Five Nutrition “Truths” You Shouldn’t Necessarily Buy Into

Crossfit. Nutrition. Paleo. There’s a lot of hype, myths, and generally accepted beliefs out there. It can be tricky to wade through it all and sort out what’s worth listening to, and what will work best for you personally. I am no expert, but I know what I’ve done (if you’re new to the party and want to read more, click here, here and here) and what works (or not) for me. So with that in mind, I thought it might be helpful to share a bit on that. So without further ado….

I have to do what he/she is doing. 

No you don’t. You can if you want to, but you sure don’t have to. I wanted to put this one first because I’m going to share with you what I’ve learned has worked for me. But I am me, and you are you. What I’ve done is all well and good, but it might not suit you, your schedule, lifestyle, health goals, body type, activity level, and on and on. It’s easy to look at someone who seems to have achieved success and think “I need to do what they’re doing.” So ask them what they’ve done, take it in, then decide if you think it’ll work for you. If you can incorporate some tips and strategies, great. If not, then feel free to move right along. But just because something has worked for someone else doesn’t mean it will be your path to success.

Case in point? I was texting with a friend about mutual nutrition goals and she said she was going to try counting macros. I said something like “good for you for doing that, but I could never go that route.” I know that a lot of people have had success with the whole “if it fits your macros” thing. I also know that for me personally, I would become way too obsessive and not a fun person to be around, and the idea sort of makes me want to break into a cold sweat. I know that I have a good handle on what I’m eating and what my body needs, and can achieve a healthy balance without counting macros. But I wish anyone who wants to well!

I’m doing CrossFit, so Paleo is the way to go.

If you’ve been following along, you’ve already heard me say that Paleo/low-carb isn’t what worked for me. In fact, in order to get leaner and eat to fuel performance, I actually added more carbs into my daily meals. And I love eating a lot of fruit (even the ever-feared banana). I’ve found that fueling myself with whole grains (quinoa, whole grain pasta, barley, oats), beans and potatoes (both sweet AND white) keeps me full, satisfied and fueled to work out.

If you’re going to eat to perform, you need some serious carbs. Lean meats, nuts, vegetables, eggs and healthy fats are all great. They’re all a part of my diet. But they’re not all I need to fuel my workouts. In fact, without the necessary carbs I needed, I was actually undereating for the amount of activity I was doing (more on that below). I wish all the paleo-loving cavemen and women out there well, I hear great things about the health benefits of a paleo diet, but for me, it doesn’t work to fuel me and the goals I want to achieve.

I can do CrossFit while dieting like I did before doing CrossFit.

If you’re a lifelong athlete, you can probably skip over this one, as it’s common sense/common knowledge for you. For me on the other hand, this was something I had to get into my head (and still remind myself of). Having never been an athlete or someone who really enjoyed working out, I came into CrossFit with the “less is more” mentality in my head when it came to calories consumed. If I wanted to lose weight, and get ahead, eating less would be a better idea, right? Not necessarily.

What I’ve learned over the past few months is that it’s not really about eating less, but making better choices and fueling myself with quality foods throughout the day. That means way less of the processed, low calorie garbage I used to subsist on (’cause that’s gonna fuel you through a tough WOD, right? 😉 ) and including nutrient dense foods that I know are going to be good for me and my body (like the aforementioned carbs, lean meats, healthy fats) and sometimes bumping up portions a bit. It also means not being afraid to eat if I’m hungry (I still have to work on this, but if “old Hilary” was hungry and didn’t think it was time for a meal I’d avoid the hunger or just eat a crapload of baby carrots. Now, I’ll give myself some time, but if I’m really, truly hungry, I’ll eat something and *try* not to worry about it).

The point is, dieting has no place in CrossFit (or any sport where you’re worried about performance). I managed to lose considerable weight by focusing on fueling my performance rather than being on a diet. Sure, I gave up some things and cut back on others, but I didn’t for one minute consider myself to be “on a diet,” and I got to where I am by eating real food.

I can eat whatever I want because I workout.

This one is sort of a double-edged sword, and one that I still grapple with. On the one hand, yes, doing CrossFit is awesome because you definitely build lean muscle mass and those lean muscles make it easier to burn fat throughout the day. So, in a way, as far as gaining weight is concerned, you can sometimes get away with eating crap and not notice negative side effects so quickly.

However, a steady stream of overindulgence will seriously affect your performance (just refer back to this post-Christmas post  to hear how holiday overindulgence lead to some seriously lackluster WODs on my part). The more you eat healthy, quality food on a regular basis, the crappier you will feel after a couple days of over-indulging. I am still shocked at how much of a difference I’ll notice in my performance when I’ve let nutrition slide for a few days.

I will add what I always say: I am NOT telling you not to treat myself. I’m posting this on  my birthday eve, when I’ve already had a couple nights out and am about to enjoy more eating, drinking and treats. Enjoy life’s occasions and celebrations. Just be prepared to see a a little dip in performance after the fact (and that’s a-ok).

I need to eat protein bars/use protein powder because I lift/workout all the time.

Nope. Pretty sure you’ll be ok without them. I myself got caught up in this one, as it seems like you can’t turn around at the gym without seeing someone and their shaker bottle (am I right?). But, really, if you’re eating a well-rounded, balanced diet full of real food, you shouldn’t need to rely on protein powder and bars. And when you add that delicious protein to your meal, keep in mind, you’re also adding sugar (hence why it’s so delicious). Plus, protein bars are a rip off – so expensive! And have you looked at the miles-long ingredient list?

Disclaimer: I have both protein bars and powder right now. The bars? I buy a few (try to get them on sale) to throw in my purse or gym bag for emergency snacks. I’m a big fan of what I like to call “hanger management,” (not letting myself get to the point of being hangry, ’cause that’s when bad things happen). So I use protein bars as gap-fillers. They’re not something I eat on a regular basis, but if I’m caught without time or access to a meal, they’re better than nothing.

As for the powder, while I’m not a fan of buying protein bars, I love making them. I really enjoy baking, so making my own protein bars is a healthy outlet. They’re cheaper and healthier than what you’d buy, and I can cut them into whatever size I want (I like to make minis for a quick pre-WOD snack. I don’t need any of this mini meal business). If you follow me on pinterest, I’ve got a whole board of recipes for these things.

What do you think? Do you buy into any of the nutrition statements I’ve mentioned? Are there any you’d add to my list of things that aren’t worth believing?

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