As CrossFitters, our favorite time of the year is nearly upon us, The Open. This is what we all look forward to all year, a chance to track our progress from last year or stack ourselves up against your friends for 5 weeks. This is the time each year people start to get a little frantic about their current state as far as performance goes, and if they truly put in the work over the year to actually improve.
“Am I as fit as last year? Have I gotten strong enough to lift the weights required? Have my gymnastics skills improved to push me deeper into workouts?”
Now I don’t like to put any negative thoughts in your head, but I know everyone reading this has had these thoughts at some point. This blog isn’t about what you did or didn’t do leading up to this point. This blog is to inform you what you NEED to be doing in order to continue to perform at your peak the whole 5 weeks AND prove you did improve from last year.
I can’t tell you how many times I hear this throughout the year (believe me, I’ve said it myself!), but even more as we hit this point in the year:
“I need to lose weight, so I can do the gymnastics better.”
How many of you have said this? Don’t be shy! Hey my hand is in the air too. Hell I just told my coach that last week that I’d like to be down some weight before the open. Just know there is a time and place, and depending on your current food intake, it can be done PROPERLY, but I’m assuming you guys aren’t on a Periodized schedule that has set you up to peak performance and weight by Feb 22nd.
So real quick – let’s take a step back and understand the PHYSIOLOGY behind “losing weight” or “cutting”. I’m going to paint a few pictures here and then lets puts the puzzle pieces together and the facts will speak for themselves.
The only proper way to shed weight without doing it in an UNHEALTHY fashion (supplements/starvation/cleanes/etc.) is by living in a MONITORED caloric deficit. AKA take the amount of food you are currently eating, then and take some away. Remember, this isn’t something that should happen rapidly in the first place. Cutting weight should be done intelligently to reduce the negative effects on hormones, lifestyle, and many other factors.
The only TRUE way to perform at your peak and to recover and continue to perform is to FUEL ACCORDINGLY and sometimes even OVERFUEL to make sure you’re adequately recovering for the next task. As we know, the most used energy source in CrossFit is carbohydrate, and nervous system recovery STARTS with carbs and is continued with proper carb application (along with proteins and fats). (See the prior blog about post workout carbs for deeper info.)
To add to this, recovery is also stimulated greatly by STRESS REDUCTION methods. Things such as relaxation breathing, yoga, adult coloring books, aka doing SOMETHING that clears your mind and makes you feel more centered. (I have an upcoming about blog that talks about stress reduction tactics/science.)
So, as we are approaching the MOST INTENSE time of the year, where you will be performing workouts to your max potential (and maybe even twice if you are really diving in), where performance and recovery are your #1 priority, WHY ON EARTH WOULD YOU REMOVE FOOD?! To lose a few pounds?! Sure, great! Congratulations, you lost 2 pounds and probably felt like shit and didn’t do that much better on the workout as you could have being fueled properly. However, what you DID just do is potentially damage your metabolism and nervous system to a point where the rest of your open is compromised, and potentially even after that.
The ramifications of this are really laid out in a previous blog concerning recovery post workout, but I will briefly go into them just as a refresher. We have these pretty cool things called HORMONES that control just about everything in your body. Energy, fat loss, libido, mental clarity, performance, the list goes on.
So, when you are beating yourself into the ground over and over and NOT refueling and recovering, what do you think allows you to keep coming back to the gym?
That’s right, HORMONES. Sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but these are not INFINITE. And once you damage them, it is very difficult to get them back, and it isn’t happening within the 5 weeks of the open! I’m sure most of you live with the effects of low hormones daily, don’t add to the fire and make it worse!
Ok, back on topic….
Don’t get me wrong, the first week you may get away with it, ONLY if your hormone profile is healthy and stacked. In this case, still eating your poverty macros trying to cut you won’t see much recovery, and you may hit a cortisol high to make it through one week. After the 2nd week, I can CONFIDENTLY say your performance will tank, you will feel like shit, and potentially cause IRREVERSABLE damage to your nervous system. Sound fun? That’s like the best case scenario
But what is MORE LIKELY what will happen is this:
For the majority of people, their hormone profile is already messed up from improper diet/sleep/stress/over training. SO, now we take an individual who has cut food for weight, pushes themselves to a maximum state, uses ALL of their cortisol storage, has zero recovery, and then repeats the workout next week or even 3 days later. Each workout digging deeper into their nervous system and not recovering. By the end of the open, they are so far gone their current state of “fitness” is at risk to NEVER be able to reach that level again, and their current health state is now a concern.
Not trying to scare you, just trying to educate you that there is a time/place for cutting and decreasing food, and right now if performance is a goal, now is 100% NOT the right time.
So here is the hard truth:
Who you are as an athlete RIGHT NOW, is most likely the athlete you will be in 4 weeks. Your body weight, your strength, your skills, conditioning, etc. Now, don’t get me wrong there is still some time to peak all of these things, but realistically you aren’t going to see any real drastic changes by the first week of the open.
So, as far as your fueling priorities are concerned, you should NOT be concerned about your body weight during the open. As my man Jason Phillips says, “Your physiology doesn’t give a shit about your abs.”
What you SHOULD be prioritizing is “performance and recovery”. Probably more specifically recovery, as if you are not recovering, you won’t be performing for much longer. This for most is a pretty simple shift, as we know Lactate based sports are primarily fueled by carbs, and recovery is predominantly stimulated by carbs. So, do the math, MORE CARBS. To keep overall calories similar and not see a spike in weight you can play with fats/proteins, introducing reefed days, but those are really conversations we can have when you hire us at your nutrition coach…
PLEASE, this doesn’t mean go out and eat every carb in sight thinking you are properly fueling yourself for the open. OVERSATURATION of glucose can have a negative effect itself. But once again that’s a topic for another day, or when you hire us as your nutrition coach…
So, let’s recap:
1) The open is the most stimulating/intense time of the year
2) lowering food for “performance” purposes is doing yourself a dis-service, and ultimately putting your health at risk
3) Fueling for RECOVERY and PERFORMANCE is what moves you forward and allows you to crush it for 5 weeks, not just 1 week
So, if you are worried about being TOO HEAVY to do gymnastics, being lighter and UNFUELED will just make you worse. I would confidently say that if you fueled properly and gained a few lbs, you would actually PERFORM BETTER.
If you don’t believe me, give me a call, I would love to have a conversation and see if we can’t get you performing better.