It's been said that "men and women do not live by grilled chicken and vegetables alone." Actually, nobody ever said that, but they should have!
Smart nutrition is an important part of gaining strength and stamina from an aggressive training regimen like CrossFit. Nobody argues with this. Food is fuel and it takes some high-octane fuel – not empty calorie crap – to power a grueling workout and its recovery.
Having a diet that helps to regrow the muscles shredded by vigorous exercise and lifting is a given. However, this doesn't mean cheating on a meal of high-calorie foods is out of the question. In fact, some fitness experts feel strongly that this "cheat meal" is an important part of maintaining motivation to hit the gym 3 or 4 times a week and eating good-for-you food every day.
There are several ways to eat the foods you crave – pizza, pasta, hamburgers, ice cream and every other "bad" food you've ever been warned about – without blowing all the work you've been doing in the gym. It involves cheating 2 or 3 times a month.
Cheating to Win
We've all heard that maintaining a healthy weight is simple physics - calories in and calories out. Actually, it's not quite that simple. Part of the trick of getting leaner and (oh yes!) meaner involves maintaining a positive mental attitude. This is where a cheat meal can really supercharge the process.
To be clear, this does not mean you should binge on junk for days at a time. The best effects of this counterintuitive strategy come from cheating on ONE MEAL, a couple of times each month.
"A cheat meal is high in calories and all macronutrients—protein, carbs, and fat—and is not something that would normally be part of a proper diet plan," says BuiltLean nutritional scientist Eva Lana. "It's not to be confused with a cheat day, which is an eight- to 12-hour window in which you go outside of your diet and straight out binge."
She notes that a cheat day is recommended for those who are serious, competitive athletes and body builders. A cheat meal is best for the rest of us.
According to an article in Men's Fitness, "When it comes to cheating (on meals, that is), there are two hormones you need to be concerned with: leptin and ghrelin. Leptin is the 'hunger hormone.' It's mainly produced by fat tissue, and it regulates your appetite and energy stores. Grehlin is a hormone mainly produced by the stomach. It's an appetite stimulant that signals the release of growth hormone.
Periodic cheat meals that are higher in calories and carbohydrates can help raise leptin levels and lower ghrelin. "When your hormones return to normal, they can help reverse or even prevent any negative effects on metabolism, hunger drive, and energy expenditure. What's more, the piece notes, the increased calories may also help to increase thyroid function, further boosting metabolism. This means that a scheduled cheat meal may actually help optimize the body’s hormones to avoid weight loss plateaus and prevent chronic metabolism depression.
Again, it very much about motivation. Many nutritionists believe that looking forward to a few slices of pizza or steak and baked potato (complete with butter, sour cream and bacon bits!!) on Friday will help the athlete make better choices on Wednesday.
Tips for a Successful Cheat Meal
It is important to plan when the cheat meal is going to occur and then stick with this plan. This is often more difficult than it seems because food urges can sneak up on you.
Eat your favorite food, for one meal but don't go crazy. If it is Mexican food, eat the enchiladas and stay away from the guacamole and chips.
It's very important to work out before and/or after feasting; it can actually promote bigger, better gains.
"If I have a cheat meal, I know that I’ve consumed a lot of calories, and I want to burn them off. So, I might want to go heavier metabolically—like going for a high-intensity workout or lift heavier that day, or throw in some extra plyos to continue to burn calories after I’ve stopped.”
Creator of A.C.C.E.S.S.
"I vary my workouts between HIIT, Olympic Lifting, heavy days of big muscle group training (bench press, back squats, front squats, pull ups, etc.) and kickboxing. Because I train with a lot of intensity, I'm not as worried about counting calories. I enjoy what I’m eating and move on. If I'm not training hard, I don't usually crave an ‘off’ day as much.”
Fitness and Lifestyle Consultant
People who are in large calorie deficit (more than 750 calories per day) need a cheat meal more often than those with smaller calorie deficit.
"Leptin concentrations (hunger hormone) typically reflect total body fat mass; the leaner your physique becomes, the less leptin your body produces, at which point eating cheat meals is more ideal. All in all, you need to recognize the changes in your body and how your body reacts to different cheat meals."
The best approach is to go for a well-balanced meal that is higher and carbs and calories than the normal (training) meal.
The Best Choices for a Cheat Meal
There are as many opinions on the BEST cheat meal food as there are cheaters. However, the fitness experts suggest the following as good choices:
You may have done 5 rounds of 20 reps of wall ball shots, lifted 4 sets of your 12- rep max for bar bell thrusts, swung the kettlebell 4 set of 15 reps, box jumped your butt off, climbed the rope to heaven and back and done everything else on the workout of the day (WOD) whiteboard, but you know what? You haven't gained an ounce of muscle from your CrossFit hell...yet.
Muscle growth can only happen AFTER you've stopped the workout and that makes your recovery strategy critical. As pointed out by Bodybuilding.com, "Muscles don't grow in the gym; they grow after. When you lift heavy, muscles suffer micro-tears and are actually broken down via a process called catabolism. Immediately after you lift, your body begins repairs, but it needs your help."
For those athletes who have heard the phrase "no pain, no gain" since they first started a fitness program, this first tip seems counter-intuitive if not downright blasphemy! While it is important to push oneself beyond that which is comfortable, it is not necessary to push past exhaustion EVERY time they open the box.
The best advice is to push yourself past what you did in the previous workout. Pushing the muscles just to the point where they can be repaired with rest and recovery is the optimal approach. Most (good) CrossFit trainer can help you determine this workout calculus.
Most CrossFit athletes understand the importance of post-workout nutrition – that's why there are so many people walking around, drenched in sweat and drinking a protein shake! However, the food consumed before the workout can also play an important role in post-workout recovery. As noted in a recent article, "Digestion is a lengthy process; proteins and carbs that you ingest prior to the workout will still be circulating in the body afterward. For this reason, choose your foods wisely. Make sure you get high-quality, lean protein along with some complex carbohydrates, especially if you plan on an intense workout. I recommend consuming your meals roughly two hours prior to your workout to avoid digestive issues or cramps." The potassium found in bananas is also an excellent recovery fuel.
Post-workout protein, especially whey, is vital if you haven't eaten anything for hours. Aim for 20-50 grams of protein after each workout depending on your bodyweight. Most women will do fine with 20 grams, while men should aim for the upper range.
Many CrossFitters view stretching as a monumental waste of time. However, fitness experts and body builders know that proper stretching of exhausted muscles not only jump-start the recovery process but also build flexibility that allows for more muscle gain in most compound lifts.
Workout recovery does not have to be complicated. According to trainer, Dan DeLisle, "A hot bath is another great way to foster a faster recovery. This will increase blood circulation to the muscle tissue, which then means greater oxygen and nutrient delivery – two things that your tissues need for repair. A hot bath before bed can also lull you to sleep easier, and sleep is another very vital part of the recovery equation.
"If you aren’t getting at least 8 hours of sleep per night, it could be one reason you aren’t seeing the recovery you hope you would. Stay away from the alcohol and caffeine several hours before bedtime, but drink plenty of water."
Muscles that have been torn down by extensive work need a few days every week to repair themselves. DeListle notes, "The professional athlete standard of no days or only one day off per week will likely not be enough for those of us doing intense CrossFit training sessions. Instead, aim for two or three days off per week from all intense exercise.
"Do some leisure exercise if you wish, schedule mobility or yoga classes as mentioned previously, but most importantly, re-energize yourself for the week ahead."
Do you have a post-workout tip for helping tired, sore muscles recover quicker? Contact us and we will share with our readers.
The start of a new year brings with it the usual predictions on what is about to be hot and what’s not. Based on your reading this blog, you are most likely interested in personal fitness trends for the coming year. Well Sparky, you’ve come to the right place because the granddaddy of all fitness surveys was released about a month ago and you can read all out what these folks think you’re going to be doing to work up a sweat in 2018!
The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) surveyed more than 4,000 fitness professionals, and here’s the hottest trend for the coming year. Drumroll please!!!
“High intensity interval training has been a consistently high-ranking trend on the forecast in recent years, appearing in the top three since 2014,” said Walter R. Thompson, Ph.D., FACSM, president of ACSM and the lead author of the survey and associate dean in the College of Education & Human Development at Georgia State University in Atlanta. “Even though survey respondents warned of a relatively higher risk of injury associated with HIIT, it continues to be very popular in gyms across the world.”
A press release from the ACSM noted that survey respondents were concerned that some of their clients are reluctant to participate in HIIT due to perceived risks, and the fitness pros often shared those concerns. So, is HIIT dangerous?
“HIIT offers participants a good workout that can be done without a lot of time or equipment,” continued Thompson. “Research shows that with proper precautions, like working with a certified personal trainer, HIIT can be a safe, effective and fun way to exercise.”
Those involved with CrossFit training will not be surprised by the popularity of HIIT, especially as it relates to having a professional trainer running the show. In fact, the popularity of CrossFit has had a significant impact on this fitness survey.
The press release further noted that the survey, now in its twelfth year, “helps the health and fitness industry make critical programming and business decisions. ACSM expanded this year’s survey to include partner organizations in the Coalition for the Registration of Exercise Professionals® (CREP), and the 4,000 respondents set a record that more than doubled that of previous years.
The survey provides 40 potential trends to choose from, and the top 20 were ranked and published by ACSM.
The full list of top 20 trends is available in the article "Worldwide Survey of Fitness Trends for 2018."What do you think of the results of this survey? Is it accurate or BS? Let us know what you think. Need a quote for CrossFit equipment? Just click here and we’ll get back to you pronto.
When a newbie walks into what is usually an industrial-looking CrossFit facility, she or he will likely notice some things that are very different from the stainless steel and glass, big box “retail” gyms. First, the traditional health clubs are packed during January and February with well-meaning, overweight but unfocused participants and then ghost towns for the rest of the year. While the CrossFit box is buzzing with the about the same number of participants year-around and they are laser-focused on achieving fitness goals.
There is another big difference between CrossFit and traditional gyms which the fitness industry has started to notice. For several decades, the traditional facilities have featured row after row of cardio and weight machines. There have never been any cardio or weight machines in CrossFit gyms. In fact, the functional training (free weights, rope climbing, intense HIIT training, etc.) done in a group setting and led by an experienced fitness expert is EXACTLY what sets CrossFit apart from traditional health clubs.
Don’t look now, but the shiny retail facilities are wising up to the popularity of CrossFit training. They are replacing those cardio and weight machines with free weights and group training.
Rage Against the Machine
According to a recent article in the Wall Street Journal, Charles Huff, the vice-president of facilities for 24-Hour Fitness noted that the 420-location chain has scaled back cardio and weight machines to 50 percent of floor space from about 66 percent it had allocated previously. The traditional health club “now devotes the other half of floor space to free weights and functional training, which includes things like kettlebell swings and body-weight exercises with TRX suspension straps. It has also expanded its studio group exercise classes.”
The article continued by noting that “stair-steppers” and some elliptical machines in particular are waning, but stepmills continue to enjoy some popularity. Leg and shoulder presses remain popular in these traditional gyms, while narrow-focus ones such as inner/outer thigh machines “gather dust.”
The piece pointed to several trends driving this shift away from machines. “Boutique fitness is booming and many of those studios focus on guided workouts with few or no machines. Some members of CrossFit gyms, meanwhile, are migrating to less expensive health clubs with newly added or expanded barbell weightlifting facilities.”
A primary driver of this trend on the part of big box health clubs has nothing to do with machine/anti-machine client preferences. It is the oldest business motivation there is: MONEY. “Trainer-led sessions generate extra revenue where a treadmill or weight machine can’t.”
CrossFit: Boring it’s Not
The popularity of CrossFit training has forced many heretofore successful traditional clubs to “up their bars” for club members in order to remain profitable. The days when participants would arrive at the gym and immediately jump on a treadmill or elliptical and stay there for a half-hour are over.
Why? It’s BORING and anything boring starts to feel a LOT like work.
The group exercises and more intense training pioneered by CrossFit challenge (some would say “beat down”) participants and successfully completing this often grueling training brings about an esprit de corps among the class member. This leads to a greater wiliness to push one’s comfort boundaries and results in better results.
CrossFit training may be hard, but it is seldom boring. Boredom is the bane of most fitness programs and it is the reason that come March, that traditional health club, with its row after row of machines, will once again be a ghost town. While over at the CrossFit box, the participants will be gasping for air, struggling with kettlebells, free weights and tire flips, screaming encouragement to their new friends in the class and kicking butt.
If the answer is “yes”, then you’re not alone! While CrossFit gyms exploded in the years 2011 through 2015, the once massively popular, cult-like, gritty exercise regimen has slowed down in popularity and appears to be in a consolidation phase, likely due to a confluence of events.Continue Reading → View full article →
The popularity of CrossFit training is having and unintended consequence: a resurgence in interest of the sport of weightlifting. What many experts are calling the greatest American weightlifting team in history competed in the World Weightlifting Championships in Anaheim, California from November 28 – December 7, 2017, and they represented the country in fine fashion.
Click here for the results of the World Weightlifting Championship.
Many of these weightlifting athletes are social media stars. Martha “Mattie” Rogers videos on Twitter and her Instagram site continue to rack up millions of downloads, and she’s not just a pretty face. According to recent news coverage “she owns all of the American records in her weight class and in a first for her sport, was included this year on the Sports Illustrated list of “Fittest 50 Females.”
Also in this contingent of lifters are Sarah Robles, who earned a bronze medal in the 2016 Olympics, Colin Burns a gold medalist in the Pan Am Games this past summer and 16-year old C.J. Cummings who is the current reining youth world champion in his weight class. Cummings is the first American in more than 40 years to set a senior division world record. He weighs only 152 pounds and lifted more than 407 pounds over his head.
Understanding the Sport of Weightlifting
Traditionally, weight lifting has not been as popular in the United States as it is in such countries as Columbia, Iran and South Korea. This was due in part to the lack of understanding about the sport. Olympic weight lifting consists exclusively of two weightlifting events: the snatch and the clean-and-jerk. In both events, the competitor lifts a weighted barbell from the ground to overhead. It sounds simple, but it is far from it!
According to USA Weightlifting, the snatch is a single continuous movement. The athlete takes a wide grip on the bar and propels the weight upwards with his/her legs by standing violently. At the top of the bar’s trajectory (about chest high), the athlete quickly reverses direction, dropping under the bar to catch it in a full squat, with arms locked and then stands!
The clean-and-jerk involves two actions. For the “clean” the lifter takes a shoulder-wide grip on the barbell and stands, using his/her legs to drive the bar upwards to about chest height, at which juncture he/she drops under it, catching the bar on their shoulders before standing. In order to “jerk” the bar over the head, the athlete dips straight down and using his/her legs, pushes the bar up. The lifter then quickly splits their legs forward and back so as to catch the barbell at its apex. Arms are locked and the lifter stands with the weight over his/her head.
CrossFit Training is Driving Interest in Weightlifting
Most weightlifting coaches credit the popularity of CrossFit training for teaching many new people the proper technique for a move like the clean-and-jerk lift. In a Wall Street Journal article on this subject, it was noted that “Between the 2012 and the 2016 Olympic Games, membership in USA Weightlifting more than doubled from 11,000 to 26,000. Because of CrossFit, which incorporates the lifts, many hundreds of thousands of others are now engaged in weightlifting as a part of their exercise (WOD) routine.”
Even the glitzy “retail” workout facilities such as Life Time Fitness and Equinox have begun installing Olympic lifting equipment in their facilities because their customers are asking for it.
The fact that these lifts have been a part of the functional training of CrossFit since its beginning certainly enhances the “word-of-mouth” about weightlifting and has encouraged many parents to encourage their children to take up the sport. With proper instruction, the possibility of injury from concussions or other accidents from weightlifting are far less than football or soccer.
Weightlifting is also a great fitness regime for older athletes. Fitness experts note that weightlifting targets the parts of the body that tend to degrade with age. The sport improves strength, particularly in the legs, which is a good predictor of longevity, and core which is also critical to maintaining strength at any age. Weightlifting also improves flexibility, balance, stability and overall motor control.
Do you use weightlifting in your exercise program? If so, what has been your experience? Contact us and let us know.If you want more information about purchasing free weights for your gym, click here.
The U.S. Army is pilot-testing a new way to measure the fitness of soldiers and it looks a LOT like a CrossFit class. The six-event test measures functional fitness and has no adjustment for gender. They are Occupational Physical Assessment Test, or also known as OPAT.
According to a recent article in The Wall Street Journal, the proposed test known as the “Army Combat Readiness Test” (ACRT), seeks to “encourage more practical physical training and prevent injury in a force frequently deployed around the world. It also reflects a U.S. military where all combat jobs are now open to women: The proposed test would have one set of passing standards, with no adjustments for age or gender.”
Officials who manage the physical training of Army personnel have been concerned about the relative fitness of this fighting force for several years. “When you look at fitness, we’re having some challenges right now,” says Maj. Gen. Malcolm Frost, commanding general of the U.S. Army Center for Initial Military Training. Tens of thousands of soldiers aren’t deployable because of injuries, many caused by poor physical fitness.
The soldiers who belong to the elite forces of the U.S. military such as Navy SEALS and Army Green Berets have a long history with CrossFit training and apparently the physical instructors of the Army have been taking notice of this. It is not a stretch to say that anyone who endures a weekly CrossFit workout – man or woman – would pass this proposed fitness test.
The Current Test is Based on Aerobics
The current Army test got its impetus from the aerobics boom of the 1980’s. This was also a time when many “Cold-War” leaders felt that ground combat was obsolete.
Fitness experts note that this current test, which includes timed push-ups and sit-ups and a two-mile run, and is taken twice a year is only about 40 percent predictive of a soldier’s ability to complete tasks necessary for combat. The proposed ACRT test is about 80 percent predictive.
The article notes that in order to pass the current test, soldiers must score 60 points in each of three categories: push-ups, sit-ups and a timed two-mile run. The test awards points on a sliding scale based on a soldier’s age and gender (except in sit-ups, where the male and female standards are identical). For instance, a 22- to 26-year-old man must do 40 push-ups in two minutes to pass that event. A 22- to 26-year-old woman can pass with 17 push-ups.
The Proposed OPAT is Considerably More Challenging
The proposed test will require both genders to be functionally fit in order to pass. CrossFit athletes will certainly recognize these “events” from their WOD’s.
Event #1 - Dead Lift
Soldiers line up behind rows of barbells loaded with weights ranging from 125 pounds to 425 pounds. Each soldier picks one of the barbells and performs three dead lifts.
Event #2 – A Reverse Throw of a 10-pound Weight
This throw is measured for distance and seems awkward to some soldiers. However, it serves a purpose. It mimics a boosting move that’s “exactly how we get people into buildings,” says Col. Dale Snider in the Journal article. The 49-year-old has been deployed four times to combat zones.
Event #3 – A New Push-Up
The Army notes that the proposed new push-up requires lowering all the way to the ground and extending one’s arms in a T between repetitions. The T push-up is easier to monitor in testing, Army leaders say and is much more difficult to perform.
Event #4 – 250 Meter Shuttle with 90-Pound Sled and Kettlebells
This event, which every CrossFit trainer has included in his/her regimen at one time or another, requires the soldier to alternately sprint, dragging a 90-pound sled and carrying two 40-pound kettlebells. Many in the test have noted that this is one of the toughest as far a muscle fatigue.
Event #5 – The Leg Tuck
This leg tuck, the fifth event in the proposed test, requires lifting knees or thighs to elbows while hanging from a pull-up bar. The article noted that some soldiers struggled to do more than a handful of reps.
Event #6 – The Two-Mile Run
The proposed test ends with a timed two-mile run. This is the only event identical to one in the current test.
Functional Training is Coming…and Soon
According to the Occupational Physical Assessment Test, some of the fighting forces have gotten fat as the Army reports that about 17 percent of its soldiers are obese. This rate has risen (from 13 percent) from the previous year and is about half the overall obesity rate of all U.S. civilians. Clearly, the leaders of the Army feel these numbers are going the wrong way and they plan on doing something about this.
The report noted that change could come as soon as 2018. If adopted, the ACRT would complement or replace the current fitness test in the next few years. “The proposed test is part of a move toward a more comprehensive approach to training and maintaining the Army’s 1 million soldiers. It comes amid high demands on the Army world-wide, a shrinking pool of people eligible for military service and a shift in the civilian fitness industry (such as CrossFit) toward free-weight and functional training.”
If you’re a CrossFit enthusiast looking to develop total-body fitness, then perfecting the clean and jerk should be mission #1. To tackle one of the most common Olympic-style lifts you’ll have to work at combining the CrossFit clean and jerk into one seamless movement. The key to do this is to use the correct form and only lift what you are comfortable with. When done properly done, the CrossFit clean and jerk can be a great addition to any workout.
You may want to tape your wrists to stabilize them during the lift and use gymnastics chalk on your hands to prevent slippage. Gently place the appropriate amount of weights on either side of the barbell. Be sure the weights are secure onto the barbell before proceeding. Grip the barbell with your thumb tucked under your index finger. Your middle and ring fingers should form a hook grip. Place your feet directly under your hips and position your shoulders in front of the barbell, with the barbell positioned over your feet.
Keeping your chest up and arms straight, pull the barbell off of the ground. Your feet should be flat on the floor during this entire movement. With your weight shifting from the middle of your foot to your heels, extend your torso and hips and continue to pull the barbell up vertically. When the barbell is 2/3rds of the way up toward your thigh, fully extend through your hips, touching the barbell to your thigh.
Using a shoulder shrugging motion, push the barbell upward. Then, drop your hips into a squatting position, catching the barbell in the rack position. The bar may set on top of your chest and shoulders. Stand up and out of the squatted position to prepare for the jerk.
Before doing the jerk, you may need to readjust your feet and your grip on the barbell. Making sure your hands and feet are apart, slightly wider than your shoulders, drop your hips to build up enough kinetic energy for the jerk. Next, drive your legs upward forcefully, without hesitation to generate enough energy and force for the jerk. Now the barbell should be over your head, hips dropped and in a quarter-like squat position. To release the barbell, stand up out of the squatted position and drop the barbell when your feet have come together and when your hips are fully extended.Mastering the clean and jerk is easier said than done. It is always best to practice this movement only with certified CrossFit clean and jerk specialists. Doing any of the steps incorrectly could cause damage to your body. For more CrossFit clean and jerk tips and tricks, follow our Rally Fitness blog.
Welcome to the CrossFit Rock Solid family! Joining CrossFit is more than a workout regime, it’s a commitment to healthy living and being part of a supportive workout community. Whether you’ve already had your first, intense CrossFit rock solid session or planning to hit the ground running soon, it is important to set your expectations and goals appropriately so you can achieve the greatest level of success.
Here are the top three things to get you started and working your way to having a rock solid CrossFit body.
If you’re new to the CrossFit world, or a seasoned veteran, adjusting your diet to live a healthier lifestyle is a top priority. Traditionally CrossFitters followed a Paleo diet, but the newer Keto diet craze is sweeping CrossFit gyms across the nation. But, what is exactly is the difference? And, more importantly, when should you choose a paleo regime over a keto diet with your intense CrossFit workouts.
With Paleo, the goal is to step back in time and eat how humans ate millions of years ago. The key is to tap into how our digestive system naturally evolved and to avoid processed foods. Essentially, the Paleo diet eliminates grains, high sugar foods and swaps them out for truly organic and all natural substitutes.
What you may lack in carb intake you more than make up for with high protein consumption on the Paleo lifestyle. If you’re looking to building lean muscle, then the Paleo diet paired with regular CrossFit workouts are your go-to regime.
Keto is a bit more complex than its Paleo counterpart. The Keto diet is all about ratios - high fat, protein, and zero carb intake. The goal with this lifestyle change is to induce your body to enter ketosis, a metabolic state where your body is in overdrive converting sugars in your body into energy. Eventually, with limited carb consumption, your body will be forced to breakdown ketones, the byproducts of fat, getting you into top shape faster. The hard part is that you can only enter ketosis when your body is essentially starved of glucose (sugar).
With either option, the benefits are clear - higher fat burn and increased metabolism. Whether you’re looking to become a CrossFit warrior or wanting to leave a healthier life, the Paleo and Keto diets can help you achieve your fitness goals. If you’re looking to build a consistent workout schedule and bring some CrossFit workouts into your home, check out our CrossFit starter kits here.