March 01, 2008
This month I want to discuss the energy balance equation in relation to diet and CrossFit training. Part of my motivation for this comes from an interview with Gary Taubes in which he makes the rather shocking statement that there is little, if any, evidence that exercise is useful in weight control. In fact, though, a healthy body composition is the result of proper nutrition and exercise.
Body composition is the result of being fit; it is not in itself a component of fitness. (I discussed this in more detail in my article "Body Composition: Not the Holy Grail" in the CrossFit Journal in January 2007). Performance measures are better indicators of health and fitness. (Whether measured in terms of workout or competition times and results; blood lipid profiles; or ECG, liver function, and glucose tolerance tests; among others.) That being said, weight control is important to many, and the principles of proper eating and exercise that produce healthy body composition are at root the same ones that produce elite performance.
Taken together, these are key factors that determine where you are on the sickness-wellness-fitness continuum. Taubes argues that common nutritional guidelines such as the USDA food pyramid and Canada's Food Guide are inappropriate for optimal health and weight control. Many researchers have promoted numerous health benefits for low-fat, high-carbohydrate diets despite a disturbing lack of evidence to support their view. In 1960 the American Heart Association jumped on board and decided low-fat diets are a healthy option. Without studies and without evidence, they started to promote these diets. The result is that, four decades later, the majority of the North American public believe the purported benefits of this diet are absolute fact.