“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”)
Nutrition is the foundation to health, fitness, and performance. In fact, nutrition is the base of the pyramid Crossfit founder Greg Glassman created, with met-cons, gymnastics, weight lifting and sport all being supported by it.
What we put into our bodies greatly affects how we look, feel, and perform, but many athletes do not make nutrition a priority in their lives and training. If we exercise and work hard at the gym, but we feed our bodies junk, then achieving our goals is going to be much more difficult. So what should we eat?
Whole Food Real Food
We believe that in order to achieve true long term success in eating one must break the notions of following a "diet" or choosing the "right" foods for you. These thought processes are negative concepts when thinking about food. Too many times we are looking for the quick fix, the the fast track, but there is not one. Whether or not we want to admit it, there is no fast track or miracle cure to weight loss and healthy eating.
What we want every member to know and to understand that the best and most logical place to start with nutrition is understanding the "whole food real food" approach. If we all chose whole foods and real foods as the foundation of our diets, we would all be much better for it. What are whole foods and real foods? Think about the steps that it takes to get food to your plate or the ingredient list of foods you eat. The shorter the steps to the plate and the smaller the ingredient list, typically the better the food choice. There are exceptions to this rule, but as a general method of thinking about food - it works. Lower amounts of processed foods and sugary foods are key, and higher levels of whole unprocessed proteins, carbohydrates, and fats are ideal.
Non-Whole Real Foods
Proteins - Hot dogs, processed meats, chicken fingers, etc.
Carbohydrates - Breakfast cereals, fruit juices, beer, cookies, baking, etc.
Fats - margarine, hydrogenated oils, chips, deep fried foods, etc.
Whole Real Foods
Proteins - Steak, chicken, pork, bison, shellfish, seafood, turkey, eggs, goose, duck, elk, deer, organ meats, etc.
Carbohydrates - Sweet potato, potato, legumes, oats, rice, quinoa, leafy greens, all fruits, etc.
Fats - coconut oil, olive oil, avocados, nuts, butter, etc.
Not all foods fit this simplified chart above, as all food choices are on a continuum of good to bad or raw/natural to highly processed. Most people have a very god understanding of whats good and whats bad, but its important to understand that no food is pure evil and no food is a miracle food. All foods exist on a continuum of acceptable to less desirable - start choosing the more desirable foods for a better you - a you that looks, feels, and performs better.
Portioning Whole REAL Foods
The next step in understanding good nutrition is portioning meals to fit the whole real food approach. One of the best methods of explaining this is from Precision Nutritions notes on meal creation. Below are two images - one is an anytime meal and the other is a post workout meal.
Anytime Meals - these are created with a palm sized protein choice (typically a choice of meat), a small portion of fat (size of thumb) and unlimited green leafy vegetables.
Post Workout Meals - These are different than the anytime meals in that protein servings are larger and the addition of starch is added to the meal to help address exercise glycogen loss.
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 fashioned whole real food. Supplements, however, can be a great way to amp up performance along with a sound diet. 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. If you 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 there are a few strong research based choices that will aid all athletes no matter the level - these choices are the safest and most effective choices;
Creatine - Improves strength, lean muscle mass, and helps muscles recover quickly during exercise. This is especially important in short bouts of high intensity activities such as lifting and sprinting.
HMB - Is one of the most researched supplement ingredients proven to improve exercise performance by supporting muscle cell repair and adaptation. HMB can decrease muscle damage and soreness, increase recovery time, and decrease body fat among many other things.
Whey Protein - Helps increase total protein ingestion, maintains muscle mass and positive nitrogen balance. Whey proteins are best used post workout.
BCAA’s (branched chain amino acids) - Typically used during workouts to decrease perceived rate of exertion, improved muscular development with training and decreasing muscle soreness and fatigue post workout.
Omega 3fatty acids - most commonly attained from fish oil, is a highly effective natural anti-inflammatory.
Vitamin D - we live in Saskatchewan and spend much f our time indoors - we do not get enough Vitamin D and it is involved in every metabolic function int he body. This makes for a fantastic health supplement.
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. 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? 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 2-3 hours for a large meal (600-900 calories) to digest, 1-2 hours for a smaller meal (400-600 calories) and 0.5-1 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. As Crossfitters, 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.
Good examples of pre-workout meals might be;
- apple and turkey breast
- rice and beef
- yams+ apple sauce with chicken
Properly fuelling your body after your workouts is just as important as properly fuelling 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 20-30 minutes immediately after your workout. This is the time when 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. Good choices might be;
- Whey protein powder and a banana
- Mashed yams and apple sauce with chicken or protein powder
- Dried fruit with a protein source
**Possibilities are endless for good food choices pre and post workout, but find foods you enjoy and that are convenient to for you.
Our basic nutritional philosophy will take you a long way with regard to achieving your goals whether they be weight loss, muscle gain, or performance, but in the end it might still be necessary or helpful to talk with a nutritional professional as well. We offer multiple nutritional consultants to help you with any issue you are having. Sometimes a coach is better for accountability reasons and most often than not they can help you with speeding up the process of learning and adherence to your new plan. For more information on consultation pricing, times, etc. please head over to the Synergy Sports Therapy's Nutrition information page HERE.