‘Eat meat and vegetables, nuts and seeds, some fruit, little starch and no sugar. Keep intake at levels that support activity but not body fat.’ – Greg Glassman, founder and CEO of CrossFit.
These are powerful words that form the basis for our general nutrition recommendation. This approach, when implemented consistently, will result in positive body composition changes, improved performance and better health markers like blood pressure, fasting glucose and bodyfat percentage. While we believe that training is important, we believe (strongly) that you can't 'train your way around a bad diet', regardless of the goal. The bottom line: focus on your nutrition and prioritize it above all else.
Taken at face value, Greg's recommendation is pretty simple. Here are some additional points that you may find helpful when thinking through your personal nutrition strategy:
- Get rid of sugar, and do it now. THIS IS THE NUMBER ONE DIET KILLER FOR OUR CLIENTS. Start by removing all liquid sugars, including sodas, creamers, diet drinks and fruit juices. Then, take out your sugary treats (cakes, cookies, ice cream, etc). Remove 'hidden' sugars in other areas of your diet (breads, yogurt, etc). Your body will thank you! Check this factsheet for more information about sugar consumption in America.
- You probably need more protein than you’re currently consuming. Try to have some protein with each meal. Animal protein (beef, pork, poultry, fish and eggs) is best and should be kept lean where possible. CrossFit training will place an increased demand on your body to recover and to rebuild muscle tissue so don’t be shy here.
- Switching over from starches and sugars to vegetables and fruits has two primary benefits: the overall amount of carbohydrate/calories is lower and the amount of micronutrients (vitamins and minerals) is much higher. Try to have at least 2-3 servings of veggies per day. If you’re trying to lose weight, limit fruit consumption to 2-3 pieces per day. If you’re going to consume starchy foods, try to time these meals to be on workout days only and keep portions in check (i.e condiment-sized portions).
- Nuts and seeds (and things like avocados and butter) are a good source of dietary fat and should be included in your diet. Try to vary nut sources seasonally, if possible, or buy/try a different nut each week during your shopping trip. If you’re trying to lose weight, limit the amount of nuts to a tiny handful per day.
- Starch should be limited to what your body needs. If you’re training very hard, you may require more starchy foods for energy. If you’re trying to lose weight, limit starch to one portion, preferably post-workout, or condiment-sized portions at each meal.
- If you’re trying to lose weight, only weigh and measure yourself once a week. Typical measurements might include neck, chest, waist, hips, arms and legs. Also include a weekly picture in shorts and sports bra, where appropriate.
- Play around with overall food volume and eat what seems appropriate for your size and activity level. If you're trying to lose weight, you'll need to create a 10-15% calorie deficit from your 'maintenance' level. Training consistently will support your weight loss but shouldn't be used as a substitute for making changes to your nutrition. If you need a more structured way to calculate food quantity, consider Barry Sears' Zone Diet. This has been the quantity strategy for CrossFit from the beginning, and it works.
- If you can adopt the above nutritional strategy and remain compliant 90% of the time, you should see excellent results in the gym AND on the scale. Most folks don’t need any additional supplementation, although many of our athletes use a post-workout protein shake and daily fish oil supplement. Also, consider a vitamin D supplement if you don’t get a lot of sun.
- Most athletes need more rest. Try to get at least 8 hours of sleep per night in a dark, cool room.
If you need additional support, see a CFDV trainer and we'll answer any questions that you have. If you want long-term accountability and even more support, consider our Amplify! nutrition coaching, run by coach Jacki.