Once Upon a Time: How exercise is not the only part of the fitness equation

It is true: you cannot out-train a bad diet. This week we’re going to talk about the most common pitfall that I see as a coach when people are trying to achieve their goals.

Recall from my last post that first that we must make sure that our goals, reality and expectations of ourselves are aligned. From here on, we will proceed assuming that you’ve gone through that exercise of setting realistic, albeit challenging, goals. If you still need help with that, don’t hesitate to contact one of your coaches and schedule a time to chat about what direction you want to go. 

Returning to the topic at hand, I will share with you a common story I’ve seen in my years working in fitness, specifically in CrossFit. In my very biased opinion, CrossFit (when applied correctly) is the most effective general exercise program (we refer to this as general physical preparedness, or GPP) ever to come down the fitness pipeline. Bold statement, I know, but I believe it to be true. What happens as a result of this is that people start CrossFit and see immediate, dare I say near instantaneous, improvements in their strength, their bodies and even in their minds. They become stronger, tougher, and they feel accomplished. They think they’ve found the magic pill, the silver bullet that every other infomercial in the world is trying to sell you. They think it’s the training program alone. They are wrong.

So, continuing the story, this CrossFit newbie comes in 4-5 days a week, sees weekly improvements in their lifts, they’re slowly but surely starting to RX more workouts, they’re seeing more definition in their legs and arms and even a hint of a six-pack is starting to peek out. They think it’s the training program alone. And now, because they think they’re working harder and getting fitter, they “treat” themselves more often, going out for wings, pizza, beer and ice cream more than they have in the past few years. They keep PRing. They keep looking better. They think it’s the training program alone. They are wrong.

Eventually, and everyone is different so no one can say for sure when this will happen, they will plateau. Their strength will level off, conditioning with taper, and their body will actually start to look puffy or soft again. But I didn’t change anything! Well, you did. You made the error of believing that training is the key to health, fitness and a sexy body. You thought your new-fangled training regimen made all the difference. And then you changed your diet. Don’t get me wrong, an effective training program certainly helps and, in fact, it serves as a major motivator but the key, the crux, the MOST IMPORTANT PART is nutrition.

That’s the common story. I’m sure there are a few of you reading this thinking, “Oh shit, that’s me.” At the same time, I’m sure there are a few of you thinking, “Hell no, I did not fall off the nutritional deep end. I eat right! But I’m plateauing anyways. What do you have to say to that, Caitlin? Huh? Huh?” First, I have an answer for you. For today, I’m going to give you the short answer. Over the coming weeks, we will expand upon this short answer to dive more deeply into the elements that might be plaguing your health and fitness goals.

Back to your story: It doesn’t matter what you did. Paleo, Whole30, macros, keto, vegetarian - it doesn't matter. What does matter is that you took the time to pay attention to how you are fueling your body and that you were consistent about it. There are many facets to nutrition, some well-known, some not so well-known. Whenever I talk with someone about nutrition, I relate it to training. Most of us know that the PR train we ride for the first 6-8 months of any sport, program or training regimen slows down and that if we don’t do something to rejuvenate it, we’re going to end up sputtering to a halt. So we switch it up (see my post a few weeks ago about shaking up your training schedule) and stick to something revamped and again, see results. In CrossFit, we do this for you. We program to specifically tax your musculoskeletal and cardiorespiratory system differently so that you're constantly able to adapt consistently. Over time, you will eventually find what works best. What your body adapts to and likes. Where it feels comfortable. Nutrition is no different. What worked for you at one point in your life may not work for you in the same way the second time around. We have to make subtle (or sometimes, not so subtle) adjustments to stay on track. What works for one person will NOT work for the next person. It’s incredibly individual and yet simple all at the same time. The approach is individual but the simple part is consistency.

Over the coming weeks, we’ll outline some of these individual approaches (from a generic standpoint). You’ll hear words and phrases you might recognize, like macros, paleo, anti-inflammatory, and you’ll hear about processes and interactions that you may not know as much about as you’d like, like glucose-insulin-glucagon relationship, ketosis and the gut-mind connection. With a better understanding of these, we can begin to identify what approach might be best for you and which will have the most profound effect as you march towards your goals.

I am looking forward to opening up the dialogue about food and how it relates to health, fitness and performance. If any of you would like to talk more specifically about your goals and how I might be able to help, shoot me an email or grab me at the gym!

-Coach Caitlin