Nutrition is for life. Burning off unwanted fat is an important motivation for many individuals, so whatever training you are doing, make sure your nutrition is helping to set you up for success. Make sure you understand the basics and make them a habit.
‘Sound nutrition, obtained from a high-quality diet in optimal quantities—as determined by the individual—provides the necessary foundation for continued progress and maximum adaptations from the program’
- CrossFit HQ
It’s a message as old as time. “Exercise more, eat less, and you’ll lose weight.” We’ve heard it from doctors, registered dieticians, and nutritional organizations who truly believe that calories are the only reason our weight fluctuates up and down. In all actuality, it’s a bit more complicated than that.
The truth is that different foods influence hormones and hunger in various ways, which means that all calories are NOT created equal. In fact, all of that calorie counting you may be doing in an attempt to lose weight isn’t even necessary. Here are several proven ways to put your weight loss on autopilot and start losing weight without keeping track of calories.
Practicing CrossFit without any regard to nutrition is similar to only having “one oar in the water,” according to CrossFit Founder and CEO Greg Glassman. Diet is crucial to optimising health and performance, supporting the reasoning as to why Nutrition is the foundation of the CrossFit pyramid.
Crossfit Pyramid with nutrition at the base
You wouldn’t expect to jump straight into the main class and be performing WOD’s with RX weight without having first completed your foundations. Why does this occur with nutrition so often? We all need to be doing the foundations of Crossfit nutrition Every. Single. Day. It needs to be a lifestyle, something that is a habit and that you enjoy. This is what I call WORLD CLASS BASICS. The basics of nutrition don’t come in a shiny tub with a list of 20 different ingredients. The basics can be the mundane stuff – prepping meals, eating more vegetables, limiting alcohol consumption or getting to bed early.
When you do nail the basics, the effect on performance and health are incredible. CrossFit is unique in that as it is constantly varied, it can stress all of your energy systems, mental capacity and push your body to limit – all in a one hour class!! If you do not employ world class basics to your Crossfit nutrition then you are not giving yourself the foundation to reach your potential.
1 EAT THE RAINBOW
The fact is that the majority of people underestimate the impact that eating enough vegetables has on health and performance. The intensity of CrossFit means that your body requires more support than the average joe. You need to be supplying it with a variety of nutrients. In addition to this a recent meta-analysis concluded that a higher consumption of fruit and vegetables is associated with a lower risk of all causes of mortality, particularly cardiovascular mortality. There is no supplement that has this kind of effect!! Adding more vegetables (particularly green veg) into most meals is where you need to start. Add kale/spirulina into your morning smoothie, spinach to your omelette and a variety to your lunches and dinner. Bottom line is to eat vegetables at every meal.
2 INDIVIDUALISE YOUR NUTRITION
Finding what works for you is so important. Don’t follow someone else's plan, evolve your own; one man’s meat is another man’s poison. This takes a little bit of awareness. Do you have those days when you feel superhuman?! Just note down what you ate in the meals leading up to this. Additionally note down what foods you ate when you feel like death and everything feels like 200kg!
3 MINIMISE THE STRESS OF DECISION
Deciding what to eat for breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks, pre workout, post workout etc. etc. etc… it can become overwhelming. The sheer number of decisions we have to make regarding food is staggering. Employing some simple strategies to minimise the stress of making these type of decisions can help you focus on other areas like training, work and your social life.
Meal prep – you don’t have to prep every meal for a whole week but maybe just cook extra from dinner or roast some meat and veg a couple of times.
Get some go to meals in your locker – this could be a good smoothie recipe, a quick tasty superfood salad lunch or a spicy stir fry. Having these quick go to meals allows you to stay on point with your Crossfit nutrition regardless of the situation.
4 EAT THE BEST QUALITY PRODUCE THAT YOUR BUDGET ALLOWS FOR
You don’t have to buy everything organic from expensive health food shops, but one basic thing to do is to buy the best you can afford. Do a little bit of research to find a local producer that does amazing eggs for a fraction of the supermarket prices, or buy up superior cuts of meat and fish when they are on sale and freeze them. Another tip is to buy larger cuts of meat and cook for a few meals at a time, this is always cheaper than buying the pre cut fillets, allowing you to spend more on better quality veg!
5 EAT SOME FORM OF PROTEIN AT BREAKFAST
Now this is something that I believe will make a huge difference to your health and performance regardless of your goal. Breakfast can be one of the meals that people eat a solely carbohydrate based meal. Cornflakes and milk? Does anyone still eat this?!?! Some people can go until 1.30pm before eating any form of protein (and even then its is usually only a small amount). Want to build muscle, lose fat and be awesome at work?? Then GET SOME PROTEIN IN YOUR BREAKFAST!
So why is having protein at breakfast is so crucial?
Boost neurotransmitter production – boosts memory, attention and drive for the day ahead.
It is linked to eating less throughout the day
Stabilises energy levels – no mid morning energy dips
Provides amino acids to build muscle and recover from training.
It doesn’t matter whether you do the 6am conditioning class or the 8pm weightlifting class you need protein at breakfast.
Here are some great breakfast ideas
Eggs – anyway you like – Omelettes, baked eggs, scrambled, poached, boiled……add veggies, add meat, add fish – be creative.
Greek yogurt – add nuts, seeds, berries, protein powder – done!
Dried meats & nuts – Charles Poliquin championed this and I have had some awesome results using this method. Try it. Trust me.
Chia seed pudding – google them. So versatile and can be used for snacks and desserts also.
Smoothies – get yourself a nutribullet and start creating masterpieces! Great way to add in lots of different superfoods and nutrients. Add spirulina, maca and tyrosine into a morning smoothie.
6 WANNA LOSE WEIGHT? REDUCE YOUR CARBOHYDRATE INTAKE
Studies have shown time and time again that individuals who stay away from refined, simple carbs automatically consume fewer calories, which kick starts weight loss without a ton of effort.
In a study by the University of Cincinnati in 2009, 53 obese women were randomly placed in a calorie-restricted, low-fat group or a low-carb group for six months. While the calorie restricted, low-fat group lost around 8.6 lbs. (3.9 kg), the women in the low-carb group lost 18.7 lbs. (8.5 kg). Simply by eating until they were full, the low-carb group lost twice as much weight.
If you need help cutting out carbs, start by eliminating negative carbs (sodas, sugars, sweets, and starchy foods) from your diet. This includes bread, potatoes, and pasta. If you can’t imagine a diet without these things, make healthier choices. For example, opt for red and sweet potatoes over white potatoes, select whole-grain bread and pasta, only eat them in moderation.
By reducing your daily carb intake to around 100-150 grams per day, you’ll start to see results. To lose weight even faster, cut down your carbs to less than 50 grams per day.
NOTE: If you are a training athlete for crossfit or any other sporting event, reducing carb intake could potentially hinder athletic performance as complex carbs have a very big role in energy supply to the body. It is fine to eliminate simple carbs such as sugars, soda pop, and starchy food, but if you are training for performance you will always want to include a variety of complex carb sources in your diet to keep energy levels high.
Complex Carb Sources:
To learn more about complex carbohydrates and how they can affect your athletic performance check out this article.
7 REPLACE CARBS WITH PROTEIN
This is especially true at breakfast. In a 2005 study, 30 overweight women were given either eggs or bagels for breakfast. When lunch rolled around, the women who ate eggs for breakfast ate fewer calories. This continued throughout the day, as well as for the next 36 hours. Essentially, the eggs did such a good job of filling them up that they ate fewer calories automatically at later meals.
In a second study conducted in 2008 by a different group of researchers, 152 overweight women and men were divided into two groups for eight weeks. While one group ate eggs for breakfast, the others had bagels. At the end of the eight weeks, the egg group had lost:
61% greater reduction in BMI
65% more weight loss (2 lbs compared to 1.3 lbs)
16% bigger reduction in body fat
34% larger decrease in waist circumference
8 GET PLENTY OF PROTEIN
When it comes to enhancing your metabolism, decreasing hunger, and increasing your body’s fat burning ability, protein can do it all. Studies have found that because the body takes longer to digest protein, it automatically speeds up calorie burning. In addition, protein leads to a feeling of fullness that decreases hunger.
In a 2007 study published in American Society for Clinical Nutrition, it was determined that increasing the amount of protein in your diet automatically reduces your calorie intake by 441 calories every day.
Protein has also been shown to enhance muscle growth, particularly in weight lifters. If you are struggling to add protein to your daily diet, opt for eggs, fish, and meat as much as possible.
9 HACK YOUR EATING HABITS
Yes, it can be hard to control how much you eat, which is why you may need to trick yourself. Instead of pulling out a large plate and opting for small portions, choose one that is much smaller and fill it up. This will “trick” your brain into thinking that it has eaten more than it actually has. Yes, it sounds a bit silly, but psychologists who have studying this have found that it tends to work.
10 ADD FIBER
Foods with a high water content, such as specific fruits and veggies, help you feel fuller longer, despite ingesting fewer calories. Multiple studies have shown that individuals who eat foods with a higher water content lose more weight than those who do not. In addition, soluble fibre is broken down in the digestive tract into a bacteria that produces butyrate, a fatty acid, which is thought to have substantial anti-obesity effects.
11 CONTROL YOUR APPETITE
Coconut oil is full of medium chain triglycerides, which are fatty acids that go straight to the liver for digestion, where they are transformed into ketone bodies or used as energy. In addition, they have been shown to enhance energy expenditure by as much as 5% in a single day.
To possibly reduce your BMI and waist circumference substantially, studies show you should consume 1 oz. (30 mL) of coconut oil each day. Essentially, you should take the time to replace your current cooking oils with coconut oil.
12 REDUCE STRESS AND GET ENOUGH SLEEP
The amount of stress in your life, along with the amount of sleep you get, are crucial to keep your body and hormones functioning at an optimal level. In fact, insufficient sleep is one of the top risk factors for obesity. In adults, it increases the risk of obesity by 55%.
Too much stress has the ability to increase your cortisol levels, a hormone which increases the accumulation of body fat, as well as your risk of developing chronic diseases.
Nutrition is for life! Remember that everything you put in your mouth, in either solid or liquid form, is either helping you achieve your goal or hindering your progress. Make sure you understand the basics and make them a habit.
As you can see there are a lot of different ways to help yourself lose weight over time. My suggestion to you is, pick a few of these methods, or all of them and stay consistent with them for at least 6 months and you will see results! And remember...
A performance nutritionist with over 9 years experience working in elite sport. His experience ranges from working with elite footballers, CrossFit athletes and powerlifters to helping the general public reach their goals through nutrition coaching. Having originally trained in Sports Therapy, he completed an MSc in Exercise and Nutrition Science and has gone on to train in functional medicine, genetic testing and advanced body fat assessment techniques. He currently works in elite sports and have clinics based at CrossFit Shapesmiths, CrossFit Bold and Third Space Medical.
A personal trainer in Kelowna, BC who has a passion for helping people get into great shape. When i'm not training clients I'm either spending time at the beach or training for my second passion in MMA.