Crossfit and Weight Loss – Diet and Programming

CrossFit is a wonderful fitness training method for those trying to lose weight.

While the goal of CrossFit isn’t solely to shed body fat, the program does an amazing job of helping people get leaner, stronger, and healthier. 

Many find it more enjoyable than regular gym workouts. And one of the greatest benefits is you’re surrounded by a community of people who are also trying to better themselves.

Here’s what you need to know about combining CrossFit and weight loss—along with success stories, nutrition advice, and programming tips.

Is CrossFit Good for Weight Loss?

Yes, CrossFit is a phenomenal, science-backed exercise methodology that promotes weight loss. In fact, it might be the best type of training you can do to shed fat.

A 2018 study found that CrossFit workouts improved body composition, lean mass to fat mass ratio, and total body fat percentage (while increasing lean muscle mass and cardiovascular fitness).

One major reason CrossFit is so effective for weight loss is it’s focus on high intensity workouts.

High intensity exercise is more effective for shedding fat than steady-state, moderate cardio.

Plus, studies show that even one bout of high-intensity exercise can elevate the metabolism for up to 14 hours after exercise. This means you burn additional calories and shed fat faster.

CrossFit Weight Loss Benefits

  • Proven to help you lose weight and improve body composition. Multiple studies along with thousands of CrossFit weight loss success stories confirm this.
  • Improved fitness markers. Along with weight loss, CrossFitters develop better aerobic and anaerobic capacity and increased muscle mass and strength. Total body transformation often takes place, not just weight loss. 
  • Isn’t time consuming. One hour per day of exercising just 4 to 5 days per week is plenty for weight loss. There’s no need to do CrossFit every day to get results.
  • Constantly varied programming to keep things fresh. Each day’s workout is new and WODs typically only reappear weeks or months later.
  • Supportive community. CrossFit leans on it’s amazing community of athletes and fitness enthusiasts. Many people find that joining a CrossFit gym helped them make friends and find support that ultimately helped them lose the weight.
  • Adjustable programming. CrossFit is a GPP, or general physical preparedness, program designed to prepare your body for anything. But it can be easily adjusted toward your specific goals to lose weight. (See “Weight Loss Program” below.)

CrossFit Downsides for Weight Loss

There’s a lot to love when it comes to CrossFit and weight loss, but every fitness training methodology comes with its own set of strengths and weaknesses. 

While there aren’t a ton, some potential downsides to consider include:

  • Perceived difficulty. CrossFit has a stigma of being too hard or inaccessible for beginners. This isn’t based on actual fact or science, but can make starting CrossFit for weight loss hard if you aren’t already in good shape.
  • Potential injury risk. Performed unsupervised or with sloppy form, CrossFit can lead to injuries if you aren’t careful. You can mitigate or eliminate the risk of injury by joining a gym with good coaches or being careful when learning the exercises. 
  • Joining a gym can be expensive. CrossFit gyms aren’t cheap to join, as your average gym’s monthly membership will range between $100 and $250 (perhaps more if you live in a major city or metropolitan area). A good gym is worth the cost, but the high price doesn’t fit into everyone’s budget.
  • Difficult to do at home. If you don’t have much CrossFit gym equipment at home, you’ll have to scale the workouts or write your own. There are home-based weight loss CrossFit programs out there, but you’ll be limited as to which exercises you can do.
  • Isn’t solely focused on weight loss. CrossFit’s goal is to prepare your body for the physical rigors of life. Being at a healthy weight is part of, but not all of, the goal of the training method. So some workouts may not be designed with weight loss in mind.
  • Some CrossFit gyms might be geared towards other goals. Certain CrossFit gyms are home to many competitive athletes, which means they may gear their programming in other directions besides weight loss. However, there should be enough gyms in your area to find something that’s right for you.

Best Crossfit Diet to Lose Weight

An emphasis on whole foods and portion control will help you lose weight when doing CrossFit. There are several popular diets you can choose from.

Since the early days, CrossFit has advocated The Zone Diet by Dr. Barry Sears, as well as a paleolithic diet based on meats, veggies, fruit, nuts, and seeds. Both of these are great, proven options for weight loss.

However, today, some popular weight loss programs like the ketogenic diet also get used in conjunction with CrossFit. Certain athletes even follow a plant-based or vegan diet approach and still get results.

One key thing to understand about dieting on CrossFit: the way you eat must provide enough food.It’s not a good idea—no matter how much weight you have to lose—to undereat, starve yourself, or follow extreme diet approaches and do CrossFit regularly. 

*Speak to your medical professional before implementing any diets with CrossFit. These tips should not be used as a substitute for medical advice.

CrossFit Weight Loss Success Stories (Before and After)

Thousands of people have gotten healthy and lost weight with CrossFit. For some people, it’s that last ten pounds they had trouble losing with other fitness methodologies. For others, it’s a total body transformation where they lost 100lbs or more.

Here are some motivating success stories to help you understand what it’s like to get started with CrossFit and lose weight:

Weight Loss Success 🏋️‍♂️ How I lost 110lbs in a year using CrossFit and Trifecta

Daniel Kuehnel – 100 pound weight loss journey with CrossFit

Cat Snatch Fever: A CrossFit Love Story

Cat Panetta- Weight Loss journey with hCrossFit

130 lbs. and Counting - Stacey's Story | CrossFit Nashua

CrossFit Coach Stacey – 130lbs lost with CrossFit (and counting)

Losing over 90 pounds doing CrossFit for a year... weight loss journey

Steph Montelongo – 90lbs lost with CrossFit in one year

Most local CrossFit gyms will have success stories or testimonial examples directly on their website or social media. Look around at gyms or call and ask for examples to find the best gym setting for you!

Weight Loss Program

You don’t have to craft a complicated CrossFit and weight loss program to get results. The program will drive weight loss if you simply exercise on a regular basis and follow a healthy diet.

But if your goal is specifically to lose weight, there are some principles you can base your weight loss program on to ensure you get results.

Count Macronutrients to Guarantee Weight Loss

Counting macronutrients essentially tracks your weight loss progress with any diet you follow.

You can count macros (protein, fat, and carbs) on popular diets like paleo, keto, vegan, or simply when eating healthy foods.

Macros are based on the caloric value of each nutrient. Protein and carbs have 4 calories per gram while fat has 9. Dialing in your macronutrients to a caloric number about 200 calories less than what you need each day will help you get results.

Diets like the Zone Diet and Weight Watchers have their own system for counting energy intake. So if you choose one of those programs, don’t do both simultaneously.

Do High Intensity WODs 3 or 4 Days Per Week

High-intensity training is the key to driving results with CrossFit and weight loss. Your weight loss program should focus around this.

If you’re writing your own workouts, stick to 10 to 20 minute WODs like AMRAPs, EMOMs, and “For Time” metabolic conditioning workouts. You want to get your heart rate up but don’t want to burn yourself out doing 30 to 40 minute workouts every day.

Be sure to hydrate well if you’re increasing the number of WODs you do. And make sure you’re hitting your macros or eating enough food!

Strength Train Twice Per Week 

Strength training shouldn’t go out the window when you craft a weight loss CrossFit program. In fact, it still serves an important role.

Lifting weights helps preserve lean muscle mass. This might mean the scale doesn’t change as rapidly as you’d like, but it also ensures you lose fat and not hard-earned muscle on your journey.

Maintaining lean muscle mass is also good for your metabolism. Having more lean mass increases the number of calories your body burns each day, which will make it easier to stay lean once you’ve reached your ideal weight.

Focus On Other Health Outcomes

Don’t make your program all about weight loss. CrossFit isn’t solely designed for that, and you might risk overtraining if you scale up the intensity of a normal program too much.

Focusing on other health outcomes, like weightlifting PRs, having more energy, sleeping better, improving your blood pressure or lipid profile, and getting off medications are just as valuable on your weight loss journey.

Also remember, weight loss isn’t totally controllable no matter how hard you work. If you’ve been on a diet before, scale weight can fluctuate even when you’re doing the right things.

To make your journey sustainable, focus on everything. It will make the end result that much sweeter when you see just how much you’ve transformed.

Crossfit for Obese People

A common misconception about CrossFit is that only athletes or very fit people can participate in the sport. But this simply isn’t true. You can do CrossFit as a total beginner or when you’re overweight or obese.

*Be sure to speak to a medical professional before beginning any exercise regimen, especially if it’s been years since you’ve been active or you have preexisting conditions.

The key, as most CrossFit coaches will tell you, is to scale back the intensity of movements. 

Being overweight or new to the sport doesn’t mean you can’t do a thruster or a pull-up. It just means you may need to start with an empty barbell thruster or doing standing ring rows to build up the requisite strength and skill.

The other misconception is that newbies think they need to “train for” CrossFit before they can start. But as any experienced coach or athlete will tell you, doing CrossFit is how you train for it. So the sooner you start, the better.

Most gyms are very supportive and friendly, and you can usually try a class for free. So let go of any anxiety you’re feeling about starting your journey and give it a try!

Average Calories Burned In CrossFit

A 200 pound male can burn between 446 and 574 calories per hour in a CrossFit class (or more) depending on the nature of the workout that day.

Here’s how we get that number, via this energy expenditure chart:

The average CrossFit class is split into three or four sections:

  • Warmup (10 minutes). A 200 pound man will burn 8 calories per minute doing low-impact aerobic exercise, or about 80 calories.
  • Strength training (15 to 20 minutes). A 200 pound man will burn 9.6 calories per minute doing vigorous weight lifting, or about 144 to 192 calories.
  • WOD (10 to 30 minutes). A 200 pound man will burn 11.1 calories per minute doing high-intensity aerobic workouts, or roughly 222 calories for a 20 minute workout.
  • Cool down or skill work (0 to 10 minutes). A 200 pound man will (again) burn 8 calories per minute doing low-impact aerobic exercise, so roughly 0 to 80 calories.

This range of 446 to 574 calories can vary widely. For example, say you reduced your strength training component to 10 minutes and did a longer WOD. You might burn more calories. Or you could burn less on a dedicated strength day.

Any one day’s calorie expenditure in a CrossFit gym is not going to make or break your results. The key is to be consistent and show up several times per week while following a healthy diet. 

If you can do that, and learn to love the process along the way, you stand a great chance of achieving any weight loss goal you set.