“Eat meat and vegetables, nuts and seeds, some fruit, little starch and no sugar. Keep intake to levels that will support exercise but not body fat.” (CrossFit Journal, September 2002, “The Garage Gym”, “World Class Fitness in 100 Words”)
I’m sure you’ve all heard that nutrition is the foundation for performance. What we put into our bodies greatly affects how we look, feel, and perform, but most athletes make nutrition secondary in their training. You all come to Rx Fit consistently, ready to work, wanting to take it to the next level and hoping to set PRs, but if you are also consistently feeding your body junk, I’m sorry to break it to you, but that just isn’t going to happen. So what should we eat? I always recommend to keep it clean. Tons of veggies, lean protein, complex carbs to fuel workouts, and healthy fats. Stick to water, unsweet teas, black coffee, and absolutely no soft drinks or sodas. If you need a few more guidelines, here are a few ways of eating that we promote: Paleo, Primal, and the “Zone Diet.” (I personally pick from them all, and keep it as clean as possible.)
Paleo vs Primal vs Zone: You Choose!
We have compiled the information below about Paleo, Primal, and Zone. You can read, research, and decide for yourself what is best for you. This is my simplified attempt at a page of information for those interested in changing their eating habits. (Remember to fuel your body according to your goals). I am by no means an expert and have only just compiled information for you to view and study and decide what works best for you. Feel free to ask your coach for more information.
The paleo diet essentially allows lean meats, fish, veggies, some fruit, tree nuts (not peanuts) and seeds, little starch, and no sugar. This excludes… grains, legumes, white potatoes, dairy, and corn. Think about it this way… the things that are excluded are the food items that people are more often allergic to or just have issues digesting. White potatoes and corn just turn into sugar.
- The Beginner’s Guide to the Paleo Diet – http://www.nerdfitness.com/blog/2010/10/04/the-beginners-guide-to-the-paleo-diet/
- The Paleo Diet – http://thepaleodiet.com/
The primal plan allows foods like the paleo diet, but includes some dairy. Such as creams, butter, greek yogurts, and some cheese (but don’t go overboard).
- The Definitive Guide to the Primal Eating Plan – http://www.marksdailyapple.com/definitive-guide-to-the-primal-eating-plan/#axzz21dppwIBH
- Getting Started with Mark’s Daily Apple – http://www.marksdailyapple.com//welcome-to-marks-daily-apple/#axzz21dppwIBH
This plan is much more rigid. There is weighing and measuring and lots of planning to this one because each meal or snack is in blocks. You have to really lay your meals out ahead of time. This is great for a person who wants to really watch everything they eat and is organized. It does allow for some grains, but some people will choose to do a cross of paleo/zone. This would exclude the grains and only include for the paleo foods.
- Zone Diet Explained – http://crossfitimpulse.com/the-zone-diet-explained-edited
- Zone Diet Meal Plans – http://library.crossfit.com/free/pdf/cfjissue21_May04.pdf
A couple good resources about eating right –
- The last days of the low-fat diet – http://grist.org/scary-food/2011-03-04-low-fat-diet-fad/
- YouTube Video – Mind your Mitochondria http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KLjgBLwH3Wc
- YouTube Video – Nutrition Lecture Pt. 1- Avoiding Disease: https://youtu.be/5pHNz_M0UYg
- YouTube Video- Nutrition Lecture Pt. 2- Optimizing Performance: https://youtu.be/GKz6GfUGVlo
Intermittent Fasting (16:8)
There are several intermittent fasting protocols which are regularly used. The one we will focus on is known as the 16:8 protocol, also referred to as the ‘leangains’ method. This method of IF is most commonly used by those who are looking to build muscle with minimum fat accumulation, and in some cases for both muscle gain and fat loss.
The logistics behind the 16:8 protocol are very simple. You fast for a period of 16 hours a day, whilst fitting your calories into the remaining 8 hour window. The most popular means of doing this is to fast from 8pm one day, until 12pm the next.
Between these times, you eat as you normally would (Keep it clean, get in your MACROS). It isn’t restricted to these times either; you can schedule it appropriate to your routine. Most people, me included, find it easiest to fast overnight and then skip breakfast, having their first meal around lunchtime or early afternoon.
To understand how IF works, you need to be able to differentiate between a ‘fed’ state and a ‘fasted’ state.
Typically, your body is in a fed state when it is digesting and then absorbing any food you have eaten. This usually lasts several hours, and during this time it is very difficult for you body to burn fat, since insulin levels are particularly high.
After this fed state, your body will go into a phase called the post-absorptive state, which means that your body isn’t digesting and processing any food. This lasts around 12 hours after your last meal. It is after this time that your body enters a fasted state.
It is rare that we would normally enter a fasted state, as we would typically eat after waking in the morning, having breakfast, and as the name suggests, we are breaking the fast.
When insulin levels are very low during this state, your body finds it much easier to burn fat. These is one of the main reasons people try intermittent fasting, and see results without making any changes to their diet.
Furthermore, when you fast, your body uses energy from its glycogen stores for energy. As a result, when you do eat, any excess with be stored back as glycogen, rather than in fat cells.
So, what are the benefits……
? Increased fat loss
IF can help you to get exceptionally lean, and shift stubborn fat once you already have a fairly low body fat percentage, in the low to mid-teens. Those with a higher body fat percentage will also see more significant weight loss whilst following IF, and often will see results after only a short period of committing to the protocol.
? Less cravings
In addition to the increase rate of fat loss, IF prevents you from craving unhealthy food. It teaches you when you are physically hungry, and when you just fancy something to eat. It acts as a hunger suppressant, and you will find that you will be more satisfied following a meal.
? Improved insulin response
After fasting for the 16 hour period, when you do eventually break the fast, you will be more sensitive to insulin, and therefore your insulin levels will be more stable and fluctuate less. It also means improved rate of protein synthesis, since insulin is a powerful hormone for controlling the rate of it. The improved insulin response contributes to the fact you will have less cravings and appreciate your food more.
? Improved cognitive function
One of my main worries before trying IF was that I would be tired and sluggish in the morning. I found that in fact when in a fasted state, I felt better and performed better. Since blood is not being pumped to your digestive system, as it normally would after a meal, more oxygen is sent to other parts of your body e.g. muscles during a workout or your brain. I found I can focus more easily on tasks in the morning, that I am more alert and have a more positive outlook on life.
? Improved overall health
Studies have shown that IF can lead to a longer life, and also reduce the risk of cancer. It helps to cleanse your body and give your internal organs a break.
So, what can I consume…..
Typically, during a fast you should consume 0 calories. However, there are some things you can consume to help you through the fast. Most people follow the rule that as long as what you consume is less than 30 calories, you do not break the fast.
It is safer to just stick to the things in this list to ensure that you get the best out of IF:
It is crucial that you consume lots and lots of water during a fast!
Most of the time when we believe we are hungry we are actually just thirsty. Drinking water will supress your hunger until you are able to break the fast.
Try adding lemon/cinnamon to suppress hunger further!
? Gum (sugar free)
Many people like to chew on gum during a fast, because they need something in their mouth. It can be good when starting off IF, however it gets your digestive system ready for food, and can lead to you feeling physically hungry.
Furthermore, studies have shown the sweeteners used in gum are turned into calories in your stomach, so you could actually break your fast.
? Coffee/tea (black)
This is your wildcard when fasting. Most people like to start the day with a cup of coffee, me included.
A cup of black coffee in the morning has been shown to increase the fat burning potential of IF, and also stops you from feeling hungry right after waking up.
Other hot beverages such as green tea are acceptable; just make sure you aren’t adding any sugar or milk.
As competitors, athletes are always looking for ways to take their performance to the next level and get on top. Athletes can get all the nutrients they need from good old natural, wholesome food. Many athletes turn to supplements, however, because they believe it is a better way to optimize their health and performance. It is important to note that no “super pill” is going to compensate for a bad diet. Supplements are meant to do exactly what their name states, supplement your regular food intake, not replace it. Take your diet as seriously as you take your training and you will see improvements in not only your performance but also how you look and feel. IF you feel a need to supplement your diet Creatine, Beta-Alanine, Glutamine, Whey Protein, and BCAA’s (branched chain amino acids) are the most studied, safest and most effective workout related supplements available; Omega 3fatty acids, most commonly attained from fish oil, is a highly effective natural anti-inflammatory, that we encourage our members to take as well.
What you put into your body greatly affects your performance. If you eat crap, you will perform like crap. But if you eat the right foods at the right time, you have a much better chance of taking it to the next level and setting some PRs. We all know that if the gas tank in your car were low you wouldn’t get very far and if it was empty you wouldn’t get anywhere at all. Well the same concept applies here. Several studies have shown that athletes who ate prior to participating in a high intensity workout were able to last longer and perform better than those who trained on an empty stomach.
So what should you eat before performing the WOD and how soon before? This is something that varies from athlete to athlete. Several factors should be taken into account such as when you will be training as well as the intensity and duration of the training session. The less time you allow before a workout, the smaller your pre-workout meal or snack will be. It is important to allow for adequate time to digest food. A general rule of thumb is to allow 3-4 hours for a large meal (600-900 calories) to digest, 2-3 hours for a smaller meal (400-600 calories) and 1-2 hours for a snack (200-300 calories), depending on your tolerance.
Your pre-workout meal or snack should predominately consist of carbohydrates with some protein because carbohydrates empty from the stomach quickly and become readily available to be used by the muscles. Fat takes longer to digest so a meal high in fat could cause GI upset during training. Muscle stores of glycogen, which is the storage form of carbohydrates in the body, are absolutely essential in performing endurance exercise at high intensity for any extended period. With our training program, we are constantly working our bodies at this level so it is imperative that you fuel and replenish your glycogen stores appropriately so you can perform well at this level on a daily basis.
Properly fueling your body after your workouts is just as important as properly fueling before your workouts. During a strenuous workout, such as those we do almost every day, your body’s glycogen stores get significantly used up. It is important to properly replenish them to help you to recover from these intense workouts and set you up with the energy you’ll need for your next session. Your pre-workout meal will give you an energy boost but it does not replenish your glycogen stores. It’s your post-workout meal that really restores your energy tank but only when the right foods are consumed at the right time.
In order to fully replenish your glycogen stores you should consume moderate to high glycemic load carbohydrates within 30-45 minutes immediately after your workout. This is the only time that your body is most receptive to macronutrient uptake. It has been shown that the rebuilding of your muscle’s glycogen stores is 2-3 times faster immediately after exercise as it is a few hours later. Delaying carbohydrate intake for too long after your workout will reduce muscle glycogen re-synthesis and minimize your ability to restore your energy tank to its full capacity potentially leaving you more sore, and fatigued than usual. Just by eating at the right time you can completely avoid this problem.
Most people usually aren’t very hungry immediately after engaging in intense exercise and find it easier to drink their carbohydrates rather than eat them. Others may be able to consume easy-to-eat carbohydrate rich foods such as raisins, bananas, oranges, melon or apple slices. Some may however be able to tolerate a mini-meal. This is something you will have to experiment with to figure out what works best for you.