When you think CrossFit, one of the first words that comes to mind is “Paleo.” They seem to be attached at the hip. Most CrossFit gyms promote paleo-style eating and most serious CrossFitters eat that way too. However, there is a larger plant-based movement amongst CrossFitters than you might think. I happen to have joined an online group of such athletes and came across a guy named Sammy Foxworth. Sammy is a plant-based, whole foods, athlete certified as a CrossFit level 1 trainer.
I was impressed not only by his physique (dude is ripped) but by his depth of knowledge of plant-based nutrition. Sammy eats a bit differently than I do – he’s a hardcore “starchivore” in the McDougall mold, and it seems to be really working for him. I got to talking with Sammy and decided to interview him to help him share his knowledge with the world. Part of my mission with this website is to show all the beneficial aspects of a plant-based diet, not just chronic disease prevention. Sammy is the perfect example of an athlete using a whole foods plant-based diet to dominate in the gym. I’ll also be posting a recipe of his “Performance Mix” mentioned in the interview next Monday.
Sammy Ray Foxworth
Hometown: Lakeland, FL
CrossFit Gym: Unaffiliated. I workout at home, mostly in my backyard. I do attend the free, Saturday Community Classes at Crossfit Lake Mirror here in Lakeland, FL.
Day Job: Single Dad, and I train myself, my mom, and a few other people privately.
How long have you been plant-based?
I’ve been plant-based off-and-on my whole life. I actually ate a McDougall-style starch-based diet when I was younger, and I had tons of energy. When my mom got remarried, we changed our diet to include more animal products. Most recently, I’ve been plant-based for a year, but I’ve been a strict Starchivore for the last 6 months.
What sparked the change in your diet?
My mom had started doing Crossfit and Paleo about 3 years ago and told me about it. I decided to try Paleo since it was about the only one that I hadn’t tried. I started feeling bad after awhile and knew I needed a change. I had already started reverting back to my old, vegan ways. It wasn’t working well, but I was feeling better. Then, I came across the video Forks Over Knives on Netflix and watched it. I realized that my previous vegan diets had too much fat in them. I started studying up on information from Drs. John McDougall, Caldwell Esselstyn, and T. Colin Campbell. I cut the added fat out of my diet and upped the whole-food starches.
What did your diet look like before?
The year before last and some of last year, was Paleo. My energy levels suffered and my newly-discovered Crossfit workouts were whipping my tail. They were a lot harder than they should have been.
What differences have you noticed from the change in your eating?
I have more energy, faster recovery time, workouts have gotten easier, and gains in strength are incredible. My endurance is like it’s never been before, and injuries heal much faster.
What does your daily diet look like now?
Breakfast: About 1 1⁄2 cups of old-fashioned rolled oats, with a handful of amaranth and a handful of quinoa added in.
Lunch: 3 to 4 cups of my Performance Mix (My own creation. It’s a mix of Jasmine, Brown, and Black rice from Thailand; lentils; black beans; salsa; and tons of vegetables).
Dinner: 3 to 4 cups of my Performance Mix, or 7 to 8 potatoes or sweet potatoes and lots of veggies.
Snacks: Brown Rice rice cakes or Wasa Sourdough Crackers whenever I’m hungry.
I will occasionally have sandwiches made with Sami’s Bakery Ancient Grain Bread, sprouts, lettuce, tomatoes, pickles, and ketchup. I do eat some salads from time to time.
What about smoothies? Do you incorporate them into your diet?
I believe smoothies are good as a supplement. I call mine “green hulk smoothies,” and I throw any green vegetable in there that I have – spinach, kale, celery, squash, etc. I don’t include fruit in my smoothies.
What about protein powders?
I don’t use them. They’re processed and your body doesn’t assimilate processed foods very well. When you take in such concentrated amounts of protein, your body has a hard time with it. Get it from the plants, where it comes with the nutrients that will help you digest and absorb it
How long have you been doing CrossFit, and what were you doing before you got into CrossFit for exercise?
I’ve only been doing Crossfit competitively for about 7 months. I did it lightly before that to help me recover from a back injury. I’ve only recently recovered from that injury, so my success in competitions so far has been while I was still injured. My back is better now, so I’m looking forward to doing really well in my upcoming competitions in August and September.
I have always been athletic. I grew up on a farm and did lots of manual labor. I started lifting weights with my Grandpa when I was 8-years-old. In school, I played football, was on the track team, on the weightlifting team, did gymnastics, and was on a swim team at the YMCA.
What does your daily workout schedule look like?
Monday, I focus on heavy weights.
Tuesday, I focus on bodyweight and endurance, and usually include some lighter weightlifting. Monday and Tuesday, I do three workouts-a-day.
Wednesday is a rest day. I typically go for a 3-mile run.
Thursday and Friday are the same as Monday and Tuesday, but Thursday’s weight workouts focus on higher reps.
On Saturday, I attend the free community workout at Lake Mirror Crossfit, then do one or two additional workouts later in the day.
Sunday is a rest day. I typically go for a 3-mile run. I also try to run one mile every morning that is a regular workout day.
Do you eat something very specific before and after your workouts or is proper nutrition throughout the day more important?
Proper nutrition throughout the day is enough for me. I find that being consistent with what you eat is very important. I make sure that on my workout days, I have a big breakfast and then wait 2 to 3 hours before I exercise.
You’re exhausted and you don’t want to spend more than 15 minutes preparing your meal. What do you make?
I always have a giant container of my Performance Mix in the refrigerator. I call the container my Feeding Trough because it is so big. I throw 3 to 4 cups of it into a pot and warm it up on the stove. If I don’t want to wait, it tastes good cold.
Do the Paleo Crossfitters at your gym know you’re plant-based, and if so, what do they say?
Most of the people at the Lake Mirror Crossfit gym know I’m plant-based. Some don’t believe me, or I should say, they don’t want to believe me. They can’t understand how I look and perform the way I do without eating meat or any added fat.
What is the most important thing you could tell someone who is trying to find the healthiest diet for their athletic performance and longevity?
You want to eat the diet that is the most efficient for your body and the easiest for it to assimilate. If you do that, you will have all the nutrients that you could possibly want or need at any given time. It doesn’t matter if you need it for a hard workout, fighting off an illness or infection, or recovering from an injury. The nutrients will be readily available for whatever your body needs. Through a great deal of studying, and trial-and-error, I have found that diet to be a whole food, starch-based diet.
You can learn more about Sammy and follow his progress on his Facebook Page: The Starch-Powered Athlete.