Apr 4th, 2016
We are about 10 weeks out from CrossFit Wichita’s 3rd Annual Oldtown Throwdown and the nutrition questions are starting to roll in…
“WHAT and HOW do I eat to improve my performance, gain lean muscle, and lose fat?”
For most people, this can be a very complex nutritional formula and if you’re extremely serious about this, I highly recommend you work with someone one-on-one (like me or some other great people I can refer you to) who can personalize your nutrition based on your physiology and lifestyle habits… especially if you are female (sorry ladies!) mainly because the hormone balance piece can become all the more complex.
The good news? There ARE some guidelines, nutrition info, and basics that almost EVERY CrossFitter can benefit from. Especially if you’ve been eating the S.A.D., the “standard american diet” or on the vicious “yo-yo dieting cycle” which can be just as terrible (if not, more so) on the body.
For the next 10 weeks, I will be posting one blog per week educating you on the basics and helping you to formulate your own guidelines around eating that will help you fuel your workouts, feel great, and maybe lose some stubborn lb’s while you’re at it.
This week we will be talking about MACRO NUTRIENTS, fondly referred to as “macros”.
Macros are the nutrients your body needs to SURVIVE. So they are PRETTY important. Not having a good balance of macros puts our bodies all out of whack in many ways… hormone imbalances, poor brain function, and yes… you guessed it, impaired athletic performance!
So what exactly are “macros’?
These are your proteins, carbohydrates, and fats. As a BASIC template, most people should start by aiming for a diet that consists of around ⅓ protein, ⅓ carbs, and ⅓ fats ratios throughout their days (and in most of their meals). That’s ~33% ratio of each macro per day.
While many people have heard of these things before there’s often A LOT of misconceptions that go with them. So let’s talk some macro basics:
Proteins: “You’ve gotta eat more protein” — that’s what most athletes hear when they see this word. And while there may be SOME truth to this, it’s important to understand how to best utilize this macro to feed your lean muscle growth and performance goals. For most people, they typically don’t get enough protein. For athletes, it’s best to aim for about .5-1.5 grams of protein per body weight in pounds per day (i.e. a 200 pound, male athlete would aim for about 180-220 grams of protein per day).
Protein also plays an important role in blood sugar regulation and increasing your satiation (or feelings of fullness during your meals).
However, you CAN go too far with protein. Our bodies can only synthesize (or use) ~25-30 grams of protein per meal. So those 60 gram protein shakes? They’re not doing much for you in way of adding an additional 30 grams of protein to your daily intake — it will actually be stored in other places if not used up by your activity levels and cause feelings of lethargy and backup in your digestive system.
The best ways to use protein in your favor are to include 20-30 grams in each of your meals, and especially post workout in “whey” form if your body can handle it (some people have bad reactions to whey, in which I recommend finding another pure protein source that your body can digest well).
Carbs: This macro typically gets a bad rep. And while most Americans are eating way too many (70% of their daily intak vs. 33%) it is a very important macro and extremely useful for athletes. Carbs provide a more immediate source of energy for athletes (and sometimes a later source by way of storing energy in glycogen stores) but in lieu of getting too science-y, it’s important to understand that they can provide great energy for us if we eat the right ones, with the right foods, at the right times (I know, sounds complex, but bear with me).
The right ones: most carbs get a bad rep because they aren’t incredibly nutrient dense. They are what some would refer to as “empty carbs”. As an athlete, it is our number one priority to get as many nutrients as possible and save our body the extra work/energy of processing other stuff (like processed foods and strange chemicals).
When our body is having to detox and process chemicals manufactured in a lab, it takes away the energy and resources we need to GET more nutrients, feed our muscles, and recover from a hard work out. That being said, the best carbs are not made in a lab, and don’t have a nutrition label… they are pure sources, think: sweet potatoes, potatoes, rice, vegetables, quinoa, fruit, etc. It is also important to note how much SUGAR is in each carb (i.e. fruits), and while I’m not a fan of cutting out fruit completely, it is important to count their sugars and be mindful of limiting them, especially if you have trouble with your blood sugar levels, hormone regulation, or fat loss. The best sources are veggies, with the MOST nutrients per calorie. Eat plenty of veggies throughout your day, and a few starchier carbs like rice, quinoa, and sweet potatoes (with protein and fats) to help keep your energy going strong and stable throughout your day and your work outs.
*Sugar: Sugar (which I also place under the carb family), deserves an honorable mention. If there was one thing I would do to change the American diet it would be to eliminate the amount of sugar of we eat down to 25-30 grams per day (unless you’re using it directly before a high intensity workout, in which case you could add a few more). WHY? Sugar sends our energy levels initially up (which sounds great, and can be directly before an intense workout) but then we shortly crash and crave more after the cycle ends if we don’t use that instant energy. Additionally, when it messes with our blood sugar/insulin response this impacts many important body and hormone systems that regulate our mood, stress levels, appetite, and yes, the storage of weight (and often the stubborn kind that sits around our waist and belly).
Last, but certainly not least, Fats:
Many people were taught in the 80’s that “eating fats makes you fat.” This was one of the WORST messages that the nutrition world falsely spread. Fat is essential for so many of our body processes including our ability to absorb essential vitamins (A, D, K, & E) and helping our brains function. In fact, many of the low fat dieters suffered from brain fog, memory loss, dry skin/nails (bc they couldn’t absorb vitamins), mental illness, and worse? Not being able to lose weight. That’s because we NEED fat, and depriving our bodies of healthy fats means that it will do what it can to hold on to fat when it thinks we are in deprivation.
However, not all fats are created equal. Many trans fats and oils such as Canola, Vegetable, Sunflower, Safflower, and even olive oil when it’s heated can cause inflammation in the body and wreak havoc on your hormones.
So what fats does our body need? Natural fats that aren’t crafted in a mad science laboratory. This includes avocadoes, olives/olive oil (cold), coconut oil, palm oil, avocado oil, ghee, all natural grass fed butter/dairy, nuts (without the harmful added oils), and fats from grass-fed meat to name a few. It’s easy to get healthy fats in your meals by cooking with them, adding a thumb size portion of butter/nut butter, ½ and avocado, or including fattier meats in your meals.
All in all, it is important to understand how our body uses macro nutrients (and which ones it can use) to fuel your workouts and increase your body’s natural ability to burn fat throughout your day. Our bodies don’t WANT to hold onto fat, it’s often just a good sign that we are eating too much of the foods that it can’t process well, and in response our systems (like hormones and blood sugar/insulin) are out of whack.
Feed your body well, and your body almost always will heal itself and start performing better not only in the box, but in life.
Stay tuned, next week will be about pre & post workout fueling to enhance your performance!
If you have any q’s or constructive feedback, I’d love to hear from you. Shoot me an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or PM me on facebook at www.facebook.com/coachjennyhelms