Interview With Crossfit Games Director Dave Castro
Co-director of training and CrossFit Games Director Dave Castro talks candidly with The Paleo Movement Magazine about his background, how he came to be one of the most recognized names of CrossFit, and his feelings about the relationships between the Paleo Diet, Zone Diet, and CrossFit.
1. Dave, What Is Your Background?
I graduated from high school in 1996 and shortly after starting college dropped out and enlisted in the Navy. I went straight into the pipeline for becoming a SEAL and graduated in 98, class 215. I then spent the next 12.5 years at various SEAL Teams and spent the last 3 of those years as a BUD/S instructor.
During those 12 years, I was exposed to a variety of training and nutrition methodologies and principals. I became an early student of how to train and how to eat for performance even before finding CrossFit. In my line of work the right fitness program and nutrition program could be the difference between coming home and not.
Pre CrossFit, in the SEAL Teams, the recommendations were the typical high CHO (carbohydrate) diets and the normal gym routines. Back and bi’s, chest and tris for strength and for cardio long-distance swims and runs. Diet recommendations included a lot of pasta and bread for the “energy” we would get on our long missions.
I had done 3 deployments to Afghanistan pre CrossFit. After I found CrossFit I did 2 to Afghanistan and 1 to Iraq. The difference in my physical fitness and health between the pre CF deployments and the post CF deployments was huge. The learning experience was even better, I had the ability to practice zone and paleo principles in the worst of environments. One of the most interesting things I learned from this, was how easy the Zone actually is. If I could do strict zone while deployed to Iraq, how hard could it be to do, or prescribe to someone, in the comfort of their own home?
2. How Did You Meet Coach Glassman and Get Directly Involved With Crossfit HQ?
In 2005 I met Coach Glassman at CrossFit Santa Cruz. I started spending a lot of time training there and in 2006 I started working with him and the L1 staff. It started off small, moving gear around at seminars, and being essentially a runner or ball boy for the team, but then eventually grew to more of a managerial role. I never said no to a request to work and I always worked hard, both of those paid off.
I basically spent every weekend of 2007 -2008 traveling with Greg and teaching L1 seminars. I was 100% a student of Greg’s and of CrossFit. I immersed myself in the continual education process that was (and still is) spending time with Greg. Greg is by far the most brilliant person I have ever heard a lecture on the topic of performance nutrition. Nobody understands it better than he does.
During this time I was also still active duty and teaching BUD/S. Monday – Friday I would be at my Navy job, training new SEALs in shooting and tactics and for fitness using CrossFit, and on Saturday and Sunday, I would be on the road teaching CF L1 Seminars.
I decided to leave the military in 2009 and devote my time to CrossFit. I had hit a junction in my career where the only way I could stay in the Navy would be to go back to a SEAL Team and be operational. Operational meaning I would have to train for and deploy overseas. If I did that I would not be able to work for CrossFit anymore. My other option was to leave the military and continue to work for CrossFit.
At this point, the CrossFit Games were growing faster than we imagined as was the Seminar Department So I made the tough choice to leave the SEAL Teams and devote my time 100% to CrossFit. I will forever be proud of what I accomplished as a SEAL and what the SEAL Teams had done for me, but moving on was the right decision.
3. There Is a Long-standing History Between Zone and Crossfit. What Does This Connection Stem From?
The connection stems from the measurable observable and repeatable aspect of the diet. You can monitor the macronutrient ratios that you put into your body and how it affects your performance. You can make course corrections off of knowing exactly what you are taking in. It’s not random, it’s precise. The Zone provides an easy platform for being precise and accurate with your diet.
Someone who is not keeping track of their quantities and just eating randomly can be doing CrossFit and they will see success. The success that might begin to slow and the first thing the athlete or coach should do should take a look at the diet. Take a look at their food log.
If they don’t have one, you have to start somewhere. You could prescribe them a baseline Zone diet and have them stay on it for 2 weeks strict. If their performance starts to lag, after 2 weeks, we assess what is going wrong and where we need to make corrections.
Maybe they need more blocks, maybe they need more CHO, maybe they need more fats. We make an adjustment and stick with that adjustment for another 2 weeks and see what happens. This is how to be precise and accurate with your diet. We are watching their fitness numbers for feedback on if its working or not. Those numbers should be our sole indicators for why we are eating the way we are.
4. When Paleo First Entered on the Crossfit Scene, How Was It Received Within the Community?
Paleo concepts have been around CF for longer than I have been involved. Paleo concepts have always been at the heart of our nutrition recommendation. We support paleo methods of eating.
Eat meat and vegetables, nuts and seeds, some fruit, little starch no sugar.
5. What Does the Zone Diet Offer That the Paleo Diet Does Not, and Vice Versa?
The Zone Diet promotes eating Paleo-like foods. The zone is very Paleo-friendly. The biggest difference is that the Zone offers accountability to what you put in your body in regards to the ratio of macronutrients balance. You monitor your macronutrient balance so that you will feel and perform at your best. in CrossFit, we assess this through our numbers. Through our workouts. If our strength is increasing and if our times on CrossFit workouts are dropping something good is happening with our diet. If not, we might need to make a change.
6. What May Have Caused a Rocky Relationship Between Crossfit Hq and the Paleo Community?
“CrossFit HQ to Paleo” the relationship is not rocky. But from this interview, I feel like I am being made aware that maybe from “Paleo to CrossFit HQ” it is.
If you walk into many of our over 7,000 CrossFit affiliates you will see Paleo prescriptions, Paleo teachings, Paleo challenges at many of them. Paleo is part of our culture. We embrace it and promote it. So is the Zone diet. We embrace and promote that too. In CrossFit we use what works, what gives us measurable and repeatable results, both of those help us to give us those results in our fitness.
7. Were There Any Unintended Consequences From the Fallout Between Robb Wolf and Crossfit HQ?
As a growing company, you can’t have someone on your team who is creating conflict and not supportive of the team.
The reality is, we should have fired him much sooner.
8. Paleo and Crossfit: a Match Made in Heaven or Hell?
Our best expression of a nutrition recommendation looks like a Paleo-Zone diet. The Zone gets the macronutrient balance and the precision to our diet we need, and Paleo principles provide us with the quality foods we need (giving us the micronutrients we need among other things).
Our baseline recommendation for nutrition is the following.
Eat meats and vegetables nuts and seeds some fruit little starch and no sugar. When we take it a step further we add intake to levels that will support exercise but not body fat. Taking it further, we put those foods into Zone prescriptions.
9. How Do You Feel About the Growth of the Paleo Movement in General?
Paleo helps people find CrossFit, but from what I see many more people find Paleo-like diets because of CrossFit. People go to CrossFit gyms and start CrossFit. And then hear about Paleo principles. The same thing is happening in weightlifting. People get into CrossFit and then find the sport of weightlifting as something they can actually try and compete in.
10. How Does Crossfit Hq Handle Nutrition Certifications or Nutrition Education Currently?
We currently do not offer a seminar just dedicated to nutrition. We do offer nutrition education via the CrossFit Journal (journal.crossfit.com) and the CrossFit main site (crossfit.com). We also have courses with segments where we lecture on nutrition at the following seminars, the L1 Trainers Certificate Course, the Coaches Prep Course, and the CrossFit Competitors Course.
11. Are There Any Questions That I Should Have Asked but Didn’t, That You Feel Deserves to Be Answered?
The Zone and Paleo communities can co-exist, there is not a struggle or conflict between the two.
Let performance results dictate your intake. For optimal performance, treat eating like you do your workouts, measure and record everything. Eat meats and vegetables, nuts and seeds, some fruit, little starch, and no sugar.
What an excellent take on Crossfit and Paleo. I just learned more about Dave Castro than I ever knew.
I agree…a freaking Seal?!?! wow!!! just 9 years left. but a hero all around.
While I’m sure there are a few nuggets in there the answer to #6 is a joke; Robb Wolf towed the party line as best he could and it was only when he spoke with like-minded people at a non-CrossFit seminar that he was labeled ‘non-supportive.’ Meanwhile, Dave and two other CF HQ staff went to the same seminar to publicly insult the presenters and deride their information; they literally went out of their way to attack these people’s knowledge and then said THEY were bad guys for thinking for themselves. More folks should know about these shenanigans because this was the exact moment CF stopped being about open-source, free-thinking outside-the-box and became a walk-the-line corporation hell bent on maintaining a perceived image as opposed to the company it was at the start. There you have it, that’s my piece – let the bullying and trolling begin…
PS. Nice one Karen Pendergrass!
I don’t recall you being at the Black Box Summit that Dave Castro, Tony Budding, and I attended. It was clear even at the time that the coaches involved had come together to draw a line in the sand on how they disagreed with CrossFit’s approach to affiliation, training, programming, and yes, nutrition.
But disagreement alone is not a problem, and as Dave mentioned in this interview, you can find affiliates in good standing who ascribe to all of the ideas that were presented at the BBS.
The problem was how Rob, and a few others presented these ideas- which at its worst was combative, mocking, and juvenile. Rob presented an opinion that differs from what CrossFit teaches, and based on my private conversations with him at the seminar, it was abundantly clear that Rob’s views were based on self-interest and branding rather than what instruction would help the CrossFit community get the best performance results.
That’s not what our company is about and there is no reason for us to tolerate it.
What a giant load of non-paleo baloney. Why must you troll the internets for ANYTHING even remotely disparaging to whatever it is you think you’re defending? Do you not realize what people think about you and your shenanigans? Is there NOTHING out there you can’t make worse by blathering on incessantly regardless if it’s true or makes any sense to anyone? Let it go dude, anything popular has it’s detractors but what separates EVERYONE ELSE from CF is their ability to not give a crap about other people’s opinions or to handle those detractors with grace and (gasp) even respect. Just go away, man.
I can’t believe how rude he was about Robb Wolf that’s ridiculous he was the one who ran the nutrition in Crossfit and thus anyone who rocks the boat even slightly gets fired. I love Crossfit and have been doing it since the ranch in 2007 but that is very unprofessional for Dave Castros response makes me really not respect someone like that.
CrossFit still promotes a multitude of specialty courses, with the exception of nutrition, yet Castro asserts that they should have fired Robb Wolf sooner? Wolf goes, and so goes the nutritional legitimacy of CrossFit. It can’t be any more apparent. Wolf has always promoted quality first, followed by measuring. There are logical reasons behind this approach, which are easy to grasp.
What bothers me most about people is there complete inability to admit when they’re wrong or have made a mistake.
How specifically has the removal of a self-promotional nutrition guru harmed CrossFit’s nutritional legitimacy? Have you noticed the incredible growth of CrossFit, and Paleo since 2010?
Oh for f#$k sake. Philip for the love of gawd cut your loses. Any growth of CF and Paleo since 2010 has been DESPITE losing one of the brightest minds in the industry, mostly due to the the former. Discover CF = discovering paleo. Usually.
Self promoting guru? You talking about Rob, or Louie, or Kelly, or Dave? Maybe just Glassman? Audio and Video of the Black Box debacle is available. Maybe just quit making it worse.
Who’s the nutritional expert at HQ? Is the growth of CrossFit due to their nutritional legitimacy? I’d love to see you try and make that case.
Your attempt to link CrossFit AND Paleo was a nice try, but they’re mutually exclusive. You don’t need one for the other. Paleo was around first and it seems more and more people understand that quality (Paleo) comes before quantity (Zone).
I agree that the methodologies work well together, and so does Wolf. But that wasn’t the position of CrossFit in the beginning, or when Wolf was booted.
It is silly to think the departure of Robb Wolf has taken away from CrossFit or suggests CrossFit has a closed mind regarding where affiliates, clients and fans get their information. Nutrition has always been an important part of the community, at least on mainsite, the journal, at the boxes i started at as a client, at the box I coached and managed and now at the box I own. Professional paths come together and grow apart all of the time. We benefit greatly from the information Robb Wolf puts out, and sure, a CF Nutrition Cert would be super great, but CrossFit does not “lose credibility” by separating from Wolf. Both are brands and both have their own strategies. I would say both are doing just fine and growing stronger by the day.