Crossfit has put up their hierarchy of fitness. At the very top is the sport of Crossfit, but the most important base is nutrition. This is one that many people ignore. As the saying goes "you can't out train a bad diet". People will sometimes use Rich Froning as an example, stating that he trains 6 times a day and eats milk and peanut butter and still is the best is in the sport. He is the best in the sport, despite or this, not because of it.
I am not going to go into a big argument which way of eating is best. There are many popular ones now, Raw, Paleo, Mountain, Intermitted Fasting, etc. If we truly knew the right answer everyone would be lean and have amazing performance. I am going to follow some age old adages which have not changed over the years. These were advocated by "the grandfather of fitness" Jack Lalanne. I have followed these recently and they are simple enough and performance is up, body fat is down.
- Eat lots of vegetables, preferably raw
- Limit fruit intake to a few pieces per day
- Try to have as many colour combinations that you can have of fruits and veggies
- Eggs, and Fish should be free range or wild
- He advocated no meat, but if you are going to eat meat, make sure its grass fed,
- No sweeteners artificial or natural (no honey, maple syrup, stevia, aspartame, etc)
- No Dairy (butter, cheese, milk)
- No legumes (cashews, peanuts, beans, peas)
- No gluten (all wheat based products)
- No grains (rice is OK)
These are simple enough principles. These put food quality above all else. There are reasons why we avoid certain food. The research isn't conclusive, but it weighs heavy towards the reasons for avoiding it. You can spend all afternoon google researching it. Try not to eat anything from a package, unless it is a health food. Even then, be weary, as companies have gotten wise to what makes things sell. I have seen "Gluten Free" written on bags of jujubes, white colour has been associated with lower calorie foods, throw the words natural on it and everything starts to look healthier. Take the time to educate yourself. Read the label. Understand the nutritional information, and pay attention to the serving size. Then read the ingredient list. If you can't pronounce it, you probably shouldn't' be eating it.
If you look at the nutritional label to the left, it is for Kraft Dinner. A great piece of americana. If you pay attention it actually states that there are 3 servings per box, personally I have never gotten 3 servings per box, and I would remember in college eating more than 1 box at a time on occasion.
The first step is get good food quality. Once we have that down, the next step is going to have to do with portions. This is where the ever popular Zone diet that crossfit advocates comes in. In simplest terms, zone diet is a ratio of carbs, protein, and fat, that has been shown to produce good results in both performance and body composition. There are plenty of great articles written about zone, I will summarize it quickly.
The Zone diet consists of 40% of calories from carbs, 30% from protein, and 30% from fat. For measuring purposed each food is divided into blocks. The value of a block varies for each food. 1 block of carbs is 9 grams of crabs. 1 block of protein is 7 grams of protein, and 1 block of far is 1.5 grams of fat. There are many spreadsheets that will calculate these out for you pretty easily. The best one I have used is this one. You type in your meal size and it will show you all the serving sizes. There are also many great website online for zone meals. The first week of measuring food is a hassle, but makes you pay attention to serving size, and after a week or so you get to know your portions.
A little trick that helped me, is as you are making meal combinations, for example a 4 block of carbs consisting of rice and some potatoes. Write down the combination so that you can pull it up in the future and not have to remeasure.
There are complicated formulas for determining your optimal block intake, but we will stick with the basic. Go with your shirt size. So if you are a female who wears a small shirt, you would eat 10 blocks per day. The distribution of the blocks is not that important, but if you space it out throughout the day, many people find their hunger more satiated.
Speaking of hunger. I won't lie, for most people, the first several weeks they feel ravenous. Any major diet change is hard, make sure you are drinking lots of water and make good food choices for ones that are more filling.
Many of us track out workouts, personally I have every workout journalled since I was in my late teens, but that has always been my way. We measure our gains in performance, our gains or losses on the scales, so why not also put some emphasis on weighing food? It makes you more aware and accountable for your intake.
I have checked out several websites and apps. The one that I have found to work very well, and is 100% free is MyFitnessPal. It has a great social part and you can openly share your diet logs with people (if you want), it also has a great food database, and easy to customize meals and food from within. My username on it is CrossfitEverett add me as part of your social circle and my log can be found at diet.crossfitbytown.com. Yes my food is repetitive, but I don't like change and it works just fine.
For our members there is also a feature in Wodify that you can input your diet info and flag it for review from a coach. This works, but it is not as effective as MyFitnessPal as it won't track the food serving sizes unless you manually write it in.
Remember that most of us have a hard time differentiating between hunger and thirst. Aim for your bodyweight in kilograms (we supposed to be using that measurement in Canada anyway) in ounces of water. So i you are a 200 pound man, you should be drinking 90 ounces of water per day.
Now that we have the important parts of healthy eating, we need to implement them. Many people start the new year with these drastic changes and strict resolutions. Not surprisingly, most fail very quickly. I recommend starting with the basics and making one change per month until it becomes a regular habit, then implementing the next step. This way it is a more gradual change. It also helps if you have someone at home or on social media that can help you out.
If you are properly recording your diet and training you will be able to see the differences. This means it is measurable, observable, and repeatable, which Crossfit is all about. I personally record everything about my diet, training, and recovery, but that is for another blog post.
Yours in fitness