Paleo Diet vs. Zone vs. IIFYM: Eating for Performance...and Abs

Abs aren’t just made in the gym, they’re made in the kitchen!About 10 months ago, I started on a food journey. No, not a restaurant crawl, but a food journey.

I already had the exercise part down since since I'd been doing CrossFit for 2+ years (5-7 times/week), but I wanted to experiment with what I ate to see how it made me feel. I also wanted abs… but who doesn’t.

Paleo Diet

I started by trying the Paleo diet for about a month. This way of eating eliminates all refined sugar, grains, trans fats, high glycemic carbs, processed foods, dairy and legumes. Everything that tastes good huh? 

However, this was a great place to start because it made me learn how to cook from scratch using more nutritious foods. The problem was that it felt restrictive, and I had less energy. My performance at the gym also stayed stagnant during this time so I wasn't seeing any gains. This just wouldn’t work…

Zone Diet

My next thought was to tryThe Zone Diet. I was able to eat 3 meals and 2 snacks a day, each consisting of 30% protein, 30% fat, and 40% carbs. Since no food was off limits, I thought I could definitely do this one!

But once I laid out all of my containers and portioned everything into them, I realized this was way too difficult to maintain. I knew the Zone Diet was bound to make me implode, so I spared myself the stress and moved on.

IIFYM (If It Fits Your Macros)

Then everyone at my gym was talking about this new “flexible dieting” plan, IIFYM, where you track macronutrients, protein, fats, and carbs. Targets for each day are calculated according to age/gender, body composition, activity level and goals. The plan focuses on balance and no foods are off limits. The objective is to preserve muscle and encourage fat loss without decreasing energy. Even better, there was an app I could use to help track everything!

When I first started, the numbers I calculated made me drop a lot of weight, but in turn I was very tired and unable to hit my usual lifts. Some of the bodyweight movements got better (i.e., pull-ups) since I was lighter, but my strength had dropped. At that point, my coach adjusted my target macronutrients, and I was able to maintain weight while lifting heavier. 

I used what I'd learned from earlier in my voyage and started to track track track those macronutrients. I wasn’t hungry, I wasn’t tired, and I was ready for what life brought me. Do I always hit those numbers each day? Of course not! If I want ice cream sometimes I’m going for it! I do find that if I stray too much from the plan, I feel stuffed, starving or sluggish. But IIFYM taught me how to utilize food for fuel, muscle, training and enjoyment. You put good in, you get good out.

Here is a sample menu of what I eat each day:

  • Breakfast: hardboiled eggs (2-3), banana

  • Snack: all natural applesauce

  • Lunch: oven roasted turkey breast, fruit (whatever I have at home), some trail mix

  • Snack: protein bar (Quest bar) before the gym

  • Dinner: chicken with vegetables, and if I have enough calories left, toasted coconut chips (my favorite new snack)


So what have I learned from the Wortman food revolution?

Before, I ate for convenience disregarding ingredients and often eating something prepackaged or sweet. I now love to make my own food since I can control ingredients and adjust flavors and seasonings to my taste. I've also learned how to cook wholesome, nutritious, easy to make food in 30 minutes or less.

It's been fascinating to experiment with food to see how it affects the way I look, feel and perform. Finding the right plan is very personal and can take some time, but it's worth it. 

Marnie Wortman

Marnie Wortman

By Dr. Marnie Wortman, PT, DPT, ART, CF-L1

Improve Performance with Functional Movement Assessment (SFMA)

I just finished a great two-day course on Select Functional Movement Assessment (SFMA)! I'm really excited to incorporate this movement based approach to treating pain. What is it?

SFMA is a series of 7 full-body, functional movement tests (i.e., squatting, bending, etc.) that detect deficits in mobility and stability which can increase the risk of injury, compromise athletic or work performance, and reduce overall quality of life.

Athletes must be able to perform a wide variety of movements to safely and effectively participate in their sport. Therefore, rehabilitation and pre-participation screening have moved away from a traditional isolated assessment towards a more dynamic functional approach.

SFMA Assessment

SFMA helps uncover deficits that may be overlooked in traditional medical or performance evaluations. During a detailed assessment, the clinician is looking carefully for  inefficient movement patterns that are used to compensate for weakness or injury.

Without correction, the dysfunctional activity will continue and further reinforce poor biomechanics which can lead to decreased performance and ultimately injury.


I'll give you an example from my own experience.

I've recently started Crossfit, so I've been doing alot of squats lately. I find it difficult to go into a deep squat position with my arms overhead , sometimes causing me to lose my balance and take a step backward.

The SFMA shows that my problem stems from decreased shoulder mobility, insufficient thoracic spine (upper back) movement and poor ankle range of motion. My lack of ankle motion is a result of several ankle injuries during years of playing soccer, while my upper body deficits are just natural dysfunctions.

I've subconsciously developed a risky movement pattern to compensate for these weaknesses. I will either take a stance that is too wide or I will turn my feet out. In addition, my lack of upper spine motion causes me to bend forward at the bottom of the squat.

Click here to see a pic of meworking on my squat atBrazen Athletics


 Targeted treatment (manual therapy and therapeutic exercise) begins by addressing dysfunctional/non-painful movement patterns. This way, the intervention is not adversely affected by pain.

I will have a fellow colleague provide manual therapy to my shoulder, upper spine and ankles to improve my mobility at these joints. I will also need to reprogram my movement pattern to properly utilize improved mobility in perfecting my overhead squat.

Is Your Squat Hurting You?

Everybody loves a good squat! It's an efficient exercise  (core, hips, legs) that not only keeps us looking great but also keeps us functionally strong so we can perform everyday tasks like picking up our kids and taking out the trash.

The problem is that many people are focusing on reps, rather than proper form. The biggest casualty I see from this is knee pain.

With some very subtle changes, you can reap all of the benefits of squats without compromising any muscles, tendons, or joints.

There are many elements to a perfect squat, but today I'm going to focus on the importance of knee positioning which is often overlooked.

Here are some tips to keep your knees happy:

  • Stance - Feet should be shoulder width apart or slightly wider. 
  • Feet - Point toes straight forward
  • Gluts - Sit all the way back as if your sitting on the toilet (now I've got your attention)
  • Knees - Here's the secret...As you go all the way back, think about pressing your knees outward. Do not allow them to cave in towards the center or move forward over your toes.

Here's a side view! Notice the improper form on the left. Ouch!!

Here's a front view! Notice how the knees are caving inward on the left. Double Ouch!