Dr. Leon Chang – Crossfit Box Owner And Primal Enthusiast Talks Strength Training

Gary Collins:  This is Gary Collins and Heath Squire of “The Primal Show” and today we have guest Dr. Leon Chang. What makes Leon unique is he is obviously an MD, but he owns a CrossFit and he lives a primal lifestyle and so does his wife who is also a doctor as well, a PhD. What we’d like to talk about today is how you found the lifestyle and how you got involved in CrossFit, and Primal, and Paleo.

Dr. Leon Chang:  Sure, thanks for having me. To start with how we got into CrossFit, one of my colleagues her husband was actually a trainer at 24 Hour Fitness. He was a manager at one of the local branches and he found CrossFit. At the time, both Alessandra and myself were maybe 15, 20 pounds overweight, weren’t really doing much physically, and both of us have always been active early in our life.

We were just looking for something, those stars kind of aligned and we got introduced to each other and he started training both of us around the park using some of the CrossFit methodology. Secondarily, he had kind of a protege at 24 hour fitness, Paul Estrada, who’s now a business partner with CrossFit Elysium. Paul got into CrossFit that way. When this guy moved to Boston, introduced Paul and I to each other, said, “You guys are both kind of doing the same thing, thought maybe you would like to have a training partner to work out with.”

After this guy, Steve, moved, Paul and I were training together literally in our garage, kind of the way you’re supposed to do starting crossfit, the classic garage gym [laughter] . He was bringing over some of his personal clients to train with us after we got some of the basic equipment set up. In our height we had maybe three, four clients of his in addition to us all working out at the same time in my garage. That went on for a couple of months, the neighbors were interested in what we were doing and finally we decided, as we learned more, we might as well just go for it, we might as well just open our own place. Both of us love this, his career was always going to be in personal training and coaching, and it had definitely become a passion of mine by that point. So we decided to just go for it. Luckily we’ve been able to have success.

Gary:  You opened it pretty early on, this is before the big boom. You guys were around before, y’know, what there’s almost 6,000 worldwide now? I might have my numbers wrong.

Dr. Leon:  Yeah, I think CrossFit HQ crossed the 10,000 affiliates mark.

Gary:  Oh wow. Gosh.

Dr. Leon:  We were one of the firsts, it’s kind of funny when you look back it now, because when we opened up, we thought…Obviously, we’re the newest. We looked at the list of established names that were already present and we thought, “Hey, look at how many guys there are that are already in the business.” Now, when you look at the list, and you realize, “Hey, we’re one of the old‑school people.” We’ll, to think of it that way…

So to answer to your second question about how my wife and I got into a more of the Paleo/Primal lifestyle, for us, that was just a natural evolution of being drawn into a healthier lifestyle that one will be, if you stick with CrossFit, or any sort of effective exercise program.

We’re looking for ways to make our workouts better, ways to improve our lives outside of the gym. Then almost, by accident, we stumbled on to the first of principles of Paleo. Then, secondarily, the principles of the primal lifestyle.

The way so much of this works, you guys can probably attest to this as well, you can’t look to the established scientific community for definitive answer and say, “OK, well, that’s what I have to do. I know that will work. Nothing else will work.” You have to try it to yourself. And that’s what we did.

We said, “The basic rationale for this makes sense. The science behind paleo and primal, it does makes sense. Let’s go for it.”

Then, we saw every bit of positive change that we were looking for, lost unnecessary fat, got healthier. It just works.

Gary:  That’s amazing how that is.

I know Heath gets hit with this too, but I get a lot of email saying, “Where’s your data? Where’s your data? Show me how this works.” I go, “Proof’s in the pudding.”

I’m a realist. If it doesn’t work, I’ll know. Because it won’t work for me, and it won’t work for a bunch of other people.

That’s the touchy situation right now. They’re just starting to do some of the research on the Paleo diet. Get more, far as, more in‑depth.

But it’s more of a common sense movement. It’s what I tell people. If you really think about how the human body is meant to function, what it’s meant to eat, it makes sense. It all falls together.

Getting all these empirical data, and having these massive studies, that’s what the people with the science backgrounds do and say. They just hammer you one after another.

The people who hammer you, the hard part is, they’re the ones out of shape.

Dr. Leon:  Exactly.

Gary:  They’re the ones telling you, “We’ll, I don’t get it. This doesn’t work.” And I’m all like, “You’re overweight. And you’re telling the skinny, in‑shape, healthy guy that it doesn’t work.” It’s a battle.

Dr. Leon:  We always tell our members that. It’s sort of a two‑part answer to that sort of questioning. The first part is one, actually the established scientific community and that data that supports your traditional high‑carb, low‑fat diet as an example. That data is flawed, too. One of the things I always point them to is Gary Taubes’ good synopsis article “The Soft Science of Dietary Fat,” which is a good lead‑in to show them just how corrupt and erroneous our basic health recommendations, where that information is based on, it’s just wrong to start. Now, that’s the first thing I tell them. The second part is exactly what you said. “You know what, you spent decades eating a certain way, living a certain way, and you’re not happy with the way you are, with the way you look. Try it. Give it a try for a month, two months, even if it’s the worst thing on the planet. You’re not going to kill yourself in a month or two months. You could smoke cigarettes, as an example, continuously for two months. At the end of the day, you’re probably still going to be alive. It can’t be that bad. Give it a try, see what happens.” But I think a lot of people, they kind of want to use it as an excuse. “You just show me all the data first before I’ll even contemplate making a change,” and they know you can’t do that, so there’s their excuse not to make the change in the first place. It’s a little disheartening at times.

Heath Squire:  Can you describe maybe the sensation from becoming a carb and starch burner now that you’re a fat burner, and the effect, the anti‑inflammation effect of eating a paleo type of diet has had on yourself? Where so many people think that they have to rely on carbing up before they do a really high intensity workout. Can you kind of talk to that a little bit?

Dr. Leon:  Absolutely. So, I think a lot of it is based on how I felt in retrospect, and I think we all, for example not even related to workouts, but I think we all remember that back in the day post‑lunch feeling of just tiredness. Or after you would eat your traditional meal, lunch or dinner, and then immediately you feel like you’re in a food coma, and that’s because you just ate a plate full of pasta or whatever it happens to be. I know that was a daily occurrence for me. That doesn’t happen anymore. To get more to the side of what you’re saying, yes, when I first started doing Crossfit and and we actually were continuing to eat more high‑carb, a lot of gluten, rice and pasta and whatnot, I would be sore for days after workouts. You know, and some of it obviously is to be expected by nature of the workout but eventually you would expect your body to kind of attenuate itself to that, and now that we’ve kind of gone more the low‑carb, primal route, that soreness really doesn’t exist. Every once in a while after a particularly strenuous workout maybe, but overall general levels of soreness, especially after a high intensity workout, they’re definitely less, and I know it’s multi‑factorial but I have to think some element of that decreased soreness is just due to decreased whole‑body inflammation as a whole. The final thing that I was going to say is I’ve worn glasses since I was five, and my prescription has essentially been one unbroken string of needing a new prescription every six months or a year, my eyesight has just gotten continually worse, and the only time that has stopped in my life was when we adopted a paleo, primal diet. I went to the ophthalmologist a year afterwards, they did a checkup, if anything my vision actually got slightly better, and I have not needed a new prescription since then. I think that was maybe three or four years ago. To me that’s one of the single most important things that’s happened. My eyes have literally not gotten worse. Do I know the exact reason? No. Is it correlated in time with when we started eating healthier and can I envision maybe less micro‑inflammation in the blood vessels of my eyes? Obviously, yes.

Heath:  You’ve got to think about the foods you’re now consuming, the majority of them are all anti‑inflammatory, so you have less digestive stress, your joints have less inflammation. It’s got to carry on to probably all parts of your body, so actually now we know it does, so it makes sense what you were saying. So you’re saying that by following a low carb, low sugar, paleo/primal, being grass‑fed dairy or consuming organic dairy, you’re saying that you’ve really seen a massive reduction in inflammation, so you’re able to now work out longer. You have less joint pain. There’s something to be said [laughs] .

Dr. Leon:  Yeah, I would definitely say so.

Heath:  Have you noticed a difference with sustained energy through your workouts or throughout your day, actually? Kind of keeping your blood sugar in check, and how important is that to you? Do you pay attention to that throughout the day?

Dr. Leon:  Um, so I don’t do anything as data driven as check my own blood sugar throughout the day, but I can definitely tell you I feel like I certainly have more sustained energy throughout the day.

I’m currently experimenting on myself, if you want to call it that. I’ve been focusing on exclusively Olympic weight lifting now for quite some time, and over the last few months, I’ve been trying to move down a weight class. So for me, I’ve really had to watch what I’ve eaten, even to the point of portion control at this point as well. Before, portion control never really entered our mindset. We knew though, that if we just ate clean and kept it to the principles that we needed to, everything else would pretty much take care of itself, and that was true for me. I was able to live at my weight class without any issue.

Now I’m trying to move down a weight class. I’m having to shift myself metabolically, and that is the time where I would suspect I would feel it. To be perfectly honest with you, I expected to walk around tired throughout the day, not feel like I had much energy in these efforts to move down a weight class, and that hasn’t happened. To be honest with you, I feel good. I’ve lost 13 pounds in a month and a half, simply by taking it from an 80/20 approach to maybe a 95/5 approach now. It works.

Heath:  If you were to describe your plate in terms of carbs, proteins, and overall calories, how have you been able to reduce your weight? Are you focusing on reducing calories? Are you upping your protein or upping your fat? [laughs] What does your plate look like?

Dr. Leon:  In general, it’s been a reduction in calories and better attempts to eat clean. For example, before, I would eat ad lib until I felt full, and that typically would be a giant, heaping plate of whatever I was eating. Generally, that’s going to be an entire steak, say a 16‑ounce steak, and the other half of the plate would be vegetables. Two to three times a week, I was eating rice or a sweet potato or something like that, even french fries to supplement the carbohydrate intake.

Now that rice is carefully titrated. I might eat a cup, after training, only on training days. On non‑training days, I don’t eat any sort of starchy carbohydrate at all. As far as the portion control, I’m not weighing and measuring. I’m not counting the calories, but I’m pretty good at eyeballing, so now it might be three‑quarters of that steak. It might be half a plate of vegetables, and the overall amount, I would say, has been cut down by about a half to a third every meal.

Gary:  That’s interesting.

Heath:  That’s pretty interesting. That’s awesome. Gary and I have talked a lot about not consuming too many calories or more calories than your body can metabolize. If you do, you’re going to end up increasing your weight size.

So what you’re saying is you’re able to keep up your strength, reduce your overall calories, have sustained energy, and you’ve been able to follow a lower carb approach here. That’s pretty impressive. You’re doing Olympic weight‑lifting, so… [laughs]

Dr. Leon:  To be fair, my strength has mostly been maintained. This is what I’ve been telling people. I have lost. I can feel it on the heavy back squats and the heavy front squats, for example. I’m certainly not as strong as when I was heavier, but it’s mostly there and I’ll tell you what, I’ve been messing around with some of my gymnastic stuff. For example, I can almost pull off a front lever. It’s been a goal of mine since I started this five years ago, and I can feel it there. My bodyweight strength has gone through the roof. And you know I’m leaner, I look better, so overall, I’m…


Gary:  …It’s an evolution, and that’s why I always tell people that everyone jumps into this, and they want instant results and they want the 30‑day transformation. I’d say, “Yes, you can have a pretty big transformation in a short period of time.” But even with me, I went through a phase like you. What I did is I basically didn’t change the amount of my plate. The content of the food had changed, but not the portion size. I didn’t change that. I kept eating the standard, because it’s ingrained in us for so long. You’ve been eating the same way for so long that you keep the same ratios.

What I noticed was as time went on and my body adjusted, it took quite a while. We’re talking years of experimenting and going. Eventually my body settled in, and it finally said, “You know what? You don’t need to eat this much.” I was kind of scared, because I knew I had five to seven pounds that I just didn’t want, but I didn’t want to have to go to any extremes to get rid of it like I’d done in the past doing the yoyo. I thought that it was interesting that once I did that and I actually got everything balanced correctly, and I ate in tune with my body, which was only when I was hungry.

That takes a while. It takes a long time for all of your hormones to hit homeostasis to where you don’t eat off of all of these other cues ‑ you know, visual cues, time cues. There’s so much going on ‑ social cues. When I did that, I would say I eat half of what I ate before, and nothing changed except for I got skinnier, or leaner, I shouldn’t say skinner.

I lost a little bit of muscle mass. Not much, but that’s natural because the heavier you are, the more fat you have. You have to have more muscle in order to maintain proper balance in your body as far as keeping all of your structures in line the way they’re meant to be, so naturally the fatter you are, the more muscle you have, you know, depending and there’re a whole lot of philosophies behind that, but just to say, and it was interesting how lean I got, but I did notice a little dip in strength, but not what I expected. It’s amazing how that all works ‑ how your body just kind of finds itself, but it takes a long time, and I think that’s the biggest thing to take out of this is people want to rush everything. You’re talking three or four years with you. I don’t think it was much different for me. I think it was three, four, five years before I went through this whole thing to where all of the sudden I went, “Oh, wow. I don’t have to eat as much.”

Dr. Leon:  Yes, your comment about the time that it takes ‑ it’s totally true. One of what we call our rock star members, her name is Irene Mechya for example. She’s lost basically 200 pounds in just a few years. Some of it was on her own before joining us. The vast majority of it was after she became a member, and she’s still been going strong.

But what I tell her, because she does hit those plateaus as well, right? She’s even had regressions, and I try to remind her, “It took you decades to put this weight on, and during those decades, you taught your body one way to eat, one way to live, your hormones are reacting a certain way. You have set your homeostasis up to be a certain way, it is not going to undo itself in a month or a year or in a couple of years.

This is going to be a step‑wise progression and hopefully that is advice that will sustain her, right, because it is not a easy smooth unbroken process.

Gary:  Yeah, well not like that I mean he would get a ton of questions on macros and say I got another say, “How many carbs should I be eating now? And I was all, “Hey, I don’t know how to even answer that.” Because I’m like everyone is different, I don’t where you are at, I don’t know what your weight is at, I don’t know your activity level. It is a whole chain of things and it is different, it is so individual that I’m like, “What I eat carb wise may not necessarily work for you.”

Dr. Leon:  Right, you ask me a ten variable equation and you gave me one variable.

Heath:  But you have people that need to lose weight wherever they are, and I think following a keto‑paleo kind of approach works for pretty much anybody, because you’re turning your body into a fat burning machine, you are getting rid of the starch and sugar as your primary source of energy and you are turning that into fat.

For myself personally I follow like a 60‑30‑10, so you have 60 percent protein, 30 percent fat and 10 percent from vegetable, I really don’t need any grains at all and I have the most amount of energy, kind of taking about 50 grams of protein per meal, I usually mix it with some sort of fiber.

So it is a slow burning through my system. I have those sustain energy levels all day long, I feel great I don’t have any crashes and I’m extremely strict. I don’t cheat, and if I do cheat is like with dark chocolate that is sweeten with Stevia.

I found ways to be able to cheat and not really but have you played with your micros at all in terms of trying to increase your strength levels maybe in areas where you are week and consuming either more protein or more fat but still not taking in an over abundance of calories?

Myself, personally I felt I’m able to gain strength by increasing that protein and fiber and mixing it with fat. Have you played around with that at all?

Dr. Leon:  You know I have, so I actually have made an attempt about a year ago to move down the weight class. Same thing I’m currently doing but I kind went about it in a slightly different way.

That attempt, what I did was go totally clean. I essentially added it out every form of carbohydrate if it wasn’t a vegetable. I don’t typically eat fruit myself so my sole carbohydrate consumption was coming from vegetables in this phase. In that phase I did lean up, there no question I lean up but my strength took a nose dive.

So if I had I to look from a micro component that was probably 50 proteins, 45 fats and maybe 5 percent carb, if that. The prove is in the pudding as you said Gary. For me that macro nutrient balance does not work for maintain strength.

Specifically I didn’t need to quickly absorb starch after my training sessions there was just no way that I was going to be able to survive.

Not only did I not hit my weight goal, like I said my strength fell through the floor. So that is why this time I think I’m having a lot more success because I learned that, I really actually need a slightly higher carbohydrate consumption with the way I train and with the way my body is.

It is something I really encourage our clients to do like your saying. At the end of the day you are an individual person, there is no perfect balance prescription that you can write for everyone, you got to be able to play with it around a little bit.

But the principle remains, protein in general is good, fat in general is good, carbohydrate is supper easy to overdo.

Gary:  So after workout why did you pick rice as opposed maybe to like a sweet potato option?

Dr. Leon:  Personally I really don’t like sweet potato all that much, I would perfectly honest.


Dr. Leon:  Rice, Chinese, I grew up with rice, I would want rice with every meal till the day that I die. In a way I really I’m fundamentally a live to eat person. I love food, I love meals and I love everything that goes with the meals, the hanging out with the family and friends and what not.

So rice for me is kind of maybe emotionally satisfy that part of the component. From a bio‑chemical stand point my understanding of rice verses say gluten, bread, two easy examples to contrast. Rice in general is cleaner than bread is going to be or by extension pasta. It is an unnecessary evil for me but let’s keep it relatively clean and I think rice is a good way to do that.


Gary:  …Talk about that. People have to realize that too, I remember when I first started to talk about this a couple of years ago is the ethnic diversity in diet. People get really goofy when you start talking about ethnicity they instantly think you going into some taboos or something.

It is like, “No!” But for diet you have understand that there is good chance you are going to have a different reaction within your body to rice than I’m going to have.

Dr. Leon:  No doubt.

Gary:  That is just fact of life and people think you are getting into, like is said, some touchy issues, no, it is like you have to understand that ethnically you spent tens of thousands of years, if not hundred thousands of years adapting to a certain food. What we are doing is we’re giving a template. Paleo is basically giving you basic rules.

People think we hammer for people for rice isn’t paleo, legumes aren’t paleo, and I go, yes but here is the thing we are not telling the average person to go out eat everyday who does have the ethnicity or the background to be able to handle those foods.

Heath:  His enzymes might be way better in terms of his body being able to metabolize that than others, then we have also say that rice isn’t paleo and if are going to include rice in your diet that is cool, it can be a sub‑component of your paleo diet but don’t call it paleo.

That is one of the issues we are having right now a lot of people are trying to add stuff in that isn’t paleo that wasn’t part of the human diet that Dr. Lauren Cordaine studied. That is fine it works for you, you can also do sweet potato and still take in those carbs and be paleo. It is your personal choice you found out that works well for you. For me like after I workout I’ll go have burger, a lettuce wrap burger or paleo wrap and throw some chicken in there and have some fiber and I’m good for me and I’m still able to keep my strength levels up, that might not be for everybody, it is something that I’m plating about with myself but it is definitely important to clarify that rice is a grain, it is not part of paleo but it does work.

Dr. Leon:  And Heath, you raise a good point maybe with language, we tend to default to easy and lazy so when I say paleo for example Alexander and I we follow paleo or primary lifestyle. Really that is a short hand version of saying, “In general…”


Dr. Leon:  If I was asked to be very specific I would be first to admit we do not by technical version meet the definition of a true paleo diet because they are components like rice, something like that in there.

I think as long as most people understand the principles of what we’re trying to do, that’s the main thing. That’s a pet peave of mine. Someone’s like, “Oh yeah, I’m paleo.” Well, OK, not really. You’ve got all these paleo cupcakes and paleo this and paleo that. Half your meals are a paleo version of a dessert. You are straining from the philosophy of what we are trying to do, which is not eat sugar at every meal.



Dr. Leon:  …It is a real problem now because you have people saying rice or potatoes are OK on paleo and it is like people over‑ indulge all over sudden, so what Gary and I have tried to do is follow a low carb, low sugar approach. If you are going to be taking carbs have it right after working out and working out is one of those key words in that whole sentence right there. Because a lot of people are just doing paleo and they are not working out and it’s like, “Hey this isn’t working for me.” It is a very important part, it is important to put rice and potato in their own category because paleo, in and of itself, if you are very strict will work. It is OK to play around with other templates, other thing s that work for you but don’t call them paleo.

Gary:  You’ll see right here, I think it’s a good example of, we just gave three very different meals that we eat. Me I usually eat after working out all I eat is a big salad, it’s got a lot of, I like arugula that is my favorite, dark leafy green. I throw in some protein usually chicken, fish, and I’ll have like cucumbers, I’ll have some carrots, you know, avocado. And that’s my meal, but that’s far different than your guys’ meal when you think about it as a post workout meal. But it works for me, yours works for you and that’s where I think people get hung up too, they want you to give them the exact, specific meal answer. And it’s just different

I mean it just depends with the changes, you being a doctor, heck you know this, that our bodies ebb and flow all the time. Things are shifting, things are moving. I have may have a better carb tolerance at certain time of the year, a certain time of the day as opposed to a different part.

That what I tell people, “You have to understand the basics and fundamentals. First use that basic template then try and spread it out and figure what works for you instead of saying, “I’m going to make my personal template, I’m just going to do what the heck I want. I going to eat rice anyway. I’m going to eat peas. I’m going to eat this. Then they come back to you and go, “My joints hurt, it didn’t hut, I gained weight.” That is the problem in the movement right now, people are placating other people to make it easy when we known that any change is hard. I think there is a lot of dishonesty in the sense that people are more concerned about selling something than actually helping people.

Dr. Leon:  Right, potentially, you’re always goinging to have those elements that have that disingenuous side to things and that is going to be human nature…


Dr. Leon:  …You kind make me think of a little side branch. A difficulty of something that you guys face. Anyone that is trying help other people and help them with the dietary or lifestyle modification. That difficulty is that I think people are fundamentally lazy, honestly.

Squire:  Absolutely



Dr. Leon:  …I have kind of dim view of your average person level of motivation, it is not really judgment attached to it, it is what it is. For those people they are going to look for the easy answer they are going to look for that template or that prescription and if you are not giving it, for example like your answer, Heath’s answer is much more nuanced and if think about it, it really is the only real answer that there is. The answer is that it depends, you are an individual let’s work with this, let’s take the data and constantly titrate and figure out what works for you.

They don’t want to hear that, they want that prescription. If A, then B follow this and in 30 days you are going to look like this other person. You don’t give them that, then it is an uphill battle so kudos to you guys. It’s…


Gary:  …Our problem is our brutal honesty I guess and that is the way I’m wired. I don’t have B.S. ability in me and people get that. You ask me a question you are going to get an answer. You may not like the answer at all, but I’m not going to candy‑coat it.

I tell people who hit me up in emails and they give me these long‑winded questions and they start battling me on what I’m trying to tell them. Then finally, like I just had this happen, the guy emails me and goes, “Oh yeah, by the way I have just gained 50‑60 pounds and I’m over weight.”

And he’s fighting me on my principles that I’m trying to help him with. He’s telling me my information is wrong, and what I’m teaching is wrong. Finally he admits, “Oh yeah, I’m following this. It doesn’t work, and I’m overweight now.”


Heath:  …And he wasn’t exercising!

Dr. Leon:  Exactly. I’ll tell you what. I will confess outside of my gym members, and maybe some very close family or friends, maybe a colleague at work that I know is very interested. When people ask me for dietary advice, I don’t answer them.

What I say to them is, “Are you really asking because you want to know? Or are you asking to argue?”

Gary:  That’s a very good point.

Dr. Leon:  …of your own process because it’s exactly as you describe. I’ve lost track of the number of people who quote unquote asked me a question about diet.

The instance I start to answer. It’s argument this, but what about that? I thought that’s it, and so that i just stop. I’m like, “You know what? I actually don’t have a mental energy for this. I was happily going on about my day. I don’t want to argue. You believe whatever it is you want to believe. If it is just a question, I’ll answer it. If it’s just an argument, way to happen, I don’t do it anymore.” I owe my gym members my time.

Gary:  That’s why I wrote my book to be honest with you. That was primary the reason is. I was always getting hit up for advice. I always did it. I did a lot of it for free. I was in a transition from the government figuring out what I wanted to do.

That’s why I said, “I got this information. Let me put it in books, you know, make it simple and easy.”

People would look at that. They’ll go, “He’s trying to sell me something.”

“No, I wrote this books for you not me, so I can give them to you, so you can read it and then you can come back to me with questions. If you want to battle on me on the facts in the book, fine. I’ll back all my stuff up. It’s all backed up in the books. I have all my references.”

Dr. Leon:  Exactly.

Gary:  They don’t want that again because that takes effort. They’ve got to actually take that step instead of coming to me, asking me a question, and punch on me on the face saying, “You’re wrong.”

People have gotten combative too. They want help, but they’re not really sure how to ask. They become so defensive, cause in the health, in wellness world, we’ve been all been hammered over the head with such bad information in the next, six‑pack abs video, and piece of equipment made out of whatever. People are so skeptical. It makes it just a constant battle.

Dr. Leon:  To a certain extent exactly by us asking people to change, or talking about how the old way was wrong. In a way where invalidating in making a negative judgment on how they used to live, how they still do live.

A lot of people are going to take that personally and emotionally. I think, all of us, you guys for sure, no doubt can tell the difference between an honest‑to‑God question about the data where they say, “Well, I’m curious about that. Can you tell me more? Explain to me what that data means,” versus your, “I just want to argue.”

It’s easy to see one versus the other comment, at least.

Gary:  It is. I’m giving better at it. People think I’m a little jerk, but I’m actually a really nice guy. I’m pretty easy going, and they take advantage a little bit of that. They are kind of worming their way in, and then I’m all, “Uh‑oh.” Three emails, deep in this thing, and you catch it you go, “Oh.” They totally dupe me into this argument that I didn’t want to have. [laughs]

Heath:  If people can just realize that Gary and I are trying to take all the information that’s currently available, and give it to people in a way that it’s easy to follow, we’ve found that a Paleo Ketogenic template or way of eating is the easiest way to lose weight, and have great success in the gym.

You end up burning fat as energy, and as you lose your fat, your hormone levels are going to start increasing. Your testosterone is going to start going up. Your estrogen levels are going to start to dip. You’re going to start seeing what’s underneath that layer of fat if you have it, or you’re going to be all the way to maintain your weight.

It’s really easy, and people fight us on a Paleo Ketogenic diet. It’s the cleanest possible diet you can have. Something you brought to my attention today, and I actually want to try, is maybe start adding in some sweet potatoes after my work out and see if I have any issues with sustained energy cause I was always curious.

If I work out really hard, and I add some sweet potatoes in after my workout, am I going to have any issues of blood sugar later on the day? Have you noticed anything after consuming rice?

Dr. Leon:  No, honestly like I said I only know what it was like before when that rice component was not there. There I would definitely bomb. My strength levels went down. As much as we’ve been talking about the need for individualization, when you want to get some a 100 percent, you’re right.

Simply giving someone the Paleo Ketogenic principles, should get the most of the people, 90 percent of the weight there. That’s…

Gary:  Absolutely.


Dr. Leon:  …God damn good enough for me.

Heath:  [laughs]

Gary:  Yeah, yeah. It’s a big difference from where they were before. That’s the thing I said, “That strive I guess for perfection.” Everyone is trying to go from basically a sloth, that’s a mess, to this perfect athlete because we’ve been just inundated with sports stars, models, and this is how you’re supposed to look if in it.

There so many dynamics going on in the battle. I tell him, “Just take a step back. Remove yourself from all that. Follow it. See what happens. Turn down the noise.” A big mistake I notice people did is they come to me or Heath, and we give them the basic template.

Instead of just following it, they dabble. They start reaching out for other things. They go, “Oh wait, I’m going to go low carb, high fat. I’m going to do that in the middle of it.”

I always tell them, “No. Just focus. Just stick with this for at least 30 days. Let your body adjust somewhat. We’re all that way. We tinker. We don’t know when to stop.”

Instead of just focusing on one principle and going with it, I always tell people, “Don’t do that. Just stick with the program for 30, 60 days. Then try and start dabbling.” Even then I don’t recommend a whole lot of it.

Dr. Leon:  The irony there is what we’ve just said. The vast majority of people are really looking for a template. Something that they can follow cookie‑cutter step by step. But then, when you give that to them…


Gary:  They don’t follow it. And I’ve done it. I’m not saying like I’m perfect. I learned a lesson from doing it myself. The lesson I learned was, I screwed my body up big time. I took myself backwards.

I got going in the right direction, and I started experimenting with something else. I spent probably year trying to unscrew everything I did because I couldn’t figure out what exactly I did cause I wholesale switched over and then I’m all, “Oh no, what?” I changed so many things.

I had to keep picking pieces back out, trying to figure it out. Take this one out. This at it. What I ended up doing is I ended up falling right back in the Paleo which I didn’t realize going Paleo in the beginning cause Paleo really wasn’t well‑known.

I went back actually into the Paleo template and boom, all the stuff I screwed up found itself, and I got back to my homeostasis point where I start feeling good again. It’s like, “God, what an idiot. Why am I so stupid?”

Not to think that I’m just out there bashing people that this is, I’ve done it. Trust me. I’ve done probably far stupider things than any of them have done. Should I pay the price? That’s why I’m trying to save them, too, is a ton of time.

Dr. Leon:  Exactly. If you have anything. Now, you have that experience to draw from. We have that experiences to draw from. I would have give the advice to someone if they wanted to tinker. OK, but keep it truly one variable at a time.

Gary:  Exactly.

Dr. Leon:  It’s data driven. You know exactly what the change was. If it wasn’t something that you want, you know what you needed to take out. Even that experiences helpful.

Heath:  Dr. Chang, we are actually probably are on the same page here, Gary and I talk about this a lot. When you first start of, you have that sense of laziness, you don’t have any drive. You don’t have any passion to go out, and like tackle losing the weight. I often times found that usually revolves around your hormones are off.

Is there anything you can take in terms of supplements that you found that can help put that drive back in your life and especially when you first starting off? Obviously, adjusting the diet, you’re going to feel better right away. Have you found any sort of supplements or any sort of clinical studies maybe?

I found like Tongkat Ali for instance, boost that natural testosterone. There’s a bunch of government studies to back that. Have you found anything to help? Maybe it’s a pre‑workout drink that’s really clean, alpha‑ketoglutarate, anything?

Dr. Leon:  Sure. Honestly, not really. I’ll confess. I don’t know all that much about supplements. For example, I’m a big fan of fish oil. Fish oil is is definitely one of those things like we know there’s proven benefit and vast majority of us do not get enough Omega 3s, and or fish consumption in our daily life. I don’t even know if fish oil should be considered a supplement at that point.

Heath:  Sure.

Dr. Leon:  The only other supplement that I really know much more from the weightlifting/ strength‑building community as opposed to a general wellness‑typed supplements. For example, creatine. I feel like I know creatine pretty well. It probably doesn’t do anything for the vast majority of people, I don’t know if it would hurt them. I always tell people, “Hey, you want to, go ahead. It’s not going to hurt you.” Everything else, the supplements that come more from that side, I am in general very wary because I sit there. At the end of the day, this is a product. Talking about product that is unnatural in some way. Someone is making it, and they are selling it to you. If it really were that effective, again there’s more from the strength‑building communities, if it really were that effective, it will be banned.


Dr. Leon:  …Now, addressing your question. I’ll confess. I really don’t know much at all to be able to intelligently comment as far as hormonal modulation or fluctuation.

Heath:  That’s totally fine. It’s just something that we’re coming across a lot cause people have gained their weight. Their estrogen levels are usually to the roof. You see a lot of guys with gyneclomastia. I’m just really carrying all their weight in their stomach.

We really try to preach to people, “Hey, start cleansing. Change your diet. Do some research on just really clean herbs like what I’m saying Tongkat Ali herbs, there’s herbs to reduce estrogen like Indole‑3‑carbinol or broccoli to reduce estrogen. You’re going to start feeling better. You’re going to feel that drive come back. ”

Cause you’re right. So many people are so lazy. It’s not necessarily their fault. Its just because their body is out of whack.

Gary:  They’re sick. The organism is sick. It’s trying to conserve energy. That’s the problem. In the medical community, since you are, you’re an MD, not an ND. You’re in the mainstream Western medicine.

Dr. Leon:  Right.

Gary:  How is that effective for what you do? I’m a firm believer. I’m one of the odd balls in this genre, in this group. I firmly believe in western medicine balanced with naturopath medicine. I believe in both. There’s a balance with the two.

Everyone else wants to cut out modern medicine, and just say, “It’s garbage in our movement.” I’m a little, “Woah.” I don’t want a nutritional practitioner doing my back surgery or my brain surgery. Have you found that in your community as far as what you do? Is there a shift, or a change? How of you had to deal with the people know what you do at work?

Dr. Leon:  It’s a big question. My own little community, in my department, my media colleagues for example. I’d say there may have been a small shift simply by virtue of them essentially being exposed to me for four or five years. Some enlightened folks, let’s call them, may have started to suddenly realize, “You know what, diet may actually play a larger role than traditionally be given credit for.”

The USDA Food Pyramid very well maybe wrong. Unfortunately, within modern western medicine as a whole, their community is very slow to embrace and if anything is actively resisted to a lot of stuff that we’re doing. We know why because at the end of the day, it invalidates everything that they were taught in medical school, where they were taught about how to prescribe a diet. A complaint that is valid that a lot of people tend to make about doctors. A lot of us have a god complex. We think we know everything. We’re the guys with the answers. The fact of the matter is nutrition in medical school is essentially not existant as in teaching. We might have one or two lectures on it over four years. You can do an Internet search and pretty much learn as much as your average physician learns about diet during the entire training.

We are taught to carry ourselves as the expert in all things having to do with the body and it doesn’t matter what that happens to be. When you approach a physician, and you say, “Look, everything you know is wrong. By the way, the information they fed you in medical school that was influenced by the government and bought out by some lobbyist or the politicians, and there you have it.” You don’t actually know anything. In fact what you know is worse than nothing. Clearly, there are going to be resistant to that. They control the studies. A physician with a lab can decide whether he wants to run a low fat versus high fat diet study. He can decide how he analyzes the data.

We know data will always be bias if the person looking at the data has an agenda. You can find your answer in any data set if you’re looking for an answer ahead of time with an agenda.

That’s a dangerous spot to be in. It’s tough. I’m no way invalidating Western medicine, either, right Gary? My opinion is basically the same as yours. At the end of the day, you have an appendix that needs to come out, you need a surgeon. Any number of natural remedies for that, probably is not going to work.

Gary:  They don’t work. You can’t unrupture an appendix.

Dr. Leon:  We need to understand the limitations of western medicine. One of the limitations is dogmatic thinking the same sort of data‑driven evidence that we crave which makes it. When we have the data, where we no more stand on solid ground, makes us very resistant to change. Because now you’re like, “I’m not going to change until you show me data.”

We said at the beginning of this interview, it could be hard especially with something as multi‑factorial, it’s diet and lifestyle.

Gary:  There’s so many things going on. That was interesting to see cause we’ve had a couple of doctors on, and it’s always interesting to see that the ones who are immersed, you’re the first real MD as far as the Western side we’ve had on. Right, Heath? I don’t think we’ve had anyone yet.

It’s a dilemma. I talked to doctors. We’ve talked, Leon, before and it’s tough. You got to be careful to what you say. You don’t want to alienate yourself from the community that you’re in. It’s this whole balance, but I just tell people, “You are your best doctor. You need to learn it on your own. Don’t rely on you to go there when you’re broken and go I don’t know.”

“What have you been doing?”

“I don’t know.”

“What have you been eating?”

“I don’t know.”

“Do you exercise?”


How can you expect a doctor to help you in that circumstance either? You have to take responsibility for your own body. When I walk into a doctor, they love me and hate me because they know I’ve already got my diagnostics done. [laughs] I already know everything that’s going on and I lay it out to him.

When it started, what happened? What are my symptoms? They’re like, “Oh OK. That makes it a lot easier instead of walking in and go, “Fix me.”

Dr. Leon:  I completely agree. My field is anesthesiology, for example, which is probably the furthest thing removed from primary care. I pick anesthesia for a reason. I love it. That being said, if I were a primary care doctor, for example, I would love a patient like you because you’re educated enough. You’ve done you’re background homework where we don’t need spend the majority of the visit going over that stuff. But at the same time, I’m not looking for a drone, right? I’m not looking to give someone, “OK, well here. This is what you. See you six months from that.” I love someone that will take charge of his own life. That’s part of the problem we have with western society, and our health in general. A lot of people just don’t take control of their own lives, and do stuff for themselves.

Gary:  That’s an episode for a whole another time. You have to talk about that. Cause it mean you’ve talk about it. It’s a multifaceted problem. You have a huge industry involved. There’s massive amounts of money. Massive amounts of money. We’re nearing $3 trillion a year in healthcare cost.

You have a society that has lost its way. Just like the Romans. You get fact lazy and comfortable, and then everything falls apart.

Heath:  That’s something to be said. What you’re doing at Elysium, your cross fit gym, it’s awesome. You’re teaching people how to eat right. I assume you give some nutritional courses. You talk to them about their diet.

Dr. Leon:  We’ve done a few nutrition seminars in the past. My wife is officially the nutrition and lifestyle coach from the gym. We always make ourselves available as a resource.

Heath:  You’re combining that with a great, there’s no better way to work out such a great intense workout CrossFit. You’re teaching people how to lift properly. What’s your domain? Where can people find you, Dr. Chang?

Dr. Leon:  The website is www.crossfitelysium all one word, so that C‑R‑O‑S‑S‑F‑I‑T‑E‑L‑Y‑S‑I‑U‑M.com.

Heath:  Awesome.

Dr. Leon:  All of our information are up in the website. We have links there. For example, my wife’s business page and her personal coaching staff as well and so.

Heath:  Excellent.

Gary:  We’ll make sure the links are up. We’ll get the links up.

Heath:  We’ll put all the links in the description. We want to thank everybody for tuning in today. Thank you for coming on the show. We really appreciate having you on.

Dr. Leon:  You’re welcome. My pleasure.

Heath:  We’ll talk to everybody soon. Make sure you’ll have the subscribe button. You’ll get notifications on all over our new videos. If you have any questions for us, email Gary at [email protected], or myself, [email protected] Thank you all for tuning in, and we’ll talk to you soon Dr. Chang.

Dr. Leon:  Sounds good. Thanks guys.

Gary:  Thanks.

To read and learn more about Dr. Chang’s CrossFit Box see below:


4575 30th St, San Diego, CA 92116 – (619) 285-9456
Cross Streets: Between Monroe Ave and Madison Ave
Neighborhoods: North Park

Gary and Heath’s Links:

Online “Real Paleo Store”

Primal Power Method Book (Amazon) (Gary Collins)
Primal Power Method Meal Guide By Gary Collins (Amazon)

Check out Heath Squier’s complete diet here:

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by Heath Squier

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