processing and they had all the “right” answers. SOME people, due to a fish allergy are much better served with a higher purification level…most folks the standard stuff is fine. Try a month of one, try a month of the other and see if you notice an difference. I will have a private label fish oil in a few months, it will be very high concentration so you need to take fewer pills…but it will be free of BS and hyperbole about the necessity of ultra-distillation for every person taking fish oil.
David Alexander says
I would call myself “Paleo Plus” (plus meaning eating saturated fat). What is your thought on saturated fat when Gary Taubes basically proved that saturated fat does not cause heart disease or any other ill effects? I’ve had tons of my clients lose a lot of weight doing “Paleo Plus”. One guy went from 300 lbs and just weighed in the other day at 190lbs. for his very first mma fight. It was his reward to himself to fight for losing all the weight. Most of my clients lose 20 to 30 pounds within two to three months. I personally lost 26 pounds in three months. I will be signing up for your November 7th Cert in Huntington Beach soon. I am looking forward to your teachings. Thanks, Coach David Alexander
Check out my posts on paleo vs weston price. I’m not sure i get the distinction of paleo plus as saturated fat has been a part of our ancestral diet for eons. In my previous post I state my case that I think there are normal operating parameters for saturated fat…high insulin can change how our bodies react to sat’d fat. Give me a sample week’s meal plan so we have something concrete to talk about here.
David Alexander says
Saturated fat means to me: Fatty steaks such as Ribeye, butter, cheese (occasionally), coconut or almond milk, skins on the chicken.
Sample weeks meal plan for “Paleo Plus”.
Monday – Friday: Breakfast = Lactose Free Muscle Milk protein shake (6 ice cubes, vanilla almond milk or coconut milk, two scoops of protein powder, maybe a banana, then blend on the “magic bullet” and 4 strips of bacon. Lunch = Ribeye steak or other meat and maybe some broccoli with melted butter. Dinner (within 1 hour after CrossFit workout) = Another steak or some kind of meat (hamburger, turkey, chicken), maybe a vegetable, Another muscle milk shake, lots of fruit (banana, strawberries, cherries, tangerine, other berries)
That is basically how me and my family eat every day. Weekends are usually the same unless we go out of town, then i order whatever i want and do not eat the bread. I might have a cheat day once a month or so. Cheat day might consist of movie popcorn or a bun on a triple in and out burger.
that’s pretty much how I eat but I tend to have grassfed meat when Im at home. On the road it’s impossible. The change in feeding DOES dramatically change the fatty acid profile of the meat. If I had my way I’d only eat GF meat and butter, this completely changes not only the saturated fat content but a host of other considerations including n-3/n-6. I honestly think the closer we can keep that fatty acid profile looking like that of wild game the better off we are.
Great post. I want that T Shirt!
David Alexander says
Thanks for the answer. I have signed up for your Nov. 7th class at CrossFit Marina in Huntington Beach (my wifes hometown). I eat grassfed when i can and am looking forward to the day when all my families meat can be grassfed. Keep up the good work. thanks, david
“Back to the Barry Sears seminar, Dr. Sears, the developer of the Zone…DOES NOT RECOMMEND WEIGHING AND MEASURING. HE RECOMMENDS FOOD QUALITY FIRST.”
I do agree that Dr. Sears recommends food quality in his book. However, it bothers me that his product ingredients are not the same quality ingredients he recommends. His energy bars fit the 40/30/30 nutrient breakdown but they consist of soy protein and corn syrup! I don’t think we can label him as “paleo” because of this. If you do it’s the same as saying that Atkins is “paleo”. The Atkins plan also recommends food quality first while keeping carbs low but if you look at their product ingredients they are the same as Sear’s products. The only difference is that the Atkins products are low carb instead of 40/30/30.
there was a lot going on behind the scenes with this post but you are obviously right on. The product line Sears offers is dubious at best. To my knowledge Paleo Brands is the first attempt at bringing legitimate, high quality foods to the masses.
Speaking of Paleo Brands… When is the next seminar and when can I purchase the Almond Paleo Cookie online? I’m very excited that this was started up!!
Just a suggestion, but I think you should have the next seminar in TX. 🙂
shooting for Boston…not sure on the date. I suspect Austin will happen not too long after that. The cookies should be good to go, unless they are doing site maintenance.
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Martial Arts Software says
I’m guessing the reason for not needing to weigh and measure is because with quality foods, the satiety will take care of itself?
Bazza Roebucks says
And here I thought Barry Sears was considered paleo because he’s overweight.
Robb Wolf says
Well, he got fat experimenting with veganism….sad story.