Food for Thought by Kortney
As we launch into CrossFit Dublin’s first Nutrition and Lifestyle Challenge: Eat Clean Be Lean this November, nutrition and dietary education has really been in the forefront of my brain. While I’ve been all-consumed with the task of filtering through the extensive domain of dietary topics and nutritional information (and misinformation), I keep circling back around to just a few basic truths. No groundbreaking revelations here, just a little food for thought:
1. Diet is important. No kidding?! I’m sure 100% of you realize this, but it’s not always reflected in the choices we make. People make an effort to hit it hard in the gym with great consistency, only to stunt potential progress by ignoring the huge role diet actually plays in fitness. Remember the phrase: “You can’t out train a bad diet”. It’s true. Proper fueling and smart supplementation can take you from ‘ordinary’ to…
…still probably ordinary, but at least ordinary with stronger lifts. And abs. And maybe even both.
2. Supplements are meant to ‘supplement’ your diet. Here’s the thing, you know that phrase from above? “You can’t out train a bad diet”. Well, I’ve got another one: “You can’t out supplement a bad diet” either. I’m sorry. What I’m getting at here is that many people are eager to get into the minutiae of their diets, and are keen to start advanced supplementation strategies and worrying over proper nutrient timing and carb to protein ratios, etc, but in reality they aren’t even meeting their basic fundamental nutritional requirements – regularly skipping meals, eating processed junk food, or frequently partaking in a liquid dinner at the pub after work. If you grab a banana, porridge and coffee for breakfast, work through lunch, and hit up the chipper on the way home from work for a kebab and crisps, wash it down with a diet fizzy drink and call it a night, it won’t matter how much creatine, BCAAs, glutamine or carnitine you chug in your post-WOD recovery shake. You’re missing something BIG here: eating enough real, nutritious food! Trying to optimize your diet and performance through supplementation is great when you’ve already mastered the healthy eating bit. But worrying about leucine to isoleucine ratios while regularly skipping meals or living off of Quest Bars is like trying to fine-tune your muscle-up transitions when you don’t even have a pull-up in your repertoire. Learn how to meet the majority of your nutrition through a diet consisting of high quality FOOD sources of protein: steak, fish, eggs, etc, plenty of vegetables, ample healthy fats like coconut oil, olives, olive oil, grassfed butter, and avocados, and nutrient dense sources of starchy carbs like sweet potatoes and whole fruits. Once you’re consistent on the basics, then maybe you can start to worry about whether you need dextrose or fructose in your post-WOD recovery drink. (But even then, it’s probably not necessary to ‘worry’ about such things.) Keep it simple.
3. Developing healthy eating habits takes discipline. And change. Most people don’t like either. It seems the vast majority finds it a lot easier to be disciplined in the gym than in the kitchen. Knowing where to start and how to eat is only a FRACTION of the issue. Once you know and understand what to do, you have to put it into practice! You have to practice discipline. Work on your stick-to-it-iveness. It really boils down to priorities – do you want to not die of heart disease or diabetes or do you want cake? Do you want to master a strict muscle-up and throw 100kg over your head or do you want to throw down in the pub every weekend? That’s up to you and your priorities. If you choose the pub, that’s great – enjoy it – it’s your prerogative! But if that is how you choose to prioritize your life, don’t expect to see many GAINZ in training. And don’t wonder why your energy levels are non-existent in your day-to-day life.
4. There is no ONE ‘right’ diet. There is absolutely not one single approach to eating that is right for every single person. Of course nutrition science has determined there are some undisputable minimum levels of micro and macro nutritional requirements needed to avoid deficiency and support basic metabolic functioning. But there’s a difference between SURVIVING and THRIVING. There are hundreds of dietary protocols out there: Paleo, Primal, Whole30, Dukan, Atkins, Vegetarian, Vegan, Mediterranean, Intermittent Fasting, High Carb, Low Carb, Ketogenic, Gluten Free…the list of dietary approaches or ‘lifestyles’ is never ending. New ‘experts’ come along every day with a different spin on things. Each of these approaches also brings a whole slew of anecdotal evidence–often backed by ‘real scientific studies’ or perhaps just ‘pseudo scientific studies’– supporting their superiority as THE best way to eat your way to optimal health, fitness, abs, or even global sustainability. Guess what? Nutritionists will continue to research and debate the merits and risks involved in any one of these diets for decades to come, but at the end of the day, you have to find what works best for YOU and your lifestyle. Experiment. What makes you feel good? What makes you feel bad? How does changing what or when you eat affect your performance, your energy, your mood or mental health? Are you allergic or intolerant to certain foods? How will you know if you don’t experiment a little? Only YOU can discover the answers: no book, no website, no podcast, no study can provide the answer to what is optimal for your body, your mind, and your personal ethics. However, it is also important to be discerning when experimenting with your diet – i.e. don’t try the “Twinkie Diet” experiment just because some college professor lost 27 pounds eating only Twinkies to illustrate a point of thermodynamics to his students…* Be smart about your choices. It’s a pretty safe bet that if you pick a strategy that emphasizes an abundant variety of nutrient dense whole foods while keeping limits on ‘junk food’ you’ll be heading in the right direction, regardless of the specific ‘rules’.
If you are interested in learning more about how and what to eat, or just need more support with your dietary habits consider participating in the next session of the Eat Clean Be Lean Challenge. It’s sold out for November, but will run again in January. If you’re keen to get started now (as you should!), individual nutritional coaching sessions are an option as well. Just ask your coach or shoot me an email, I’ll be happy to help.
By Coach Kortney