IT STARTS WITH DIET
While this post concludes our most recent Health Challenge, and while the tone rings the same as with past Challenges, it’s better. We’re just smarter, so much more experienced and are able to provide more data that’s pertinent, not just for marketing purposes. While I love to see all the progress pictures of other challenges- its not so cool if the person is starving themselves into a suppressed immune system and resulting conditions.
Most of you know Ed and I do a lot of research, we use the box and all the programs in it to guide the programming and recommendations we make within our community from the Kids Program, to the CrossFit Program to the Legends Program.
Being healthy, overall, should be your main priority in life. Making a good living is great but if you spend all your time outside of work feeling like crap or at the doctor, what’s the use? And that always starts with your diet as a foundation to everything: your training, how you feel, the medical reports you’ll receive from your physicians, and how you look.
Over the years here we have ebbed and flowed in and out of pushing a high level of focus on your diet. Starting in November/December, we start pushing you toward the Open. After the Open we focus on strength, technique and refining movements. Summer/Fall are times for local competitions. But during times we are often lax in pushing our community to remember and educating them that it all begins with a solid nutritional foundation, it’s not that it’s less important, it’s just sometimes overwhelming to ask you every day: “How’s your diet?” – but we most certainly should.
I’ve been pushing our coaches to remember this one thing as it relates to your diet, and it’s the same with your training: one size does not fit all. Everyone is not training for competition. Everyone is not able to push their emotional limits daily. Everyone is not motivated by the same goal or result. Everyone has a different schedule, a different volume of activities and responsibilities each day and a completely different frame of reference in dealing with training and diet based on their age, life experiences, hormones, etc. What works for one coach or one athlete will most definitely not work for everyone, including the approach. Figuring that out and tailoring a plan to fit the needs of the individual is the key to good coaching.
WHAT HAPPENS DURING AND AFTER A CHALLENGE
The most recent challenge was only 21 days. Shy of 30, which is the gold standard in keeping people on track and creating new habits. Working around the holiday is a challenge, hence the 21 days ending right before Thanksgiving.
We started with 64 athletes interested, 54 actually signed up to do the challenge and 39 finished. Not too bad….the change scares some, compliance and doing the work on the logs is a feat, but that’s a 72% completion rate – I’ll take it :). Ages ranged from 27 to 70 years old. Members of both the CrossFit and the Legends Program participated.
10 of those who signed up also signed up for work individually on establishing their macros based on their body composition.
For many, but not all (as it was voluntary), we started with body composition. Quantifying our start. At Rebels, we believe in caliper testing. Why? Several reasons: with someone trained in skinfold testing, you not only get a very accurate reading, but it gives us the ability to perform progress pinches at various sites. You see, each site tested can be tied to a hormone, and as you many know, hormones can be manipulated by your diet. Don’t forget – estrogen and testosterone or hormones! So is cortisol. We have training and education to help you tweak your diet to affect your body composition.
After determining one’s body composition we have a baseline from which to work. We can calculate the athlete’s true caloric needs, and whether years of yo-yo dieting or under-eating have manipulated a normal metabolism, stabilizing it thought a very natural solid diet is quite easy, especially with the support of the group. Our goals are the athletes goals: lose body fat, gain lean muscle mass, feel better, look better, etc.
While results varied based on the goal of the athlete (e.g. one male athlete’s goal was gain muscle and maintain body fat %, while one female’s goal was to lose body fat and maintain or build muscle). Every single person who entered the challenged that was measured made solid, not iffy, progress toward their goal. What this challenge was not was a get thin quick challenge. Participants were often encouraged to eat more based on baseline review of calorie intake prior to the challenge and finding that they were eating under their calories needs for good health.
A few random results from post challenge body composition testing are below. If the athlete’s goal is body fat reduction, our goal is to help them accomplish that without losing lean body mass so they stay strong, fuel their training and lifestyle. To date (at the time of the last pinch), only one male athlete had a small loss in lean body mass.
- male: +3# lean body mass
- male: -10# overall change, -9# body fat and same body composition percentage
- male: -3# overall change, -3# body fat and same body composition percentage
- male: +5# overall change, +1# body fat and +3.5# lean body mass
- female: -6# overall change, -7# body fat +1# lean body mass
- female: -2# overall change, -6# body fat +3#lean body mass
- female: -7# overall change, -8# body fat and +2# lean body mass
It is most often the dreaded topic! However, we try to make it fun, educational and give it a purpose: your life, your health, how you look, feel and perform. BOOM! Daily (almost) during the challenge we posted an education topic that helped the participants build on their current knowledge of why they do what they do. You can find those posts on the RebelHealth Blog Archive.
This challenge produced the following results:
50% of participants stated that the dietary choices during the challenge were very different than what they ate pre-challenge, and 50% stated they were the same. That tells us we have some already healthy eaters which makes us very happy! Also a plus is that we were able to influence half of the group to make healthier choices.
The most common “comment” on the post challenge questionnaire was “I’m eating more and losing body fat”…not to mention having more energy and better performance. 80% of participants noted that they ate more during the challenge than prior to the challenge.
The important of sleep is undeniable related to health. We focused on quantity, which is a great starting point. Several of our athletes noted that sleep quality is an issue still. That will be a topic in future posts and Challenges: sleep hygiene.
66% of challenge participants reported sleeping more and subsequently having more energy than prior to the challenge. 33% reported their sleep quantity was the same as pre-challenge. Additional comments to the sleep focus were: “I felt happier”, “I had more energy for the WODs”, and “making it a priority helped achieve more sleep”.
We upped the ante with hydration this time challenging athlete to consume between 1/2 and 1 gallon of water per day. Results of this were positive!
TRAINING AND MOBILITY
Training and mobility were also large parts of this challenge, but easier to accomplish as their membership to CF Rebels keeps them training. Our goal was enhance diet to fuel training and training goals.
86% of participants partook in the recommended mobility or yoga during the challenge and all reported they felt important in soreness or felt that gained benefit from it. As a result of this we have agreed to keep Tiffany Wimmer of Wimtastic Wellness on as a permanent addition to our program offering Yoga at 7pm every Thursday night. This will be free to members and a $10 fee for visitors, friends, family, etc.
I’ve personally had a real issue with this of late directly related to the amount of unregulated supplementation I believe we’re all being sold. Without a blood test to identify a deficiency, I’d much rather see an athlete try to tweak their diet to achieve the balance they’re seeking versus stock up (and pay for) supplements that a) aren’t regulated and b) can also cause harm as much as good.
Performance supplements on this challenge were stripped away from participants in lieu of eating protein and starch post WOD. When surveyed, participants reported the three things they would add back in for convenience and the ability to achieve their macros more easily: protein powder, carb supplement and BCAA’s.
93% of participants reported more energy going into their WODs, feeling better during their WODs and 71% reported improved recovery while 28% reported recovery remained the same.
Generally, energy levels through the day were reported improved. Differences in participants schedules, work hours, etc. play a roll in accurately quantifying this.
Participants all had individual goal and when asked if they achieved them, all replied yes! A summary of this goals were:
- Nutrition education
- Finding excitement about nutrition
- Improved sleep
- Improved strength
- Gain weight (muscle)
- Lose body fat
- Perform better
- Eat better
- Feel better
- Have more energy
- Understand macros
- Look better
- Don’t crash and burn in this challenge
- Beat my friends in a WOD (lol!)
- …one participate reported improved poop, and while not an original goal was thankful for that result.
A few noteworthy comments from the challenge that reflect the diversity we were able to bring to this group:
- Appreciated the structured help
- Needed the accountability
- I don’t depend on coffee any longer
- The FB group really helped.
- I feel more energetic and alive. I feel, as an older individual, that I have a future of fitness and wellness.
- I did not think I could I’ve without sugar and dairy
- Beyond amazing. Thank you!
- Add a macro calculation to the body fat report. (This was great feedback and we will do this!)
- Energy levels are greater and can do more, tackle bigger jobs physically and mentally (68 y/o participant)
- Never used to sweat; now I sweat and feel like circulation is better.
Just like with our WODs, we need motivation…competition. We have a winner in this challenge. Congratulations to Cassie F! She earned the most points during the challenge. She is one of our masters athletes who plans on competing in this year’s CF Games Open and hopes the improved diet will give her the edge to do what she needs to do. Cassie will be awarded the kitchen gadget of the year: an Instant, plus a new cutting board, set of knives and few healthy cookbooks that are my favorites! Congrats Cassie! We’re so proud!
AFTER THE CHALLENGE
Once you can quantify what you need to eat to achieve body composition or performance goals, and then make that make sense in choosing high quality, low inflammatory food choices, continuing your plan is pretty easy. We maintain our FB group for support and many of the participants have committed (or I’ve threatened them – LOL!) that I’m going to retest them (calipers) before Christmas to ensure they’re staying on track. Accountability is key!
Accomplishing a comprehensive, individualized challenge like this is a feat! The help of Coaches Nicole, Phil, Jaida and Jenn was a great asset to dealing with the volume of participants without sacrificing quality of review, content and outcome! Congratulations to everyone who finished. Truly great results!