1

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Sweet Abs, Crossfit, and Paleo?

Answered on August 19, 2014
Created February 02, 2011 at 3:22 AM

Robb Wolf says that you can't get as lean as you want to be doing Crossfit and can't get sweet abs. Is he right? Anybody doing Crossfit, eating paleo, and getting super lean and fit? What's your training like?

Bf417f0ad3560adb1a5d1c155246831a

(193)

on June 11, 2011
at 11:05 PM

@sinn10304 how do you know it's a cortisol deal? I too have a little body fat right around my midsection and lower abs. Perhaps because I'm a female I'm supposed to have that. But I've been Paleo for 5 months now and been doing CF 3-4x a week and I've had this midsection problem for about 4 years...could I be having cortisol problems as well? How would I know and how would I go about finding out?

6371f0ae0c075ded1b8cd30aafd4bf16

on April 23, 2011
at 03:04 PM

Mark V, Can you be more specific about what to eat and how to train?

Cab7e4ef73c5d7d7a77e1c3d7f5773a1

(7304)

on April 22, 2011
at 12:35 PM

It is mostly about diet. There are other factors at play though.

Cf626d3fba66c18297b3f1116a920e58

(3417)

on April 22, 2011
at 12:32 PM

I'm with haig. His workout protocol is basically what I'm doing, though I walk several miles rather than sprint on off days. In the past 5 weeks, I've gone from 136 lbs. to 140 lbs. with no apparent fat gain -- lots of added definition and mass, especially in my chest. Check out leangains.com for a fasting method that specializes in gaining muscle while losing fat, seems to be working for me. Added bonus: compound lifts are ridiculously fun.

1ec4e7ca085b7f8d5821529653e1e35a

(5506)

on April 07, 2011
at 05:23 PM

After I began following crossfit main site on february 1st I have changed a lot. I feel like my all-around fitness has definitely increased. I couldn't do an overhead squat before and I PR'd at 110 a little while ago. As far as sweet abs, I think crossfit workouts are so intense it makes you want to eat a ton just to recover. I've had to dial back my food a little bit but my ab muscles have gotten noticeably larger. I haven't deviated from the programming by adding in any extra so I think that helps with any overstressed/cortisol issues. It's good so far!

D67e7b481854b02110d5a5b21d6789b1

(4111)

on April 07, 2011
at 03:47 PM

JakeA, it has been 60 days since your post and I was interested to know if you have anything new to add? Thx, Leah

D10ca8d11301c2f4993ac2279ce4b930

(5242)

on April 06, 2011
at 09:41 PM

Nah, I remember when he said this. He was 'for serious.' It was within the last ten episodes and he made several jokes about being Brad Pitt ripped as well. It was near the end of an episode. Unfortunately, I only remember the jokes and not the important stuff.

2252835aff520dea9a78270d5d73d502

(58)

on March 31, 2011
at 05:32 AM

It's not MY bag, but funnily enough there is a small movement of CrossFitters competing in (and winning) Body Comps just to prove that CF works, and that you don't have to follow the whole traditional Bodybuilding way of training and eating to win. You can do it Paleo/primal. My girlfriend is about to enter her first figure comp next month- and she is hot as shit! :-)

6371f0ae0c075ded1b8cd30aafd4bf16

on February 03, 2011
at 12:03 AM

Robb had some issues with CFHQ, which got him fired from the nutrition seminars. Greg Glassman soon after called Dr. Cordain, Robb, and the whole paleo concept "pseudo science."

Af842c68e3d07fa0e35b4274f3acaeec

on February 02, 2011
at 04:10 PM

Robb was saying that it's difficult to get to AS LEAN AS POSSIBLE, not to just BE lean. CrossFit+Paleo will most definitely get you pretty lean.

Af842c68e3d07fa0e35b4274f3acaeec

on February 02, 2011
at 04:08 PM

Patrik - I have Robb talk about this as well, and he was being serious. He has said that the corticol produced as a response to the glycolytic activity and the heavy volume make it very difficult to lose that last bit. You can most definitely get very lean with it, but perhaps just not quite as lean as is POSSIBLE. He also talked about how many of his female trainers were at their leanest when only working out 2-3 times per week.

691f120a3e7a1a036845d105d86c99a3

(3641)

on February 02, 2011
at 01:07 PM

i think the real question we should be trying to answer is: what are "sweet" abs and how do we get them?

93f44e8673d3ea2294cce085ebc96e13

(10502)

on February 02, 2011
at 07:13 AM

A little something called cortisol, doc. You should check it out. :)

93f44e8673d3ea2294cce085ebc96e13

(10502)

on February 02, 2011
at 06:51 AM

If you're going to quote Robb - can you please point to a specific blog post or podcast please? I surmise you are missing most of his nuance and humor.

36dd8a49324c45fb49a38765000eca1e

(377)

on February 02, 2011
at 06:33 AM

Definitely. I vaguely remember the episode, but I think the the cortisol issue is what Robb was getting at. He regularly comments on he lack of periodization in crossfit and the propensity of overtrained athletes.

5514047f3281f61b1139fe6483ae6989

(315)

on February 02, 2011
at 03:38 AM

I think the leanest I've been was doing crossfit regularly, but I always had a small pouch of body fat at the bottom of my midsection, even when I was down around 8-9% BF. I'm guessing it's a cortisol deal. Do you remember when/where he talked about this?

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14 Answers

4
535633b57c4a4940d1e913e7a12ee791

(1013)

on April 22, 2011
at 12:26 PM

Please! Ab definition is all about diet. I have seen crossfitters with great abs.

Cab7e4ef73c5d7d7a77e1c3d7f5773a1

(7304)

on April 22, 2011
at 12:35 PM

It is mostly about diet. There are other factors at play though.

6371f0ae0c075ded1b8cd30aafd4bf16

on April 23, 2011
at 03:04 PM

Mark V, Can you be more specific about what to eat and how to train?

4
1ec4e7ca085b7f8d5821529653e1e35a

(5506)

on February 02, 2011
at 01:08 PM

Okay guys I did some dilligent googling and have found the "Sweet abs on paleo?" podcast. Check it out here: http://robbwolf.com/2010/10/26/the-paleo-solution-episode-51/

It's the first question up so you shouldn't have to wait too long.

My theory about crossfit and abs and cortisol (from experience) is crossfitters get used to beating the hell out of themselves and take it too far. I'm sure there are people following the 3 on 1 off strictly but there is a much higher percentage of people that will add in a little extra. It's the extra that bumps up your stress level. You can't beat down on yourself every day and get away with it.

In addition I have decided to follow crossfit.com by the book and will report on my success/failures in the future as far as body comp/performance.

D67e7b481854b02110d5a5b21d6789b1

(4111)

on April 07, 2011
at 03:47 PM

JakeA, it has been 60 days since your post and I was interested to know if you have anything new to add? Thx, Leah

1ec4e7ca085b7f8d5821529653e1e35a

(5506)

on April 07, 2011
at 05:23 PM

After I began following crossfit main site on february 1st I have changed a lot. I feel like my all-around fitness has definitely increased. I couldn't do an overhead squat before and I PR'd at 110 a little while ago. As far as sweet abs, I think crossfit workouts are so intense it makes you want to eat a ton just to recover. I've had to dial back my food a little bit but my ab muscles have gotten noticeably larger. I haven't deviated from the programming by adding in any extra so I think that helps with any overstressed/cortisol issues. It's good so far!

4
3020fb359dfbedaf90f1611b036d3432

(1138)

on February 02, 2011
at 04:47 AM

Two reasons that may contribute to crossfit impeding someone from getting very lean are:

1.) Cortisol: It is easy to over-train with crossfit and raise cortisol levels, even with the recommended rest schedules, causing your body to not want to give up those precious fat reserves.

2.) Muscle mass: The nature of most crossfit workouts prevent gaining significant muscle mass, and the more muscle mass you put on the easier to drop down to a low enough body fat percentage. Also, the more muscle, the more pronounced your abs (and your entire physique) will look.

I lost a lot of weight doing crossfit and paleo and I really enjoyed it, but I eventually burned out and injured myself. I'd recommend doing what I am doing right now, lift really heavy with compound movements fasted 3x a week and maybe add some sprinting on off days while making sure to get a lot of rest and keeping your eating clean (paleo will guarantee that).

36dd8a49324c45fb49a38765000eca1e

(377)

on February 02, 2011
at 06:33 AM

Definitely. I vaguely remember the episode, but I think the the cortisol issue is what Robb was getting at. He regularly comments on he lack of periodization in crossfit and the propensity of overtrained athletes.

Cf626d3fba66c18297b3f1116a920e58

(3417)

on April 22, 2011
at 12:32 PM

I'm with haig. His workout protocol is basically what I'm doing, though I walk several miles rather than sprint on off days. In the past 5 weeks, I've gone from 136 lbs. to 140 lbs. with no apparent fat gain -- lots of added definition and mass, especially in my chest. Check out leangains.com for a fasting method that specializes in gaining muscle while losing fat, seems to be working for me. Added bonus: compound lifts are ridiculously fun.

2
034c678bff434ab3781e3f1771018af9

(279)

on February 03, 2011
at 02:39 AM

Caveman, you should read Body by Science. It gets into the very topic you're asking, and it's a lot better on the science than Wolf is.

2
92549e74c37aed4d5930b22e910dcf22

(382)

on February 02, 2011
at 04:12 PM

Lean, defined as a goal, should probably be quantified by a BF% or some other means. My idea of lean may be a lot different than yours.

Some of us will never get past the cortisol issue, so a bit of "pooch" on the lower abs is certainly acceptable. At 200lbs and 10% bf I consider myself pretty lean, for me. Certainly as lean as I want to be.

I see guys at the gym everyday with "sweet abs". Six packs, eight packs, whatever. I'll keep my 315lb powerclean over their chiseled abs any day.

1
4e6eb64e86d5373f8fb12ea8058b0e3a

on September 27, 2011
at 10:41 AM

Gyday and peace to everyone choosing their path with all this stuff....

my own results have been very similiar to doing just 3 to 4 sessions every 8 days...

doesnt sound like much does it...

but having seen the results in the australian army from guys and gals doing 'chronic crossfit' has led me to believe you can definetly get way too much of a good thing....

people i know have had more injuries from 'crossfit' only because they forget the 'technical' side to its foundations...the same thing happened in the american forces....

dont get me wrong....crossfit is great stuff......but you can easily burn out and injure yourself like any other exercise / lifestyle....

its really hard to get younger people to see this....the benefits of training 3-4 days every 8 days...and going for long walks or a lazy swim session in between....not exercising..just goofing around between proper sessions is a great way to recover...and its good for your 'head'

but; there is a time to push hard and a time not to.......everyone is unique...crossfit isnt the answer..its just 'an answer'....take what works..be unique.....

Peace.

1
26b7615ef542394102785a67a2786867

on April 22, 2011
at 05:47 PM

I don't do Crossfit or listen to Rob Wolf's podcasts so I don't have much opinion on the OP.

I'd like to put in my two cents though, which is mainly that ab definition is diet AND genetics. I was practically born with sweet abs (I have pics of me shirtless age 4 or 5 featuring abs of steel) and still had them when I was a 100% sedentary vegetarian. I'm sure they wouldn't suddenly depart were I to turn into a Crossfit maven. I am more active than I'd like to be right now but sadly, it's not leading to fat gain (I need to gain 10 more lbs to meet my goal, and I would like some of that to be fat/boobs, taking me over 20% body fat).

I'm a lean pear shape with good core strength no matter what. I also have a little 'pooch' right under the bottom third of my six-pack. Again, pear shape, it's hard to have hips and ass without also having a little padding in the lower part of the stomach. There is no way in heck I have elevated cortisol, I did use to have a lot of symptoms of low cortisol...

Defined abdominal muscles are over-rated, IMO. Yes they can look nice, I like my own, but there are so many people with beautiful bodies and impressive fitness who do not have them and would have to live a life of suffering and deprivation to get close. I really don't think that every man with low body fat and a little roundness to the lower belly has elevated cortisol.

1
Medium avatar

on February 02, 2011
at 07:05 PM

He probably means getting into contest shape via crossfit, which is kind of irrelevant, since no crossfitters are going to compete in bodybuilding contests.

2252835aff520dea9a78270d5d73d502

(58)

on March 31, 2011
at 05:32 AM

It's not MY bag, but funnily enough there is a small movement of CrossFitters competing in (and winning) Body Comps just to prove that CF works, and that you don't have to follow the whole traditional Bodybuilding way of training and eating to win. You can do it Paleo/primal. My girlfriend is about to enter her first figure comp next month- and she is hot as shit! :-)

0
77877f762c40637911396daa19b53094

(78467)

on April 06, 2011
at 09:19 PM

cortisol is a tricky stuff: take for example "leangains": practices which may cause its secretion such as excessive cardio as well as too frequent / too long training are discouraged, and yet coffee consumption is allowed if not actively encouraged

0
36b7ae0579aca1f32b9e709a7fa1969b

on February 02, 2011
at 05:16 AM

I can agree with the last post;however, I believe that one can get significantly leaner while doing CF and eating strict Paleo. I've been 32 days strict and I've gotten a lot leaner. I haven't lost any weight but I've seen a dramatic change in my body. I incoporporate heavy strength WOD's at the beginning of my workout and I also perform a short metcon following. That way, I get a workout using heavy weights and thus release the testosterone needed to build muscle and the metcon to burn calories. I do find it difficult to get enough calories some days but that's do to my schedule. I don't know if I'd believe that Robb Wolf said that. Especially since he is a CF or Paleo teacher. Besides doesn't he train out of or own Norcal Strength and Conditioning?

6371f0ae0c075ded1b8cd30aafd4bf16

on February 03, 2011
at 12:03 AM

Robb had some issues with CFHQ, which got him fired from the nutrition seminars. Greg Glassman soon after called Dr. Cordain, Robb, and the whole paleo concept "pseudo science."

0
072fd69647b0e765bb4b11532569f16d

(3717)

on February 02, 2011
at 04:04 AM

CrossFit and strength training are my personal preferences for training. I'm not familiar with the Robb post to which you refer, but perhaps, it relates to the fact that many who CF are focused more on performance than getting "sweet abs," and thus consume a larger amount of food for recovery purposes. Personally, I'd rather have a better Helen time and larger back squat than have a full six pack of abs. The only time I had a six pack I believe I had to have an eating disorder to keep them. Wasn't worth it. Just me. I'm sure my circumstances don't apply across the board.

0
0dc1d63c3d5975f5115f535c6a90c9dd

(2283)

on February 02, 2011
at 03:35 AM

Did you mean CAN get lean?

Crossfit training is very intense. I can barely walk today and I've been crossfitting for going on 3 years. Am I lean? Yes, but I indulge in dark chocolate and wine too much to Be very lean :)

0
7e746be2f0e550a8cd7df881322ae705

on February 02, 2011
at 03:35 AM

I've actually never heard Robb say that one. I think getting "sweet abs" is more dependent on your nutrition and when you eat.

I think you can obtain sweet abs doing Crossfit as long as you are eating lower carb and working out fasted.

0
716969f2b8be7ea75110ee5e4b3e1ec8

(258)

on February 02, 2011
at 03:34 AM

Where did you hear this from. Clearly this is backwards. Being a physician, a nutritionist, an avid x-fitter and totally paleo, I do not see it possible to not be lean.

93f44e8673d3ea2294cce085ebc96e13

(10502)

on February 02, 2011
at 07:13 AM

A little something called cortisol, doc. You should check it out. :)

Af842c68e3d07fa0e35b4274f3acaeec

on February 02, 2011
at 04:10 PM

Robb was saying that it's difficult to get to AS LEAN AS POSSIBLE, not to just BE lean. CrossFit+Paleo will most definitely get you pretty lean.

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