It seems that after a few years CrossFit has proved not to have been just a passing fad, but quite the opposite, it’s a reality, growing its number of followers and specialised centres every day. And with this, we have at our disposal one of the most complete disciplines that exists today
Like any other activity, there will always be a group of people practicing the discipline that take things a step further, looking to optimise and make the most of it. One of the most important points on which they intervene is nutrition. They look for information on the best diets, or even supplements that can boost their performance. Sometimes, they listen to information that, in the majority of cases, may not be intended for them.
The danger of diets
If you’ve been doing this for a little while, the following terms will surely ring a bell: Paleo Diet, Intermittent Fasting, Ketogenic Diet, “High Carb”, “Low Carb”…
These are the names of eating habits under the concept of Diet. Their most curious feature is that they are all backed by science, all show a lot of studies behind them, about their benefits… And for those who follow them, it’s great. It almost reminds me of religions, each one with its god or gods…
So, who’s right? Should I listen to the CrossFit Community and do a Paleo, or am I better to reduce my feeding window to 6 or 8 hours as the fasting diet says. Should I have carbs at night or stop eating them and go get the test strips to see if I went into ketosis…
Well yes, this, although it sounds like a joke, is the situation a person without much experience is going to find themselves in, and they don’t have to look far…
In my personal opinion, this is much more serious than it seems, and the danger and risk to health is underestimated: instead of going to real specialists (aka a dietitian), recommendations found on the web are followed, and then not even such subjective factors as the type of activity are taken into account (it’s not the same to practice CrossFit as to do Bodybuilding or Cycling. …), the frequency (how many times a week…), the duration of each session, whether you suffer from any pathology (diabetes, thyroid problems…)
The extremes of the office worker and the athlete
The tables are turned. Someone with a high calorie expenditure, with an active and sporty life, usually tends to eat fewer calories or at least limit the food they put in their mouth, and when some whim outside the plan takes hold, alarms sound…
On the other hand, those who are sedentary for 90 or so percent of their time, that is, people who respond to a profile of an office worker, are those who have a subscriber card for the vending machines…
Here is the main paradigm of society, those who should “allow” themselves a more flexible diet, and to tell the truth, without too much consideration or plans down to the millimetre, are those who seem to be afraid, for example, of carbohydrates. And those who should be undertaking greater restrictions, eat quiet outrageously… and none of this turns out well.
CrossFit and back to the essence
CrossFit, in itself, has not invented anything, it consists of exercises that were already carried out previously (for decades), but that we’ve seen little of in the mainstream, perhaps because of the business aspect (football…), and as is the case with weightlifting. And it’s something to be grateful for, to make this exquisite discipline more well known.
Among other important benefits: it recovers movement patterns with our body, practices gymnastics, prioritises a strength base with respect to hypertrophy…
And of course, in terms of nutrition there’s a lot going for it too. Note! I’m not at all against the lifestyle and type of food that is advocated, or that most of the athletes follow and consume, in CrossFit. On the contrary, I think it has a lot of benefits. But for this, depending on the person, and above all their interests (competition, improvement of body composition…), a number of points need to be made. And I do have my doubts about certain things (avoiding dairy products, why do we have sweet potatoes and not potatoes?…).
The Paleo Diet is one of the most popular diets in the CrossFit world. This type of diet seeks to return to our origins, with the argument that our ancestral genome has not changed as much as the rhythm of diet changes in society. CrossFit is about performance, and I believe that this type of food can sometimes fall short. On the other hand, I do see it as the diet to establish for the rest of the population (especially the sedentary).
The notion of the Paleo diet is that it is pseudo-Ketogenic diet, when in fact it is not. The Paleo diet doesn’t eliminate carbohydrates, but their sources. The main things can be eaten are vegetables, seasonal fruits, roots…
The key: a balanced diet
What I’m saying isn’t made it, it makes sense if you look at it.
At the end of the day, CrossFit is a sport, or a sporting discipline, or whatever you want to call it, but one where you’re truly put through your paces, one that can humble even the strongest in town… So you do exercise, and it’s hardcore. Any session can leave you done for. But… just like a 90-minute football match, an 80km mountain bike route with slopes, or running a Sprint Triathlon.
The body will resort, in the face of such efforts, to the substrate that allows us to maintain the intensity at all times. That is, the fuel that allows the constant exchange of cellular ATP. And for the above activities, the common denominator is glucose. This is stored in the liver and muscle in the form of glycogen.
These reserves are not very high, and it is estimated that 6-7g of glycogen per kg of body weight provides “autonomy”. In other types of activity, such as the Marathon, due to the level of adaptation of athletes, the energy substrate is triglycerides (fats). But this is another issue to be addressed at another tie.
So, if I have to compete in the Games, and I have 7 events in 3 days, let me know how I’m going to recover glycogen from broccoli…ah!
For our interest, what I mean is that such physical effort, sometimes, leads to the conclusion, by own experience as a CrossFit athlete, that maintaining the habits promoted by the Paleo diet encourage neither recovery nor performance improvement. You can’t recharge the energy stores fast enough to supply the pace of training, which sometimes reaches more than two sessions a day.
This is what I said before about competitions
Defining muscle mass or performance? Exercising for health or preparing for a competition?
This is the turning point for every crossfitter. CrossFit was born as a general-purpose activity that enhances a person’s physical qualities and capabilities. To demonstrate this evolution, competitions are held, where the best prepared demonstrate so.
It’s not about winning, but about showing which crossfitter did their homework best, that is, the one that knows how to measure their energy (efficiency), is a strategist, masters all the skills, but may not be the best at each one…
And of course, competing requires almost exclusive dedication to really have a chance of success. This being so, if you’re looking to “define”, failure is inevitable. The fact is that even if you do CrossFit with the sporting approach, a definition diet is almost contradictory, as the consequences will be that you don’t perform as expected.
If you practice CrossFit with another purpose, as a mechanism or tool to improve your mobility, strength, agility… it can work in harmony.
I hope that this article might have at least opened your eyes to the reality a little, and you won’t be leaning towards the first recommendation you read on that American forum… No one except yourself knows for sure what’s best, and for this we have two options:
- Trial and error
- People to help you (professional dieticians)
- How to improve your CrossFit performance through diet
- Boost your performance by cycling carbs
- Lose fat eating carbs