Nutrition Is the Foundation

Want to improve your health, wellness and fitness? Want to look, feel and perform your best? Want to live longer and quality of life? Smart nutrition is the answer.

Nutrition is the foundation which all else is built upon, it is the molecular building block of any program you are doing. As a CrossFit athelte, your performance depends upon proper nutrition and how you feed your cells at the molecular level. You need to tie diet and training together, otherwise you are just fooling yourself.

Understanding Food

Food has two type of nutrients: micronutrients (vitamins and minerals) and macronutrients (protein, carbohydrates and fat). The micronutrients are needed in relatively small amounts in comparison to the macronutrients. “While they are very important for the healthy functioning and growth of the body, micronutrients do not contain any energy but macronutrients do contribute a significant amount of energy to the body when digested. The body simplifies nutrients through digestion in order to utilize them. Macronutrients are digested to release energy but only when there are sufficient micronutrients to facilitate release of these nutrients for breakdown. Therefore, both micronutrients as well as macro nutrients are important for the body.”

Your body is a complex machine and needs the right combination of nutrients in order to function. Food is your energy source but it is also a drug for the body. Why? When we think of a drug, we think of cause and effect – you take a drug and your body will experience some kind of effect right? Food has the same effect. Most of these “drug-like effects” have to do with the blood sugar level and your body hormonal response to your blood glucose levels. Because blood glucose is such an important fuel for your brain and blood cells, your body is constantly monitoring its levels to make sure they are even and consistent. Insulin and glucagon are the two hormones that play a major role in controlling the blood sugar level.

Insulin is a storage hormone. It’s released by CARBS and protein (excess amino acids) respectively. You can control insulin release with a good nutrition, exercise and lifestyle. Carbs are stored as glycogen in the liver and muscles. Once the liver glycogen is full, excess carbs are stored as FAT (triglycerides).
High insulin levels lead to: abdominal adiposity – apple shape, high circulating blood glucose, high blood fats – hypertriglyceridemia and high blood pressure.

Glucagon is the counter hormone to insulin. It is a mobilization hormone. It is released in response to protein (amino acids) in the bloodstream and hunger. It releases fatty acids from storage and some glucose from the liver. It acts to normalize energy levels.

With regards with blood sugar levels, fat is neutral. However, fat is “the most precious energy reserve in the body. This is due to the fact that it has the highest energy (or caloric) value. Aside for being more efficient in energy generation, fat is stored on the body without water, so it does not weigh as much as protein (muscle). So a human can have more energy stores and carry less weight with fat than with any other source of energy.” Not only that, but it also slows down the rate of absorption of carbs as well as initiates and maintains “satiety” (the filling of being satisfied after you eat).

What is wrong with the Western Diet?

Too many carbs! That is what is wrong!!!!

The Standard Western Diet consists of a myriad of processed carbs (cereals, breads, pasta, cookies, cakes etc.), processed meat products, and a few – very few – fruits and veggies. People avoid eating far because of they are afraid of getting fat. Fat DOESN’T make you fat, the excess of carbs is what makes you fat. Now, don’t get me wrong, too much fat will contribute to the weight gain.

This high-carb is the one to blame for the number of illnesses, specially coronary diseases. Have you heard about the French Paradox? It is a phenomena that refers that while the French eat way more fat than we do they don’t experience the weigh issues we have and have only a fraction of the cardiovascular problems we have. They also only about about five percent the sugar we do!

One on five Americans is now at risk of developing Syndrome X or Insulin Resistance Syndrome. Syndrome X is cluster of primarily metabolic disorders (hyperinsulinemia, hypertriglyceridaemia, hypertension, and high obesity) that contributes to morbidity and mortality. Insulin resistance (hyperinsulinemia) is the primary feature of the metabolic syndrome. If you have insulin resistance, your body doesn’t respond to insulin, and blood sugar cannot get into cells. As a result, the body produces more and more insulin. Insulin and blood sugar levels rise, affecting kidney function and raising the level of blood fats, such as triglycerides. Hyperinsulinemia is linked to a number of health issues such as diabetes, high blood pressure, fertility, Alzheimer’s, immune disorders, mood dysfunction, brain dysfunction, arthritis, osteoporosis, cancer, among others.

Eating to Avoid Sickness

Our recommendation to move from sickness to wellness is pretty simple: eat Whole Foods! Eat lean meats and vegetables, nuts and seeds, some fruit, little starch and no refined sugar. This addresses food quality and a host of nutritional concerns.

An approach to Whole Foods is the Paleolithic diet. “Paleo is a simple dietary lifestyle that is based on foods being either in or out. In are the Paleolithic Era foods that we ate prior to agriculture and animal husbandry (meat, fish, shellfish, eggs, tree nuts, vegetables, roots, fruit, berries, mushrooms, etc.). Out are Neolithic Era foods that result from agriculture or animal husbandry (grains, dairy, beans/legumes, potatoes, sugar and fake foods).”

Eating to Optimaze Performance.

Eating quality of food is going to get you from sickness to wellness, however, if your goal is to improve your athletic performance QUANTITY matters.

In order to achieve hormonal balance to control your body insulin production we recommend a diet composed of 40% carbs, 30% protein and 30% fat. This combination is going to help you burn fat faster as well as reduce cellular inflammation that drives weight gain. The Zone Diet was developed by Dr. Barry Sears (researcher at Boston University School of Medicine and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology). The Zone Diet does not actually prohibit you from any particular food group; however food with high fat and carbohydrates such as grains, starches, and pastas should be avoided. Fruits and vegetables are the preferred source of carbs and monounsaturated fats (such as olive oil, almonds, avocados) are the ideal choice of fats.

“We’ve found that the Zone prescription offers an accurate and precise model for optimizing human  function. Accurate in the sense that it does more of what we want than other protocols and precise in that we find the response we want more often and quicker than with other protocols. Importantly, the Zone allows us to be accurate and precise in our prescription” (Coach Glassman).

The zone uses a unit of measurement called a block. Each block is composed of 1 block of protein, 1 block of carbs and 1 block of fat. How many blocks you can eat a day depends on your lean body mass. Most male athletes are between 16 to 18 blocks a day, while most females are between 10 to 11 blocks a day. The Zone diet encourages you to eat between 4 to 5 times a day, so you need to split your total number of blocks into the number of meals you plan to eat each day. An athlete, for instance, that eats 16 blocks may want to split his blocks into 3 meals of 4 blocks each and 2 snacks of 2 blocks each. How you split your meals is up to you, however, every time you eat you have to make sure you eat the same number of blocks (protein, carbs and fat).

Zone Blocks

Here is a guide on Zone Food Blocks to help you choose the right amount of foods to keep you In the Zone. This list contains portioned amounts of proteins, carbohydrates, and fats that will keep you In the Zone. From this list, most women should choose 3 blocks of protein, 3 blocks of carbohydrate, and 3 blocks of fat for each meal. Each selection in the Food Block list is one block. For example, one ounce of chicken equals one block, a woman should have 3 ounces of chicken. Most men should choose 4 blocks of protein, 4 blocks of carbohydrate, and 4 blocks of fat for each meal. Then choose 1 block of each for mid-afternoon and pre-bedtime snacks. See examples below.

To find out how many blocks you need per day you will need to be measured so we can determine your lean body mass.

Sample Lunch for Women:

3 protein blocks = 3oz. chicken

3carbohydrate blocks = 3 cups asparagus

3 fat blocks = 1 tsp. olive oil

Sample Snack:

1 protein block = 1oz. canned tuna in water

1 carbohydrate block = 2 cups celery

1 fat block = 1/3 tsp. olive oil

Use ZoneBlocks1.pdf list as a reference, but realize that these numbers are not set in concrete. There is more information on Food Blocks in the books A Week in the Zone and Zone Meals in Seconds by Dr. Barry Sears.

Paleo Foods

The Paleo Diet is a way of eating in the modern age that best mimics diets of our hunter-gatherer ancestors - combinations of lean meats, seafood, vegetables, fruits, and nuts. By eating the foods that we are genetically adapted to eat, followers of the Paleo Diet are naturally lean, have acne-free skin, improved athletic performance, and are experiencing relief from numerous metabolic-related and autoimmune diseases.

The essentials of the Paleolithic Diet are:

  • Eat none of the following:

  • Grains- including bread, pasta, noodles

  • Beans- including string beans, kidney beans, lentils, peanuts, snow-peas and peas

  • Potatoes

  • Dairy products

  • Sugar

  • Salt

Eat the following:
  •  Meat, chicken and fish

  •  Eggs

  •  Fruit

  •  Vegetables (especially root vegetables, but definitely not including potatoes or sweet potatoes)

  •  Nuts, eg. walnuts, brazil nuts, macadamia, almond. Do not eat peanuts (a bean) or cashews (a family of their own)

  •  Berries- strawberries, blueberries, raspberries etc.

Try to increase your intake of:

  • Root vegetables- carrots, turnips, parsnips, rutabagas, Swedes

  •  Organ meats- liver and kidneys (I accept that many people find these unpalatable and won’t eat them)

Expect some minor tuning problems- don’t worry, you can deal with them:

  •  It will take some time for your body to adjust to the changes after all these years. There is a huge surge in your vitamin intake. There is a huge decrease in your toxin intake.

  •  Start with breakfast for few days, as this is the easiest place to start as most people eat it at home, and it tends to be the least Paleolithic meal of the standard 3. For weight loss you will eventually need to reduce your carbohydrate intake, but ignore this initially as most people have high carb intakes and this can continue for the first few days that you are on this diet. If you reduce too quickly then you may fell unwell. Then move on to lunch or dinner for a few days and then to all 3 meals. If you work, you will often find it easier to take your lunch to work.

To learn more about the Paleo diet, what is encouraged and what you should avoid please read PALEO_DIET.pdf