Recently in Nutrition Category

Anyone who wants the full benefit and results of CrossFit must understand--and then act on the information--that nutrition is the foundation for all the other work you do in the name of athletic development and elite health. The key, of course, is hormones, which regulate how the body stores and releases energy and repairs itself. And, as far as hormones are concerned, food is a drug--a very powerful drug. It is the regulator for your body's internal teeter-totter, where the interdependent levels of "good" and "bad" hormones pivot on the food you take in. The simple CrossFit nutrition prescription--"Eat meat and vegetables, nuts and seeds, some fruit, little starch, and no sugar"--will deliver you from metabolic derangement (i.e., hyperinsulinemia, Syndrome X, and their relatives) and keep you generally well. For maximal fitness and output, however, you need to be more precise than that. In this lecture excerpt, Nicole Carroll makes a compelling case for why.

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.

Is it strange that I know exactly how many grams of protein, carbohydrate, and fat I'm eating at every meal and snack?

It was at one time.

Now, even when I'm not actually weighing and measuring my intake, I know how much of each macronutrient I'm putting into my body. It's second nature now. It required only two weeks of strict measuring before I had the clear understanding of exactly what to do to increase athletic performance with the food I was already eating.

The realization that I needed to fuel my body differently began on a stationary bike. Spinning away, getting warm for the day's workout, I heard Coach over the drone of the bike, "We can keep working out like this, Robbie, and we'll achieve some results, but it will take us only so far."

Iwas intrigued. Three weeks earlier I was more debilitated from a twenty-minute workout than I had been from climbing twenty-one hours straight on the two largest cliffs in North America: the Nose route on El Capitan and the Regular Northwest route on Half Dome. As long as I was doing this CrossFit thing I was interested in going all the way, and willing to make the changes required for total success.

Part 2 of Coach Glassman's discussion of nutrition addresses the refined dietary needs of athletes and what's required to optimize your performance. If you want elite physical output, you must be precise about your intake. "Close enough" won't cut it--or as Coach Glassman more colorfully puts it, "If you want top-fuel- type performance, you need top fuel; you can't just piss into the gas tank."

Most of us are familiar with CrossFit's nutrition prescription: Eat meat and vegetables, nuts and seeds, some fruit, little starch, and no sugar. But to achieve top performance, you have to be specific about the balances of those things and accurate in your macronutrient consumption. You can get far on the workouts alone, but you will not--cannot--reach your true potential without getting particular about your fuel. There's a 1:1 correspondence between elite CrossFit performance and accuracy and precision in your consumption. For more information on getting specific about your intake, see the following resources:

CrossFit Journal # 15 is an annotated reference list of books on nutrition that could keep you reading as long as your heart desires.

CrossFit Journal #21 goes into detail about how to determine how much of what you should be eating to optimize your performance.

In her journal article "Getting Off the Crack," Nicole Carroll, CrossFitter extraordinaire, tells the inspiring story of her dietary conversion and the results it had for her.

Greg Glassman is the founder (with Lauren Glassman) of CrossFit, Inc. and CrossFit Santa Cruz.

Video Article!

Nutrition can be a touchy topic, like politics or religion, that people take very personally, but good nutrition is the foundation not only for general health but also for high-performance fitness. Much of the public information about diet, particularly the emphasis on low fat and high carbs, has resulted in a near epidemic of obesity and type II diabetes. In this first of a two-part lecture excerpt, Coach Glassman explores some of the science behind nutrition and the body, particularly the role of insulin in health and disease. "Syndrome X," the "deadly quartet" (obesity, glucose intolerance, high blood pressure, high triglycerides), and coronary heart disease, he claims, are avoidable through dietary means.

Part 2 will address the refined dietary needs of the athlete and what's required to optimize performance.

When people think about "diet," they almost always think of losing weight. Pritikin, Atkins, Weight Watchers, Jenny Craig, South Beach, SlimFast, Nutrisystem, Learn, Paleolithic, Zone--diets galore and hype galore. All touted to provide you the means to a "healthy" weight, what do all these diets have in common... besides costing you money if you buy the books, supplements, or the prepackaged special foods that go with them? They all do three basic things: (1) modify the composition of your diet (limit your food selection), (2) either directly or indirectly limit your caloric intake, and (3) expect you to exercise as part of your diet. So they all are all basically variations on the same theme but there is a tremendous amount of controversy about which diet is superior.

Currently, the biggest debate in the media and among health academics is low-fat versus low-carbohydrate. Who would have ever guessed that a simple manipulation of a couple of macronutrients would be such a point of contention with fitness professionals, physicians, the media, and the public in general? Who would have thought that the tremendous amount of federal and private funds expended on nutrition and obesity research would create such a wealth of wrong thinking? Wrong thinking? How could I even suggest that some of the best minds in obesity research aren't producing useful information? They are forgetting basic physics, and they are also forgetting to consider the basic reasons why we eat. We'll come back to this latter consideration in a bit as it is particularly relevant to eating for CrossFit.

In last month's CrossFit Journal, I said that we must always focus on performance when assessing fitness. Specifically, I argued that body fat measurement not only is futile (from an accuracy standpoint) but, more importantly, is irrelevant to athletes focused on what they can do rather than how they look. That said, fat loss is still a major and valid concern for many trainees out there, and the fitness industry is full of schemes and strategies for burning body fat.

One of these supposedly scientific nuggets of accepted "wisdom" is the belief, espoused by many personal trainers and reflected in the preset programs on most cardio machines, that the best way to lose fat is to work at a moderate intensity. A version of the graph above appears on the walls of innumerable gyms and training studios across the United States and Canada, graphically illustrating the supposedly "right" exercise intensity (as a percentage of an individual's mathematically estimated maximum heart rate) for maximizing fat loss. But it is not an accurate representation of the true picture. oxygen per min) will burn a greater percentage of fat than when working at the higher intensity.

Spicy Albacore Polpettes with Tomato Sauce, Olives, and Capers
Arugula Salad
Four 4-block servings
Although the change in season is only starting to show small signs of happening where I live, the world of food is starting to change rapidly. Late summer crops that have been soaking up the sun in the past few months are producing faster than we can keep up. The most noteworthy is the tomato. Only two weeks ago, tomatoes were two dollars a pound; now, farmers are literally knocking on the back door of the restaurant with over a hundred pounds a day for dirt cheap prices for the best, most flavorful tomatoes of the year.

Time for tomato sauce! The season for one of the best local fish, albacore tuna, is also beginning right now. So, here is a surefire recipe from the south of Italy via northern California that combines those two ingredients. I made this dish for the first time eight years ago at Chez Panisse in Berkeley, and I bring it back every autumn to the delight of my friends and, now, my customers at Avanti in Santa Cruz.

Here on the west coast of the United States, we are blessed with bountiful year-round agriculture, and there is always a farmers’ market nearby with fresh natural ingredients. Nevertheless, when the summer crops peak at this time of year I am always taken aback and overwhelmed by the sheer quantity and variety of delicious fruit and vegetables to be had and the ability of the sun to create so much sweetness and nourishment.

Menus almost write themselves.

At the peak of the summer bounty, faced with the dilemma of choice, it is always a challenge to stick with my style of using few ingredients. But because everything is so fresh and available, I can just pick a few favorite items and keep the preparations simple, clean, and easy, letting their essential flavors come through.

Here on the west coast of the United States, we are blessed with bountiful year-round agriculture, and there is always a farmers' market nearby with fresh natural ingredients. Nevertheless, when the summer crops peak at this time of year I am always taken aback and overwhelmed by the sheer quantity and variety of delicious fruit and vegetables to be had and the ability of the sun to create so much sweetness and nourishment. Menus almost write themselves.

Peak of Summer Dinner Roasted Pork Chops
with Corn, Cherry Tomato, & Basil Salad
Roasted Figs with Thyme
Four 4-block servings

At the peak of the summer bounty, faced with the dilemma of choice, it is always a challenge to stick with my style of using few ingredients. But because everything is so fresh and available, I can just pick a few favorite items and keep the preparations simple, clean, and easy, letting their essential flavors come through.

Now that summer is here and in full swing, I look forward to spicy foods inspired by cultures with tropical climates. If I don’t start using jalapeño, lime, and cilantro in the restaurant, the customers stay away on the hot days. The last thing one wants to eat in the heat is something heavy (lasagna and meatballs are definitely not my big sellers in the summer). I tend to acquire my inspirations from Asia and Central America this time of year, places where people have been making lots of hot-weather food for centuries. Here is something light and crisp with a bit of spice and tang to combat the blazing sun and keep you moving.

Spicy Summer Barbeque

  • Spicy Lamb Skewers with Cabbage Salad, Lime, and Avocado

  • Fresh Watermelon

  • Four 4-block servings

The beginning of summer is always an exciting time for food. Everything really starts to come alive, begging to be eaten straight out of the ground or off the vine. Ingredients I have dreamed about all winter are finally here - wild salmon, ripe tomatoes, sweet peaches, and tender green beans. Here is my Zone-friendly summer picnic menu for a warm evening.

Summer Picnic Menu

Poached Salmon Salad

Fresh Peaches with Yogurt and Almonds

Four 4-block servings

There is no reason healthy food shouldn’t also be delicious. Staying in the Zone is simple—and can be done with simple foods—but there’s no reason it must be bland, uninspiring, or monotonous. Menus and dishes that I create in my restaurant are constructed of the best ingredients at the peak of their ripeness—food that I would serve to my family and food that I eat at home. My dishes are ingredient-driven rather than recipe-driven, meaning that I mostly don’t know what the end result will be until I pick up the produce from the farmer’s market. This requires a bit of flexibility, knowledge of the seasons, and understanding of flavor combinations. With a little creativity, you can produce similarly appealing meals at home.

The following recipes are straight off my specials board, with a few modifications for the home cook and a little fine-tuning for the Zone. You could find the same dishes on many French or Italian tables. In keeping with the season, this is a typical spring menu, using ingredients that are easy to find right now. The entire menu should take very little time to prepare, and most of the cooking can be done outside on the grill rather than inside over a hot stove.

Getting off the Crack


I never thought what I ate mattered. I was thin and muscular. My athletic performance was decent. I generally felt pretty healthy and happy. So I was skeptical about diet having any kind of real impact on anything. For my whole life I had been eating a lot of whatever the hell I wanted and seemed to be doing just fine. But I did have a sense that this wasn’t true for everyone and that as a trainer, people would be asking me questions about nutrition and diet. I knew CrossFit prescribed the Zone diet so I bought the books, read them, got my measly block prescription and tried the diet. The deal I made with myself was that for two weeks I would weigh and measure precisely. If after two weeks I wanted to go back to eating the way I was before I could. No guilt, just an experiment.

Four weeks into the Zone diet, I was stronger and faster than I had ever been. I had lost fat and gained muscle. My benchmark workout times decreased, and my pull-up numbers increased. I hit PRs in deadlift, back squat, and push jerk. I had more energy, recovered more quickly, and could push harder more often.

Our recommendation to "eat meat and vegetables, nuts and seeds, some fruit, little starch, and no sugar" is adequate to the task of preventing the scourges of diet-induced disease, but more accurate and precise prescription is necessary to optimize physical performance.

Finely tuned, a good diet will increase energy, sense of well being and acumen, while simultaneously flensing fat and packing on muscles. When properly composed the right dieet can nudge every important quantifiable marker for health in the right direction.

Diet is critical to optimizing human functin and our clinical experience leads us to believe that Barry Sears' "Zone Diet" closely models optimal nutrition.

CrossFit's best performers are Zone eaters. When our second tier athletes commit to "strict" adherence to the Zone parameters, they generaly become top tier performers quickly. It seems that the Zone diet accelerates and amplifies the effects of the CrossFit regimen.

CrossFit has been an active combatant in the diet wars. For decades it has been an exciting world of "us" versus "them."

"We" were the low carb, low calorie, good fat camp and "they" were the low fat, low calorie, high carb opposition. The battle was for the hearts and minds of the public on the very personal and private matter of nutrition - what diet makes us healthy?

Sheldon Margin, publisher of the UC Berkley Wellness Letter, a leader of "them," accepted this characterization of battle lines when we presented it to him in 1996. In 1996 Dr. Atkins and Barry Sears were both publicly and regularly referred to as "quacks" and "frauds" by mainstream physicians, journalists, and nutritionists. While this was something that Sears would have to get used to, Dr. Atkins had been dealing with vicious assaults on his life’s work and character since publishing his Dr. Atkins’ Diet Revolution in 1972.

We write here today in 2003 gloating. Gloating, because it is our perception that we are decisively winning the diet war. In the public square, the realization that carbs, not fat, make you sick and fat is spreading rapidly. Spreading like truth unobstructed.

Fast Food


One of the more common explanations for bad diet is being “too busy to eat right.” On the face of it this may seem plausible. There are a multitude of things that we are each too busy to do. It seems logical that there are more things that we don’t have time for than we do have time for because there are an infinite number of things to do, but we can only experience a finite number of them.

But because eating is not optional, the important question is not how much time it takes to eat right but whether it takes longer to eat right than to eat wrong? We thought an experiment was in order.

Glycemic Index


For several decades now, bad science and bad politics have joined hands to produce what is arguably the most costly error in the history of science - the low fat diet. This fad diet has cost millions unnecessary death and suffering from heart disease, diabetes and, it increasingly seems, a host of cancers and other chronic and debilitating illnesses.


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