Nutrition is how food affects the health of the body.
Good nutrition can enhance mental awareness and physical performance. It can help prevent, for example, heart attacks and strokes, as well as control diseases such as diabetes.
We've put together a short guide to nutrition basics to help you on your way.
Let us know what you want to see next.
Now, the thing with nutrition is it is all personal and individual to you. There are so many factors and variables and just saying ‘nutrition’ is very vague, it’s not a one size fits all, just like your training. We will cover off what some of these variables are throughout this guide. We’ve tried to keep it as simple as possible.
The purpose of this guide is to provide you with some basic information on nutrition for general health and to support you in getting the best out of your CrossFit workouts. If you want tailored information to your specific situation, get chatting to one of our coaches who are qualified in giving nutrition information who can tailor something for you.
What do we mean by nutrition?
Lets start with the definition of nutrition:
‘The process of providing or obtaining the food necessary for health and growth.’
So, what does this mean? Our interpretation of this is giving you the right information to allow you to make an informed choice on the types of food that you want to have in your diet to support health and fitness. Nutrition can be a minefield. So what we are going to try to do is give you a very basic explanation on some of the things you may read about or see during this guide.
These are the food groups in which food is made up of. You know if you read a nutrition label on some food and you see those words, Protein, Carbohydrates and Fat. These are macronutrients or ‘macros’ as they are known in the fitness industry.
This is best described as vitamins and minerals. The human body cannot produce vitamins and minerals (for the most part) and so these need to be obtained from food or supplements. An adequate intake of all micronutrients is necessary for optimal health. Some vitamins are Vitamins A,B,D, E & K. Some minerals are: Iron, Zinc, Sodium, Magnesium and Calcium.
You may have heard the term ‘calories’ if you’ve looked at anything to do with diet or nutrition in the past. This is basically a unit of energy. You will burn a certain amount of calories throughout the day just by moving. You will then burn more calories if you work out or go for a run or clean your house. Everything you eat and drink has some caloric value and so this is energy balance. Just a fun fact,
water has zero calories.
Nutrition in CrossFit
If you’ve been around CrossFit for anything longer than a year, you’ve probably heard of Greg Glassmans famous approach to nutrition:
‘Eat meat and vegetables, nuts and seeds, some fruit, little starch, and no sugar.’
Nutrition forms the basis for everything else. Take a look at the CrossFit fitness pyramid and see how nutrition forms the base for everything else to work from:
So, what does this mean?
CrossFit is well known for adhering to two different ways of eating. The Zone diet and the Paleo diet. We don’t like using the word diet here as it gives the impression it’s for a short time. Nutrition should be a way of life and we should follow a set of principles to stay healthy.
The Paleo diet is, in its simplest form, the way in which our ancestors ate before the agricultural industry came into effect. This means that they ate what they could hunt, forage and grow and what was in season. Whereas everything these days is processed and easily accessible, we just have to go to the shops or order online and we can have anything we want. Paleo in its strictest form restricts a lot of food groups. You should avoid processed foods, sugar, soft drinks, grains, most dairy products, legumes, artificial sweeteners, vegetable oils, margarine and trans fats. What you should eat is meat, fish, eggs, vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, herbs, spices, healthy fats and oils. There are many different modified versions of the paleo diet that allows for certain types of foods to be allowed, such as rice or grass fed butter.
The Zone Basics
The zone diet was created to reduce inflammation in the body. Inflammation plays a part in many different conditions and diseases such as digestive issues to type 2 diabetes. The basic principles of the zone is to eat small, frequent meals that will be made up starting with low fat protein, followed by foods containing healthful carbohydrates and fats. Drink at least 2 litres of water a day.
The zone diet recommends that you eat low glycemic carbohydrates such as vegetables, fruits and legumes. It recommends avoiding carbohydrates such as soft drinks, sweets, chocolates, baked goods, wheat or white bread, starchy vegetables, rice and pasta.
Other well-known diets
This diet is very similar to the Atkins diet in the way in which you will focus on a different type of fuel source for energy, using fat and ketones for energy rather than glucose. This diet focusses on eating high fat (usually around 70% of your overall intake) medium protein (around 25%) and low carbs (5%) coming from vegetables mainly.
This way of eating focusses on eating only plant based foods (such as vegetables, grains, nuts and fruits). Vegans do not eat foods that come from animals, including dairy products and eggs. Many people eat this way for moral or ethical reasons.
If it fits your macros, also known as ‘flexible-dieting’. This focusses on the macro breakdown and calorie consumption, not the ‘quality’ of ingredients. So for example if someone works out that they need to eat 150g of protein, 75g of fat and 250g of carbohydrates, this can be made up of anything, as long as you achieve these numbers.
This is a way of eating where someone will restrict the timeframes in which they eat. So a popular timeframe is the 16/8. This will mean that you will not eat anything for 16 hours (including when you sleep) and you will consume all your calories in the 8 hour window. So you would be able to eat between 11am and 7pm and nothing outside of this time (as an example). There are plenty of other styles or diets but these are just a few to give you an idea of the vast array and to reinforce the fact that nutrition is all personal.
So, what one is right for me?
You’ll see from these summaries that there are similarities and differences between them all. This really doesn’t help when trying to figure out how or what you should eat. Like we said earlier, there is no one size fits all approach to nutrition. There are so many variables to consider. Having done our research into a number of these diets, the benefits and drawbacks and what they consist of the common themes across them are:
1) To eat whole food as much as possible
2) To avoid sugars and processed foods
3) Eat plenty of vegetables
4) Eat enough protein
5) Eat enough calories to support your workouts, but not your body fat
Finally, and something that is really important is to enjoy the process and to find that balance where you can incorporate the foods you enjoy into the way in which you want to eat. Don’t beat yourself up if you have a bit of chocolate or some alcohol with a pizza. For your everyday CrossFitter it’s about balance and enjoyment. The best ‘diet’ is the one you will stick to. Make sure you feel good and don’t be afraid to cut stuff out and experiment with how it makes you feel and perform.
Let us know if this has helped you in any way and what you want to read about next in the comments section below.