CrossFit has exploded in popularity over the last decade, and with that has come quite a lot of polarity – for every person who raves about it, there’s someone else who seems to lambaste it. And then, somewhere in the middle, the majority of people don’t understand what the heck CrossFit actually is. Maybe you’ve seen a dubbed CrossFit athlete with the body of a Greek god and wondered what on earth he or she is doing to look like that.
This article will explain that, and what CrossFit is, and whether or not it’s a good workout program for weight loss or in general.
CrossFit is merely a trademarked brand that encompasses a style of working out that incorporates a wide variety of exercises often into novel combinations, from heavy weight lifting, to various calisthenics, all the way to bouts of endurance training. There are officially affiliated CrossFit gyms called “Boxes” where you can do organized class workouts and get instruction from certified CrossFit trainers. Beyond that, there’s a burgeoning competitive CrossFit scene. People can compete in actual CrossFit meets, the apex of which is the aptly dubbed “CrossFit Games.” The sport has cultivated enough of a spectatorship that elite CrossFit competitors are now legitimate professional athletes.
The main issue of CrossFit, in our opinion, is a result of its tandem burgeoning in popularity with the Paleo diet, which has a history of pushing erroneous claims about weight loss, mainly that carbohydrates are responsible for fat gain rather than overall calories, and that the key to optimal health is in a rather restrictive diet that allegedly mirrors a “prehistoric” diet. We’ve seen many individual CrossFit gym websites espouse scientifically undefinable concepts such as “clean eating,” or outright incorrect claims such that overall calorie intake doesn’t influence weight, which stands in stark contrast to what the relevant body of scientific literature has emphatically confirmed.
The secondary issue of CrossFit is that its seemingly haphazard approach to exercise selection is rather inefficient for someone with the specific goal of weight loss and improved body composition, meaning losing fat and gaining muscle. To that end, most people will get better and more efficient results if they focus on a diet plan that has the appropriate calories and macronutrients in conjunction with a well planned resistance training program, which will almost certainly take a mere fraction of the time and energy that CrossFit would.
There are other issues too. CrossFit is expensive, with memberships going as much as $200/month or more. It also has limited locations. CrossFit has also had quality control controversies, with certified yet underqualified trainers having members do things like olympic lifting in an improper and dangerous fashion.
A lot of these issues, though, will be tied to the location itself, so the mainly important thing is to just be cautious and fully vet any gym you choose to participate in. The group atmosphere might be the key motivator that keeps people showing up, and that’s definitely a worthwhile consideration. But just remember that there’s no such thing as a magic diet or workout – there’s only general choices that are better or worse tailored to your overall goal. And if that goal is weight loss and improved body composition, while CrossFit would certainly be somewhat helpful (as any exercise would be), it’s not the most efficient way to go about it in our opinion.