10 Plus CrossFit Nutrition 101
The most frequent question or concern I hear in the box from new people and from some of the old timers is “what do I need to eat?”. I have promised that at some point in the future I would do a class to address this question. Today I am going to give you a quick summary of some of the things I will cover in that class.
First things first. When I talk about nutrition I am not talking about a diet. Diets typically suck and have very short term impacts that devastate your social life. Now you might say yeah but I lost 30 pounds on a diet. And most likely you gained it all back or more and hated every minute of the diet. No, I am talking about a lifestyle change. Now before that scares you off keep reading and I will explain what I mean and why it is important. Diets typically do not work as they are based on restriction rather than adjustment and often times establish a binge and purge relationship between the athlete and their fuel source.
I am going to make the assumption that most people reading this blog are interested in improving their fitness level. So as an athlete we have to ask the fundamental question “What is the purpose of food?”. Food serves one purpose and one purpose only and that is to fuel the machine (body). It has no other purpose. We put gas in the car to make it go. If we put something other than gas in the car it will not run or at least not run as well. Sugar in the fuel tank is not only analogous but also appropriate for this discussion. Our bodies respond the exact same way the car does. If we put things into our body that are not optimal for it to run it will not run, or at least not as well. When you are trying to shave 10 seconds off of your Fran time this becomes very important.
There are four different plans I like to introduce people to I have found to be very beneficial. It is seldom I find someone who is a total nonresponder when they commit to and implement one of these plans. Understand out the gate that some of what I am going to cover in the following discussion is controversial in the nutrition community. You have to take a deep breath and bear with me. I will not lead you astray.
The first is nutrition plan is Primal.
Many people not familiar with this nutrition plan might refer to it as a carbohydrate deficit plan. While there is a natural reduction in carbohydrate intake on the plan this is not the real focus. The premise behind this plan is to try and identify the characteristics of what a Paleolithic person might have consumed during their day, week, month and year. The assumption being these individuals were able to thrive without disease and to perform heroically on what we would consider very lean diets. One of the first things researchers found was a direct correlation between processed foods and the development of cardiovascular diseases, metabolic diseases, cancer, and inflammatory diseases. This means no processed or minimally processed foods. So if it come in a jar, box or can it is probably out! Another way to look at it is if you can pluck it, pick it, or kill it, than it is probably in. To me that is pretty simple. Other real simple rules to follow are no grains or legumes. In general terms think of beans and peanuts. Before you get all excited, sorry milk is a highly processed item so it is basically out as well. I know what is going through your head right now because it went through mine. What the heck am I going to eat then there is nothing left? There are a ton of things left on the table. In a hierarchy of needs think of it like this. Meats, vegetables, and limited fruits, nuts and seeds. If you are more of a percentages type of person think of it in terms of 50% or more healthy fats, proteins and little carbohydrates. The carbohydrates should be other than sugar including fruit because sugar is sugar is sugar it does not matter if it is “good sugar”. Particularly in the early stages the elimination of all sugar is going to be a huge help. While there is a lot of information on the web on Primal the sole best source of information is http://www.marksdailyapple.com/#axzz2MyypvwL1. I encourage you to do some of your own research but, this is my go to authority on all things Primal.
Next in line we have Paleo.
Paleo and Primal are like kissing cousins. Yup, they are that close. The huge difference between the two plans boils down to the inclusion of dairy. Strict Paleo is a no dairy plan. The assumption is Paleolithic man did not have domestic animals thus would not have drunk milk or any of its derivative products. So if you can do Paleo you can most likely do Primal just add milk in moderation.
The next nutrition plan we will talk about is the Warrior Diet. This brain child is the work of Ori Hofmekler. You can check out his website at http://www.warriordiet.com. The plan is devised around an analysis of how warriors from the Greek and Roman culture might have eaten. These cultures are renowned for their strength in battle. The movie 300 was based upon a directors vision of this strength. In a nut shell there is an under eating phase which lasts approximately 20 hours and an overeating phase which lasts the other 4 hours. Notice I did not say starving phase. For most people this equates to approximately 600 calories of fruits and raw veggies during the under eating phase. You do not actually count calories on this plan but it gives most people a jumping off point. The next logical question is “how much do I eat in the over eating phase?”. Really you don’t worry about it too much. After you have been on the diet a while you will find it self regulates. You eat to satiety and not to some arbitrary number. It is a little more complicated than this but I will let you do the research or ask questions.
The last but not least nutrition plan is calorie counting.
Calorie counting is a traditional way of monitoring you daily intake of calories. My most favorite tool for doing this is MyFitnessPal. This app has android, Apple and a web interfaces so it is very friendly to use. Last time I used it there were over 1.6 million items in it. You can also build recipes if you like to cook and that sort of thing.
The first thing you have to determine when calorie counting is your Basal Metabolic Rate. One I use frequently is here http://www.bmi-calculator.net/bmr-calculator/. This will tell you the base amount of calories required to keep you alive on a daily basis. This is not a number that is negotiable. People get caught up all the time in calorie restrictive diets that don’t meet their basic needs. This causes a slow down in their metabolism so their body basically gets mad at them and retaliates in various ways. After you have determined you BMR on average you can add about 500-700 calories to it for normal daily activities. If you are looking to shed some weight you simply pick the lower number. The next question is what percentage of calories need to come from what macro nutrient category? This is where the magic happens with calorie counting. The breakout is 55% carbohydrates, 30% fats, and 15% proteins. This applies regardless if you are trying to loose weight or gain mass. Once you enter the world of calorie counting you open a whole new set of rules. Excess protein means nothing when you are counting calories except that you ingested more calories. It serves no other purpose it just means you can’t eat the apple you wanted or the piece of cake. A common pitfall in calorie counting is the belief that you need to factor in your workouts. For 99% of the people this is not a factor. Particularly if you are trying to shed some pounds. Throughout the day the average person is going to miscount on the low side their caloric intake. So there is plenty extra to burn! When you start to figure in your workouts it is normally a down hill road and results are few and far between.
I know this is a lot of information and you are probably bored out of your mind. You may not have even made it this far. There are only a couple of things left to talk about.
When establishing a nutrition plan for yourself the first rule to remember is that you are embarking on a life style change. This means what ever you select has to be sustainable for you over the long haul. If you have a food that you know you have to have in your life than you had best pick a plan that lets you have it. Soda and alcoholic beverages are not a food (fuel). Sorry. If you don’t you will not stick with the plan. You will constantly be plagued by cheat days and relapses.
Second, regardless of the plan the food (fuel) ingested needs to be clean! Yes on the Paleo plan all your chocolate chip cookies can be Paleo but if that is all you eat that day you are not Paleo. While not all economic situations allow it, organic, free range, cage free, whatever the term is, will be the best choice. There are a ton of affordable options out there though for those who are not independently wealthy.
Third, use the 80/20 rule. Not as a first choice but as a second. This means that 80% of the time you need to be dead on target. The 20% is for accidental lapses and special events. Even then it is not a blow out event it is still just 20%.
Fourth, work hard, get results, and have fun with it. No fun, no results = won’t last long. Get some friends to help you out and be accountable for your actions. Find a CrossFit buddy to work with. It will make it a lot easier.
Fifth, don’t get lost in the sauce. Every day there is some new miracle product or must have nutrient on CNN, FOX News, Dr Oz or whatever. There are also the purists. Much like the plague they will sap you of your will to live and make you feel inadequate. If you can’t afford free range beef than eat regular beef. So you have a closet of tuna that is not quite Paleo enough. So what, finish it or give it to your local homeless shelter or church food bank. Don’t get wrapped around the axle about what you can’t do focus on what you can.
I know this is not all inclusive of everything that is out there. We have an obesity problem in the US that tops out at about 63% of the population and everyone is trying to make a buck on the problem. There is no one solution for everyone and I have tried a lot of things. Find something that works for you and do it consistantly.
If you have questions or comments please post them on our Facebook page (10 Plus CrossFit) or talk to me either before or after class. If it is not something you want public email me firstname.lastname@example.org.
I hope this helps some one out a little bit on their fitness journey.
See you in the box.