DISCLAIMER!!! I am not a nutrition professional of any kind. This is simply a framework that I personally use to eat healthily. If you choose to model your diet and supplementation off this framework, you are doing so at your own risk.
Nutrition and Supplementation
My framework for “clean” eating with a focus on fat loss, lean muscle growth, and sports performance.
I practice a “Paleo-Zone” diet.
This is WHAT you eat. Essentially, you’ll eat a Paleo diet, but with the addition of rice and oatmeal as the only grains you’ll eat.
Crossfit’s founder, Greg Glassman stated it best:
“Eat meat and vegetables, nuts and seeds, [certain] fruits, little starch and no sugar” and “keep intake to levels that will support exercise but not body fat.”
This is HOW MUCH you eat. We use a simplified version of the Zone Diet to determine how much of each macronutrient to eat.
Crossfit’s zone plan
“In a study in 30 people with type 2 diabetes who followed the Zone Diet for six months and supplemented with 2,400 mg of omega-3s daily, average blood sugar decreased 11%, waist size by 3% and an inflammation marker by 51%”
The first thing you should do is switch to drinking mostly just water, if not ONLY water. You should drink 1.5 gallons of water per day. Just do it!! Your myofascial tissue needs it.
Our goal is to eat natural, “clean” macronutrients that do not spike your insulin levels (triggering fat storage). This is referred to as food with a low-glycemic index.
We want our insulin levels to stay even throughout the day… no spikes. We accomplish this by eating 5 times a day (3 meals and 2 snacks), and stick to foods that do not have a high glycemic index.
There are three macronutrients: Protein, Carbohydrates, and Fats. All three macros should be present in EVERY meal in order for your digestive system to optimally process and digest your food. Obviously, you will digest whatever you put in yourself, but we’re after optimal digestion, carb utilization, and protein synthesis.
- Chicken (breast, tenders, thighs)
- Steak (sirloin, ground)
- Turkey (ground)
- Pork (chops, bacon, shredded)
- Fish (salmon, tuna, cod)
- Green vegetables
- green beans
- Sweet potatoes
Non-Paleo carb exceptions:
- Rice (preferably yellow or brown)
You should include these exceptions. They are important because they are good sources of soluble fiber, to counteract all the insoluble fiber in green vegetables. Too much insoluble fiber will cause really loose stool. A balance of water, and soluble and insoluble fibers will keep your stool soft, but not runny.
- Nuts (cashews, almonds, pistachios) – these are high in calories, you only need a few (like 5 or 6) per meal
- Coconut oil (raw, or MCT)
- Olive oil
DO NOT eat list
- Grains (bread, pasta, corn)
- Potatoes (baked potatoes, fries, hash browns)
- Dairy (milk, yogurt)
- Legumes (peanuts, beans, lentils)
- Refined sugar (basically, don’t eat any sweets)
- Processed foods (basically all junk and pre-made food)
- Vegetable oils
- Artificial sweeteners
- High-glycemic fruits:
- Melon (watermelon, cantaloupe)
- Canned fruits
- Dried fruits (raisins, dates, cranberries)
Sample meal plan
MCT oil on your oatmeal
Smoothie (frozen berries, protein powder, almond milk)
4 oz chicken breast
Large helping of broccoli
Protein shake (protein powder and almond milk)
4 oz steak
Green beans with olive oil drizzle and seasonings
Notice, every meal has all three macros present: Protein, Carbs, and Fat.
A lot of supplements are junk. The list below are the best, most proven supplements that an over-30, active/athletic person should be taking. Anything more is either “gimmicky”, not necessary, or not proven.
A good, complete vitamin “pack” is the base of all supplementation. A “multi-vitamin” (i.e. all your vitamins in a single pill) is not recommended. I recommend Animal Pak for males who do high-intensity workouts, like Crossfit.
I’ve talked to many people that think creatine is taken to “volumize muscles”. I think this is a misinformed statement. Creatine is simply an energy source. In the metabolic cycle (Krebs cycle/TCA cycle), creatine (after a few chemical reactions) gets processed into ATP (which is basically “energy”) that helps your muscles contract. I like to think of creatine supplementation as simply giving yourself an energy boost during your workouts. Creatine metabolizes into the raw “stuff”, or energy that makes your muscles contract.
As we get older, fish oil is really important to lube your joints and myofascial tissue. It’s also a good source of fatty acid. Not all fish oils are equal! Cheap fish oil pills have been known to give people the “fish oil burps”. Carson’s “The Very Finest” fish oil is the best, most pure fish oil pills and can be ordered on Amazon. Take three a day with meals.
Protein is a macronutrient that should be mainly obtained from real food. However, athletes need to supplement with protein powder to get the grams of protein needed to support lean muscle growth. Getting all your protein grams from real food would add too many calories, therefore a more direct method of getting protein is needed… i.e. protein shakes.
EAAs & BCAAs
EAA = Essential Amino Acids. BCAA = Branch-Chain Amino Acids. I like to think of amino acids as my “recovery secret”. What you need to know is your muscles will hurt less over the next few days after a workout if you take amino acids.
EAAs are “essential” because they are the only 8 amino acids your body does not naturally create itself. You must get them from food or supplementation. EAAs are expensive.
BCAAs are a subset of 3 of the 8 EAAs that have a slightly different chemical makeup. BCAAs are less expensive, therefore, more people simply use BCAAs in their recovery protocol.
In my opinion, the best EAA/BCAA product I’ve used is Juice Aminos by Animal. It’s expensive though. Alternatively, Walmart sells a BCAA post-workout powder that works very well and it’s cheap.
MCT stands for Medium Chain Triglycerides. Basically, it’s coconut oil (a great fat) that is broken down chemically more than raw coconut oil, therefore it turns into energy faster.
I like to pour MCT oil into my oatmeal right before my workout. I have found that when I take MCT oil, I’m able to power through my workouts much better, with more sustained energy. I have tested this theory many, many times and I can attribute MCT oil to directly having more energy for my workouts without a doubt.
ZMA = zinc, magnesium aspartate, and vitamin B6. ZMA is not a critical supplement, which is why I put it last on the list. Everything else above I highly recommend. ZMA… I can take or leave it.
However, ZMA is taken by a lot of Crossfit athletes to support their immune system, muscle health, and healthy sleep. Basically, it’s another good recovery supplement.
When to eat
The most important consideration on timing your eating is the meals before and after your workout. Before your workout, you want to eat enough to power you through the workout, but not so much that you get sick, bloated, or feel like your meal is coming up during your workout. I typically drink a protein shake and a half cup of oatmeal with some MCT oil before my workout. After my workout, I try to get a “real” meal in (meaning, not a bar, smoothie, or shake). So I like to eat a 4 oz. piece of meat, some green veggies, and some cashews within a half hour after workout.
This framework of nutrition and supplementation is similar to what I find all over in the Crossfit community, and has a lot of success stories behind it. Hundreds of thousands of people around the world compose the Crossfit community, and many, if not most, of the athletes subscribe to versions of this plan and have had degrees of success with it.
Ultimately, losing weight and gaining lean muscle comes down to discipline.
Every time you lift that fork to your face, you need to think “Is this worth it?” If you’re putting a lot of effort into working out with intensity, but you waste it all because you really want a scoop of ice cream, then you need to do some soul-searching about WHY you want to be healthy.
Until you have an all-consuming and all-important “WHY” for wanting to be healthy, you will probably not reach your goals, or at best, achieve mediocre results.
If you are obese, it probably took years to get into the shape that you are currently in. It’s going to take a long time and a lot of work to reverse the unhealthy habits and become fit, flexible, and healthy.
There is no quick fix, or magic pill. However, there IS a magic formula… You have to eat healthily to support your intense workouts, and you have to sleep a lot to recover from your workouts.
Eat, exercise, and sleep. The simple magic formula for optimal health! Just like macro nutrients, all three must be present to have the best success.
“Work is doing it. Discipline is doing it every day. Diligence is doing it well every day.” — Dave Ramsey
“Today I will do what others won’t, so tomorrow I can accomplish what others can’t.” – Jerry Rice