Monday, November 3, 2008

Food as Fuel

I developed an interest in diet and nutrition after becoming enamored with CrossFit and strength and conditioning. Time and again, I've heard people say that proper nutrition makes up 90% of the equation when it comes to maximizing performance. What exactly is proper nutrition, though?

Many CrossFitters swear by a modified version of Dr. Barry Sears' Zone Diet (to find out more about CrossFit and the Zone Diet, download CrossFit Journal Issue #21 here). It advocates consuming calories from carbohydrates, protein and fat in a ratio of 40:30:30, respectively. Success on the Zone Diet is reliant to a large extent on weighing and measuring meal portions, which are counted in terms of "blocks". The number of "blocks" to be consumed in a day is dependent on age, gender, as well as activity level of the individual.

Another buzzword in the CrossFit nutrition sphere is the Paleolithic (or Paleo) Diet, popularized by Dr. Loren Cordain, who published three books detailing the benefits of such a diet. The Paleo Diet is a way of eating in the modern age that replicates the diet of hunter-gatherers in ancient times, who primarily relied on lean meat, seafood, vegetables, fruits, and nuts for sustenance. To someone who adheres strictly to the principles of the Paleo Diet, all processed foods are taboo, including grains and dairy products.

There has been plenty of discussion on the CrossFit message boards regarding the best nutrition practices. As expected, there hasn't been (and probably never will be) a consensus. After all, different people react in varying ways to different nutritional protocols. A lot of the time, it's a function of genetic predisposition. For example, individual A might lose a ton of weight by adhering to a high-protein diet with low levels of carbohydrates and moderate amounts of fat, while individual B might see considerable success by following the Anabolic Diet (a diet that advocates a high fat intake, where approximately 50% of calories come from fat).

Whatever it is, I'm convinced that proper nutrition plays a large role in supplementing and boosting performance levels, and I've decided to get serious about my diet. Managing my diet has been something that I've wrestled with for quite a while now, and it's time to get that back under control. Even though this borders on quite personal aspects of my life, I'll lay this all out here -- after all, nothing works quite like publicly acknowledging weaknesses, since it provides the impetus necessary to make lasting changes.

It's definitely going to be challenging -- I spent close to three hours on Sunday preparing all my food for the week ahead, and precisely weighing and measuring portions using my nifty little kitchen scale, a $4.99 acquisition from Target. A small price to pay for the assurance that comes from knowing the nutritional composition of everything I ingest over the next few days. I'm pretty much going to be living off chicken breasts, green beans, eggs, and broccoli over the next couple days (it's hard to have much diversity when you're cooking for one). The lack of choice can be interpreted as a good thing, I suppose, since it prevents any ambiguity when it comes to knowing what I'm feeding myself. I don't want it to be unnecessarily complicated, especially during the outset.

I'll post more about the motivation behind the nutrition plan and how I plan to tweak things after the initial period. Oh, and in case you were wondering, I'm not following either the Zone Diet or strict Paleo (though my diet can pretty much be categorized as Paleo-ish, since it eschews processed foods and is comprised primarily of the types of food that the Paleo diet champions). It's based off Lyle McDonald's (a respected exercise physiologist and a noted figure in the area of performance nutrition) Rapid Fat Loss Handbook plan, and looks to be an effective, relatively short (10-14 days) protein-sparing modified fast (PSMF) program that will help set me on the path towards a sustainable, healthy nutrition program.


Bonny Guang said...

I bought the RFL a while ago, but decided on the V-Diet because it gives me absolutely 0 options. Good luck.

Spider63 said...

I just do the mash diet.