Proper preparation prevents poor performance.
— Charlie Batch
Maybe you are getting the hint that we are pushing nutrition on you. Why?
Coach Glassman has said: “A theoretical hierarchy exists for the development of an athlete. It starts with nutrition and moves to metabolic conditioning, gymnastics, weightlifting, and finally sport. This hierarchy largely reflects foundational dependence, skill, and to some degree, time ordering of development. The logical flow is from molecular foundations, cardiovascular sufficiency, body control, external object control, and ultimately mastery and application. This model has greatest utility in analyzing athletes’ shortcomings or difficulties. We don’t deliberately order these components but nature will. If you have a deficiency at any level of “the pyramid” the components above will suffer.”
Here are some guidelines to help you formulate a plan. This is not an exhaustive list but it is a bunch of stuff I have tried past and present to keep me on track. Remember what General Patton said, “A good plan violently executed now is better than a perfect plan next week.” The best plan is the one that you can follow and gets you the results you want.
Hardware. You will need a food scale and measuring cups and spoons. Learn how to measure your food.
Software. You need to download CrossFit Journal Issue 21. You also need The Performance Menu. Make copies of the block charts and stick one on your refrigerator and carry one around with you.
Recipes for Zone meals with mostly paleo food choices can be found in the CrossFit Journals and The Performance Menu. All of the Zone books have recipes in them.
Create a menu for the week and use that to generate a shopping list.
Try to prepare as much as you can ahead of time. Get a crock pot and make stews, soups and chilis. Try to store things as whole meals and have them ready to go. Or pre-measure and store the food as protein, carb and fat blocks, then you can mix and match. Label containers with masking tape and sharpies.
Cook with lots of garlic, herbs and spices. Your food should taste good and have lots of flavor.
Buy nuts in bulk. Carry fat with you. Always carry nuts, nut butter or a small bottle of olive oil with you. You will often find yourself eating out and the restaurant will not have any good fat choices. Don’t despair just grab your nuts!
You can eat right even if you have no access to a kitchen. Buy prepackaged protein. Precooked chicken breasts, sausages, sardines, tuna fish, deli meats, smoked salmon, cheese and jerky are all readily available at your supermarket and corner store. Most prepackaged protein is usually around 2 or 4 blocks so no measuring is necessary. Just read the label and do the math.
If you can get to a deli or a supermarket you can eat in the zone. Nature prepackages easily transportable carbs for us in the form of fruit. Fruits take a backseat to vegetables, but for convenience they comes in first. An apple a day is two cheap and easy blocks. Salad greens are easy to find too. If you have access to a refrigerator and a microwave you can get frozen vegetables and heat them up in minutes. Refer to that block chart in your pocket.
Write down the most common meals that you eat. Most people eat the same few meals about 80% of the time. Especially people that live in the city and order-in or go out to eat. The question is some variation of, “do you want Chinese or sushi?” For example, a bagel and cream cheese for breakfast and a turkey sandwich for lunch. Analyze the 5 or 10 meals that you eat the most and try to determine how many grams of protein, carbohydrate and fat you are eating. Instead of abandoning your favorite meals, see if you can tweak them into more favorable proportions and food choices. For example, think about 2 oz. cream cheese and 1 tsp. peanut butter on a single slice of whole grain toast instead of a bagel. Better yet, replace the bread with an apple. If you always order chicken and broccoli try to avoid the rice and get the sauce on the side. Try to get sashimi instead of sushi.
Become a creature of habit. Compliance is easier the more you ingrain a strong habit. If you are like me you have one or two things that you always eat for breakfast. If you can bring your breakfast into perfect compliance, then you are 20% there. Similarly, if you find a favorite lunch and some snacks you will bring yourself into 80% compliance. That is enough to change the balance in your favor. 80% of a great diet is better than nothing. If you only go out 3 nights per week, and eat in the zone the other four nights, then you are at over 90% compliance. You get an A!
Even if you eat out a lot you can stay in the zone. Always order a salad. Always get protein. Always ask them to take away the bread. Always ask them to give you more vegetables instead of potato or fries. Ask for olives, olive oil, avocados on the side or look for them in the dishes you order. If they say no, then grab your nuts.
When you go out to eat, you should eyeball your portions. If you have been good at weighing and measuring your food at home, it will be easy to eyeball your portions. If you need a reference, you should eat a piece of lean meat or fish that is no bigger than the palm of your hand. The palm is the part of the hand excluding the fingers and thumbs. Your green vegetable portion should be at least the size of two fists. If you eat starches, they should be no bigger than your protein.
Don’t be greedy. Get a doggy bag and add the leftovers to your omelet in the morning.
If you are going to drink, do not eat carbs.
If you are going to order dessert, 1) do not eat carbs and 2) share it with people.
Always journal your eating habits. Keep track of what you eat and when you eat. People who keep food diaries lose twice as much as people that don’t. This should also be cross-referenced with your workout journal so you can notice changes in your performance. If your performance is suffering, then there is a problem.
If you are full cut the carbs. If you are hungry eat more fat.
If you are craving sugar late at night, go to sleep.
Re-assess your plan regularly for the first two months. Your plan may or may not be great, so regularly go through your journal and see what is going wrong and try to address the problem. It is best to go over this with someone that has some experience. Do not change more than one variable at a time. Losing too much weight? Add a block or two. Not losing enough weight? Drop a block or two. Feeling hungry all the time? Check how often you are eating, check your numbers, check your carb and fat sources. Pick one thing to change and see if the situation improves. The diet will have to be fine-tuned. Do not give up.
Obviously drink lots of water and avoid juices and soda and diet soda. Tea and coffee are okay but watch the milk and sugar intake. Don’t drink caffeine in the evenings.
Write down your plan in your journal and stick to it. Tell your friends and co-workers what you are up to so they can try to keep you honest. If they try to talk you out of it, make them do burpees.
I repeat that this will take fine tuning. You won’t get it right at first. That’s okay. Get a plan. Start working it, then fine-tune. After you are dialed in, assuming you are active and lean, then you will have to increase your fat intake. So be patient and just keep trying to perfect your fuel system.
“Failing to plan is planning to fail!”
Originally published November 29, 2007, at CrossFit NYC.