CrossFit–A Call To Arms

A CrossFit gym recently moved into my town and it’s got me completely crossed–and confused. I’m usually pro all walks of fitness as long as it motivates, inspires, and enhances…so my beef with this new workout craze, for the most part is, well, the beef. Never mind (for now) the back-breaking lifting, hamstring-stressing sprints and cross-training until you can’t walk mentality, just don’t tell me I won’t find fitness enlightenment unless I eschew all grains and legumes and eat only wild greens and red meat. You can down play it all you want but I know what’s in the CrossFit Cool-Aide. If you haven’t yet heard, CrossFit die-hards/trainers etc strongly encourage and adhere to the same eating regimen as our fire-questing ancestors, coined the Caveman or Paleo(lithic) diet. And grains are a 21st-century Paleo’s poison berries. Though I have yet to find a case of death by brown rice, there is a deluge of evidence that links heart disease, heart attacks, cancer, obesity, and even Alzheimer’s disease among others, to diets high in saturated fat (i.e. meat). Dr. Atkins, by way of example, told us that. CrossFit meat mongers, have you been living under a rock? If fast and efficient is your goal, you may want to flex your options of dietary choices since fat is a complex molecule that requires longer periods to digest compared to its quicker-burning carbohydrate cousins. Cavemen didn’t have a choice in the matter. Nor did they have the responsibility of a dense and growing population to feed. There is a major international movement towards a dietary recommendation that is good for both the planet and human health, and reducing consumption of animal products is its top priority. In addition to substantially lowering rates of cardiovascular disease, cancer and food-borne illness, a population-wide shift away from meat (and dairy too) would put a major dent in global water consumption, greenhouse gas emissions and deforestation. Farm land would be freed for more efficient and sustainable uses, food prices would go down and employment would go up. It’s not rocket science, even a caveman would get it. 

More food for thought: Evolution has taught us the importance of survival of the fittest but what does that mean today? Take the longest living humans: In Sardinia, which boasts the most male centenarians–they enjoy antioxidant-rich wine, goat’s milk cheese, whole grain bread, dark chocolate, and no meat. In Okinawa Japan, home to the longest lived people in the world; they eat mostly tofu, vegetables and fish. The Japanese diet includes huge amounts of rice–six times more per person than the average American’s diet. A small bowl is served with almost every meal, including breakfast. A low-fat, complex carbohydrate helps fill you up on fewer calories, leaving less room in your belly for fattening foods. Finally, Loma Linda California is home to the most active elderly people than anywhere in the US. This is attributed to the 9,000 Seventh Day Adventist who live there and don’t eat meat, drink alcohol, or smoke. Most are vegans. While all of these groups are highly active, one might chalk up this modern day longevity to survival of the smartest (read: evolved).

I have another bone to pick: It pains me to see fellow athletes sidelined by injury. A very fit, highly respected and sought after personal-trainer friend of mine, who has been coaching for over 20 years, sampled a few classes at the local CrossFit gym. Her experience was so awesomely unprofessional for a fitness craze with such a cult following that it borders on the absurd. After too many repetitions of too many intangible and unsafe cross-crazy moves (such as hanging from a bar and bringing up her toes to touch it 50x, or three exercises in 11 minutes that included 25 chin ups, tossing a 10 lb. medicine ball to the ceiling and then squatting to touch it to the floor 150x, and double-jumping rope in one revolution 90x), the only thing sore the next day for my trainer friend were her wrists. “It looked like a lot of the members enjoyed the workout and were supportive of one another but few could do it,” she says. “I found the instruction limited and the spotting negligent. The manager had canvas sandals on for training and looked more prepared for a day at the beach.” Would you recommend it? “No. There are too many safe, yet challenging choices in the area, not to mention it’s expensive. I believe that injuries will come to most participants even if they go through the beginner training.” Case in point: I recently ran into a college friend who is the co-owner of a thriving fitness facility in Columbus, Ohio that specializes in hands-on training and motivation. I asked her if she’s had any experience with CrossFit, at which point she pulled up her sleeve to reveal a scarred left wrist caused by a CrossFit dumbbell incident. She will never go back (that is, unless she wants a matching scar and pins in her right wrist). Sports training specialists and orthopedists concur; they have seen more casualties with CrossFit than any other fitness regimen. Isn’t the idea to get–and stay–in the game? Indeed, consistency is king when it comes to reaching and maintaining fitness goals.

CrossFitters, you can have your cake (horrors!) and meat too, just consider this your call to arms: Arm your clients with the proper education about their diet, their bodies, and their health. Adapt, modify, transform, inspire, evolve. This is not a to-be-or-not-to-be-gluten-free argument. Nor is it a rally for vegan or vegetarianism. This is a wake-up call.

What better way to get started on the path to wellness than a healthy grain recipe. Add some beans and you have a perfect protein. Go ahead, eat your heart out.

FORBIDDEN BLACK RICE from the Natural Vegan Kitchen by Christine Waltermyer

Reserved for the courts of Ancient Chinese emperors, this special rice was considered an aphrodisiac. High in iron and other minerals, it was also purported to be a blood tonic.

2 tablespoons water, 1tsp sesame oil, 1 med onion, diced, 1 cup diced carrot, 1 teaspoon minced garlic, 1 teaspoon peeled and minced fresh ginger, 1 1/2 cups chopped seitan (optional), 3/4 cups mung bean sprouts, 1/2 cup diced red bell pepper, 2 tsp wheat-free tamari, 3 cups cooked forbidden black rice, 1/2 cup sliced scallions (for garnish), 1/2 cup roasted peanuts for garnish

Heat the water an oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onion, carrot, garlic, and ginger, and cook and stir for 5 minutes. Add the optional seitan, mung bean sprouts, bell pepper, and a few drops of the tamari. Cook and stir for 5 minutes. Spoon the rice on top of the cooked vegetables in the skillet and sprinkle with the remaining tamari. Cover and cook over medium heat for 5 minutes, or until the rice is warm and the vegetables are tender. Stir before serving. Serve hot, garnished with the scallions and peanuts. 

If it weren’t for these totally delicious chow-worthy Caveman Cookies “just like your great, great, great, great, great…grandmother used to make,” I might have overlooked some of the health benefits of the Paleo diet. While meat is the (unfortunate) mainstay, a typical caveman diet shuns refined sugars and flour–processed foods be damned! These cookies are simple and satiating, with only almond meal, honey, unsulfured coconut, macadamia nuts, and ginger. Perfect for a sabertooth tiger consommé (or modern-day quinoa burger). (

If you think passing up grains and eating mostly meat will give you the muscle you’ve always wanted, think again. Bona-fide vegetarian and actor Michael Clarke Duncan, pictured below, speaks volumes.

2 Responses to “CrossFit–A Call To Arms”
  1. datewithdivinity says:

    Thank you so much for the great read! I see all these posts from my “pro crossfit” friends regarding their diets and I just want to shake my head. While everyone is entitled to their opinions, some things are just common sense. xo

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