CrossFit Diet and Nutrition: The Ultimate Guide
Pushing yourself hard in the gym and hitting those PB's largely comes down to how motivated you are with your training.
There are certain things you can do to help your body in your quest to reach that fittest, strongest and most ultimate version of yourself:
- Train hard
- Eat well
- Get plenty of sleep
The first happens in the gym, the second two however happen outside and they are usually the easiest to get right.... with a little discipline.
Ask yourself if you worked hard and bought an expensive car would you put cheap fuel in it?
What you eat is essentially fuel for you body, why fill it with substandard fuel?
To an outsider CrossFit might look like a mix of weight training and bodyweight circuits in a big sparse gym, but at it's core it is actually a way to improve your health and well being.
Crossfit has played a central role in transforming many peoples lives.
Changing then from unhealthy sometimes unhappy individuals to fit, strong, confident people that are ready to take on any challenge that life throws at them.
One of the central pillars of those transformations has been the dietary changes that people make when they start CrossFit.
The best CrossFit Diet is one that is based on clean, healthy foods and snacks that help to both fuel your workouts and aid in recovering from them as quickly as possible.
The word "diet" in this context is not about starving yourself, but rather the food choices that you make on a daily and long term basis.
Having the right nutritional plan from the start is how to build a strong foundation for your training.
There are many popular diets that have gained a lot of traction with the CrossFit community:
- The Zone Diet
- The Paleo Diet
- The Ketogenic Diet
- Eating clean
Zone Diet and CrossFit
The zone diet was created over 30 years ago to help people reduce inflammation. While reducing inflammation was the primary goal, this diet may also aid with weight loss, brain function, and overall health.
While there are hundreds of diets that you could try, each has its own pros and cons and may not be for everyone. Before trying the zone diet for yourself, you should learn more about how this diet works and whether it is the right solution for your fitness goals.
Overview of the Zone Diet
What is the zone diet? The zone diet is based around a specific physiological state called the Zone. When your body is in the Zone, it is in optimal shape to prevent inflammation. The creator of the zone diet believed that diet-induced inflammation is responsible for many common illnesses, advanced signs of aging, and weight gain.
This is also a low-carb diet, which helps reduce the intake of refined sugars and ensures that you receive an adequate amount of protein. The consumption of fresh fruit and non-starchy vegetables is also encouraged. These factors may help people lose weight or build muscles.
Determining Your Daily Food Intake
The zone diet is also sometimes referred to as the 40-30-30 diet. When you follow this diet, 40% of your calories should come from carbohydrates, 30% from protein, and 30% from healthy fats.
There are four calories per gram of carbohydrate. If you consume 1,500 calories per day, 600 calories should come from carbohydrates, which is equal to 150 grams of carbohydrates. You would also consume about 112 grams of protein and 50 grams of fat.
Counting calories and calculating nutrient requirements can be challenging and is a common reason why people give up on diets. Luckily, there are two other methods of following the zone diet.
Using the Hand-Eye Method for the Zone Diet
You can use your hand and eyes to roughly estimate the number of carbs, protein, and fat that you consume with each meal and snack. This is one of the easiest methods for people that are just starting the zone diet. The hand is a reminder that you need to eat five times per day and never wait longer than five hours for a meal.
You use your eyes to estimate the size of each portion on your plate. One third of your plate should be filled with protein, while two thirds of your plate should be filled with carbs. You can use a small amount of oil or almonds to add the required fat to the meal.
The five meals consist of breakfast, lunch, dinner, and two snacks. This ensures that you eat throughout the day, helping you avoid food cravings and providing your body with a consistent source of healthy nutrition.
How to Use Zone Blocks for the Zone Diet
The next method for following the zone diet is to use zone blocks. This requires you to pay attention to the number of grams of carbs, protein, and fat that you consume with each meal.
Zone food blocks are comprised of a block of carbs, protein, and fat. There are seven grams of protein in a protein block and nine grams of carbs in the carbs block. The fat block contains one and a half grams of fat.
Men consume 14 zone blocks per day, while women typically consume 11 zone blocks. However, there are also detailed steps for calculating the exact number of blocks that you should eat each day.
Forty percent of your calories should come from carbohydrates. Divide the grams of carbohydrates that you need to consume by nine to determine the number of zone blocks you should eat throughout the day.
Snacks always consist of one zone block, while the remaining blocks should be divided evenly between breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
Should You Try the Zone Diet?
Anyone that is looking for a simple way to eat healthier should consider trying the zone diet. It is an easy diet to follow and does not require you to completely give up any foods. If you love pasta, you can still find ways to eat a pasta dinner on occasion.
While this is not a restrictive diet, you do need to control your ratio of carbs, protein, and fat. Start with the hand-eye method to control your portions. When you get used to the diet, you use zone blocks for more accurate portion control.
CrossFit and the Paleo Diet
The paleo diet offers a safe and effective way to improve your eating habits and improve your health. This diet helps people get back to the basics of eating and avoid the unhealthy foods that are directly linked to increased rates of obesity, diabetes, and heart disease.
The Paleo Diet Is Easy to Understand
You may have heard of the paleo diet without really knowing what it is about. The basic concept of this diet is eating like early human ancestors, which is why it is also sometimes called the caveman diet. You eliminate processed foods and focus on eating items that people used to hunt or forage to collect.
This is a simple diet with instructions that are easy to follow. With the paleolithic diet, you only eat meat, fresh produce, eggs, nuts, seeds, and healthy oils. Basically, you avoid all processed foods, including baked goods, cheeses, bread, and pasta.
The Paleo Diet May Help Control Glucose Levels
Reducing your intake of refined sugars may help you avoid spikes in your blood glucose levels. You still consume sugar on the paleo diet. However, the sugar that you consume mostly comes from healthy fruit.
When you consume refined sugars from processed foods and foods that are high in carbs, your body quickly breaks down the sugars into glucose, leading to increases in your insulin and glucose levels. The natural sugar found in fruit takes longer for your body to metabolize, due to the fiber content.
By replacing unhealthy sugar with natural sugar, you are less likely to experience sudden spikes in your blood glucose levels. There are stories of people that have reversed their diabetes through this diet. However, you should consult with your doctor, as you may need to closely monitor your diabetes medication as your health improves.
Stay Full Longer and Stop Counting Calories
As mentioned, natural sugars take longer for your body to metabolize. The foods that you eat on the paleo diet keep you feeling fuller longer.
Many people that follow the paleo diet also stop counting calories. When you eat satiating foods throughout the day, it is easier to avoid overeating.
Maintain a Healthy Weight and Burn Fat
People often start a diet to either lose weight or reach a specific fitness goal. The paleo diet may help you reach your goal. The process of cutting refined sugars and providing your body with a variety of healthy nutrients naturally improves your ability to maintain a healthy weight.
Cutting refined sugar also makes it easier to burn fat. When you consume sugar, the sugar is converted into glucose and excess glucose is stored as fat. The natural sugars found in fruit fuel your body throughout the day and produce less glucose.
Detox Your Body and Improve Your Gut Health
The paleo diet also provides an effective method for flushing harmful toxins from your body. This diet eliminates gluten, trans fats, refined sugars, additives, and various chemicals. These substances accumulate in your colon, cause inflammation, and increase the risk of the leaky gut syndrome.
While you eliminate these potentially harmful foods, you also increase your intake of healthy fruits and vegetables. The phytonutrients that you consume help flush your system and rid the body of the waste that you have accumulated through years of eating processed foods.
You May Reduce Your Risk of Major Diseases
Processed foods are connected to a wide variety of health conditions. Consuming lots of processed foods and refined sugars increases your risk of developing diabetes, heart disease, cancer, and a weakened immune system. You are also more likely to have trouble losing weight.
The paleo diet requires you to eliminate refined sugars, making it easier to reduce your risk of these various health conditions and diseases. The foods that you do eat also contain a lot of beneficial vitamins and minerals, providing even more nutrients to reduce the risk of these health issues.
Last Thoughts on Following the Paleo Diet
You now know some of the top reasons to follow the paleo diet. By eliminating processed foods and refined sugars, you are supplying your body with natural sources of beneficial vitamins and minerals.
Following a Crossfit diet based on paleo principles offers many advantages that may help you reach your fitness goals, whether you want to burn fat, build muscle, or simply improve your overall health. If you struggle to reach these goals, the paleo diet may be the right answer.
CrossFit and Keto
Is the Ketogenic diet a good choice for CrossFit?
The ketogenic diet is basically a low carb, high-fat diet with a moderate amount of protein. The goal is to reduce the intake of carbohydrates to the point where your body begins burning fat as an energy source. If you are curious about the ketogenic diet, review the answers to the most commonly asked questions.
How Does the Ketogenic Diet Work?
While you cannot survive without water for more than a of couple days, most people have enough fat stored in their body to live off of for several days or weeks. When you consume carbohydrates, the sugar is converted into glucose, which is processed by the production of insulin. Your body uses the glucose for energy and stores the excess as body fat.
Unfortunately, it is not always easy to lose body fat. The keto diet addresses this issue by creating an alternate energy source. By severely reducing your consumption of carbohydrates, you deprive your body of glucose. This forces your body to find another energy source.
The body then begins to break down fat in the liver, producing ketone bodies. These ketones fuel your body and brain in place of the glucose. This is known as ketosis.
What Are Keto Macros and Ratios?
To reach ketosis, you need to strictly control your food intake and determine your keto macros. The macros refer to the ratio of macronutrients that you consume each day. Most people use a 3:1 ratio, which means that 75% of their calories come from fat, while the other 25% come from protein and carbohydrates.
Is the Ketogenic Diet Safe for Everyone?
The ketogenic diet is sometimes the subject of controversy due to the restrictions and the state of ketosis that people achieve. The critics of this diet say that most of the weight that you lose early on is water weight. While you will lose water weight, the keto diet allows you to continue burning fat for fuel.
One potential risk of the keto diet is muscle loss. This is not a high-protein diet and it severely restricts carbohydrates. Muscle builders may find it hard to get the nutrition that they need to maintain or build muscle.
The ketogenic diet can also have a major impact on insulin levels and blood pressure. If you currently take medication for diabetes or high blood pressure, you should discuss the diet with your doctor before getting started.
Who Should Consider Using the Ketogenic Diet?
The ketogenic diet was originally created to help treat children suffering from epilepsy. Over the years, it has been adopted by the fitness community, primarily for its ability to help target stubborn body fat.
While the keto diet is one of the most effective ways to lose body fat, it may also be suitable for people that want to improve their health. There are many anecdotes of people that have reversed their diabetes with the keto diet or improved their heart health.
The bottom line is that the ketogenic diet is suitable for most people. However, if you suffer from any medical conditions, you may want to consult with your doctor before starting a new diet, especially if you take medications. As your health improves, your doctor may need to adjust your medications.
How Can You Get Started on the Ketogenic Diet?
The best way to get started with the keto diet is to follow a detailed meal plan. The ketogenic diet requires you to closely monitor your food intake, as you need to restrict your carbs to reach ketosis.
Most keto meal plans require you to consume 20 or fewer grams of carbohydrates each day. You get most of your nutrition from high-fat foods. In fact, about 75% of your calories will come from fat. To ensure that you are getting the right ratio of nutrients, you may also need to use a keto calculator.
With so many different diets and meal plans to follow, choosing the best one is often a challenge. The ketogenic diet has received a lot of attention and may offer the solution that you need to target difficult fat. This diet helps you reach a state of ketosis, which allows your body to burn fat for fuel.
The ketogenic diet does have serious restrictions. However, if you are serious about your health goals, you may need to make drastic changes to your diet and exercise routine.
CrossFit Nutrition Guide
Regardless of what type of diet that you follow you should still understand the general principle of how the different elements of nutrition for CrossFit tie together and how their relationship to each other will affect your body.
Lets talk a little about macro's and how to figure jut what exactly you need.
What Are Macronutrients and Why Should You Start Tracking Them?
Counting calories is not the only way to measure the amount of food that you are putting into your body. In fact, calories are not an effective indicator of the food that you eat. If you are serious about your nutrition, you should pay more attention to your macronutrients.
Overview of Macronutrients
Macronutrients are carbohydrates, protein, and fat. All of the food that you consume contains a combination of these macronutrients, along with a variety of micronutrients. The micronutrients are the vitamins and minerals that your body requires, commonly found in fresh fruit and vegetables.
There are no good or bad macronutrients. Regardless of the diet that you follow, you will need some of each macronutrient. Even a low-carb diet that excludes carbs for a certain period of time eventually adds a moderate amount of carbs to your meals.
Complex carbs can provide energy to fuel your body throughout the day. Simple carbs, such as the simple sugars found in starchy vegetables and baked goods are quickly broken down by your body.
When you fill up on simple sugars, your body quickly uses the provided energy and stores the excess sugar as fat. Complex carbs take longer to break down, keeping you energized and satiated for a longer period of time.
Protein is essential for building muscle. While your body needs protein to repair muscle tissue, you also need protein for the health of your skin and bone tissue. You also use proteins to produce certain hormones. If you are concerned with your fitness, you need to ensure that you are eating enough protein.
Like carbohydrates, fat often gets a bad reputation. As with all macronutrients, there are healthy fats and unhealthy fats. Healthy fats come from foods such as cream, nuts, and olive oil. Unhealthy fats can be found in processed foods, fast food, and packaged deli meats.
Why Do People Track Their Macros?
When calculating your individual macronutrient requirements, the resulting numbers are often referred to as your macros. Calculating your macros is an essential part of several diets, including the ketogenic diet.
For example, the ketogenic diet may require you to consume 75% of your calories from fat. If you consume 1,500 calories, you would need to obtain 1,125 calories from fat. This would equal 125 grams of fat.
The traditional method of monitoring your nutrition is to count calories. Based on your activity level, gender, height, and weight, you can determine the recommended number of calories that you should consume each day. However, a plate of spaghetti that has the same calorie count as a couple chicken breasts will not have the same effects on your body.
Low-carb diets continue to be the most popular form of dieting for people of all fitness levels. This includes those that want to lose weight, build lean muscle mass, or get in the best shape of their lives. With these diets, people often stopped paying attention to calories and simply track their carbs and protein.
Benefits of Tracking Your Macros
Instead of just counting calories or eating a specific amount of carbs and protein, you may benefit from tracking your macros.
You can eat two food items with the same calorie count. However, the macro and micronutrient content of these foods can vary. Protein and carbs provide four calories per gram, while fat contains nine calories per gram.
By paying attention to the macronutrients, instead of the calories, you get a better indication of the content of the meal. These details let you know how much protein, carbs, and fat you are consuming.
When you pay attention to your macros and eat healthier, you are also more likely to consume more than enough of your recommended micronutrients. This helps you create a well-rounded meal plan that keeps you feeling fuller longer.
Last Thoughts on Macronutrients
The ratio of macronutrients that you consume each day depends on your fitness goals. If you want to build muscle, you will need to ensure that you are getting plenty of protein. There are also some diets that require specific macro ratios, such as the ketogenic diet and zone diet.
The bottom line is that everyone eats macronutrients throughout the day. Whether you fill up on fatty carbs or eat lots of lean meat, you are consuming macronutrients. Learning how to balance these nutrients may be the key to reaching your fitness goals.