What To Drink On the Paleo Diet

Our CrossFit box is running a 30 day nutrition challenge and even though we hosted an information session with Q+A, there are always going to be questions about the Zone, Paleo, gluten free, and what “no sugar” actually means. One of the questions that has come up is “What can I drink on the Paleo Diet?” When you take away people’s soda and beer, they want answers! So here’s a line up of Paleo-friendly beverages!

I actually wanted to put this first because some of you might think fruit juice is ok since it’s made of fruit. If you actually take a look at Tropicana Pure Premium’s product label, you’ll see that a serving of orange juice contains 26 grams of carbohydrates and 22 grams of sugar. And that’s just for an 8 oz. serving which you are probably doubling since no one drinks just a serving size. If you are doing the Zone, you just consumed 3-6 blocks of carbohydrates (no more carb sources for the morning or even day!) not to mention the high sugar content. Fruit juice (even if you juice it yourself) basically hits your system with a huge dose of sugar and there is no fiber there to slow the process. Not a great choice for keeping your blood sugar and insulin levels steady.

In terms of the approved liquids, we might as well start with the obvious. Take more in if you are doing hard workouts and sweating a lot, but be cautious of people who say you need to drink enough to be peeing every 5 minutes. There are a lot of “experts” on hydration, but very few can agree on anything. Since I don’t consider myself an expert, I’m going with the vanilla answer of “if you’re thirsty, drink more.” If you are eating Paleo or Primal aka consuming real foods, you are getting a good deal more water through your food compared to a SAD (Standard American Diet).

water cucumber

My good friend and health coach, Laura Pappas, showed me this trick: water + _____ = homemade flavored water, where _____ can be mint, lemon, lime, cucumber, strawberry, or any other fruit/veggie or herb that you’d like to flavor with your water. Just cut up a couple of lemons and stick them in a pitcher of water. Even if you refill the pitcher, the lemons should still give enough flavor to last you a week or even more. As you transition away from a SAD diet, your taste buds will change and you’ll pick up on the subtle flavors of real food. Feel free to combine some of these too – Cucumber +lemon + mint = delicious! Buy an infuser bottle and take your flavored water on the go – no more Crystal Light!

A flavored water that is popular amongst CrossFitters is coconut water from brands such as Zico or VitaCoco. This is a good substitute for drinks like Gatorade and Powerade, but should be used in certain situations like after a tough workout, especially after longer, aerobic based workouts or runs. Coconut water is a good way to replenish electrolytes, but comes with a decent amount of sugar as well. So don’t go reaching for coconut water at every meal, but feel free to use it in place of Gatorade.

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Ah, my lifeblood. While I know I can (and have) hold myself from coffee for a week+ with no withdrawal symptoms, it’s really just too delicious to keep out of my life. Coffee and tea are fine on the Paleo Diet as long as you’re not having it with creamer, sugar, milk, etc. “But black coffee is so strong!” you say. Well that’s the point! If you don’t like coffee for the caffeine or the taste, then you were probably more attracted to the 3 sugar packets that you put in your coffee and just fooling yourself. Personally, I have a collection of coffee devices at home: burr grinder, Aeropress, French Press, Nespresso Pixie machine, but I’m also not afraid to ask for a Venti Black Eye from Starbucks (20 oz. coffee + 2 shots espresso). Ok, maybe I do have a problem!

Take away my soda, fine. Even take away my sugar in coffee, I’ll deal. But take away my alcohol?? Before you light the torches and grab your pitchforks, let’s say this is a grey zone topic. While doing a challenge, I really do think to get the full benefits of “cleansing” yourself (I hate that word, but you understand what I mean), you should abstain from all alcohol. And no, you can’t use the “but red wine is supposed to be good for me!” excuse. Keep it out and see how you feel. THEN and only then, you may reintroduce alcohol following some guidelines:
-BEER – in general, stay away from gluten. So this includes most beers – sorry hipsters, your craft beers are probably making you sick. (and not just from drinking too much)
-CIDER – has become more popular and I wonder if it’s because many people are identifying as “celiac” or “gluten intolerant.” Whatever, the case, cider is a better choice due to the gluten free nature, but some contain more sugar than others.
-WINE – is usually fine, but also know it’s loaded with sugar. Better than beer because of the lack of gluten.
-HARD ALCOHOL – runs the gamut: some like tequila are gluten free while others are made from grains (whiskey, bourbon, scotch, gin, and many vodkas unless it’s made from potatoes). Personally I will either drink red wine or the classic Norcal Margarita, made famous by Robb Wolf: tequila, soda water, and lime.
At the end of the day, just know that you don’t drink alcohol to make you healthy, you drink it because it tastes good and it makes you feel good (briefly).

Overall, people wonder what they can drink besides water, but for the most part, the answer is: water! The same people wonder what they can eat on the Paleo diet since so many options have now been eliminated. While that may be true, just imagine a life where those options like soda, cake, and Coco Puffs were never there to begin with. Instead, imagine a life where we grew all of our food and either had to hunt or forage for it. That’s the idea of the Paleo/Primal diet and that’s why your choices may seem limited. Give it 30 or more days though, and you’ll see some dramatic changes to your body, mental state, and athletic performance.

More knowledge:
Ultimate Paleo Guide to Alcohol
Whole9 Alcohol Manifesto
Paleo Plan: What Should I Drink?

What do you normally drink? What do you drink on the Paleo/Primal Diet?


3 Steps to Becoming a Better CrossFit Coach

So you started CrossFit, fell in love with the idea of coaching, got your Level 1 cert (aka $1000 T-shirt), and even found a coaching gig or internship – now what? We all know that you don’t magically become a world-class coach in a weekend, but how do you get better? Whether you’ve been coaching for five years or five days, these tips should help you on the road to coaching virtuosity.

#3 – TRAIN
If you’re going to talk the talk, walk the walk. If you are coaching CrossFit, you don’t have to look like the next Mr. or Ms. Olympia, but you should obviously be training. And don’t be afraid to play around with all different programs: Outlaw, Invictus, OPT, CF Football, mainsite, your home box, and yes, specialty programs like Westwide (powerlifting) and Catalyst (olympic lifting). Notice that I did not say that you needed to be an “elite exerciser,” but by trying these programs, you’ll be able to give firsthand testimony to the efficacy of each instead of the common “I read on the internet that this program is good.” I’ve personally spent 6 months to 2+ years each doing mainsite, CF Football, Outlaw, Invictus, and my home boxes, and I think it has helped tremendously in terms of knowing what does and does not work. If you are in charge of programming for your box, I think it’s even more vital that you try other programs. 

And since CrossFit is about doing the “unknown and unknowable” why not take a yoga class, run a road race, and play other sports? You don’t have to be a Pilates-addict, but it can only help your credibility as a coach if you can say “I’ve tried that.”


Competing – photo courtesy of Lam Nguyen

#2 – LEARN
The best teachers are also the biggest students of their craft. I could probably write a few thousand words just on continuing education, but let’s keep it simple: keep learning! While there are a good amount of CrossFit coaches out there with an exercise science or kinesiology degree, there are just as many (probably more) that do not. And both groups could stand to continue their education through formal and informal channels. Here are a few things to think about:

  • Formal certificates/degrees – these include degree programs (part-time school anyone?) and certificate programs. Check out your local colleges/universities to see if they have exercise or nutrition programs. With technology these days, you can also turn to online degree programs, just make sure they are accredited. CrossFit has plenty of their own coaching and specialty certifications, but look to outside certs as well. Since weightlifting is such a big part of CrossFit, I would highly recommend (almost mandate) a weightlifting certificate from USAW, Catalyst, or CrossFit. Other areas that can be highly technical are gymnastics, running, powerlifting, strongman, nutrition, rowing, and if you are kid-friendly, CrossFit Kids. We are generalists, but the best people to learn from are the specialists. The advantage to these programs is that you can add that credential to your resume, but the downside is that they are usually long (full weekend to a few years) and costly ($500 up to a few thousand)
  • Informal clinics/seminars – Besides official channels, some of the best ways to learn are through non-certificate clinics and seminars. Your local boxes or fellow coaches may host a running clinic, weightlifting seminar, mobility class, or strongman clinic – these are usually very active, hands-on events that last a few hours or even a day, where small groups of people are led by an expert in that particular field. You tend to get a good amount of personal attention and can pick up some nifty cues for coaching. These smaller clinics/seminars are probably the best bang for your buck since they tend to be shorter and cheaper than official certificates. One of the best clinics I went to was Natalie Burgener’s private class she did for us, and I didn’t even lift because I just had shoulder surgery!
  • Books/videos/blogs – there are a MILLION (maybe even a bazillion!) resources out there when it comes to videos, articles, books, etc. about weightlifting, nutrition, endurance, etc……so you better get started! Consume as much as you can, but keep a critical eye out for everything. Question what you read and hear, not with the intent to be cynical, but so that you don’t get wrapped up in shiny marketing and important sounding words like “vestibular.” When I heard about CrossFit in 2007, I didn’t even start working out – I only watched videos on mainsite for about a month. I’m sure many of you have a similar story, but there are so many good resources out there now.
  • In the interest of time, I am not going to link everything here, but these are just a FEW of the resources I have gone to in the past:
    • Weighlifting – Catalyst Athletics (Greg Everett), USAW, Diane Fu, Mike Burgener, Glenn Pendlay, Spencer Arnold, California Strength, All Things Gym
    • Powerlifting/Speed/Power – Westside Barbell (Louie Simmons), Mark Rippetoe, CF Football (John Welbourne), J&M (Jim Laird and Molly Galbraith)
    • Nutrition – Gary Taubes, Whole9 (Dallas and Melissa Hartwig), Robb Wolf, Mark Sisson, Chris Kresser,
    • Competitor programming – Outlaw (Rudy Nielsen), Invictus (CJ Martin), OPT (James Fitzgerald), Competitor (Ben Bergeron)
    • Other specialties – Kelly Starrett (mobility), Brian Mackenzie (running), Chris Sommer (gymnastics), CF Journal (general CF), Jon Gilson’s Mic’d Instructor (general CF)
  • I would also recommend reading about psychology, business, and other personal “improvement” books and blogs. While the technical knowledge is important, so are the interpersonal skills! One of my favorites is How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie. 
2014-04-12 Catalyst Athletics Certification-00021

attending the Catalyst Athletics Weightlifting Certification

#1 – COACH
It’s not enough to just be an “internet coach” – you know these people: they see a video of a clean or snatch and immediately critique it with “gotta open the hips more,” or “didn’t lock out right away” and yet they’ve never coached a person in real life. While it’s great to read books and watch videos until your eyes blur, the BEST way to get better at coaching is to actually coach! Nothing beats the experience of seeing something in real-time, and going into your toolbox of cues and corrections to help your athletes get better. This is where you will find your own voice and put your own spin on coaching. Put in the hours and it will reward you. You won’t notice any immediate changes, but there is something to be said about that 10,000 hour rule of simply putting in the time. You’ll realize that the same cue for Athlete A doesn’t work for Athlete B. That just because you say “open your hips” doesn’t mean they’ll do it right away. That coaching is less about the technical corrections and more about listening to your athletes. The best coach isn’t the one with the most certifications – it’s the one who cares for their athletes and helps them towards their goal in a safe and effective manner. If you can realize this, you’re already on your way to becoming a better CrossFit coach.

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Coaching the clean

Are you a CrossFit coach? What helps you on the road to coaching virtuosity? What resources do you turn to?

Coach P’s Nutrition Tip #16 – Make Cauliflower Rice

Our box, CrossFit Thermal, is doing a month-long nutrition challenge from July 7-August 7. Members are choosing various levels of engagement, ranging from strict Zone to strict Paleo, to “no grains, no extra sugar.” I will be posting a short nutrition tip to help people stay on point and make clean nutrition a life-long habit instead of just a short term “diet.”

Nutrition Tip #16: Make Cauliflower Rice

White rice is in a grey area for me. It doesn’t contain gluten, but it breaks down to sugar quickly – so theoretically it can be used by highly active people as fuel, but should be avoided by sedentary and/or those looking to lean out. If you’re missing your rice, then here are two ways from NomNom Paleo to use cauliflower as a replacement. Believe me, I hated steamed cauliflower growing up, so I was skeptical of using it as a rice replacement, but there is NO bad cauliflower taste. It’s pretty amazing how shredding and then frying can give a similar texture and fairly tasteless food!

Simple Cauliflower Rice
(we actually don’t even do this much in terms of recipe. We’ll just shred the cauliflower, saute it in a pan with olive oil, and add salt and pepper)

Asian Cauliflower Fried Rice