Nutrition is the foundation of CrossFit, and eating a healthful, balanced diet is essential to achieving overall good health. Many CrossFit athletes follow variations of a Paleolithic diet, Zone diet, or some combination of the two. In general, a healthful diet consists of balanced meals, plenty of fruits and vegetables, lean proteins, and healthy fats from real foods. This type of diet will ensure that you are getting all the nutrients, vitamins and minerals you need and will provide healthful sources of the energy you need to get through your day and crush your workouts. Because no matter what your goals are, “you can’t out-train a bad diet”.
WHAT IS FOOD?
Food is medicine. Food is fuel. And food represents our cultures and traditions. Just like a car needs gas to run, your body needs energy to survive and perform at its best. Energy comes from a variety of food and beverage sources, and some forms are better than others. The most optimal energy for your body will come from quality non-processed whole foods. The goal is eat a balanced diet, putting the right things in your body at the right time to achieve optimal health and progress toward your goals.
THE PALEO DIET
The Paleolithic diet is a way of eating based on the foods our ancestors ate during Paleolithic era, spanning from over 2.5 million years ago up until 10,000 years ago. The first research on the Paleolithic diet in modern man was first published in the New England Journal of Medicine in the 1970’s. The term “paleo diet” was first coined by Dr. Loren Cordain, a professor and researcher at Colorado State University. He began publishing research on the benefits of a paleo diet over 20 years ago, and researchers have continued publishing studies showing the benefits of ancestral diets into the present.
The Paleo diet is based on the idea that the human genome has not evolved very much over the past 10,000 years, and that our bodies are most suited to the diets that our Paleolithic predecessors ate than to our current Western diet. Using anthropological data, Dr. Cordain determined that our Paleolithic ancestors ate mostly game meats, fruits and vegetables, nuts, seeds, and some oils. Foods like grains, beans, legumes, and dairy were not part of the normal human diet until the Agricultural Revolution began.
- Eat real, whole foods including lean meat, fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds and oils.
- Eat when you are hungry, and stop when you are satisfied. Eat meals and snacks, and always be prepared with a Paleo snack when you are out in case you get hungry.
- Do not eat dairy (even Greek yogurt), beans and legumes, or grains.
- Avoid processed foods, i.e. anything that comes in a box and has ingredients you don’t understand. No refined sugar, high fructose corn syrup, food dyes, etc.
- Avoid adding salt to foods. If you must use salt, choose sea salt.
- Limit higher glycemic fruits and vegetables such as root vegetables, grapes, and dried fruits. If you eat these foods, have them before or after a workout, when your body needs carbohydrates and uses them most efficiently.
- If you are an endurance athlete, or exercise more than 1 – 1 ½ hours/day on 5 or more days, include at least one serving of root vegetables or banana daily.
- Do not consume sugary beverages, such as soda, juice, and sweetened teas, or alcohol.
WHAT IS THE ZONE DIET?
The Zone Diet, developed by Dr. Barry Sears, is based on the theory that in order to achieve ideal body weight, hormonal balance, and performance, a person must eat just the right amount and makeup of food at the right times. When eating Zone, your diet will be about 40% carbohydrates, 30% protein, and 30% fat. The idea is that this makeup of nutrients will help you achieve the ideal hormonal balance to prevent inflammation, which Dr. Sears believes is a key cause of obesity and poor health.
The Zone Diet is based on blocks, which are basic units for measuring the amounts of the three macronutrients – carbohydrates, protein, and fat. Depending on your energy needs and fitness or weight goals, you will eat a certain number of “blocks” per day. One block of protein is 7 grams, one block of carbohydrate is 9 grams, and one block of fat is 1.5 grams. In general, one ounce of meat is a block of protein, 1 cup of green vegetables is a block of carbohydrate, and 3 almonds is a block of fat.
The Zone Diet is a good way to really dial in your diet and become aware of exactly what you are eating and how much. However, the best results are seen in people who are precise in their weighing and measuring their foods. In order to do well with Zone, you will need to use a food scale and measuring cups and spoons regularly until you feel comfortable estimating food portions, which will take time.
For more information on the Zone Diet and block values for different foods, download this free issue of the CrossFit Journal. http://journal.crossfit.com/2004/05/zone-meal-plans-crossfit-journ.tpl
WHAT IS THE BEST DIET FOR ME?
There is no one “perfect diet” because everyone responds to foods and nutrients in different ways. In addition, many people have a variety of different goals. A person coming to the gym for the first time to lose weight or get healthy will not have the same dietary needs as an experienced athlete aspiring to compete in the CrossFit Games. The perfect diet for you will consist of a variety of healthful foods including fruits and vegetables, healthy fats, and lean proteins that meet your energy needs based on your goals. These will be foods that you enjoy and that fit into your lifestyle comfortably and conveniently. If you’re interested in more information, ask a coach or email.
For more information, please visit wickedgoodnutrition.com
FOODS TO CHOOSE
Lean beef (trimmed of visible fat)
Top sirloin steak
Lean hamburger (no more than 7% fat, extra fat drained off)
Any other lean cut
Lean pork (trimmed of visible fat)
Any other lean cut Lean poultry (white meat, skin removed)
Game hen breasts
Eggs: (limit to six a week) Chicken (go for the enriched omega 3 variety)
Rabbit meat (any cut)
Goat meat (any cut)
Beef, lamb, pork, and chicken liver, Beef, pork, and lamb tongues Beef, lamb, and pork marrow Beef, lamb, and pork “sweetbreads”
Peppers (all kinds)
Squash (all kinds)
Tomato (actually a fruit, but most people think of it as a vegetable)
FATS AND SWEETS
NUTS AND SEEDS:
Sunflower seed butter
OILS: (≤4 TB/DAY)
Dried fruit (≤ ¼ cup/day)
Dark chocolate chips (use sparingly)
Trail mixes (homemade, watch portions of nuts and dried fruit
FOODS TO AVOID
Barley (barley soup, barley bread, and all processed foods made with barley)
Corn (corn on the cob, corn tortillas, corn chips, corn starch, corn syrup or high fructose corn syrup)
Millet Oats (steel-cut oats, rolled oats, and all processed foods made with oats)
Rice (brown rice, white rice, wild rice, rice noodles, bas mati rice, rice cakes)
Rice flour (all processed foods made with rice)
Rye (rye bread, rye crackers, and all processed foods made with rye)
Sorghum Wheat (bread, rolls, muffins, noodles, crackers, cookies, cake, doughnuts, pancakes,
waffles, pasta, spaghetti, lasagna, wheat tortillas, pizza, pita bread, flat bread, and all processed foods made with wheat or wheat flour)
Cereal Grainlike Seeds: Amaranth Buckwheat Quinoa
All processed foods made with any dairy productsButterCheese
Nonfat dairy creamer
Sugar snap peas
Soybeans and all soybean products, including tofu