Kurt G. Harris MD

PāNu means paleonutrition. The "paleo" here signifies "old" and not necessarily paleolithic. The PāNu approach to nutrition is grounded on clinical medicine and basic sciences disciplined by knowledge of evolutionary biology and paleoanthropology. The best evidence from multiple disciplines supports eating a pastoral (animal-based) diet rather than a grain-based agricultural one, while avoiding what I call the neolithic agents of disease - wheat, excess fructose and excess linoleic acid.

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Thursday
Jan072010

Crossfit Nutrition Eats its Young 

Robb Wolf is an entrepreneur, a gym owner and a veteran nutrition blogger. I don’t know him personally, he does not link to my blog and he has no foreknowledge of this posting.

Robb is a former protégé of Loren Cordain. Now, you’ve heard me mention some of my disagreements with Loren Cordain’s views. On Dairy ( He...evil     Me....healthy for most ) and saturated fat (He.....suspicious     Me....you can’t eat too much of it) we have some differences. You can also see that I link to a compilation of his academic papers and essays, and Cordain has undoubtedly made major contributions to the field of paleolithic nutrition. Cordain and a radiologist named Boyd Eaton are probably most responsible for the late 20th century re-introduction of the paleolithic principle – consideration of our evolutionary history – into considerations of diet and health. I can remember reading Eaton’s first paper about 25 years ago, but of course it had no impact until I read Taubes in September 2007. Eaton and Cordain first collaborated in 1997 with this.

Robb Wolf is passionately devoted to the study of nutrition and has been working with clients for years to help them achieve fitness and improve their health. Robb’s writing quite obviously and understandably reflects Cordain’s influence, but as I read him he is also obviously his own man. He does not have a PhD or MD but you cannot tell by his writing and in fact I find him more credible than the average MD on nutrition, even if I don’t agree with everything he says. He was one of the first additions to my blogroll. Do you think I link sources I don’t find credible?

It was really refreshing to find a fitness-oriented site that talked more about avoiding the Neolithic agents of disease than protein powder and supplements.

As my blog has grown, I have been gratified to note (using my trackback function) that a fair number of Crossfit affiliates link to me. I would estimate there are at least several dozen that do so, but it might be more. To see paleonutrition getting traction in the Crossfit community has been really encouraging and I do think aspects of Crossfit fit into a Paleolithic (Evfit, ancestral) training principle in a way complementary to our way of eating.

I hadn’t read that much on Robbs’ blog recently, as over the summer he seemed to be busy giving what Crossfit calls “nutrition certifications” – seminars on nutrition for Crossfit folks. Every time I would check in, there was a new group photo with Robb and a bunch of excited-looking mostly young and fit people – people who I imagined would never hear about the evils of wheat were it not for Robb Wolf being the Crossfit nutrition guy.

Things were looking good if you were a crossfit member.

You could get a workout that can reasonably be considered more ancestrally appropriate and in my view, healthier than chronic jogging or useless treadmills and stairmasters, and if you went to a “nutrition cert” you had a crossfit affiliate owner and coach telling you about this radical approach to eating called paleonutrition – eating real food and thinking about which other “foods” might be outside of our evolutionary experience.

But what was good for crossfitters apparently was not good for Crossfit TM.

In a spasm of abject stupidity, they fired Robb Wolf from his position as nutrition instructor.

Why?

Well, you can go over to Robb’s blog and read his posts and follow links on your own.

My interpretation, well researched but somewhat impressionistic, I grant, is that Robb and a few other soldiers were just showing a little too much initiative for the top brass. Meaning: The people in charge felt threatened by the expertise and talent of their underlings, to the point where the innovation and iconoclasm was simply seen as a threat to the business model of Crossfit. Crossfit TM is a business. Its business is selling a variety of levels of training certifications to it’s franchisees -  sorry, affiliates.

Sidebar: Why do I care about this? It’s not so much wearing my hat as nutrition blogger as much as it’s my hat as an entrepreneur and innovator (yes, I just had the hubris to call myself that).  I’ve seen this spectacle before and it has happened to me as well. The thing that disgusts me the most is when they start trying to destroy your reputation – saying things about Robb’s lack of training or implying he is an opportunist or liar – when 72 hours earlier -Robb still straining at the traces- he was their favorite sled dog. All in the sole interest of avoiding the admission that the organization is at core a lowest-common-denominator efficiency-over-quality marketing machine just like every other large, old, stupid and slow bureaucratic entity, whether public or private.

Crossfit also has some relationship to Barry Sears and and his Zone diet and empire. I have never understood the exact relationship between the two, but seeing the way Crossfit plugs Sears' books (13 of them!) I am guessing that there is some variety of co-branding or co-marketing agreement.

Apparently Robb’s suggestion that the quality and source of macronutrients might be more important than their precise ratios, and that measuring and weighing might not be so important, didn’t sit well with headquarters.

Could that be because then you might have less need for a complex system that requires as many written volumes as the Oxford English Dictionary?

So after this cynical act of stupidity, where they summarily erased all hopes for future progress they had made in the hearts and minds of their affiliates and customers, they decided to go five gears in reverse and in a flourish of petulance and grandiosity they announced the following:

Barry Sears is now the official nutrition instructor for Crossfit.

Why is that a problem?

Well, it’s their company, but I think it’s a problem because the Zone is pseudoscientific nonsense. And Barry Sears is no more than a multi-level marketer with a PhD.

The central thesis of the Zone, that eicosanoid production depends most critically on macronutrient ratios, simply has no basis in peer-reviewed science. Eicosanoids and other products of n-3 and n-6 metabolism are critically important. But the ratios of these PUFAs in the diet is far more important in controlling relative cell membrane concentrations and hence, balance of these hormone-like compounds than some made-up magic macronutrient ratio someone pulled out of their- well, you know. (See Lands and search Lands on Stephan’s blog for useful discussion of n-3 and n-6)

40:30:30?

What crap. 40% carbs is only healthy relative to 55% if you get there by cutting sugar or wheat. That is the only sense at all by which the Zone can be considered healthy. Purely by accident. If the SAD did not have so much junk in it there would be zero advantage. If you add carbs from 25% to 40% you will gain weight and be relatively sicker, not "have perfect eicosanoids".

30% protein?  Sweet Jesus, that’s about twice what any athlete needs, let alone the average person. Who are you going to believe, Sears or Kwasniewski?

According to Sears my 10:70:20 ratio is unhealthy. He has no idea what he is talking about.

So, Crossfit affiliates and members, save your money on Sears’ “cert” and his nonsense Zone books and buy some more workout gear instead.

You can still link to paleo blogs like mine and Robb's for free.

Reader Comments (63)

Robb is awesome.

January 7, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterepistemocrat

Nice rant Kurt. I'm not a Crossfitter, but I was under the impression that they were moving away from Zone and more toward paleo. Guess not!

Zone does seem a little too complex and silly when you cant get something as good or <u>better</u> in an almost mindless paleo lifestyle (aka diet).

January 7, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterGrok

Great post and and agree 100%.

As I have said elsewhere, CrossFit is really missing the boat by not actually franchising its affiliates in a meaningful way. They should test for quality and then give licenses to geographic territories.....like every other company that franchises does. Glassman is simply not a good manager.

Aside, do you have another post brewing on CF as exercise?

January 7, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterPatrik

Thank you Kurt. Your summary of Sears here really rings a bell. I came across the Zone method a number of years ago and you are spot on about how it will improve things only relative to the SAD...It's an improvement but it is far too mechanistic in its approach to ratios etc...total PIA. It started smelling of marketing hype more than anything else. Crossfit is a great training methodology, movement pattern vs. the bodybuilder mentality, too bad they got sucked into a rigid characterization of eating that in no way reflects the randomness of our ancestral ways. Thanks for your great posts
Drew

January 7, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterDrew

I was seriously considering joining my local Crossfit but the more I hear about the organization the more skeptical I am. Is it the Curves of the '10s?

January 7, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterTrish

Dr. Harris, I discovered your weblog* by way of Dr. McGuff. As you may know, the SuperSlow resistance training protocol McGuff uses, originating with the SuperSlow Exercise Guild, has been associated Zone Diet materials, also. However, the good doctor has studied the evidence and come down squarely in favor of paleolithic nutrition.

Logic suggests this is a golden opportunity for entrepreneurial fitness instructors to create an evidence-based exercise/nutrition organization, whether loosely or formally structured.

Regards,
Ian

* PaleoNu has become my favorite source for nutrition information, even compared to the outstanding sites to which you link.

January 7, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterIan Lucas

Great post Kurt. Brace for impact, because this topic is a hot potato.
I've been following the drama myself and I just want to add that it has escalated beyond the nutrition seminars. Crossfit has terminated Robb's affiliation.
The problem with Sears is that he is a mixed bag. He promotes fish oil and favorable food (Paleo), while still sticking to the "magic ratio" and "molecular baking zone bagels". I guess commercial interests are trumping science in his case.
Weighing and measuring your intake can be a handy tool if you are trying to induce some severe body composition/performance changes and want to be precise in your efforts. It isn't necessary for healthy nutrition.

January 7, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterbentzurm

You said that 30% of dietary intake of Protein is too much, twice as much as what a body builder needs, but most sources say that if you are strength training/weightlifting hard that you need about 1g per lb of lean body mass. I know that Kwasniewski recommends about 1g / Kg of LBM, but that would be for a sedentary person. Could you perhaps expand on this?

Thanks.

KGH: K gives a range of .8 to 1.2 g/kg/day so 70 x 1.2 = 84 g about 15%. The extra you need if adding muscle is very small.


January 7, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterRaiku

I like the bodybuilding community because you can't bullshit them. Results are results. If two crossfit communities develop, one doing 10:70:20 and the other 40:30:30, I think it'll be obvious which one performs better, and that will help kill off the bad one. Crossfit has enjoyed some amazing success over the past few years, and this looks like it will be the start of its first major competitor.

January 7, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterAndrewS

Whew baby! You done called it like it is. Barry Saers is FAT. Coach Glassman is FAT. I don't take nutrition advice from fat people. I also do NOT agree with the explosive lifting aspect of Crossfit. A digital force gauge will provide a vivid demonstration of the kinds of transient force spikes imposed upon human connective tissues and joints while lifting explosively. Though I do like their overall exercise philosophy. Just not about doing exercises in an "explosive" manner however.

KGH: I'm an old guy. I get injured if I "explode" too much.

January 7, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJeff Stevenson

My friend (a former Crossfit affiliate) and I had a discussion about this recently--we found some interesting parallels in Crossfit's "open source" methods and that of open source software.

Just as in open source software, when there is some disagreement about the basic tenets of the 'product', forking of the product may occur (a separate, altered product is created from the source code of the original). While this new fork may fit the needs of a certain group of users, the original product is weakened. As a business model, this is very difficult to control, and very often does not fit in well with actually making a profit. This is the path that Crossfit chose--and I think it's a great, almost altruistic thing--but now they must face the consequences.

January 7, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterDave B

Dr. Harris,

As you alluded to, this isn't the CrossFit post we expected. It's better. I've become a fan of Robb's Paleolithic Principle podcasts and have witnessed how he was thrown from the CF train by HQ. Pretty despicable. It's admirable that you are standing up for him.

Bravo on calling The Zone what it is: pseudoscientific nonsense. I wish more credible paleo nutrition bloggers would do so as well and finally put that zombie down for good.

Best regards,
KW

January 7, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterKetoWarrior

Robb doesn't distort medical or nutritional or strength/conditioning truths... Also he is constantly evolving.

Unfortunately cannot say the same for the Xift mothership... (de-evolution??!)

January 7, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterg

Trish-

Crossfit is not curves. While some of the head honchos of the CF global organization maybe confused/biased as to nutrition, the exercise program is fantastic. I would say that not even a majority of CF parishioners adhere to the zone. I would recommend you check out all of the affiliates in your area and see if one suits you. Some affiliates adhere strictly to the corporate exercise programming, while others program for themselves or rely on related programs such as CF Football (highly recommended). One of the positives of not having a franchise system is that when the corporate body starts spouting of idiotic proclamations, you don’t have to listen to them.

January 7, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterEric

I've always been bugged by this:

"Mr. Glassman, 49, a former gymnast from Santa Cruz, Calif., walks with a slight limp because of a knee injury, and at 5-foot-7 and 185 pounds admits he should lose weight."

source:
http://www.nytimes.com/2005/12/22/fashion/thursdaystyles/22Fitness.html

A fitness guru who isn't fit.

January 7, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterAllan

Kurt,
I discovered your blog through a trail left from Mark Sisson, to Robb Wolf, to Whole Health Source. I am glad to see someone from the outside, seeing the forest for the trees. A lot of CrossFitters have developed a cult like following of Greg Glassman and believe that he can do no wrong. CrossFit is definitely one of the best methods for overall fitness but their politics are shady at best. It is sad because CrossFit gyms in general are pretty good but their lack of quality control will make that go out the window in time.

I tried the zone, based on Crossfit recommendations, and found myself starving most of the time. The answer to this by most Crossfitters, Robb included, is to add fat blocks. This no longer made it the zone and I began starting on unweighed and unmeasured paleo. That has been a godsend. With help from people like you, Robb, Mark and Stephan at whole health source I have become much healthier.

I really appreciate your writing style. I get lost in the science at times but your recommendations have helped a lot. Keep up the good work.

Kevin

January 7, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterKevin

Great post.

January 7, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterKammi

My local Crossfit affiliate pushes paleolithic nutrition all the way. In fact, they are sponsoring a "Paleo Challenge" with a prize. So it is not a universal loss.

January 7, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJane

Doc-
Good Stuff!
WAMING SUCKS!!

January 7, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterChuck O

Doc-
I really appreciate the post. Because of pressure to push the Zone I had to get creative and try to find something that sniffed like the zone, but that actually worked. To that end I would generally cut the prescribed carbs in half, and dramatically increase the fat. The final macros broke down to ~ 15%Protein, 10-15% Carbs and 60-75% Fat. It should look...familiar to you. Hundreds of people transitioned from the 40/30/30 plan to this plan and saw dramatically improved blood lipids, body compositions...and performance. It's an article called "42 ways to skin the Zone". I do see some folks really benefit from higher protein intakes, especially if they have some digestive insufficiencies or are in a mass gain program but that's a different kettle of fish!

KGH: What you did was creative and effective - morphing the Zone into Paleonutrition. Too bad CF HQ doesn't agree :) I am generalizing about protein, obviously.

January 7, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterRobb Wolf

Good post. I don't do crossfit myself (I'm a powerlifter), but have several friends who swear by it.

I'm confused by your math though.

30% of your calories from protein is "twice what a bodybuilder needs." I have lots of (natural) bodybuilder friends. They eat about 1 - 1.5 grams of protein per pound of bodyweights. So a 200 lb guy would be taking in 200-300 grams per day.

But your equation is:

30% of 2,000 calories, say, is 600. 4 calories per gram makes that 150 grams. So a bodybuilder only needs half of that? 75 grams of protein? If you eat two steaks a day you are probably getting more than that yourself. It's about what the USDA recommendation for a normal (non-athlete) adult -- but hardly sufficient for a bodybuilder.

Anyway... good post. Have you ever been on one of Robb's podcasts?

KGH: Most body builders are superstitious and eat way more protein than they could ever need. Do the math yourself on how fast you can gain muscle mass and search some other sources. I am exagerrating a little to make a point (should be obvious) but not much. A 200 lb guy is eating 2000 Kcal?

January 7, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterGlenn

40% carbs? Good luck. I'd either be fat or hungry.

January 7, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterzach

Spot on.

Two words: *Molecular Baking* hah hah hah hah hah hah hah hah


KGH: I was wondering who be first to mention that:)

January 7, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMonica Hughes

Great Post Doc! I have recently started following this blog after finding it from robbwolf.com, to marksdailyapple.com, and then to you. I really enjoy your blog and getting started. I feel very fortunate, I started Crossfit back in June 2009 and I tried the zone again (tried it 15 years ago with no success) but I did not weigh and measure. I concentrated on fats and protein with a lot of fruit and veggies and no grains, starches or sugar. Save for the veggies I was basically doing paleo. I started watching all the video with Robb and reading his stuff and never looked back.

I say I feel fortunate because now anyone starting Crossfit will get Barry Sears shoved down their throat. I have monitored the Crossfit response to firing Robb and it is so obvious they are on the defensive...they have rolled out the main instigator (Castro) and their PR person (Budding) on the Crossfit podcast to "market" their position. Budding actually endorsed and spoke very highly of the new Zone molecular baking products. $13 for a loaf of "magic bread", give me a break! What I thought was most hilarious though is he says Sears came out with the products because of non-compliance with the Zone...DUH, everyone is starving on it, clearly 40:30:30 does not work for most. Luckily Robb brought reality based nutrition to Crossfit with paleo and 42 ways to skin the zone, not magic wheat carbs!

I have joined my local affiliate and I have to say the experience has been awesome. My affiliate (and probably most others) are so far removed from CF HQ that there is little to no impact on me from HQ insanity. I love the crossfit workouts, nearly everyone is paleo that I have talked to at my affiliate, and I highly recommend Robb's podcast and website!

KGH: Thanks Ian, if Crossfit didn't positively impact so many, none of this would be worth mentioning.

It' like Porsche announcing a move to front-wheel drive.

January 7, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterIanG

What is molecular baking?!

Sears is such a clown. There's a video on the CF Journal of him saying that he'd rather have someone eat cheeseburgers and drink beers, but weighing and measuring it according to Zone, then have them eat unlimited Paleo. I don't know why Glassman loves him so much but on every video they've posted of Sears, he makes a fool of himself.

Also, like said above: how don't they realize that a "Zone with 1/2 carbs and 3x fat" is not a Zone? The defining part of the Zone is 40/30/30. That's just not a Zone anymore. I've listened to the CF Radio interviews with the top CF Games athletes, and NONE of them do a straight Zone. If CF is so empirical, how don't they realize this?


KGH: Real food doesn't pay royalties.

January 7, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterBleicke

Excellent post, Dr. Harris; I've mentioned Robb's fiasco with CF HQ briefly on my blog, and was preparing for part 2 of my "Things I Hate About Crossfit", with the severing of Robb's services being the main point. Your post is far more eloquent than I could have written, and when I do put up part 2, I'll be sure to link this post.

Being a Crossfit trainer(which I am) and owning an affiliate (which I do not) is a tumultuous time right now. What WILL prevail is factual science that backs both nutrition and exercise physiology. Not pseudoscience trying to push for profit.

KGH: Thanks, Mike.

January 7, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMike

Back in November 2009, I wrote the following about The Zone:

The Zone was my first introduction to "paleo"-type diets about ten years ago. It definitely helped me get my blood sugar under some control: mostly by eating more protein, I stopped crashing and burning as I had been doing on a regular basis. So in that respect, it was good.

However, the allowed calories from carbs was simply way too high -- such it was easy to eat "in the Zone" while still eating tons of processed carbs, including sugars and grains. So I maintained my quasi-addiction to carbs on the diet. As a result, I achieved nothing like the results I've gotten over the past few months.

It's frustrating to think that Sears understands so much, yet ultimately misses the boat so completely.

The full post is here: http://www.dianahsieh.com/blog/2008/11/close-but-no-cigar.shtml

I wouldn't be even that positive about The Zone now -- not since Sears began pushing "molecular baking." Seriously dude, WTF.

Also, I would add that the low-fat requirements of The Zone require a person to eat all kinds of new-fangled junk food, including low-fat dairy and soy. No thanks!

Oh, and I never lost a pound eating the Zone, but I lost 18 eating lacto-paleo. (Unfortunately, I've gained some of that back this fall due to hypothyroidism, perhaps due to iodine deficiency. I hope to get that under control soon.)

So... thanks for this post. Now that CrossFit is seriously pushing The Zone, paleo-eaters need to speak their minds... without mincing words.

January 7, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterDiana Hsieh

So... 70% fat? I'm not quite there yet. What kinds of things do I need to eat to get to 70% fat?

January 7, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterDave, RN

Dr. Harris,

your blog's popularity even rises here in "Old Europe" - we got the hint (more by mistake as I would assume) from a fellow of your Vit.-D-Sceptic (or "Denier" as you call him) in our quite famous "LOGI-Forum" (the German adaption of Prof. Ludwig's LOGI/Harvard-Pyramid). Your approach of "pragmatic Paleo without the ideology" seems to be very nice and reasonable. In Germany it is also even more important for the reputation of serious bloggers to be independent and not wanting to sell anything to the readers (except perhaps "one own book" or two...). That's why Dr. Eades' recent "Sous vide"-selling-activities are perceived quite reluctantly here. So if you refrain from selling us CT-Scans (what could be problematic to be shipped to Europe anyway) or just "politics" (to sell more CT-Scans) you surely will find quite a lot of faithful followers even here in Germany/”Old Europe”.

But "back" to your question: "Who are you going to believe, Sears or Kwasniewski?"

A very interesting question!! Sears is "pseudoscientific nonsense", not very much doubt about that, but (where) have you seen Kwasniewski presenting reliable science that proofs the superiority of his promoted special 1:2,5-3,5:0,5-ratio for protein, fat and carbohydrates? Of course he is a very likeable person and he's from Poland ("from behind the former iron curtain") and had been attacked by his medical profession just as Atkins and Dr. Lutz (from Austria, "Live without bread" - 'the Western European Atkins') had to experience it in the west, what makes him even more likeable, and his book is interesting and unboastful reading, but is it really all inside this "optimal formula/ratio"? Or just the effects of distinct low-carb-eating? And perhaps the emphasis on fats added?

So do you really expect that the followers of the Kwasniewski plan will have significantly better results than those consuming "only" a "general" fat based low carb fare? As far as I have read in his book, his 1:2,5-3,5:0,5-ratio is simply the result of his personal experiments with himself, his family and patients over some decades. To call it "scientifically unproven".

And please a second, quite different question: Kwasniewski doesn't stop to praise what he thinks to be the superiority of pork for human nutrition. Since I have never heard that "grass fed pigs" played any role - what do you think of the quality (and possible differences in the quality) of "conventionally raised pork" and lard?

Thank you in advance and keep up your good work
guzolany (MD [but only ophthalmology ;-) ...])


(And, of course: Sorry for my bumpy English...)


KGH:

Hello Dr. Guzolany

Never say "only" and your English is better than my German I sure:)

Where are you in Germany?

You have offered a pointed and appropriate critique of Kwasniewski as a scientist.

I'd like to respond at more length but for now I'll just say that I appreciate Kwasniewski for maximizing animal fat and not as a pure scientist or dietary theologian. Whether his insight is an accidental intuition, a robust empirical result or the product of laboratory science does not concern me that much. I think he is mostly correct. The fact that Peter trusts Kwasniewski as much as he does counts for a lot, and I also found Peter only after I had developed my own approach and adopted a "maximize animal fat" Crickian dogma for PaNu.

My approach is not based on the Optimal diet. It is fascinating to me, though, that if you start with the SAD and follow my steps, you end up very close to OD ratios as long as you don't purposefully add back starchy carbs you were not eating before. That said, diet is biological and should be parametric, so I don't believe tight ratios of anything are the key to health once you have eliminated the stuff that is metabolically outside the EM2.

January 7, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterguzolany

Hello, Dr. Harris,

I have only wonderful things to say about your excellent blog--and I say them to as many of my loved ones as I can every time I send them your link. Your writing is inspiring, entertaining, educational, and so much more. I would give up my morning coffee before giving up PaNu! Yes, I am addicted. And I'm healthier than I have been in years!

With great respect though, I have a tiny pet peeve that I feel compelled to share with you: your use of "it's" instead of "its" (You can trust me on this to the same degree that I trust you on your Paleo expertise. I am an English teacher who gets to the bottom of things.)

"It's" always, always, always means "It is"-- no exceptions. The form you want, for example in the excerpt below, is the possessive one: "Its"

"It’s business is selling a variety of levels of training certifications to it’s franchisees - sorry, affiliates."

I humbly offer this correction for your information only, with no intent to insult. ( I wanted to send it in a private email to you only, but couldn't find a contact address.) I would be happy if you removed my comments from here after reading them.

Respectfully,
Audrey

KGH:

Good grief! I guess English teachers read PaNU too. You found a typo - did you notice I used "It's" correctly as a contraction elsewhere in the article? I did.

Every post is published with very little proofreading and usually I don't even use spellcheck when it's composed in the blogging software. You're lucky I can spell lose with a single "o". You must have a seizure when you read some other blogs :)

The email me link is on the "about me" page.

Thanks for your support.

January 7, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterAudrey

You nailed it. I am not a crossfitter but read Robb's blog and have been witness to the slandering of Robb Wolff. I have just added your blog to my list of must reads--thank you!!!

January 7, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterDonna K

I had been something of a fan of Barry Sears, as he first introduced me to the concepts of controlling insulin, omega-3s, low-gycemic carbs, etc. However, I've noticed that he's becoming more commercialized. His books are becoming increasingly redundant (whole chapters seem replicated verbatim) and his website seems to be pushing products more than anything else. Finally, some of the products sold on his site contain partially hydrogenated oils - which are supposed to be a no-no in the Zone (or any diet that claims to be healthy, of course...).

I “went paleo” in October of last year, which coincidently corresponded with a significant drop in exercise (4-5 times a week to maybe 1 day a week) due to things getting very busy at work, yet my weight remained essentially the same; energy levels and ability to think are also just fine. Amazing what simply eliminating certain foods can do for you. My next step is to get exercising regularly again, employing HIT.

Keep up the good work! I’ve learned a quite a few good things from this site!

Mike.

January 7, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMichael

Dr. Harris,
You have clearly hit on a topic which interests those who follow a variety of nutrition information sources that originate in some direct or indirect way from crossfit. All nutrition specifics aside, I would imagine that I speak for many enthusiastic crossfitters who are extremely disappointed to see the way in which CrossFit has decided to approach their disagreements with Robb Wolf. My experience with the few affiliates I have trained with is that they approach new information, alternate solutions and differing opinions with a professional and open attitude. This not only applies to nutrition but also their approach to strength training/conditioning.

Without tacitly addressing the CrossFit issue with Robb, my affiliate has chosen to push a food quality first, Paleo approach and mentioning the Zone as an afterthought that may benefit people because of the weighing and measuring. I think many affiliate owners respect and appreciate Robb's contribution immensely and will continue to push what they believe is correct by "diplomatically" disseminating their nutrition beliefs.

Crossfit has done a good job of empowering many fitness and nutrition enthusiasts to arm themselves with information and in this case I believe that will prove to work against them. Their approach to nutrition I believe has clearly suffered by this situation. They have forced a 'taking of sides' instead of open dialogue. Unfortunately they've also chosen the 'wrong' side making matters worse.

Aside from the nutrition issue I think worse is the embarrassing lack of professionalism they've shown. I'm sure many crossfitters will find it disheartening. II will continue to be a crossfit enthusiast because of the knowledge, professionalism and dedication that the trainers at my affiliate show to functional fitness and health regardless of CrossFit HQ's approach.

Your blog continues to be one of the best in terms of the clarity of the information you provide and your choice of what to address (too many blogs blog too much!)

Many thanks.

January 7, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterDaesM

The Zone diet changed my life, (and many family members) so I feel a little peeved with Zone diet bashing. It may not be the answer for everyone but it certainly works for many people.
Here's what it fixed for me: reactive hypoglycemia, PMS, severe period pain, auto immune inflammation, I lost weight, had greater energy, better mental focus, improved cholesterol profile.
For my father who'd had bypass surgery it got his cholesterol to normal, CRP and fasting insulin ultra low, cured a bleeding problem etc. (He was not overweight)

I also take issue with your interpretation of the Zone 'prescription'
Sears says to first work out how much protein you need (.7 - 1 gram per pound lean body weight) This is what others also say.Then balance that with 4 grams of carbs to each 3 grams of protein. If you suffer reactive hypoglycemia or any signs this is too many carbs, drop the carbs lower and focus on getting your carbs from veggies and low GI fruit, skip the dense starches. Add extra fat blocks good fat you need to get the extra calories.
(Mastering the Zone, and other zone sources)

This is NOT the same as a rigid 40:30:30 no matter what calories you need. (which Sears has never said to my knowledge)

I am also a huge fan of paleo eating and for me adding strictly paleo food choices was the icing on the cake 99% probs solved vs 85% or so on the zone with fish oil.

I need to watch portion control (50yr old small female, work out 2 -3 x per week) so the zone works from this perspective. it's easy to keep my weight where I want it and no mystery as to how much I need to eat to feel and look my best.

Like many others I have discovered that less carbs than the Zone 40:30 ratio works best - but this is partly in keeping with Sears recommendation for those with blood sugar problems.

I understand the disagreement with the Zone and some of the theories, however Dr Sears has given many people a life changing eating plan, which is not to say it can't be improved upon. Please don't treat him like someone who has given nothing. In our family alone he has probably saved 2 lives.

I for one take nutrition info from many sources, I keep reading and learning from a range of people including Sears, Robb Wolf, Cordain, Mercola and many others, and I keep experimenting to see what works best for me. If something doesn't work (like I feel crap if my protein and fat is too high and carbs too low) that doesn't mean that eating plan is wrong, just wrong for me.

KGH: There has to be one defender. I guess it's going to be you.

"Sears says to first work out how much protein you need (.7 - 1 gram per pound lean body weight) This is what others also say. Then balance that with 4 grams of carbs to each 3 grams of protein. "
Who else says that? No one that I've ever read has advocated that 4:3 C to P is better than some lower ratio. Balance the protein with carbs? Pure BS.

I have Sears' first book. The parts about avoiding fructose and wheat seem to missing from mine. I guess you need all 13 books to get to the important stuff.

Sears is a charlatan and huckster. "Molecular bread" indeed.

Watch out for Mercola and his "metabolic typing". That's even more bogus than the Zone.

January 7, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJulianne

Great post and I know Robb likes your blog.

January 7, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterSteve

Ugh, ack, yuck! Cross fit.... boooooo

Haha, good post Kurt. I had heard a little about this previously but did not look into it further at the time. Not too surprising though. Crossfit enthusiasts have their hearts in the right place, but the movement itself has always seemed cult like (just short of P90X), and I find what they preach only marginally better than "chronic cardio". They are the definition of a bureaucracy stuck in it's ways, both in nutrition and exercise. It appears the nutrition aspect is now manifesting however.

I wonder if they'll pull the same move with "exercise" in the near future?

January 7, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterAnthony

Hi,
I said others agree with the protein recommendation (I was not referring to the P:C ratio)

KGH: Well, that's hardly the unique part with Sears, is it? So if it's not unique to him and the rest makes no sense, what is he offering?

You are very vehement in your point of view about Sears work - that's fine. I agree with some of what you say, I am not a fan of the direction his products have gone either. I don't like that he endorses grains and fructose in general.

However when nutrition is life changing and it works for many people, one has to give it some credit not dismiss is out of hand. Getting the protein: carb ratio at each meal right for me works, and I feel really good.

Re metabolic typing, I've read a bunch on that too, the nutritionist for the All Blacks (top Rugby team in the world) told me he uses it with the team and it made an amazing difference to performance etc. Not that I feel strongly one way or the other but it seems to work in this situation. Perhaps a lower carb paleo diet would work better? It would be interesting to see a study where a whole team took this on - do you know of such a study?

Personally I think - look at what is working, why it's working and learn what you can, don't just dismiss everything because it doesn't fit with your point of view. There are thousands of success stories with many eating plans - why is that, what makes them successful for some people? A question certainly worth exploring.

I've tried really low carb with higher fat, given myself plenty of time to adjust. It has never worked that well for me. I just don't like how I feel on it. Low moderate carbs (about 70g day) work better for me. I haven't knocked those who recommend VLC and those for whom it works, as I know it is fantastic for many people, and necessary.

Julianne

KGH: Lots of claims to evaluate. You already know what I think.

January 7, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJulianne

guzolany's comment and your response concerning Kwasniewski and others made me think of a point that was never made before (afaik). If people like you, Kwasniewski, Atkins, Eades, Lutz and others like the fossils of low-carb Brillat-Savarin and Claude Bernard (the true inspiration for Dr.Harvey of Banting fame) and many more arrive to a very similar result, maybe there is an inerrant truth to that result. Every other idea in the subject of obesity/nutrition that do not tend in that direction has been shown to be either fads or money making schemes.

KGH:

I agree. I made a somewhat similar observation in a footnote here here:

/panu-weblog/2009/11/27/health-and-evolutionary-reasoning-the-panu-method.html

Low carb for whatever reason works by cutting sugar and grains- and the excess vegetable oils did not yet exist in the days of yore

January 8, 2010 | Unregistered Commentergallier2

Ok, then my idea was nothing more than unconscious regurgitation, because I had read that post of yours (even if I had a bit of difficulties to get past the pic of Raquel Welsh ;-) )

KGH: Well, I think you framed it more expansively, actually.

January 8, 2010 | Unregistered Commentergallier2

Dr. Harris,

You may have alrready seen this recent study done at UTMB Galveston indicating that only the first 30 grams, roughly one ounce, of protein are effective in muscle building:

http://www.scienceblog.com/cms/moderate-amounts-protein-meal-found-best-building-muscle-26623.html

The study yet again debunks one of the oldest traditions in human logic/thinking...that if a little of something is good for you, twice as much is twice as good. Not so, according to this study.

Worth a quick look, I think.

KGH:

Thanks - I'll take a look. I think eating lots of excess protein to build muscle (beyond what you actually need to create the new proteins) is kind of like trying to overfill your gas tank to make your car go faster. Meeting demand is the point. Eating more protein is not what drives muscle growth.

Cheers! Brad Reid

January 8, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterBrad Reid

This article from startingstrength seems to contradict that study:

http://startingstrength.com/index.php/site/the_novice_effect/

summary: Two individuals ate like pigs, lifted hard, and added 45lbs and 55lbs in three months. Gains of 60% lean body mass to 40% fat are claimed, leading to 2.84lbs/week of LBM in the case of the guy who gained 55lbs overall.

I know anecdote != data, but it does appear to be an observation that doesn't quite fit into the framework of "you can only use 30gm of protein per meal". Rippetoe has said elsewhere that people don't do very well on his program unless they massively overeat, in which case they tend to gain lots of strength and mass. My first reaction to the article was that the massive overeating, insulin spike from the milk and normal adaptive response to heavy weights added up just fine. But a capped ability to utilize protein looks like it would throw that explanation for a loop.

Any thoughts?

KGH: I'm flattered that folks think I know something about bodybuilding. I really don't. Mostly because I don't care about it and it has absolutely nothing to do with avoiding the diseases of civilization. I can bench press more than 50 lbs over my weight and I can do 20 pullups at age 48. That is good enough for me and I have not seen a shred of evidence that adding muscle mass will make me healthier. I guess it's obvious I don't care to look bulkier with my shirt off either.

Go to Gym Jones and look at Mark Twight in still images and videos there. He is a climber and I used to be a climber in my younger years. Do you think Twight evaluates progress for himself measured in pounds or metrics of strength and endurance?

I might also point out that once you are pushing 50, not losing function and avoiding injury start to matter more than "progress" or some fantasy about getting chicks with bigger muscles.

I wouldn't eat a protein shake if you put a gun to my head.

The idea that measuring and weighing the real food you eat is the key to health is anathema to me - I think it is superstition or marketing - even if it is just the marketing of complexity to make you keep reading and dependent on "experts' as if they can cahnge your genetic propensity to have a certain muscle mass.

I will say that my knowledge of biochemistry and physiology makes it hard for me to believe that you can gain benefits by eating large amounts of extra protein. It is a demand driven process and the demand is created by muscle stress (exercise) and hormones, not by protein intake.

More importantly, if you in fact could add two more pounds of muscle over some period of time by eating an extra 100 g of protein a day, I still would not see the point. But that't just me. If "sculpting" your body is your hobby, go for it.

January 8, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterpfw

My question is more "what's going on?" rather than "do you think I should drink a gallon of milk a day so I'm teh sex". I apologize if that post came off as a lifestyle challenge rather than a science question; it wasn't intended that way.

I'm just curious as to what the biochemical truth is. The SS link is one observation (massive overeating + overload = big lean gains) that I can't quite reconcile with the idea that you can't use more than 30gm of protein per meal (or whatever the theoretical cap is) as claimed by the study above. Meaningless trivia, perhaps, but my inner skeptic demands that I attempt to reconcile observations with the framework.

KGH:

No, it did not come off that way at all - I just don't have time to read every article about how to gain muscle if I am to write about how to avoid cancer and diabetes and heart attacks and such. I should have said that more straightforwardly.

January 8, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterpfw

Dr. Harris,

have you ever stumbled upon Erwan Le Corre's alternative ?
His website is http://movnat.com/

I think this is much more in tune with the paleo principle then CrossFit ever wants to be.

Regards from Europe,
keep up the good work,
you have a large following here to.

KGH:

Thank You - I think I've seen some references to Le Corre through Chris at Conditioning Research. Thanks for the reminder.

January 8, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterHans S

I interviewed Erwan here:

http://conditioningresearch.blogspot.com/2009/01/erwan-le-corre.html

KGH: Thanks, Chris.

January 8, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterChris

"30% protein? Sweet Jesus, that’s about twice what any athlete needs, let alone the average person."

I'm trying to figure out how keep protein to 15-20% on a low carb, high fat diet. Maybe it's not as hard as I'm making it out to be. Take bacon, for instance: it's about half fat and half protein. To keep protein below 20%, it looks like one is going to have to be generous with sauces and eat veggies (like red cabbage, spinach, cauliflower) that adapt well to being 'vehicles' for lipid delivery.

StephenB

KGH:

Remember that each gram of fat is 9-10 kcal and each gram of protein is only 4. Bacon is likely way more than 50% fat on a caloric basis - I would guess closer to 70-80% but it will depend on the cut.

My point was not so that you meed to limit protein, just that the requirement is not that high. A range of 15 -30% is fine for most. Diet is parametric.

January 8, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterStephen Boulet

Hello Dr. Harris,

thank you for your answer concerning Kwasniewski. Again very pragmatic.

Therefore I would love to hear also an answer to my 2nd question about pork:

"Kwasniewski doesn't stop to praise what he thinks to be the superiority of pork for human nutrition. Since I have never heard that "grass fed pigs" played any role - what do you think of the quality (and possible differences in the quality) of "conventionally raised pork" and lard?"

Thank you a lot.

Kind regards
guzolany

> Where are you in Germany?

In Hamburg, the 2nd biggest city of Germany, in the northern area, with 1,8 million residents. Famous for its harbour. PR-Slogan: "Hamburg - das Tor zur Welt" ("Hamburg - Gateway to the world") Karl Lagerfeld, born in Hamburg, likes to say: "Aber nur das Tor!" ("But only the gateway!") ;-)


KGH:

I prefer ruminants esp. in the US - there is some reason K prefers pork and lard, I can't remember what it is - I don't follow OD.

January 8, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterguzolany

Great post. I refuse to follow nutritional advice from someone who does not "look the part" (e.g. Dr. Sears). I will follow nutrional advice from people like you, Mark Sisson, and Robb Wolf....all of whom who look fit and healthy!

As for CrossFit....I have been lucky to have found an excellent CrossFit affiliate at which I have been training successfully since 2008. Many of us follow a paleo approach to eating and have all had incredible success with it.

Keep up the excellent work--I love your site!

KGH: Thanks Patrick

January 8, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterPatrick

@guzulany: Eimsbüttel for the win! Hamburg rockt :D

January 8, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterBleicke

If you wouldn't mind expanding on your statement that adding muscle mass doesn't make you healthier. I thought that adding muscle would have a positive effect on one's hormonal profile, but I might be mistaken.

KGH:

Hi Walter

You eat right and exercise moderately. You are fit and strong and at your genetically determined weight. You are functional in your daily life. This is your baseline without paying specific attention to what your muscle mass is.

Now someone proposes doing something special to add 2 lbs of muscle - maybe its tripling your protein intake, adding creatine or whey or some other magic bodybuilder supplement - maybe it's taking extra testosterone, whatever. There is no basis to believe you don't already have "enough" muscle, and that you will live a longer or more disease-free life if only you add 2 lbs of muscle that your already perfectly healthy hormonal milieu and physical routine has not given you.

I am saying, ceteris paribus, that having more muscle mass per se is no net health advantage, just like having a bigger liver or bigger heart or bigger feet or eyeballs than what your body needs to function is no net health advantage.

Is the average man healthier than the average woman because their muscle mass is greater? Of course not. Muscle mass is determined by hormones (that women have less of, thankfully) and training and genetics. Testosterone in fact makes men less healthy, not more. Shorter lifespans than women.

I get wanting to be strong. I like to be strong in a functional way. I just don't get the desire for heavier or bigger muscles. I guess it's the former rock climber in me.

January 9, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterWalter Norris

I have a similar question to Stephan about keeping protein low. It is a lot easier for me to eat less meat! Nothing against it, but in the United States they have been raising livestock to be leaner and all of the excess fat is trimmed before it gets to the grocery store. The only cuts of meat that seem to taste good without any fancy cooking or sauces and flavorings are the ones that have the most intramuscular fat that cannot be trimmed (ribeye, New York, filet, prime rib). The nutrition fact label on the ribeye in my fridge claims 270 kcals per 4 oz, with 190 from fat. That is 70% fat and 30% protein. Anything else is lucky to be 50% fat.

I can't afford a side of grass fed cow. But I do eat eat tons of dairy and coconut oil. Whole milk is about 50% fat, 30% carb and 20% protein. That is pretty close to the Zone!

KGH: Try half and half or whole cream. Buy ground hamburger that is 70% lean - it's cheaper. Supplement with a teaspoon of Carlson's CLO every day. Buy Buffalo meat and make Chili - add a stick of butter to it.

I love NY Strips.

January 9, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterSwede

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