Diet fads have “demonised” food groups for athletes and Dr Mike Molloy is working hard to correct misinformation for the world’s top CrossFit athletes. “I could put out posts talking about the scientific approach, but all they need to do is hop on Instagram and find misinformation from influencers. Those people carry a lot of weight, so it’s easy to get carried away with trends,” Molloy said. “The celery juice thing was my nightmare for about two months. And then it was the carnivore diet. Oh, man. These things pop up faster than I can swat them away. But it’s the way these things work, the flashy counter culture is attractive, but it’s got to be the slow right way.” American Molloy, who has a PhD in molecular and cellular biology from Dartmouth College, has been working with CrossFit athletes for about five years. Three years ago, he set up his own company called M2 and now has a host of professionals nutritionists working with him to serve the community. Molloy has coached 40 CrossFit Games athletes, including Sara Sigmundsdottir, Chyna Cho from Rich Froning’s CrossFit Mayhem and Hong Kong-based Tammi Robinson , who qualified this year but then could not go when Covid-19 changed the structure of the Games. One of the first battles he had to wage was against the Paleo diet, also known as the caveman diet, which encourages eating of anything that can be hunted or gathered, like lean meats, fish, fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds. Sara Sigmundsdottir explains her poor CrossFit Games 2020 performance Given we could not hunt or gather wheat or grains before farming, carbohydrates feature scantly in the diet. It was, and to an extent still is, very popular among CrossFitters. “It almost demonised certain food groups. People were afraid that they would explode from eating a bowl of oatmeal. They generally feared carbohydrates as a class of food,” Molloy said. But getting people to change their food habits is not as easy as pointing out the error of their ways. “Nutrition is a lot like politics. Everyone has some very strong opinions. It can be even more so, as you don’t talk about politics every day, but you have three meals a day,” he said, adding that people can be emotionally attached to certain foods. Bit by bit, he introduced athletes to carbohydrates to show that they were not evil. And soon, there was a groundswell in the community as he and other experts pointed out that high intensity movements rely on glucose and carbohydrates. Even once the science is accepted, it is still a hurdle to change habits. Molloy laments the idea that diets need total overhaul to work. In the short term, drastic changes might yield results but it is not sustainable. Most people end up back in old habits after a month. “I’m at least 50 per cent therapist, even with elite athletes. Nutrition work is definitely therapy. Ninety-five per cent of the clients know the facts, and they are almost there. But it’s about getting them to do it. That’s the hard part,” Molloy said. One size does not fit all. It is important to do what works for individuals or some athletes may face burn out. Sigmundsdottir, for example, will dial in her diet leading up to a competition. For every meal she will weigh her food so she knows the exact amount of carbs, proteins and other food groups she is eating. But afterwards, she will go back to a generally healthy diet. Then, she dials it in most days of the week, and in the final block up to the competition Sigmundsdottir is back to weighing every meal. “She has extreme goals, so she needs extreme methods,” Molloy said. “If she did it six days a week, she could be incredibly fit, but if she wants to maximise her potential she needs to do this. But after the competition, we’ll back off, let her relax or she’ll burn out. “Some people love that control though and asking them to step back and relax that control is more stressful,” he said. For normal people, Molloy might use the food scales for a couple of months so they can see what works for them. But after a month or two, he wants them to eat intuitively. Non-elites might have goals, so they can return to the scales in the build-up to a competition or beach holiday, but expecting them to weigh every meal for the rest of their lives is not realistic. It is important to know the latest science but equally important not to get bogged down in it, Molloy said. “Your diet doesn’t have to be perfect 99 per cent of the time to work – 85 per cent is pretty darn good. Perfection is the enemy of progress. People think they have to be so perfect that they miss the low hanging fruit that will get them to their goals,” Molloy added.