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Fruits and vegetables seems to have become one word when it comes to giving advice on a healthy diet. However these two different food groups must be approached with different strategies. When it comes to optimizing health you need to choose the foods that best support your health and training needs.
Fruits and vegetables have varying macronutrient and fiber contents and can also contain different types of vitamins, minerals, and other key micronutrients. They contain different types of carbohydrates that affect their digestion and effect on blood sugar.
“Don’t eat anything your great-grandmother wouldn’t recognize as food.” -Michael Pollan
In America most folks are still missing out on many essential nutrients and simply do not consume enough vegetables. In schools kids are encouraged to have either fruits or veggies. The fact is that 8oz of orange juice is not going to provide the same nutrients as 1 cup of broccoli. Whole fruits do contain fiber, vitamins, and minerals but when turned into concentrated juices they are not much different than drinking a soda.
Even as an athlete you may be guilty of eating 2 or 3 bananas in a day but neglected consuming foods like green cruciferous vegetables that have true health benefits.
Fruits are higher in sugar and unless you are a high level athlete training multiple times per day you probably do not need to consume that many carbohydrates in your diet. A piece of fruit to fuel your workout and some fast digesting carbs post workout should be the majority of your “carb” intake. Fill the rest of your meals with vegetables that will make you feel full and contain an abundance of vitamins, minerals, and fiber.
A healthy diet should consist mostly of healthy fats, high quality proteins, and complex carbohydrates from vegetables which are nutrient dense and have a minimal effect on insulin.
If you are consuming fruits focus on fresh seasonal fruit that will have a low impact on blood sugar. Dark berries are one of the best fruits in this regard and contain high levels of antioxidants. Kiwis and pineapples are a great choice that is ideal for post workout recovery.
If you are looking for a more natural approach to eating, feeling better, and looking great then we can help you get there. Reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org today to see how!
When you’ve gotten into a consistent fitness routine and finally started to feel good about the healthy choices you are making you tend to adopt a few new favorite foods along the way. At the top of the list for many folks are coffee, wine, and bacon. These foods are dietary staples in the fitness community and seem to fall somewhere in the category of “not bad enough to worry about and maybe even good for you.”Obviously with this kind of grey area it’s worth taking a deeper dive into the health benefits and potential pitfalls that can occur when eating these favorite foods.
More than 450 million cups of coffee are consumed everyday in the united states alone. Coffee also happens to be the world’s number one source of antioxidants due to widespread consumption and high levels of polyphenols and hydrocinnamic acids. Despite its amazing capacity to fight free radicals in our body most people reach for a “cup of joe” each morning for one reason only. That energizing boost of energy from it’s high caffeine content.
Caffeine has become a huge catalyst for many of us to have a productive start to our day. For some of us taking one day without it and WHOA, watch out! Caffeine is also a popular beverage choice before a workout due to the increase in focus, energy, and alertness that make us feel ready to perform. Caffeine has even been shown to reduce pain associated with exercise making it a truly powerful training partner. Caffeine may also create a more favorable environment in the cells of muscle tissue that facilitate force production.
It also turns out that a cup of coffee can be beneficial post workout as well. When we exercise our bodies utilize glycogen, a form of glucose stored in our muscles, as a fuel source. In one study it was observed that athletes who consumed caffeine with carbohydrates after exercise had 66% more glycogen in their muscles 4 hours later. This significant boost in glycogen storage means you have set the tone for success in your next workout in terms of available energy.
Challenges arise when the quantity and timing of caffeine consumption begin to interfere with rest and recovery. Caffeine has been shown to interrupt sleep even when consumed 6 hours before bed time. Individual caffeine sensitivity can vary from person to person so you need to really listen to your body.
Red wine has long been touted as “heart healthy” and the best choice if you do wish to drink. However if you are a competitive athlete, trying to build muscle, or on a mission to lose fat there really isn’t much of a place for alcohol in your diet. After all, alcohol is merely empty calories (it will only contribute to fat gain, not lean muscle growth) and interferes with sleep, testosterone production, and puts extra wear and tear on your already busy liver. If you do find yourself in a situation where a drink is fitting, red wine tends to be a better than cocktails and heavy beers when it comes to calories and sugar.
What about the heart health benefits and antioxidants in red wine, don’t those make a glass worth it a few times a week?
Yes and No. And mostly no…
The link between red wine and heart health is still unclear and a positive correlation between the two has not been found. Red wine also doesn’t seem to perform better than other alcohols in its effect on cholesterol and heart health. Some of the hype around red wine comes from its resveratrol content. Resveratrol is a polyphenol found in the skins of grapes. It is possible that resveratrol reduces LDL levels and prevents blood clots. Unfortunately to consume high levels of this nutrient means drinking more alcohol and creating other potential health problems. Resveratrol supplements may not be absorbed that well so look for other good sources in foods like blueberries, peanuts, and plain old unfermented grapes!
Bacon. Crispy. Crunchy. Delicious.
Is there any dish that can’t be improved by its presence?
Bacon may be the most controversial and beloved food in existence. In the wake of the paleo dietary movement and a shift in the way our country views dietary fat intake bacon has become the “little cheat food that could” for folks in the fitness community.
Bacon is made from pork belly and contains high levels of both monounsaturated and saturated fats. Bacon contains the monounsaturated fat oleic acid which is found in other healthy fats like olive oil. Saturated fat, long considered a culprit of heart disease actually plays an important role in our body’s signaling mechanisms. The ratio of different fats in the diet, genetics, and lifestyle choices all contribute to how much saturated fat we can consume for our optimal health.
So it turns out that bacon may not be so bad for you after all, but you have to be choosy. You have to consider the quality of the pork and the processing it undergoes during the curing that transforms bacon into the product we all know and love. The process generally involves curing the cuts of pork belly with salt and sugar and then the application of heat through a smoking process. There is also generally the application of some form of nitrates or nitrites to help preserve quality and appearance of the bacon.
For starters when you select your bacon product focus on where the pork came from and how it was raised. The tops brands will be pasture raised or humanely raised and organic is definitely an appropriate choice for this food. Next you will want the ingredients list to be short and not too sweet. That means pork, water, sea salt, and a small amount of sugar in the form of brown sugar or maple syrup. If you see a long list of preservatives and words you don’t recognize steer clear.
Finally some brands will use different sources of nitrates, even if the brand claims to be nitrate free it will often contain an ingredient like celery powder which has naturally occurring nitrates. Nitrates can convert to a carcinogenic compound known as “nitrosamines” under high temperatures. If you like your bacon crispy and brittle then you increase the chance of consuming these compounds. No fear, our body blocks the effects of these carcinogens in the presence of Vitamin C so grab a slice of orange or grapefruit with your bacon to play it safe!
Follow these guidelines and you’ll be sure to enjoy your “healthy” vices in the most appropriate ways possible. If you have questions about nutrition and how other dietary and lifestyle choices are affecting your training it can help to discuss them with a qualified coach who is experienced with nutrition as well.
It’s been hot. Like really, really hot. And it’s got me thinking about hydration a lot more. The “eight 8-ounce glasses”recommendation gets thrown around a lot, but how accurate is it really? And why has it become the default? Every day your body sheds some water through respiration (good ol’ breathing), sweat, urine, and other really important metabolic activities. So if you don’t consume enough water, you start to experience symptoms such as headaches, tiredness, and difficulty concentrating. At that point you’re dehydrated. Being chronically dehydrated can disrupt normal body functions and contribute to several issues like constipation and kidney stones—ain’t nobody got time for that.
I’m sure you’ve heard that water makes up about two-thirds of your body and about 70% of the weight in your muscles comes from water. But also consider this: fat cells are devoid of water, and for both lean men and women water makes up an even greater percentage of their totally body weight. Water is important for the regulation of body temperature. If you did MURPH, you might have learned like I did that body temperature makes a big fat difference in performance. Dehydration is a nasty issue for a lot of reasons but when it lessens your ability to regulate your temperature, it negatively affects your ability to work to your full potential and has serious health consequences. Drink plenty of water before and after your workouts to ensure you’re able to put forth full effort! But how much do you need to be drinking? Those eight cups a day would mean 64 ounces…about 2 liters a day. More specific recommendations have come about recently, and I think they are an upgrade. Experts say that healthy grown people between the ages of 31 and 70, living in climates like ours, should follow this:
I have a 32oz water bottle and I feel best when I get at least 2 of those on top of some coffee and LaCroix. Everyone is different,of course, and this is where individualization comes in. Some studies show that low intake of water doesn’t always equal dehydration. The biggest judge of dehydration is urine output. The more fluids you drink the more you pee. And the more lightly colored you can keep your urine the better you’ll be.
Remember, when temperatures soar like they are currently, you’ll need more water then ever! And if you’re feeling moody, drink water! We know it is tied to our ability to regulate our mood. Just writing this has made me thirsty.
“Metabolic damage” and “starvation mode” are probably terms you’ve heard before. They are often used when referring to the physiological changes that take place when someone is eating too little calories for too long. This lack of calories can be from limiting calories or upping exercise without accommodating with more food intake. Our bodies are fantastic at adapting; when we add an extra day of training into our schedule, we might be sore for a week or two but we adapt. Soon it feels like we were always Crossfitting 4 days a week instead of 3. When we take calories out of our diets, we might lose weight for a few weeks but then our bodies adapt and we plateau. Soon our bodies stop changing and it’s like we never ate more.
What exactly is happening here and why? More importantly, what can we do about it?
“Dieting” (for most of us) means “a lot less food and a lot more cardio”. We may acknowledge that strength training is important, and we might get that our hormones’ roles and functions are affected by our food. But most of us ignore that and decide if cutting calories by a little is good, then cutting by a lot must be better and faster! Right? Wrong. It’s damaging to your metabolism. Your metabolism is the orchestration of hormones and processes, including the process of releasing stored fat and burning that fat or re-storing it. It is a process we all want control over.
When it comes to this process we want regulation over, calories matter and so do hormones like insulin. How you reduce calories and at what rate matters to your hormones. I think of a rubber band analogy. To get a result (weight loss) you must put just enough stress (stress = calorie reduction) on it to get movement without it snapping back. Just enough. Not enough stress on your metabolism and you end up staying stuck. Too much stress, and like the rubber band things spring back. We do the same process in strength training! To get stronger we get under just enough weight/tension with just enough speed to challenge our bodies. Not so much that we fail, but enough that we are uncomfortable.
Initially, when there is the wrong kind of stress (or just too much stress overall) on the metabolism, the body simply adapts by turning down the metabolic rate. You see this time and time again when you start a new diet and get results for a like a week…then zip. Nothing. You’ve checked and MyFitnessPal says you’re coming in under recommended calorie intake. But with this turn down of your metabolism (that can happen very quickly) you simply aren’t burning as much as you think you are.
When you cut calories or try to burn more off at the gym, that triggers lower leptin levels and ups those cortisol levels. That brings on cravings for the carbs and sometimes fatty/starchy foods. This makes it super hard to stick to your plan. What this looks like for a lot of us is “clean eating” Monday to Friday and then losing it on the weekend.
What can we do? We need to find the right amount of stress to put on our metabolism to get results but not push it so far it snaps back at us. Start by training smarter, not harder. Follow the programming and don’t go rouge in pursuit of weight loss. Making changes takes time, and the more aggressive the shifts, the more aggressive the possible damage.
Try some strategies, like RP Strength, that slowly and intentionally put stress on your metabolic system for a limited period. Many of us don’t intuitively know how to program for strength gains or how to strike that tension and not snap our rubber band. That’s why we loved CrossFit…someone does it for us. The same is sometimes true with our food intake habits. We don’t intuitively know without a lot of patience and practice how to pull on our metabolic rubber band and not have it smack us in the face. Commit to a long-term program (90 days or more) and be patient and intentional. Learn about your body and its needs, ask questions, rehab your metabolism, and exit starvation mode.
What diet of “lifestyle” change have you tried? I’ve done a handful. Some have served me well and some not so much. Like the time I did a “cleanse” (btw – I have perfectly good kidneys for that) that required me to only eat about 6 bananas a day for several days.
Paleo soon followed, and now saturated fat was not only okay but encouraged! Hooray! But no dairy, grains, beans, or legumes…along with anything else a caveman couldn’t source. Now, the tide has changed yet again, and the IIFYM (If It Fits Your Macros) approach is here. A quick scroll through Instagram will show many IIFYM fans posting pictures of foods that fly directly in the face of what we all believed “dieting” meant, along with some impressive fat-loss progress pictures. I once gave IIFYM a try. The promise of pop-tarts and a six pack was too tempting.
As we move through life things change, and our activity levels and lifestyle fluctuate so we alter our food intake to compensate. When trying to figure out how to formulate a nutrition plan and the amount of food that is best for you, you’ll need ask yourself a few things:
My ideal nutrition setup is a combination of all the approaches mentioned above. The overwhelming majority of my foods should come from whole, nutrient-dense sources, but I have room for birthday cake in my world. Calories and macronutrients do matter when it comes to dialing things in even tighter. However, figuring out which foods make me feel good and perform well is important. I believe that carbohydrates should fluctuate a bit depending on that day’s activity level and fat loss goals.
Many of you have heard me talk about my nutrition approach being RP Strength. I like RP because it takes all the above concepts and puts them in a spreadsheet and makes it simple. When I ask myself the questions listed above, my experience with RP has been what I’m practicing when I get the best answers. If you’ve tried all the approaches but need to dial things in, stay tuned. We’ve got your back!
Jessie will be hosting a Nutrition Workshop at CFSTC. She will be talking specifically about the RP diet but will be able to answer any questions you may have about other diets you may have tried or heard about.
The workshop is open to the public.
$5 at the door for CFSTC members
Follow this link to register
So maybe your last diet (“lifestyle change”) didn’t go well. You decided to be stricter in your efforts and committed to another one … but that one didn’t pan out, either. Now you’re trying again with different rules, but you’re feeling frustrated and disappointed.
While you may simply be trying to find a way of eating that aligns with your goals and your life, jumping from one set of rules to another (again) is a misguided approach that usually won’t lead to the desired outcome.
The term “diet” implies that there’s a temporary timeline associated with that particular approach. It’s okay to have temporary performance, fat loss, health, or any other goals that require you to change your nutrition, and there’s a time and place when the best approach is to adhere to some stricter guidelines to help you achieve goals. If you’re looking for a sustainable way of eating that steadily enhances your physique over the long haul, a billion attempts to find the next best diet that promises to make you lean and fit aren’t going to be the most effective approach.
We’re impatient as Crossfiters and we like things to be fast and efficient. Instead of examining whether something is truly helpful, sustainable or not, we throw out the entire approach and claim that it “didn’t work” or that we “failed”…all the while already eyeing the next diet or “lifestyle change”. Without careful evaluation of your current nutrition, what’s helpful about a diet or what’s not, and what your individual needs are, it’s hard to know if a particular approach is right for you.
If you’re finding yourself in this kind of cycle, let me give you some starting points to assess what’s going on. Thinking about your current life, your goals, and the diet you’re following, ask yourself these questions:
Because most diets don’t set you up for long-term success, jumping from diet to diet tends to create habits of failure. This is disastrous for your mindset and quickly drains willpower. If our gym only ever programmed 200lb cleans, I’d fail every time I walked in the door and I’d quickly give up and deem myself unworthy and weak. Instead we focus on building a solid foundation, using deliberate and consistent movements at a weight that is smart and sustainable. Diet should be no different. We should focus on eating enough, eating smart (whole) foods, and consistently and sustainably fueling our bodies. Then we tweak based on our goals.
Here are some big things to focus on that help build that foundation:
Focusing on these big things consistently over time will help you understand YOUR actual nutritional needs. It will also provide you a baseline understanding of what works for you. If you’re constantly changing everything about your nutrition, how will you ever know what works for you? I suggest committing to a minimum of 12 weeks without switching up the plan. Take an opportunity to slowly improve your foundation before moving into another diet. This allows you to successfully strengthen one habit at a time and builds your confidence in your ability to make healthy choices. When you’re ready to tinker with your solid base and go after some goals, reach out for help! We love to talk about this stuff.
Many of us intermediate or beginner Crossfitters don’t have a great perspective of what “enough” food really is—especially when trying to lose weight. The idea of sacrificing food can actually hinder fat loss, strength gain, energy levels, and overall health. With so many fad diets and eating trends flying around countless athletes are misled into eating far less food than they actually need to support high-intensity training. And while we might understand that inadequate food intake can negatively impact our performance in the gym, we simply aren’t used to eating enough food.
While a slight caloric deficit should cause steady weight loss (think 300-500 calories a day), much larger deficits elicit changes in your metabolism to keep your body in an energy balance and maintain homeostasis. The body—this dynamic, adaptable machine—wants to be safe and secure. Our bodies are always looking for stability, right? With survival as number 1, it is constantly regulating what’s going on in response to our environment. In other words, in order to conserve energy and direct calories to necessary functions for being alive, your body resorts to burning fewer calories, even as you’re training regularly. This means you will hold onto body fat despite eating limited calories and training like a mad man. People who chronically under eat are the ones who complain about not being able to lose that last “10lbs” or feeling fluffier despite seeing the scale move down a few notches.
When resources (calories) are scarce, the body prioritizes essential functions (like breathing, controlling its temperature, and heartrate) over things like rebuilding muscle tissue. Inadequate food intake makes it nearly impossible to increase muscle strength or add gainz. The lack of energy from under eating can drastically reduce your training power. When you’re under-fueled, it may feel like you’re training intensely, but your power output is actually much lower. If you can’t maximize your power when lifting, you won’t be able to achieve the necessary stimulus to promote muscle growth and rebuilding. What a bummer, right? Under eating can also lead to under sleeping which isn’t fabulous for recovery, either. I like to tell my kids at 9pm, “your body does its growing while your sleeping” and it applies to me and my muscle gains.
If you suspect you might not be eating enough to support your activities and goals, don’t despair! Once you start eating enough and bringing attention to eating enough, you’ll see rapid improvements!
Figuring out exactly how much food you should be eating is tricky, many factors come into play. While it might be impossible to determine exactly how many calories you need, you can estimate. There are easy on-line calculators that will give you a good starting point. I suggest Logging your food as precisely as possible. Weigh and measure! Unless you’ve had TONS of practice, eyeballing isn’t a great beginner method. use an app like MyFitnessPal. Then keep a journal for a few weeks recording your mood, energy level and weight. If you need to start significantly bumping up your intake, try adding 100-200 calorie increments every week or so in order to minimize weight gain or digestive issues. Calorie adjustments usually take some experimentation, but correcting undereating almost always results in significant improvements in health, energy, and performance. And once you’re feeling better, you can use a more intuitive eating style to continue making progress. It’s awesome to see the health improvements that come from a simple increase in calories when someone has been chronically undereating! Remember! Eating too little is just as dangerous as eating too much, don’t fear the carb, and reach out for guidance if you need it.