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Old 04-16-2014, 04:38 PM   #1
Todd Neal
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The Optimal CrossFit Diet?

I'm an advocate for ketosis, but I know that a lot of CrossFitters feel that carbs are necessary to perform. I'll admit that I feel better with carbs in my diet than I do without them. But I had a thought; follow me, if you will.

We know that carbs aren't necessary for us to function on a basic level. To this extent, we could argue that most sedentary people, barring some medical condition, shouldn't eat carbs on a regular basis. (Carbs being processed grains, sugars, and the like.)

That leaves the carbs to the athletes, but to what end should they be consumed? We know that carbs provide energy, so that's what I'll base my argument on. They may have associated health risks, so limiting them while still getting the most out of them seems to be the best approach.

To my mind, the trouble with a ketogenic diet is that replenishing lost muscle glycogen can be difficult, and CrossFit can quickly deplete stores of that glycogen. Carbs can help fill those stores quickly, which to me leaves the questions: when? and how much?

The answer to when seems to be during the hour or so following a workout, when the body is primed for glycogen replenishment. As well, one can even stay in ketosis by consuming carbs in this post-workout window. How much depends on the amount of work done; more work means more carbs.

With that laid out, I don't see any reason for people to consume carbs throughout the day. What benefit could they provide? The detriment is more obvious: carbs can raise insulin levels, thus increasing fat stores. Even if it isn't true, or there's more to it, why risk it?

The bottom line then, is for inactive people to avoid carbs, and for active people to consume carbs only after a workout, and only to a point where they perform as well or better the next day.

I'm curious to hear thoughts on this.
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Old 04-16-2014, 06:49 PM   #2
Luke Sirakos
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Re: The Optimal CrossFit Diet?

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Originally Posted by Todd Neal View Post
We know that carbs aren't necessary for us to function on a basic level. To this extent, we could argue that most sedentary people, barring some medical condition, shouldn't eat carbs on a regular basis. (Carbs being processed grains, sugars, and the like.)
Your entire premise of carbs aren't necessary for us to function on a basic level equaling we shouldn't eat carbs is completely flawed. Aside from a small amount of essential fatty acids fats aren't exactly required by your body either. Using your logic, we shouldn't eat any additional fats. Problem is we have to eat something.

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The bottom line then, is for inactive people to avoid carbs, and for active people to consume carbs only after a workout, and only to a point where they perform as well or better the next day.
How about just eat a well balanced diet consisting mainly of whole foods and less refined carb sources. Ensure adequate protein intake, then balance your carb and fat intake appropriately. If you have insulin resistance it might be wise to lower your carb intake however.

But most importantly, DO NOT OVER EAT IF YOU DO NOT WANT TO GAIN WEIGHT REGARDLESS OF YOUR MACRO COMPOSITION.

Don't miss the forest for the trees. That is like worrying about optimal timing for BCAA's when your CrossFit total is 500.
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Old 04-16-2014, 07:11 PM   #3
Luke Sirakos
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Re: The Optimal CrossFit Diet?

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II'll admit that I feel better with carbs in my diet than I do without them.
Also, how can you not see a major problem with this? I mean you flat out admit you feel better with carbs in your diet and yet you preach to others they should eat low carb. This is completely asinine to me.

If you are going to tell others how they should eat you sure ought to be following the same methodology and see solid, real results. I tell people they should eat enough protein and balance their fats and carbs accordingly. Count their calories and adjust them as necessary. Guess what? I do that. You know what else? I have successfully lost over 35 pounds during my recent cut. I have also successfully bulked in the past using this approach adding solid muscle mass and increasing my strength. Also, I am HARDLY the only one doing this, I didn't think it up. Instead I looked to highly regarded experts in the fields of nutrition and body composition and took their advice.
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Old 04-17-2014, 12:21 AM   #4
Dare Vodusek
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Re: The Optimal CrossFit Diet?

Todd, I strongly advise you to get a book The Ketogenic Diet (by Lyle McDonald). In one chapter he describes exactly what you are wondering. And its backed with real studies not just bro science.

One thing Id like to point out which is often overlooked, longevity and health. We all like to compare ourself to top athletes thinking "they must be doing it right if they can perform so well", dont we? Their training and diet regimes often go beyond of what the body is capable leading into sickness and lack of longevity. Powerlifters dont care if they are fat nor if they have diabetes, as long as they can squat 1000 pounds. Not to mention the drug abuse.

I believe crossfit community is about body fitness, health and longevity and finding the balance is everyone's goal?
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Old 04-17-2014, 08:05 AM   #5
Frank Fusco
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Re: The Optimal CrossFit Diet?

I don't think there is any evidence that eating minimally processed whole food carbohydrates have any adverse health effects for a majority of the population. Studies in general suggest that whole, fresh fruit may actually decrease the risk of obesity and diabetes, and that limiting fruit has no effect on blood sugar, weight loss or waist circumference.

For example see here: http://www.nutritionj.com/content/12/1/29/abstract (wfs)
Quote:
The study population consisted of 63 men and women with newly diagnosed type 2 diabetes. All patients completed the trial. The high-fruit group increased fruit intake with 125 grams (CI 95%; 78 to 172) and the low-fruit group reduced intake with 51 grams (CI 95%; -18 to −83). HbA1c decreased in both groups with no difference between the groups (diff.: 0.19%, CI 95%; -0.23 to 0.62). Both groups reduced body weight and waist circumference, however there was no difference between the groups.
The fact that a low carb or ketogenic diet can be beneficial for someone with metabolic derangement or a neurological issue (e.g., epilepsy) does not mean it is, by default the most healthy diet for everyone else. If you break your arm, you’ll get a cast to help protect the limb and help you heal. That doesn’t mean that everyone else should get casts to prevent broken arms. It would be unnecessarily restrictive and could lead to other problems.

I think your view of carbs and glucose is backward. You view the body's ability to produce glucose as evidence that you don't need to eat carbs to get glucose needed by the body. Another way to look at it, however, is that glucose is so important that your body has an emergency back up system that will produce it to keep you alive when you can't consume an adequate supply. Why put an additional stressor on you body and force it to produce something it so clearly needs? (Obviously, that doesn’t mean soda and candy.)

Although I am not a strict Paleo dieter, I do believe in the utility of looking at issues of health and nutrition through an evolutionary lens. As Theodosius Dobzhansky stated, “Nothing in Biology Makes Sense Except in the Light of Evolution." Humans evolved consuming fruits, vegetables, tubers and other starchy foods. Humans evolved to have far more copies than other primates of the gene AMY1, which is essential for breaking down starches. Archeological evidence demonstrates that starchy plant matter was available and consumed by early humans, even during the Ice Ages. Further, there are no known cultures past or present that consume a ketogenic diet. (Not even the traditional Inuit, who consume a significant amount of glucose in the form of muscle glycogen in raw meat.) There are, however, numerous long lived and healthy cultures (past and present) that consume a significant portion of their calories in the form of minimally processed carbohydrates. This does not prove anything, but it does suggests to me that a diverse range of carbohydrate consumption can be part of a healthy diet and that extended or extreme carbohydrate restriction is an evolutionarily novel approach with limited understanding as to its long term effects.

Fruits, vegetables and tubers provide a wide array of vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients, fiber and other beneficial compounds. I don't get the logic that these foods are bad, but processed oils consumed simply to increase fat content in the diet is healthy. One of the knocks against sugar is that it is an “empty calorie.” It provides calories, but no nutrition. Well, look at the nutritional profile of coconut flesh vs coconut oil (http://www.superhealthykids.com/uplo...e-coconuts.png wfs) Talk about “empty calories”. Don’t get me wrong, coconut oil is great as a cooking oil and the taste is great. But it is a cooking oil, not a food staple. Yet people are dumping it in their coffee and eating it by the spoonful because they need energy and are afraid of carbohydrates.

You assume that a low carb diet has benefits and the only potential down side is decreased athletic performance for some people. That is not the case. Just look at some low carb diet forums and you’ll find people complaining of a number of issues from stalled weight loss to decreased mucal production to impaired thyroid function. Most importantly, in my opinion, is newer evidenced that a low carb diet may have significant negative impacts on the gut microbiome. The composition and health of your intestinal microflora affect nearly every aspect of health and wellness, from weight loss to cancer to autoimmune disease.

Read here for more information: http://humanfoodproject.com/sorry-lo...that-into-you/ (wfs)

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So, low carb equals a less acidic colonic environment due to the drop in fermentation (and I presume harder, and less frequent stools as a function of reduced biomass from bacteria – or maybe not). As pH shifts, prospects for opportunistic pathogens increase, as does opportunities for gram-negative bacteria like Bacteroides and Enterobacter. When you add this up – and a lot of more shifts in the microbial ecology of the low carb gut – you most certainly have a classic case of microbial dysbiosis – as the name implies, an imbalance. This dysbiosis can lead to issues associated with IBD, autoimmune disease, metabolic disorders and so on.
There is more to health, longevity and athletic performance than carbs. Demonizing all carbohydrates creates and unnecessarily restrictive diet that does not fuel athletic performance and has not been shown to be more healthy over the long term than a more balance diet that includes whole food carbohydrates.
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Old 04-17-2014, 11:19 AM   #6
Todd Neal
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Re: The Optimal CrossFit Diet?

A lot to reply to and think about here...

Luke: Indeed just because we don't need carbs doesn't mean that we shouldn't eat them. I see I should have mentioned that the reason I think we shouldn't eat them is because they seem to cause a lot of problems. I see them linked to everything from cancer, to dementia, to obesity. When you hear talk about the Western Diseases, it's my feeling that much of them are caused by excess carbs in the diet.

You also mentioned insulin resistance, and I wonder with so many overweight people if all of them have a decent amount of insulin resistance. We know that 2/3 of America is overweight and the world is catching up--would it be ludicrous to say that many or all of them have some insulin resistance?

Finally, I'm insulted that you would think that I'm not looking to experts for this stuff. I've got my experts and you've got yours and they say contradictory things. Who then are we to believe?



Dare: I'll look into that book, thanks. I know there are diets like carb-nite and carb backloading which are essentially the same as what I'm suggesting. And you make a great point about health. I'll sacrifice a few pounds on my deadlift if it means being cancer-free.



Frank: Similar to what I told Dare, I wonder if some form of insulin resistance isn't present in most people. Surely if we all ate fruits and veggies and tubers from the beginning then we wouldn't be here. But I grew up eating frozen burritos, poop-tarts, candy, soda, and everything else, as I suspect most of the population did. Now I'm trying to reverse that and it means going hard in the other direction.

Ok, I think that's it.
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Old 04-17-2014, 11:29 AM   #7
Spencer Pearlman
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Re: The Optimal CrossFit Diet?

I'm FAR from a nutrition expert, but I did the paleo diet three years ago as a sophomore in college (wasn't full paleo, obviously, but was as close as one can get minus alcohol). Since then, I've tinkered with my macros / calorie intake.

More recently (last few months), I have played with the timing of my carbs and am getting the vast majority of them, if not all of my carbs, after my workouts. I have seen great results and have felt great. Next step is to see if my carb intake is at an optimal level, too high, or too low.

Last edited by Spencer Pearlman : 04-17-2014 at 12:10 PM.
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Old 04-17-2014, 11:52 AM   #8
Dare Vodusek
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Re: The Optimal CrossFit Diet?

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More recently (last few monhs), I have played with the timing of my carbs and am getting the vast majority of them, if not all of my carbs, after my workouts. I have seen great results and have felt great. Next step is to see if my carb intake is at an optimal level, too high, or too low.
Id be interested in the amount of carbs and method of optimising carb level?

Todd, interesting approach in that book. Carbs PRE and during a workout, but pure glucose, no fruit or milk. But small amounts 25-50g 30-60mins pre and about the same amount during a workout. This applies for cases when one needs to have 100g+ carbs and having all that in a PWO meal would not be a good idea because glycogen muscle uptake suppose to be at max 1.2mmol/kg of muscle. We cant "force feed" them.
This is new stuff to me and I am already making adjustements to my diet, I used to have 200g of white rice as PWO meal, clearly, too much.
And I almost felt how bad it was just didnt know the reason for it. Because 2h after that meal Id be hungry as hell even thou I felt full, clearly a sign of insuling spiking and dropping.
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Old 04-17-2014, 11:56 AM   #9
Kerry Kubla
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Re: The Optimal CrossFit Diet?

Todd,
I feel the same way myself and also a big advocate for Keto only because I have experimented myself and it works for me.I have more energy now then I ever did before and do not have extreme highs and lows.I did train for the first 25years while consuming high complex carbs and protein every 2-3 hours of being awake.If I missed a meal I would start to lack energy and feel like i needed to eat.Having to pack food for the entire day I felt like I was living to eat and not the other way around.I would pack on the weight to make strength gains and then have to diet down to lean back out.This was all while trying to hang on to as much muscle as possible.This roller coaster effect is very hard and stressfull on the body emmotionally and physically. Watch or ask any professional bodybuilder that is dieting for competition and they will tell you that they feel like crap and stress about losing strength while trying to lean out.

After taking up Crossfit and switching to Paleo for over a year I noticed that all of the arthritic pain and inflammation magically disappeared. I am not sure if you are still experimenting with any fasting but I have been following that as well for the past 6 months and train while fasted. I fast for 16 hours a day followed by an eight hour feeding window most of the week. The only days that I fast longer are when, I have a cheat meal and consume a high intake of carbs I will fast up to 24 hrs.

I agree with you about injesting your carbohydrates immediately following your workout. I have been feeling great and continue to make strength and size gains while dropping BF%.The process did take awhile to get the ratio of intake correct and still be able to stay Keto. I take in 25 to 50 grams of carb from berries with my protein shake immedietly after training. The following hour after the shake i will consume another 25 to 50 grams usually from sweet potatoes.

During the fasting I do drink BP coffee prior to working out and during my fast. Some will come on here and say that this is not really fasting however for many top Keto advocates they have tested this and the fat intake does not take you out of Ketosis.I have tested this with strips myself as well and found it to be true.
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Old 04-17-2014, 12:28 PM   #10
Frank Fusco
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Re: The Optimal CrossFit Diet?

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Frank: Similar to what I told Dare, I wonder if some form of insulin resistance isn't present in most people. Surely if we all ate fruits and veggies and tubers from the beginning then we wouldn't be here. But I grew up eating frozen burritos, poop-tarts, candy, soda, and everything else, as I suspect most of the population did. Now I'm trying to reverse that and it means going hard in the other direction.
Unless you are diabetic, insulin resistance doesn't have to be permanent. Your goal should be to try to regain some measure of the metabolic flexibility you were born with. Be able to eat a reasonable amount of carbs without your blood sugar spiking and remaining elevated.

Many people could benefit from a period of low carb dieting, especially if their previous diet primarily consisted of highly processed and refined carbs. In the short term, they will see better control of blood glucose and insulin levels.

But, folks who are low carb for an extended period of time develop physiological insulin resistance. Your brain needs glucose to function or you die. Because you are not ingesting carbohydrate, your muscles become insulin resistant so as to preserve for the brain the minimal glucose ingested or made by the body. So while your muscles are running on fatty acids, they become insulin resistant. This leaves glucose for your brain but the net result is your BG going up as you’re “physiologically” insulin resistant.

Fasting blood glucose above 100 is a common complaint among long time low carbers. They're then told by other low carb adherents that they are not doing it right and they double down on cutting out carbs only to make matters worse.

In my opinion, low carb is an awesome therapeutic and/or short term dietary strategy. But there is plenty of evidence to suggest it is not ideal as a permanent lifestyle. Don't just manage a symptom. Strive to fix your body. Exercise increases insulin sensitivity. Slowly introduce low-glycemic whole food carbs so that your body becomes more efficient at processing the carb. Consumption of probiotics (both soil base supplements and fermented foods) and prebiotics such as inulin and resistant starch have been shown to increase carb tolerance as well.
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