Inside The CrossFit Culture, Part II: The Overhaul

Nutrition & The Jet Stream Of Rapid Improvement

Per the CrossFit pyramid model as authored by CrossFit founder Greg Glassman, nutrition is the bedrock foundation, and documented thoroughly within articles and videos archived in the CrossFit Journal is the position that without nutrition Crossfitting alone will deliver a fraction of the possible benefits. The first few months Drost’s eating habits (Denny’s Grand Slams. Food stand beef chimichangas. Assorted other junk) had gone unchanged, and while her body composition and overall fitness were responding to the work, the reading on the scale hadn’t budged.

Combining the paleolithic (quality foods: lean meats, fish, vegetables, some fruit, nuts, seeds) and Zone diets (weighing, measuring, getting a handle on quantity and balanced macronutrient ratios) guidelines advised at most CrossFit boxes, including Elysium, in January of 2011 Drost attacked her diet. Drost was shocked when in the course of four weeks 15 pounds burned off her body.

More from The 13 Rules Of The Zone Diet

Chang says that Elysium purposely refrains from pushing members on diet in a way that other affiliates have been known to do. But when someone like Drost gets frustrated with the rate of improvement a dietary remake is what they’ll advise. “The reason Briana’s progress sped up so much when she paid attention to her diet is two-fold,” Chang says. “For one, the human body is like a machine, and any machine is dependent on quality fuel to run optimally. Put garbage for fuel in, and you get garbage out. In practical terms what that means is feeling lethargic throughout the day, sleeping poorly and performing sub-optimally in workouts. By eating better Briana was able to train harder, recover better and have more energy to make it into the gym more often. Under those conditions it’s easy to see why her progress would improve. The second reason is that Briana started giving her body the macronutrients in the quantities it needed. Under these circumstances it’s actually difficult for an overweight person to NOT lose weight.”

In an interview with Fast Company magazine, conducted during the Reebok CrossFit Games, Greg Glassman spoke about CrossFit’s emphasis on diet. “Excessive consumption of refined carbohydrate is the real 800-pound gorilla of metabolic derangement that is killing Americans by millions,” he said, referring to the connection of a poor diet to insulin resistance, adult-onset diabetes, heart disease and cancer. With CrossFit’s ultimate aim being to define and generate improved health, the application of dietary science is natural. But Glassman also spoke about the direct correlation between an improved diet and improved performance. Glassman said there are a number of reasons for this, the most obvious being fat loss and/or muscle gain.

“A guy drops 20 pounds of blubber and picks up 5 pounds of muscle, there’s a 15 pound differentiation on the scale, he’s got 10 more pull-ups,” he said. Glassman added that a Crossfitter has only “one oar in the water if you’re talking about nutrition or only one oar in the water if you’re talking about movement.” The alloy of a high-performance diet and CrossFit training, Glassman said, can move you into the “jet stream of adaptation.”

In Drost’s case, the application of a Zone-Paleo approach to food required long-range planning, preparing and packing up enough meals and snacks to get her through a 12-hour work shift, then to any school she might have, then intern assignments as a counselor and then her workout. But the payoff was rapid.

Estrada remembers Drost’s January acceleration. “I won’t comment on anyone’s weight loss unless it’s a big change, one I’m sure of,” he says. “There was a day when I saw a woman in a hallway. Her back was to me and I didn’t know who it was. She turned around and it was Briana. I had to do a double-take—she had completely transformed.”

After that six month mark, Drost startled co-workers as well. “They said, ‘Holy shit! What have you been doing?’”

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