Episode #147: What Is Crossfit Endurance & Can You Use It For Marathons or Triathlons?

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Click here for the full written transcript of this podcast episode.

Note from Ben: Holy schnikes! I gotta quit doing head math during my podcasts. I had an error on this one. Kid's protein should be closer to 0.6-1.4g protein per pound body weight. I had that almost doubled with my on-the-fly figuring…sorry.

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In this May 25, 2011 free audio episode: Brian Mackenzie of CrossFit Endurance (pictured above), protein intake and supplements for young athletes, blood sugar spikes from protein powder, take supplements with coffee, birth control and weight loss, losing weight for Ironman, elbow pain from curls, is casein ok for vegans and the pose running method.

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Featured Topic: “What Is Crossfit Endurance & Can You Use It For Marathons or Triathlons?”

Brian Mackenzie from Crossfit Endurance is an expert in strength and conditioning for endurance athletes, and is the creator of CrossFit Endurance. He is a Level 3 CrossFit Certified Trainer, and is a Level 3 POSE Certified Running Coach.
Brian has been working in the fitness industry to some degree for the last 20 years. He has an internship program for professional trainers.

Brian has been at the pinnacle of training athletes and clients of all shape, size and ability for the last decade. Starting his training career as a physical therapy assistant and volunteering with adaptive PE programs for stroke victims, he has used the simplest to the most complex of modalities.

Learning how to powerlift at an early age, Brian understood functional movement at the beginning of his career. Moving into the endurance world, he worked with Dr. Romanov (Creator of POSE Method of Running), and learned about running mechanics very early in his career. He has trained professional athletes from a multitude of sports including the NFL, MMA, and AVP, Running, Cycling, Swimming, and Celebrity.

Brian has successfully used CrossFit as the cornerstone of his programming for endurance athletes, while supplementing with sport specific wods. His athletes train sometimes a third of what the norm train with superior results.

Brian has been a competitive Ultra Runner. He competed in Ironman and more than 30 ultra marathons ranging from 50k to 100 miles including the Western States 100 and the Angeles Crest 100.

During our interview, I ask Brian:

-what is crossfit endurance, and how is it different than regular crossfit?

-what principles do you use to guide workout design and programming?

-can you walk us through a sample week of workouts?

-how do you think crossfit endurance compares to the traditional method of triathlon training, and do you think someone could go faster in a triathlon with your method?

-how do you reply to critics who argue that weight training does not benefit endurance athletes?

During the course of the interview, Brian mentions Arthur Lydiard, Percy Cerutty and Peter Coe as additional references of information for Crossfit Endurance.


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Listener Q&A:

====================================== [contact-form 3 “AskBen”] ======================================

Gina has a call in question: I have a question about my 13 yr old daughter. She's a swimmer and practices 2 1/2 hrs 4 times/wk and attends meets 2 times/month. My daughter is 5 ft 3 inches and weighs 103#. She swims year round and is off 3 weeks in the fall and in the spring. I noticed during her fall/winter season, she was often sick, fatigued, and her swim times didn't improve. After evaluating her food intact, I noticed she was only eating about 20-30 grams of protein/day. She is a “picky” eater and prefers carbs over protein. I have since been pushing protein, but I'm having difficulties getting her to eat a variety of sources. She will eat chicken, turkey, and eggs. I've tried a variety of whey protein smoothes, but she doesn't like them. She takes a multi-vitamin. I will be changing her to one you recommend on your web site. How much protein should she be getting and are there any other supplements you think would be helpful for her?

Lori asks: I've been observing a pattern in myself in the last few months concerning protein powders and I'm hoping you can help me make sense of this puzzle. I've noticed when I consume a protein shake containing whey that my blood sugar takes a dive within an hour and I have to eat something else. I've observed with any mix with whey in it. I currently have some Hammer whey and some Mt. Capra double bonded goat protein powder. On the other hand, if I consume a protein shake with other kinds of protein–and in this case I'm referring specifically to Living Fuel (which is brown rice and yellow pea protein) or Onnit Hemp protein powder that I can potentially go 4-5 hours quite comfortably. I thought perhaps it was just what I was adding to the powder or when I was using it. In an effort to sort it out, in the last month I started to use all of the above (proteins) in the exact same way (after exercise,) and I kept the added ingredients that I added exactly the same–almond milk and frozen strawberries. I got the same results. Whey behaves like it is giving me a glycemic spike–even when consumed in those first 30 minutes after exercise. Does this mean I just don't do well with whey? What is going on here –I'm perplexed.

Mike asks: Ben, you've mentioned that taking vitamin supplements near the time of drinking coffee can reduce the affects. How long before or after drinking coffee should one take supplements to get the most benefit.

In my response to Mike, I recommend reading http://www.pacificfit.net/coffee.php

Rebecca asks: I recently listened to one of your podcasts where talked about the negative affects of hormonal birth control. I have seriously been thinking about switching to a non-hormonal IUD because I think being on the pill has been hindering my ability to lose weight. In your experience, how much easier is it to lose weight being off of hormonal birth control? Also what is your opinion of non-hormonal IUDs?

Bill asks: I've listed to a number of your podcasts (which are excellent!) and hoping you can advise me on how best to lose approx 10 lbs over the next 2-3 months before I enter my build up phase for my next Ironman (IM WA  in December).   I'm 6'2″; 185 lbs and 48 yrs old.  The area I'd like to target is stomach and thighs.  I' recently started changing my diet to reduce intake of sugar; whites and processed foods and reduce on carbs in evening meal to reduce insulin response.  Your advise/tips would be greatly appreciated.

In my response to Bill, I recommend he:

-Go to the upper right corner of https://bengreenfieldfitness.com

-Do search for “fat loss video”

-Access the top 3 results

Mike Burns asks: I was wondering if you might be able to help me. I get pain on the inside of my forearm, just above the elbow when I use the preacher curl machine at the gym. It feels more like stop doing what your doing pain, rather then muscles being worked pain. The machine has stationary handles so I can't adjust the way my wrists are turned. I can do concentration curls with dumbbells, and curls with the cable machine with no problems. Should I just avoid the preacher curl machine from now on?

Etana asks: I'm a vegan Ben. Some vegetarian vegan products such as cheese have casein in them. Am I cheating on my vegan diet by consuming dairy subsitute products such as “dairy free” cheese and coffee creamer by consuming products with casein in them? It's hard to find dairy free products without casein, a milk derivitive.

Craig asks: What do you think of Dr. Romanov's Pose method of Triathlon? I've been a Pose runner for years but I'd love to hear your take in it.

Finally, Luke Powell calls in with a testimonial about the Triathlon Dominator.


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28 thoughts on “Episode #147: What Is Crossfit Endurance & Can You Use It For Marathons or Triathlons?

  1. Ready to cut the cord? This site is dedicated to strategies and programs to enjoy the free internet. says:

    I believe this is one of the such a lot important info for me. And i am glad studying your article. But wanna observation on some normal issues, The website style is ideal, the articles is truly excellent : D. Just right job, cheers

  2. Greg says:

    Mark Allen and Dave Scott are record holders at the Ironman distance. No one since has broken their 6x record. They did not crossfit! It can be done. Crossfit is just a trend that will pass. I agree Ben that you do not hear of any pro's doing crossfit.

  3. Susanna Boxall says:

    Hey Ben, I uploaded my t-shirt pic to my Facebook page. Thanks for the wonderful podcasts. I discovered you via endurance planet, and in the last 3 weeks I have probably listened to 30 of your podcasts. They are a priceless resource for keeping me sane at my soul-sucking job.
    Below is the link to the pic: http://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.20780389…

      1. susanna says:

        When I posted it this morning I tried tagging it, but your name does not come up in the pull-down menu. Everything from "Ben & Jerry's" to "Ben Harper" comes up, but no "BG fitness" or "Ben Greenfield." I still entered the hyperlink you posted as a tag.

        1. if you dont' "like" the page at http://www.facebook.com/bgfitness it won't show up. Be sure to like the page, and Ben Greenfield Fitness will show up as one of the options (you can only tag friends or pages you like)

          1. susanna says:

            Not surprisingly, FB is being whimsical. I "like" your page (and Endurance Planet) but neither one shows up as a tag option. (and I swear that I do not "liked" Ben and Jerry's or Mercedes Benz!). I will share it at the BG page and you can maybe tag it yourself, since I think I am at a dead end here. Thanks for your patience.

  4. carlos says:

    I have a tip to give whey protein to kids.

    When making the shake use a milk frother like from Aerolatte. When I switched from mixing even with a blender, the taste is a lot better when I use the frother. Its wierd. I use it with Vanila and plain milk I actually like it.

    Make sure to mix in just a little bit so it does not become to concentrated and have a stronger taste. Also if you are not already doing so, mix it in with other foods such as in a fruit-milk smoothie or a milkshake.

  5. Alecio says:

    Loved the interview with Brian. Unfortunately, in an interview, he doesn’t truly articulate his points as he could. He’s a great poster-boy for CFE, and has done everything under the sun to back up what he’s saying and creating. People either hate him or love him. For perhaps a better explanation of CFE read the article in competitor magazine called super running. It’s free online and may make more sense.

    I’ve done LSD ironman training. Boo. I have also used Ben’s Domintaror Package to crush all my past PR”s! Bottom line. It’s the shit!!. Now I’m trying CFE. Spent the last 5 months doing nothing but CF getting my body used to this type of work first however. I’m currently implementing CFE into my daily workouts.  And I’m stronger, faster and surprisingly more flexible then I have ever been. Excited to see how I do this year at the shorter distances. Start small, get my technique, and speed down for the shorter distances then work my way up to longer races. In closing I do believe we will see some world class athletes  starting to use this method. If you qualify for Kona are you not world class? Because CFE athletes have been within minutes.

  6. Jennifer says:


  7. Aldo says:

    In your interview with Dr Phil Maffetone (podcast 135), his method of training at a heart rate of 180 minus your age sounds like it is on the other end of the spectrum from CrossFit Endurance. Do you think it's possible for someone to employ both methods in their training?

      1. Aldo Marchetti says:

        Almost like I set you up for that little plug!

    1. Takeo says:

      Ran 26.2 yesterday in the Kansas City Marathon, not under my goal 330 but PR by 7 mitnues. I was on pace for about 325 and then blew up a bit with cramps on miles 22-25. Still very happy with a new PR. Will continue to do CFE and I imagine only get stronger. Actually broke a rib about a month ago and haven’t been able to do the CF wods, so all in all 335 with a broken rib is ok. Specific race programming is the one major void in the CFE world if you ask me. The only one I could find was from Nuno Costa at Forca Kai (THANKS!!).

  8. TinaMarie says:

    I'm glad Ben did this interview. This year six months away from my third Ironmam I found myself without the mental focus to complete the whole IM base-build-peak program. I was considering dropping. During that time I was doing CF at my local box and my coach there offered to train me under the CF endurance plan. I'm one month away from IM so I can't give you the results but I can tell you I feel stronger than ever. I still do a periodized training program but with different intensity, now I go up the same hills running or biking with less fatigue. I used to dread the weekends because of all the LSD training that took me away from my life. Now I dread the track work and bike hill repeats during the week but they do take less time to complete. I can say, I don't believe this training would work for someone without a couple IM's under their belt. Knowing how it feels to go that long, knowing what nutrition works for long distance racing and knowing you CAN complete the distance is HUGE. thanks Ben.

  9. In this podcast, I a question from a mom about her daughter (doing swim workouts twice a day) not getting enough protein.
    I mentioned a lot of alternatives but I don't believe I said anything about MAP ( http://www.bodyhealth.com/MAP/index.asp?ac=pacifi… ) The coach at Stanford Swim Team loves MAP for his swimmers as do a large number of the elite Army Ranger corp for all the reasons a high NNU (Net Nitrogen Utilization) protein would be good for people who over train. That girl should be taking 6 tablets twice a day and I am sure it would do her a lot of good.

    1. Gina Zader says:

      Thanks for all your advice. I've started implementing your suggestions and will add on MAP. I'll let you know how things go after her spring/summer seesion. Thanks again!

      Gina Zader

  10. Mike says:

    Don't forget he's trying to sell his program, and he's trying to sell it to average Joe who doesn't have the time or desire to do high volume. High volume (and Lydiard's methods) have been proven to work at the highest level time and time again.

    Miles make champions.

    1. True that. I personally don't know any pros doing Crossfit Endurance. It would be interesting to see though.

      1. Jennifer says:

        So – Ben, Do you recommend endurance athletes give CFE a try or use another type of program? I find it very difficult to pick a plan to follow as there are so many out there.

        1. It depends. If you have a very good endurance base you could CFE. I'm a bit biased, but I personally recommend http://www.triathlondominator.com or ANY of the plans at https://bengreenfieldfitness.com/tpplans

          1. Jennifer says:

            Thank you. I will check out the tp plans.

    2. Jon M. says:

      You're right, he is trying to "sell" it to average Joe who doesn't have the time or desire to do high volume. After a year and a half of following his protocol online for "free", I've cut my training time in half to 5-8 hours a week and have significantly cut my 1/2 ironman, full ironman, and ultrarunning times. I now have more time with my wife and to socialize with my friends and family. Because I have more time for other things I'm a happier person and still feel fitter and "stronger" than I've ever had. So count me as "sold" on CrossFit Endurance.

      I'm just an age grouper and know I don't have the genetic potential to be an elite athlete who can make a living just training and racing and doing nothing else. For you elites and pros, I agree that "miles make champions". For an average Joe like me, CrossFit has given me a renewed longevity in the sports I like participating in and not fear the burnout like a few friends of mine already have.

  11. @ArmiLegge says:

    I thought this was a great episode and I'm glad more people are getting wise about CrossFit and the value of intensity as a whole. I've been through pretty much every type of training, and the intenser variations have always produced the greatest results.

    People often forget about how humans are really supposed to function when they get so deeply involved in endurance sports. I'm as guilty as anyone, but I know this isn't the right way to train.

    I've always believed that the classic Lydiard style periodization and training philosophy was flawed, and after trying both have embraced a more nonlinear style with much more intensity.

    The hormonal effects of this kind of training are much better as well. It's better for your metabolism, mood, and general wellness. If I'm happy to train, I can do whatever intensity is necessary!

    To Raminta:
    You're 100% correct, and Brian said pretty much exactly that. there is always a place for some sport specificity, it's just over rated by most people. For someone just trying to finish an ironman and who has good mental toughness, it's probably not necessary to complete one of those super long rides/runs, but I don't think anyone should spend all this time and energy on training to just slog through it. I believe you're right Raminta, just don't overdo it;)

    1. KenZ says:

      Hi- somewhat agree, and somewhat disagree. Many people somehow think that Lydiard only prescribed LSD. Wrong. There was lots of high intensity in their too, but massive mileage as well. People fixate on the massive mileage, and fail to do the intensity.

      As noted by others here, CFE is a great way to be able to finish an event, and maybe even PR. But, and I'm not trying to be a snob here, a marathon isn't what I'd call an endurance event. If you're fast, you're done before you've even run out of stored glycogen! I like to think of endurance as going through, say, at least triple the time it takes to fully deplete your maximum stored glycogen. So that's something like 6-9 hours. You are NOT going to excel at 6-9 hours without doing some LSD. You need it.

      Sure, Brian ran 100 miles at Angeles Crest on CFE alone, but his time was horrendous for a fit, not fat, in shape male in his 30s. HORRENDOUS. A fit male in their 30s not carrying extra body fat, properly endurance trained, with NO SPECIAL RUNNING TALENT, should be completing AC100 at least _5 HOURS_ faster than Brian did. His AC result proved two things: 1. Using only CFE, you can complete one of the harder ultras in the US. And folks, that is amazing, and my hat is off to Brian for doing so. Respect. 2. CFE is a really really shitty way to exclusively train for an ultra.

      But Brian is right about several things (read his new book; it's really good): MOST ultra-athletes don't do the speed work they need to. They don't do the technique work they NEED to. They don't have the all around strength they need to stabilize their muscles and avoid injury. Lydiard would have had you do those things. CFit has you do those things. So instead of following the CFE plan, I'd say follow a mix of standard ultra endurance training (to get the mitochondria count up, learn to keep technique GOOD on tired legs, build quad and hammy fatigue resistance on 10+ mile downhills after running 20 miles, etc). Ensure that your standard ultra endurance training already includes hill sprints, cruise intervals, lots of strides, etc. Which it already should. Then supplement with CFit maybe 2-3x/week.

  12. feerlessfood says:


    Sorry if I heard this wrong, butI don't think you meant to say 4-4.5g of protein per pound of body weight for children? Did you mean the inverse- like about .5-.6 grams per pound?

    1. Holy schnikes! I gotta quit doing head math during my podcasts. You are indeed correct Chuck. I'll use a notice out to Twitter/Facebook too…should be closer to 0.6-1.4g protein per pound body weight.

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