Nutrition Articles - 360 Ultimate Fitness, Staines upon Thames

Training vs Recovery – Where You’re Going Wrong – Part 2 – Specific Recovery Methods

 

In part 1 we addressed the building blocks of recovery. The three key building blocks which we discussed were hydration, sleep and adequate calories. If you missed part 1, make sure to read it here.

Before implementing ANY of the following methods, you MUST get the basics right.

Part 2 of this article will explore the specifics of recovery: carbohydrate intake, supplementation and mobility. However, it must be noted that unlike part 1, whilst many people reading this may get some benefit from these methods, they are primarily intended for individuals looking to improve their performance or more advanced athletes. If that is not you, do NOT become fixated on the specifics of recovery, this probably isn’t what is holding you back!

 

Carbohydrate intake

Part 1 addressed the importance of adequate calories in recovery. For the purposes of this article, we shall therefore assume that readers are already consuming an adequate amount of calories.

Now, moving on to carbs…

You may well have heard that you should eat more carbs to fuel your training and recover. But why? What does that mean? What to carbs do?

When looking at the role of carbohydrates in recovery (that’s recovery…NOT aesthetics), we must consider both the quantity of carbohydrates and WHY we need them.

How much do we need?

The quantity of carbohydrates that we should be eating is entirely individual, much like calories, and will be unique depending on factors such as training volume, training type, age and muscle mass. For the sake of simplicity, this article will not provide you with a formula to calculate how many carbs you should be eating. Rather, review your diet as a whole. Are you eating a portion of carbs with most meals? Are you consuming additional carbs following training? To be frank, for the vast majority, low-carb diets are not compatible with OPTIMAL PERFORMANCE and OPTIMAL RECOVERY. The majority (but not all) of your diet should probably consist of adequate protein and carbohydrates if you are looking to optimise performance and recovery.

WHY do we need carbohydrate?

There are TWO primary reasons for consuming adequate levels of carbohydrate.

Firstly, CrossFit is a largely glycolytic sport. Meaning, the primary fuel for CrossFit is glycogen (the storage form of glucose, found in the muscles and the liver). It is therefore crucial that as athletes, we ensure that our glycogen stores are topped up to sufficient levels. By far the most effective way to refuel glycogen is by consuming adequate levels of carbohydrate.

Secondly, carbohydrates can quite literally help us recover faster. CrossFit is a very stressful and intense sport. This stress results in the release of the stress hormone cortisol. Whilst cortisol is fundamental to our survival, if it is elevated for too long, you will become fatigued, and energy levels and performance are at risk of tanking. How do we control our cortisol? Alongside sleep, carbohydrate consumption reduces cortisol and enables your body to be well placed to recover!

 

Supplementation

It is important to understand that supplements are not THAT important in the scheme of things, but they do have a role to play in gaining that extra 0.5%, which can make all of the difference.

If you’re a serious athlete, it may well be worth getting your blood work done to accurately assess if you have any specific nutritional deficiencies which require addressing. Vitamin D and Magnesium deficiencies are common in athletes, and are undoubtedly important in performance.

However, the following can be especially useful when it comes to recovery.

Omega 3 – omega 3 is a potent anti-inflammatory, which makes it the ideal supplement for CrossFit athletes with high training volume. Reasonably high doses of omega 3 can therefore serve to reduce inflammation of joints, tendons and muscles which improves recovery and may allow for sustained training intensity.

Carbohydrate supplementation – as discussed above, carbohydrates are a crucial part of recovery and performance. It many cases, it can be difficult for athletes to physically eat high enough quantity of carbohydrates without suffering from severe gastrointestinal discomfort (try eating 1kg of rice and see how you feel). If this sounds like you and you don’t want to look at another grain of rice, consider a post-workout carb supplement such as maltodextrin or highly-branched-cyclic-dextrin.

 

Mobility & maintenance work

The final piece of the recovery puzzle which we will discuss in this article, is mobility and body-maintenance work.

It is becoming more widely accepted that if you wish to recover to the greatest possible extent and compete at a high level, you can no longer forget about training the minute you leave the gym. It is the work you put in OUTSIDE the gym which is truly important.

With a high volume of training, soreness, tightness, and some small aches and pains are inevitable. Mobility and maintenance work can alleviate some of these symptoms between training sessions, allowing you to train harder and perform better. What are some of the main methods that we can use?

Foam rolling – alleviates symptoms of tightness by restoring the sliding surfaces of muscles. Over time, tightness can become chronic and lead to niggles and injuries, if you fail to keep on top of it.

Sports therapy / massage – a more focused method of body-maintenance which can alleviate very specific areas of tightness and ensure that muscles are moving freely without restriction.

Movement assessments – a movement specialist can identify specific areas of mobility restriction or weakness which may be causing you problems and holding you back from achieving your performance goals.

Mobility / movement flows – the more dynamic form of static stretching is an excellent way to rehearse movement patterns and restore range of motion between training sessions.

Of course, any serious concerns should be addressed by a trip to a physiotherapist, osteopath or chiropractor. Don’t take risks with your body.

 

Take home

Recovery is the key to performance. Whilst any one of the methods discussed in part 2 of this article may not make a huge difference to recovery (with the exception of carbohydrate), the implementation of ALL of these methods could make a huge difference to your recovery and performance.

Remember, address the basics first. Re-visit part 1 of this article and ensure that you are sleeping, drinking and eating adequately. When this is in place, implement more carbs, intelligent supplements and mobility and maintenance work. The results may shock you. Recovery truly is the answer to improving performance.

Training vs Recovery – where you’re going wrong – part 1

Training vs Recovery

 

Introduction

It is no secret that training alone is not enough to guarantee long term results in the sport of CrossFit. Rather, your activities outside the gym are just as important as those within. These activities can be defined as recovery.

To reach your full athletic potential, you MUST prioritise recovery to the greatest possible degree.

Although this 2 part article will focus on athletes with an interest in improving their CrossFit performance, recovery is crucial for all. Achieving weight loss or improving health & wellness are common goals which are far more achievable if individuals are not over-trained, over-reached or fatigued, but are well recovered and able to sustain the lifestyle necessary to achieve their health and fitness goals.

Many of the components of recovery are simple and common knowledge. Yet, most of us still get it so wrong and struggle to implement meaningful changes.

We convince ourselves that we might be the exception to the rule; that we only need 5 hours sleep per night and that we can shed body fat whilst hitting PRs for the rest of our lives. Whilst you may well be the exception, you probably aren’t.

In part 1 of this series, we will explore the fundamental building blocks of recovery, before looking at some slightly more interesting recovery methods in part 2.

Hydration

The benefits of hydration are well documented and quite simply, there is no excuse for any athlete not to be adequately hydrated.

During exercise, water and electrolytes are lost through sweat. This makes athletes particularly susceptible to dehydration if these are not replaced.

The importance of hydration in athletes is clear to see; dehydration can result in muscle fatigue due to reduced blood flow to muscles, inability to regulate body temperature, cramping and decreased energy & performance. Following exercise, water is necessary for the removal of waste products and the metabolism of protein.

As a rough guide to ensure adequate hydration:

  • Consume a minimum 30ml of water per kg of bodyweight
  • For each hour of exercise, consume an extra 500ml of water
  • For exercise lasting 2+ hours, considering using an electrolyte supplement to replace electrolytes lost through sweat

It is worth mentioning that excessive hydration can result in hypernatremia, which describes a condition in which blood sodium concentration drops. The consequences of this can be potentially catastrophic.

Sleep

Whilst sleep justifies a dedicated series, it cannot be ignored in any article discussing recovery.

Most of us know we need adequate sleep. But why? And why do so few of us actually do it?

To give you a brief idea, during sleep your body:

  • Replenishes glycogen stores
  • Synthesizes protein (repairs tissues)
  • Releases growth-hormone
  • Recovers your central-nervous-system (CNS)

Conversely, a lack of sleep can result in:

  • Elevated cortisol levels (stress hormone)
  • A weakened immune system

These are just a few of the very many factors which are influenced by sleep. I expect you get the idea by now: sleep is VERY important for both athletes and non-athletes. So, how can you maximise both the quantity and quality of your sleep?

  • Maximise your sleep duration. 6 hours just doesn’t cut it for most of us, aim for 7-9 hours and experiment to see what leaves you feeling the most rested throughout the day and during exercise.
  • Establish a sleep routine. Having a consistent routine allows you to fall asleep quickly and ensures that you are in a relaxed state (assuming an intelligent routine), which contributes to great sleep quantity AND quality!
  • Limit artificial light. Your body will begin to secrete the hormones required for sleep (melatonin) after sundown. Artificial light reduces the secretion of these hormones and stimulates your body, reducing your sleep duration and quality. Try using the night time mode on your phone, purchasing some blue light blocking glasses to use after sundown or reading a good old fashioned book before bed!
  • Reduce alcohol and caffeine consumption late in the day. Both alcohol and caffeine (coffee) are known to reduce sleep quality. Give yourself a cut off time (the earlier the better) at which point you stop consuming alcohol and caffeine.

Other things you might like to consider are investing in a comfortable mattress (think of the time you spend on it!) and ensuring that your room is fully blacked out.

Calories

Adequate caloric intake is a fundamental requirement of any athlete with an interest in performance. All too often, athletes attempt to lose body fat with large caloric deficits, without reducing their training volume.

Energy, or calories, are used to fulfil literally thousands of bodily processes. This includes respiration, brain function, organ function, energy metabolism, maintenance of lean tissue and tissue repair.

When operating in a small caloric deficit (that is, energy expenditure is slightly more than energy intake), the energy deficit can be partially made up from fat metabolism (a.k.a. burning body fat).

However, when operating in a LARGE caloric deficit, fat metabolism cannot make up the energy deficit. Your body therefore must find other ways of sparing energy to survive; the first thing which is going to suffer are those things which are non-essential for survival. Lean tissue may reduce (you may lose muscle!), damaged tissue may not repair (muscle may not grow) and there is going to be much less energy available for those high intensity WODs you love to smash day-in-day-out.

In short, your performance is going to drastically decline.

If trying to lose body fat, try to keep your caloric deficit to 10-15% at a maximum. However, it is preferable that you eat at a minimum of caloric maintenance if performance is your goal (i.e. eat AT LEAST the same amount of calories that you expend / burn each day).

 

Take home

Recovery is a complex topic, however, understanding the basics of hydration, sleep and caloric intake can go a long way in maximising your performance both inside and outside the confines of the gym.

Part 2 of this mini-series will discuss some more specific recovery methods, including carbohydrate intake, supplementation, mobility, movement and more. Stay tuned!

 

 

 

An Introduction to Nutrition – Where You’re Going Wrong

Nutrition

Where are you going wrong?

In a world of macros, intermittent fasting, protein, clean eating, gluten free, dairy free, vitamins, minerals and diets galore, there are countless ways to fail with your nutrition.

It is often said that ‘losing weight is simple, just eat less and exercise more’. Whilst in some cases this is true, if it really were that simple, why do so many of us fail?

In reality, nutrition is far more complex than it is given credit for and is just as much about human behaviour as it is about what we eat.

This article will explore some of the ways that our “diets”, or nutrition approaches fail. So have a read, and see if any of this sounds familiar.

You’re focused on the specifics, but you’re ignoring the big picture.

When should I eat my carbs? Which protein shake is best? Which supplements should I take? Which superfood will help me lose weight? Low carb or high carb? HIIT or steady state cardio?

For 90% of people, none of this matters.

At least, it should not be a priority. For the majority of the population, their nutrition is characterised by repetitive bad habits.

It doesn’t matter one bit whether you have your carbs in the morning or post workout, if you sleep 5 hours a night and eat a tub of cookie dough ice cream every evening.

It doesn’t matter one bit whether you have standard whey protein or whey protein isolate, if you knock back 3 large glasses of red wine every night!

First, focus on making changes to your eating habits, one habit at a time.

If you drink two cans of coke a day, drink two cans of diet coke a day. When you master this habit, eat pizza once per week instead of 4 times per week!

Gradually changing your bad habits will do you more good than any supplement on planet Earth.

You don’t know what you’re currently doing wrong.

How can you look to make a permanent lifestyle change if you don’t know what you’re actually doing wrong in the first place?

Many of us think that we eat quite well.

Try this: for one whole week write down ALL of the food and drink that goes into your body. Don’t think about it, just eat what you usually would, then write it down.

At the end of the week find someone who will give you some honest feedback (an honest friend, a coach, a nutritionist, a family member. Anybody). Their feedback may just be the wakeup call that you need.

You’re eating more than you think you are.

Humans are bad at estimating their food intake. Fact.

That pizza you put into My Fitness Pal that you think was 800 calories? Try 3000.

If you’re going to track what you eat or you have specific goals, you have to be brutally honest with yourself. Do you account for everything you eat? Are you sneaking in cookies and turning a blind eye?

So ask yourself, is this you? Are you really being honest with yourself?

You have unrealistic expectations.

You’ve probably heard it before but changes such as fat loss or muscle gain don’t happen overnight.

How can you succeed if you give up after a month because you don’t see results? If it took you 20 years to get to where you are now, it’s not going to take 2 months to get back to where you were before.

These things take time, a lot of time, so this is where you have to stay strong and stick with it.

Forget that 6 week weight loss plan, it can take years to lose that weight and achieve your dream body, assuming that you implement a sustainable, well thought out nutrition plan.

It’s not an easy pill to swallow that you’re a lot further than you think from reaching your goals but patience and determination is key to reaching your goal and making sustainable progress.

You’re undereating.

Whilst many of us need to eat less, 800 calorie diets are unfortunately commonly used in our society.

No matter what your goal, undereating will not get you there.

Good luck trying to smash the CrossFit Open workouts twice per week on a huge calorie deficit.

Or if your goal is weight loss and you’ve been on a low calorie diet for a long period of time, there is a good chance that you are metabolically adapted (article to follow), in which your body will reduce its energy expenditure to maintain body fat levels and prevent weight loss.

Metabolic adaptation is undoubtedly stalling the progress of thousands and quite probably somebody that you know.

Take home

All of these mistakes point to one crucial fact: achieving your nutrition goal is not easy and can at times be complex. It takes time, dedication, patience and disappointment before you can finally realise your goals.

Vitamin D – Should we Care?

Vitamin D Sunshine

Photo Credit: F.E. Photography

Vitamin D. Most of us know that it comes from the sun. But what does it really do? And why does it matter?

Actually, vitamin D doesn’t ‘come’ from the sun. When sunlight makes contact with our skin, cholesterol in the skin is converted to vitamin D3, which can then be used by the body for hundreds of different processes. In fact, vitamin D isn’t even a true vitamin (as it can be produced by the body)!

So…why do we need it?

Well, all that milk you’ve been drinking might not do your bones much good if you don’t have sufficient levels of vitamin D in your body. Vitamin D regulates calcium absorption in your body. Or to put it simply, vitamin D helps you to use calcium. To put it even more simply, vitamin D is good for your bones and teeth.

Is that it?

No. Vitamin D really can help with a whole bunch of stuff. Here are a few other possible benefits:

  • Regulation of insulin levels, resulting in a reduced risk of Type 2 Diabetes.
  • Reduced risk of cardiovascular disease (study here)
  • Some studies also suggest that vitamin D is associated with a reduced risk of cancer, hypertension, Alzheimer’s disease and arthritis. However, it is worth mentioning that some of these findings require further research before these claims can be proven and fully substantiated.

But I’m pretty healthy as it is, thank you.

Fair enough. But what if I told you vitamin D can help you with CrossFit and your performance?

There are numerous studies suggesting that vitamin D may increase athletic performance in vitamin D deficient athletes. This occurs as vitamin D seems, as suggested in a 2009 study, to increase the size and number of Type II (fast twitch) muscle fibres, which can result in increased speed, power and strength; all of which are hugely important to the CrossFit athlete.

But I get plenty of sunlight, so I must be fine?

Whilst those living in equatorial countries with year round sun, and a diet containing large amounts of oily fish, may have sufficient vitamin D levels. Those of us living in northern hemisphere countries such as the UK, may be vitamin D deficient, and therefore may wish to consider using a vitamin D supplement to reach optimal vitamin D levels. Especially during the winter months!

Whilst you can get vitamin D from your diet, such as oily fish and egg yolks, this is considered a minor source of vitamin D. Therefore, during the winter months, a vitamin D supplement may be a suitable option for some people.

What’s more, research has also shown that vitamin D supplementation in athletes with adequate vitamin D levels can still increase athletic performance. So you may want to give it some thought even if you feel that you consume vitamin D rich foods and spend time in the sunlight.

But how much is enough?

When it comes to taking a vitamin D supplement, it has historically been advised that healthy adults require approximately 400 IU per day. However, more recently this has been revised to a minimum of 1000 IU per day. Yet for the purpose of reducing the risk of disease and improving athletic performance, 4000 – 5000 IU per day seems far more appropriate. The upper limit of vitamin D supplementation is said to be 10,000 IU for adults.

Take home messages

  • Vitamin D plays an important role in the body, and contributes to the health of our bones and teeth.
  • It has been associated with a reduced risk of type 2 diabetes, cancer, hypertension, Alzheimer’s disease and arthritis, and can improve cardiovascular health.
  • It has been shown to improve athletic performance, so is useful in the gym as well as for your health!
  • IF you decide that a vitamin D supplement may be suitable for you, ensure adequate supplementation. Aiming for at least 1000 IU per day with 4000-5000 IU per day being a preferable amount.
  • Vitamin D supplements can be a cost efficient and convenient way to ensure adequate levels.

Disclaimer

This is a reasonably specific aspect of nutrition. Many of you reading this will benefit FAR more from reviewing your diet as a whole, rather than focusing on one small aspect! Eat adequate amounts of minimally processed foods, and then (and only then) concern yourself with supplementation. Whilst there is a vast amount of evidence supporting vitamin D, some health benefits are yet to be proven, and you may wish to consult with your doctor before starting supplementation, especially if you are using any other medication.

References
  1. Barker, T., Schneider, E.D., Dixon, B.M., Henriksen, V.T. and Weaver, L.K., 2013. Supplemental vitamin D enhances the recovery in peak isometric force shortly after intense exercise. Nutrition & metabolism, 10(1), p.69.
  2. Cannell, J.J., Hollis, B.W., Sorenson, M.B., Taft, T.N. and Anderson, J.J., 2009. Athletic performance and vitamin D. Med Sci Sports Exerc, 41(5), pp.1102-1110.
  3. Holick, M.F., 2004. Vitamin D: importance in the prevention of cancers, type 1 diabetes, heart disease, and osteoporosis. The American journal of clinical nutrition, 79(3), pp.362-371.
  4. Holick, M.F., Binkley, N.C., Bischoff-Ferrari, H.A., Gordon, C.M., Hanley, D.A., Heaney, R.P., Murad, M.H. and Weaver, C.M., 2011. Evaluation, treatment, and prevention of vitamin D deficiency: an Endocrine Society clinical practice guideline. The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, 96(7), pp.1911-1930.
  5. Larson-Meyer, E., 2013. Vitamin D supplementation in athletes. In Nutritional Coaching Strategy to Modulate Training Efficiency (Vol. 75, pp. 109-121). Karger Publishers.