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 athlete, your performance depends upon proper nutrition and how you feed your cells at the molecular level. You need to tie diet and training together.
Food has two type of nutrients: micronutrients (vitamins and minerals) and macronutrients (protein, carbohydrates and fat). 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 macronutrients 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.
High insulin levels lead to: abdominal adiposity – apple shape, high circulating blood glucose, high blood fats – hypertriglyceridemia and high blood pressure, and even most of the chronic disease we see in the world – heart disease, diabetes, cancers, and alzheimers.
Glucagon is the counter-regulatory 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! 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 fat because of they are afraid of getting fat. But the reality is, fat DOESN’T make you fat, the excess of carbs is what makes you fat. That said, too much fat will also contribute to the weight gain.
High carbohydrate diets are largely to blame for the number of illnesses, specifically coronary diseases. Have you heard about the French Paradox? It is a phenomenon that refers to how while the French eat way more fat than we do, they don’t experience the weight issues we have and have only a fraction of the cardiovascular problems we have. Behind this though, is the fact that they consume only about about five percent of the sugar we do!
One of five Americans is now at risk of developing Insulin Resistance Syndrome, a cluster of primarily metabolic disorders (hyperinsulinemia, hypertriglyceridaemia, hypertension, and high obesity; also known as Metabolic Syndrome or Syndrome X) that contributes to morbidity and mortality. Insulin resistance (hyperinsulinemia) is the primary feature of metabolic syndrome. If you have insulin resistance, your body doesn’t respond to insulin, and blood sugar cannot get into your 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 continually linked to a number of health issues such as diabetes, high blood pressure, fertility, Alzheimer’s, immune disorders, mood dysfunction, brain dysfunction, arthritis, osteoporosis, and cancer among others.
Eating to Avoid Sickness
Our general 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.
Eating to Optimize Performance
Eating quality food is going to get you from sickness to wellness, however, if your goal is to improve your athletic performance QUANTITY also matters. That means being more precise with know how much food your fuel yourself with makes a difference. Just like we track our workouts and results in the gym, we can track our fuel and the results it gives us.
In order to achieve hormonal balance, control your body’s insulin response, and give you a baseline tracking point, we recommend a baseline diet composed of 40% carbs, 30% protein and 30% fat. This combination will help you burn fat as well as reduce cellular inflammation that drives weight gain. It will support your exercise, but not body fat. The concept is based on The Zone Diet, developed by Dr. Barry Sears. CrossFit has 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 Greg Glassman, Founder of CrossFit).
Getting Help With Your Nutrition
For more information about our specific Nutrition Programs and Coaching to support our athletes at CrossFit Reston and CrossFit Fairfax, and to employ these and other customized techniques, click here.