This little write up was sparked by a few conversations I’ve had recently with a couple different clients. One of them had started CrossFit maybe a year ago or so, and saw quick results with weight loss and an improvement in their fitness. However, that progress has virtually stopped. The other, who is very fit, and has done CrossFit for quite a few years, said she had gone to the doctor and was told that her hormone levels were very, very low and she has virtually no body fat. Both clients were avoiding most forms of carbohydrates; rice, potatoes, grains, legumes, bread, etc.
The first client who had noticed sort of a plateau with fitness and weight loss, likely experienced this due to an insufficient caloric intake to support her lifestyle and level of activity. In cases like this, a person’s metabolism basically slows down, decreasing the RMR (Resting Metabolic Rate), and stockpiling dietary fat and calories rather than burning them for energy. Someone who is working hard at the gym, and cutting calories (whether intentional or not) will get smaller for a while, but it will not only be fat that they are losing and they may certainly NOT be improving their health. It seems that the “go to” type of diet for weight loss/ improvement of body composition is to just stay away from carbs, which will naturally reduce your caloric intake. The problem is though, that by doing this, you are eliminating the most readily usable form of energy that you NEED for any strength and conditioning program, if you want t0 see optimal, long-term results. To develop/ build more lean muscle (which is favorable, as muscle is more metabolically active than fat) complex carbohydrates are absolutely essential. The more muscle you have, the less flab you’ll put on! By including more carbohydrate, your strength training results will improve simply because you’ll have the necessary energy and stamina to work harder for better results!
For someone already very lean to begin with, eliminating or severely cutting carbohydrate intake because of a recommendation to only eat: meat, vegetables, nuts and seeds, and some fruit will have a very hard time meeting the demands of a strength and conditioning program and seeing long term results. It will become extremely hard to recover from workouts if you’re even able to work at the intensity you’re capable of and because of this, your risk of injury will increase. You will likely have trouble sleeping, though you are tired, and a difficult time waking up in the morning. Injury is the next step, and good luck recovering from that injury when your not taking in enough energy!
The first client discussed above, calculated her macro nutrient needs and saw that she was not eating nearly enough, which is typically the case with most in this situation (that I have met with anyway). Though the second has not yet done this, I’d be willing to bet a lot of money that she is not eating enough either (especially complex carbs) to support her daily function. Though I believe food quality is extremely important, making sure you are taking in enough energy to support your lifestyle is equally important if you want to see long lasting, healthy results. Calculating your macro nutrient needs is scientific, it’s proven. For most people that are in a strength or fitness program, an intake consisting of at least 50% carbohydrate would be an easy and very beneficial approach.
Some Complex Carbohydrate Sources:
Rice; wild, brown, white
Potatoes; white, russet, sweet, etc.
Couscous (and other pastas)