CrossFit and the Benefits of Nutrition to Overall Health and Performance
Greg Glassman’s groundbreaking “World-Class Fitness in 100 Words” begins with, “Eat meat and vegetables, nuts and seeds, some fruit, little starch and no sugar. Keep intake to levels that will support exercise but not body fat.”
This is remarkable: He takes only 100 words to describe his fitness program, and yet he spends the first quarter of them on nutrition. The first 14 words describe a Paleo diet, and the next 12 a Zone diet. Paleo and Zone are particularly effective together, because the first is mainly about what to eat, and the second how much to eat.
Here and always, CrossFit maintains that nutrition is even a bit more important than anything that we do in the gym.
Over the next couple of months, we will publish a series of blogs explaining why Paleo and Zone are important to helping you reach the next level on your health and wellness spectrum, no matter your current fitness level. In January, as we get ready to register for the CrossFit Open and kick off the New Year with other CrossFit athletes around the world, we will explore the unique benefits of Paleo in particular. In February, we will discuss how Zone can help refine your eating habits to help you reach your wellness goals.
The benefits of clean eating (and particularly Paleo and Zone) on your athletic performance boil down to a few things:
- Increased energy for your workout (and everyday life), once your body adapts to Paleo
- Reduced inflammation in the body, which helps with faster recovery from WODs
- Increased fat burning as a result of higher amounts of protein and the elimination/reduction of carbs
“Listen to your body” is popular advice in CrossFit; and it works most of the time, but not when it comes to food. Hunter-gatherers had times of plenty, when there was a fresh kill or ripe fruit or honey, and times of scarcity. Back then people had to stuff themselves, because they didn’t know when might be the next time they would eat. For this reason, and because their food was more healthful than most of ours, they could listen to their bodies regarding what to eat and how much.
So “listen to your body” worked to a large extent until modernity. Nowadays, our food is too far removed from nature in terms of: how processed it is, how engineered it is to be tasty, how abundant it is, and how little effort it takes to obtain. It’s not our fault that we eat the whole pint of ice cream! The reason is simply the result of our hunter-gatherer past.
And this knowledge is empowering! It stops us from beating ourselves up on this issue. Gone are the days of: “What’s wrong with me? It’s unnatural how gluttonous I am.” No, it’s not. Therefore, what we need isn’t more willpower, because willpower isn’t the point. Rather, what we need is to eat clean, to buy only the right kinds of foods (Paleo) and to figure out how much of it we should eat (Zone).