Hey John,

My name is Dan and I’ve CrossFitting for going on two years now. I’m 28 yrs/old, 6’2″, 195lbs (very lean). I get on average four workouts a week in with a strong emphasis on power. I have had limited gains in terms of becoming more powerful. My football total and CFT has gone up in that time frame but I feel that my lack of power inhibits my performance on a lot of WODs. (After all, I feel like I’m the tall skinny kid who can’t lift a lot.) My first thought was I was not adhering to a weighed and measured diet. So with that in mind I went with a strict with a Zone/Paleo diet of 19 blocks a day. I end up weighing 175lbs and losing a ton of power off my lifts. I usually keep my choices Paleo consistent, I just don’t measure that much.

Finally getting to the point, should I be eating more? More monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats? Increase blocks in general? More protein?

My overall goal is to increase muscle without sacrificing endurance. Any and all advice is much appreciated. I understand you are very busy, so thank you for time and assistance.



Dan ~

Thanks for writing in, as your question is not uncommon. I think you need to step back and take a look at your specific goals. Once we nail those down we should be able to find a plan that works for you.

A few things struck me in your question, so lets start there. The first thing you tell me is, you have been doing CrossFit for 2 years. CrossFit is a training program predicated on increased work capacity. Their wheelhouse is muscular endurance and movements to failure. It is very hard to build explosive athletes when the majority of training lays in testing lactic acid threshold and destruction of your body. Check out the network of CrossFitters on Facebook on any given day and read their training comments…“Totally, destroyed myself today. Awesome!”.

The next thing you tell me is you are very lean. From my experience, lean is just a cool way to say you are skinny. If you have low body fat and a ton of lean body mass words like jacked and rocked up find there way into the mix.

In the next sentence, you confirm you are skinny and not as strong as you wish. But you know this and in an effort to increase your strength and explosive ability you go on a strict Zone/Paleo diet of roughly 1900 calories.

1900 calories?! That is less than 10 calories per pound of body weight. We know if you are doing anything that includes metabolic conditioning you need at least 15-17 calories just to maintain your size.

Just for reference, my girlfriend is 123 lbs, trains 5 days a week and squats over 2 x body weight and she eats around 1800 calories.

Your starvation strategy results in a 20 lbs weight loss and a loss of strength and power.


And your next question is…should you eat more?

Then finally, we get to your goals of gaining muscle without losing endurance.

1. Yes…eat more. The only thing I want you to count is protein; at least one gram per pound of body weight.
2. If you want an easy to remember way to measure your food…count it in pounds. “How many pounds of meat did I eat today?”. Simple.
3. If your current training program is not making you stronger and more explosive, then find a new training program. Start by taking a look at how explosive strong athletes train. Everyone wants to look like a 100-meter sprinter or Olympic weightlifter, but his or her training program looks nothing like an Olympic weightlifter or sprinter. Those athlete’s training programs are full of heavy weights, explosive movements, long rest periods and a ton of max efforts, whether it be in the weight room or on the track. Most athletes’ physical appearance is a result of years of training for their sport. If you want to look like a marathon runner, starting running marathons. If you want to look like a body builder, then check out Muscle & Fitness and get a fanny pack.


If your goal is to get stronger, stop counting and start eating, as you are wasting valuable time that could be put into food prep or the consuming of calories. If you want to gain muscle, stop stripping it down with workouts that destroy your body and cripple your CNS. If you want to get stronger, then you are going to have to lift heavy weights. I never got strong, lifting light weights, no matter how much volume I threw into the mix. If you want to be strong, find strong training partners. Strength is contagious; if you start training with strong people, you will get stronger through osmosis. Most people in the CF community like to train alone, as CrossFit is a solemn sport. Just the individual, a clock and maybe a barbell. Most people train in garage by themselves. I watch at my own gym daily, before the workout the community is extremely friendly and supportive, but once someone screams “3…2…1…” everyone enters their pain cave and looks for their power animal to help them. When you lift heavy weights you need training partners. Partners to coach, spot and scream encouragement or remind you when you are being a bitch. Workout partners are a great barometer for your level of commitment.


Last week, I was at Westside Barbell working to unfuck my own training and I had forgot what it was like to have training partners. A guy has 1000 lbs on the bar during a squat and their are 10+ guys standing a few inches from the lifter screaming encouragement and ready to help if he misses a lift. My entire NFL career I had that support system when training and it resulted in some very strong numbers.

You have to remember the athlete is a byproduct of their training. I did not walk into the gym or head to the grocery store to get bigger and stronger just to look cool. My strength and size was an adaptation of the training and eating to be successful playing in the NFL. It is very hard to play offensive line in the NFL if you are not at least 300 lbs and fairly strong. I found the stronger I got, the faster I could run, the harder I could punch and hit and the increased body mass was like armor to protect me.

What are you training for?