Paleo nutrition is a central tenet in our sport of fitness and many box owners are now incorporating Paleo Challenges to their calendar of events on a regular basis. If you’re wondering how to get one going you don’t have to re-invent the wheel. Twelve Paleo Challenges and hundreds of athletes later a clear structure and some stunning results have emerged.
As with everything CrossFit, the results from your challenge need to be measurable and repeatable. Baseline testing is essential with a follow-up at the end of the challenge to see just how much progress has been made. The two fundamentals are baseline WODs and BIA body composition testing (bio impedance analysis).
A typical Paleo Challenge starts with the baseline WOD followed by a seminar explaining the how’s and why’s of Paleo. Each participant then has a body composition test to assess waist circumference; levels of body fat and muscle mass; and markers of cellular health. Thirty days later the WOD and body composition analysis are repeated and the results collated.
Participants are also encouraged to keep a journal of immeasurable outcomes such as energy levels, sleep quality, exercise recovery, mood levels and skin health.
Some really fascinating results have emerged from theses challenges. As a general rule, the newer boxes where most participants have never ‘eaten clean’ or followed Paleo, have the most significant results in terms of fat loss and improved cellular health (their cells are happier because their fuel supply is cleaner). Participants from the more established boxes, who tend to have a higher level of nutritional knowledge and a cleaner baseline diet, may not have (or need) significant fat loss but do gain the highly desired muscle mass and quality. The boxes that have incorporated individualised additional programming according to each member’s goals have seen the best WOD and strength improvements along with fat loss. In every challenge there have always been some who tick all the desirable boxes – fat loss, muscle gain and improved cellular health.
A Challenge is a great way to get the fundamentals of Paleo down. Depending on the individual’s results it can then be further tweaked. Did they lose too much body fat? They may need more carbs. Did they lose muscle mass? Then carb and protein levels need to be assessed. Maybe they have an autoimmune condition or suffer food intolerances. Maybe things just changed too slowly and they might be a candidate for intermittent fasting. The point is, a 30 day Challenge is perfect to establish a clear baseline that then lends itself to individualised nutrition.
In each Challenge virtually ever person involved has chosen to continue to eat Paleo. And why wouldn’t they? Most everybody reports an increase in energy and mood and their body composition has visibly improved. Moreover, eating Paleo is far easier than many anticipate.
Coach Greg Glassman describes the ideal diet in his ‘World Class Fitness in 100 Words’. Before any talk of lifting, met cons or other physical endeavours he tells us to ‘Eat meat and vegetables, nuts and seeds, some fruit, little starch and no sugar’. What he has described is essentially Paleo. A CrossFitter will never reach their full potential unless their diet is dialled in. A Paleo Challenge can be the perfect catalyst to help people on their way.