Archives for January 2010
In October 2009 I was introduced to CrossFit and the Paleo diet. Not knowing full well what it was all about, I started to read into the websites and asking questions. I found that CrossFit is an exercise regimen that by-passes the usual gym atmosphere, it enhances and encourages everyone to improve on body mechanics with proper weight and strengthening exercises and proper weight increments. CrossFit also simulates daily situations one might find themselves in and teaches you proper form to prevent injury. A life skill I've come to learn. The Paleo diet consisted of eating foods that were hunted and gathered during the Paleolithic Era. I thought that was simple enough. Fresh foods with little or no shelf life, lean meats and nuts. I, of course, wanted to keep dairy in my diet. It seemed like the only way to keep sane, so not completely Paleo, but a start. It also consisted of eating a protein, a car, and a fat – a "good" fat-with each meal. I also looked into cutting out fast sugars such as soda, candy, cakes, and energy drinks, which I was notorious for drinking.
At this point I had a lot of learning to do and I admit I was skeptical about the whole thing. For years I thought I was doing what was best for myself and my family. I had made changes in our way of cooking, like using olive oil instead of vegetable oil, eating more vegetables, choosing leaner meats, and exercising. Well, I was in for a big surprise. After changing our way of cooking, I, of course, tried Lean Cuisines (with no success) and Weight Watchers (with little success), and did what I felt was good exercise. Yet, I felt frustrated and amazingly hungry all the time, which made it easy for me to fall back into my "norm", gaining all of which I had lost and then some.
In November 2009, I decided to give the Paleo diet a try and started working towards joining CrossFit. The first 2 weeks were tough to get through with a transition from fast and high calorie meals to fresh, simple but filling meals with no grains and no fast sugars in my diet. The next 2 weeks were simpler than I thought. It was just getting used to eating 5 times a day. Next came the holidays. I was quite proud of myself. I managed to get through the holidays only splurging on 1 cup of stuffing and 1/2 cup of mashed potatoes. With a recommendation from one of the trainers I was working with, I had given myself 1 day a week to cheat on my diet, but only used 3 cheat days in the 2 months. I was feeling great and didn't need nor crave much of how I was eating before.
In December 2009, I started cutting out starches and just before Christmas I completed my training sessions to join CrossFit. Three weeks ago, I took another step towards my eating habits and I started eating by Zone principals. Zone eating basically took the foods I was eating and broke it down into measurements with a block measuring program sort of like Weight Watchers but easier to follow. I weighted the food I was consuming and kept track of my meals for 2 weeks. I am still eating Paleo with dairy, still cutting out grains, fast sugars and starches, and converted to Zone eating principals. I dont' feel I'm sacrificing what I thought to be good food. I've just changed how I look at food – sort of a whole new meaning to "food for thought".
I have since then lost 14.6 lbs., I've gone down 2 pant sizes, I've lost 4 inches on my waist, 1 inch on my arms, 2 inches on my thighs, and no longer have migraines. I am sleeping better than I have in years, and my back pain due to a herniated disc has been at it's lowest. I am feeling great. I couldn't have come to this far in 2 months and 8 days without the help and encouragement from my husband Shawn, Cullen and Lisa with CrossFit, and all the other CrossFit trainers.
Thank you for a life learning experience. I am a CrossFitter for life.
Melody Ross/Flagstaff, AZ
This was written by Eric O'Conner, Chris Spealer's partner at CrossFit Park City, but hear these words with my voice in your head…I concur.
There have been some questions in the gym lately about what
the best way to eat is and what foods are good. I always hesitate to write
about nutrition because it can be so controversial. There are many theories,
books, and info on nutrition which would require a lot of boring info to talk
about, so in this little write up I’m just going to talk about the basics of a
solid nutrition program and how to get on the right track, without getting into
too much of the boring science. Some of this info you may know and some of it
you may not know. Hopefully, you’ll be able to find this helpful in some way.
We will start by talking about macronutrients, then move on to talking about
the importance of food quality and quantities, before finishing with some
practical ways to eat healthy.
1) First, let’s talk about the 3 basic macronutrients:
protein, carbohydrate, and fat.
Protein: Functions- Helps to repair
and maintain your body systems (not just your muscular system) and is also the
building blocks of muscle. It also releases the hormone glucagon which is used
to counter the insulin response from carbs and can help your body use stored
fat as energy.
Animal source that has been eating what it was born to eat (free range meat,
organic) including chicken, fish, turkey, beef, bison, elk, eggs, etc.
OK Choice: Animal
source that has not been eating what it was created to eat (grain/corn fed).
Also: quality protein powders,
cheeses, deli-meats (try to get nitrate free)
Not the Greatest
idea: Soy and other vegetarian protein sources. Here’s a small article on some
of the downfalls of soy:
Carbohydrates: This is probably the most overused
macronutrient in the U.S. because the government tells us to eat large
quantities of processed foods that contain carbohydrates, and they typically
taste good. Unfortunately, the over-consumption of carbs is one of the
contributing factors that has helped the U.S. to have an increase in disease
and obesity, due to the constantly fluctuating insulin levels. Here’s another
interesting fact, 1 out of 3 kids will end up developing early onset diabetes
due to the junk they are being fed. Carbs should be eaten but they should be
mostly the correct carbs and in moderate amounts.
Functions: Eating carbs causes the
body to release the hormone insulin, which, in short, can help your body to
take in glucose to use as your energy source. This isn’t a horrible thing. The problem comes when we over-consume
carbohydrates which causes your body to over-produce insulin which can wreak
havoc on your body. (ex: high carb/low fat diet). Because of insulin being so
powerful we need to have some glucagon to help balance this hormonal response.
Choice: Veggies and fruit
Choice: Yams, sweet potatoes, squash
(decent sources, but quantities will need to be a little smaller because
they are more caloric dense)
to use sparingly at times: Beans (yes they are a carb and not a good source of
quality protein, look at the food label) and other processed carbs – bread,
stay away from: SUGAR!
Fat: Fat is not as horrible as
people make it out to be, and you should not be afraid of it.
Can have good effects on blood sugar balance and slows the rate of absorption
of sugar into the bloodstream….this is a good thing. Can also be utilized as a
good energy source
Best Sources- Nuts
(almonds, walnuts), nut butters, seeds, olive oil, grapeseed oil, fish oil,
avocados, coconut oil
Non-organic animal meat
that contribute equally to more than one macro: milk/plain yogurt (look at the
labels to see)
2) Next lets talk about Food Quality– Believe it or
not food quality may be just as important if not more important than the
quantity of food you are eating. Here’s a quote by Greg Glassman founder of
Crossfit: “Eat meats, veggies, nuts and seeds, some fruit , little starch and
no sugar.” Those are good guidelines to follow. Eating “Paleo” is also a great
option: This is basically the theory that we should only eat the types of foods
that were available to use back in the caveman days. Guess what that means….no
processed junk!! The theory is that our digestive systems are more suited to
this type of eating and that our bodies haven’t adapted enough to be able to
utilize processed foods very well.
To me, this make sense. This leaves us with a diet containing mostly
organic meats, fruits, veggies, nuts and seeds. Doesn’t that sound more healthy
than a diet that condones eating half a loaf of processed bread a day? There
are also some good resources out there that would say that you can eat as much
of these types of “Paleo” foods in a day as you want and you will still have
desirable results with blood work, body composition, etc. So don’t tell me that
food quality doesn’t matter and that eating those 100-calorie cookie snack
packs are a healthy option!!
3) Food Quantity– Generally in CrossFit we recommend
a “Zone” approach. Which recommends a diet that uses all the macro-nutrients in
moderation, consisting of 40% Carbs/30% Protein/30% fat. This plan is not the
“end all be all” of healthy eating but it is a great place to start getting on
the right track. This plan has been shown to contribute to a great hormonal balance
between glucagon and insulin. This plan also helps to stabilize blood sugar
levels. I also like it because it is very easy to follow using the “block
system” and has been known to get people lean!! Here is a link to an article
that sums up the zone nicely, explains it better than I could and is an easy
read: http://library.crossfit.com/free/pdf/cfjissue21_May04.pdfZone Article
If you are interested in this eating plan let me know and I
can help to get you started. I also have a book that gets more in-depth about
4) “But eating healthy is too boring!!!!” Awww, let’s
have a pity party for you. But this is another typical excuse for not eating
healthy. Well here’s something that I learned at the CF Nutrition Cert. Create
a little food matrix consisting of:
10 Good Protein Sources (chicken, ground turkey, etc)/10
Sources of Veggies or Fruit (broccoli, asparagus, spaghetti squash)/10 Sources
of Fat (olive oil, almond butter)/10 Spices (ginger, parsley, basil, etc). Now
tell me how many combinations of meals you can make. There are hundreds of
options that you could have and should keep you from getting bored. Besides
that there are tons of good resources on the web to give you some tasty
options. Here’s one good place to check out (I’ve made the paleo pancakes and
they are easy and delicious: http://www.marksdailyapple.com/)
But Eric, What if I want to eat Out?!: You can still eat
healthy while eating out. Here are some recommendations: 1) Get some meat, 2)
Ask the waiter to lay-off on the pasta, rice, etc and give you a bunch of
veggies instead (guess what, they won’t be mad at you!!), 3) If planning to
have desert and that is the highlight for you then split it with somebody and
lay off of any carbs in the preceding courses of the meal. I’m not going to
lie, this can take some will-power at times.
Do you need to be healthy all of the time? No, every once in
a while take a meal off and indulge in something, it’s okay and will not kill
you, this can give you a good mental break. But if you do take a meal off be
sure to get back on track with your next meal and don’t feel bad if you did eat
something unhealthy before. A good rule of thumb is to try to eat quality,
balanced meals 90% of the time, it’s really not that hard. Honestly, if you try
going a couple weeks without a bunch of processed-sugary junk, your desires to
eat those foods will probably be little to none.
5) When should I eat? This is a very common question
and is debatable but a good rule of thumb is to eat 5-6 times a day consisting
of: 3 moderate sized meals and 2-3
quality smaller snacks. Basically, eat something every 3-5 hours. Each meal and
snack should contain a relative balance of protein/carbs/fat. You should try to
get something to eat soon after waking up and you should try to eat a good meal
within 30-45 mins after a hard work out. There are lots of ways to tweak meal
timing and macro nutrient timing but generally the above options work very
6) Miscellaneous info about common questions.
Supplements: Sometimes people focus
too much on what supplements they should be taking instead of the quality of
their eating. First start eating correctly, and then think about supplements.
After that you may want to invest in a good fish oil product and then maybe a
quality multi-vitamin or green supplement. A high quality whey protein powder
could also be a good choice if you don’t always have access to food to eat.
There are some other ok choices but generally these will be enough.
Hydration: Drink water and plenty
of it. I don’t like to get too nitpicky with this but you should be drinking
water constantly. At the very
least, drink 64 oz of water each day.
Nutrition Bars: Most of them are
pretty much junk. They either have no balance or no quality. But if you are on the go and don’t have
another option then get a bar that is made of some good quality (no additives,
sugars). These will typically be
high in carbs and have no protein, so bring a little protein with you or have a
little shake to consume with it. Here is a place wear you can make your own
bars: http://youbars.com/. A better option if you need an easy
snack on the run is a Paleo Kit, which is a combination of high quality meat, nuts,
and berries. Not perfect, but a
huge improvement over the typical bar.
These can be purchased at http://www.paleokits.org/.
7) Lastly, don’t think of eating healthy as going on a diet,
this often leads to negative thoughts/emotions. Think of eating as how you are
going to fuel your body to function optimally. Eating correctly can be
tough but the benefits are great. You can work hard in the gym for that hour
each day, but if you aren’t making the correct choices the other 23 hours of
the day then you won’t make the progress or be as healthy as you can be. As for
the excuses as to why you can’t fuel your body correctly, I have a good quote
for you from my Jr. High Football Coach: “Eric, excuses are like butt-holes,
everybody has one and they all stink!”
Additional Resources to check out:
the Zone" by Barry Sears
Calories/Bad Calories" by Gary Taubes
to a Crossfit Cert