This is a brief summary of the Crossfit nutrition seminar that was held at Crossfit Gladstone. While the focus was on diet and nutrition, I divided the talk up into some key sections as you cannot talk about diet and health without also including sleep and recovery, digestion, hydration, hormones and supplementation. These are all key areas of health and unless you focus on all of them you may not get results, a bit like a chair needs 4 legs, you are not going to have balance on a one legged chair!
I arrived half an hour early to check out Crossfit in action and I think this is the ultimate way to exercise, a combination of high intensity cardio, resistance training and mobility.
While this maybe the best way to train, improve strength, fitness and overall health, you may find yourself not getting the results with weight loss, or that you are getting run down and sick if you are not focusing on the other areas of your health.
This is probably the most under-rated aspect of health and fitness and especially in a town like Gladstone with so many people working long hours and shift work in industry related jobs. While the ideal amount of sleep is 8 hours a night, most professional athletes are getting 1-2 hours a night more than this as they value the benefit of sleep for recovery, muscle growth and immune function …. but many people are getting 1-2 hours a night less than the ideal.
Missing just one hour of sleep a night can add up to missing an entire nights sleep a week, this leads to difficulty losing weight, poor muscle growth, decreased performance and mood changes …. all things that you are trying to improve by doing Crossfit.
Tips to improve sleep include having a regular sleep routine, if going to bed an hour earlier is not an option try 30 minutes. Watching TV, ipads and phones before bed can make it harder to get to sleep and the blue light from these screens has been shown to impact on sleep quality …. try reading a book or listening to music instead for 30 minutes before going to bed.
If getting to sleep or staying asleep is a problem for you then it would be a good idea to assess adrenal function, this is easily done through an adrenal saliva cortisol test.
N = 1 means an experiment of one person, and it is so important to experiment on your own diet and work out what is the best diet for you, as there is no one size fits all approach.
Everyone has different needs depending on how much they exercise, whether their job is physical or sedentary and their own individual genetic make up. Let me know if you need help with this and I can help you work out the best Crossfit nutrtition plan for you to stay on track.
I think the Paleo diet is a good place to start as the focus is on eating fresh unprocessed foods, one of the mistakes that I see people making here is not eating enough of the quality fats which can lead to feelings of hunger and lower energy …. fats should make up the majority of your energy intake.
It is a great experiment for everyone to go one month cutting out the inflammatory foods like grains, dairy and sugar, this cuts out all processed foods. To be successful at this does require some planning and I think the Whole 30 program is one of the simplest to follow …. at the end of the 30 days assess how you feel, and one by one introduce some of the foods that you have eliminated and see how they affect you.
For some people all grains will be a problem while for others they may find that rice and quinoa are fine but wheat makes them bloated and uncomfortable. This is a great way of working out what foods are the best for you. Foods not only affect digestion but also mood, increase inflammation which can lead to injury and your energy levels.
Unless you have an actual food allergy it is not necessary to be perfect 100% of the time and the 80/20 rule is a good one to follow with your diet once you have done the 30 day challenge, if your eating the ideal foods for you 80% of the time you are going to achieve good health.
The good fats to eat include coconut oil, MCT oil, olive oil,macadamia oil, butter, grass fed meats, fish, nuts/ seeds and avocado. It is a good idea to include some fats with each meal.
The best sources of protein are meat, fish, chicken and eggs, but foods such as lentils/ legumes , dairy plus nuts and seeds also contain protein
The best carbohydrates to eat are vegetables and salads with the starchy vegetables having a higher carb content, fruits and grains such as rice or quinoa. Legumes, lentils, nuts and seeds will also contain carbohydrates.
It is best to eat the starchy carbohydrates, fruit or grains in the evening or after an intense exercise session as this will lead to a lower insulin response improved muscle growth and improve your body’s ability to burn fat. At night the hormone cortisol is at it’s lowest which is another good reason to eat the majority of your carbohydrates at night …. this is the opposite to what a lot of people are doing when they eat toast/ cereals for breakfast and sandwiches for lunch.
Being well hydrated is important for so many things including energy, nutrient absorption, digestion and skin health but it doesn’t have to be complicated and you do not have to drink the sugar filled “sports drinks” like Gatorade and Powerade. You do want to drink about 2 litres of water a day as a minimum and more in summer, starting the day off with a large glass of water is a good idea, and then for the rest of the day drink when you are thirsty.
Along with sleep digestion is the most important aspect of health as the absorption of nutrients and the elimination of waste products is what keeps our body’s running efficiently. If you have symptoms like bloating, constipation, diarrhea and reflux these are all signs that there is something wrong with your digestion …. it could be the foods you are eating or a lack of digestive enzymes, or something more serious like some type of infection.
If you need help improving your digestion this article on digestion health goes into more detail or you can book a consultation with me and I can help you get on track.
Your thyroid, adrenal and sex hormones are strongly influenced by what you eat, sleep, stress, injury, exercise and anything else that places a stress on your body …. when they are working in balance they are what control your metabolism, energy and help you to feel great.
But when your hormones are out of balance it can lead to weight problems, fatigue, mood issues, injury, digestion problems, PMS and poor results with your training. It is easy to get your hormones tested and this is something that I do a lot with clients to help identify what is the cause of their health problems, but due to Medicare restrictions it is something that is rarely done by your doctor.
Adrenal fatigue issues and thyroid problems are common in both men and women while with the sex hormones it is common for women to be too low in progesterone and men to be too high in estrogen and low in testosterone. You can read this article about testing hormones for athletes.
I like to keep supplements to a minimum and only recommend specific products to address a health concern like digestion problems, hormones, sleep or whatever the main priority is. There is a lot of hype about supplements for exercise, but some of these can be too high in caffeine which leads to a spike in cortisol right when you are doing your exercise, and exercise can also leads to a spike in cortisol …. this may lead you to feeling good at the time but continued elevation in cortisol is going to lead to muscle breakdown and other hormone problems.
Unless you are competing for an event I would keep it simple and only use well proven supplements like Branch chain amino acids, creatine, glutamine and fish oils to help with performance and recovery.
If you have any questions you can email me firstname.lastname@example.org.
Crossfit nutrition consultations can be scheduled online here
Michael is head consultant at Planet Naturopath - Functional Medicine and Nutrition Solutions. As Seen