In CrossFit, Daily WODs, News & Events, Nutrition

Let’s talk about grains. Yes, we’ve been cosuming grains for over 10,000 years. Does that mean they are good, nutritious foods? Could they be causing more problems in your body than making it better?

Grains are rice, corn, barley, rye, oats, millet, or sorghum. Many plants and animals (to include gains) have defense mechanism so they don’t get eaten.  These mechanisms actually harm us. There is too much scientific evidence to include in this article, so for today I am just going to hit a few high points.


Many foods have lectins but grains have harmful lectins. Lectins are a protein that we cannot digest. Typically we digest proteins into amino acids where they are absorbed by our gut. Since we can’t digest lectins, they pass through the lining of our gut undigested and damage our intestines. This in turn causes inflammation in our bodies and makes us unable to absorb other, good proteins that we need. When these lectins pass through our intestines undigested our body mistakes them for foreign invaders and attacks with an immune system response.

Think of a lectin as a protein containing a key that fits a certain type of lock. This lock is a specific type of carbohydrate. All life forms, plant and animal, insect and fungus have cell membranes that contain carbohydrates that sit within and project from the membrane. If a lectin with the right key comes in contact with one of these ‘locks’ on the gut wall or artery or gland or organ it ‘opens the lock’, that is disrupts the membrane and damages the cell and may initiate a cascade of immune and autoimmune events leading to cell death.” – It Starts With Food


Grains contain chemicals called phytates that collect nutrients such as iron, zinc, magnesium and calcium for the grain to reproduce. The phytate binds to these nutrients and can actually take them out of your gut as well. Yup, they rob your body of nutrients that it needs and your body cannot absorb them. Phytates and lectins are actually referred to “anti-nutrients.”

Insulin Regulation

Whether your goal is to lose a few pounds of just be healthier in general, controlling your insulin should be your main priority. Grain based foods cause big insulin spikes disrupting our hormonal balance. This means that as long as you’re eating grains you’re muscles, joints and other tissues are going to experience inflammation. When you’re body is out of hormonal balance it responds with inflammation. Another problem is that your body will stay in what is loosely termed “fat storage mode” instead of “fat releasing mode.” We want to be using our fat for energy, not continually storing it. There are also studies by the medical community linking high levels of insulin to cancer. Read more here.

Food for thought; if you shouldn’t be eating grains, should you be eating meat and other animal products that are fed grain?

This is just the short of why grains shouldn’t be included in your healthy habits. “We do not need grains to survive, let alone thrive. In fact, they are naturally selected to ward off pests, whether they be insects or hominids. I suggest we take the hint and stop eating them.” ~ Mark Sisson


Written by Connie Keathley

Connie Keathley

Connie is a Coach at Four Barrel CrossFit. Her coaching credentials include CrossFit Level 3, CrossFit Kids, CrossFit Movement & Mobility, Gymnastics, Advanced Gymnastics and Endurance. She is also a Level 1 USAW lifting coach. She’s coached and trained under 9-time USAW National Champion Olympic Weightlifter, Chad Vaughn as well as Olympic competitors Ursula Garza and Matt Bruce. She’s trained people from age 3 to 81, and has always had a heart to help others! Being a CrossFit coach has given her the avenue to do so!

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