One of the more common questions I get in the gym is “what should I eat?”. This is a pretty broad question, but for most of us, the answer is pretty simple.
Too many people are focused on their post workout protein shakes and supplements before they actually have their food dialed in. Work on simplifying and cleaning up your food first, and you’ll be well on your way to reaching performance and body composition goals.
First of all, we have to understand that eating for three or four CrossFit workouts a week is a bit different than eating as a performance based pro athlete. Our major goal here is to reduce body fat and fuel our workouts.
I side with Ben Bergeron’s food advice for most people. He has 3 simple rules and I’m going break them down so we all understand how to approach nutrition without feeling overwhelmed.
EAT REAL FOOD
Call it “paleo” or whatever you want but the most important aspect of nutrition is food quality. If you don’t have high quality food in your diet it doesn’t matter how much you eat, what supplements you take, or how dialed your “macros” are. Stay on the outside edges of the grocery store and get fruits, vegetables, quality proteins, and nuts and seeds. If you shop well and keep quality foods in your house, you won’t be tempted to eat other poor quality options. Make an effort to get local and seasonal fruits and veggies, and quality proteins like wild fish and grassfed beef or wild game.
p.s. If any of you are wondering where to get good quality meat, we have the owners of Yellowstone Grassfed Beef right here in the gym - a great source for healthy and quality protein.
NOT TOO MUCH
This is a tough one for most people, myself included. What is too much food and too little? Obviously this varies based on the individual, but there is a basic rule of thumb that everyone can start with, and adjust down the road. Split your plate into thirds and fill one of them with a good protein source like a piece of wild salmon or steak. The next part is full of vegetables, and the final third can be fats like avocado. Use this strategy for 3 meals per day and don't snack unless immediately post workout.
This can be slowly adjusted as the individual loses body fat and becomes more tolerant to carbohydrates. We can slightly reduce fats and begin adding in carbs like bananas, rice, or oatmeal near the workouts, but this should only be done once that person reaches the desired body fat range.
This ties into the first rule about food quality a little bit, but its extremely important that most of what we eat is plant based food. The argument on things like grains and dairy are all over the board, but you’ll never convince me that they are healthier alternatives than plants. For someone trying to gain mass and has an extremely high workload those might be good options, but for CrossFit we value conditioning more than anything. Conditioning is basically how well we are able to turn stored energy (food) into movement, both in and out of the gym. Plants and quality proteins are going to be used best in our bodies for this until a certain body fat range is reached, and then we begin to add more complex carbs as the individual can tolerate more.
ONE LAST PIECE OF ADVICE
Nutrition is a major aspect of what we do, no matter what your goals are. Nutrition and hard work are the foundation of fitness and improved health. We want to fight off aging and disease and so regular exercise combined with excellent food is how you do that. However, when the holidays approach and you get with your families, allow yourself to indulge a little. We all work very hard and its important to have a ‘mental break’ from the grind. Just make sure to get back on track once those days go by.