The CrossFit Nutrition Challenge: A Smart Bomb in the War On Obesity?

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The CrossFit Nutrition Challenge: A Smart Bomb in the War On Obesity?
If you happened to read “The Extraordinary Science of Addictive Junk Food” in this past Sunday’s New York Times magazine, you read a thorough account about the machinations of the Big Food industry and the methods and marketing behind “engineering” processed foods in ways that generate billions in profits… and at the same time are making Americans sick by the million. While the story may have been shocking to most who read it, it’s easy to imagine CrossFitters across the country reacting with a collective shrug.

Eat real food and detach yourself from processed foods.
Why a shrug? Because if there’s one key lesson that is learned in a CrossFit nutrition challenge as they are conducted throughout the 5000-plus affiliates in the world, it’s to eat real food and detach yourself from processed foods.

For many in the CrossFit world, this journey to enlightenment in the age of the processed food mega-corporations and massive attack of junk-food marketing begins with Nicole Carroll’s “Getting Off The Crack” article in the CrossFit Journal.

Carroll writes,

We might compare cutting back on carbs to kicking a crack habit and laugh. Or maybe we hear a statement such as ‘Americans dig their graves with their teeth’ and shudder. Extreme, perhaps, but not so far from the truth.

Carbs can resemble crack

“Americans dig their graves with their teeth”: A vivid reference to the skyrocketing rates of type-2 diabetes in the country and a precursor to the killer chronic diseases like cancer and heart disease.
A simple nutrition challenge at a local CrossFit affiliate is an incredibly powerful weapon in helping people free themselves from the addictive qualities of cheap carbohydrates and processed food.

The nutrition challenge works by not only lecturing members about nutrition but creating a community-powered test run of either a Paleo diet, Zone diet, or both. Measurement protocols are put in place along with a friendly competition to engage the entrants. By actually testing a philosophy of eating, the impact of results delivers a much greater wallop than the most recent research study might convey.

Consider some of the post-challenge comments at CrossFit Charlottesville in Charlottesville, Virginia.

“I lost around 21 lbs over the course of this challenge.”

“I am wearing pants that stopped fitting me years ago.”

“When eating Paleo I sleep better [and have] fewer restless nights.”

“I feel a greater sense of focus and confidence.”

“This has been a life-changing experience.”

“I have never eaten so well in my life. I lost a 8.5 lbs. My waist went from a 34 to a 32. My energy level improved as did both my strength and overall fitness…”

“That’s almost 30-lbs in about 11 weeks…4.5% decrease in body fat…”

“I would guess this amounted to about two inches off the waistline. Now that the challenge is over I haven’t changed back to the old way of eating nor do I plan to…”

Learning to understand the science and marketing of junk food is one of the most valuable lessons taught in a nutrition challenge. Consider one simple tool taught by Carport CrossFit in Ironsdale, Alabama, in the introduction to one of their nutrition challenges:

Read the ingredients — if you can’t pronounce the ingredients or the list is long, you shouldn’t eat it.

Simple Basics for Improving Your Nutrition

Pay attention to what you're eating!

Remember 23/1: There are 24 hours in a day, one hour of working out leaves you with 23 hours left to undo everything you just did in that one hour!
Carport CrossFit also offers these hints, many of which are probably familiar to many, but are not always the easiest to follow.

When you make Stone Age recipes with modern foods, remember you want to ensure that all of the ingredients are free of:

  1. Grains
  2. Legumes
  3. Dairy products
  4. Salt
  5. Yeast including baked goods, pickled foods, vinegar, fermented foods and fermented beverages (all contain yeast)
  6. Processed sugars
  7. Excessive added fats except for permitted oils. You should try to choose the leanest cuts of domestic meats and trim away any visible fat. Remember, the mainstays of The Paleo Diet are fresh fruits, vegetables, lean meats, and seafood.

Sounds simple enough. CrossFit Code Red in Hillsborough, Oregon provides a few more practical ideas on preparing for a nutrition challenge or for just eating in general:

  1. Eat real quality food. What’s real food? Anything without a food label on it!
  2. If it has a food label then it probably isn’t real food! (You don’t see a food label on a tomato do you?) Perimeter shop around the grocery store. (Foods that expire quickly are usually real.)
  3. Try to buy and eat equal amounts of protein, carbs and fat.
  4. Don’t drink your calories, i.e.… juices, coffee, alcohol etc… drink water!
  5. Don’t waste an entire day cheating…i.e. cheat days! Instead use the 90/10 rule, 90% of the time eat real food, spend only about 10% cheating and don’t cheat big! Satisfy those sweet tooth cravings throughout the week so you don’t overload on an entire day and set yourself back to day one. Find sweets that are not that bad — dried mango, chocolate, chocolate covered raisins, maple syrup, honey…etc. Stay away from processed sugar (this is your biggest challenge for these 28 days).
  6. Remember 23/1: There are 24 hours in a day, one hour of working out leaves you with 23 hours left to undo everything you just did in that one hour!
  7. Put together 5 simple recipes for breakfast, lunch and dinner and tape those on the inside of your cupboards or somewhere easily visible for reference.
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