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When I started CrossFit back in May of 2007, I was amazed at how my body responded to “this new way of working out”.   Each day was a new experience in soreness that never seemed to go away. Muscles were being worked that had never gotten the call before. Each workout was a new test, and finishing a WOD brought me great satisfaction, realizing that I completed something I thought not possible. I loved every minute of it and enjoyed the changes my body was making. I was getting stronger and faster and beginning to lean out…something that had eluded me since the birth of my last child.

But over time, I noticed that I was hitting a plateau. I was still working hard, but my body wasn’t changing like it did at the beginning.   I was stuck and needed to change things up in order to continue progress.   I went back and re-read Greg Glassman’s CrossFit manifesto  and realized I had been neglecting the very basis of what true fitness was all about, nutrition.

I had never been a junk food junkie, but I was eating everything I thought we were supposed to eat…whole grain breads, low fat milk and cheese, and quinoa. At the time, paleo wasn’t even “a thing” as far as I was concerned, as it was in its infancy itself.  Instead, I dove headfirst into CrossFit’s nutrition plan of choice, The Zone diet. It took a little time to figure it all out, count blocks, and decide how many blocks were appropriate for me, but I knew the rules and ran with it. At that time, Rob Wolff was in charge of CrossFit’s nutrition seminars and he taught us how to tweak the zone to make it more fitting of CrossFit athletes. This is the CrossFit journal article that became my food template.  This is a classic article back from 2004 and it is what most Crossfit athletes used to guide their nutrition. I zoned for about two years but started hearing rumblings of a paleo diet in 2009. Instead of food quantity and exact measurements, paleo was all about food quality and not measuring. The more I read, the more I challenged everything about nutrition that I was ever taught. Robb Wolf split from CrossFit and was “let go” from his duties teaching CrossFit Nutrition seminars. He had his own blog page and I dutifully followed everything he posted. To me, he revolutionized the way I thought about food. If you’ve never seen his blog, you need to check it out here. I eventually switched over to a paleo diet and have never looked back. From then to now, I’ve changed a few things up, added some stuff back in and continue to try to stay away from gluten. And I’ve learned a heck of a lot about nutrition and the impact it has on everything we do.

This all brings me to the point of this post. You can’t expect to look, feel and perform your best without addressing your nutrition plan. You will go far with CrossFit alone, but you will eventually stall and plateau until you finally take that long hard look at how you fuel yourself. Familiarize yourself with the latest findings in nutrition. Follow blogs and read articles. Buy some books. Experiment on yourself and see what works.  This is a journey and you are a subject in your own study. (n=1)

I started with the Zone and learned so much about macronutrients (fat, carbs and protein), portion sizes, and quantifying everything. It wasn’t something I wanted to stick with for life, but I walked away with helpful information. I moved on to Paleo and have continued to tweak that diet to fit my needs.   I’m not perfect, but I know what to do and I know what works for me. This was all about experimentation and self discovery. Only you know how your body works best. Here’s another perspective on Paleo vs. Zone.

What are your goals? Do you want to lean out, build muscle, mass gain, improve performance, or just look better naked? Define what you want to happen, take stock in what you are doing now, gather information about what you need to do different and then do it. Chart your path. Take notes, take measurements, take risks.

In my next few nutrition posts, I’d like to specifically explore the zone diet (not my favorite, but it still has its merits), and the paleo lifestyle. I’ve practiced both methods and can speak from experience. I will give you links to posts that will be helpful in helping you get on the nutritional path that is right for you and helps you meet your goals. CrossFit plus proper nutrition is powerful medicine.  While you can’t exercise your way out of a bad diet, you can use your nutrition and your CrossFit to take you places you never thought possible.  All you have to do is execute!