John,

I have read many of the top CrossFit athletes are eating a Paleo diet, so I thought I should be too. I have been following a strict Paleo diet, but I have been finding it hard to perform on a low carb high fat diet with no dairy. I feel I am lacking in body composition and my performance is going down.

Niclas

earn your carbs #1

Listen up Nickelback -- I am not sure where you read the Paleo diet should be done “low carb” when applied to athletes, but that is not the case. I believe this to be a dangerous mis-conception floating around the functional fitness world and other types of training that involve high output athletic endeavors.

Your carbohydrate consumption should mirror your energy output. Or as I have said over and over, “Earn your carbs.”

If you are overweight and just getting off the couch to begin your fitness journey, you should be “low carb.”

If your training involves lifting heavy weights 4 days a week with longer 3-5 minute rest periods between sets with the occasional early morning 45-minute walk, your carbohydrate consumption should be on the lower side.

If your training looks like 6-12 training sessions a week involving lifting weights, high intensity interval training, sprinting and plethora of other movements performed at high intensity, then you should not be eating a low carb diet or restricting calories for that matter.

The primary energy source for the second energy system, the lactic anaerobic (anaerobic glycolytic) is glucose; all carbohydrates entering the body are converted to glucose. This is the system most tapped into when running 800 meters, performing HIIT or CrossFit style workouts. While fats can act as a source of fuel, certain cells, like those of the brain and blood, rely almost exclusively on glucose for energy.

If you are using CrossFit Football as your primarily training system, you need to consume carbohydrates. But remember, not all carbs are created equal. For information on what to eat go out the post I did a while back called, “Just Tell Me What To Eat.”

Another key player is the consumption of protein and carbs before and after a workout and it effects on testosterone. The increased binding of testosterone to the androgen receptors in the muscle results in what is called an up regulation, meaning there is an increased number of receptors that are responsive to the circulating testosterone. Testosterone being the major hormone signal for increased protein synthesis in the muscles. Adding 25-50 grams of protein and 50 grams of carbohydrates before and within 10 minutes of finishing exercise will increase the circulating insulin, which will result in greater uptake of amino acids in the muscles.

Insulin is a transport hormone responsible for shuttling nutrients to the cells. This makes for quicker recovery if you consume a protein rich meal or shake mixed with carbs to take advantage of this effect.

Performing high intensity interval training or the CrossFit Football program on a low carb diet will result in decreased recovery, decreased performance and lower testosterone levels.

Basically, if your goal is to have the testosterone levels of a 10 year old girl train multiple times a day, 6 days a week and avoid carbs like herpes on Spring Break.