For some of you, this will be a quick refresher/reminder. It’s a lesson I didn’t learn until I began crossfitting, though, and I think for those of us who KNOW the truth, it bears repeating.
In the grand scheme of fitness, food is first. It is the BASE of the fitness pyramid that CrossFit uses to describe the theoretical hierarchy of development (see “What is Fitness? by Greg Glassman). I have friends who message me on Facebook with questions and comments like: “How do you know how many calories the CrossFit WODs burn?” and “I have to put sugar in my coffee. And I have to eat garlic bread with my pasta. (!!) But other than that, I’m going to eat clean.” and “I eat whatever I want on the days I work out because I burn so many calories.”
Such comments remind me of my own, pre-CrossFit thinking about how food works. I used to be a runner, and I would tell people, “I run so I can eat.” But after 10 years of running I realized something: I was running 40 miles a week, and eating “normally” (or what I figured was normally), and unable to see any real changes in my body.
And I looked around at the starting line of the last marathon that I ran (the very miserable Mohawk Hudson River Marathon,) and I realized that I was surrounded by people that I wouldn’t really characterize as “fit.” And I looked at myself and thought, “I am one of those people.” I had no discernible muscle definition. My middle was soft. I wondered what the hell we were all doing wrong. Surely everyone else was running over an hour a day like I was, burning through 500-700 calories easily each day. Surely such calorie expenditures should create that ever-elusive calorie deficit! How come we weren’t all looking like Deena Kastor?
So, there’s some new thinking about the problem of steady-state cardio (especially for women’s bodies) that makes a whole of of sense here. But also, or more importantly, my eating was a mess. Lots of processed, high-sugar, low-fat foods; lots of grain. Many many Cliff and Powerbars and other granola bars. I ate protein maybe once or twice a week (not kidding, here). Oatmeal for breakfast, bagel for lunch, pasta for dinner. Several coffees a day, each with so much sugar that I may as well have been drinking Mountain Dew.
The moral of the story here is that you can work out all you like, but if you’re eating like shit than you’re not going to get where you want to be. Plain and simple. Food is first.