Detoxification is a process that is constantly occurring in our bodies. Pathways for detoxification include the lungs, skin, digestive. urinary, lymph, and cardiovascular systems. Many of us associate the word “detoxification” to a weight loss-type liquid-only cleanse, which we can thank the media for. While there is some truth behind that, detoxification should be thought of as an internal cleansing process that allows the body to heal and repair itself. Knowing that toxins are stored in body fat, once we mobilize and rid the body of toxins, we are more likely to see a reduction in body fat stores as they are no longer needed to house those toxins.
Before diving into methods of detoxification. It’s important to understand that we must properly prepare our bodies for the extra work they will be doing to detoxify more than our daily amount. Organs like our liver, kidneys, digestive tract and skin must be working efficiently in order to handle an excess toxin load. If we begin to overload these organs and systems while they are already congested and backed up, we will cause more harm, re-toxifying the body to an even greater extent. Therefore focusing on improving digestion by eating in a parasympathetic state, supporting optimal stomach acid production, and eating balanced meals that support blood sugar balance are crucial to address before considering a nutritional detox.
There are many ways of helping our body detoxify but let’s not forget that this is a naturally occurring process, and drinking nothing but green juice for a week isn’t necessarily the best or only way to do it. We can begin the process by simply eliminating exposure to toxins like alcohol, chemicals, pesticides, and processed foods. This alone will lessen the daily toxin burden on the body and allow it to tap into stored fat and start detoxifying internally. We can then implement helpful detox methods like fasting, which allows the body time to “clean up” our body because it isn’t constantly spending energy on digesting our food. Spending time in a sauna will help flush toxins through our skin. Dry brushing and bouncing exercises (like jumping rope!) encourage lymphatic flow, increasing movement of internal particles and moving them through our bodies faster. Other, slightly more invasie detoxification strategies, include things like enemas and colonics to cleanse the colon, and are extremely beneficial for those that struggle with daily elimination.
Whichever method we choose to help detoxify our bodies, let’s be aware that this process requires a lot of nutritional support. Making sure our bodies detox systems are working optimally throughout the duration of this process will ensure the best results. It’s important to maintain a nutrient dense diet full of healthy carbohydrates, protein, and fat, as well as ample amounts of mineral rich water and colorful fruits and vegetables to provide all the necessary vitamins. Recall that vitamins and minerals serve as important cofactors to absorbing and utilizing macronutrients, and our detox organs need these nutrients in order to work effectively. This is a great process to consider doing once or twice a year in order to clear our any toxic roadblocks we may have that are keeping us from being the healthiest version of ourselves.
Source: Nutritional Therapy Association: https://nutritionaltherapy.com/
Our immune system works vigilantly to address underlying causes of inflammation and keep our bodies in homeostasis. Causes of inflammation range from free radicals, which can be caused by over exercising, poor energy production, glycation (protein molecules coated in sugar), pesticides, chemicals, radiation, cigarette smoke and other environmental factors. In order to keep this system happy we need to support it with a range of antioxidants that neutralize free radicals and strengthen our defense system. This includes physical barriers like our gut lining, innate and adaptive defenses (types of white blood cells).
Food particles that aren’t sufficiently broken down upon entering the small intestine can cause a plethora of damage to our mucosal lining. Ever heard of the term “leaky gut”? I can imagine we all know what this looks like, but what happens in your body is the food particles that aren’t broken down into their molecular components begin to break through the mucosal lining in the small intestine. They then leak out into our body in places they aren’t intended on being and our bodies protection system beings attacking them as intruders. This is called an autoimmune attack, which is an example of dysfunction in the digestive system causing inflammation due to a poorly functioning physical barrier in the small intestine.
Our lymphatic system is the headquarters of our adaptive defense system. The primary organs in this system are our bone marrow and thymus. Bone marrow is where new blood cells and immune cells are created, and the thymus is the “school” that teaches our immune cells what to protect us against (our own personal military!). Our innate immunity is our bodies own ability to recognize molecules that are supposed to be here, flagging molecules that don’t fit that description. This is where we run into issues with processed foods and vitamins that are bound to fillers, dyes and other constituents that are foreign to our body.
Our immune systems are highly intelligent and when out of balance, can provoke a variety of symptoms and diseases. In order to support out immune system we need to be more in tune to factors like food sensitivities, toxins, and an overflow of stress. Eating foods that are rich in micronutrients like a colorful variety of fruits and vegetables will provide us with antioxidants to mitigate free radical damage. If our immunity is already somewhat impaired, we could benefit from more gut healing nutrients like the amino acid glutamine which can be found in bone broth and collagen. Carbohydrates and glucose are also necessary nutrients to support the production of immune cells.
The biggest take home in supporting our immune system and managing inflammation is being aware of how our body is responding. If we notice reactions such as bloating or gas after eating, headaches, joint pain, sinus congestion, skin irritation or brain fog, we could be experiencing an immune reaction from something we’ve been exposed to. Keeping track of these reactions, we can begin to pinpoint and narrow down possible irritants. We can then mindfully test these variables and note whether their elimination results in less pain, and inflammation, or not. Healthy immune function is imperative to warding off the nursing home. We can capitalize on the benefits of being more in tune with how our bodies are responding to our nutrition and lifestyle in order to support a healthy immune system, and continue on our path to being fit for life.
As active human beings, we devote a lot of time and effort to making sure we get in our time at the gym, in between running from place to place, being super-mom and dad, and trying to maintain some level of social life and sanity. While our hormones or endocrine system may not be the first thing we think about when find ourselves hitting a plateau in training or life, they may be the underlying cause. The endocrine system is comprised of 9 organs and glands ranging from our brain, to our adipose (fat) tissue and our adrenals. These glands produce hormones and send messages to other glands and organs all over our bodies.
This system helps regulate metabolism and energy production, contraction of muscles, immune system activities, controls growth and development and most obviously, governs the operation of our reproductive system. While men and women certainly have a different ratio of hormones, being off balance in any way can lead to weight gain, inability to create and retain muscle mass, mood swings, and an overall lack of energy. Some of the factors that can cause a cascade of negative effects leading to a poorly functioning endocrine system are stress, toxins, poor diet and digestion, blood sugar imbalances, mineral and essential fatty acid deficiencies, and dehydration.
When we’ve talked about things being related, you can see how this system in particular really puts that into perspective! This may seem like an overwhelming thing to fix, but if we start by addressing the things we can control like what we choose to eat and the easy ways we can support our digestion to make sure we are absorbing those nutrients, we will be off to a great start. Hormones are also made from essential fatty acids, so by making sure you are getting in those healthy fats daily will support the production of these powerful messengers and regulators. The super cool thing about the body is that it’s made to repair and heal itself! Small steps often pay off in large dividends, even though we might not be able to see what’s happening inside of us, we can take note of the positive effects externally by tracking things like our performance at the gym.
Stay tuned for this week’s video where we will discuss where we find common toxins in everyday products that throw our hormones off balance, and nutrients that can help counter these effects!
Blood Sugar Regulation
All aspects of human physiology are affected by blood sugar regulation. Mic drop, see you guys next week! Just kidding, but in all honesty blood sugar is probably my favorite subject to talk about for that very reason. We can improve our energy production and balance, hormonal balance, mood, cognitive function and memory simply by optimizing this system. Of course nothing worthwhile is ever all that “simple”. However, if we ignore imbalances in our blood sugar we will fail to achieve optimal health and instead be faced with erratic energy output, glycation and oxidative stress.
As human beings, we need to be able to think, move, digest, stay warm, rebuild, detoxify and rest, all requiring energy to do so. This energy comes from converting the macronutrients we eat into ATP (Adenosine Triphosphate). All three macronutrients are important to creating cellular structures, which is why a balance of nutrient-dense foods is so important. When it comes to fueling your metabolism, carbohydrates are like “kindling” on the fire. We burn through them fast and need to replenish them often. Fats are like “logs” that burn slow and sustain us throughout the day. Fats also have a much more vast storage system for energy than carbohydrates, the trick is being able to effectively tap into this system, which requires low levels of circulating insulin.
These days, with the accessibility of processed foods we can easily raise our blood sugar to levels that lead to metabolic issues without even realizing it. While some processed foods may be labeled as “fortified” and “enriched” with nutrients, they are also likely laced with high amounts of added sugars. One cup of Raisin Bran, for example, has 19 grams of sugar, which is shocking only until you also realize that most protein bars have between 11-18 grams of sugar as well (which is more than 3 Oreos!). This high dose of sugar shocks the bloodstream and causes an insulin spike, as a cascade of hormones quickly start transporting glucose (sugar) to where it can be used or stored. Once we’ve burned through this quick fuel, we are left feeling ravenous and starving again, in need of another quick sugar (or caffeine) fix to get our blood sugar back up. This constant rollercoaster eventually leads to insulin resistance, as the sugar storage units become full, and insulin loses effectiveness.
If we can hop off of this rollercoaster and find a nice lazy river to rebalance and re-energize, our bodies will regain metabolic flexibility, which means they will be able to convert back to burning both fats and carbohydrates for fuel. We can do this in a number of ways but the easiest way to begin is by cutting out processed foods and added sugars. Even fake sugars elicit a blood sugar response in the brain! Secondly, adding in healthy fats like fish oil, coconut oil, cold-pressed olive oil and pastured animal fats like butter and ghee will provide our bodies with the kinds of fats that are easily converted into energy. Lastly lowering the amount of simple carbohydrates we consume for a period of time will keep the body in a more optimal blood sugar range throughout the day, leaving the afternoon energy crashes in the past.
This metabolic flexibility provides efficient metabolism of all three macronutrients, consistent energy levels and reduced cravings throughout the day, and the ability to tap into stored energy in glycogen and adipose(fat) tissue to fuel function of the body. Maintaining this system not only allows us to put in more work in the gym, but also will support our daily workload, relationships and sleep quality, so think twice before you grab that box of cereal!
Now that we have a solid understanding of nutrients and where we get them, let’s dive into how we can make sure that we are absorbing and utilizing them! Digestion is a north to south process, meaning it starts at our northernmost body part: the brain, and continues south until we eventually drop the kids off at the pool. Sorry if you were eating while reading this ;). From the physiological signals your brain sends your body when you are anticipating eating a delicious meal, to the mechanical components like chewing, there are many simple things we can do to support and improve our digestion.
Being mindful around meal time is a great place to start. The reason behind sitting at a table without distractions like a cell phone or TV is that we need to allow the brain to send the body signals that food is coming! This signaling causes the body to create saliva in the mouth, which begins the breakdown carbohydrates, among other things. We also need to be in a parasympathetic (“rest and digest”) state in order to digest, if we are multitasking (like eating in the car while driving) our bodies’ number one priority is to keep us between the white and double yellow lines. In this situation, our body is in a sympathetic (“fight or flight”) mode and maldigestion will occur due to the lack of signaling to the brain and lack of saliva produced, resulting in fermented carbohydrates which create dysbiosis further down in the digestive tract.
Once we have chewed (or not) our foods, the food travels along to the stomach. The stomach is a highly acidic environment and needs to be that way in order to breakdown our beloved proteins into amino acids which we can utilize throughout our body. If we don’t have enough gastric juices, proteins begin to putrefy and organisms like bacteria, viruses and parasites which would normally be killed by the acid bath, begin to raise havoc in the digestive tract. An easy way to support the production of HCL (stomach acid) and other gastric juices is to sip on some lemon or apple cider vinegar about 10 minutes before we eat. This helps us kick-start the digestive system and lower stomach acid to the optimal range of pH 1.5-3.0.
Continuing along our digestive tract, the gallbladder is responsible for releasing bile to breakdown fats. If we do not consume enough good fats, or have a low enough pH in the stomach, the gallbladder does not get triggered to release bile, therefore making us unable to absorb fats. In this case reverting back to what we just learned about supporting the production of stomach acid to breakdown proteins, is also important for the production of bile, along with eating enough healthy fats to keep the gallbladder primed!
The last digestive organ we will talk about today is the small intestine (yes- to my biology and nutrition gurus, I am skipping over quite a few other organs that play key roles in digestion to focus on a few today). The small intestine is what I like to think of as the “meat and potatoes” of digestion. If we can properly breakdown our foods upon reaching the small intestine, we are likely in good shape! This is where we absorb nutrients into our bloodstream where they can then be delivered to the rest of our body. The key here is having our food broken down into its smaller components like glucose (from carbohydrates), amino acids and peptides (from proteins) and fatty acids (from fats). We can support optimal absorption and utilization by making sure the more northern parts of the digestive system are functioning properly.
Finally, we want to make sure we are eliminating the “leftovers” in a timely manner. Maldigested food in the colon can cause inflammation leading to things like Crohn’s disease, Colitis and Celiac disease. To support a healthy transit time we can start by supporting optimal digestion in the ways listed above. If we notice things like loose stools, constipation, and undigested food in our stools, it’s a good sign that the above process need some attention! A secondary factor in slow transit time could be a lack of fiber. If we recall from a few weeks ago fiber is abundant in healthy carbohydrates like fruits and vegetables.
If we are spending our time and resources in supplying our bodies with nutrient dense, real food, it’s in our best interest to be getting the most bang for our buck and absorbing all of the wonderful nutrients that real foods provide! While stopping our crazy busy lives for 20 minutes to properly eat a meal may seem daunting, such an easy adjustment can very well be the key to helping us reach our aesthetic and performance goals and keeping us out of the nursing home in years to come.
This week we wrapping up the basics of nutrients with our last micronutrient: minerals! Minerals are another nutrient that we cannot produce in the body, so we must obtain it from our foods. Minerals are the human version of “spark plugs”. They are responsible for contracting and relaxing muscles, regulating tissue growth, maintaining nerve conduction, providing structural and functional support, and much more.
There are two classes of minerals: macro and microminerals (also called trace minerals). These are classified based on the amount that we need them. We need macrominerals like calcium, magnesium, sodium and potassium in larger quantities than microminerals like iron, copper, chromium, etc. However, this does not mean that one is more important than the other. All of our nutrients work synergistically together to make us a well oiled human machine.
Our skeletal system is a storage place for minerals, being composed mostly of calcium. This also means that if we are not consuming enough, our body will begin to breakdown bone to release minerals, such as calcium, back into our blood. We get minerals from the earth in the form of plant and animal tissues. Bananas, avocado and asparagus are high in potassium. Sesame seeds, collard greens and kale are high in calcium. Oysters, pecans and pumpkin seeds are high in zinc. The list goes on!
While real foods that come from the earth are our preferred source of minerals, we must also take into account the quality of soil, produce and meats we consume. Animals and plants raised on nutrient-depleted soil may end up on our plates more than we would like. As athletes, we are also utilizing minerals more often than sedentary people. Common signs of mineral deficiencies include muscle cramping, spasms and sweet cravings (particularly chocolate). If increasing our performance and supporting our long and short term health is on the list of priorities, let’s make sure we are getting adequate amounts of these essential micronutrients!
CrossFit TILT 2019 Fit For Life Challenge!
When: Monday March 3- Monday April 1
Cost: $20 (we will charge your TRIIB account)
At the end of the challenge, the top performer will be selected based on:
1. Scoring: Points from daily log
2. Performance gains (baseline workout)
-Baseline workout – Monday, March 3
-Baseline retest – Monday, April 1
Prizes: There will be one Male and one Female winner who will receive CASH MONEY, bragging rights and a prize pack!
+1 Point per meal (Max 3 meal points per day, although more than 3 full meals are allowed)
-100% Real Food
-All meals MUST contain a protein, carbohydrate, and fat
Example: Eggs (protein), banana (carbohydrate), avocado (fat)
Example: Chicken breast (protein), sweet potato (carbohydrate), grass-fed butter (fat)
+1 Bonus Point for home cooked meals (Max 3 extra points per day)
That’s right, you cook your own food, you get extra points!
These do not count if meals are not balanced with protein, fat, and carbohydrate
*Paleo Powers Meals do not count as home cooked meals. However, you can still use these meals for your real food/balanced meal point. But, you will not be able to receive this bonus point.
+1 Point for Mindful eating (Max 3 mindful eating points per day)
NO screens (TV, Phone, Computer, etc) or multi-tasking while eating. Meals to be eaten sitting down at a table.
+1 Point for a CF TILT class WOD or approved travel WOD (Max 6 workout points per week)
+1 Point for sleeping 8 hours per night (Max 7 Points per week) *No 8 hour naps!
Actual sleep! This doesn’t count being in bed on your phone for an hour!
+1 Point for documenting and sharing a recipe on the TILT Facebook page (Max 1 point per day)
Basic or gourmet meal, we would love to see what’s fueling you!
+1 Point for hitting optimal water intake per day
Optimal Water intake in oz. = (Body weight (lbs.) /2) + 1.5 x (# oz. diuretics)
Our goal for this challenge is to better our health and wellness while we create new habits that we can sustain for a lifetime. This is not a weight loss challenge, but by choosing better quality foods and creating better habits, fat loss and body composition change will certainly still occur!
Eat Real Food + Balanced Meals
Real food was once alive and doesn’t come from a box or container. If it has a long shelf life and is a man-made, edible, food-like substance; not food. You must eat from the approved food lists below.
We are focusing on eating 3-4 balanced meals a day (no seconds and no snacking). Each meal should contain a real food protein, fat and carbohydrate source. No snacking, with the exception of a protein shake or recovery drink (KillCliff, Fuel For Fire, BCAA’s) within 30 minutes of working out.
What are real foods? They are foods that grow in nature that we can eat in their natural state. A list of real foods is available below.
The leaner the better. Grass-fed and organic are ideal. Wild-caught cold water fish are the best.
We want to have nutrient-dense carbohydrates. Fruits and these starchy carbs will do that for us.
Diversify what vegetables are on your plate from meal to meal to ensure you are getting all the nutrients your body needs.
A serving of fat is the size of your thumb, about one tablespoon, or a small handful of nuts. Here are the healthy options…
Say No To:
Processed foods. Nothing that comes in a box or bag
Refined salt or sugar
Hydrogenated fats (margarine, vegetable shortening)
Canola, Vegetable, Grapeseed, Soybean oil
Protein bars (all of them)
Juices (Fresh squeezed or from concentrate)
Sports drinks containing sugar
Flavored BCAA’s, KillCliff, etc. (outside of 30min workout window)
Commonly asked, OK list:
Natural sweeteners (honey, maple syrup, coconut sugar) *1 tsp. per day max
Sea Salt (Himalayan Pink, Grey)
Supplements (Fish Oil, Flax Oil, Vitamins, Minerals only)
Smoothies (Whole foods blended)
Seltzer (Plain or Flavored)
Deli Meats (No sugar or nitrates added)
Bacon (No sugar or nitrates added)
Potatoes (Not fried at a restaurant)
Beans and Legumes (except peanuts)
Salad Dressing (Homemade without sugar, Primal Kitchen, or Tessemae’s)
Unsweetened Coconut and Almond Milk
Full Fat Dairy (NO low-fat milk or cheese, look for grass-fed)
Coffee and Tea (Unsweetened)
Bone Broth/Stock (Look for grass-fed)
Mustard & Hot Sauce (No added sugar)
Mayo made with healthy oils (Primal Kitchen, Chosen Foods, Sir Kensington)
What about going out to dinner?
It is not our goal to become anti-social cave-dwellers! Still go out and enjoy – just be selective with your orders. Every restaurant out there will have options for some sort of meat/seafood as the main course. Start with that, and ask for extra veggies for the sides. Good to go, and is in the clear for the challenge!
Travel Workouts (ask a Coach if you’d like more)
1. 35 Burpees, 50 Sit-Ups, 35 Burpees
2. AMRAP 20: 5 Chest Slapping Push Ups, 10 Sit-Ups, 15 Air Squats
3. 4 Rounds: .25m Treadmill Run, 50 Air Squats
4. Tabata – 8 rounds each of 20 seconds “On”, 10 seconds “Rest”:
Pushup, Air Squat, Sit-Ups, Burpees
5. AMRAP 15: 5 Strict Pull-Ups, 10 Jumping Lunges, 15 Sit-Ups
1. 3 Rounds: .5 mile Treadmill Run, 20 Dumbbell Thrusters (30’s/20’s)
2. AMRAP 10: 7 Dumbbell Hang Clean and Jerks (40’s/30’s), 12 Burpees
3. AMRAP 20: 6 Strict Pull-Ups, 12 Dumbbell Snatches (alternating), 18 Air Squats
4. “Dumbbell DT” – 5 Rounds: 12 DL, 9 Hang Power Cleans, 6 Push Jerks (45’s/35’s)
5. 4 Rounds: .25 Treadmill Run, 20 Sit-Ups, 15 Dumbbell Hang Squat Cleans (35’s/25’s)
This challenge will run a little differently then past challenges. This is a point based challenge and we will be using our CrossFit TILT TRIIB page to track and keep score of the points you earn! If you do not have access to your TRIIB account, no worries! On the sign-up sheet at the front desk, check off that you do not have access. We will set you up from there and send you an email with instructions!
How to Track Daily Points On TRIIB Account
*Note: you will not be able to access the challenge page until sign-ups for the challenge have closed!
- Login to your CrossFit TILT TRIIB account HERE (an email will be sent out with information on how to set-up your account if you do not currently have access to it)
- On your home page, in the main section, you will see the Fit For Life Challenge Event.
- You will see the different categories you can earn points for throughout the day. You can log in at any time and update your scores!
- There will be a leaderboard for the gym that everyone can access from their profile. You will be able to see who else is crushing the challenge along with you and can even “like” or “comment” on other peoples scores!
**TRIIB also has a mobile app! You can download the app and log your points from there too! After knowing your account username and password, you can also track your challenge points in the app. To access the challenge, click the white lines on the top left corner. Select Challenges. From there, you will be able to access your point tracking!
Vitamins are essential micronutrients that we need to survive and thrive! When we think of vitamins, a picture of some CVS or GNC-type bottles probably comes to mind. This week we are going to discuss what roles vitamins play in the body and where to source them to get the most bang for our buck.
There is only one vitamin that can be created in the body, and that is Vitamin D, when our skin is exposed to sunlight. All other vitamins (and Vitamin D in the winter) are essential, meaning we can only get them by eating plants and animals. Vitamins play many critical roles in the body for overall health and growth. They are cofactors, or “helpers”, in metabolic processes, the growth of tissues, digestion, immune function and elimination. Deficiency of vitamins can impair our body in many ways, for example a lack of certain B vitamins may slow our metabolism, as they are responsible for helping create ATP (energy) from glucose.
Vitamins can be broken down into two categories: water soluble and fat soluble. Fat soluble vitamins (A, D, E and K) can only be absorbed when sufficient amounts of dietary fat are present. Water soluble vitamins like the B’s, C and choline are absorbed only when water is present. In emphasizing nutrient-dense, properly balanced, whole foods diet, we can ensure we that are getting a good base of vitamins, and are less likely to need additional supplementation.
However, supplementation isn’t a bad thing. For instance, it’s extremely hard to get vitamin D in the winter living in New England where we remain indoors and covered up 90% of the time. Adding a Vitamin D supplement can be critical to maintaining those levels through the cloudy months, warding off that seasonal depression. As we touched on last week, diets that lack a variety of animal products will undoubtedly be low in certain essential vitamins. In this case, choosing a vitamin supplement that is made with high-quality, highly absorbable raw materials that don’t contain undesirable fillers will greatly impact the absorption of the supplement you are taking. When it comes our nutrition, making a small investment in higher quality real food supplements makes a big difference in short and long term health benefits, and saves us countless trips to the store to restock on supplements that aren’t tipping the needle.
Superbowl Sunday just seems like a great time to talk about protein! Let’s list what Tom Brady eats and we can go from there… just kidding! We all need a certain amount of protein to support our body mass and help us build muscles, tissues, organs, nerves and more. Surprisingly, protein is also quite easy to skimp on. If you think about it, how often do you hear of someone binge eating 16 oz. steaks? Ok, maybe at Fogo De Chao this could be a daily occurance, but outside of a Brazilian Steakhouse, it’s much less likely. Coversley, we can easily eat a whole bag of chips or crackers, or mow down a huge salad filled with a variety of vegetables. Both would fill us up but neither of these things would provide us with adequate protein. Ideally we should be getting a minimum of 20-30% of our daily calories from protein.
In addition to creating tissues, protein has many other key functions in the body. It is an essential building block of enzymes, hemoglobin, antibodies, and peptide hormones. Hemoglobin transports oxygen around the body (more oxygen = better recovery!). Antibodies help fight infections and fend off harmful invaders (immune support = less sick time!). Peptide hormones include our metabolism regulators: insulin and glucagon (regulating blood sugar = more energy!). If building more muscle to burn more fat isn’t our main reason to get adequate protein in, hopefully those few factors will help us reconsider!
Now let’s discuss the different types of protein and why we might consider choosing a complete protein over an incomplete source of protein. Proteins are composed of amino acids. There are 22 amino acids used in our bodies, among them, 9 are essential; meaning we cannot make them ourselves so we must get them from our foods. Not all protein-rich foods contain all of these essential amino acids in the right proportions. Proteins from plants, beans, nuts, and seeds are considered incomplete because certain amino acids are missing or limited. Animal protein is considered a complete protein because it contains all of the essential amino acids in the ideal proportions. These complete proteins also come packaged with more nutrients not found in plants like vitamin A, B12, EPA and DHA.
While it’s possible to get enough protein as a vegan or vegetarian, it requires a diligent effort to get in enough total protein and the full range of nutrients. It’s also important to keep an eye on quality, as humanely raised and properly prepared animals will have a higher nutrient density and fewer contaminants, along with wild caught seafood and organic, non-GMO soybeans. If sourcing and price is an issue, remember that toxins are stored in fat, so when we go to grab a conventional piece of meat, go for the lean cuts to avoid exposure to those potential toxins.
What about BCAA’s? Well, if we are eating the correct amount of complete protein sources already, we are already getting what we need, in the correct ratios, and in a form that our body recognizes! In this case extra BCAA’s would be expelled and our hard earned dollars might be better off spent on something else. However, if we are chronically under eating protein, or getting most of our protein from incomplete sources, BCAA’s can be a great supplement, just beware of the high amounts of sugar and color dyes found in most “sport” brands.
Did someone say, CARBS?! Carbohydrates provide a quick source of fuel for the brain and muscles in the form of glucose. Fiber in carbohydrates also serves as fuel for our microbiome and helps us eliminate waste. When combined with protein and fat, carbs can help us fight infections and help grow and repair body tissue such as bones and skin. As CrossFit athletes, it’s important that we get carbohydrates to utilize as a readily available source of energy for high intensity exercise. Issues with carbohydrates only arise when we are consuming highly refined and processed carbs, and indulging in too many carbs for our daily level of activity.
Simple carbohydrates like sugars and sugar alcohols that are usually sweeter in flavor and absorbed easily within the gut. This makes them an easy choice to grab pre and post-workout and we find most of these kinds of carbohydrates in processed foods and sweeteners. They also come with a risk, as they result in a high glycemic load on the body, spiking our blood sugar and as we know, what goes up must come down. We will talk more about blood sugar in the future, but the main point here is, if you suffer from the afternoon sleepies, this probably has something to do with it!
Conversely, complex carbohydrates like starches and fiber are found mostly in foods we can identify that grow in nature like vegetables, tubers and most fruits. These carbohydrates are not broken down as easily as simple carbohydrates, but they still provide us with tons of easy-to-use energy if we allow our bodies enough time to convert them. These types of carbs are generally lower on the glycemic scale, as they are packed with fiber, water and other nutrients that slow the absorption of glucose into our bloodstream. Aiming for to fill our carbohydrate needs with complex carbs will allow us to reap the positive benefits of this macronutrient without putting us on the blood sugar rollercoaster.
So, how much should we be consuming? As with anything, moderation is key here! Making sure you get in the correct amount of carbohydrates for your lifestyle will ensure the best performance and long term health benefits. If you are a construction worker, who also takes CrossFit class 5 days per week, your carbohydrate needs will greatly differ from someone who works a desk job and comes to class the same amount. Finding your optimal carbohydrate consumption range can be tricky, especially since simple carbohydrates (sugar) can be addicting! Some good guidelines to follow would be swapping out most of your simple carbohydrates for complex carbs, and eating most of your daily intake of carbs around your workout times (during pre and post workout meals). Let’s also remember that we get smaller amounts of carbohydrates in all vegetables, so if you simply enjoy eating, swap the potato for squash or green vegetables and you can reach your carbohydrate goals on a much higher quantity of food!