Leonid Soubbotine

2011 CrossFit Games

Leonid Soubbotine: The Lion Chaser

The Russian-American Affiliate Owner Gets Ready for the Open

Even in a community known for taking fitness to the extreme, Leonid Soubbotine is an extremist. It is common for athletes to lower their carbohydrate intake and eliminate grains. Leonid takes this approach one step further and abstains from all carbohydrates, even fruit and vegetables. Many in the community are experimenting with minimalist shoes, but Leo often doesn't wear shoes at all when he runs.

Despite his unconventional approach, Leo has achieved some impressive results. He has completed Diane in 2:43, a very fast time, especially considering his size (6'3 and 191), which is a disadvantage on handstand push-ups. Leo's also got solid strength numbers (500 lb. deadlift, 270 lb. clean and jerk), metcons (2:43 Fran, 7:30 Helen, and 5:38 Jackie), and gymnastics (100m handstand walk in 2:54).

Both Leo's unusual methods and his exceptional results stem from his general approach to life. A philosopher would call him a strict empiricist; he does not evaluate ideas by the strength of their logic, but rather by the results he gets by trying them in his life. In his own words, he "loves experimenting." Not only does he benefit from what he learns, but he finds joy in the process itself of experimenting with the unknown.

One area in which Leo has experimented the most is nutrition. He spent 1.5 years weighing and measuring according to the Zone diet, but was not satisfied with his results. His next step was cutting out fruits. Soon, Leo was eating just 50 grams of carbs a day. Even at such a low level of carbohydrate intake, he continued to progress in his fitness. At that point, the idea occurred to him to experiment with taking that number down all the way. The results have been great; most of the stats listed above are recent improvements. 

Leo takes a similar contrarian approach throughout his life, including his meal frequency and work schedule. He normally only eats one meal a day, finding the lower body heat to be a plus in the humid Florida weather. As a business owner and CrossFit trainer, he only has to teach classes 17 hours a week, some of which he occasionally passes off to an assistant trainer. Despite his minimalist work schedule, Leo seems to be finding some success. His box, CrossFit Evolution is thriving, and the local competitions that Leo runs often sell out within several hours.

Whereas he had previously thought that his competitive CrossFit career had ended, Leo thinks that the new CrossFit Games Open format will fit perfectly into his carefully-crafted lifestyle. It's an opportunity for him to see how he compares with the rest of the world, without changing too much of his normal life.

Leo is planning to compete as an athlete, in addition to opt-ing in for his affiliate to validate workouts. The once a week schedule will allow him to add the Open workouts to his regular training schedule, without the tapering and recovery period inherent in multi-workout and multi-day competitions. Not to mention that he can perform all of the workouts at his home box, avoiding the hassle of travelling and booking hotel rooms involved in regular competitions. Leo's approaching the Open with the goal of having fun, but with his numbers you certainly can't count him out as a contender for Regionals and even the Games.

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26 comments on this entry

1. Logan Strickfaden wrote...

Wow, this dude's nuts! Way to go Man! Keep up your unique way of getting the Job done!

2. Elke wrote...

Way to go..."experimenting with the Unknown!!"...always good to see the human evolution in action by tinkering with virus of the minds implanted as "memes" in our human form.....grrrrowl - lion' face is priceless!! :)

3. Joe wrote...

I was at CF Evolution two weeks ago, and I can attest, Leo is a BEAST. I watched him do a few workouts, and every move was impressively unbroken at weights that would crumble most.

4. Mike wrote...

So, how do you get your nutrients? Vitamins? Fruits I can understand, especially since vitamin C is well absorbed from other sources, however, a lack of vegetables concerns me.

5. Kath@crossfitnorthatlanta.com wrote...

YEEAAA LEO!!!! ...And he can do some free-standing handstand pushups too.

6. Ron Murray wrote...

What do nutrients matter? I mean, look at Leo's #'s, his physique and his overall accomplishments. He's happy, he putting up quantifiable progress - eff it at this point.

I say just respect what it is and forget worrying from an outward perspective about someone else's nutrient intake or judge what clearly seems to work for them. Especially if we don't see any noticeable down-ticks in his performance or homeostasis.


7. Ron Murray wrote...

Got some backing to those claims mankind? or are you just an anonymous figure who likes to spout drivel and use fake handles?

I don't know the truth either way, but degrading someones work and character without substantial proof is lame - especially in this community.

8. Rob Crossfit Vero Beach wrote...

Mankind hope you have poof!! I think not Leo is the real deal

9. Cliff wrote...

Great article. Leonid is FLYING through that bear crawl. Who is the dude with the sword in the background?

10. Tej wrote...

Yes, not cool 'mankind'. There is a saying, if you don't have anything nice to say...come over to crossfit evo & show us what you've got

11. Marie R. wrote...

Yeah, experimenting with the "unkown" is great, until you get serious,y injured... High volume-high intensity metcons probably aren't the greatest idea without carbs. Seeing as that your brain absolutely requires glucose to function you could basically deplete yourself of glucose doing a WOD to the point where you're brain shuts down. Mat Lalonde has a bad expedience with this when he cut out all carbs (he talks about it on the Paleo Solution episode 68). He does not recommend CrossFit-esq training with NO carbs. Check it out yourself.

I don't know about you, but I would like to keep my brain functioning. People should do some research before just launching into things. It would suck to harm yourself or others. The last thing we need is someone dying in our community from their diet/training. Just gives more fuel to the people that think CF is dangerous.

That said, maybe Leo is not training with high volume-high intensity. But considering that he is attempting the open sectionals there is a good chance he is. Not to mention other people who are going to read this, think it is a great idea, and then blindly try it. I don't mind experimenting, but people should be aware of potential ramifications of their experiments. Do your research!

12. Scott Macaione wrote...

Leo is the most meticulous diligent athlete I have ever known. Everyday he focuses on his fitness and nutrition. There are not off days. The only "Vitamin S" I know of is "Superior Consistency". His workouts are planned to every detail. He attacks his weaknesses when most try to hide them. That is why he puts up the numbers he has.

13. Leo S wrote...

Thanks to all for the kind words!

Marie - it's easy.
To anyone who'd tell you to do what I do - you can use your functioning brain & tell him to GTFO! Your life - your choices. Same with everyone else.

I was asked what I do & how I do it - I answered.
I'm not pushing my opinion on anyone here,

And the other thing - it's rather hard to get a sub 3 Fran & sub 8 Helen with low intensity.

I'd love to do that without getting my heart rate up for sure!

14. Arthur Ashmond wrote...

This isn't an agenda piece is it? This is an athletes profile - good grief people.

I LOVE Robb Wolf and the Paleo Solution, but just because I listen to it and read various nutrition blogs PLUS have a bio-chem background myself does NOT mean that I know everything, nor does this mean that I should be motivated to give Leonid my $.02. If he drops dead during a workout, OK experiment failed, but that's on him.

Good luck Russian!

15. Marie R. wrote...

Let me clarify my main post: If Leo wants to do what he does great! And if it works for him great! But my concern is that people of all different backgrounds and knowledge will probably read this profile piece and many people may try to emulate it without knowledge of possible consequences. I realize this is a profile piece and I do find it very interesting, but there is glorification of the fact that Leo eats no carbs at all in the induction and that is primarily what concerns me.

Celebrate Leo's good WOD scores, celebrate Leo's decision to go to Sectionals, but I don't see it necessary to glorify an "extremist" approach with serious possible consequences especially since many people in the CrossFit community like to jump right into things full force (I am no saying this in a bad way because I can be like this, just pointing out that sometimes it can have own falls).

I agree that people ultimately should have the freedom to do as they see fit, however, some responsibility needs to be taken for possible consequences that may arise from other people trying stuff. For example, the reason there is now more awareness about rhabdo in the community is because there wasn't that awareness at the begging and low and behold people got very sick doing high volume GHD sit-ups without building up to it. In closing, my post was primarily meant to make people stop and think about this stuff before just jumping into it.

Leo, I never said your numbers are low intensity, I was commenting on the fact that I didn't want to assume that your were doing pure metcons. Many people do other forms of periodized training leading up to the Games and not everyone does all metcons all the time or high volume-high intensity all the time. That's all. I am very aware that a sub 3 minute fran is not low intensity.

I do wish you the best in your quest for the games, Leo. Perhaps I will have the chance to meet you along the way.

16. Leo S wrote...

Cliff - btw awesome comment! I almost spit my coffee yesterday when I read it. :)

Marie - yeah, we can chat then for sure!

So far this experiment panned out okay & I don't see any side effects. Possibly it's all due to very long time frames for adjustments - I've been coming off moderate (75-150g) carbs slowly not in a month or 2 but more like 6 months to a year to 50-100, then another several to sub 50. That's why I believe that all the metcons have kept improving & no ill side effect on performance has been noticeable. Again there's no real data on this stuff that I'm aware except for stuff like the Inuit study and the couple of dudes that went on all meat, but there hasn't been one that I could see on low term effects on athletic performance.

So in essence I am my own guinea pig poking around in the dark seeing what happens :)

And so far I have nothing to complain about.

Here's my rough training schedule (to save time, just copy/pasted from the email I sent with my info etc).

"Here's the breakdown:
Every day - mobility for 45-60 mins (extra 10-15 mins with lacrosse ball/foam roller after WoD's outside for some tanning that's made better by lacrosse ball!)
Every afternoon when I come to work I do 2 sets of 5-10 shoulder presses of linear rep progression to help out with my HSPU's. Generally it's 4-5 days a week. I've done HSPU work pretty much daily for the last year and a half non-stop. Being a tall dude I feel like it's a must.
Every day I warm-up with 2 sets of Double Unders of a certain progression too.

Also I love gymnastics & fool around with those quite a bit. Now at 6'3" it's possible for me to do walkovers, limbers, kip-ups and some more stuff.

Keep in mind - I'm a very slow & unathletic person from where I started. It takes me a very long time to grasp things & get good at them. However with enough diligence, consistency & smart programming it's not that hard... as long as you're willing to work for a couple of years or more. I am.

Olympic Lifting (1 lift), Sheiko (Modified to 1 lift a day only, not the whole thing), CFEvolution WoD

Tumbling 1 hr, WoD, Extra 20 DH pull-ups after WoD
(I tumble with a buddy of mine who's a cheer coach on Handstands, Round Offs, Tucks, Springs etc. Been doing that for about 18 months.)

Oly, Sheiko, WoD

Tumbling, WoD, Extra MU's

Oly, Sheiko, WoD

Oly, Sheiko, OHS & Hip Bridges.

Suckfest Sunday - generally a long grinding metcon a-la Painstorm (but I keep CNS fatigue in mind & try not to do sh*t like "Kalsu" that will bury me for a week).

CrossFit Evolution warm-ups are based on the Gymnastics/Oly/Strength progressions that I personally do (and advanced one is exactly what I do with different day breakdown) - hit me up on Facebook & I'll hook you up with it. Haven't had a chance yet to finish them with pics & stuff and send it to CFJ.""

17. Phil wrote...


Isn't it hard to poop? : )

18. Leo S wrote...

Haha, no - haven't had any issues at all. :)

I do miss ice cream though. Love Hagen Dazs!

19. Marie R. wrote...

Leo - thanks for sharing the details. Very interesting expirement. I kind of envy the fact that you don't have to eat veggies. Sometimes I have a hard time making myself eat some of the leafy greens. I'd miss fruit and tubbers though. I hope you eat alot of bacon (assuming that you like it) to make up for the fact that you don't get the joy of ice cream anymore.

20. Casey J wrote...

Leo - I'm assuming this means you've cut out nuts/seeds too?

Mankind - any proof before you spout off that sort of bulls***? Leo would be the last person I'd ever suspect of juicing, the dude puts in work!

21. Rob wrote...

Marie R., you need to re-examine your bio-chem books and look under alternate metabolic pathways - i.e., gluconeogenesis. The human body can biosynthesize glucose (glucagon) in the absence of carbs. Not trying to be an ass, but this is the same bull$hit propaganda that classically-trained nutritionists keep forcing down everyone's throats.

22. Leo S wrote...

Casey - yeah, I might have some on the weekend, but I generally cut them out. Otherwise I'll eat them til the whole can is gone.

Meat, bacon, fish oil & some hot sauce is the bulk of my food. Weekend might have some more variety - some cheese, lemonaise (real good with some hard boiled eggs) may be some veggies (carrots, celery etc with lemonaise), mixed nuts with shells on. Whatever I crave that isn't fruit or sugar - I have on the weekend if I want.

23. Dave wrote...


Marie's concerns were related to cutting carbs to zero for somebody who does high intensity training. We understand that most nutritionists don't understand what gluconeogenesis is etc...but Marie was addressing something specifically that Matt lalonde brought up in a recent podcast on Robb Wolf's site. In Matt's specific case, this experiment didn't work well (I'm pretty sure matt understands what gluconeogenesis means...not trying to be an ass) and actually stated "don't do this". Leo seems to have adapted well to this protocol having done it gradually over time etc, and leo is obviously very methodical and well thought out in everything he does. .... but everybody handles this stuff differently, and in Leo's defense, he's right "your life, your choices" . Even so, Marie's concerns are certainly worth noting.

24. jake wrote...

Love that you're humble enough add your comments to this posting! Thank you and I LOVED hearing your story! Very inspiring!

25. Craig wrote...

Tell you what. Leo has a smile on his face but I'd be pissing myself if I were the cameraman.

26. Dave wrote...

I am proud to say that I arranged for Leo to help me do our corporate wellness at our General Manager meeting in Orlando a few years ago. He and Monique and their team at CF Evolution were awesome, scaling things as much as possible while teaching the principles of funtional movements. They also taught a POSE running clinic that got great reviews.

Leo is a pro and a GREAT guy. Good story here!


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