As our Digital Recipe Input Specialist, Ashton Hooker is in charge of making all of our easy, chef-crafted recipes available online each week. But when she isn’t putting her impressive web skills to work, she can be found coaching CrossFit workouts in Boulder, Colorado. “I actually had a friend who got me to try CrossFit out towards the end of my college years,” she explains. “I was skeptical about it, like most people are. But once I gave it a shot, I was hooked.”
The high-intensity nature of CrossFit introduced Ashton to paleo. As a protein-heavy, veggie-packed diet, paleo is ideal for building muscle, recovering quickly, and fueling energy. We thought we’d chat with Ashton about the natural alliance between CrossFit and paleo and her experience discovering an unexpected community.
What drew you to CrossFit and paleo?
Once I gave CrossFit a shot, I was hooked. It was challenging, always varied, and most importantly, FUN. It wasn’t about having a six-pack or bulging biceps. It was simply about an encouraging community, challenging yourself and setting goals in order to perform better everyday. I loved that mentality. I also loved the friendly competition. Since I’m a very competitive person, having an outlet for that has been great. I started participating in CrossFit competitions about a half year after beginning CrossFit, and I started coaching about three years after that.
CrossFitting introduced me to the paleo diet. I grew up eating fast food all the time. Being from Texas, Mexican food was an all-time favorite of mine—chips and queso, cheesy quesadillas, burritos, sopapillas….I was a very active kid and felt like I could eat pretty much anything I wanted. However, once I stopped playing sports in college, I realized I needed to focus more on my nutrition. I studied environmental science in college, so I became very aware of where my food came from, how it was processed, GMO’s, misleading nutrition labels—all things I never considered before. I wanted to focus on eating whole foods and limit all the processed foods. And that’s kind of one of the guidelines as far as eating paleo goes. I just had no idea that that was a part of being paleo.
Did CrossFit live up to its intimidating reputation?
(Laughs) No. The hardest part is just getting people to walk through the door and try it. They’ll say, “Oh, well, I need to lose a few pounds before I walk into a CrossFit gym.” Or “I don’t think I can do any of those things you guys do.” But what people don’t know is there’s a way to scale anything we do in the gym. You’re not expected to go in there and bust out handstand pushups. There’s all these steps that lead up to that, and you get better as you do it every day. You start off with something much simpler, much easier with your skill level. And, you know, maybe one day you’ll work up to doing handstand pushups, you never know.
It’s just a great community. People from all walks of life go in there, and they have this same love for working out. It’s just great. It’s a lot of fun.
Tell me more about that community.
If I’m ever traveling or something and have to go to a regular gym, I’m unsure of what to do anymore. You look around and everyone’s got their headphones in or looking at themselves in the mirror. It’s not that great as a community, I don’t think. There’s no mirrors in CrossFit gyms, no one has their headphones in. Everybody’s together, everybody’s cheering each other on, it’s a lot of fun.
What do you think about Green Chef’s paleo menu?
If you’re interested in paleo, but don’t know where to begin, Green Chef’s paleo plan is an awesome introduction. You’ll learn about some easy ingredient swaps – like swapping out regular potatoes for sweet potatoes in order to make baked fries in the oven, or making gluten-free and paleo-friendly flatbreads with almond flour and tapioca flour versus regular flour. Even if you consider yourself a seasoned paleo-eater, Green Chef’s paleo plan is a great option to help save you time and money by not having to go to the grocery store and buy ingredients that you often only use once that end up sitting on your pantry shelves for months (or even years!) before going bad.
I think paleo is truly for anyone. It might seem restrictive at first, but if you try it and actually feel the difference in your overall health, I don’t think you’ll ever want to go back!