I first started researching nutrition back before this whole Internet thing really got off the ground. Basically the only information I was working with back then were the labels on the side of the cereal box and some books from the 1970s I found in my parents basement. Believe it or not this actually got me pretty far for a couple years. Conversely today, there is such an abundance of free and instantly available information on the sole topic of nutrition that one human could not possibly hope to get through it all in the course of a standard lifetime. It's a bit overwhelming to say the least.
But over the last year, I've taken things to a whole new level, focusing my efforts, working with a personal nutrition coach of my own, and taking other steps to drive my knowledge even further. I've also been lucky enough to have the benefit of coaching a small portion of our members in their own nutrition adventures over the last 9 months or so. Many people that I've worked with have seen some level of success, and these coaching experiences have been mutually beneficial to me as a learning tool as well. Wait, you didn't think I was just offering up free nutrition coaching out of the kindness of my heart without getting any personal benefit, did you?
Through these experiences - both my own and those of the others I've coached so far - I've found there are a lot of concepts that continue to come up over and over again. Many common themes and hang-ups, and also some standard operating procedures that can be broadly applied and easily tweaked by the individual. So that's the general idea here, to document all of this stuff in a (likely neverending) series of posts that I can then refer back to and send out at my discretion ... and of course, update and redact as time goes on. Hell, maybe you'll find some of this helpful along the way. Also, it's possible you think that sounds totally ridiculous and couldn't give less of a shit about nutrition. That's fine too, but you may want to unsubscribe immediately. Unless you're just in it for the occasional picture with a snarky caption.
Unfortunately, unlike the NeverEnding Story, this neverending parade of nutrition posts will at no point feature a creepy-ass luckdragon that will haunt your dreams for years to come ... Or will it?
Well that gets right to the heart of the most important thing that I've learned over the last two (or 17) years. It's the one thing I've found myself wishing I could really impress upon our membership the most, and furthermore it's the entire inspiration for this coming series of posts and perhaps the rest of my time here on this Earth. It's this one simple fact: Nutrition is Everything.
Now that may or may not have totally blown your mind. And if it didn't, it should. I mean, I used bold font and everything. What I mean by that statement is that most everything you wish you had - or as the case may be, wish you didn't have - comes down to nutrition. In the world of the 80/20 rule, 90% of the results are coming from nutrition and 10% from exercise, supplements, and all the other crap (I guess I suck at math). Of course, we tend to constantly focus on the workouts instead, because that's the fun, sexy, entertaining part. Workouts get all the glory, with all the heavy weights on our backs, slamming of barbells, giant puddles of sweat, and what-not. Nutrition? That stuff is boring and tedious, and most importantly there's no immediate feedback to let me know that I'm even doing anything beneficial. So screw that.
But the bottom line is that the overwhelming majority of us will never get great results from simply working out alone. Or any results at all for that matter. To put it another way, spending all our energy on working out without any focus on improving nutrition actually turns out to be a pretty massive waste of time. Like rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic, if you will. And I'm sorry if that information stings a little.
Of course, there will be exceptions to this rule so don't go throwing them in my face. But guess what? You aren't one of them. Because if you were, you'd already have everything you want, you wouldn't be reading this, and you sure as shit wouldn't be listening to anything I have to say. You'd be walking around somewhere shirtless flexing your abs to impress passersby while sipping on Pepsi, or perhaps putting the finishing touches on your clean and jerk for the upcoming Olympic Games while pounding Big Macs and fries.
Now don't misunderstand me. I'm not saying that there are no benefits to gain from working out whilst completely ignoring nutrition. There are plenty; they just don't include significant fat loss or body composition change.
For example, lifting weights will certainly make you a stronger and more capable individual. It will improve the density of your bones, and make your muscles a little bigger (at first). It can even have neurological benefits like improved balance and coordination, or psychological benefits like improved confidence.
Don't worry, I got this. I did some 1 Pood Kettlebell Snatches last night.
Same with cardio. There are definitely benefits to doing the stuff; weight loss just ain't one of them. Better heart function being perhaps the most noteworthy, but also lots of other cool stuff like not being out of breath from walking up a flight of stairs (although I guess technically those are one and the same), improved recovery from tough workouts, and better overall work capacity.
If you don't want to believe me, you can read more about the disappointing effects of exercise on weight loss and body composition changes in a great article here. Sucks, I know. But as it turns out the old adage is actually true: we really can't out-exercise a shitty diet and bad habits.
The reality is that it all comes down to what you're personally after. If the above benefits to lifting weights and exercising without any nutritional focus are enough for you, that is truly fantastic. Keep on trucking. And I'm sure there are plenty of people in this camp. But I'm guessing for the majority of people, that stuff is not enough. Many of us got into this whole Crossfit thing for a slightly different reason, and it wasn't so we could brag about our snatch PR around the water cooler at work to a bunch of people that have no clue what a snatch even is.
I recently had a conversation with a member that is participating in nutrition coaching with me, and (of course) I asked them about their individual goals. They put it so perfectly that I can't help but quote it here: I want to look like I workout. That's beautiful, and I couldn't agree more. I think this is a very common feeling, but a lot of people may be afraid to admit it for fear that it makes us look superficial or shallow. That's horseshit. Know what you want, and don't be afraid to go after it.
There's only one problem, and I think it's where a lot of us get confused and frustrated: 99% of the time, working out doesn't actually make us look like we workout. But proper nutrition just might ...
1 No footnotes today. But I'm keeping this here to make it easy next time I copy and paste.↩