First of all lets cover the basics. Whether you are doing crossfit or bodybuilding, the key thing to staying healthy is your diet.
Generally people overlook the diet aspect of the so called “healthy lifestyle”, with excuses like: “When you workout, you can eat whatever you want!” or “I am just going to do more cardio tomorrow and I can have cake tonight!” and then people ask themselves “Why hasn’t my body changed, yet?”. This is like putting on square wheels on your car and wondering why you are moving so slow and the ride is so bumpy.
The word diet comes from the Greek word “diaita” which means “a way of life”. So even by definition you shouldn’t consider it just a temporary tool to aid you now. Instead you have to view it as a lifestyle change. Most people search for the “miracle” diet where you can eat bread, and pasta and all the tasty processed carbs in the world and still be lean, well let me burst your bubble: It does not exist. In other words, you find a lifestyle which you can stick to and that works for you and commit to it.
The two main diets used by crossfit athletes today are: The Paleo diet and the Zone diet. Let us take a closer look at each one.
The Zone Diet
It differs from most diets in that it doesn’t tell you to eat high protein, low carb etc. It is simply a balance of the three main macro nutrients:
- Protein (preferably lean meats)
- Carbs (mostly low- glycemic load ones)
- Fat (better stick to non-saturated ones)
The main goal of this particular diet is to control three of the major hormones produced in the human body: insulin, glucagon and eicosanoids.
What the hell are these you might ask. In simple terms insulin is a storage hormone, glucagon is a mobilization hormone and it tells the body when and at what rate to release stored energy. Last but not least, eicosanoids. These are the hormones which ultimately control silent inflammation.
While on this diet you are going to eat what are called block meals. For example a one block meal consists of a block from each of the macro nutrients. For example, one block of protein, one of carbs and another one of fats. A two block meal is two of each etc. You can mix and match them as you see fit. Just remember to eat about every four hours and have a nice snack before bed to have something digesting in your system while you sleep. 10 to 11 blocks are sufficient for a small female while more conditioned women will require 12 to 14.
For men the number is even higher, normally 16 to 20 blocks will be sufficient for normal people. While if you are a hard gainer or a serious athlete you will need anywhere from 20 to 25 blocks a day. Again, the goal is to have a nice hormonal balance trough out the whole day, hence eating every few hours.
I can just feel the readers getting anxious and thinking we will have to start using math and I thought being in shape and eating healthy will be fun. OK, no one likes math, but this is not exact science so you won’t have to be exact with your counting. Get yourself a nice digital scale to start and after a month or two you will be able to eye ball everything so you can stay in the ball park. Lastly you can read the labels for packaged goods and count them that way:
- 7 grams of protein = 1 block
- 9 grams of carbs = 1 block
- 1.5 grams of fat = 1 block
For example: you buy a protein bar which consists of: 28 grams of protein 9 grams of carbs and 5 grams of fat you can just count that as 4 blocks of protein and skip the rest. Otherwise you run the risk of micromanaging your nutrients and ending up feeling hungry and unsatisfied.
The Paleo Diet
It is similar to the Zone diet in that you stick to lean proteins, non-saturated fats and avoid processed carbs. But the similarities end here because on the Paleo diet you don’t count macros. You read that right – you don’t count, which doesn’t mean that you eat 11 steaks and 23 kilos of apples a day. This means that you can naturally find the balance that works for you and stick to it. Again, eating frequently is recommended, keeping your carbs low is too. A lot lower than the Zone diet in fact.
But wait, you said that we don’t have to count?
Yes I said that and no, you don’t have to, just avoid carb rich foods and you will be OK.
What Is the Paleo Diet?
It is a reworking of the so called “cavemen diet” which simply means that is what our ancestors ate. Some very smart people saw the fact that our ancestors were naturally great athletes (runners, swimmer, climbers etc.) and thought why is that.
Turns out it can be mostly attributed to the difference in our diets. Where they ate mostly protein and fats, this is where their energy came from. Whilst we rely heavily on processed carbs for energy. That can be attributed to the rise of agriculture, which in turn led to a dramatic increase of the grains used in modern society. Our ancestors didn’t eat grains and they had marvelous bodies which were made for hunting. Whilst we are leading such a sedentary lifestyle that our bodies are not build for anything of the sort and the results speak for themselves. At least this is what the experts in the field are saying.
Bodybuilding vs Crossfit
I can’t help myself but draw a comparison between the bodybuilding diets and the crossfit ones. Mostly we like to focus on counting calories and dividing them into the perfect nutritional mix so that our bodies look exactly the way we want them to look like. Whereas crosfitters focus on the function of the food and don’t over obsess with counting. Which when you look at it, is reflected in the way athletes from both sports approach training. Bodybuilders do a lot of isolation movements so they can bring out their lacking body parts and make everything symmetrical looking. Whereas crossfit focuses on staying functional and doing exercises which make them better athletes in general and not just make them look good in the mirror.
Now neither I nor any expert can tell you which diet would be best for you. As a beginner you will have to experiment and see what works best for you. Of course there are people which specialize in the field of nutrition science. But they use all sorts of tests before they prescribe you a nutrition plan. For most of us, who want to look good and feel good, we just have to test the waters first before we dive in!