I got asked a question the other day that got me thinking about how we deliver nutrition information at CFME.
“Zach, do you eat Paleo? What do you eat?”
The truth is no, I don’t eat strict Paleo (defined as the primitive diet that our Paleolithic ancestors had). When I first started CrossFit, I did…and I had GREAT results from it. Now I just eat relatively “clean”, but afford myself the luxuries of certain modern foods to allow me to more easily get the amount of calories that I need – specifically the calories I need from carbohydrates.
“But Zach, you’ve always told me that carbs will make you fat? Shouldn’t we avoid those if we want to stay healthy?”
The most simple and general answer would be yes. If your goals are to lose body fat and increase the quality of your long term health, then you should avoid a higher carbohydrate diet and stick to ratios that are encouraged by the Paleo diet (less than 75-125g of carbs per day for an average male, depending on activity levels).
However, my current fitness goals don’t lend my nutrition habits to that. My goal, of doing well in CrossFit competition at an elite level, requires a slightly different approach than a simple “caveman diet”. Depending on your goals, “Paleo” may not be the best choice either.
If you are still trying to lose a substantial amount of body fat and are only working out 3-5 times per week, Paleo is still THE best option. However, if you’ve reached an optimal level of body fat, don’t have any major health issues (high blood pressure, imbalanced cholesterol levels, normal hormone profile, risky food allergens) and you are training more volume with the goal of getting more prepared for a multi-event CrossFit competition (like Regionals or The Games), then we might look at other sources of food…to specifically get extra carbs.
Why carbs? Because, if you already have low body fat, carbs will allow you to sustain higher levels of intensity over multiple workouts per day. They also prevent an undue amount of catabolic breakdown of muscle tissue from those sessions. Simply put, they allow you to have more energy for workouts and recover quicker when utilized properly. If you have low body fat (i.e.your body has little energy reserves), where will it get it’s fuel? Blood sugar and glycogen stores in the muscle, energy reservoirs filled most effectively by carbohydrates (specifically, glucose).
Guidelines for eating clean:
- Avoiding overly processed foods when at all possible – if it was made at a factory or prepared in a fast food restaurant, it’s probably too processed to provide any level of good nutrition.
- Avoid food allergens, especially if they obviously effect you – gluten won’t help and neither will soy. As a side note, I consume large amounts of dairy…it doesn’t affect me negatively and allows me to get the calories I need.
- Eat as many whole foods as possible…shakes and supplements shouldn’t be consumed in place of real food if you can help it.
- Eat food you know came from quality sources (organic, free range, cage free, pastured, etc).
- Avoid alcohol (bad for muscle-building hormones) and meth…meth is bad (as are other drugs).
Eat quantities that sustain activity levels (the more you workout, the more you need to eat), but not body fat. If you notice that you are gaining body fat, then you may need to reduce your carb/calorie intake. But on the flip side, if you notice you are losing body fat and feeling tired all the time during workouts (no gas in the tank) then you need to eat more!
I hope this clears some stuff up about Paleo and eating for performance/extra activity – although this was a very basicoverview. As always, if you have any questions about nutrition the Coaches are always willing to help you out.
10/4/2012 – competitor rest day:
25 minutes to find a 1rm:
1,500m partner row relay
*with a partner, complete 6 x 250m sprints for time (3 each)
weighted step up