4

votes

Paleo -> Fitness or Fitness -> Paleo?

Answered on August 19, 2014
Created September 23, 2010 at 2:05 AM

I suppose this isn't a pressing question that will save lives, but it's something I've been thinking about.

Do people gain more, from a health/longevity perspective, when they start with something like CrossFit and eventually end up going Paleo/Primal? Are they more likely to really "get it" or stick with it, for whatever reason?

Or is it just the opposite -- are they more likely to start by finding Paleo for weight loss or health reasons (auto-immune conditions, for example), then slowly work their way into greater fitness via Mark's Daily Apple, CrossFit, Starting Strength, or what have you? Are people with pretty severe health problems more likely to "get it" or stick with it than people who are chasing athletic performance?

Does it matter either way?

I'll chime in on the issue myself if the discussion gets going.

3c04e97f68c270d7a03861e2daf75f68

(40)

on October 10, 2010
at 04:23 PM

Robb Wolf always makes me laugh when he quotes coach Charles Poloquin: "some people just need to learn the difference between their mouth and a vacuum." Food first for sure.

Ddb0e3a41f15d69d30677339ccf9c7b6

(513)

on October 08, 2010
at 10:13 PM

Then again, I'm looking at this from a general fitness perspective, not a 'jumping directly into Crossfit' perspective. If you want to start out with Crossfit, change your diet first, but I would get a medical screening before you start doing that kind of intense workout. Or build up to it.

Ddb0e3a41f15d69d30677339ccf9c7b6

(513)

on October 08, 2010
at 10:06 PM

Getting lean has to do with diet AND exercise, though. And if you're not exercising, you're not going to get lean. You can eat poorly and still burn it off if you exercise enough, but the opposite doesn't really apply.

77732bf6bf2b8a360f523ef87c3b7523

(6157)

on September 25, 2010
at 03:11 PM

And the men aren't much better, either -- only a handful of men doing pull-ups in that same time, and rarely full range of motion at that.

77732bf6bf2b8a360f523ef87c3b7523

(6157)

on September 25, 2010
at 02:57 PM

Hm. I think maybe you and I have different conceptions of "fit." I worked out at my university gym for 10 years. In that time, I saw exactly one woman do unassisted pull-ups. Most the women just spend all their time on the StairMaster trying to get "toned."

62ed65f3596aa2f62fa1d58a0c09f8c3

(20807)

on September 25, 2010
at 06:31 AM

I can think of dozens of people who have got fit and then fell off the wagon. Almost everyone I know was fit for some while in their life. Then they got too busy or too lazy to exercise and they lost it all. So it' snot just eaters who fall of the wagon.

77732bf6bf2b8a360f523ef87c3b7523

(6157)

on September 24, 2010
at 01:34 PM

My point is that **even among Paleos who really really care about their health,** it is harder to get many of them to embrace great fitness training as part of their daily regimen, than it is to get a really dedicated CFer to embrace Paleo.

1f70da0b737e9c6e7679a248f4228a01

on September 24, 2010
at 12:17 PM

You were on a traditional "healthy" diet - that's not the usual bunch of doughnuts and pizza I see some of my male teenage students eating after their physical activities. They then whine about how - even with their invincible teenager physiology - they can't manage to get ripped or improve their running time or lift more weight. Body composition is somewhere in the 70-90% nutrition zone. You don't have to be perfectly paleo, but if you're following average intakes of those on the SAD, you're pedaling in first gear.

1f70da0b737e9c6e7679a248f4228a01

on September 24, 2010
at 12:13 PM

What those examples ignore is that those people didn't really have the will to make a change. People who find paleo and find a benefit from eating that way (from weight loss, from health improvement, doesn't matter) are people who were already looking for something. People who start Crossfit are the type who like exercise and are looking for specific improvements (strength, cardio, leanness, etc). Humans, on the whole, don't like change. We've creatures of comfort and routine. Paleos/xfitters are really just freaks of society since we've maintained the natural drive towards 'perfection'.

4a1966b5bc00a9aefd3abd63b9913284

on September 23, 2010
at 09:43 PM

@ScottMGS- I like that :)

5841391284e7af8c495c54bd90d3a795

(2764)

on September 23, 2010
at 03:29 AM

I recently read something that made a lot of sense. It was close to this: "You can't out-exercise a bad diet."

77732bf6bf2b8a360f523ef87c3b7523

(6157)

on September 23, 2010
at 02:29 AM

Sorry, I should have added "... but I may be misunderstanding your answer" to my previous comment. =)

4a1966b5bc00a9aefd3abd63b9913284

on September 23, 2010
at 02:22 AM

I think it depends on their goal. If they just want to lose weight, a lot of people go for the diet first. If they want to get in shape, people tend to find Crossfit and learn by association I think. I'd guess more people over time will find the diet before the exercise... a lot of people are not and will never want to be athletes, sadly...

77732bf6bf2b8a360f523ef87c3b7523

(6157)

on September 23, 2010
at 02:21 AM

I agree with you that food is more important than exercise, but that's not what I was asking.... My question is more about whether people are more likely to really understand/embrace Paleo after finding it via some fitness goals, or the other way around.

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14 Answers

7
4a1966b5bc00a9aefd3abd63b9913284

on September 23, 2010
at 02:07 AM

Food first. Always.

77732bf6bf2b8a360f523ef87c3b7523

(6157)

on September 23, 2010
at 02:21 AM

I agree with you that food is more important than exercise, but that's not what I was asking.... My question is more about whether people are more likely to really understand/embrace Paleo after finding it via some fitness goals, or the other way around.

4a1966b5bc00a9aefd3abd63b9913284

on September 23, 2010
at 09:43 PM

@ScottMGS- I like that :)

77732bf6bf2b8a360f523ef87c3b7523

(6157)

on September 23, 2010
at 02:29 AM

Sorry, I should have added "... but I may be misunderstanding your answer" to my previous comment. =)

4a1966b5bc00a9aefd3abd63b9913284

on September 23, 2010
at 02:22 AM

I think it depends on their goal. If they just want to lose weight, a lot of people go for the diet first. If they want to get in shape, people tend to find Crossfit and learn by association I think. I'd guess more people over time will find the diet before the exercise... a lot of people are not and will never want to be athletes, sadly...

5841391284e7af8c495c54bd90d3a795

(2764)

on September 23, 2010
at 03:29 AM

I recently read something that made a lot of sense. It was close to this: "You can't out-exercise a bad diet."

3c04e97f68c270d7a03861e2daf75f68

(40)

on October 10, 2010
at 04:23 PM

Robb Wolf always makes me laugh when he quotes coach Charles Poloquin: "some people just need to learn the difference between their mouth and a vacuum." Food first for sure.

5
62ed65f3596aa2f62fa1d58a0c09f8c3

(20807)

on September 23, 2010
at 03:11 AM

What is a better motivator, shaving a few seconds of your mile run time, or building your bicep a tad bit larger? Or is it avoiding keeling over dead from heart attack, getting too fat to get out bed, or suffering months of intestinal pain from collitis? I'd say it would be the latter.

3
77732bf6bf2b8a360f523ef87c3b7523

(6157)

on September 23, 2010
at 04:59 PM

Ok, Eva and GGP and a few others have touched on the aspects that I wanted to look at. I'm going to play devil's advocate here a little bit.

My hypothesis is that people actually benefit a LOT more when they start doing CrossFit or something similar first, and find Paleo along the way.

This may seem counterintuitive, because nutrition is WAY more important than exercise, in terms of long-term health and longevity. Several people have pointed this out.

But here's why I think CrossFitters are more likely to benefit from Paleo (compared to Paleoers benefiting from starting a fitness program):

  • It is much easier to learn the basic tenets of good nutrition than it is to figure out the basic components of a good fitness program.

    a. Good nutrition = eat meats/fish, vegetables, some fruit, occasional nuts and seeds if desired. Avoid Neolithal crap. Of course, you can always refine your knowledge, but you can learn these basics in 10 seconds flat.

    b. Good fitness program = depends on your goals. But, more importantly, learning the movements takes a good coach and lots of practice. Running, rowing, powerlifting, Oly lifting, gymnastics -- these all require substantial technique. Intelligent programming takes a while to learn. IMHO most people don't do a good job at this stuff unless they have a good coach.

Therefore, if you already have the basics of fitness down (or if you're already interested in it), then adding Paleo to the mix is no big deal. On the other hand, if you have no fitness background, adding strength training or conditioning etc. can be intimidating, as people often don't know where to start. I get this impression partly from the threads on PaleoHacks about "how do I start a basic fitness program?" from people who know a fair bit about Paleo, but don't know much about fitness, even about the basics. It is much harder for these people to successfully pick up barbell training than it is for a CrossFitter to stop eating bread.

  • Sick people become complacent with their illnesses. To some extent, they get used to being miserable, and they perceive it to be semi-normal.

  • Dedicated athletes, on the other hand, are willing to do a LOT to get better at their sport. They will make lifestyle sacrifices, they will eat weird things, they will take steroids and other substances that are harmful to their long-term health -- all for the sake of shaving a few seconds or even fractions of a second off of their times, or to lift a few more kilos.

Eva made an excellent point:

What is a better motivator, shaving a few seconds of your mile run time, or building your bicep a tad bit larger? Or is it avoiding keeling over dead from heart attack, getting too fat to get out bed, or suffering months of intestinal pain from collitis? I'd say it would be the latter.it would be the latter.

Her point is very logical, but I think human beings are often irrational. I think sick people SHOULD have greater motivation to stick with Paleo, but they often fail because they're used to being sick.

Melissa's recent blog post pointed out that if you got into Paleo primarily for weight loss reasons, you may be more likely to fall off the wagon. I completely agree. If you got into Paleo because you wanted to look good in a bikini, rather than from a deep understanding of how nutrition affects human health, you are more likely to fail.

Example 1. Robb Wolf has an anecdote about a woman with a form of porphyria that causes extreme sensitivity to sunlight. She went gluten-free and essentially cured herself, was able to play in the sun for hours for the first time in her adult life, etc. She went back to eating bread and wearing long sleeves and a hat all the time because she just loved sandwiches too much.

Example 2. I have an acquaintance with Crohn's disease who almost died from acute liver failure due to complications of her illness. She subsequently found a medical treatment that involves getting an injection every 6 weeks at the doctor's office. She refuses to consider a "no wheat, no vegetable oil, no sugar" experiment to see if her symptoms would improve (and no, it's not because I was heavy-handed in suggesting it to her). She says "I just don't want to plan my life around what I eat" and that the injections make her life "manageable."

Example 3. Have you ever looked at adherence rates for physical therapy for people recovering from injuries/surgeries? They are ATROCIOUS. People get used to a certain level of physical dysfunction and they tolerate it. This is why Kelly Starrett is plugging his Mobility Project as a way to get faster times and lift more weight. It is surprisingly hard to motivate people to do mobility work by warning them of the long-term mobility loss associated with their injury. On the other hand, athletes get excited about doing mobility work when they realize it will help them become better, faster, stronger TODAY.

What I'm getting at is this:

Some people get into fitness because they want to be healthy. These people are more likely to stick with Paleo once they find it, because they understand the principles behind it and it fits with their goals and work ethic.

Some people get into Paleo because they want to get healthy. These people are not all that likely to get heavily involved in strength training or other fitness programs. (They think they're healthy enough, they're intimidated, they're too busy, etc.) If they do, they may not stick with it.

It is much harder to convince a Paleo eater of the benefits of barbell training, than it is to convince an athlete of the benefits of Paleo.

I think I'm jumbling a bunch of thoughts together, but I'll put this out there and see what people think. Sorry if my initial question was worded poorly.

77732bf6bf2b8a360f523ef87c3b7523

(6157)

on September 25, 2010
at 03:11 PM

And the men aren't much better, either -- only a handful of men doing pull-ups in that same time, and rarely full range of motion at that.

77732bf6bf2b8a360f523ef87c3b7523

(6157)

on September 24, 2010
at 01:34 PM

My point is that **even among Paleos who really really care about their health,** it is harder to get many of them to embrace great fitness training as part of their daily regimen, than it is to get a really dedicated CFer to embrace Paleo.

62ed65f3596aa2f62fa1d58a0c09f8c3

(20807)

on September 25, 2010
at 06:31 AM

I can think of dozens of people who have got fit and then fell off the wagon. Almost everyone I know was fit for some while in their life. Then they got too busy or too lazy to exercise and they lost it all. So it' snot just eaters who fall of the wagon.

1f70da0b737e9c6e7679a248f4228a01

on September 24, 2010
at 12:13 PM

What those examples ignore is that those people didn't really have the will to make a change. People who find paleo and find a benefit from eating that way (from weight loss, from health improvement, doesn't matter) are people who were already looking for something. People who start Crossfit are the type who like exercise and are looking for specific improvements (strength, cardio, leanness, etc). Humans, on the whole, don't like change. We've creatures of comfort and routine. Paleos/xfitters are really just freaks of society since we've maintained the natural drive towards 'perfection'.

77732bf6bf2b8a360f523ef87c3b7523

(6157)

on September 25, 2010
at 02:57 PM

Hm. I think maybe you and I have different conceptions of "fit." I worked out at my university gym for 10 years. In that time, I saw exactly one woman do unassisted pull-ups. Most the women just spend all their time on the StairMaster trying to get "toned."

2
52cae90a114ca8f0404948e2b7ccb7ef

(1595)

on September 23, 2010
at 03:43 PM

Doesn't Robb Wolf say to get lean first, then get strong?

Ddb0e3a41f15d69d30677339ccf9c7b6

(513)

on October 08, 2010
at 10:06 PM

Getting lean has to do with diet AND exercise, though. And if you're not exercising, you're not going to get lean. You can eat poorly and still burn it off if you exercise enough, but the opposite doesn't really apply.

2
1f70da0b737e9c6e7679a248f4228a01

on September 23, 2010
at 05:22 AM

I think this is more of a survey than a theoretical question. You can only really answer for yourself. The group you're asking have all reached a decision to follow a Paleo lifestyle, but may or may not have a 'fitness' component such as you have outlined. Many people who follow Crossfit etc regimes are also not following Paleo nutrition rules.

You could analyse whether everyone from each group is ultimately exposed to the other, and find out how many from each side end up in both camps. You could then see which side has the most 'success' leading individuals into both areas.

But it's not a cause & effect arrangement, so it's not really something to theorise about.

I also know a lot of people who started eating Paleo because of what they know about food and pesticides etc, so they don't fit into your "weight and health problems" category of starting with the nutrition side of things.

I'd rather see people respond to the question "Is there any real point doing Crossfit etc if you're not picking up the nutrition slack?" - which it looks like responders already wanted to talk about.

My survey response - I started for weight reasons. I'm interested in the nutrition side of things. I know a lot about the physical aspects, given my exposure to the areas you noted, but I'm not interested. I have my own ways of keeping my body and mind happy and healthy.

2
C5b447814db8490d9b529bd87ddf2d60

(198)

on September 23, 2010
at 03:48 AM

I came from crossfit. I started crossfit to improve my martial arts training, and crossfit took everything to another level, including my diet.

Nine months ago our gym had a 40 day paleo challenge, with burpees at first if you failed a meal. I had been crossfitting for about 6 months by then. I felt like I ate pretty healthy, and questioned it at first. But, after a few weeks I noticed improvements in a few key areas. I've been maintaining at about 80% since and I feel great! No plans to go back!

It's not for weight loss. I view it as garbage in, garbage out.

1
90c2bfe21424da87d37500ed528fbc77

on February 11, 2012
at 02:26 PM

It was kind of a circle for me. Fitness -> Paleo -> More fitness

I started with exercise first. I was still not eating a very nutritious diet or a while, but I was happy just to be exercising. Working out made me want to eat better so that I would see more gains in my performance. I started studying nutrition more and more to see what would be most beneficial to me and that led me down the paleo path. After adopting a more paleo lifestyle, I learned about Crossfit and I changed my whole workout style as well.

I went from CW diet and exercise, to paleo and powerlifting and I've never felt (or looked) better!

1
E41dc220589a5d6a1fc6e606019e9391

on September 23, 2010
at 03:52 PM

Personally, I'm going with changing my diet first. I figure with a diet change I'll have more energy and motivation to work on the fitness part. And I'm already getting healthier and losing weight just cutting out grains and all that.

1
4b97e3bb2ee4a9588783f5d56d687da1

on September 23, 2010
at 02:58 PM

Eating better and the subsequent weight loss/hormonal changes drove me to want to do fitness related activities

I didn't start eating healthy to perform better. I want to be Immortal.

1
9448b55ebb02711e38216d0c77509c7d

on September 23, 2010
at 06:47 AM

I would guess that most people would go from Crossfit to Paleo, if only because Crossfit is less of a leap from our standard behavior. Of course I'm biased because that's the path I took. It was easy to convince me to try a new workout program and I loved Crossfit immediately. But it took 10 months of hearing about this crazy impossible Paleo diet, from trainers I who I trusted, before I would dip my toe in the Paleo waters. About 2 weeks later I was completely hooked. When I explain Crossfit to people, most think it sounds cool and many want to try it. When I explain Paleo to people, most think I'm crazy or want to argue about it, and NOBODY wants to try it.

@ Girl Gone Primal - Is there a point to doing Crossfit if you don't "pick up the nutrition slack"? Yes. Absolutely. I saw tremendous gains doing Crossfit for 10 months, sticking to a more traditional "healthy" American diet. I hit lots of PRs and saw tremendous improvements in the various sports I play recreationally. Of course I saw significantly more gains once I combined Paleo with Crossfit.

1f70da0b737e9c6e7679a248f4228a01

on September 24, 2010
at 12:17 PM

You were on a traditional "healthy" diet - that's not the usual bunch of doughnuts and pizza I see some of my male teenage students eating after their physical activities. They then whine about how - even with their invincible teenager physiology - they can't manage to get ripped or improve their running time or lift more weight. Body composition is somewhere in the 70-90% nutrition zone. You don't have to be perfectly paleo, but if you're following average intakes of those on the SAD, you're pedaling in first gear.

1
4bb7a88866d5f97c6bd900b2a83fa2b0

(223)

on September 23, 2010
at 02:38 AM

If you had to choose only one I would go with diet. But you are right that Crossfit culture and the pursuit of ultimate performance would eventually lead you to this diet. Especially since half the people in the gym will be talking about it. So I think it would be easier to convert a Crossfitter than your average Joe.

0
7bf306ada57db47547e9da39a415edf6

(11214)

on April 15, 2013
at 09:24 PM

JJ, I started with diet, years ago. I only just started working out in earnest late last year. I can tell you I would have never signed up for, much less survived, Crossfit. You have to be in a relatively small window, weight wise, to jump into Crossfit and not suffer some serious problems. People don't realize how stressful the extra weight is. I didn't even understand fully just how overweight I was. I don't think I managed to do a pull up until I got under 200lbs- it probably took getting under 185 or so. It became really obvious just how ridiculous the exercise message is to people who are really overweight.

A little, careful work to keep muscle mass they've got is about the only thing they need. Anything more invites injury and encourages hunger.

0
415669d5f0104147aa8ecbdc7b678fce

on April 15, 2013
at 04:33 PM

i would say the way you eat right first, i like to say a paleo template. Robb Wolf, lauren cordian, perfect health diet, mark sission, which one you follow depends on you and your make up. Then move, move in the way nature intended you to move. i personally train and teach movnat: http://www.fitnessandhealthholidays.com/movnat just by starting to think and exercise this way i garantee you will get stronger and your performance in anything will improve. i have seen it myself as a train professional rugby players and martial artists and movnat is an integral part of the programming.

0
Ddb0e3a41f15d69d30677339ccf9c7b6

(513)

on October 08, 2010
at 10:01 PM

Fitness first. Even if it's just low fitness like walking 30 min a day 3 times a week and/or stretching. Exercise alone will increase HDL's and lower LDL's, help regulate insulin levels, and raise your glucose metabolism. Exersing also helps with moods, concentration and stress because it triggers our body to produce chemicals like serotonin, endorphins and and dopamine. Not to mention, if you are sedentary, you are at a higher risk of things like CAD and various other diseases/sicknesses.

The benefits you get from exercising are endless and the negative effects from not exercising are countless.

With that said, diet and fitness are both key elements to being healthy and as long as you are making a change for the better and you plan to start exercising soon, you're on the right track.

Ddb0e3a41f15d69d30677339ccf9c7b6

(513)

on October 08, 2010
at 10:13 PM

Then again, I'm looking at this from a general fitness perspective, not a 'jumping directly into Crossfit' perspective. If you want to start out with Crossfit, change your diet first, but I would get a medical screening before you start doing that kind of intense workout. Or build up to it.

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