AMRAP Nutrition for Crossfit – Is Paleo Pete Optimal?

AMRAP Nutrition for Crossfit – Is Paleo Pete Optimal?

Accurate Macronutrients Result in A-grade Performance!

A guest post by Dean McKillop, Episode 42

All too often I hear of athletes talking about their workout plans, discussing their supplementation protocols and working out the best approach for recovery and performance. "I follow a DUP 3 day split with accessories 2 days a week, I take a pre workout before gym, amino acids during and I down a protein shake 1min and 37 seconds after my workout. I foam roll, I get massages weekly, I use hot/cold baths, I take this product when I wake up and I sleep for 8 hours every night.” Rarely do I hear someone say “I eat 220g of Protein, 400g of carbs, 70g of fat and 30-40g of fibre a day".

So why don't I hear that as much as the others? My guess is not that people don't think nutrition is as important but perhaps people still don't think the accuracy of nutrition is as necessary. "I just eat clean, I eat heaps but I have a fast metabolism, I eat paleo or I follow intermittent fasting" are just a few of the attempted explanations for not 'needing' to count macronutrients (Protein/Fats/Carbohydrates).

The author of this article is far more shredded than you...

The author of this article is far more shredded than you...

My question is: If you don't know what you eat, how are you going to improve how you perform and recover?

Taking that into consideration, why should we care more about Macronutrient numbers and less about what types of food we eat?
Simply put, it's not so much about what type of food you eat, but more so about how much of each Macronutrient you consume. And you know what we generally find in people who follow diet concepts as opposed to Macronutrient guidelines? HUGE Macronutrient discrepancies, with an under consumption of one macronutrient and gross over consumption of another. This then leads to sub optimal performance and sub optimal results.

So what do we know and what do we do with that knowledge?

We know that the first law of thermodynamics supports the notion of calories in versus calories out = body weight homeostasis.


We also know that the second law of thermodynamics delves into how energy is utilised, as opposed to simply looking at the heat it disperses when burned. For example ingesting a protein, despite having the same caloric load as a carbohydrate per gram, will require more energy to be utilised in the breakdown and assimilation process.

But isn’t a calorie a calorie? Well when comparing different macronutrients the answer in my opinion is no. Within human physiology we will not obtain the same physical results on a 2000kcal protein only diet versus a 2000kcal fat only diet. Now while I expect no one to be eating in either of those manors, the point is that both the total calories (The 1st law of thermodynamics) and the Macronutrient breakdown (The 2nd law of thermodynamics) are important.

And therein lies my 'beef' with eating to restrictive dietary concepts, as opposed to eating to Macronutrient numbers.

Let's take a look at Crossfit and Paleo for example:

1) The majority of work done is glycolytic and requires a good portion of carbohydrates to fuel a workout.

2) In the event of a competition day or in the professional ranks, whereby there are multiple workouts done daily, the glycolytic load is even higher.

3) Muscle breakdown as a direct result of high sub maximal load and repetition requires protein for recovery.

You can't fuel this with brazil nuts...

You can't fuel this with brazil nuts...

Therefore the two dominant Macronutrients needed here for repair and performance are Protein and Carboydrates, with Fats being utilised for their health benefits.

Paleo Pete however decides he only wants to follow the diet of his ancestral Homo Sapiens and as a result of this will not eat grains, will minimise or remove dairy, reduce fruit unless from berries, eat a large quantity of meat and a large quantity of fat. He will struggle to eat any significant amount of carbohydrates as the foods he is limited to are much lower in carbs than Poptart Paul's non restrictive diet and even if he was to eat a high carb diet within his Paleo constraints, the amount of fibre consumed alongside his carbohydrate intake will more than likely cause more Gastrointestinal harm than good.

Smashing paleo carbs all day? Likely going to cause more harm than good!

Smashing paleo carbs all day? Likely going to cause more harm than good!

And so that leads us in to two potential scenarios:

  1. Paleo Pete follows his diet to the letter, eats only paleo approved food types and for the majority feels great. Over time his performance energy gets lower (as carbohydrate stores deplete) and psychologically the restriction gets harder and harder. The weekend comes and he binges on sugar, eats a high quantity of processed food, slams down milkshakes and laps up ice cream (ok I'm paraphrasing but you get the point). Momentarily Pete psychologically loves life but then is brought back down to earth with a distended belly, lethargy and a general feeling of glutinous pain. Before you know it Peter is blaming the processed foods for how he is feeling immediately after and come Monday he is back on the paleo bandwagon. Psychologically he feels guilty and the cycle of restriction to binge continues.
    • But what does he notice throughout the week? His performance increases, he recovers faster, works harder and overall feels healthier. Pete will thank Paleo but in reality he is just getting the delayed benefits of a muscle full of glycogen and a brain adequately fuelled from carbohydrates.
  2. Paleo Pete is a Paleo machine and follows the restrictive food list again to the letter but he NEVER breaks diet. His protein and fat intake are high, making him feel full, satisfied and healthy throughout the day but his carbohydrates are low in comparison. Weeks pass and glycogen stores become more depleted, resulting in either a decrease in performance and recovery or even worse metabolic maladaptation due to an inefficient macronutrient breakdown and poor calorie intake in relation to calorie output. Neither is what we want and neither is optimal!

The reality is, no matter what foods you choose to eat, our body has the ability to break it down, assimilate it and use it to the best of its ability. As an ever-evolving organism we should never be made to feel restricted in our choice but instead feel liberated by freedom. Whether you eat paleo, clean, dirty or supercalifragistically, if you want to be optimal you need to know what macronutrients are best for you. Forget the food types, embrace the freedom of choice and eat to be optimal!

Listen to more of Dean in the epic nutrition marathon that was Episode 42.

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