This blog is purely educational in nature. I would never tell someone they have to eat in a manner that I find fitting. If someone wants my opinion on how to best optimize health and performance, then I will be more than happy to provide it. If you are satisfied with you current diet, then surf back to the workout blog, select a workout and dive into it. If you are interested in learning about how the top tier CrossFit Athletes eat, how they treat food as a fuel and their bodies as machines, keep reading.
CrossFit is about balance. We intentionally choose not to specialize because life and nature will often punish the specialist. We strive to balance our physical capacities, creating a fitness that is broad, general, and inclusive. We push ourselves in the gym, finding the thresholds of our limits, often pushing through them to achieve an even greater level of fitness and preparedness. I hate to say it, but that’s the easy part. We work out fast and furious once a day, and we are provided the opportunity to make "poor" nutritional choices multiple times each day. Personally, when I am well rested with time on my hands, making the "good" nutritional choices are easy. When I am in a crunch for time, tired, or a little cranky (that never actually happens), the less than "optimal" food choices start to look pretty appealing. Once I make that crossover from a "good" nutritional source to a "poor" nutritional source, it’s hard to stop the landslide. If one cookie is good, ten must be better right? I have a sneaking suspicion that I am not alone in this battle.
There is no side effect to good nutritional choices, only side benefit. If your main concern is optimizing performance, your side benefit will be an increase in almost every measurable marker of your health. If you main concern is optimizing your health, you are going to be consistently surprised with your physical and performance gains. There is no side effect, only side benefit!!
Over the next few weeks we will be posting and discussing issues that apply to Nutrition. In the left hand column of this blog is "Glossary of Nutritional Definitions". Many of those terms will be the topic of the post, and how they apply to making good nutritional choices. Above the "Glossary of Nutritional Definitions" are the links to CrossFit Journal’s 15 and 21. These journals explain why we recommend the "Zone" diet, and are an easy reference for those looking to get started.
The Zone is a perfect compliment to the CrossFit program, at it’s core it’s about balance. This time the balance we are talking about is the Macro-nutrients that make up the food we eat. Specifically, we are talking about Fat, Protein, and Carbohydrates. The best CrossFit athletes are structuring their meals to provide 40% of their calories from Carbohydrate, 30% from Protein, and 30% from Fat. They do this at every meal. Do they ever deviate (read cheat)? I have no doubt that they do, but I would be wiling to bet they stop themselves long before the ten cookie mark.
They eat this way because it provides their body with a solid and consistent state of energy. They are not having rapid fluctuations in blood sugar, which aside from the volumes of medical research pointing directly at that fluctuation as the cause of many metabolic symptoms, it is commonly associated with eating like a pig.
The first question is always "How do I get started"? The answer is simple, but difficult at the same time. The first step is to determine the status of your current diet. How much, and of what are you currently eating? This means that you are going to need to create a food log. To accurately determine your daily intake, you are going to need to write down everything that goes into your mouth for at least one week. This includes beverages as well, I don’t care if it’s a diet soda or a leaded soda, it needs to be logged. Coffee as well. With one week of solid information, you will have an accurate assessment of your current nutritional intake.
Depending on your goals, where you go from there is up to you. If you are interested in purely optimizing your health, we will start to focus on the quality of the foods you are eating. The primary focus will be to reduce the amount of sugar consumed per
day. The average American man, woman, and child is eating in the
neighborhood of 150 pounds of sugar per year. That breaks down to
nearly a 1/2 pound per day. The next time you are in the grocery store
look at the two pound bag of baking sugar, that is your average
American’s four day intake. The more you can remove processed or simple carbohydrates from your diet, and replace them with naturally occurring food (read fruits and vegetables) and complex carbohydrates, the more control you will start to have on your blood sugar. Selecting high quality protein and fat sources along with high quality carbohydrates is going to optimize the way your body functions.
For those who have their Macro-nutrient ratio in line, and wish to use their diet as a tool to optimize performance, quantity will become a critical issue. You need to be eating high quality foods, in a quantity that is enough to fuel activity and lean muscle mass, but not be stored as fat. There is no blanket prescription that works for everyone, the exact quantity is going to vary from person to person. There is a mathematical formula that can be used to get you in the ballpark, but trial and error, listening to your body, and keeping accurate measures are the only tools to take you the rest of the way. Before any of this, the Macro-nutrient ratio MUST be in line.