Wednesday, September 29, 2010


The Paleo study we did at FCF this winter is now published in the CrossFit Journal! Go check it out here:
By the Numbers

It requires a subscription (which costs $$), but if you'd like to read a draft of the manuscript (minus the nice formatting and photos, basically without all the hard work the editors did), let me know. Just have to throw out a big thanks to Tim for all his help in getting the study off the ground and another big thanks to all the participants, who trusted me and gave Paleo a shot!

Already there are some great comments on the article, and I'm excited to engage in a discussion and maybe even some research collaborations with folks from the broader CF community.

Oh, and if you found this blog through the link in the article, welcome!

Yesterday's WOD:

5 rounds for time of:
7 box jumps 20"
12 toes to bar
16 OHWPL 25#

My time: 13:21. Was racing Sonja the whole time! I worked on a different form for ttb, based on what I saw the women at the Games doing. Less of a swing, instead you lift your knees up then kick to the bar. Still tiring, but it saves your hands!

I stayed for weightlifting, worked mainly on cleans, up to 105# then c&j back down at 85#. I'm going to be doing a lot more weightlifting practice over the next month and a half cause I decided to do the meet at Front Range in November. Did this one last year (more photos here and here) and it was a lot of fun!

Some more nutrition ranting: food prep

Today's nutrition rant is about food preparation. A lot of people bellyache about how hard it is to cook and shop when you're Paleo. Well, I couldn't disagree more. Now if you're used to a diet of frozen pizza and fast food, yeah, Paleo is gonna be more work. But I think we can all agree that's not healthy. So the comparison I'd like to make is between home-cooked Paleo meals and home-cooked Standard American Diet (SAD).

First off, going Paleo simplifies shopping. You just stay away from the middle of the store! Sure you'll need your coconut oil and coffee, but no pasta, no cereal, no snack crackers, no flour and sugar. Instead, go to the produce section and get an assortment of green stuff, a little bit of fruit, maybe some avocados, maybe some sweet potatoes or squash. Then go to the meat/seafood counter. Pick up a couple meals worth of proteins. Pretend like you're on Top Chef - I love when they say "choose your proteins" on that show! Now stop off at the dairy case for some eggs and butter and you're good to go! Be sure to smile with contentment when you see how bright and colorful and appetizing your groceries look as you're unloading them onto the conveyor belt.

Now you get home with overflowing bags of veggies, neat packages of meat, and a couple of Paleo cooking staples. How do you translate this into a meal? I use a simple formula. I'll illustrate with last night's dinner.
  1. First, I pick a protein - last night it was ground beef.
  2. Next, I pick a fat to cook it in - last night it was olive oil.
  3. Started those cooking in a skillet with some salt and pepper.
  4. Now decide on veggies and flavorings. I minced some garlic and onion and threw that in, then rummaged in the spice drawer and came up with dried basil and nutmeg and added a sprinkle of each. It was yummy, but if this combo sounds complicated, don't worry. I think it would still have tasted great with just one of these flavors!
  5. Serve it up in an appetizing way. I served the whole thing over some leftover mashed butternut squash in a bowl. This would have been adequate but I like more veggies in my meals, so I added a big salad with oil and vinegar.
How was this any harder than making spaghetti with tomato sauce? Took about the same time, just used one pan, and didn't require any creative genius or technique, just a simple combination of ingredients.

So no excuses! Even if you don't currently follow Paleo, try to make a Paleo meal tonight! Pick a meat, a paleo-friendly fat (olive or coconut oil, bacon fat, or butter all rock), one or more veggies, and some spices or other flavors (herbs, salsa, lime juice, coconut milk, curry powder, chili powder), and cook it all up together. Pretty easy!



Monica said...

Hi Amy -- cool stuff. I read an older summary of your study on your website. (Darn... now I can't find it to see exactly what blood tests you had done on the participants....) I don't have a subscription to CF Journal. Would you mind sending me the manuscript?

On the difficulty of getting a significant "placebo" population... (or at least, CrossFit w/o paleo). What do you think about doing the study on some new FCF members (it seems like gym membership is growing steadily?) and comparing their paleodiet results with a lead-up period that lasts for the same amount of time as the dietary intervention? In other words, you don't have a *true* placebo group but you compare each individual's progress during the second half of the study (the paleodiet period) with a period of equal time prior to that eating SAD (or whatever it is they normally eat).

The obvious problem with this type of study is that the improvements shown in the lead-up period with CrossFit plus SAD eating might obviously affect the success in the experimental period. Surely there would be some improvement with CrossFit alone. Still, you could compare rates of change between the two.

The only way I can think of to remove that confounding factor is by having two groups: one that does SAD first, paleo second. And another group that does paleo first, SAD second. Again, probably no one would want to sign up for the group where they eat paleo for months and then switch back to SAD. YUCK. I certainly wouldn't!!!!! So, that's probably infeasible.

Real treatment and control blocks could work well in a large study of several gyms, however. I would imagine you could get at least a few people in each gym who would be fine with staying on their regular eating plan so long as they don't have to pay for their blood tests. For that, you need some funding.... what about soliciting donations for research from grass-fed beef and pastured animal products producers, etc.? Certainly they would be happy for research that they could point to that would support the paleo diet (even if people in the study weren't able to eat strictly grassfed/pastured meat, eggs, etc...)

If you could get enough people across a number of gyms to set up a control and a treatment (or even a variety of treatments, perhaps with different maconutrient ratios), that would be super. And you could publish in a peer-reviewed journal... All of the clinical trials (there are not many of them!) that have tested paleo diets have had small numbers of participants (usually 15 or less). (But you probably know that.)

Amy said...

Thank you for the suggestions.

I wrote a comment on the CFJ site that is relevant:

"I completely agree that a controlled study (with a non-Paleo control group) would allow us to make stronger conclusions about causality. Unfortunately, we could only work with the available population, and we couldn't garner enough (or any!) people willing to participate in a study who weren't also interested in trying Paleo. At first my biggest wish was for scientific rigor, but as I saw that the control group wasn't going to pan out, the goals shifted a bit to: 1) getting people to try Paleo in a non-competitive setting and 2) setting up and documenting a template for other affiliates to follow. While this data is only suggestive because of the compromises we had to make to experimental design, we hope that it accomplished these other two goals."

So yes, there are better ways to control for confounds, etc., and other ways to recruit a control group, but I'm not doing this study at FCF again. It was a huge undertaking and there are many roadblocks and challenges that are not apparent from the outside. It is very, very difficult to get someone to just eat the way you want them to eat, especially when it affects the way they feel, and especially when they are your friends. Unlike a laboratory experiment, there is very little control in a real-world study like this. It's just a tradeoff you have to make.

Best case scenario, some folks at other affiliates will be interested in running their own studies, and I can consult for them and find a way to standardize materials and protocols so that the data can be combined.

Brian Farr said...


Just found your blog through the link on the CFJ article.

I'm a veterinarian in Texas, and it was great to read a thorough "scientific" article on a topic that I'm passionate about (rather than another science/medicine related topic).

I've eaten 98% strict paleo for about 9 months now, and I'm hoping to use some of your information to share with my family and those around me.

Thanks for all the good work. And...I killed a good bit of time with your old posts...I appreciate your honest perspective.