Is CrossFit Good for Weight Loss?

People doing pullups at gym

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Have you tried CrossFit? Many participants swear by the program’s ability to burn calories, build muscle, and change your life. But it isn't always good for weight loss.

Several research studies shed light on the pros and cons of the popular program for weight loss. And experts like Greg Zuffelato, the founder of I Believe Weight Loss, have strong opinions as well. Zuffelato is a former CrossFit trainer and avid CrossFit participant. He now uses a different approach to help people lose weight and reach their fitness goals.

What Is CrossFit?

CrossFit is a workout program, a culture, and a community. The mission of CrossFit is to “build a program that will best prepare trainees for any physical contingency—not only for the unknown but for the unknowable.”

The CrossFit philosophy is one that employs an intense commitment to a strict workout lifestyle.

CrossFit Classes

CrossFit participants complete a workout of the day (WOD) either solo or with a trainer and a group of fellow exercisers at a designated Crossfit gym, also called a “box.” The workouts tend to be short, extremely intense, and involve functional exercises in a variety of forms.

CrossFit Nutrition

For participants who are interested, nutrition advice is offered on the CrossFit website. The suggestion is to follow either a 40-30-30 nutrition plan (40% carbohydrate, 30% protein, 30% fat) or to use the Paleo diet to reach performance and body fat goals. 

Is CrossFit Good for Weight Loss?

For some people, CrossFit is good for weight loss. Its high-intensity workouts boost metabolism and can burn a lot of calories, and they're efficient, which is great for busy people. CrossFit workouts are also readily available online or at a CrossFit box. And being a CrossFitter means being part of a community, which can support weight loss.

However, the flip side to those high-intensity workouts: They can cause injury, and they're not appropriate for beginners. If you're just starting out, you'll have to modify the exercises, which means they might not be as effective. CrossFit also has a competitive culture, which isn't right for everyone. If you don't enjoy these hard-core workouts, you might drop out.

Pros
  • Boosts metabolism

  • Burns calories

  • Provides social support

  • Quick and efficient

  • Accessible

Cons
  • High dropout rate

  • Intense culture

  • Modifications may be necessary

  • Risk of injury

CrossFit Weight Loss Benefits

“For weight loss,” says Zuffelato, "CrossFit can be an excellent program with some modifications.” There are numerous benefits to CrossFit if you have a weight-loss goal.

Boosts Metabolism

CrossFit participants can expect to build strength and increase muscle mass. Zuffelato says that the biggest change he saw was a change in his body fat and muscle mass. An improved body composition not only helps your body to look leaner but also helps you to maintain a healthy metabolism.

Burns Calories

When performed properly, high-intensity workouts like CrossFit are extremely difficult. The American Council on Exercise (ACE) reports that men can burn 15 to 18 calories per minute and women can burn 13 to 15 calories per minute doing the workouts. Participants who work at a high intensity burn more calories all day, even after their workout is over.

Provides Social Support

A key element of the CrossFit program is sharing your WOD results online or with others in your community. For many people who are trying to lose weight, this element of sharing may help improve accountability and consistency.

Exercises Are Quick and Efficient

For healthy people who already know how to perform typical CrossFit exercises, the workouts provided are both quick and effective. If you are a busy person who is trying to lose weight with exercise, short workouts may help you keep your exercise program on track.

Workouts Are Accessible

According to its website, CrossFit is available to “anyone with an internet connection and the willingness, curiosity, and bravery to try it.” Participants can work out on their own using the WOD on the website or they can go to a local CrossFit box. In many cities, the cost of attendance is less than the cost of joining a full-service health club.

Downsides of CrossFit Classes

While some people are successful when they use CrossFit to lose weight, there are drawbacks that may make it the wrong choice for some people who are trying to lose weight. Zuffelato suffered injuries that interfered with his program. His experience is not unique.

The drawbacks of trying to lose weight with CrossFit are an important consideration when you're deciding if CrossFit is right for you.

High Dropout Rate

CrossFit is too intense for many people. According to Zuffelato, “due to the high physical demand, there is a high turnover rate in CrossFit.” In addition, ACE experts also acknowledge that you might quit because it’s too difficult. You need to find a program you can stick with for the long term.

Intense Culture

The competitive nature of CrossFit training may be overwhelming for some exercisers, especially those who are new to exercise. If you are too intimidated to fully participate on a regular basis, you’re not likely to see sustainable results.

Modifications Take Longer

People who are new to exercise, who have not exercised regularly for a long time, or have injuries to accommodate will need to modify the exercises in order to stay safe and healthy. This may be time-consuming. 

Risk of Injury

CrossFit workouts often include high-risk activities. When combined with the pressure to compete against the clock or other athletes the exercises may put many participants at risk for injury. Some studies indicate that those who participate in CrossFit have a higher incidence of musculoskeletal injury. Studies show that this might be particularly true for people new to CrossFit.

Nutrition Is Essential

If you do CrossFit consistently and with proper modifications, you are likely to see positive changes to your body. But if you want to lose weight, you need to combine your exercise program—no matter what it is—with a good nutritional foundation. 

“The people that just do CrossFit and don’t have a nutrition plan do not lose weight,” says Zuffelato. "When they get serious with the CrossFit program their appetite goes into overdrive and without a proper plan, they don’t see any sustained weight loss. They will see a small change in their body fat, but like any other exercise program, if proper nutrition is not part of the plan the results will be disappointing.”

A Word From Verywell

If you are a fit, active, athletic individual who likes competition, then CrossFit might be the best way for you to lose weight. But if that doesn’t describe you, chances are good that you may lose more weight if you combine a healthy diet with a moderate exercise program that is sustainable.​​

6 Sources
Verywell Fit uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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Additional Reading

By Malia Frey
 Malia Frey is a weight loss expert, certified health coach, weight management specialist, personal trainer​, and fitness nutrition specialist.