Think back to your first day at CrossFit. You walked into a pristine box (fully air conditioned), grabbed a barbell (with no warm up), loaded up 240 pounds and executed the most perfect snatch that any Olympic weightlifter would be envious of. You continued to return five days a week, hit a new PR everyday, never felt fatigued, joined the competition team and now you are on the podium at the Games. Sounds familiar, right?
If you’re anything like me, my first day went nothing like this. My first day was a question of my life and if ending it would be easier than finishing the WOD after the warm up alone left me out of breath and covered in sweat.
So now think back to your first day of eating to sustain the level of activity that CrossFit demands. Maybe there isn’t a distinct moment, or maybe you haven’t started yet. I can tell you, my attempt was a lot like our imaginary first day of CrossFit. I lined up all of my plastic meal prep containers, added 4 ounces of chicken, a cup of broccoli and a cup of rice and thought, “This is it. I am now the conductor of the gain train. CHOO CHOO!”
By dinner-time of day two I had a glorious spread of Cheesy Gordita Crunches and Flaming Hot Cheetos.
It took me a few years to realize my mistake. I would go from a constant on-again off-again relationship with proper nutrition. I was either meal prepping and eating extremely clean, or I was not meal prepping and eating like Bruce from the cake scene in Matilda. There was no in-between and no balance, which left me with little progress on the barbell as well as little change on my outside appearance.
Nutrition is a lot like lifting. If you start by going medicine balls-to-the-wall, you will find yourself very tired, mentally and physically. This is compounded when one attempts any form of diet, miracle pill, fast, cleanse, etc. Nutrition in CrossFit should start where we all started in lifting; learning the basics and then moving on to more advanced skill as we are able to.
Now, it would not be realistic to transition from eating out 21 times a week, to cooking at home and cutting out all of the things that we crave overnight. Can it be done? I’m sure that it can be. Would it be more beneficial to your wellbeing than a gradual transition? I don’t think so.
If you’re feeling down about not having a weekly Instagram post of your meal preps or that you don’t know where to start, remember your first day in the gym. Slow changes to an end product are the goal. For example:
Try cutting out the amount of times you eat out by a quarter for the first two weeks. Then down to half of that amount for the next two weeks. In a month or two (maybe three), see if you are able to limit yourself to two meals out per week.
Try substituting lean ground turkey for recipes that could use an increase in protein content. Homemade spaghetti sauce and meatloaf both taste great with turkey meat.
When you are at a restaurant, have your server split your meal in half before it hits the table so that you now have lunch the next day and a reasonable portion for dinner in front of you.
As you become more advanced, make more aggressive changes. The changes don’t have to happen right now, or even next month. Make your end goal deadline 6 months to a year from now. In that time, you will think back and say to yourself, “Man, that wasn’t so bad. I could have done this a long time ago.”
On an ending note, be sure to forgive yourself if you have a rough day and allow yourself to have days of indulgence every now and then. We are all human and life should be rewarding. Our workouts and CrossFit should be a celebration of what our bodies can do, not a punishment for what we ate.
If you have any questions about nutrition or would like more tips on diet changes, reach out to Charlye at CharlyeHebert@Yahoo.com or any coach at Skyline or Humble CrossFit.