Intro to Nutrition – Paleo and Zone

“You can’t out train bad nutrition!”

Hey folks!  Welcome to the first of many nutrition posts you will see as part of the Reebok CrossFit Bare Cove community.

One very important note up front – I’m not a nutritionist and don’t claim to be.  That being said, I’m well read and experienced on the topic.  I will talk to theory in a simplistic way, recount personal experience, and then send you to the source information written by the nutritionists of the world.  My intent is that all of that combined gives you everything you need to make your own personal nutrition decisions.  As your head coach, I of course will be there to support you throughout!

Nutrition is one of those topics where 100 people can have 100 different approaches to what they believe is proper nutrition.  Regardless of the differing views, we can all agree on one thing – “you can’t out train bad nutrition.”  You come to class, work your tail off, and will definitely get some good results from doing so.  However, it’s not until you focus on nutrition that you will see great and even life changing results.  I’d even be so bold to say that if you are only going to do one, nutrition or training, then choose nutrition.

What we put in our bodies doesn’t just effect our performance during training but ultimately dictates the quality of our life.  It impacts our mental acuity, energy, mood, and of course physical health, including diseases we do or don’t acquire.  All of these factors combine to have real impacts in the personal, work, and training aspects of our lives. So the big question is – what is the right nutrition?

I’ll state up front that I don’t believe there is a one-size-fits all approach to nutrition.  That being said, there are some basic fundamentals and approaches that I think are very powerful.  Two of these approaches that are followed commonly in the CrossFit community are Paleo and Zone.  I’ve followed these approaches personally and have experienced results inside and outside of the box that I have never seen before.

As a reminder – nutrition is about two things: the quality of food AND the quantity of food.

Paleo – The Quality of Food

The paleo way of eating is put simply in one sentence – “Eat meat and vegetables, nuts and seeds, some fruit, little starch, and no sugar.”  It doesn’t sound that much different than what mom always said when we were kids 🙂  This basically means that we eliminate bread, pasta, dairy, and all the sugary things we eat.  Sounds like a big sacrifice I know and it does take a true lifestyle change.  So that begs two questions – 1) Does it work? 2)Why does it work?

The question, “does it work?”, leads into an entire different discussion of how do we measure fitness.  I’ll forgo that conversation for now and just assume that we can measure effect by how we feel (e.g. energy levels), what our body metrics say – body fat percentage, cholesterol levels, blood pressure, and blood sugar levels, and the existence of disease.  I’ve participated in several paleo challenges (yup, we will be doing one soon) and have experienced amazing results both 1st and 2nd hand in as little as 30 days.  The first time I did one, my body weight dropped by 10 pounds, my body fat percentage by 5 percentage points, and my cholesterol balance of HDLs and LDLs improved dramatically.  I saw several of my friends have similar results and even saw some folks literally go from being officially diabetic to classified as healthy.  The results people obtain will vary but this stuff works.

So, why does it work?  There is a lot of scientific explanation for the impact it has, but the short of it is that we eliminate the things that we reduce cell inflammation and eliminate the junk that is commonly associated with autoimmune disease, diabetes, etc.   In a nutshell…much of this “junk” is the processed foods and sugars that are so easy to consume on a daily basis.

I think it is important that you understand more about the why, so checkout this link for more information, studies, etc. – Paleo Diet by Robb Wolf

Zone – The Quantity of Food

Through Paleo we address the quality of food we eat.  It’s through Zone that we touch on the quantity of food we eat.

Every time we introduce food into our body, our body breaks down the macro nutrients in our (protein, carbohydrates, and fats) and uses those as energy to fuel our mental and physical output.  We have all experienced those times where we feel amazing and want to conquer the world!  Conversely, we also know what it’s like to feel so sluggish that we it’s hard enough to even think let alone move.  Wouldn’t it be nice if there was a way that we could stay in that heightened state all the time?  Good news – there is a way!  We actually call it the zone because you feel like you are in the zone!

In a nutshell, the zone approach to nutrition balances macronutrient intake of each of your meals in a way that sustains a constant level of energy (insulin levels and response).  This consistency prevents those big insulin spikes that cause the storage of fat and the big insulin troughs that result in our sluggishness.

Zone uses the block system.  We consume an equal amount of protein blocks, carbohydrate blocks, and fat blocks each meal.  Blocks are broken down below:

  • 1 Protein Block = 7g
  • 1 Carbohydrate Block = 9g
  • 1 Fat Block = 1.5g (assumes another 1.5g is in the protein)

Although many foods have all 3 macronutrients in them, we classify each food by the macronutrient that dominates that particular food.  A great example is almonds.  Almonds have protein and fats, but are heavily dominated by fats and are considered as such.

So, how many blocks should you have and how do you measure out your food accordingly?  There is a great article from the CrossFit Journal that explains exactly this.  Check it out – CrossFit Journal Zone Article.  Simply click download the pdf on the right hand side once you get to the journal.

Next Steps

There is a ton of stuff to read.  I hope you at least give it a skim, some thought, and come with questions.  We will talk nutrition over the next several weeks and even do our own Paleo/Zone challenge in January.


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