3

votes

Crossfit, paleo and fat gain.

Answered on September 12, 2014
Created November 01, 2011 at 12:57 AM

I'm so frustrated!! I am a 38 year old woman who has been crossfitting for about 3 years. When I started I weighed about 64kg, I didn't have visible abs but I was pretty happy with my body shape. I was following a traditional gym program - long, slow cardio and weights. I was eating bread, pasta and was drinnking a lot of diet coke.

Since starting Crossfit, I have learnt a lot about paleo and have altered my diet. I wouldn't say I was paleo but I have definitely decreased the sugar, wheat and carbs in my diet and I don't have any caffeine. I eat more meat and less processed food.

I am definitely fitter and stronger than when I started Crossfit. But I am also a whole lot fatter!! I have a roll of fat on my stomach that wasn't there before and have become much more pear shaped. The scales say I weight about 70kg now. I know that I have gained some muscle and that will account for some of the weight gain but why do I look worse now??!! People have actually asked me if I have stopped training and I have never trained or dieted harder!!

Can anyone shed some light on what's going on??

Fe535c4994ac6176f76e1ff6d29eb08a

(4286)

on September 20, 2012
at 06:39 PM

+1 Agree with everything here. I heard a great passage the other day, "You don't get big and strong from lifting weights, you get big and strong by recovering from lifting weights."

510bdda8988ed0d4b0ec0b738b4edb73

(20898)

on September 20, 2012
at 02:49 PM

+1. Came here to mention overtraining, sleep, and cortisol, but you beat me to it. Crossfitters have a hard time with the less is more approach and just do too much because they think it makes them cool. (I do crossfit, so I'm not putting it down without knowing about it.)

Af939911afa817f79a4625d4f503c735

(552)

on September 20, 2012
at 01:38 PM

No down-vote here - I'd just like to point out that low-carb + CrossFit is not a good mix.

Af939911afa817f79a4625d4f503c735

(552)

on September 20, 2012
at 01:37 PM

I've been CrossFitting for almost 2 years now, and I recently had a problem with some unwanted fat gain. There aren't enough specifics on what you're doing now (how many WODs per week, sample of a day's food, sleep, etc.), but I'll say that I have to be careful not to over-train, and to get *enough* food/carbs in my diet to support the activity. Things are finally going back in the right direction for me - I'm focusing on sleep, taking extra rest days if I'm feeling wrecked, and eating more carbs on workout days.

518bce04b12cd77741237e1f61075194

(11577)

on September 13, 2012
at 09:51 PM

"You, as a 38 year old woman, cannot do it"---->generalize much?????? This is a completely unhelpful totally condescending comment.

1e9164a5a54003ac247d49c574dc7bfc

(396)

on August 09, 2012
at 01:13 AM

I don't think I agree with this either. At least not in the same ultimatum sense you've portrayed it.

324bf94d3d6f9322d6e4dba4becfaab1

on August 08, 2012
at 04:43 PM

If you're gaining fat then you're eating more calories than you need. Even eating an extra 50 calories a day can add up to several pounds of fat in a year. Eat less if you want to drop a few pounds of fat.

5c7ac0c71a787c6c34d9b639fdebb089

(0)

on March 01, 2012
at 02:14 AM

"The other thing I can think of is that you're not going all out on Paleo. Even a little bit of extra sugar will mess with your insulin, and if you add to that the high fat intake of Paleo, you're in trouble." I think this is my exact problem. I don't eat sugar/starches though, maybe once a week. I wouldn't think that this would be an issue but maybe it is. I get really lean a couple years ago when I started going low carb but also was eating low fat. Since going paleo I have gained about 15 lbs, and it's definitely not all muscle. I wonder if this little bit is really effecting me that much.

1ec4e7ca085b7f8d5821529653e1e35a

(5506)

on November 01, 2011
at 11:24 AM

Please elaborate on this if you can. I'm also looking at that link.

6670b38baf0aae7f4d8ac2463ddc37c0

(3946)

on November 01, 2011
at 03:01 AM

I started Paleo with still eating fruits, etc., Paleo carbs. I thought that since I had just switched from being a vegan, which meant Paleo was drastically lowering carbs, the weight would fall off. It didn't. Had to eliminate the fruit, etc., went to 20 net carbs per day, and had great success. I still get carbs from veggies, salads and some nuts.

Medium avatar

(10663)

on November 01, 2011
at 02:38 AM

So how did you start off on Paleo with carbs? And do you mean you're zero carbs now (like no fruit, starchy veggies, etc)?

072fd69647b0e765bb4b11532569f16d

(3717)

on November 01, 2011
at 02:03 AM

How many workouts per week?

9d43f6873107e17ca4d1a5055aa7a2ad

on November 01, 2011
at 01:45 AM

what is your diet like? carbs? low-carb? sleep schedule? stress?

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13 Answers

9
Ac4972f7fc0353a6cdcb61778604a8a0

on November 01, 2011
at 01:48 AM

I'm sorry you're having trouble. I'll offer what advice I can. First, I am an ex-Crossfit Trainer (Level 1, worked at two gyms) so I have some experience, and I've done every diet from Paleo, to Primal, to WAPF, to modified Paleo, etc.

First thing that might be happening is over-training. If you are beating yourself up faster than your body can recover, it will have a stress response and put on weight. This can happen when you get stronger actually, because you can handle more loads, and activate more muscle. More muscle activation requires longer recovery. Try to get lots of sleep (9 hours a night would be a good target...I know it seems impossible, but it is the ideal). If you're fatigued from lack of sleep, over-training, or both working together, you'll eat more too.

The other thing I can think of is that you're not going all out on Paleo. Even a little bit of extra sugar will mess with your insulin, and if you add to that the high fat intake of Paleo, you're in trouble. It's sort of either or. If you're okay going cold turkey, do totally Paleo or find another diet that works for you.

If you're more comfortable doing a gradual approach, back off from the aspects of Paleo like low-carb, and focus on eliminating all processed sugars (and most other sweeteners) and any refined grains. It is also really important that you get rid of ALL processed foods (my rule has always been that the ingredients label should have nothing but whole food items on it: no preservatives, no sweeteners, no 'natural flavor' no coloring). Our bodies store toxins in fat, and these chemicals stress the body out, which can also cause it to store fat. You might still be eating dairy, whole grains, legumes, etc, but focus on eliminating processed foods, sugars and white grains. Once that is taken care of (a month or two), then start thinking about doing the other parts of Paleo (higher protein, low carb, higher fat intake). Also, keep in mind that Paleo works best when its mostly vegetables. That doesn't always come across in discussions of the diet.

With all that said...stressing about food will make it a problem, no matter how healthy. I know it's not fair, and I went through that where I was eating healthier than everyone I knew, but I was always worried about what I was eating, and I was sick all the time. Once I figured out how to relax but still eat well, things improved a lot.

Sorry for the long response. I hope it's informative. I know what you're feeling and have had similar frustrations. Focus on rest and recovery from CrossFit, and check that there is zero added sugar, zero processed foods, and worry less about the other stuff until that is nailed down. Good luck.

5c7ac0c71a787c6c34d9b639fdebb089

(0)

on March 01, 2012
at 02:14 AM

"The other thing I can think of is that you're not going all out on Paleo. Even a little bit of extra sugar will mess with your insulin, and if you add to that the high fat intake of Paleo, you're in trouble." I think this is my exact problem. I don't eat sugar/starches though, maybe once a week. I wouldn't think that this would be an issue but maybe it is. I get really lean a couple years ago when I started going low carb but also was eating low fat. Since going paleo I have gained about 15 lbs, and it's definitely not all muscle. I wonder if this little bit is really effecting me that much.

510bdda8988ed0d4b0ec0b738b4edb73

(20898)

on September 20, 2012
at 02:49 PM

+1. Came here to mention overtraining, sleep, and cortisol, but you beat me to it. Crossfitters have a hard time with the less is more approach and just do too much because they think it makes them cool. (I do crossfit, so I'm not putting it down without knowing about it.)

Fe535c4994ac6176f76e1ff6d29eb08a

(4286)

on September 20, 2012
at 06:39 PM

+1 Agree with everything here. I heard a great passage the other day, "You don't get big and strong from lifting weights, you get big and strong by recovering from lifting weights."

6
6670b38baf0aae7f4d8ac2463ddc37c0

(3946)

on November 01, 2011
at 01:34 AM

When I first started Paleo, I did not lose any weight, and actually gained a couple of pounds despite no change in exercise. I found that I had to lose the carbs in order to lose weight on Paleo. And before all you haters down-vote me, notice that I said "I" not ALL or EVERYONE.

6670b38baf0aae7f4d8ac2463ddc37c0

(3946)

on November 01, 2011
at 03:01 AM

I started Paleo with still eating fruits, etc., Paleo carbs. I thought that since I had just switched from being a vegan, which meant Paleo was drastically lowering carbs, the weight would fall off. It didn't. Had to eliminate the fruit, etc., went to 20 net carbs per day, and had great success. I still get carbs from veggies, salads and some nuts.

Medium avatar

(10663)

on November 01, 2011
at 02:38 AM

So how did you start off on Paleo with carbs? And do you mean you're zero carbs now (like no fruit, starchy veggies, etc)?

Af939911afa817f79a4625d4f503c735

(552)

on September 20, 2012
at 01:38 PM

No down-vote here - I'd just like to point out that low-carb + CrossFit is not a good mix.

3
26b7615ef542394102785a67a2786867

on November 01, 2011
at 02:33 AM

Crossfit makes you fit unquestionably, but it doesn't necessarily make you look good naked or feel your best. A lot of LC/paleo eaters seem to experience fat gain, exhaustion, etc while doing Crossfit or other high-stress/high-cardio exercise regimes.

I'd say you have two choices; go back to what you were eating before when you looked better (or approximate it 'paleo'-style), or stop doing Crossfit and see if that helps.

2
F69da86ad5ad986a09c73abd757863a1

(127)

on August 08, 2012
at 03:32 PM

The key to being lean is NUTRIENT TIMING. Carbs are fuel for working our muscles, and they must be treated that way. Eat carbs when our glycogen stores are already filled and it gets turned to fat...and it doesn't take much to fill our stores.

The basis of a diet (when leaning out) should be lean protein and green veggies. PERIOD. Don't be afraid of healthy fats also to help cell function (omega 3). SALAD SALAD SALAD - and mix in veggies to make it fun (balsamic and olive oil for dressing)

Carbs should be used strategically around your workouts, ESPECIALLY IF YOU ARE X FITTING. These workouts are extremely tough and you will need carbs to refuel glycogen.

www.paleodietevolved.com discusses nutrient timing and how to strategically plan meals in the blog.

Weight loss needs synergy = healthy foods so body has fuel AND cells function correctly, healthy foods at the right time to properly fuel what doing. The body also needs exercise so we can increase metabolism and also release other fat burning/muscle building hormones.

By having a clean diet of mostly protein and veggies, this is priming the body for muscle gain when we do eat carbs peri/post workout.

1
91119f53c3827f5c7fc90b98cab85b04

(799)

on September 20, 2012
at 02:29 PM

it sounds like perhaps you are overtraining, ravenously hungry as a result of it, and still overeating even though you are doing it with different and/or better foods then you may have been eating previously. The higher fat content of a typical paleo diet will provide more calories with a relatively smaller volume of food and this increases exponentially as fat intake increases seeing as a gram of fat holds 9 calories to the comparable 4 calories of carbs and protein. You could try eating high or even very high fat but understand that the body will still need to be presented with a caloric deficit in order to lose weight, so those fat calories will need to be consumed at the exclusion of calories from other sources. There may be many who espouse consuming fat in unlimited quantities as long as its from approved sources and that calories dont need to be counted, but for most people the less than favourable body composition that results from doing this speaks for itself. Understand that what I am presenting here is to establish a guideline and measure for your caloric needs and does not need to be rigidly followed, just to get a sense if you are coming in anywhere around the range or where things may be off.

I would suggest:
- get together some calculations of your daily caloric maintenance needs based on age, weight, bodyfat percentage and / or LBM, and activity levels
- get your macronutrient ratios in order so you understand how many calories need to come from each. By way of example, if your goal is to eat 50% fat / 35% protein / 15% carbs and your caloric maintenance requirement is (im guessing based on a height of 165cm) 1850 per day, decreasing 20% for weight loss you are at an intake goal of 1480, lets call it 1500 calories - that breaks down to:
- 83 g of fat (50%)
- 131 g of protein (35%)
- 56 g of carbs (15%)
You can shift these macro ratios around to your preference but I would go for a minimum baseline of at least 1g of protein per lb of lean body mass with multiple crossfit sessions a week

A poster above also mentioned carb cycling which you can try: eating minimal carbs and higher fat on non-workout days, and the opposite (more carbs, lower fat) for glycogen replenishment on workout days, just as long as you keep the day's caloric target in mind.

To help the body from going into adaptation and keep hormone and metabolism levels from plummeting and staying there, which is a definite possibility on long stretches of dieting, once a week, (I do Saturdays as thats the day I do my most intense/heavy workout) you could try eating at or 20% above maintenance calories with less fat and more carbs, maybe equal percentages of all 3 macros or even lower on the fat.

I dont know if you have tried or considered any of these things but I think you may find at least some of this helpful in figuring out what is going on. Best of luck to you and keep at it!

1
A1570f628a9be2f661ecc021e884002b

on September 20, 2012
at 10:44 AM

Actually Steve is dead on. Almost any 18 year-old virgin weightlifter can eat junk food, get 4 hours of sleep a night, and still lift weights and will gain muscle and lose fat. The vast majority of 38 year-olds will not be able to do this. They will have to set a goal - loss fat, gain strength, get a certain time in a race, etc. - and gear their training, diet and recovery towards this. There will be rare exceptions who have great genetics and/or the time and resources to train like a professional athlete, but if you have to ask if you're one of those people, you aren't one.

Set a goal, work towards it, discard what doesn't move you towards that goal and retain what does. If Crossfit isn't giving you what you want, try something else. It doesn't mean Crossfit is bad, it doesn't mean you're bad - its just not working FOR YOU.

1
Be2e2adf0b9a8712ecd3cd2f5760fb66

on August 08, 2012
at 04:59 PM

This is my experience too. I joined crossfit at when I was stuck at 19percent bodyfat for over 2 years (couldn't get below that) I hoped crossfit would change that. However, what happened is I gained muscle and fat. I now am 20 percent body fat and have a tummy roll. So I may just quit crossfit and go back to what I was doing. I go to crossfir 3-4x/ week. My diet hasn't changed. I meal plan and was already eating clean (grow my own veggies, shop locally, etc.) Same sleep patterns. So I don't understand why I'm getting fatter.

1
F1edc54a7fb4b84764aa7db05518c0ca

(285)

on November 01, 2011
at 03:12 AM

I've frequently had to lose weight quickly while maintaining strength/fitness levels due to some of the activities I have been involved with in the past. The only thing that I have ever seen work almost universally for folks at my gym has been a rather complicated carbohydrate loading / cycling methodology. It's not exactly paleo but it does work, and is what many folks who need to make weight (boxers, wrestlers) as well as bodybuilders use as a method of reaching contest/competition weights without compromising too much as far as fitness goes.

There is tons of information available on the internet. I tend to find http://www.skippypodar.net/Fitness/carbcycling.html to be the most readable.

1ec4e7ca085b7f8d5821529653e1e35a

(5506)

on November 01, 2011
at 11:24 AM

Please elaborate on this if you can. I'm also looking at that link.

0
3820e9eb079e94cf4238e89118887e04

on May 10, 2013
at 02:08 PM

Pay attention to what you are eating. Crossfit usually makes you very hungry so it is very common to overeat or to include high starch food like tubers to feel fuller which are very detrimental to the objective of loosing weight. For my part I have been doing Crossfit for 7 months and was recently putting on some belly fat and talked to a friend of mine about it and he made me realize I was overeating specially on tubers like sweet potatoes.

0
Afc0b8e755ac7cdde6b517fdadb50026

(778)

on August 08, 2012
at 02:56 PM

pear shaped = good apple shaped = bad

0
88259fd56493c137322e61156589cef8

on August 08, 2012
at 03:17 AM

I'm having this exact problem! I am eating better than ever and look the worst I ever have. I've built muscle, there's no doubt about that, but I've put on lots of fat, too. AND FAST. I look awful now, and feel worse about it. I'm just about ready to throw in the towel on this whole crossfit thing. I love it, but it's not worth it. I don't eat grains at all, and have dairy only about once a week now, usually full fat cheese. I still eat berries, and let myself have a bit of chocolate every once in a while. I eat plenty of protein and veggies.

I'm just at a loss.

0
64433a05384cd9717c1aa6bf7e98b661

(15236)

on November 01, 2011
at 01:45 AM

Sounds like this other question....

http://paleohacks.com/questions/73738/hack-my-cortisol#axzz1cPjFnA00

Too much crossfitting???

-3
59fa7cd87fb9d669adf21e5cf3e7ada5

on August 08, 2012
at 03:08 PM

People are going to tell you a lot of untruths because that's the way that life works. One of the untruths is that you can gain muscle without gaining fat.

While some people can in fact gain muscle without gaining fat, most people fail at it and you, as a 38 year old woman, cannot do it. The proof is in the fact that you have, in fact, been gaining fat wile getting stronger.

Having a roll of fat on your stomach is unattractive and you probably don't like the way that you look. The logical thing to do would be to ditch the exercise method that has produced the roll of fat, and switch to an exercise method that does not produce the roll of fat.

Some people will tell you that the roll of fat is unimportant and that your health and how you feel is what you should really be concerned with but let's be honest, you don't like having that roll of fat on your stomach, do you?

1e9164a5a54003ac247d49c574dc7bfc

(396)

on August 09, 2012
at 01:13 AM

I don't think I agree with this either. At least not in the same ultimatum sense you've portrayed it.

518bce04b12cd77741237e1f61075194

(11577)

on September 13, 2012
at 09:51 PM

"You, as a 38 year old woman, cannot do it"---->generalize much?????? This is a completely unhelpful totally condescending comment.

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