This week’s question comes from Narmadeshwar Jha or “NJ” as we call him and it’s an excellent question!
NJ: How can I best mix CrossFit with weight loss so that I can lose the bulge and at the same time build muscle mass?
This question really comes down to nutrition, because that’s what can make the biggest impact on losing the “bulge.” This element is monumental in its affect on your workouts and your recovery. We have all sorts of people here. We are quite diverse and have such different lives that there is again no simple answer. One thing is for certain, however, which is that talking about nutrition is like talking religion. Someone is about to get offended, hurt, or angry. There are people who preach Paleo, Zone, Eat to Perform, Vegen, etc. and I have this discussion with people daily. “How much do I eat if I want to gain muscle, lose fat, perform better, get sexier, grow more luxurious hair like you, etc.?”
There are a number of “diets” and eating programs out there. You may have to try some of them out and see. And by the way, the word diet has taken on a nasty connotation that I would like you to get out of. A diet is simply what you’re putting into your body. It can be more restrictive, or loose and unrestrained, either way, it’s your diet. But I digress…I’ll come back to this thought in the “Fad Diets” section below.
Paleo: I had great success when I ate Paleo. I felt great and I dropped body fat like Ice Cube drops chumps…..that’s funny, ahem. However, I got bored with the same meals and I’m not very creative. Some people feel weak and tired on a Paleo style diet.
Zone: I tried Zone, but measuring stuff and figuring out “blocks” made me angry and I wanted to choke puppies. To save puppies’ lives I abandoned Zone. Other people love Zone and have had great success with it, especially those who are disciplined enough to prepare meals ahead of time and measure their portions.
Clean it up!: Now, I try to just avoid as many processed foods as possible and not drink too much beer. I win some, I lose some. By the way, alcohol and especially beer is one of the biggest hurdles to losing fat. If you want to lose fat, cut out the alcohol. You would be surprised at what just a few beers a week will do to your fat stores.
Vegetarianism: I tried to be a Vegetarian once. I lasted about 2 hours. Vegetarians, please don’t get angry with what I’m about to say. I love you all. You help keep meat prices lower and I appreciate that about you. There are some uncontested benefits to being a vegetarian and if you have a love for animals that is so strong you can’t fathom eating one, I understand. However, I have NEVER had a Vegetarian survive and thrive in the CrossFit Lobo environment. I’ve had many try. From my observations, it takes 2-3 times as long to recover and there are few if any strength gains after the first few months. Most of the strength gains that vegetarians experience here are from technique improvements and simply getting your ass off the couch. I hope someday a Vegetarian will PROVE me wrong, but so far it just hasn’t been the case.
Whatever your choice of diet, know that you have to fuel your body and provide it with the proper nutrition to function and to repair itself. If you UNDER-EAT you’ll often see this manifest in low energy during the workouts, dizziness, nausea, etc. If you need help determining what and how much to eat, let one of the coaches know. We can help steer you in the right direction.
Fad diets: Shakes, pre-packaged meals and supplements, pills, drugs, long term fasting, low carb, no carb, no protein, etc. Just don’t. If this shit worked we wouldn’t be a nation of fatties. These programs tend to work in the short-term, then when you cycle off of them and start eating again your body comes out of the starvation mode it was in and the weight skyrockets. Oh my! Time to get back on the shakes again! NO! Stop the roller coaster and just get off. The nasty connotation of the word “diet” comes in when people restrict their diets (what they put into their body) for a brief period of time in order to see quick results, but then do not and cannot maintain the unrealistic diet for the long-term and wind up gaining what they lost or, worse, gaining back even more. What I am talking about in this post is a long-term lifestyle change that involves changing what you put into your body (diet).
To the point. How do we lose fat and gain muscle with CrossFit. First and foremost, we have to eat the appropriate number of calories while paying particular attention to macronutrients (proteins, good carbs, and good fats) in order to sustain and build muscle mass while NOT eating so many calories that we store the excess energy as fat. Simple right? Actually it’s not as hard as you think. One thing that can help is by finding your Lean Body Mass in an accurate fashion. Guess what! We have the hydrostatic weigher visit on occasion. This is an excellent way to find your lean body mass. Once we have that number we can calculate how many calories you need to take in in order to just maintain your current body mass. Then we can work with that number to help you lose the fat! It’s really a math game in the big picture. If I eat enough to sustain only the lean body mass, I’ll begin to drop the fat. That’s cool, but how about adding muscle?
If you want to add muscle, we have to stimulate the muscle in a fashion that will cause it to repair itself and get stronger and bigger (this is called exercise). Again, KNOWING your lean body mass is essential to accurately gauge how many calories and grams of macronutrients you require. Plug in hydrostatic weigher reference here. This is where exercise and specifically lifting weights comes in. Anyone who has been at Lobo more than 2 minutes knows we lift just about every day. When we lift smartly (trust the strength programing) we tear the muscles down a little bit and as they recover they will increase in strength and size….as long as we are fueling our bodies correctly. Again, the most important part of this equation is your nutrition. WE MUST HAVE PROTEINS in sufficient quantities, good carbohydrates, and good fats to make this happens. If you don’t fuel the body with the proper nutrients you wont see the muscle gains you want. If the body is running on a deficit of protein, for example, it will take longer to repair (sorry Vegetarians) and it will have to get those proteins from somewhere other than your diet, which will likely come from your muscles all while storing fat. Matter can neither be created nor destroyed. There is no magical solution here. Eat well.