Nutrition can be a touchy topic, like politics or religion, that people take very personally, but good nutrition is the foundation not only for general health but also for high-performance fitness.
In 2014 I sat my Level 1 CrossFit Certificate. This allowed me to help out my sis and her business partner by coaching at their gym, FRF Crossfit (which I am really enjoying!), as well as learn a bit more about the thing that I spend a lot of my spare time doing. As part of your Level 1 certificate you learn about the definition of fitness, the 9 foundation movements in CrossFit, the sick-well-fit continuum and many other things including the CrossFit take on nutrition.
Those who do CrossFit have generally heard of the ‘eat meat and vegetables, nuts and seeds, some fruit, little starch, and no sugar’ tag line which is most often associated with the Paleo ‘diet’.
It’s funny, as quite soon after people know I do CrossFit, I quickly get the question “Oh, you must eat Paleo then?”. Well no, I don’t. And, does it really matter? I eat food. All kinds of food, depending on what I feel like. Yes for the most part I guess it could be categorised as ‘Paleo’ or ‘whole 30’ or ‘clean’ but I also eat dairy and sometimes I eat lollies. Yes, lollies. And they are yum. Oh, and sometimes I drink wine. Everything in moderation…
As I have said before, I have tried out many different things with my nutrition, including being strict paleo, cutting sugar, cutting alcohol, IIFYM and most recently, delaying breakfast till later in the day (more on this later..).
What was my point… um, oh yea, on the CrossFit Level 1 cert you learn about the Crossfit nutrition philosophy which primarily promotes the ‘Zone’ diet. The Zone diet is primarily concerned with controlling your hormones. Hormonal balance affects all important components of your wellness: body composition, energy utilisation, blood chemistry, and much more. Zone advocates that with the right balance of protein, carbohydrates and fats, you can control three major hormones generated by the human diet – insulin, glucagon and eicosanoids. If you are interested in the science behind it, you can read heaps more about ‘The Zone’.
To put it simply the zone breaks food into blocks, based on the macronutrient content of food. You get assigned a certain number of blocks per day based on your lean body mass and how active you are.
1 block of protein = 7g
1 block of carbohydrate = 9g
1 block of fat = 1.5g
You should start out by weighing and measuring food so you get an idea of what a block is. I followed this pretty loosely (don’t follow my example!) – over the years I have counted calories, tried different macro breakdowns etc so this wasn’t new for me, it was just a different ratio of macros. For the most part I made up my meals and snacks of ‘clean’ food and just played around with the size of my meals and snacks to find how many blocks I felt I needed at times throughout the day.
I was on 11 blocks a day and what I found worked best for me was typically:
2 block breakfast
1 block morning snack
2 block lunch
Then I had 6 blocks to play with which usually consisted of a 2-3 block snack before training and then 3-4 blocks left for dinner (or a snack during training).
This might look something like this:
Breakfast: Shake made up of some combination of: berries and milk (carb), protein powder and/or eggs (protein) and coconut milk or yoghurt (fat)
Lunch: Chicken (protein), kumara and leafy greens (carb) and almonds or feta/avo (fat)
Dinner: Meat (protein), veges, including kumara or rice (carb) and coconut oil or olive oil for cooking/ salad dressing depending on the vege I am having.
Snacks: Yoghurt (carb and protein) with some nuts (fat), peach (carb) and protein bar (fat and protein)… etc.
I started following zone at the end of November, which being over the holiday season is always going to be a fun challenge.
I tracked my weight and measurements over this time, and the results are below. Note, I was far from strict. I would say I followed this 90% of the time? Eg: Christmas and New Years completely not zone!
Date started: 23/11/2014 – 20/02/2015 (approx. 2 months). Note, I lost most of the weight in the first 2-3 weeks then maintained it till now.
Legs -2cm (each)
Arms -1cm (each)
These results could have been because of Zone, could have been that I was on holiday (read more sleeping and less stress/pressure), more training, more active time (yay summer and swimming), less time sitting down…. Or a combination of all. Hard to say – but I’ll take it, and it was an interesting thing to try. I definitely learned a thing or two that I will continue moving forward. They are:
More well-rounded meals/snacks.
Previously I would have an apple or a protein shake as a snack, now I try to make sure I am having protein, carbs and fat (see snack examples above).
MORE carbs and less protein! Fat was about right.
I wasn’t eating nearly enough carbs. Well, according to the zone prescription. Turns out my body likes carbs!
Eg: Dinner for me used to be some sort of protein, with a huge salad or a whole heap of green veges with some nuts or avocado. Um, there aren’t many carbs in salad or veges! You would have to eat a bucket full to get the same amount as eating ½ cup of kumara. I am now much more conscious to add carbs into all of my meals and snacks. Sometimes this means eating baby food or some fruit/yoghurt after my meal to get my carb count up.
Have you tried Zone? Would love to hear how you found it and what your go to snacks and meals are.