Saturday, October 3, 2009

Nutrition in a Nutshell

I get a lot of questions about nutrition and diet. How does one eat to support the energy and strength levels needed for the demands of CrossFit workouts? Or any workout regiment for that matter? While I am not a nutrition expert, I can offer advice based on my own experiences and the resources I have used.

I currently subscribe to the Paleo way of thinking. Meaning, I follow the Paleo diet. I “went Paleo” in May, 2009, and am fairly strict on the foods I eat. The easy way of thinking of Paleo is, eat “meat and vegetables, nuts and seeds, some fruit, little starch and no sugar. Keep intake to levels that will support exercise but not body fat.” Also, no legumes and no grain! That means no beans, peas, peanuts, soy, cereal, bread, pasta, rice, flour, etc.

For Paleo, it is so important to ensure that you are not only eating the right mix of food, but enough food. With every meal you need protein (think meats), carbs (think vegetables) and fat (think avocados and nuts), similar to the Zone diet (but you don't need to weigh it and eat in “blocks”). Women tend to not eat enough protein – it is difficult to think of having meat with every meal. It is also difficult to think that carbs must come from vegetables and fruit rather than grains, pasta and rice. For a listing of appropriate foods, click here.

I ensure that for every meal I eat some sort of meat, fresh veggies, and fat (avocado, nuts, etc.), even at breakfast. Snacks are just smaller portions of the same. To lean out, play with the fat portion, but don't cut it entirely, and don’t cut the proteins and carbs. It is a delicate balancing act between the three food sources – too little fat, protein or carbs is a recipe for poor performance during a workout.

Ensure you are eating after you work out as well. Depending on the workout, have some protein and carbs. Typically, you won't want fat just after a high-intensity workout. Have it later with another meal. It is just as important to refuel as it is to sustain.

Keeping a Food Journal
With any diet, it is important to track your food intake. Keep a daily log of your meals and estimated portions. A food journal will help you ensure you are getting enough of the right foods throughout the day. It will also allow you to log menu items that you like or dislike. But most importantly, a food journal will assist you should you need to make adjustments in your diet. You will have the ability to look back at what you have been eating to better understand why you may be experiencing poor performance, plateaued weight loss, or lack of energy.

Nutrition Resources
The Paleo Diet
Paleo Foods
Robb Wolf

What are your thoughts on Paleo? Comments? Questions? Additional resources? Post to comments.

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