Crossfit to Lose Weight? How Crossfit and Marathons Can Keep You Fat & How to Make Them Work

Elite Conditioning Coach Brad Davidson & Dr. Jade Teta Discuss:

Crossfit and how to match eating with training for optimal fat loss results



There are two things required to lose weight: 1) a calorie deficit and 2) hormonal balance.

The problem with the standard “eat less, exercise more” approach, or the newer updated version “deplete carbs and train intensely” model, is that both easily create the calorie deficit but make the hormonal balance worse not better.

So, what happens? Many people will get results and just as many will stay fat. And for an unlucky minority this bad advice turns into metabolic damage and weight loss resistance.

In this conversation with my good friend and elite Crossfit coach, Brad Davidson we discuss the correct way to pair eating and training for Crossfit or any high output metabolic conditioning.

Brad and I have been at this awhile and frequently connect to learn from each other and share our results from the top level athletes and average fat loss seekers we work with every day.

Here are the high level take aways:

  • Eating less and exercising more works for some, but can be the very thinking hindering results for others. And for a small minority can be a metabolic disaster.
  • Carb depleting diets with Crossfit type workouts are really not much better and lead to the same types of issues. Sometimes even worse. Review this blog on metabolic damage
  • There are two other ways to create calorie deficits and hormonal balance. Eat less and exercise less (the way the many European countries stay so lean) OR eat more and exercise more (the way elite athletes, including cross-fitters do it)
  • You don’t need fancy tests to tell you if your metabolism is out of balance and entering into metabolic compensation or resistance.  All you need to know is, “is your HEC in check?” HEC is an acronym for hunger, energy and cravings.
  • Timing carbohydrates in the post workout window is a critical aspect to recovery, repair and adaptation.
  • Finding the right amount, type and timing of carbohydrate is critical to high level performance and fat loss

Enjoy the discussion.  And let us know your thoughts. To learn more about Brad Davidson.  Check out his facility here




11 Responses to Crossfit to Lose Weight? How Crossfit and Marathons Can Keep You Fat & How to Make Them Work

  1. November 27, 2013 at 12:20 PM #

    Thanks for the discussion. I love what you guys are doing, and I follow your stuff often. What we’ve been doing at my gym (SeaCity CrossFit) is putting a greater and greater focus on individual nutrition consultations. I’m getting to the point where I believe people need to do that first before they begin training, or at the very least to do a consultation simultaneously with commencing CrossFit. We don’t typically specialize in high volume workouts. We keep it focused on strength and the conditioning is relatively short.

    I love the million-dollar racehorse analogy. Why didn’t I think of that?

    A couple of thoughts to contribute to your discussion. I think it’s a bit dangerous to put any particular percentages out there in terms of how many people who start CF have a positive fat loss/muscle gain experience vs the number who may not. We have no way of knowing what those numbers are, until some kind of meta-analysis is done. Since most people who start CF for the first time are deconditioned, they are usually able to lose fat and gain muscle at the same time at least for a short time. That’s the point at which they really need some individual tinkering with both diet and training. So I don’t see too many people who start training with us who just fall flat or stall right out of the gate. We also don’t advocate for folks to go strict paleo right off the bat either, nor do we want to slam newbies with all kinds of crazy high volume workouts. Although to be sure there are some CF gyms out there who do this stuff, there are some who are a little more thoughtful.

    One other comment is regarding the training of elite athletes. Just an observation, but I think that it’s easy to make a causation/correlation error in terms of their diet and how it relates to their appearance and performance. How does one really know that what’s being recommended nutritionally is bringing about any given result? Is it possible that some of these gifted athletes would do exceptional things with a variety of different ratios and protocols? I think that often coaches will be a little too hasty to assume cause/effect and to take the credit, when the athlete may in fact be performing well IN SPITE of what the coach is doing.

    I hope you don’t take that the wrong way, because I think you guys are spot on with your stuff. I just wonder about this stuff from time to time, and I think we have to be careful not to get sucked into that fallacy, so we should test and re-test our assumptions, check and re-check. Thanks again!

    • Jade Teta November 27, 2013 at 1:41 PM #

      I certainly agree with you on both counts. Should have made that more clear.

      1) You are correct there is no way to know how many are being impacted negatively in this way and my perspective will be slanted since I likely see a higher proportion of these people compared to most given the work I do.

      2) I agree. there is also no real way to know how our nutritional interventions are really working although when clinical results are able to be duplicated again and again, it gives you extra confidence. You certainly can’t rule out that there are multiple ways of going about this or that there are genetic freaks.

      Thanks for the comments

  2. November 27, 2013 at 12:45 PM #

    Really good discussion. I have a question about the 3 2 2 method. You say you should have twice the amount of carbs post-workout. So say one works out in-between lunch and dinner. Obviously the 2x Carb will be during dinner, but what about the other two meals (besides the protein snacks)? Do you have carbs in just the breakfast and not lunch or split the carb amount in both breakfast and lunch? Say twice the carbs post workout is 80g, does that mean you eat 40g each for those two meals (so you’re consuming 160 total for the day) or 40g total either during one meal or split between the two (besides the post workout meal).

    Sorry if this is confusing!

    • Jade Teta November 27, 2013 at 1:47 PM #

      Thanks for asking the question so I can clarify. When you think 3:2:2 it describes the meal structure and the meal ratio. So 3 meals, 2 snacks and 2X starch post workout. And also 3 parts of your plate veg, 2 parts of the plate protein and 2 parts of the plate starch OR fat.

      So, if you visualize a plate 1/2 will be veg and then the other half will be split between starch or fat and protein (I realize the math does not work out perfectly, but you get the point).

      Then the post workout meal would be double the starch. From there, you use HEC and body comp results to tweak the diet.

      So based on my description in this discussion, a person doing a crossfit workout in the evening would eat the following:

      B-fast= scrambled eggs (the protein and the fat) and asparagus/broccoli/etc (the veg)
      Snack 1= 20g protein shake
      Lunch= Soup or salad that is veg and protein based with some good fats
      Preworkout BCAA= 5 to 10g
      Snack 2= 20g protein shake and a banana
      Dinner= Salmon, broccoli and a large sweet potato.

      Does that clear it up?

  3. musclefanatic11 November 28, 2013 at 7:30 AM #

    Hello, should you be worried about Leptin when taking the work out less eat less approach?

    • Jade Teta November 28, 2013 at 7:52 AM #

      If you are worried about metabolic compensation, which occurs to some degree in all diet and exercise programs, you are always worried about leptin. However, HEC is an indication that leptin is balanced (not too low and not too high). The eat less, exercise less model and the eat more, exercise more model do a very nice job of regulating HEC and delivering results. That’s an indication they are having a far more favorable effect on the metabolism compared to the other two models: eat more, exercise less and eat less, exercise more.

      For more on metabolic compensation, see this blog:

  4. slimtreat November 28, 2013 at 11:19 PM #

    Hey guys.. as usual stellar information. I’d just like to clarify a few things and also share my circumstance to see if this helps.


    – I hit a plateau (after losing only 25lbs. Got tested Thyroud 3/4 and cortisol were normal. Low blood pressure and insulin too. *phew*.
    – To get over it, I slowed workouts and ate more “regular foods”) Sadly this threw me off my schedule and went back to no workouts and just regular foods. 10 lbs came back over 3 months. sigh. Was happy though thinking my metabolism had stablized and was no longer stalled.
    – 3 weeks ago, I started HIIT classes 6x a week (Same workout as before) 30mins with 30mins flloor resistance. Diet is again low carb (same diet as before) Expected a nice drop quickly since I could still “perform”. Have lost NOTHING — but sweat. :( Confused. Tired. Hungry.


    I have found it VERY Hard to “eat” for the training without going over carbs *and* staying within calories goals (1200). Before, I ate sardines and cabbage all day and still found it hard to get 500 calories in and usually workouts were about 300-600 calories burned – not including lifting. MyFitnessPal was actually in the negative on workout days and I dont knwo how to balance it. Eat more sure.. of what? I ate and juiced all the time before and still hit a plateau. It wasnt always satisfying to eat fresh pressed kale/carrot juice, cabbage and sardines. I had 1 4oz chicken thugh 1-2x a week max.

    So.. based on that background and brief rant, my questions:


    1. When you say they work out hard enough to need carbs.. what exactly do you mean. How much calories are they burning. What is the ratio burned to what they eat? Are they running, lifting.. what intensity (heart rate) and for how long.


    2. Why eat carbs late at night, is there some benefit? Is this for performance? Bulking for muslce? I am trying to lose a TON of **FAT** Should I really be eating carbs before bed? I workout at 5:45 to about 7:30pm with my post-workout workout where I walk or stairmill. I do this to ensure I keep my rate up a bit longer for fat loss. Seems counter-intuitive to end it with a giant sweet potatoe. I’m giggling just thinking about it. I go to bed at about 11pm.

    3. Should I really eat right after a workout? I think I remember your book saying that we should not eat right away (Read it 2 years ago, sorry if thats wrong). What is the benefit of eating sugar which will spike insulin when I’m trying to block it in the first place so my body is forced to get the TONS of fat literally laying around lol

    4. Even if I dont count carbs and I just eat according to the various plans in the video and on the site (meat + veg) I get no calories, I might get hungry but in the deep plateau everything turned off.. hunger, sex drive but I could still complete my workouts. So how can I bump up in a way that works for fat loss without eating “normal/bad”? the meat and veg diet seemed to put me into the plateau with very little lost and now nothing is coming off. Or is it the workouts?

    5. I see people on instagram who workout 1000+ calories (1.5 hours). I think at best I’ve done 600-750 (45 mins cardio, 30 mins floor resistance) but on average its 400-500. I didnt think this was a lot but yet somehow it all shut down on that little excercise. when i eat more, I gain (slowly but definitely)

    Sad to say I’m *not* looking for performance or muscle bullking. I’m simply trying to lose fat. How would I tweak the great advise for these athletes to just concentrate on losing fat for now then I can go for CrossFit games maybe once I’m in one-derland :-)


    At 29.44 in the video, I feel like you are talking about me.. but I am VISIBLY over 15% body fat. Can you elaborate so I learn to avoid it? Is it the food, excercise or both. Really cant eat constantly, I had no appetite plus its not feasible or affordable. I ate frequently but still only 500 calories and worked off the same amount.. just cant win! :(

    • Jade Teta November 29, 2013 at 9:21 AM #

      @slimtreat………this is a little extensive. I would like to help, but don’t have the time to get into this at length. BUT……I really appreciate the thoughtful questions and I am thinking Brad and I will answer these on our next call. We do these calls frequently, but decided to start recording them.

      1) First on your background info…….the plateau and being stuck etc…..please refer to this blog:

      2) This is the conundrum many people find themselves in. The metabolism is not like a calculator, but rather a thermostat. It is adaptive and reactive which is why standard calorie counting and macronutrient ratios can often make us stuck. I suggest you consider a more intuitive approach. Stop counting calories and when you are training follow a 3:2:2 approach……..when you are not a 3:2:1 approach. Let HEC and results guide you. See this blog:

      3) Again, you are overthinking it here. If you are training hard, which is going to be subjective and individualized, and NOT feeding your body….. then your body will register that stress and react with increased hunger, energy and cravings (HEC). So eat in a way that stabilizes HEC and results in fat loss. I realize this is a frustrating answer, but I am telling you it is a far better approach than thinking about this as a math equation. it takes some tweaking, but once you get it, you have a pocess you can repeat for life

      4) The carb stuff…… these blogs:

      and read the blog below……….books have to be somewhat black and white otherwise they confuse people……but in truth fat loss is gray:

      5) Not sure what you are saying here…….but if you are talking about metabolic damage. Read these blog below. Sorry I can’t be of more help, but hopefully you realize answering these types of individual questions on a blog like this is not feasible. You need more personal attention then please contact our clinic 336-724-4452. Hope some of this was helpful.

      • slimtreat December 1, 2013 at 2:36 PM #

        Thanks for your response. Very thorough, wasn’t sure what to expect back but I love everything.. will read through this now and begin steering the ship back on course. I am DEFINITELY looking forward to the calls. Its easier to listen and sometimes you both dig deeper into each others responses in a way that’s not possible in an article. However I like the science too.. either way thanks and will be checking in as I continue this journey

  5. slimtreat November 28, 2013 at 11:21 PM #

    Sorry for the double post, please delete the first. looked like a draft, corrected some info and typos.

  6. meghandoll December 28, 2014 at 10:02 PM #

    WHAT A GREAT DISCUSSION! One of the best I’ve ever heard regarding how to eat to support your training! VERY specific – appreciate it very much! Love what you’re doing Jade! :) Love topics like this!!!!!!

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