The term soul food refers to a variety of cuisine that became popular in the southeastern US of A around the 1960s. Soul food restaurants were largely black-owned businesses that were community meeting places serving dishes such as fried chicken, mac’ and cheese, cornbread and cobbler. It is said the name of the cuisine originated from the reminder it gave patrons of the home and family they had left behind to seek greener pastures – the food was good for their souls!
I’ve always maintained that the food you eat should be both healthy and enjoyable. The soul food I referred to above may be enjoyable, but it’s not the healthiest and I was talking about a type of cuisine. What I’m really talking about here is eating food that is good for you, inside out. That is, mostly consuming food that is good for your physical health and performance, AND your mental health and performance.
When talking about food we generally focus on physical health and performance. How is that going to affect my blood sugar? Will it give me high cholesterol? What is going to give enough energy to perform well in training? How will that affect my recovery before the next session? But how often do we consider the psychological effects of food?
While I’ve alluded to the psyche of eating through topics of balance, approaching food as a fuel, and habit formation, I’ve never talked about feeding your soul. That sounds a bit airy fairy. By feeding the soul I mean eating in a manner that takes care of you – your self esteem, self confidence, happiness, and general wellbeing. It’s having a regard – giving a shit – about yourself.
Taking care of yourself is making your nutrition a priority. When that happens your approach to challenges changes from excuses to solutions.
“I don’t know what to do” becomes “I’m booking a nutrition consult.”
“There weren’t any healthy options” becomes “I had a good meal before the function and packed some snack just in case.”
“I was preparing snacks for the family so I didn’t have time” becomes “We all mostly have the same food now.”
Getting your nutrition right is challenging, especially because your body and needs are forever changing. But it’s just challenging, not difficult. You just have to make caring for yourself a priority.
Go home? Are those your only choices?
On our About Us page we’ve always had a line that reads “Sure, CrossFit can be tough, but it gets results.” You do need to work hard to get results, and we certainly get you working hard. But hard work only covers an area in the big picture of lifelong health and fitness. Training with us can be as tough as you make it.
Enjoying improved fitness through life requires that you remain injury free and enjoy what you’re doing. While group training is part of what we offer, how to stay injury free while having fun and getting results means something different for everyone. It means different load and repetitions for you, different movements for the next, a slower pace for him, more intensity for her, catching up instead of doing the warm-up perfectly, and for some it may mean an entirely different workout of the day.
How hard you go is relative to your “hard” for that day, and it doesn’t mean a thing. You coming in just to move is doing more than the overwhelming majority of the population on the couch.
Listen to your body and tell the coaches what it’s saying. There are countless variations and substitutions for what we’re doing on the day. Come in instead of avoiding a session; stay instead of ninja bombing out! And if all that you need is to come in and hang out without training or exercising, do it. That’s what CFJ has always been – your third place.
But, get uncomfortable and test the limits of your abilities often. Life will demand that of you!
One question nutrition coaching clients or lifestyle challenge participants ask when they come to their review assessments is “How do I keep these results coming now?” My answer is always to maintain the changes they’ve implemented at least 80% of the time. And that is inevitably received with a look that says “You crazy, how can you tell me to have treats?!”
That sort of mindset, however, is precisely what derails good progress. Yes, attempting to be “strict” all the time, to having “perfect” nutrition is the reason you lack progress.
You are able to maintain perfect for a while. You cut out certain foods, constantly worry about making mistakes and worse, you even change many of your social behaviours. Until you eventually have a social outing where there simply aren’t any food choices that make it onto your perfect foods list. You have two options: stay
hungryhangry or eat something. In your mind, staying hangry is keeping your nutrition “perfect,” and eating something means (even though it’s one occasion in weeks) you’re out of control.
Although that’s just an example, what typically happens is “I can’t stay strict so I’m just going to go all out and I’ll clean up tomorrow.” Sounds a bit like a crack addict, doesn’t it?
When you change from trying to be perfect to being good enough with your nutrition, lots changes. You feel more in control of what you’re eating. You know that you’ve eaten really well for the past few days, so having a piece or two of the birthday cake is okay. You are happy to have the side salad instead of fries because you had a work function in the week where you enjoyed some savoury treats.
Perfect is impossible. More importantly, feeling that you’ve not achieved your perfect is destructive. Work towards “most of the time.”
Good enough and most of the time are relative to your goals and needs, and just what they mean is ultimately up to your definition. I’ve always advocated the 80/20 approach. It gives you direction on what “most of the time” is and it’s sustainable.
You’ll get better results from the method you follow 80% of the time than the method you quit.
Protein powders, proteins, and performance aids are the most popular products in the supplement industry. Too little attention is given to recovery and health based supplements. Vitamin and mineral supplements are becoming increasingly important as the quality of our food diminishes concomitant to ever increasing life stressors. One such mineral is magnesium.
What is Magnesium
Magnesium is one of the four micronutrients (along with sodium, potassium, and calcium) essential to all life. Magnesium is necessary for bone formation as well as calcium metabolism, and converting Vitamin D into an active form in the body.
Magnesium can be found in abundance in a variety of natural foods such as pumpkin seeds, spinach, Brazil nuts, almonds, rice and sesame seeds. While magnesium deficiency is primarily the result of poor diet and food choices, your magnesium levels could still be low even if you follow a healthy diet AND you lead an active lifestyle
How do you know if you are magnesium deficient? Different forms of stress, including exercise, increase magnesium consumption in the body. Adequate magnesium absorption may also be adversely affected by consuming disproportionate amounts of protein and fat relative to carbohydrates (another good reason to calculate your macros), and excessive alcohol consumption. Symptoms of magnesium deficiency include:
- Significant decrease in energy levels
- Reduced immunity
- Poor memory
- Training plateaus
- Retrograde performance.
Magnesium and Training
Individuals who train frequently at high intensity need more nutrients because of the increased demand on the body. Magnesium supplementation has been shown to be beneficial for athletes. Studies have found that athletes that supplemented with magnesium were able to perform at higher (relative) intensities for a longer period of time and increased their VO2max (maximum oxygen consumption) during exercise. This effect may have to do with the role magnesium plays in muscle contractions.
Magnesium supplementation has also been shown to combat fatigue. That may be the result of reportedly better sleep with magnesium supplementation, or it could be due to the role magnesium plays in energy production. Regardless, it improves restful sleep and reduces fatigue, and everyone could do with some of that!
Other Benefits of Magnesium Supplementation
- It contributes to a healthy metabolism
- Magnesium contributes to maintenance of healthy teeth and gums (it is necessary for calcium metabolism.). It also contributes to the maintenance of healthy bones. When we exercise we place a large amount of stress on the skeletal system and magnesium has been shown to assist in the repair and maintenance process.
- It contributes to electrolyte balance, which in turn plays a critical role in hydration.
- Magnesium contributes to the normal functioning of the nervous system and has been shown to have a calming effect on the nervous system.
- It aids protein synthesis.
Even if your magnesium levels are normal and your diet provides optimal levels of the mineral, a magnesium supplement will be beneficial to your health and performance. When looking for a magnesium supplement, get one that has no additives.
Aahhh, the old volume and intensity topic. It’s always worth revisiting to remind existing athletes and inform newer athletes of the relationship between the two variables.
Volume in training refers to the total amount of repetitions completed in a session and throughout the day. Intensity, to put it simply, is the amount of work you do relative to the time it takes to do the work. Therefore, intensity has little to do with how hard you think you’re working. You might think that having the RXd load on the bar is harder and therefore more intense, but the maths shows poor power output (intensity) due to less reps completed in the allotted time.
Contrary to much belief, volume is not necessary if the goal is to get fitter. Remember, we define increased fitness as increased work capacity across broad time AND modal domains. That is, improving the capacity of all energy systems, enhancing each of the ten recognised physical traits you see painted up on the gym walls, and being capable of performing well at any imaginable physical task. More volume won’t get you there.
So how do we achieve that sort of fitness? By a healthy daily dose of constantly varied, functional movements applied at high intensity. To state the obvious, volume doesn’t feature anywhere there. Doing more isn’t going to make you fitter.
Volume and subtle variations thereof have their place in programming, especially in the realm of athletes who are training specifically for multi-event, multi-day competitions. But even for these individuals, the extra volume is only going to work if intensity remains high. Intensity is the independent variable most closely associated with favourable adaptations to exercise. Without intensity, therefore, you have poor results. Adding volume, be it within a session or throughout the day, inevitably comes at the cost of intensity.
Let’s consider one of our daily workouts – the daily workout being the entire hour including warm-up, cool-down, skills, strength, and/or conditioning. A metcon is only a piece of the session, not the workout. We typically do one metcon if we the goal of the day is conditioning, and sometimes it comes along with skill or strength work. Think about how you’d perform if we layered on more metcons. Do a 7-minute metcon, rest a bit, and then hit a 10-minute piece before finishing of with another 20 minutes worth of conditioning. If you tried to achieve some sort of intensity, you’d manage that in the first metcon and maybe a bit in the second, but as you proceed you’ll begin to do less work than you might have if you were doing that piece alone.
Your applied effort might still be as high as it was at the beginning of the session, but your true intensity (power output) will naturally diminish as that sort of session progresses. Or you’ll deliberately sacrifice intensity by saying “that’s a lot of work so I’m just going to pace all the way.” Either way, it’s less intensity in favour of volume.
Sure, you’d be working lots so your oxidative energy system will be stimulated, but that’s coming at the expense of time in the anaerobic energy pathways – you’re only increasing work capacity in one time domain. With the added work comes along the need for more recovery too, and let’s not kid ourselves, most of us only have the time to get all our fitness work done in one hour a day so you’ll end up sacrificing good recovery practices in favour of getting more done. And when will you get the opportunity to practice and develop new skills?
Worse yet, more and more work will just take you back to where the fitness community came from – long gym sessions at low intensity with poor results. Hang out in that fat burning zone, bro, skinny fat looks good on you!
More volume for the sake of doing more is not only counterproductive but potentially harmful too. You can however add extra work that is productive. Identify a few weaknesses and drill one of them a day in a focused 15 minute session. This is the best way to refine your skills, and if you take a page from the books of the best athletes in any sport, this is where they spend the bulk of their extra time. Dialling in that foot position, fixing their timing, getting familiar in a new position.
Skills and drills are your biggest bang for buck outside of class time. Now you’ve got to have fun too so play around with stuff we don’t get to in class as often. But if you’ve got ankles as flexible as cold chewing gum and shoulders incapable of properly holding an empty barbell overhead you’re better off on stretching and skills and drills than getting your meathead work done.
Not sure what to do? Pay more attention during class, we cover progressions daily. Even better, book a consult with a coach, consider the UpSkill plan and review it every four. Work harder, not longer. It’s more bang for your buck!“Be Impressed with Intensity, Not Volume.” – Greg Glassman
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