Monday, December 14, 2009

Whole30 Seminar at Potomac CrossFit

While we were on the road waiting to hear about our Afghanistan trip, we decided to pop in and visit a few of our favorite mid-Atlantic affiliates. We'd kept in touch with Erika and Siddharth, trainers at Potomac CrossFit, since our gymnastics cert there in January 2009, so we invited ourselves over for a workout. Turns out, PCF was a gym in need of some nutritional motivation, with many CrossFitters just one week into their own version of a "Paleo Challenge". Dallas and I were happy to help out, and hosted a Whole30 seminar for 20 of their members on Friday night.

Normally, we travel to introduce our Whole30 program, and outline the plan for those affiliates looking to host a dietary clean-up using our guidelines. Since PCF was already into their nutritional challenge (and this wasn't most members' first nutritional rodeos), we spent most of our time answering questions and helping to clarify some of the more confusing aspects of diet for CrossFitters. We talked cortisol management, eating well on the road, why a Splenda habit is hurting fat loss efforts, the sneaky effects of dairy, and injury, inflammation and dietary factors. We spent almost two hours answering questions and offering our best advice on how to wrap your brain around this new way of eating.

As an aside... I haven't talked much about our consulting practice here, mostly because things over there have been on hold while we planned for Afghanistan. Our web site is still very much a work in progress, despite the fact that I'm linking to it all over the place. (It's the equivalent of having company over while you're renovating your kitchen. Don't mind the mess.) And our services are still not as defined as we'd like them to be - we're hard at work on new client questionnaires, weekend long intensive programs and developing smaller, more casual "boutique-style" sessions, held outside of a CrossFit gym. But we're working while we're figuring it out, and Potomac was the perfect gig - fun and casual, with some smart and motivated clients and dedicated trainers. (Special hello to LeAnn and Kassandra, both blog readers and frequent posters. Thanks for the warm welcome, ladies.)

The seminar was a success, and gave us a bunch of good ideas for blog posts. (Stay tuned for Dallas' tips and tricks for when you're all banged up.) We're also making some changes behind the scenes, to better integrate my blog with what we're doing over at the Whole9. I know things have been quiet around here, and I don't like it any more than you do. I'm looking forward to some fun posts, regularly scheduled training and working on the new consulting stuff.

So a special thanks to Erika and Siddharth for organizing and Brian for hosting - we really enjoyed our time with you. And to all the PCF members who hit our seminar - how's your challenge coming along? Keep us posted!

Dallas, Erika and I, getting our gymnastics on at PCF.


LeeAnn said...

Hey Melissa & Dallas -

Thanks again for stopping by PCF 2 weeks ago. It was great to finally meet you in person. We shared your disappointment over the trip cancellation - please know that your kindness, generosity, and extra efforts were widely recognized. I'm sure you'll make it to Bagram soon to finish the job.

The Paleo challenge is going well; it's been a great inspiration to try new foods and recipes. My training plan took a hard right last week when I found out that I have a stress fracture in my left tibia. I'm on a 3-month gymnastics seminar with Siddharth in the mean time.

We'll keep you updated. Take care -- and good luck with the "re-org"!

Kassandra said...

Hey guys!

+1 on LeeAnn's comments, except that she's now "Bootylicious" instead of LeeAnn because of her new footware.

The Paleo Challenge is moving along nicely and I'm so happy to have had the chance to have a little brainstorm session with you guys. Simply hitting on the tips that you both gave us has really helped me figure out my body and the food that it needs the second time around. Such great stuff.

crasefit said...

I always look forward to your e-mail updates.
Sometimes they're exactly what I need to help me stay focused and on track.
I totally dig the Whole 9 concept and art design.
Thanks for all!


Hamilton said...

Do you have any view on HQ saying Zone, not Paleo, is the true way, and ending Robb Wolf's affiliate license?

Melissa Urban said...

@LeeAnn and Kassandra: Thanks for the comments, lovely ladies of PCF! Glad to hear things are going well, make sure you hit us up if you need help.

@Lee: thanks for posting! I'm glad to hear that sometimes, these things resonate.

@Hamilton: Of course we have a view. Robb has been a good friend and mentor to us, and it's a shame that the CrossFit community is losing coaches of the caliber of Robb, Greg and Aimee. We're going to keep learning from Robb, and working with him in any way we can. CrossFit is going to have a difficult time finding someone with his professional credentials, capacious real world experience and sparkling wit and charm to run those nutrition certs, that's for sure.

I'm just waiting for all this drama to die down so we (as a community) can get back to the business of quality training, coaching and information sharing.

George said...

So why does a Splenda habit hurt fat loss efforts?

Melissa Urban said...

@George: I won't even get into all the studies that show why Aspartame is seriously bad news. Common sense tells me that artificial sweeteners are nothing but chemicals, and ingesting chemicals can't be good for my body.

But what about "natural" sweeteners like Stevia? That's not any better for fat loss, unfortunately. Paraphrasing from a study by Purdue University:

Why would a sugar substitute backfire? Sweet foods provide a “salient orosensory stimulus” that strongly predicts someone is about to take in a lot of calories. Ingestive and digestive reflexes gear up for that intake... but when false sweetness isn’t followed by lots of calories, the system gets confused. Thus, people may eat more or expend less energy than they otherwise would.

In summary, artificial sweeteners (like Splenda, Stevia, etc.) can trigger the SAME insulin response as real sugar. The body tastes something sweet and doesn't know the difference. Since we're primarily trying to restore insulin sensitivity with our clean, healthy diet, it doesn't make sense to ingest food products that flood the body with insulin when it's not even needed, right?

In addition, there is a mental component as well. If I've got someone struggling to get off the crack (a high carb, low fat diet), the last thing I want them to do is maintain the same level of "sweet stuff" in their diet, regardless of where that sweet stuff is coming from. I make these clients cut all sugar sources, including Splenda, dried fruit and other "tastes like candy" foods and drinks for the first month of their program. I need them to reset their brains, and Splenda isn't going to help them do that.

Make sense?

George said...

Makes sense. Thanks Melissa!

Thesam27 said...


Awesome site! Thanks for all of the awesome information you post - it has been a great resource for me as I've transformed my diet over the last few months.

With that said, I am a little confused by what you said about artificial sweeteners:
"Common sense tells me that artificial sweeteners are nothing but chemicals, and ingesting chemicals can't be good for my body."

I definitely don't think artificial sweeteners are a good thing to include in your diet, but ingesting chemicals can be good for your body. Several of the supplements that you list in your 11/11 post are "just chemicals" as well. I don't mean to nitpick, but that statement just bothered me.

Melissa Urban said...


Great question! I hear what you're saying, so I'll clarify a bit, with help from Dallas.

The supplements listed in my "Cortisol Management" post are primarily amino acids, vitamins and minerals naturally occurring in your body and the food you eat. Amino acids are the building blocks of protein, and phosphatidylserine is found in cell membranes (primarily in the brain). Taking these supplements simply increases the levels of these naturally-occurring compounds in your body. Minerals like zinc and magnesium are present in fresh (real) foods, and are essential to your normal physiological function.

A product like sucralose is so far removed from anything natural - despite the fact that it starts out as a sugar molecule. The chemical process to make sucralose alters the chemical composition of the sugar so much that it is somehow converted to a fructo-galactose molecule. This type of sugar molecule does not occur in nature and therefore your body does not possess the ability to properly metabolize it. (To put it another way, unlike zinc and magnesium, there is no place for a molecule like 1,6-Dichloro-1,6-dideoxy-β-D-fructofuranosyl-4-chloro-4-deoxy-α-D-galactopyranoside in your body's normal metabolism.)

Hope that helps.

shuster said...

Ahhhh Melissa and Dallas:

First, I think its the bomb that you mentioned PCF on you blog and I work out there! I just got excited! :)

More importantly, I wanted to say thank you for all the knowledge and motivation to transition back to Paleo. You guys said it perfectly when you said, why focus on quantity if you haven't mastered quality. I am back to Paleo eating and have kicked my terrible peanut butter habit. Dallas you saved my life by comparing it to mold. HA Also my shoulder is feeling so much better!

One quick question though: Why add the food back in if its so bad for you?

Again, thank you so much. I was one of the trouble makers in the back if you guys don't remember me. I had the discipline problem - I kicked that too!

Thanks again!

Melissa Urban said...

@Troublemaker: Of course we remember you. :) Glad to hear that you're making good progress! Have you tried Sunbutter yet?

As for your question, here's the deal. If you can live without all those "bad" foods, then you should! There's no legitimate reason to add unhealthy food back into your diet... unless you need it to maintain mental sanity. For example, I could never eat another slice of pizza again, and I wouldn't miss it one bit. But if you told me I could never have a piece of french toast or my Mom's snickerdoodles ever again, I might kick you in the shins. I add those foods back in, sparingly and only when I really want them, to satisfy those mental urges. I don't fool myself into thinking they're GOOD for me... but I allow some leeway for the good of my constitution. You'll make those same educated decisions for yourself once your 30 day period is over... but this time, you'll be better armed to make smarter choices about your cheats. (Read my two part series on "Cheating Dirty", if you haven't already. It should help.)

Keep us posted, okay?

Thesam27 said...

Thanks for the response Melissa - I appreciate the clarification.

Now can you say "1,6-Dichloro-1,6-dideoxy-β-D-fructofuranosyl-4-chloro-4-deoxy-α-D-galactopyranoside" 3 times fast? :P

shuster said...


Yes I tried sunbutter and it lights up my life!! It is more comparable to peanut butter. Almond butter was to blah for me. Thanks for the tip and I will keep you posted.