Something that came up recently, while we were running a Weightlifting comp scored via the Sinclair system, was the difference between looking at weight and performing in CrossFit. I wanted to explore the link between body weight, nutrition and performance as well as the body image issues that come with calling yourself an athlete.
Many of us actively seek out CrossFit for its benefits. One of the benefits of CrossFit, as I see it, is the deemphasis on what you weigh and look like aesthetically. It is refreshing to walk into a gym where main goals are increasing weight on the bar!
However, there are many of us that want to look good as well as enhance our performance. The elite CrossFit athletes do have a certain body type. These athletes have minimal body fat year around, as well as very defined and big muscles. This helps the top competitors move efficiently, float through gymnastics movements and achieve heavier lifts. Most elite athletes come from other sporting backgrounds, though I know this will change as the popularity of CrossFit increases in the younger generations.
It would be safe to assume that most athletes want to achieve an ideal body weight and body fat percentage to increase their strength and perform movements with speed and agility. We've seen the popularity of the paleo diet decline amongst CrossFitters as athletes need to eat more carbohydrates to support their recovery, and I think most athletes get tired of weighing and measuring their food so the Zone and IIFYM is not ideal and has produced varied results.
Within most sports there is an off season and a natural cycle which is harder to identify in Crossfit. Most of us want to peak during the Open, however it's local comp season through Spring/Summer in Australia. I love that CrossFit allows us to be fit and strong throughout the whole year, and I love that there is always more to learn and achieve. However, some elite athletes are back in training soon after the CrossFit Games, and I wonder about the effect of overtraining vs adaption (another blog post perhaps?*).
Everyday athletes need to eat a diet that promotes vitality, health and recovery. Elite athletes definitely require more of a performance enhancing diet and need to nail their recovery systems in order to decrease inflammation and allow them to train at peak through most of the year.
Does everyone need supplements? It depends on the athlete in question. Most people in the general population can eat for wellness and health without using supplements, but whether or not they actually eat this way is individual. Intermediate to Elite athletes often need supplements to support their performance and recovery, and they should be willing to invest in organic, non GMO products. The diet of the elite is insane, you see so many different approaches (if you watch Road to Regionals or A Day in the Life of...) from absolutely no planning, to meticulous preparation. As a female coach who identifies as an everyday athlete I have found this confusing, and I have a Bachelor in Nutrition and Exercise Physiology!
What tends to come up for me is recovery, eating enough food to enhance my training and balancing my body weight so that I feel and look the way I want to. Personally, I want to look lean and feel fit. So coming from a dance background with a mesomorphic body type and a history of an eating disorder, I have to manage my expectations with the demands I put on my body. This is not a situation unique to me, and many of my clients and athletes express the same confusion when trying to reach their goals.
The every day athlete should train a minimum of three days each week and no more than six days. No athlete should be restricting calories, but rather striving for a balance between eating when hungry and feeling energised by food (not over-full). Our bodies use starchy carbohydrates like pasta, rice and bread most efficiently when they are eaten 30mins before a WOD and 30mins after (this is called nutrient timing). As for everything else, simply aim to consume a rainbow of vegetables and fruit, good fats and high quality protein.
Consistency is key, and if the goal is weight loss then you may need to look at additional help and preparation. I would always encourage people to look at why they want to loose weight in the first place. It takes a little longer to achieve sustainable weight management than it does to buy into the cycle of losing weight fast by restricting calories or cutting out food groups.
If you want to lose 10kg in four weeks, sure thing you can stop eating! Then at week five, you gain back 5kg, at week seven you gain another 7kg, we start the process again. This leads to nutrient deficits and a hopeless mentality. This cycle only repeats for so long.
If you give your body a year to lose 10kg however, you can much more easily manage your nutrient intake, feel energetic through the whole experience and be sure that you won't be seeing those kilos creep back on (because you'll be CrossFitting and loving your newfound health).
Then we need to touch on the whole #strongnotskinny movement...because absolutely you can be strong AND "skinny", imagine if the hashtag was #fitnotfat there would be public outrage! It's no bodies business what body shape and type you have but yours (see what I did there?!). And what is of interest to me as a coach is not whether you are skinny or fat or ripped or whatever, what is of interest to me is how you FEEL. If you feel comfortable in your own skin, if you are eating in a healthful way most of the time and can perform well as an intermediate athlete or have the energy to train every week as an everyday athlete. The message I want to share is HEALTH, wellness and sustainability, it makes us feel great.
*some are starting to take a longer off season and periodise their training to focus on weaknesses in this time.
Coach Sares writes most of our posts in her spare time ;)