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CrossFit and Paleo

CrossFit | The Paleo Diet

Dr. Cordain,

My name is Carl. I’m an assistant gymnastics coach just down the street at the University of Denver. For personal health reasons, I tried a grain, sugar and dairy free diet a few years ago and was stunned by the results. Since that time I’ve waffled a bit but (mostly 85:15), for the most part, gone Paleo.

Recently, I’ve read Taubes, Sisson and your book, The Paleo Diet for Athletes. I’m preparing to mount an offensive against the conventional wisdom and challenge what we currently tell our athletes in an effort to bring them more towards the Paleo side. I feel a low GI diet will enhance performance and help our athletes keep their body comps to a healthy minimum, something of great importance in a sport which uses such high intensity, ballistic movements and demands aesthetic appeal.

With your books emphasis on endurance sports, I’m wondering about the applicability to a sport like gymnastics. I’d be very interested in hearing your thoughts and, perhaps, a list of resources of relevant research. I just recently came across an article about ketogenic diet and performance in Italian gymnasts which demonstrated no detriment to performance in the short term.

I look forward to hearing from you at your earliest convenience.

Highest regards,


Dr. Cordain’s Response:

Hi Carl,

Joe Friel and I considered doing a chapter on Paleo for strength athletes, but didn’t do so because the dietary principles were virtually identical to those we suggest for endurance athletes.  To date, I am unaware of any scientific or clinical trials of contemporary Paleo Diets involving any type of athletes that have been published in the scientific literature.

Many of the activities and exercises done in CrossFit gyms all over the U.S. and the world tend to be strength oriented.  Further, many  elite CrossFit athletes who compete yearly  at the national CrossFit games (sponsored by Reebok) are avid Paleo Dieters and attribute part of their successful performance to their diet.  I welcome input from CrossFit athletes to comment on their experience.


Loren Cordain, Ph.D., Professor Professor

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