Nutrition for CrossFit
The CrossFit Fitness Pyramid
Aka: “Theoretical Hierarchy of Development”
Source: “What is Fitness?” page 8
–Greg Glassman, “What is Fitness?,” CrossFit Journal (Oct. 2002) pg. 1
Nutrition is the Foundation
Athletic performance depends upon proper nutrition. All areas of fitness build upon it. Without quality foods, eaten in appropriate quantities, no athlete can achieve his or her full potential.
CrossFit Asheville recommends the dietary advice of CrossFit founder Greg Glassman: “Eat meat and vegetables, nuts and seeds, some fruit, little starch, and no sugar. Keep intake to levels that will support exercise but not body fat.” This simple set of rules highlights the importance of both food quality and quantity in the diet.
Eat Quality Foods: The Paleo-Diet
Proper nutrition begins with food quality.
It is essential to eliminate junk foods and processed foods from the diet. We should eat natural, whole foods that support the optimal functioning of our bodies.
Why not processed foods? The human body didn’t evolve eating the diet of modern agricultural societies. Our paleolithic human ancestors ate the diet of hunter gatherers: primarily meats, plants, roots, fruits and berries, nuts, and seeds.
Until the development of agriculture, and the settled life of villages (about 10,000 years ago), human beings didn’t keep domestic animals, eat dairy-based foods, or gather foods that couldn’t be eaten raw (such as legumes and some tubers). They didn’t drink alcohol or eat grains as a staple (both of these were first introduced into our diet about 7,000 years ago). Our genes developed over millions of years of evolution, before any of these kinds of foods were introduced into the human diet.
Paleolithic humans ate only fresh and nutritious foods. These foods are filled with essential micronutrients (antioxidants, minerals, and vitamins) that to this day promote health and vitality in the human organism. They certainly didn’t eat a diet based primarily on cheap, industrially refined byproducts of wheat, corn, soybeans, and sugar, as so many modern Americans do.
Because of their superior diet, “cavepeople” didn’t suffer from the types of diseases that plague so many modern humans: type II diabetes, hypertension, hyperinsulinemia, hyperglycemia, high triglycerides, low HDL cholesterol, high LDL cholesterol. They weren’t obese, and they didn’t die of heart disease, stroke, and cancer. (They might have died hunting a wooly mammoth, or falling off a cliff, but you can believe they were healthy and fit right up to the end.)
For the medical and scientific research backing up these claims, see the research of Paleo-Diet author Loren Cordain (especially this). For a more humorous overview of the theory, see the video at right.
Ask a CrossFitter. If you eat like a caveman you will experience increased health and vitality. Your training will become more efficient, your recovery quicker, and your gains in strength and conditioning will multiply. The personal experience of thousands of CrossFitters has led them to embrace the “Paleo-diet.” CrossFit Asheville more than recommends this approach. We challenge you to adopt a “Paleo-Diet” for yourself and see whether you don’t see a real change in your body and your athleticism.
How Much To Eat: Quantity, Fitness, and Body Fat
As Glassman says: “Keep intake to levels that will support exercise but not body fat.” For some people, this piece of common sense wisdom will be enough, especially if they are following a strict Paleo-Diet.
Other people will feel that, Glassman’s advice is more easily repeated than lived by. How much food is too much? How much is not enough?
Because every person is different, no one prescription for food quantities will suffice. But there are many interesting theories and ideas about how much you should be eating.
The official CrossFit Mainsite Nutrition Guidelines, and many of CrossFit’s founding trainers including Greg Glassman, promote the approach to food quantities found in the “Zone Diet” system of Dr. Barry Sears (see the Nutrition Links Page). Others prefer the “Primal Diet” approach of Mark Sisson, the “Protein Power” diet of Michael and Mary Dan Eades (again, see the links page). Others prefer an “unregulated” Paleo-Diet.
All these approaches to diet are deserving of a separate discussion, which is why we have another whole page dedicated to the topic of food quantities.