You’ve heard this one before. Your body is an outcome of 80% of your diet and 20% of your training. You could spend your day at the gym, but with a wrecked diet you’re not going to see results. Eating right will mold your body unlike any form of exercise. Now that you’ve taken your first step towards CrossFit, you’ve gotten the exercise part down right. However, your struggle doesn’t end there. Don’t forget to fuel your body correctly. You’ll notice significant changes, not just in your body composition but also in your day to day life and performance. So you may ask which is the best diet and which works most synonymously with CrossFit. Before we dig deep into that, let’s get one thing straight. There’s no hard and fast rule to how well a diet works. A given plan may work for someone, but it may not essentially work as well for you. For the sole reason that everyone’s bodies are different. The “one size fits all” mentality needs some rethinking. Having said that two nutrition schemes standout the most in the world of CrossFit. Namely The Paleo Diet and The Zone Diet. Note that these aren’t exactly diets, they don’t tell you what to eat, when. They are eating patterns that endorse certain food groups and prohibit some. All in all they are flexible methods of eating, which you can tailor to your lifestyle.
The Paleo Diet:
The diet is usually referred to as the “Paleolithic Diet” the Stone Age era. It is also sometimes heralded the “Cave Man Diet” or the “Hunter-Gatherer Diet”. Basically, if the caveman couldn’t eat a certain food neither can you. Yes, that includes your favorite breakfast cereals, breads, dairy products and basically anything that comes packaged in a box.
Long story short:
Eat the way nature intended for us to eat. Eliminate processed foods and grains; load up on veggies, meat, fish, eggs, fruits and nuts.
It’s essentially a high fat, high protein diet.
Why do it?
It makes logical sense.
The caveman: Lean, agile and athletic.
The modern day man: Out of shape, overweight and at the constant risk of disease
What you can eat..
1. Lean Meats
2. Fish & Sea Food
3. Fresh fruits & Vegetables
6. Natural Oils (Avocado Oil, Olive Oil etc.)
7. Sweet Potatoes & Yams
8. Coffee & Tea (No Milk & Sugar)
What you can’t eat..
1. Dairy & Dairy Products: These are essentially processed foods, which Paleo is against. Having said that you could go for Almond or Coconut Milk. From a strictly Paleo perspective, whole milk is more Paleo than skimmed milk. For the sole reason, that it is less processed.
2. Grains: For the simple reason that our age old ancestors didn’t eat bread or anything that came out of a box, for that matter.
3. Sugar: Causes an upheaval in blood sugar levels, resulting in a surge in body fat.
The transition is hard. But you can work on minimizing these foods and let your body amend its ways incrementally. Small steps will take you a long way. Stick with it for at least 30 days. Initially it will be hard but your body will adjust.
Won’t a high fat diet make you fat?
Fat has gained quite the bad reputation over the years. Eat fat, get fat. Consequently came the string of low fat foods, filled with preservatives and additives, still providing inadequate nutrition. There’s a stark difference between good fats and bad fats and how your body reacts to each. Mono & poly unsaturated fats found in nuts and oils are the good kind.
What about the vegetarians?
I won’t lie, the no-meat approach the Paleo is extremely difficult, given that most quality sources of vegetarian protein like grains, dairy and legumes have been prohibited. This can make it extremely tough for the body to get all its nutrients. Even if you’re relying on eggs (unless you’re vegan), there are a number of health risks associated with overdosing on eggs other than the fact that it can get utterly boring. If you’re a vegetarian and want to adopt Paleo practices you’re going to have to make some allowances. This would essentially be a vegetarian low carb or gluten free diet, which bears close resemblance to Paleo.
CrossFit & Paleo:
CrossFit has it’s own dietary guidelines; to which Paleo bears close resemblance. That’s the reason many associated with the sport adopt the Paleo lifestyle. However, given that CrossFit workouts are often intense, a simple protein like Gatorade before a WOD or a protein shake after may not be the worst thing.
The Zone Diet:
Essentially a high protein, low carbohydrate and fat controlled diet, the Zone diet is a tool used by several elite athletes. Neither does it endorse, nor restrict any particular foods and can easily accommodate dietary preferences such as Low-GI and vegan choices. It adopts the 40:30:30 approach to the three major food groups.
The Food Groups:
Some may argue that the carbohydrate recommendation is low, considering the government recommends an intake of at least 45-65% of daily calories from carbohydrates. However, it has fewer dietary restrictions than many other low-carb plans and endorses eating more fruit and vegetables. Additionally, it encourages you to eliminate processed foods, fat laden foods and refined sugars. The protein recommendations fall within safe ranges and the suggested fat sources are rich in the essential fatty acids.
Calorie Intake & Meal Timing:
If you’re taking on The Zone Diet you’re going to be measuring foods in terms of blocks rather than calories. That means weighing your foods. You characterize your meals as 2,3,4 or 5 block meals. A one block meal contains a single serving of protein, carbs and fat. While a two block meal contains twice the amount. Basically every meal, every snack must contain the equivalent amount of fat, carbohydrates and protein.
There is an overall limit to portions and calories, sometimes as low as 1200 kilocalories per day. However, it promotes strategic snacking ensuring one consumes 5-6 well-spaced meals. Three of which are major meals and two to three being snacks.
The Zone Diet effectively controls ones hormones. Hormonal balance affects ones overall wellness in terms of body composition and energy uptake. With the right balance of macronutrients the body can effectively control the three main hormones, Insulin, Eicosanoids and Glucagon.
The Zone Diet & CrossFit:
Considering several athletes like elite CrossFiters swear by it, it is safe to assume it can support a grueling exercise regimen. Given that The Zone diet doesn’t prohibit grains, like Paleo does, it might be easier to assimilate it into your daily regime. A well-structured diet can help increase energy, flense surplus body fat and pack on muscle mass.
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