I am venturing into a very iffy area of The Fitness World. A place I have been very hesitant to step foot in because people feel SOOO STRONGLY ABOUT THIS TOPIC, & I don’t want to offend or mislead anyone.
But it feels like the elephant in the room, and at this moment it is sitting on my lap and crushing my poor legs and I need to somehow reach around it to get to my keyboard and type... *Ughhhh!* so let’s just acknowledge it:
I want to talk about NUTRITION! *GASP!*
When talking about fitness, health, wellness, and personal goals, a HUGE part of the conversation is missing if we only talk about working out and we don’t talk about eating. If we put up our hands at the end of our 1 hour workout session and say, “Well, I have done my part! Now, where are my results?!”, it’s going to be very difficult to reach our goals when 23 hours remain in the day. In these remaining 23 hours, decisions will be made and actions will be taken that will profoundly impact our body composition, energy levels, and athletic performance.
This is the CrossFit Pyramid of Fitness -- notice how Nutrition is on the bottom? That's because it lays the foundation for your health and wellness!
Let’s talk nutrition… DUN DUN DUN!
I’m still going to tread carefully when talking about food, in part because people are sensitive and take it as a personal offence if anyone suggests they eat differently from how their Guru-of-choice suggests.
But I am also hesitant because - I openly admit - I am not an expert.
And not only that, but nutrition science is very messy! Despite what Dr. Oz or Jenny Craig or Gwyneth Paltrow or whoever says, there is no Silver Bullet Solution – no perfect diet or eating periodization scheme or magical superfood – that will suit everybody and every body’s needs.
And everyone has different needs and goals, anyways!
As I said, I am not an expert. But I would like to point you in the direction of some people who are! These experts have helped me think about nutrition in a way that is non-judgmental, non-prescriptive, pragmatic, and easy to understand so I can 1) set goals; 2) reach them; and most importantly, 3) do that without tearing my hair out!
Enter Graeme Tomlinson
If you are on Instagram and you are not following Graeme Tomlinson (@thefitnesschef_), GET ON IT!
Tomlinson offers very clear, concise, and awesome infographics that dispel food myths and stop food vilification; that help you make informed decisions about the calories you are putting in your body; and that ultimately encourage you to use a healthy and educated mindset as you decide what to eat so you can lead a happier, healthier life.
There is no "good" food. There is no "bad" food. There are calories; there are macronutrients; and there are foods that differ nutritionally from one another.
And, in his words, "Losing fat should not be a constant struggle - it should be about applying practicality to science and enjoyment".
Practicality and enjoyment and education over deprivation - doesn't that sound awesome?!
Eat what you want, but be aware of what exactly you are eating.
As depicted in this infographic:
Eat what you want, but eat less or choose a lower calorie option if you are trying to lose weight.
Like this info-graphic suggests!
And most importantly, don't let the media or media-induced shame direct your food choices. Be guided by scientific proof and your personal happiness. And, eat what you want:
Joined by Dr. Andy Galpin
I didn't talk to Dr. Galpin directly - he's a busy dude - but I DID hear his awesome podcast on Brute Strength Training (and I recommend you do the same!)
He stresses how eating and nutrition are very personal and finding the right fuel for you will require you to pay attention to the signs your body exhibits.
Even your approach to nutrition and eating is personal. Galpin works with clients on nutrition and over his years of work, he noticed people tend to fall into two main groups: Cooks and Bakers.
Cooks like to know the general rules of nutrition and find foods that fit within those rules and guidelines; meanwhile, Bakers like exact and detailed instructions on how much, of what specifically, and when they should be eating things. If you're a Cook and you've been trying to follow a rigid Baker-type meal plan and you've been "failing" time and time again, chances are you will continue to struggle with your eating and unnecessarily stress yourself out over it unless you find a plan that fits how your mind works - and how your body works, too!
He explains that, although we are told numerous Nutrition Tales on a daily basis, what we need to focus on - above everything else - is eating a variety of real foods throughout the day.
Before we get wrapped up in the nitty gritty of what we should eat - do I consume Casein before bed? Should I go Keto? When do I drink BCAAs? WHAT DOES BCAA EVEN MEAN?! - the average person (i.e. not a professional athlete) should focus on mastering the basic tenants of nutrition. That is:
Portion control and Timing.
And again, portion control and timing of a variety of real - meaning mostly unprocessed - foods.
How do we master these? By paying attention to how our body feels throughout the day. Ask yourself:
- Do I have enough energy at the gym, and throughout the day?
- Do I get enough sleep?
- How is my mental cognition?
- What's my body composition like?
The answers to these questions can point you in directions towards a better way to eat that suits YOU.
Most times, eating "well" won't require going on a juice cleanse or beginning an intermittent fasting cycle or forgoing carbs forever. But making small and easy to sustain tweaks to your diet, and then assessing how they make you feel, can have profound impacts on your fitness and well-being.
That's all, folks!
If you were looking for the magical solution to lose or gain weight, sorry not sorry I couldn't provide you with that - but it doesn't exist, so anyone who tells you they do have that information is lying.
Find food that suits your tastes; your life; your budget; and that makes you feel good!