Let's Talk Paleo

Sara Reilly

CrossFit L1 Coach

Charm City CrossFit

If you’ve been in crossfit any length of time, know people who do crossfit, or you have a social media account, chances are you’ve heard of the Paleo Diet. The Paleo Diet, short for Paleolithic Diet, is based around the idea of eating the same all natural food items consumed by our Paleolithic ancestors. The general rules are: DO eat grass-fed meat, fish/seafood, fresh fruit and veggies, eggs, nuts and seeds, and healthful oils. DO NOT eat cereal grains, legumes, dairy, refined sugar, potatoes, processed food, salt, or refined vegetable oils [1] This is not a new phenomenon, despite the more recent spike in Google search results. Early development of the idea is credited to gastroenterologist Walter Voegtlin in the 1970’s when he suggested that our modern diet was the root of many health issues, and we could reduce the incidence of these ailments by returning to our ancestral nutrition roots [2]. This trend was echoed by many physicians and nutritionists over the years until it evolved to the contemporary Paleo Diet popularized by Robb Wolf and Dr. Loren Cordain [3,4] . In his 2002 book, Cordain advocated mirroring the Paleolithic eating habits, described as 55% of daily calories from lean meat and seafood; 15% from fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds; limited grains; and no dairy, added salt, or sugar [4,5]. So how did paleo and crossfit become synonymous? Crossfit’s nutrition plan is based on a July 1989 article that suggested a strong association between hyperinsulinemia and the “deadly quartet”: upper-body obesity, glucose intolerance, hypertriglyceridemia and hypertension [6]. This line of thought precedes a lengthy discussion with the conclusion “Meat and vegetables, nuts and seeds, some fruit, little starch, no sugar—and no coronary heart disease...The caveman model is perfectly consistent with CrossFit’s prescription.” [6]. These are direct quotes from the Crossfit L1 training manual, so it is no surprise that the Paleo mantra is heavily touted at crossfit gyms around the world.


Full disclosure: I am not a dietician. I am not a nutrition scientist. I am not a top tier crossfit athlete, and I am not a Paleo. I could spend hours talking to you about my past experiences with Paleo, my personal views on nutrition, and the many rabbit holes of nutrition science, but this is hardly the time or place.


We’ve had several requests for nutrition help from our athletes, and our coaching staff is happy to respond. No doubt we all have our own experiences, views, and levels of expertise, so while we work to provide you with nutrition seminars and guidance, I encourage you to experiment and research on your own!





  1. Vandyken, P. (2016 October 12). What to Eat on the Paleo Diet. retreived from: http://thepaleodiet.com/what-to-eat-on-the-paleo-diet-paul-vandyken/.
  2. Butler, S. (2014 February 28). Going Paleo: What Prehistoric Man Actually Ate. retreived from: http://www.history.com/news/hungry-history/going-paleo-what-prehistoric-man-actually-ate
  3. (2010 January).The modern take on the Paleo diet: is it grounded in science?. Environmental Nutrition Magazine.
  4. Cordain, L. (2002). The Paleo Diet. Hoboken, NJ. Wiley.
  5. Goss, K. (September/October 2004). Bigger Faster Stronger. A Ridiculously Easy Guide to Good Nutrition.  Retreived from: http://www.biggerfasterstronger.com/uploads2/EasyGuideGoodNutrition.pdf
  6. Glasman, G. (2017). Level 1 Training Guide I Crossfit. Nutrition: Avoiding Disease and Optimizing Performance. Retreived from: http://library.crossfit.com/free/pdf/CFJ_English_Level1_TrainingGuide.pdf

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