I saw this question on Quora or some other online forum recently and felt compelled to respond to it. So why not answer it here? The reasons why some CrossFit athletes are fat are interesting and nuanced. But are we asking the wrong questions? Perhaps the right question is “why do CrossFitters not worry about a little body fat?”
Let’s look at the motivation of a Crossfitter.
First of all, not everyone does the sport to lose weight. I for one, have no interest in dropping pounds. I never weigh myself and my goals do not include having ripped abs – it's a nice to have, not a must-have.
Many CrossFitters feel the same way as me.
Skinny Does Not Equal Fit And Healthy
Every box will have people whose sole aim is achieving weight loss. And that's fine. That’s their jam. Personally, I think they could achieve this aim via easier methods. CrossFit is a bit of a commitment in time and money if all you want to do is lose a few pounds.
Many people stick with the sport because they enjoy the camaraderie. They love the variation in training and the excitement of a class. Others like to challenge themselves daily and CrossFit offers plenty of opportunities there. People like me like to learn new things. Others hate the traditional gym environment.
CrossFit and Weight Gain?
Skinny Does Not Equal Fit And Healthy
Here’s the important point: You don’t have to be skinny to be fit and healthy. Having a thin waste does not mean that you have low body fat. Someone who appears to be chubby might be healthy and within the height/weight guidelines. These guidelines are complete nonsense, in my opinion. But that’s another story.
A thin waste does not mean low body fat
When I worked as a trainer in a gym, I performed body fat percentage tests on clients. The results regularly surprised me. Clients who were sure they were doing everything right to stay slim missed the point completely. Because they looked skinny, they presumed they were healthy. But the results showed that they often fell in the “obese” category of body fat percentage.
I met thin-waisted desk workers with the fitness of a 90-year old with probably the fat-clogged arteries of the obese. But that didn't matter to them. They looked thin. Sometimes that's all that matters to people.
CrossFit helps us get fit, be strong and flexible, and be healthy. The sport teaches people to lift, carry, and push heavy objects without injuring themselves or collapsing with exhaustion. It helps people understand their physical limitations and what they can achieve with a determined mind.
Eating regimes such as the Paleo and Keto Diet are popular among CrossFitters but in my experience, it's more of a performance and health choice, than a concious effort to trim fat.
CrossFit and Weight Loss
I searched the CrossFit.com website for mentions of the phrase “lose weight”. I excluded the forums and user comments. The phrase appeared only 28 times
The What Is CrossFit page on the company’s website makes no mention of weight (in relation to weight loss).
Greg Gassman’s What Is Fitness article from 2002, one of the founding articles of the CrossFit movement, mentions “fat” only 9 times in a 5000-word document.
The point is, CrossFit is not about weight loss and the aim is not losing body fat. Getting rid of excess body fat is a good thing. But if that’s your only reason for participating, you’re probably in the wrong place.
The people that ask “why are so many CrossFitters fat?” expect that everyone that walks into a box should be skinny. Why are so many gym goers fat?
Functionality Over Aesthetics
CrossFit is not a weight-loss programme. One of the principal aims is to teach people the core movements of life. The programme follows the rules of “constantly varied functional movements performed at high intensity”. The goal is “dramatic gains in fitness”.
So there it is.
This results of a study on CrossFit's effectiveness from 2018 tells me one thing. That most people are average. “Meta-analysis did not find a significant effect of CrossFit training changes in body mass index, relative body fat, fat mass, lean body mass, and waist circumference.“
I doubt if most CrossFitters reading this would consider quitting the sport. These findings are based on data for all participants. The average in every sport is just that, average. I can’t imagine the average soccer player is fitter than the average rugby player, across the board.
CrossFit athletes are sometimes fat because they don’t care what you think
Some CrossFit athletes are fat because they don’t care what you think. They care about their health and not their Instagram photos.