HOW MUCH TO EAT
Keep intake (i.e., food consumption) to levels that support exercise, but not body fat. Food is fuel and you should eat how much you need to thrive athletically, but no more.
How? While overall calories do matter, it is more important to track the specific quantity of micronutrients in one’s diet. A macronutrient just means the significant sources of calories to the diet; there are three: protein, carbohydrate, and fat.
It is useful to classify food choices as one of these macronutrients, which is determined by where the majority of its calories are coming from. For example, meat would be a protein source (even though there is also fat in it), fruit and vegetables would be carbohydrate sources (even though there are protein grams in it), and nuts would be a fat source (even though there are carbohydrate and protein grams in it).
For the typical athlete at CrossFit Roots, adopting a relative balance of these macronutrients in the diet is a prudent approach. This approximates a “40/30/30” diet, where 40% of the calories in the diet come from carbohydrate, 30% from fat, and 30% from protein.
While it is common practice within the community to precisely track one’s macronutrient intake (particularly to optimize performance and/or body composition), we recommend the first step of making a conscious effort to eat macronutrient-balanced meals without weighing and measuring every item. This ends up being a plate that looks like this:
- A protein source about the size of the palm of one’s hand (chicken, fish, beef, etc.)
- As many leafy greens or low-carb veggies as you want (negligible carbs)
- A piece of fruit and/or starchy vegetable (about two cups worth)
- About a thumb-size amount of added fat (olive oil on greens or for cooking, few nuts, etc.)
Most people will need 3-5 meals like this per day, typically ranging from 3 meals for a smaller female to 5 meals for a larger male. Larger females/smaller males may end up being 4 plates. Of course, these are massive generalizations but are good starting point estimates.
Here are some resources for food ideas:
Ready to give this thing a try? It doesn’t have to be that complicated, but like many things in life, the key to success is being prepared.
Step 1: Make a meal plan. Count the number of meals you will need for the week and shop based on creating that number of meals. For example, if you always eat breakfast at home and eat out for lunch and dinner 1-2 times a week, you would need:
- Breakfasts – 7
- Lunches – 6
- Dinners – 5
Step 2: Select a meal for both lunches and breakfasts that you will eat for the week and a couple different dinner options. Create a grocery list for all the meals. Buy all your groceries for the week, as well as some extra fruit, veggies (& guacamole for dipping!), and nuts to have on hand for snacks. It may sound boring to eat the same thing for breakfast and lunch, but no one ever thinks eating cereal for breakfast everyday is boring. You can change that meal on a weekly basis for variety.
Step 3: Prepare any of your on-the-go meals ahead of time. Invest in Tupperware if you will be transporting food. Wash and prep any fruits and veggies for snacks. Making good decisions is easy when they are readily available.
Step 4: Stick to it. The first days are “hard.” From not knowing how to order foods at restaurants, to thinking you’re hungry, to thinking the food is “boring”, there are many reasons you can come up with to fail. Stay the course. Your body has been eating one way for a very long time; it will take a solid month to adjust. Very few people can jump from the Standard American Diet to a perfect whole food diet in measured quantities right away. It happens in steps…3 steps forward, sometimes 2 steps back. Think of it as “the journey.” About twice a year, CrossFit Roots puts on a Food Challenge. These challenges span anywhere from 4-8 weeks. The aim is to provide motivation and support to help people continue to make better diet choices.