Many people, including some who are dedicated to physical fitness, have a complicated relationship with food. To some, food is fuel – nothing more and nothing less. However, to others, food takes on a much more psychological importance.
With the food as fuel crowd, if it happens to taste great… all the better. However, its primary role is to allow them to run faster, get stronger and have a more productive and active life.
However, for those who need food to fulfill some emotional gaps and have a “love/hate” relationship with it, a diet which enhances CrossFit performance and speeds recovery might put these calories in their proper perspective.
It Takes Mental Toughness
Most people who decide to commit the considerable energy to become a CrossFit athlete have realized that this program is much more demanding and rewarding than a stroll into a traditional gym, no matter how many mirrors and fancy workout machines they might have. As has been noted in this space before, CrossFit is a lifestyle and by definition that includes attributes such as: work-ethic, passion to get stronger and nutrition to sustain that effort.
Where many people make a mistake about nutrition – including those who honestly want to get stronger and lose that excess fat – is that they think this process is all about a specific diet. It’s not. It’s about mental toughness. In other words, it’s about making a commitment to a healthy lifestyle.
While this healthy nutrition is important to supply one’s body with the type of fuel which encourages quicker recovery from the demands of a typical WOD, it doesn’t have to be an obsession. As the car insurance TV commercial correctly notes: “Hey insurance companies. Newsflash. Nobody’s perfect!”
What Types and How Much Food?
According to CrossFit Impulse, an excellent online resource, one of the toughest parts of transitioning to an eating program which incorporates foods that our bodies were intended to eat is the fact that grains, breads and processed carbohydrates are not in this group. Lean meats, fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds serve as the basis for this food for fuel program.
Even if one is eating these types of foods, proportions are also important for obtaining physical gains from CrossFit. According to Impulse, “Next, we recommend eating those quality foods in proportions that will fuel your athletic activity and provide hormonal balance. The best way we have found to achieve this is the Zone Diet. The Zone Diet prescribes 40% carbs, 30% protein, and 30% fat for every meal. It also prescribes that you eat several small meals throughout the day.” Other fitness experts recommend a Paleo diet, which has many of the same attributes of the Zone Diet.
Does this mean the CrossFit athlete is NEVER eating another dessert or pasta dish again, until death do they part? Of course not. Having a “cheat” meal or periodic dessert is perfectly acceptable, so long as it doesn’t happen every week.
Tips on Eating From a CrossFit Athlete
Another model for an eating program that both enhances a workout and helps the body recover from the intensity of a CrossFit session comes from CrossFit athlete and regular contributor to the online fitness newsletter, The Athletic Build, Danielle Sidell. When asked about her diet and how it helps her train, she explained.
“I would describe it as simple, I don’t do anything special. I don’t avoid a whole lot of foods, I don’t stress over weighing out my food. I really just focus on taking in quality food sources, plenty of calories and stabilizing blood sugar. I want to maximize my workouts by getting the best recovery possible. I already have a very good idea of how much Macro’s are in most foods from changing up my diet so much in the past. So when I say 6 or 8 oz. of meat of sweet potatoes, I am not actually measuring it, but I would say it’s pretty accurate.
“My diet is very important in my performance. We make adjustments daily depending on what my workout is going to be, how I did, and how I feel afterwards. Not only are the nutrients very important but so is hormone balances, which are directly affected by the nutrients you but into your body.
“I wouldn’t say that my diet is a typical CrossFit diet because of some of my food choices, but I think the logic behind the diet I follow and a paleo or zone is similar. I don’t really think that one diet is better than the other. Everyone should find what works for them individually.”
What would someone find in Danielle’s refrigerator? According to The Athletic Build:
To review a typical week in Sidell’s diet, just click here.
Breaking the Emotional Connection to Food
Following a healthy diet is not easy, but neither is succeeding in the grueling CrossFit program! The women and men who get up at some unbelievable hour and push themselves through the most intense exercise session they have ever experienced don’t have a problem with challenges. Eating the right food is a part of this challenge.
CrossFit Impulse puts the entire diet challenge in perspective.
“What you shouldn’t do is go crazy trying to modify all your favorite high-carb meals into something healthy, because it just doesn’t work. The underlying issue is breaking the emotional connection to food. Food is fuel. Just eat it and get on with life.
“Food is not a way to achieve happiness. Happiness is what happens in life when you’re not eating. If you get emotional fulfillment and gratification from food then it is evidence of a hole in your life that you’re trying to fill.
“As a healthy way to set and achieve goals and spend time with like-minded people, CrossFit is part of what will fill that hole. But you have to start by realizing the situation and accepting that if you want to change then you’ve got to change. Your old dietary habits will just give you your old results.”What do you eat before and after your CrossFit training? Tell us and we will share with our other readers.