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Simple Nutrition: Part 5 by E.C. Synkowski - CrossFit Journal

Simple Nutrition: Part 5

By E.C. Synkowski

Video Article

CrossFit trainer E.C. Synkowski offers practical nutrition information to help with day-to-day choices.

In Part 5, she explains the basics of the Zone Diet to a group at CrossFit Hingham.

“What we like about the Zone … is the idea that we are assessing exactly what we’re taking in so that we can see how our performance tracks with that,” Synkowski says.

Excess protein, carbohydrate and fat will be stored as body fat, she explains, likening the process to filling a one-gallon jug.

“We want to get it all the way to the top, but we don’t want to have spillover,” Synkowski says.

She explains the Zone’s block prescription, where one block equals 7 grams of protein, 9 grams of carbohydrate and 1.5 grams of fat. Synkowski also talks about how to stick to the plan when you’re away from home.

Video by Again Faster.

12min 38sec

HD file size: 254 MB
SD wmv file size: 151 MB
SD mov file size: 77 MB

Please note: These files are larger than normal Journal videos. For smoother viewing, please download the entire file to your hard drive before watching it (right-click and choose Save Link As...).

Additional audio: CrossFit Radio Episode 220 by Justin Judkins April 18, 2012.

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11 Comments on “Simple Nutrition: Part 5”


wrote …

EC (or CFJ guests), With regard to your comments about oxidized fats, PUFAs specifically, damaging the body - I have heard this too, but have never found an in depth analysis of the topic and why it might be regarded as anything more than a conjecture. Do you have a reference on that topic?

Listening to these over and over, beautifully simple but potent at the same time! Thanks, Paul


wrote …

why do you guys break these segments into 25 parts? it would be great to see these videos released as one contiguous set or file..not piece meal every few days


wrote …

There always seems to be a bit of contradiction when talking about zone/paleo in the same diet. From my understanding in a paleo diet rice is like the devil food but then we talk about adding it to meals (albeit in small amounts) because green veg is not going to be enough to support our workout. Also are they suggesting small amount of starch or grain in each of those 4 meals or just pre or post It would be nice to see an example of a good weeks nutrition (as a guide, I understand people's size, lifestyle make a difference).

Gary - I think if they put the whole vid down they wouldn't get many people actually attending the seminars.


wrote …


I can't give you a good source, but I can explain to you the basic science of why we want to avoid PUFAs. Polyunsaturated fats are one of the least stable, meaning they oxidize (or go rancid) faster than other FAs, they also don't need far LESS heat for this process to take place (think storage in hot warehouses, and transfer on hot trucks). The name "polyunsaturated" tells us why this happens (in basic terms): ploy=many, unsaturated=Carbon double bonds (not saturated with Hydrogen). These double bonds cause bends in the chain so they look like this: ^ rather than this - (saturated). Saturated FAs are flat, allowing them to stack on each other much more efficiently, thus causing them to withstand heat (and oxidation), hence why butter and coconut oil are not liquid at room temperature. So, to review, PUFAs have many kinks in their fatty acid chain, making them more unstable, and causing them to oxidize more readily. (MUFAs have ONE kink, Unsaturated FAs have none). Hope that helps.


You're right, there is a LOT of controversy when it comes to Zone and Paleo (so much so that people have lost their jobs). The best thing you can do is tinker with the foods you consume and see what affects you in a negative way. In my opinion, you will be much better off without any grain, but you will need to add in some source of glucose post workout in order to sustain your efforts in the gym. Glucose preferentially restores muscle glycogen, while fructose (think fruit, honey, etc) preferentially restores liver glycogen. Over-do liver glycogen and the remainder gets converted into not only body fat, but into very low density cholesterol (the kind you don't want). The CrossFitter's go-to post workout: sweet potato. It contains mostly glucose, and is packed with vitamins and minerals. The rest of your daily diet really depends on your current goals. Pre-workout carbohydrate intake really isn't necessary (unless you are doing multiple workouts a day), because your body will top off those glycogen stores naturally as you sleep, and you won't tap back into them until you workout again. Hope that helped.

Email me if you've got any other questions. (



replied to comment from Seth Crowell

Seth I like the way you put that answer. One way to say it is that rice is one of the least offensive of the non-paleo foods, and if it helps you get the calories needed to sustain super intense training, and you find it does not have a negative effect, then use it! It's not the paleolithic temple of holiness we're after, it's the paleolithic model of nutrition. The model suggests certain foods have potential to injure us. If they don't - game on. The challenging part is stabilizing your diet in foods that are most likely to have no negative impact, allow a healing time, say 30 days, and then reintroduce the potentially damaging foods. This way, you have a shot of identifying which foods may be causing what problems.

IOW - rice isn't the "food of the devil" - unless for you it is.

Seth, concur on all of the above wrt to PUFAs. It is foolish to invent a food out of cheap industrial waste and tout it as safe without significant testing to determine the safe dosage (presumably, anything can be harmful at the wrong dosage, even water). It certainly presents a compelling conjecture for why we should avoid PUFAs. I do. However, it's one of the arenas in which I have not been able to say more than just "it sure seems like a bad idea." Art Ayers, as an example, says as little as one tablespoon per day of industrial seed oils may be enough to cause damage - OK, seems likely, but how could we know that? Interventions studies anyone?

More generally, I get the concept that oxidized stuff is thought to act somewhat like broken glass (Chris Masterjohn model) - why? How? How do we know?

Not urgent, but if anyone can get me another step down this road, it would be much appreciated.


wrote …

I am not clear on what heat has to do with lipid peroxidation in vivo. The human body runs at a pretty constant temperature (unlike a warehouse or truck). Lipid peroxidation occurs via reactions with free radicals, see "lipid peroxidation" @ Wikipedia for a simple diagram. Stacking ability has no direct impact on its susceptibility to this reaction, rather it is the stabilization of the free radical by isomerizing about the double bond that facilitates the reaction. And although PUFAs are the most susceptible to this type of chemistry (more double bonds), cells also have elaborate mechanisms to prevent the initiation and propagation of this reaction (alpha-tocopherol, ubiquinone, and carotenes) in membranes and an equal number for aqueous unsaturated fatty acids (as CoA derivatives).

As for fructose and glucose wrt muscle or liver glycogen repletion, you can google "PMID 3592616" for an abstract that touches on that topic… "From these results we conclude that fructose is a poor nutritional precursor for rapid glycogen restoration in muscle after exercise, but that both glucose and fructose promote rapid accumulation of glycogen in the liver."


Hi Paul,

You are familiar with Masterjohn. Have you read this one?

It's long, but discusses six randomized, controlled trials specifically testing the effect of the substitution of polyunsaturated vegetable oils for animal fats on heart disease to some extent.



Hi Luke,

It's not actually a contradiction when we talk about Paleo and Zone for the same diet. Why? The diet CrossFit proposes is neither exclusively Paleo or exclusively Zone; the diet CrossFit proposes marries concepts from both Paleo and Zone approaches.

"The CrossFit Diet" it is to "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." That is neither Paleo or Zone. Instead, we view Paleo and Zone as templates to achieve the quoted diet. Meaning: eat high quality foods, determine the appropriate quantity. How that shakes out for each individual will vary. Paleo and Zone may be HOW individuals accomplish that.

Some Paleo practitioners do not think rice is healthy; yet many tolerate it well. Same is true with most every food - some can't eat it; others thrive with it (dairy, nightshades, nuts, etc). Some CFers may choose to use rice, because it is very difficult to get all of your carbohydrates from green vegetables for high intensity workouts like CrossFit. Fruit, root vegetables are options to help get the necessary carb load and be "paleo", but some will use other starches without negative effects.

Yup, you can eat that starch in each meal.... or you can shift more to PWO. Results vary. There is NO one way.



wrote …

EC, thanks, will dig in ... !


wrote …

I'm glad to see that HQ has changed the message over time from "do this ratio with whatever foods" to "Try this ratio and tweak it. Eat real foods to support yourself."

This has been a great series!


wrote …

What do you think of substituting flax seed oil for fish oil as an omega 3 supplement? The info I have seen is that our livers use LNA in flax oil
to produce EPA & DHA (1 tsp flax = 950mgEPA, 450mgDHA) - this is from

Interested in your thoughts. Thanks,

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