The fitness market is a bit of a mess, if you’re unsure of where to go and what do to then you’ll often find that a simple task like choosing a protein powder often becomes as complex as possible.
I’m going to cover the top three supplements that I have recommended over the years. Now if you’re genuinely serious about your health and fitness, you may want to undertake blood work with an appropriate lab to ensure that you are actually deficient in the things you are taking. Otherwise you’ll be creating extremely expensive urine.
Before we move onto the top five supplements and what they do, we should always start with your diet. Supplements are exactly as they say, supplementation to a healthy diet. For myself, supplements are a convenient way to get micronutrients into my diet when I don’t have time to shop around for the plethora of foods that I would love to include in my everyday eating regime. Protein Powder
The average population are deficient in protein. I wrote an article a while back on the many roles that protein has outside of simply just muscle repair but as this is being published on a fitness blog let’s concentrate there for now.
Types of protein powder:
These are generally going to be your top found proteins and all have different absorption rates and different amino acid profiles. Whey is our most popular one due to the quick absorption rate of the protein. However, many people may wish to take a different alternative especially if they are vegetarian or vegan or dependent on their heritage. A lot of non-caucasian people will find that they have slight intolerances to lactose and therefore whey protein simply makes them bloated or gassy. A feeling that no one wants.
In the past I drank Branched Chain Amino Acids like they were going out of fashion. The anti catabolic effect of BCAAs appealed to my desire to not lose muscle mass (because the fitness market told me so). However, the fact of the matter is that if you’re eating a complete diet, chances are you are obtaining all your amino acids anyway.
So who should take BCAAs?
BCAAs can often give that spur of energy for those that train in the early morning without eating beforehand. The anti catabolic effect here can be desirable as the person is waking from a fast. They taste delicious and can often be a good addition to those who train fasted!
ZMA and Vitamin D
I’m going to put this one in here from the perspective of men. The below is taken from Examine.com one of my go to sources for supplement information.
Lower testosterone → less energy to exercise, feeling crappy leads to stress eating
Less exercise and worse eating → lower testosterone, and so on and so on…
So clearly you can see from this that testosterone is pretty key. ZMA is one of the only supplements out there that is proven to help boost testosterone levels but again to be 100% sure you should ensure that you are actually deficient before taking any supplement.
In sunny old England (except for this Summer) we don’t receive as much Vitamin D as the rest of the world. As a result, the average person is deficient in Vitamin D. There’s a reason people are generally happier in sunnier countries and why rates of depression increase as you get closer to the arctic circle. Vitamin D has a huge effect on both mood and testosterone levels.
The supplement world can go much further than this. It’s worth noting that at the moment of writing this, I currently take 1 scoop of protein powder to boost my overall intake. This is simply taken post workout. I also take a greens powder which I will write more about in the coming blogs. The point being that the vast majority of my nutrition comes from a well managed diet. This saves me a fortune on supplements and makes my food much more enjoyable!
If you’re reading this blog, odds are you’re already neck-deep in the CrossFit Kool-Aid, so I won’t waste your time explaining the whole ‘CrossFit’ thing to you. But that means you’re all too aware that life can be a struggle for the CrossFitter about town. Tearing your hands. Having to explain what CrossFit is every time you mention it (which is frequently). Getting out of bed after Annie. Walking up stairs after Cindy. Having to turn down an invitation to thirsty Thursday because it’s Fran tomorrow and you need to beat your PR.
Life is tough.
Here are 10 life-hacks to make your day, inside and outside of the gym, a little bit easier. These aren’t wishy-washy ‘eat clean’, ‘trust the process’, ‘take a rest day’, ‘work on your weaknesses’ type hacks. We all know them, and we know we ignore them. These are real-life, genuinely applicable hacks to make your CrossFit lives easier.
#1 Accessory Successory
More accessories means better CrossFit. You perform better with knee sleeves, wrist wraps and headbands on. You just do. You’re sure of it because of that one winter when your knee hurt a bit and now you need knee sleeves for every WOD. Unfortunately, CrossFit makes you sweat. Sweat breeds bacteria. Bacteria smells like ass. Ergo, your accessories smell like ass.
The solution: don’t put on a special cold-wash cycle for these little things. Take off your knee sleeves, wrist-wraps and other fabric accoutrements in the shower, pour some shower gel on them and give ’em a stomp. They’ll be dry and smelling sweet by the next day ready to wear again.
#2 On your knees
Speaking of knee sleeves, they have another purpose other than smelling like death and protecting from imaginary injuries.
Got a lunging WOD coming up? While the rest of the class bumbles around getting a mat – which they will then repeatedly trip on throughout the workout – slip on a pair of thick, cheap sleeves and your knees will be nice and protected wherever you may lunge.
Rocktape currently has a sale on their KneeCaps (true as at 26th Aug 2018) and are selling them for £12.99 per pair (not per sleeve as is often the case).
#3 Fail to prepare (your nutrition), prepare to fail!
(Get ready! Shameless self-promotion coming up)
Most of us do CrossFit because we want to look good naked. Unfortunately the hard part isn’t the WOD, it’s the other 23 hours of the day. If you’re not fuelling properly, you’re not going to get the results you want.
If only there was some sort of shop, cafe or ‘refuelling bar’ right in the gym. Oh wait, there is!
You can get NOCCO, coffee and various protein-infused treats at SE11 and CFL, or in the Shake It bar at CFL you can pre-order your shakes before the workout and pick them up on your way out (after you’ve taken your knee-sleeves for a shower).
Even if you don’t buy something from the gym, eat something. Anything.
#4 Don’t hang your WOD from the end of your rope
Have you ever been mid-way through a WOD only for the fastener to come off your skipping rope and ruin what was bound to be a white-board-topping time? If not, odds are you’ve seen it happen to someone else and watched them scrabble around on the floor trying to find their little rope screw fastener thingy.
Are you planning on growing any taller? No? Then you don’t need your rope to be adjustable anymore. Superglue down the plastic nubbins at end of your rope and you’ll never have to worry about it coming apart again.
#5 Peeing clearly
We workout, we sweat, we lose fluids, we drink more. But even before you did CrossFit, odds are you weren’t drinking enough water. Now that you are, the likelihood is that your water deficit is even greater.
While you’re at work, have a 2 litre bottle of water sitting on your desk as a constant reminder to drink. That two litre bottle needs to be empty by the end of the day. When it is, fill it back up, pop it in the fridge, and it’ll be ready for tomorrow.
Or better yet, buy our exclusive CFLDN water bottle and be the envy of your friends and super-hydrated at the same time.
#6 Hipster Hair Hack
A few years ago this hack would have been aimed almost exclusively at the ladies, but with the rise of the man-bun, this is no longer the case.
If you have long hair, you’ve likely had your ponytail come loose during a WOD, or got it caught under a bar bringing it down onto your back, or even been stupid enough to trap yourself under a foam roller. Don’t be that guy (or gal).
Leave a few spare hairbands around your water bottle, so that you’re never caught short during your next hair-related emergency.
Man-bun don’t look so silly no more, do it?
#7 You call that a knife? This is a knife!
Thick, hard calluses tear.
Thin, soft ones don’t.
Torn hands = no CrossFit.
You do the maths.
‘Corn and callus knife’ available at Boots to shave down those thick bits o’ nasty skin.
Make sure to replace the blade frequently and don’t be too aggressive with it! It’s still a knife.
#8 Double deadlift hack
I heard once that more injuries in the gym come from loading and unloading bars with careless form, than they do from the actual lift. That may or may not be true, but the next time you load a bar consider what your spine looks like vs how it looks when you perform the deadlift.
Love them or hate them, at some point you’re going to have to pick up a heavy thing at the gym. Whenever deadlifts roll around, first thing you should do is pick a spot by the plate stack. Save yourself time shlepping plates back and forth by loading up right next to the stacks.
Next hack: loading and unloading. You only have two hands to lift the bar off the floor and slide new plates on at the same time, which gets tricky as things get heavier. Don’t bother buying a deadlift jack; save yourself some time and money and grab a 0.5kg plate. Roll your loaded bar onto that plate and it will raise the bar a few millimetres off the floor, and enough that a plate will slide on or off with ease.
#9 Get a grip
Are you using a hook grip yet? No? You’re an idiot.
You know those CrossFit fail videos where someone wrenches a bar off the floor, only for their hands to slip and then they fall on their ass? Odds are they weren’t using a hook grip. There’s not an elite-level CrossFitter or Olympic Lifter in the world who doesn’t use this grip. You should be using it too.
If you’re not using it yet, here’s how to start:
Every time you pick up an empty bar and the class starts doing drills, do it with a hook-grip (see picture). Then go back to your normal grip when you add weight. It will hurt, but it won’t hurt forever. Do this for a few weeks and eventually the hook-grip will feel like second nature and your regular grip will feel weird.
But it won’t happen until you do it. Start light. Stick with it.
#10 He ain’t heavy, I do CrossFit
I’m sorry to tell you, you’ve been doing partner-carries all wrong. Forget piggy-backing. Piggy-backs are for babies and pigs (presumably).
Check out this video which explains the Fireman’s carry.
(Recognise the gym? That’s what Malcolm Place looked like in 2011!)
This topic is close to my heart. It represents a big mindset change for me roughly a year ago and the deeper I go into it the more I see the effects of people not understanding the difference between training and testing.
So let’s start with Testing.
At the beginning of your CrossFit career, especially if you were relatively inactive or had no sporting background prior, you will receive the great gift of beginner gains. Effectively this is the concept of moving more and getting better at most skills. There doesn’t need to be too much structure around your training, you simply have to be more active and move well in order to get better. Depending on the person, this can last anywhere between 3-4 months and 2 years. We embrace this concept with open arms and by moving more, 90% of the time we get fitter and stronger. It’s a pretty sweet deal. Therefore, testing frequently gives us a good high, we’re getting better on paper in most disciplines
Now depending on the person and how resilient they are to training along with the other factors of stress in their life, they inevitably come to a road where progression seems to be a lot harder to come by. At this point we have to be a little more refined, you can’t simply move anymore just to get results. If fun is what you’re looking for then by all means keep doing what you’re doing. At Stage 2 we have to start looking at the overall stress that is going into the body. Testing frequently will be detrimental to your progress as the stress on the nervous system means that you simply don’t have enough in the tank to operate for the proceeding sessions. This is not muscle soreness, this feeling manifests itself in trouble sleeping, broken sleep, anxiety, having to try harder to get the same results and a slightly more run down feeling.
If you’re feeling like you “should” probably go to the gym rather than I “want” to go to the gym. This could be you.
Testing at this point will be very dependent on “how you feel”. You might PR, but there will be days when everything just feels heavier than it should.
“I’ve got a hip/back/elbow/knee issue”
“How long have you had this?”
“What now? You’ve had a niggle for two years?”
Time to start thinking about whether this is a niggle or whether this is something more chronic.
Testing now is definitely detrimental to your progression and you should be minimising the amount of load going through your body. Simply put, stop smashing yourself.
If we take a moment to stop and think about where we are in our fitness journey, analyse what really needs improving, we can then start to draw a road map.
We will take a strict pull up as an example. A big benchmark for a lot of people.
What strength is needed?
Lats, rhomboids, elbow flexors (Biceps).
What movement skips the use of a lot of these?
The kipping pull up.
It is to that end that the kipping pull up is one of the worst exercises to facilitate the growth of a strict pull up.
Most of us know by now that this is the case for pull ups, but this applies to other gymnastic movements and weightlifting movements however the idea of testing is exciting so we sometimes over indulge in it and that’s when niggles and injuries start to creep in.
So how does this apply to class?
Instead of building to the heaviest possible lift, challenge yourself to not increase the weight unless your footwork was perfect. Challenge yourself to not miss a lift. Remember your body learns from the lifts you make and don’t make. So if you make 60% of your lifts and are able to snatch 70kg 60% of the time, you’re limiting your growth potential within that movement.
In training we take the results from testing and build on those. Testing too frequently means you never end up training. Your results then drop down due to over stimulating your nervous system and when testing does eventually come around you’ve got nothing in the tank.
Testing is dependent on the person. I like to use the guideline below:
Beginner to CrossFit (>6 months): Test frequently. You can’t easily burn yourself out through fitness so you can test frequently and likely see good results. (Be careful as you can still burn out through overload of work/lack of sleep/poor nutrition).
Intermediate to CrossFit (6Mo-5 years): Depending on what you are testing, we can test every 8-12 weeks. Management of nutrition/sleep/lifestyle is now important to keep linear results.
Advanced CrossFitter (5-15 years +): You now don’t need to be testing theoretically. It might be nice to test now and then but essentially you will get the most results from being consistent with your training. At this point you should have learnt your body by now. I often say to people in this category, you go by feel. 90% of your 1RM might feel like 110% one day so bring it down or consider not doing the session at all. Your body is telling you something. Intensity is not as important here, but more a structural foundation and a game plan as to where you want to go. Intensity is easy, being smart is not.
This was the first question I received from a little nutrition presentation I did. The audience turned to the questioner then to me as they were clearly thinking the same thing…. “Do I have to give up my sweet, precious, liquid gold?!”
The answer was “no, it’s not, but maybe yes, it depends…” This is the standard response for many health and fitness questions because everything depends on the person, goals and context – (be skeptical of those who say otherwise).
Yes! You’re an individual! And your processing of coffee is going to be different to that guy you know who makes a brew before he goes to bed. You might be like 50% of the population and have a variant of the CYP1A2 gene which makes you a ‘slow metaboliser’ of caffeine, putting you more at risk of hypertension, heart disease and impaired fasting glucose through excess coffee consumption. You might be taking oral contraceptives – this will double the clearance rate for caffeine, so you’re probably good with half a shot of espresso if you’re on the pill.
But coffee, let’s talk about the good:
It increases resting energy expenditure
It increases mental energy.
It enhances cognitive function
It increases neuromuscular function and coordination.
It has many antioxidant properties.
It Increases short term memory.
But we know this, right, the media loves headlines that boast the benefits of coffee, and there has been a lot of research documenting these pros. We must also remember that caffeine is a drug, and like all drugs it does have its drawbacks.
So when we finish that yin yoga class, adenosine is produced and we feel like a space cadet. Take that same yin yoga class, but add an espresso half an hour before and we won’t have the same spaced out feeling. Why? because caffeine blocks adenosine production, up-regulating our own neurotransmitters such as dopamine and glutamate, and blocking our capacity to slllooww doowwnnn. So caffeine is not actually making us wired, it’s putting a brick on the brake pedal, allowing us to keep charging.
BUT I LIKE BEING UP AND ABOUT, HARD CHARGING, ALWAYS ON THE GO, DOING EVERYTHING AT ONCE…
To work out the effects of coffee, we must factor in our external environment. Most of us live in a sympathetic/stress dominant society. High intensity exercise, smartphones, 12 hour workdays and the ‘I’ll sleep when I’m dead’ mantra means that we’re often wired from dawn to dusk – no this is not good. Add caffeine to this sympathetic state and we can easily become over – stimulated where anxiety and jitteriness can override the cognitive benefits to the brew.
I can attest to this in my own life. Get me on a holiday and 2 coffees a day will really hit the spot but if I have the same amount when I’m in the city, running a business, studying and training heavily and that same amount might send me over the edge. Realising this has led me to avoiding caffeine in stressful times like exams or long work days, but enjoying it when I feel myself more balanced.
In a more practical sense, let’s look at when coffee can or cannot help you:
Studies show that coffee is good for ‘getting shit done.’ Not necessarily for creativity but for completing learned tasks that don’t require creativity or intuition. For unskilled, learned behaviour, e.g. data entry, you can get a lot more done, and probably have more fun.
The story is different when we need to apply abstract thinking and creativity. Studies indicate that caffeine will improve speed, but not necessarily skill. Though creativity is hard to measure in a lab setting, there’s some good evidence to suggest that moments of insight happen with the wandering mind. In my experience, moments of creativity occur when we’re in a float tank, after a yoga class, in meditation, and not when you’re forcing it. For me, jacking myself up with caffeine to inject some creativity often results in reverting to admin because we LOVE GETTING SHIT DONE.
For power sports like powerlifting and weightlifting, caffeine can play a role but I’d limit it to competition days and times when you really need a pickup. If you require it to get you psyched for every training session then you should take a day off and go for a walk in the sun.
Verdict: Avoid as a ‘pick me up,’ use in competition days.
In high intensity sports like MMA and CrossFit, caffeine can be effective, but again, if you’re using it to get you psyched about a workout then it’s time to pause and reflect. I’ve been around CrossFit for awhile and I’ve seen many people rely on stimulants to get them through workouts, neglecting the messages their body is sending them and leaving them susceptible to injury and burnout. Further, they block the parasympathetic nervous system activation that’s essential for recovery, and they end up moving through workouts without any purpose or intent – kind of like a wounded warrior in a battle scene who’s throwing their sword around courageously but failing to connect.
Verdict: Use on competition days and avoid reliance on it.
In endurance sports like rugby, AFL, or triathlon I don’t think caffeine has a place in training or on game day. The effects of caffeine are too short lived to be beneficial for the whole game. In these sports we need to think about longevity, recovery, and getting up and going week after week. Caffeine could only be used for the last 20 minute push in a grand final, but we want to be relying on adrenaline and muscular endurance 99% of the time.
Verdict: Avoid except for the last 20 minutes in a Grand Final.
In Social Occasions
Coffee holds a special place in our culture, and for many it’s a beautiful tool for getting people together, and this is the more important than any of the above. I’m coming to believe that the healthiest thing that you can do is have a good community and quality relationships, so I won’t let any of the above get in the way of enjoying coffee for social reasons.
If you enjoy coffee and it’s helping you in some form or another, then go for it. If you’re operating from one espresso to the next then maybe it’s time for a few days off, or a yoga class. For athletes, I’d seriously look at the effect that coffee is having on adrenal function and performance, and use it sparingly. Again, the case of coffee comes down to bio-individuality; who you are, what your goals are etc. One thing that we can all agree on though, is that you should always, at all costs, avoid decaf.
Steve is a Functional Diagnostic Nutrition Practitioner. While based in London, he works with clients around the world to restore health using fitness, nutrition and lifestyle protocols. You can work with him here http://barefoothealth.me/nutrition-coaching/
Baird B, Smallwood J, Mrazek M, Kam J, Franklin M, Schooler, J. (2012). “Inspired by distraction: mind wandering facilitates creative incubation.” Psychological Science. 23(10).
Cornelis, El – Sohemy, Kabagambe & Campos. (2006) “Coffee, CYP1A2 genotype, and risk of myocardial infarction.” JAMA, 2006. 295(10).
Glade, Michael J. “Caffeine—Not Just a Stimulant.” Nutrition 26.10 (2010): 932-38.
Lifehacker: “What Caffeine Actually Does to Your Brain.” http://lifehacker.com/5585217/what-caffeine-actually-does-to-your-brain
Mackenzie, Todd, Richard Comi, Patrick Sluss, Ronit Keisari, Simone Manwar, Janice Kim, Robin Larson, and John A. Baron. “Metabolic and Hormonal Effects of Caffeine: Randomized, Double-blind, Placebo-controlled Crossover Trial.” Metabolism 56.12 (2007): 1694-698.
Martinez, Campbell Franek, Buchanan, Colquhoun. “The effect of acute pre – workout supplementation on power and strength performance.” Journal of International Society of Sports Nutrition. (2016): 13:29.
In a world of keto, low carb, high fat, low carb high fat, paleo, primal, vegan and carnivarian (actually a thing now) there’s no wonder there’s so much mass confusion about what the best diet is. Amongst these doctrines, there is very little room for context – the low carb keto folk will say that carbs are the devil, without considering someone’s level of exercise or hormone status, while some vegan folk think that plants will change the world and meat causes diabetes – an actual claim from the recent propaganda film: What the Health.
And I get it, tribes are cool and extremes are easy, but in order to work out what YOU should be eating, the solution goes beyond tribalism and into your personal framework. We learnt this in my previous post on carbs making you fat where I made the claim that carb intake should be dependent on your activity level and goals (weight loss, mass gain, performance). In this post we go deeper and look at different bodytypes and their ability to turn carbs into energy or store as bodyfat…. Yes, there’s solid evidence to say that your carb intake should be determined by your bodytype!
Let’s look at the three main bodytypes or somatotypes made popular by William Sheldon in 1940 (you might remember them from high school health class):
Two important footnotes:
You’re not one strict bodytype. It’s important to know that you don’t fall strictly into one category – categorisation always sucks! Rather, we’re a mix of all, and have one dominant bodytype, much like the vata, pitta and kapha doshas in ayurvedic medicine.
You can move between bodytypes. It’s also possible that an endo can become a meso or a meso to become an ecto. Diet, activity and lifestyle play a strong role in where we sit and where we can go – GREAT NEWS!
These folk are usually long, lean and wirey. They are known as “hard gainers” as they will have a tough time putting on mass. They use strength from their nervous system rather than muscle mass, making recovery extra important.
On Carbs: These guys shouldn’t worry too much about how many carbs they’re taking in. They’re usually sensitive to insulin (good thing), making them efficient carb burners. They’re usually sympathetic nervous system dominant, have a high metabolic rate, and can annoy many of their friends by eating whatever they want and remain thin.
Nutrition recommendations: Ensure you’re getting a good amount of carbs throughout the day, particularly around exercise. Also make sure you’re getting protein at every meal. Your body wants to stay lean, so make sure you keep your muscle mass high by eating enough protein. And don’t use your ecto status to eat whatever you want! You must take care of your gut, liver and nervous system (all seem to be more sensitive with ectomorphs) by eating quality foods.
Exercise recommendations: You may like your cardio because you’re good at it, but don’t ignore weight training as it’s probably going to be more important for you. Do compound exercises (squat, bench press, pullup, deadlift) at a heavy weight and make sure your nervous system is well recovered between sessions.
I hate celebrity comparisons but Beiber is all Ecto
These guys are characterised by having higher levels of testosterone and growth hormone, and having a high potential to gain muscle mass. Like their ectomorph friends, they’re usually more insulin sensitive, making it easy to process carbs, especially if they’re active. Ectomorphs usually hate these guys as they can spend a few months at the gym and be looking like the hulk. Mesomorphs guys should still watch what they eat if they want to stay lean, as a big off season can mean storing of bodyfat. Carbs should still be eaten at every meal, and should be prioritised around training.
Nutrition Recommendations: Eat a mixed diet of proteins, carbs and fats, getting a solid serving of carbs in around workouts. If you’re more sedentary, watch your carb consumption if you want to keep lean and mean.
Exercise Recommendations: Ensure you keep up a regular training regime. Don’t let it slide and rely on your natural athleticism! Embrace variation and get into both strength and conditioning.
Serena Williams: The ultimate Meso.
Our more grounded, heavy set friends, these folk are known to be less active, and often curse themselves for their uncanny ability to put on weight… They’re usually weapons in the weight room, and have a natural ability to lift BIG.
Carbs for these folk should be taken in with caution, as too many can easily be stored as bodyfat. Getting the bulk of them in around exercise is a good idea, and monitoring their intake at our times in the day is also recommended.
Nutrition Recommendations: Prioritise fat and protein, and get the bulk of your carbs around your workouts. A low carb diet might work well for you, particularly if you’re sedentary. Also, chew your food for improved satiety signalling and watch for portion sizes! If you’re new this, you might want to track your calories via an app like myfitnesspal to get an idea of where you’re at.
Exercise Recommendations: Move! It may not always feel easy but trust me it’s worth it. Cardio might feel tough, but it’s going to do you the world of good and give you energy! And cardio doesn’t always mean running! If you can’t make it to the gym, then a long walk is nearly as good.
If anyone knows this lady, I’m currently taking on new clients.
So what to take away from this? Work out where you’re at, where you want to go, then put together the right plan to get you there. If you need some help getting yourself there, that’s where coaches come into play!
Steve is a Functional Diagnostic Nutrition Practitioner. While based in London, he works with clients around the world to restore health using fitness, nutrition and lifestyle protocols.
*Disclaimer: This post is for information purposes only, and is not designed to diagnose or treat any disease. Always seek help from a medical professional whenever you undergo any dietary change.
Effect of Low-Fat vs Low-Carbohydrate Diet on 12-Month Weight Loss in Overweight Adults and the Association With Genotype Pattern or Insulin SecretionThe DIETFITS Randomized Clinical Trial. JAMA. https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jama/article-abstract/2673150
The role of carbohydrates in insulin resistance. The Journal of Nutrition. DOI: https://academic.oup.com/jn/article/131/10/2782S/4686473
Main characteristics of metabolically obese normal weight and metabolically healthy obese phenotypes. Nutrition Reviews. DOI: https://academic.oup.com/nutritionreviews/article-abstract/73/3/175/1837133?redirectedFrom=fulltext
Somatotype, Nutrition and Obesity. Reviews on Environmental Health. DOI: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11199249
Somatotype and disease prevalence in adults. Reviews on Environmental Health. DOI: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12088094
Carbs…. it’s a dirty word. Controversy, curiosity, even conflict arises when you bring up this word among the healthsphere. Everyone has an opinion on carbs; how essential they are, how they’re going to kill you or how they make you a bad person. The food industry has noticed this too and we’ve seen a low carb revolution where people can feel better about their 6th pint of beer because this one is low carb.
A few things about carbs before we start:
There are many foods that are classified as carbohydrates: breads, pasta, rice, potato, sweet potato, pumpkin, oats, fruits, legumes.
They’re one of three macronutrients, alongside fat and protein.
They’re broken up into sugars, starches or fibre.
They mostly provide energy, but can easily be turned into fat (this is an important evolutionary mechanism).
They’re actually non – essential (despite what our health professionals may believe). You can get on fine without them, whereas protein and fats are essential.
Much of the myopia around carbs has come from our awful food guidelines that have told us to eat a shitload of them. And why not, they’re cheap, easy to access, and usually delicious. Check out the old food pyramid:
After a few decades of rampant obesity and dietary disease, people began to question this pyramid and everything we believed about nutrition. There’s a great piece from the New York Times on that here. As a result, there’s been a crusade of folk condemning carbs, many trying low carb diets, paleo diets, ketogenic diets. Many doing well off them, many not so well.
Like most things in nutrition, the answers about carbs really depends on you. Who are you? What do you do? How does this feel? how does that feel? The answer cannot be explained in a BuzzFeed news title.
These nuances are prevalent in the many studies that have been done on different diets of traditional societies. On one side there are the Kitavans who eat a high carb diet (rich in starches) on the other side there are the massai who are reported to eat a diet low in carbs. Which is superior? Well, both diets seem to work as they don’t suffer from any dietary related disease or metabolic syndrome, and are robustly healthy as noted in Staffan Lindeberg’s research
Where we DO have some more answers is with carbs and their influence on physical activity. And we know this, right? “Carbs give you energy!” Says everyone who objects to your low carb diet. And they’re not wrong, carbs are a valuable source of energy and they’re the body’s first choice of fuel for most physical activity. Though this mantra tends to be abused as the office jockey will stock up on muffins to give her “energy” to get through the day.
So what do I do?
First, start by “earning your carbs” which means we’re matching our carb intake with our physical activity, and getting the nutrient timing right to maximise your recovery.
To make this simpler, here are three different people, with very lifestyles, each of whom has a completely different carbohydrate need:
Person 1: Office Jockey
Goals: Lose 20kg of bodyfat.
Training Volume: Very Little. This guy moves from his bed, to his car, to his office and then reverses these steps at the end of the day.
Recommended Carb Intake: Very little. I’d recommend going low in carbohydrates (<100g per day) and sticking to a higher fat, moderate protein diet. These carbs should come mostly from green leafy vegetables and he should go easy on the fruit.
Since weight loss is his main goal, I’d prioritise fat and protein, and aim to get these at every meal. It also goes without saying that he should get some god damn movement in his life and avoid all refined carbs and sugars.
Person 2: Fit Mum
Goals: Lose a few kgs, stay in shape for life, keep up with her kids.
Training Volume: Crossfit 3xpw, long walks on weekends, general moving around with kids.
Recommended Carb Intake: Moderate. Between 100-150g per day, and slightly more on training days. Carbs should come from green leafy veggies, and starches (potato, sweet potato, pumpkin) and the bulk of her intake should come post workout. Two pieces of fruit per day is okay, but she shouldn’t go overboard, and should still make sure she’s getting adequate protein and fat at each meal.
Person 3: Games Athlete
Goals: Improved performance: stronger, faster, compete at an elite level.
Training Volume: Training 6+ times per week, sometimes twice a day. Lifts weights, sprints, does cardio, and high intensity sessions.
Recommended Carb Intake: High, >200g of carbs per day, from a variety of sources: starches (potato, sweet potato), rice, rice, oats, whole grains.
Even these are very vague guidelines. If you want a more accurate snapshot, you need to factor in thyroid status, adrenal profile, and gut function and this can play a huge role in the impact carbs will play on the body. For example, if we’re suffering from hypothyroidism, then a moderate carb approach will be more appropriate due to the raised insulin and conversion of T4 into T3. Whereas if you’ve got blood sugar issues, then any sort of ‘moderate’ approach to carb consumption can be like kryptonite.
So as you can see, there’s no perfect health diet for all humans, and anyone who says otherwise is misinformed or an arsehole. A good place to start would be asking yourself, “what is my physical activity like?” “How do I feel when I eat this?” “Am I over/underweight?” What’s my performance like?” “Do I have an underlying health condition?” With an understanding of your body and it’s needs, you’re setting yourself to be a strong and capable human.
Steve is a Functional Diagnostic Nutrition Practitioner and a Coach at Crossfit London.
CrossFit and paleo, two concepts that have grown side by side for the past fifteen years. Two market driven movements that promote health, minimalism, community, and two movements that are as controversial as they effective.
Having high stakes in both of these (I coach crossfit and use a paleo template in my nutrition coaching), I have seen first hand just how effective, and also how damaging these approaches can be.
First, we should look at both movements in their rawest form. CrossFit: A method of exercise that practices functional movement at high intensity. Paleo: A way of eating that promotes eating fruits, vegetables, meats, fish, nuts and seeds. In other words, eating as minimally processed foods as possible.
USUALLY, a standard paleo diet will be slimmer on the carbs and larger on the protein. Now, this doesn’t mean you can’t consciously smash your sweet potato and go “high carb paleo,” but most of us who go paleo will be leaning to the lower side of carb consumption (<150g per day) – that’s about 3 sweet potatoes.
Now, questions of doing paleo and crossfit; “is it optimal? Will it help me lose weight? Will it help me gain muscle? Will it save my life?” The answers to these are like so many in nutrition… “it depends.”
So it’s hard to give a definitive answer as to whether it’s right for you, but in an effort to reach a conclusion, I’ll give you three real life examples of people I’ve come across and you can make up your mind where you sit from there.
This girl is training 2 hours per day, 5+ times per week. She lifts heavy, goes fast, and is completely dedicated to making the sport. Her goals are to to put on muscle to lift heavy, but not too much that it interrupts her conditioning.
2. ‘The Superdad.’
He’s recently taken up crossfit and trains 3 times per week. He has a busy schedule with two kids and a full time job, but fitness still holds an important part in his life. His goals are to lose weight and stay strong to keep up with his kids.
3. ‘The Office Jockey.’
This guy has recently taken up crossfit as the doctor suggested it. He’s overweight, has insulin resistance, and has high blood pressure. This guy is also extremely sedentary, and hasn’t had regular movement or sunlight since school. He’s started training 2 times per week and goals are to lose weight, feel more energy and build some muscle mass.
Now, the verdicts. 1. Should the “Athlete” eat paleo?
No! Why? Let’s look at her schedule… She’s training around 2 hours a day and spends the rest of the time recovering and thinking about training… Glamorous?! She’s using her anaerobic system consistently, and this system runs on glucose (carbs), not fat or ketones. Fran doesn’t run well on fat.
Carbs such as potato, sweet potato, beets, pumpkin, as well as non – paleo foods in rice, quinoa, oats (gasp) and other whole grains should be a staple for these guys, whereas our first two friends should be more diligent with them. Protein should obviously be a priority as maintaining muscle mass is important, and fat should be adequate.
Nutrient timing is also important. Post workout carbs will help funnelling nutrients to the muscles so adding some dextrose to her Barefoot Health protein shake would be helpful.
But won’t all those carbs store as bodyfat? Carbs, insulin, fat storage right?! Not quite. When we’re doing this type of anaerobic training, we mostly store these carbs as glycogen, not body fat. A whole different set of rules applies to our “Superdad” or “Office Jockey”, so don’t do a Michael Phelps and eat 12 wheat bix for breakfast just yet.
2. Should the “Superdad” eat paleo?
Yes! Greg Glassman’s initial mantra of “eat meat and vegetables, nuts and seeds, some fruit, little starch, and no sugar” is a perfect fit for this guy. In addition to this, a little tinkering with carb timing and quantity is required here to make sure he’s keeping the belly fat off. He should ensure he’s getting carbs post workout, and enough to support his activity – around 150g per day seems to be a good area to stick to. His plan also has some wiggle room… Since he’s pretty active, sleeps well, and has good community, sticking to a plan of 80/20 paleo/non paleo will work well and be sustainable and give enough room for a glass of wine over his grass – fed steak.
3. Should the ‘Office Jockey’ eat paleo?
Yes! Absolutely. It might just save his life. Most carbohydrates will not be friends with this man, and his diet should be centred around healthy fats, protein and veggies. Why? Well he’s one of 2 million Australians with pre diabetes, and a continuation of his current lifestyle will land him will land him in a very dangerous state. Having extremely low glucose tolerance means eating things like cereals and wholegrain bread is lethal, as it’s jacking up our blood sugar, and we don’t have the necessary insulin function to maintain homeostasis. (cereal and wholegrain bread are both recommended from our chief authority on diabetes – shocked face).
Now, should this fella get into the gym, and I hope he would, he might want to add some post workout carbs in the form of sweet potato or pumpkin, but I’d recommend going between 50-100g of carbs in the short term to restore some baseline of health.
So the point here is to accept that we’re all the same but different animals with different nutrition requirements for optimal health. At a baseline we can all agree that a diet with heaps of veggies, enough protein and healthy fats is good for all. But digging deeper, we need to consider our genetics, activity level, activity type, hormonal profile and GI status when deciding what the optimal diet is.
For regular attendees at CrossFit London and CrossFit SE11, it has been common knowledge for some time that the prices across the business will be going up. The last increase was made in 2013 and since then we have seen enormous increases in rent and business rates, although we have done all we can to avoid passing those costs onto our valued members. However, the simple fact is that the gyms, at present, do not generate enough income to meet the required level of renewals, much less allow us to keep coaches’ earnings in line with inflation or repay any investors capital. As such, the prices need to go up.
We are conscious that you want to see your money well spent on improving the service that we offer. At SE11 this reinvestment has been more apparent with the brand new rig and new shop going up over the last year. At CFL, the build for our new premises is well underway and, in spite of a delay caused by the snow, we very much hope to be moving in in May.
Below is the outline for the new pricing structure. For some of you it will be a welcome change with the introduction of Unlimited packages. For others, it may mean that you aren’t able to attend as frequently as you currently are. We have aimed to stay as competitive as possible (and if you check the nearest alternative CF facilities, you will find we are still cheaper in general), but as I said above, prices need to go up or we can no longer run a viable business.
The focus of the new prices is on the monthly memberships; they will work out much cheaper than the class packs (previously ‘carnets’) and the monthly packages are where we would hope our members choose to invest their money. The 10 and 50 class packs are still available in the new pricing structure as we are aware there are a lot of members who are less flexible with their time and can’t commit to monthly packages. When
Price change will come into effect from May 1st 2018. At this time all the new prices and discount restrictions will come into effect. The 50 session carnet at the old price is no longer available to purchase, but all the other carnets and memberships will be available at their current price throughout April.
There is also an Earlybird Unlimited discount for anyone who signs up for a 6 month Unlimited contract in April (details below). Class packs
Single session: £20 (valid for 30 days)
10 session pack: £140 (£14 p/class for 10 weeks)
50 session pack: £600 (£12 p/class for 50 weeks) Monthly memberships (month-by-month)
Monthly 3x sessions p/w (13x sessions): £150 (£11.54 p/class)
Monthly Unlimited: £185 (Earlybird offer: £175 sign up for a 6 month contract in April 2018)
Monthly Unlimited bolt-on PT session: £40 (£225 total) Fundamentals
4 sessions: £120
8x Fundamentals PT session: £440 (£55 per session) Discounts
All NHS/Student/Emergency Service/Armed Forces discounts will be set at 10% and only applicable to the 10/50 class packs (discounts previously set at 15% will be reduced to 10%). They will not apply to singles sessions, monthly packages, Fundamentals, Contracts or PT sessions. Earlybird Discounted Contract
The Earlybird Unlimited memberships constitutes a contracts with CFLDN UK. The contracts last for 6 months, during which time your contract price is guaranteed to stay at £175.
The contracts are paid on the sale date of each month. If you wish to cancel out, you must notify us at least one month in advance by email before the date you would like to be the final payment (e.g. if your payment date is the 15th, you must notify us on or before the 14th).
You can buy into the contract in April and May by going to the online store > contracts. The initial purchase date will be the date your 5 other payments will come out. The unlimited classes will start on the same day as the purchase and last for 6 months. You cannot defer the contract start date beyond May.
If you choose to cancel out, you will be subject to any price rises that have occurred in the interim.
Terms and conditions apply. (This offer has been extended to run through May) Moving forward
We understand that price increases are never a welcome change, but as mentioned above, the prices need to go up, or we close down. We have endeavoured to be as fair and reasonable as possible with these increases, and wanted to make sure that every member was warned well in advance.
Please keep a close eye on the Facebook groups and blogs for updates on the new gym in Bethnal Green and the ongoing renovations at SE11 to see where your money is being spent.
If you have any problems, questions or concerns please feel free to contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Kind regards and happy training, Your CrossFit London & CrossFit SE11 Team
Keen to get flexible? Really keen? Then listen close.
All the time I people stretching and making one simple mistake. They want it TOO BAD.
Now enthusiasm isn’t a bad thing, nor is intensity. They’re both great. They just need to be used in the right way.
Intensity is something you have to be very careful with. When doing a stretch it’s important not to go too far too soon. Muscles, much like a rubber band, will tear and break of taken beyond their limit too quickly.
As you may have picked up from earlier articles, the key is to relax. Focus your INTENSITY on relaxing as much as you can. Once you do that, apply the following things:
1. Listen. If it hurts in a sharp stabbing sensation, back off slightly. Your body is the greatest teacher.
2. When stretching with a partner, keep talking. They can’t feel your pain so speak up if they’re applying too much pressure. Stubbornness won’t help when you get hurt.
3. Go slow into and slow out of a stretch.
4. Be patient. Great results come but only by allowing your flexibility to take the time it needs to.
Remember that all good things take time, and only with that time will they really be amazing- flexibility is certainly one of them. Not only will you make gains in your range of movement and cut out the injuries but you’ll also then grow your patience – double win!
Enjoy the beauty of watching your flexibility gains grow over time in one of our flexibility classes.
Or if you keen to get results quicker and with less mistakes try 1-1 training- book your free 1-1 kickstart session at https://10to8.com/book/qwzphv-free/191921/
Stuntman and Flexibility Instructor
Crossfit London / Crossfit SE11
This week’s Crossfit London Member of the Week goes to:
… Ken Haynes.
Ken is one of those annoying people that gets up incredibly early and gets a ton of work done. He’s a regular in my Monday morning 6:30AM MetCons and runs around with abandon. He’s really upped his training in the last year and it’s showing. He moves better, faster, and is shifting more tin! The guy is ripped to shreds too so that is always something to aspire to. Well done Ken!