You Can't Out-Train a Bad Diet

CrossFit RVA

Last weekend, I went to the CrossFit Nutrition Certification, headed up by Robb Wolf, owner of one of the first CrossFit gyms, and frequent contributor and co-founder of the Performance Menu, and previously a research biochemist. So, he knows a thing or two.

I had a great time at the Certification. For the most part, these were things I had already been exposed to. The cert espoused a combination of Paleo foods (Lean meats, vegetables, nuts, some starch, no sugar), in some cases combined with modified versions of the Zone diet (40% Carbs, 30% Protein, 30% Fat), adjusted to fit individual needs. Additionally, we received a crash-course in Endocrinology and the digestive system, to try and understand the underlying mechanisms of an effective nutritional plan, instead of merely “black boxing” everything. A little post-workout nutrition, a condemnation of grains, dairy,and legumes, and we were good to go.

If you’re stuck eating like it’s a 5 year old’s birthday party, stuffing yourself with hot dogs, ice cream and cake, you’ll eventually look on the whiteboard and see your times aren’t improving, look in the mirror and realize you don’t look any different than you did 6 months ago, and wake up in the morning and still feel the effects of that workout from three days ago.

Not to say that I did not learn anything factual at the cert, because I did. But what I took home with me had much more to do with the effectiveness of a properly implemented diet, rather than the comparative ratios of n-3/n-6 in Paleolithic and Modern man. We were shown not just the requisite before and afters, but blood work showing dramatically lowered triglycerides, blood pressure, and blood glucose levels. We heard stories of some of CrossFit’s best making simple changes to their diet, resulting in new PR’s, both in metcons and strength work, as well as favorable body composition changes.

So, this is what I ask, for anyone willing to listen and put in the effort. For a moment, put down your caramel macchiato (but God I love black coffee!), your Coke, or that cream cheese smeared bagel, and take a look at what you’re eating. OK, so maybe you aren’t eating that badly, but I can say with certainty that many of our members put little thought into what actually goes into their mouths. (Keep it appropriate here DP) With more certainty I can say that few have put the time and effort into dialing in their diet to maximize the performance, recovery, and positive body composition changes gained from hard training.

Why? Because it’s hard. Sometimes it is easier to put out hard for 15 minutes and collapse in a sweaty heap than it is to put in the time necessary to track, plan, and execute a nutrition plan. But sadly enough, you can’t out-train a bad diet. Through diet, you can ensure that you are fueled optimally during your workouts, reduce inflammation and promote recovery, and hasten fat loss and muscle gains. If you’re stuck eating like it’s a 5 year old’s birthday party, stuffing yourself with hot dogs, ice cream and cake, you’ll eventually look on the whiteboard and see your times aren’t improving, look in the mirror and realize you don’t look any different than you did 6 months ago, and wake up in the morning and still feel the effects of that workout from three days ago.

Think about it, have you achieved the goals you sought when beginning CrossFit, all of them? Sure, you look, feel and perform better, but do you look, feel, and perform at what you know to be your best? Are you satisfied? If you aren’t, know that outside of the genetically and chemically gifted, you won’t get everything you’re looking for without putting in a little effort on the diet side of the equation.

The diet/nutrition world lacks much in the way of foundational principles that everyone can agree on. There’s huge disagreements concerning just about everything; levels and types of carbs, necessary amount of protein, amounts and which types of fats are little molecules of satan in disguise, etc… So what can you, the informed CrossFitter, do? Try Paleo. Don’t measure, count, or anything of that nature, but simply address the quality, not quantity of your food. If you don’t look, feel, and perform better, after a month, then quit, and do something else. I’m sure Dr. Ornish or McDougal would love to sell you a book. Otherwise, keep at it, and see where it takes you. My bet is that you’ll be a better CrossFitter for it.