Nutrition

A Simple Approach to Nutrition

The world of nutrition is a complicated place.  You have people, magazines, books and podcasts telling you hundreds of different things about what you should be eating, what you shouldn’t be eating, when you should be eating, and why you should be eating. There are fad diets and quick fixes that change every year. It can be overwhelming to say the least! Unless you have a very specific goal that is performance or weight driven, then your nutrition does not have to be all that complicated.  I do count macros, but that is because I have very specific CrossFit goals and choose to have more precision in my diet, but this is not necessary for everyone.  For most people it is very simple - you just want to feel good, be in good health and crush your workouts!  With that in mind, if I had to pick one simple piece of nutrition advice that could apply to anyone, it would be: "Eat real food, not too much, mostly plants".  This is advice Ben Bergeron gives in his podcast Simplifying Nutrition and I could not agree with it more. I would actually encourage you to listen to that episode as it has tons of great stuff in it. I will dive into what eating real food means and how you can apply it, and then answer a few nutrition related questions from our members at the end. 

The concept of eating real food may sound too simple and vague, but it really isn’t, so let’s talk about what real food is.  Real food comes from plants or animals.  This includes foods that are in a whole, unprocessed or very minimally processed state, like animal meat, local or grass-fed dairy, eggs, ancient and whole grains, legumes, nuts and seeds, vegetables, and fruits. Real food is perishable and cannot be stored for long periods of time before spoiling.  Real food can be found in the perimeters of the grocery store, at your local butcher, at the farmer’s market or local farmstead, or in your own garden at home. Real food does not have weird ingredient lists.  If you cannot identify some of the ingredients on the label, chances are you should not be eating it as a daily staple or a large portion of your diet.  The issue with nearly all processed foods is that many of the essential vitamins, minerals and nutrients have been stripped away during processing, so you end up missing out on a lot of the health benefits when eating those things. Why are nutrients important?  They give us energy, keep us strong, assist in survival, and prevent illness!

So how do you maintain a healthy yet realistic diet, mostly from real food, without giving up everything you love? One of my favorite approaches is the one Alan Aragon discusses in his book The Lean Muscle Diet.  In his words, “a quality diet is 80% whole and minimally processed foods you like, 10% whole and minimally processed foods you don’t necessarily like but don’t hate, and 10% pure junky goodness.”  Essentially, 90% real and unprocessed foods and 10% of whatever your heart desires.  Some other nutrition coaching companies believe in a slightly more flexible 80/20 approach.  Either way, you can see the key is to have the majority of your diet coming from real food. What does this balanced approach actually look like?  Here is a fun infographic from Carter Good that I think sums it up well from a daily/weekly standpoint: The 80/20 Rule

It is important to remember that even if a food is considered 'healthy' or 'clean' you can still eat too much of it, so that is why portions also become important!  For example, nuts and nut butter are considered a healthy fat, but a small portion goes a long way. Something like 1 ounce of raw nuts (about 14g of fat/126 calories) or 1-2 tablespoons of peanut butter (7-15g of fat/63-135 calories) is about the right portion of fat intake for the average person in a meal.  However, if you look at what people are actually eating, it is multiple handfuls of nuts, and heaping tablespoons of peanut butter that run way beyond those portions! This is where a lot of people get stuck and I hear the words, "I don't understand what is wrong. My diet is clean, I eat mostly real food and nothing is changing". Chances are that yes, you are eating the right foods, but maybe not the right amounts!  A good way to estimate your portion sizes for each meal is just by using your own hand for reference. We all have hands and they are generally relative to your body size, so it works great when building your plates and deciding how much of each type of food to have. Generally speaking, for each of your 3-4 meals per day, you would want to include a balanced plate with protein (meat, eggs, dairy, or plant based protein) the size of your palm, a starchy carb (grains, potato, fruit) the size of your cupped hand, about a thumb size portion of fat (olive oil, nut butter, avocado, coconut) and the rest in vegetables.

Hand portion guide courtesy of Precision Nutrition

Hand portion guide courtesy of Precision Nutrition

If you can adhere to a 90/10 or even 80/20 approach of "eating real food, not too much, mostly plants", then you should see improvements in both your health and performance; no macro or calorie counting necessary, and no banishing all the foods you love.  


Q&A – A random sampling of nutrition questions from our DCF members

1. I've been trying to start a better nutrition path...but I have always failed within a week. Is there a good way to start new and better eating habits for it not to be SO hard?

Absolutely!  To me people don't fail diets, diets fail them, and this is because many of them are unsustainable or unrealistic. I think a lot of people look at a change in nutrition as 'All or Nothing': starting over, eliminating everything you love, restriction, eating foods you dislike.  Look at it as a lifestyle and habit change and not a temporary 'diet'.  You want to be healthy and feel good forever, not just to reach a goal and then revert back to where you started, and continue that pattern indefinitely. A good approach would be to start small by beginning to ADD more nutrient-dense foods that you enjoy into your current diet.  Don't remove anything just yet, but start incorporating more real foods, and start paying attention to portion sizes.  Begin to look at and understand your meals. Are they complete? Do they all include protein, vegetables, quality carbohydrates and a trace amount of fats?  Compare your daily intake to the 80/20 rule.  Are you getting in mostly real food each day?  Do you cook most of your own meals?  Once this is dialed in, THEN you can begin to break things down further based on results, but don't try to do everything at once.  Decide in the beginning what your non-negotiables are and what you absolutely do not want to give up, and then make it a point to make trade offs to let go of some foods in order to incorporate more nutrient-dense options. For example, if you love Mexican food maybe you keep homemade corn tortillas in your diet but you eliminate tortilla chips. Maybe you love cereal for breakfast but could start opting for old fashioned oatmeal instead. Or if you are going to a party and know you will want cake and ice cream, you don't also have pizza and beer beforehand and choose a healthier meal instead, to balance it out.  Finally, try to be patient.  With any change in nutrition there will be ups and downs, there will be plateaus, there will be many trade offs and lots of temptations.  Don't give up the second things get hard or go wrong - pick back up and try again.  

2. What’s better between low carb/fat options and more natural foods with higher carb/fat content?  

I believe in eating as many foods as possible in their most natural state, if you have access to them and they work within your budget, so often this does mean a higher fat content for certain products. The question of which is better depends on your goals. Organic produce, grains, grass fed meat, and dairy will be the freshest and have the least amount of handling and processing if that is your priority.  It doesn’t get any better than getting food straight from the source!  However, if your priority lies in losing body fat by implementing a lower fat or lower carb diet, then you do have to make certain trade offs here, so decide what is most important for you to keep and what you do not mind giving up.   If you love real peanut butter then maybe you start opting for 1 tablespoon instead of 2 each day so you can have that healthy fat, but not overdo it. Maybe you get all your meat locally which generally has high fat content, but you buy the lower fat yogurt and dairy, or use egg whites instead of whole eggs to keep your fat intake lower.   When it comes to carbs, most real food is fairly low in carbs as is, with the exception of certain fruits and grains, and even then, those would be important to include in your diet for the variety of nutrient intake – so sacrificing some processed or high sugar carbs to include these natural ones would be the diet trade off here, which to me is a good one to make.  Remember the 80/20 rule!

3. How important is it really to eat organic and/or non GMO 

This comes down to personal preference.  It is important if you want to avoid pesticides or preservatives that are used to extend the life of a product or any processing that alters it.  You can take in more nutrients and less toxins from a product that is organic, according to some studies, and there is less environmental impact.  If you can get food sourced and produced locally it is still going to be your best bet in my opinion, organic or not. But in the off season, it is my preference to choose organic when faced with the choice at a grocery store.  For some people the cost of organic is tough to make work, so in the end, as long as it is still mostly real food you are buying, that is going to be better than buying something highly processed or from a box.

- Coach Amy Locati

A Day in Macros

What are macros anyway? Many of you have probably heard about them, especially in the fitness world. There are 3 macronutrients (macros) that make up most of our food: Protein, Carbohydrate and Fat. Some people keep track of their macro intake in grams to reach certain body composition goals, to improve their knowledge of portion size, or to make sure they are getting the right balance of foods in their diet for optimum health and performance. Macronutrients affect many processes in our body including the ability to digest food and absorb nutrients, hormone production, immune system health, cell structure and function, body composition, metabolic function, energy levels and much more.[1]  Each meal you consume should include a balance of the 3 macronutrients, whether you are tracking or not, because they all work in conjunction with one another! The ideal ratio (% or grams) of each macro will depend on your body type, weight, genetics, activity level and food preferences.

Why count macros?  Well, if you find that your body composition isn’t where you want it to be, or your progress is stagnant no matter how much you work out, then maybe your macro balance is off, and a simple adjustment or awareness to what you are fueling your body with could help!  I started counting macros because I wanted to see how it would affect my training, energy levels, injury prevention and recovery time after workouts.  Counting macros is definitely not for everyone. It requires a ton of work, dedication, patience, preparation, and math, but it works for me and I have seen many benefits from doing it.  Counting macros opened my eyes to much more than just the types of foods I am eating.  It showed me proper portion sizes, mindfulness, preparation skills and flexibility with my food choices.  It also brought an awareness to what foods I was overeating or under eating.  Coming from a strict paleo diet (which I still think has many great principles) I found that I was missing important food groups that are high in fiber and help with digestion, like whole grains, and the vitamins and probiotics found in some dairy.  I was overeating fats by huge quantities because I assumed that if they were healthy foods I could consume as much as I wanted – nuts, nut butters, and paleo 'treats' were my biggest pitfall – they were just so delicious. Over consumption of any one thing, even healthy or natural foods, can contribute to a nutritional imbalance, and a lack of ideal body composition and progress.

Now that I have a better understanding of foods and macro balance, I am much more flexible with my diet, and I do not have to exclude any specific food groups.  There is no more guilt associated with eating certain foods that were previously ‘off limits’.  Now I can enjoy my dad’s Italian risotto, have oatmeal for my pre-workout, or enjoy pancakes on the weekends...because pancakes!! 

The majority of my meals include lean proteins (chicken, turkey, white fish, prawns, eggs) non-starchy vegetables, fruits, minimally processed and mostly gluten-free grains, healthy fats, and a little bit of dairy.  I cook most of my meals at home so I know exactly what is in them, which eliminates the guessing game, but I make sure to go out occasionally and have date nights with my boyfriend or brunch with my friends, because you have to enjoy life too!   I make room for dessert most nights because I have a sweet tooth and I know that making it fit my macros is better than restricting and then ultimately losing control and overeating some day because of the deprivation I created.  If someone were to tell me I had to go the rest of my life without eating a cookie from the Colville Street Patisserie or a cinnamon roll from Bacon & Eggs, I know I wouldn’t be able to sustain that, so a diet recommendation like that would never work for me in the long run and I would fail. Nobody likes the feeling of failure and it can create a vicious cycle that negatively impacts your health and mindset.  To make sure I have a plan I can stick to, succeed with, and follow indefinitely, I am not going to deprive myself of those things; I just work them in a few times each month and am satisfied and happy.  It’s all about creating a balance that works for you, but the focus is still on eating mostly nutritious, whole, and unprocessed foods.  This method of creating balance without excluding specific foods is also known as ‘flexible dieting’. I read something in a book called The Lean Muscle Diet recently that made sense to me regarding balancing foods.  “A quality diet looks like this: 80% whole and minimally processed foods you like, 10% whole and minimally processed foods you don’t necessarily like, but don’t hate, and 10% whatever you want –pure junky goodness.”[2]

Since I get asked so often what I eat and how I make it all fit, I thought it would be fun to show everyone a typical day in macros for me, using photos.  I talk a little bit about each meal in the notes, and what substitutions or products I use to get it to work for my numbers.  I chose a day that used mostly simple meals rather than some of the elaborate meal prepping recipes I make, to show how you can take what you may have in your fridge or pantry and create something exciting and tasty.  If you are eating plain chicken and plain veggies every day, you are going to get bored really quick. Keeping things varied and interesting is the key to success, just like in our CrossFit workouts!  Another key to success in any nutrition plan is consistency, not perfection.

And now for the food...enjoy!  Coach Amy Locati

From largest photo clockwise: Breakfast, Mid-morning snack, Lunch, Pre-Workout snack, Dinner, Dessert.

From largest photo clockwise: Breakfast, Mid-morning snack, Lunch, Pre-Workout snack, Dinner, Dessert.

Current Daily Macros – 115P, 165C, 48F  25g Fiber                                          

Breakfast 7:00-8:00am 15.5P, 17.9C, 5.2F

Egg white scramble with red and green bell peppers, sweet onions, green onions, fresh parsley and salsa verde.  Beverages include a coconut-lime kombucha and black coffee. 

A decent amount of protein is good after your nightly fast (sleeping) to get your metabolism going and keep you full and satiated until your next meal, so I usually make a scramble each morning. Since I work out in the evenings I add non-starchy Carbs like colorful veggies so that I can place my starchier Carbs closer to my workout times to get the most out of them.

Snack 11:00-11:30am 14.1P, 15.7C, 0.3F

Siggi’s Dairy Vanilla Bean Skyr (Icelandic yogurt) with raspberries. 

I like Siggi’s brand yogurt because it is high in protein and doesn’t contain any weird ingredients or refined sugars. I choose raspberries most often because they are one of the highest in fiber content per serving as far as fruit goes.  Occasionally I will sprinkle Kashi Go Lean cereal on the top for added crunch and fiber content. I try to rotate my fruits so I am not always eating the same things, but berries are what I focus on because of all the great anti-oxidants.

Lunch 1:00-1:30pm 35.9P, 30.3C, 12.1F  

Slow Cooker Adobo Chicken from SkinnyTaste Fast and Slow Cookbook

I meal prep a lot of recipes from the SkinnyTaste cookbooks and blog because all the nutritional information and macros are listed, so I can flip through and find what meals work for me.  I added a side of brown rice with cilantro, and some pan roasted Brussel sprouts to ensure I have a nice balance of Protein, Carb, and Fat.

Pre-workout 3:30-4:00pm 10.3P, 34.2C, 10.1F  

Gluten Free Quick Oats with PB2, Banana, Pecans and Cinnamon

I use PB2 (powdered peanut butter) because it has about 85% less fat than regular nut butters, that way I can still enjoy one of my favorite things without blowing all my fats in one meal. The banana and oats give me great energy for my workout and are slow digesting, keeping me full until dinner time.  Pecans are high in Vitamin E, monounsaturated fatty acids and antioxidants, and cinnamon adds a nice spice and contains great anti-inflammatory properties.

Dinner 7:30-8:00pm 30P, 29.9C, 7.3F

Wild-caught Atlantic Cod, Sautéed Sweet Potato, and Roasted Beet Salad with red onions, oranges, baby kale, blue cheese and lemon squeezed over the top.    

Wild-Caught fish is a great lean protein and a healthy source of Omega 3 fatty acids and vitamins such as B-12. Some cod can have high levels of sodium, so always look for wild-caught, and read your nutritional labels if buying frozen.  Yams or sweet potatoes are a good starchy Carb to eat post workout to replace muscle glycogen and enhance the role of insulin in transporting nutrients into cells.[3] The salad gives a nice balance of micronutrients. Each vegetable and fruit brings different nutrients with it, so variety (and color) is key to ensuring all types of vitamins and minerals are consumed.

Dessert 9:00pm 13.1P, 36.7C, 11.8F

Homemade Black Bean Brownie, PB2 and Vanilla Bean Halo Top Ice Cream

The black bean brownies are from a recipe I adapted from a blog called Chocolate Covered Katie. She creates some healthier versions of treats and lists out the nutritional information for each recipe online, but I often still modify the recipes a bit to make them work for me.  I try to consume any sweets or treats at the end of the day so I have something to look forward to, and only if I earned them (worked out). This also helps me from caving in to other temptations throughout the day because I know it is waiting for me later. I like Halo Top ice cream because it has a higher protein/lower fat/lower sugar content than most ice creams, but I am mindful to stick to 1 serving of 66g (about a half cup). Treats should always be consumed in moderation and only after getting the most nutritious foods in first.


Disclaimer:  My macro numbers are individualized based on my body type, weight, goals and activity level.  They will likely not be suitable for anyone else. My macro numbers have been revised 5-6 times in the past 6 months by my coach (yes I have a coach too!) as my body, weight and training have evolved and changed. I mention this just to show that there is no single method or number that always works indefinitely – change is constant. I aim for +/- 5g of Protein and Carb and +/- 2g Fat when trying to hit my numbers each day.


[1] Berardi, John M. The Essentials of Sport and Exercise Nutrition. Second ed. N.p., 2016. Print.

[2] Schuler, Lou, and Alan Aragon. The Lean Muscle Diet. New York: Rodale, 2015. Print.

[3] Berardi, John M. "All About Post-Workout Nutrition." Precision Nutrition. N.p., 05 July 2016. Web. 29 Mar. 2017. <http://www.precisionnutrition.com/about-post-workout-nutrition>.

Maximizing your Potential in the CrossFit Open

It’s that time of year again. What every CrossFitter trains and prepares all year for; the CrossFit Open. It’s the ultimate and most universal test of fitness and should be regarded as a useful tool for us athletes to track our progress.

Here are some ways in which you can make the most out of your 2017 CrossFit Open experience. Take some time to review these topics and implement them into your quest to conquer the Open.

Recovery is Paramount

It is likely that you’ll reach new levels of mental and physical distress when completing these workouts. As you may know, sleep has numerous acute and long-term effects. If you want to prepare yourself for the Open workouts and recover quick enough to hit it a second time, then you need to prioritize sleep. That means at least 8 hours. If your body says it needs 10, then give it 10. I know most people have a full-time job and kids, so power naps (15-30 minutes) can prove effective also. Look at your sleep hygiene as well to make sure you’re getting the most out of your sleep.

What other aspects of recovery should we as athletes be considering? Of course, I believe mobilizing before and after your workouts is always an effective habit to practice. Prepare your tissues and joints before your workout by utilizing some active distracted stretches. Target the movements and areas that are specific to the workout. After your workout, use some soft-tissue manipulation to address those taxed muscles and fascial elements.

“What does this all mean Gavin?” Good question! Let’s take the 16.1 Open Workout for example: 20 min AMRAP of 25 ft. walking overhead lunge, 8 barbell facing burpees, 25 ft. walking overhead lunge, 8 chest-to-bar. Before this workout, I would prioritize my overhead position, using some distracted overhead stretches to prepare my shoulders. I might add in some stability drills such as bottom-up kettlebell presses to target the rotator cuff muscles supporting my shoulder joint. After my workout, my glutes have probably been to hell and back. Accordingly, I might focus on some soft-tissue work on my high hamstrings and low glutes as well as some active distracted posterior chain stretches. As always, I invite you to come to our mobility classes to learn more about these techniques.

Nonetheless, make sure you do a 10-minute cool down after your workout. Don’t be that guy/gal that lies on the ground for 5 minutes tossing and turning in agony. Get up and walk around, get on the bike, row for a little while in order to flush your body of all those metabolic toxins that built up during the workout.

Nutrition

As always, you can’t reach peak performance without proper nutrition. There is a reason that nutrition is at the base of the pyramid for CrossFit performance. Greg Glassman (the founder and CEO of CrossFit) knew that nutrition was vital for athletic performance. Check out the Zone Diet protocol if you don’t know where to start of consult with Coach Amy to get a better understanding of nutrition’s impact on your performance and what you can do to optimize your athletic potential.

Planning Your Training Week

Here is how I would plan my week for the next five weeks during the CrossFit Open season.

I would try to perform the Open Workout during the time I usually workout. If I usually workout at 5:30 pm and try to do the Open workout at 6:30 am, my central nervous system (CNS) is not going to be primed nor ready for optimal performance.

The workouts get announced Thursday evening and scores have to be submitted Monday evening. The CrossFit Open is like the in-season competition for the majority of us. Therefore, I would recommend changing your training week accordingly.

On Thursday, I would perform a workout that is general and won’t cause any soreness. Something like rowing and bodyweight movements would be perfect for this type of workout. On Friday, I would hit the workout with everything you have, assuming you’re not going to do it again to try to get a better score. Subsequently, Saturday becomes an active recovery day and/or skills and drills day where you practice on those movements of the workout that need some refinement. Monday you can try the workout again. Tuesday is a full rest day and is followed by a normal training day on Wednesday. This completes the full weekly cycle.

Some More Tips:

Don’t be cold! You should be shooting for at least a 30-minute warmup consisting of some mobility/ dynamic stretches, general warm up, specific warmup, and skill work.

Drink up! You should be drinking at least half your weight in ounces of water per day (e.g. if I weight 200 lbs., then I will drink 100 ounces of water per day). Check out hydration methods here to learn more.

Get tough! CrossFit forges not only elite performance but also mental toughness. These workouts will test your ability to grind it out. Prepare yourself by taking some time to meditate. Visualize yourself completing the workout; realizing the physical pain you will be in but picture yourself giving your 110% until the buzzer sounds off.

Reach new heights by implementing some of these strategies. Give it everything you have and realize your goals and potential this year in the 2017 CrossFit Open.

By Coach Gavin Guard

 

Works Cited
Fullagar, Hugh HK, et al. "Sleep and athletic performance: the effects of sleep loss on exercise performance, and physiological and cognitive responses to exercise." Sports medicine 45.2 (2015): 161-186.
Sleep.org
Takahashi, Masaya. "The role of prescribed napping in sleep medicine." Sleep medicine reviews 7.3 (2003): 227-235.

Goal Setting: How to set yourself up for success!

Did you know that people who write down their goals are 5 to 10 times more likely to achieve them? 

A new month is approaching, so grab a piece of paper or a journal and write down some goals for the month of February. Create your own monthly challenge! Your goals can be anything you want them to be: a new CrossFit PR, a change in your nutrition, something to improve your quality of life or peace of mind; maybe a combination of all those things. 

Here's what to do:

1. Choose a few goals for the month.

2. Make sure your goals are specific and measurable.

3. Write down why you want to make this happen. Knowing your ‘why’ or the driving force behind choosing those goals will make them more clear and specific. 

4. Write down 3-5 action steps you will make towards reaching those goals. What is something you can start today? What is something you can work up to for next week? What are the things you will not let stand in your way? 

Revisit the things you wrote down each day this month and hold yourself accountable to making them happen. You are welcome to share them with us too if it helps you with accountability. Good luck!

By Coach Amy Locati