UNDERSTANDING NUTRITION: The Pre-Requisite

The foundation of our nutrition program is based in the following quote from CrossFit founder and CEO Greg Glassman. 

“Eat meat and vegetables, nuts and seeds, some fruit,  little starch and no sugar.” 

He goes on to discuss quantities (“keep intake to levels that will support exercise but not body fat”) but we will get to that later because we believe that if you do not know what types of foods work well for your body and what types of foods are possibly problematic, then it does not matter how many grams of carbohydrates you consume or how low your fat intake is because you are putting the wrong fuel into your body to begin with. 

We view humans as omnivores meaning we are meant to consume both creature protein (meat) as well as plant based foods. We feel that when we neglect one for the other there is a high price to pay. We will not survive, at least not well, only consuming meat. At the same time a life full of fruits and vegetables is a life deficient in a number of vitamins and minerals. 

 

MEAT

Meat offers us protein, fat and a number of vital vitamins and other micronutrients. Our ideal meats come from the wild. In a perfect world you would go out into the woods and hunt for your food the way they did just two hundred years ago. Wild animals are not full of the crap our factory farms feed animals these days (often in very inhumane ways). They are living off of their natural diets and that means their bodies are healthy. 

Forrest Griffin, the UFC Fighter, once said, “You aren’t what you eat. You are what you eat eats.” With that in mind a wild turkey is a better choice than a factory farm raised turkey. Because going out and hunting on a weekly basis is not an option, and because even hunting is a joke now because the animals are still being fed grains through feeders, we turn to our friends at farms like Yonder Way Farms. These businesses are raising their animals in a stress free, natural environment, caring for the animals in order to offer grass-fed meat options that do not have the systemic inflammation that results from unnatural diets and unimaginable stressful lives. But of course, you get what you pay for and since you are receiving a premium product that is not widely available, the cost might be prohibitive. 

If shopping at the grocery store is our only real option, which is absolutely fine and understandable, I buy my meat at Kroger, I am not speaking to you from a pedestal (although I did live in a tent in an unairconditioned warehouse less than a year ago so maybe you could go ahead and pay a bit more for real grass fed… just saying), we want to follow a few guidelines.

— DO NOT GET CAUGHT UP IN THE LABELS: The labeling laws and regulations are a joke. Grass Fed does not mean grass fed all of the time. The animal may have been raised on it’s natural diet for quite sometime but then in the last three months of its life it was stuffed with grain in order to fatten it up. That means we lose all of the benefit of the grass feeding. Organic is still a good choice as the antibiotics and hormones injected into factory farmed animals absolutely affect the composition of the meat you are then eating. 

— MAKE LEAN THE PRIORITY: Live life consuming creature protein that has a 90/10 lean to fat or better (93/7 and 99/1). We love animal fat but we really only love it when it is grass fed. If it is grass fed then you should save it and cook with it and bathe in it and love it. But short of that, let’s keep it to a minimum. So when buying from your local grocer then go ahead and keep it lean.

—CONSUME A VARIETY:  In all of our food choices we want to include a variety because different foods offers different nutrients. And you should absolutely consume red meat on occasion. Do not shun it because of what society has told you. Lean beef is absolutely a staple in our diets and we are better for it, and more satisfied. 

 

VEGETABLES

Our experience has showed us that we have absolutely forgotten what our mothers instilled in us at the dinner table back in our childhood. WE MUST EAT OUR VEGETABLES. Every time I kick off a nutrition challenge I have at least one client who says in no uncertain terms that they “don’t like broccoli or cauliflower.” …… Don’t be that guy or girl unless you are actually 7 years old. 

Vegetables are our biggest area of opportunity. A day without vegetables is a day of missed opportunity. The vitamins and nutrients available to us in these fibers sources are numerous and vital to our healthy lifestyle. They also fill us up and help us avoid consuming junk foods. Whether you are making a spinach salad with tomatoes and cucumbers or you are roasting broccoli and cauliflower with some brussel sprouts, find a way to get your basic veggies into your diet. 

Green is our favorite foundation with a variety of colors on top for flavor and variety. 

 

NUTS AND SEEDS

Nuts and seeds offer us quick and easy sources of fat. Dietary fat fills you up and satisfies you for hours quite easily. A handful of almonds at 3pm might just be enough to carry you through the last hours of work. We love raw nuts and seeds as any additives often come with cheap oils. This leads us to tell you to be careful because nuts and seeds absolutely can fall victim to mindless eating. You sit down with a can of almonds only to realize you ate the whole thing without realizing it. Thats no good. 

Nuts and seeds are very calorically dense. This is fantastic when you eat them in moderation. This is why you fill up quickly and you stay full for a while. But you can also find yourself eating a meal or two worth of calories in just one snack. So keep it small. A handful of almonds does not mean a fits full with almonds squeezing out between your fingers. 

Almond butter is acceptable but also will be overeaten easily. Also, peanuts may be problematic so we avoid them. And finally, I have pretty much eliminated nuts from my diet after seeing a few clients who bloated from consuming them. This was absolutely a case by case thing. This does not negatively impact most people. Just test thew waters and see how you feel with and without them.

 

SOME FRUIT

Fruit is not a necessity. It is delicious and offers us fiber and a number of nutrients but all of that is found elsewhere (vegetables). We include fruit in our foundation because it is nice to have a serving of flavor each day. We focus on apples (the most fibrous of our food choices), bananas (love the nutrients), berries (not strawberries but raspberries, black berries, and blue berries), and cherries (real cherries). 

We are not going to vilify fruit because of its fructose (natural sugar), but we are going to point out that sugar is still sugar. It elicits the same metabolic response (spike in insulin, etc.) as table sugar. As with most things, in small doses we are good to go. That is why we often include one serving of fruit per day. 

 

LITTLE STARCH

Starch includes vegetables sources that are very carbohydrate dense. Primarily potatoes (white, red, and sweet), squash (all of the fancy and delicious choices), and rice. It also would include beans and grains and pasta but we do not consume these food choices at all. 

The benefit of these starches are their ability to deliver complex carbohydrates that do not spark the spike in insulin but rather break down over a bit of a longer time period. We still receive the necessary glucose our heart, brain, liver, and muscle need while only having to consume small amounts because of these choices’ ability to pack so much into each bite. 

Starch is easy to overeat so we have to be intentional. 1 to 2 servings per day, preferably days we work out, is a good place to start. 

 

NO SUGAR (or grains/bread/oatmeal, alcohol, beans/legumes, dairy)

Duh. 

 

Whether you have taken on one of our Nutrition Challenges in the past or not, having an understanding of the above info will help you understand which level of this Summer’s challenge is right for you. Each level will involve more fluctuation in consumption of certain foods. If we do not know why we eat what we eat or what choices work best for us then we should not try to jump up the ladder to the most complex approaches to nutrition. Keep it simple and you will absolutely love the results. What is laid out above is how we should be eating on a daily basis whether we are on a challenge or not. It is sustainable and it will improve your health. Your blood work can improve, your medical conditions can (I don’t think I am legally allowed to say “will” even though time after time we see improvements in pre-diabetes, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, and heart health) improve and your life will improve. 

Everything begins with nutrition and that responsibility falls square on your shoulder. Take control now and make your life better.