5 Sports Nutrition Myths Busted

Sports nutrition – also called eating for performance – is a topic near and dear to my heart. As a competitive Olympic weightlifter, coach, and holistic nutritionist, I frequently work with athletes to tweak their food to fit a real food template.

5 Nutrition Myths Busted | StephGaudreau.com Sometimes, to boost performance, it may be beneficial to get a bit more specific with your nutrition according to a plan. It’s not for everyone, but if you have specific performance goals, it can help you to dial things in.

To prepare for some big weightlifting meets in the last two years, I’ve gone through two different 12-week programs. (Even coaches need coaches.) By far, my favorite of the two and the one I recommend to fellow athletes is Renaissance Periodization (RP). (Use my code to save 10%: steph10.)

Here’s why I like it as a short-term strategy:

I was able to fully customize it to the foods that worked best with my body (ex: I used coconut water for my during-workout carbs), and I never had to log my food.

Today, I’ve invited RP owner Nick Shaw on the blog to dispel some common sports nutrition myths for you. These are things that we hear all the time when it comes to eating for performance.

Take it away, Nick!

Sports Nutrition Myth #1: You have to log macros in MFP (My Fitness Pal) to lose body fat.

Absolutely a myth!!

I have never once used MFP in my entire life and have been able to do many successful cut phases. MFP is a great tool that helps a lot of folks, but we actually designed our templates to NOT need MFP. (To save 10% on RP templates use the code steph10). You can know that certain foods will have trace amounts of “crossover calories” – ex: the amount of protein in say beans or nuts – and when you take the averages of most food sources you can get a pretty good idea of where those numbers will fall.

Ultimately, you want cutting or massing to be easy and sustainable in the long run – with dedicated phases of NOT dieting in there of course. Having to log every single meal and every single thing you eat into an app can really become a burden for a lot of folks. If you can take that out of the equation and reduce the math and time spent thinking about cutting or massing, chances are that will help make it easier for folks out there.

Simple = easy. Easy = greater chances of diet consistency. Consistency = better results. Better results = more likely to transition into a lifestyle, not just a one-time diet. 

Sports Nutrition Myth #2: You can’t get leaner and perform well at the same time.

Absolutely a myth!

I’ve worked with and seen literally thousands of clients that are able to lose weight/fat and see strength improvements. A good way to help busy this myth is to lose weight at a slow and steady rate – think 1-2 lbs/week for most people or maybe 1% of their weight per week.

You also have to set limits on the amount of time spent cutting, think 12 weeks or so, tops. After that you may see diminishing returns in the amount of calories you have to pull out to see further weight loss vs. performance dropping. You can also help this by NOT cutting carbs first in a diet. Keeping carbs up longer over the course of a plan should help most folks sustain – or improve – performance while in a hypocaloric state. 

It should also be noted that the more new you are to diet and/or training, your chances of seeing PRs while cutting goes up as well. 

Sports Nutrition Myth #3: You need several hundred grams of carbs a day for performance.

Very likely a myth.

Certainly having more carbs in your diet will help you perform better, but there will certainly be cases where outliers can and will occur. The first example that would jump out to me would be a very small female athlete – think a 48kg lifter – that might only weigh 100 pounds or so. If she’s having about 1 g carbs/lb of bodyweight on a lower volume training day, she could be eating 100g (roughly) worth of carbs and could still easily hit PRs. That’s a lot different than several hundred grams! I’m sure there are also examples of some athletes using keto – higher fat/protein while keeping calories up – that could also see performance increases due to calories being such a powerful overall tool. 

[Steph’s note: I asked Nick to address this myth because I hear it a lot from the endurance community where carb-loading and carb-heavy diets still persist. The 48kg athlete likely does not need 300+ grams of carbs a day to perform well.]

Sports Nutrition Myth #4: If you cheated on your diet and the next day, you gained weight…you added fat.

TOTAL myth!! 🙂

When you “cheat” on your diet, chances are you’re eating delicious foods filled with lots of carbs/fats and sodium. All of these things can cause water retention. Unless you’re eating thousands of calories in your cheat meal, chances are you are not gaining actual tissue and your body is just holding onto water for a variety of reasons. Chances are if you track your bodyweight after having a cheat meal, you’ll see a spike in weight for a day or two and then it comes RIGHT back on down so long as you get back on track. 

Sports Nutrition Myth #5: For performance, it doesn’t matter when you eat, as long as you get enough calories.

This is somewhat true and not necessarily a myth. Having said that, it’s important to note that nailing your calories and overall macros for the day is by far the biggest piece of the puzzle to nutrition, it’s not the ENTIRE puzzle and leaves a little bit missing. The more advanced you get in athletics, the bigger role nutrient timing can have and thus timing your food intake around training, practices, etc can yield even better outcomes. If you have longer workouts (think over 1-2 hours) or have multiple workouts a day, the role of timing your food around training goes up even more.

In Conclusion

Thanks again Nick for addressing these common sports nutrition myths! If you’re curious about using RP’s templates for your performance, head over to Renaissance Periodization and use my code to save 10%: steph10.

I truly believe that making long-term change that sticks depends on customizing a real food template to your context, aka the You Diet.

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5 Nutrition Myths Busted | StephGaudreau.com

CrossFit Competition Nutrition Tips

CrossFit competition nutrition can make or break your performance.

CrossFit Competition Nutrition Tips | StephGaudreau.com

I remember the first time I rocked up to a multi-event competition with a confident plan for what to eat before, during, and after. It was the 2011 Left Coast Invitational, and I arrived with my little cooler and upcycled Lululemon bag full of foodstuffs. At first, I felt kind of silly, but when I felt fueled and energetic throughout that very hot and sweaty July day, it was worth it.

The foundations of good nutrition for athletes and competitors is something I’ve written about a lot – in two best-selling books and in a myriad of articles all over the internet.

You’ve got to consider some special circumstances and make adjustments to your normal routine if you want to avoid bonking, bloating, and other performance-killers.

While the strategies here are aimed CrossFit-style competitions, the general rules can be applied to most performance-based sports.

Keep in mind that these are basics, and your biochemistry or the demands of your sport (ex: weigh-ins for weightlifting) may require adjustments.

CrossFit Competition Nutrition Rules of Thumb

Don’t carb load.

There’s no need to carb-load the day before your competition. If you’ve done some light training or taken the day off, you should be pretty well topped up energy-wise. This also assumes that on a regular basis, you’re eating a post-workout of protein and carbs after hard training sessions, so you’re adequately recovered going into your competition.

Stuffing yourself with carbs the day before only floods your bloodstream with sugar, which causes your insulin to spike and means your body has to store that excess somewhere. Since you’re smart and you regularly refuel after workouts, your muscle will already be topped up with glycogen.

Think of your muscle glycogen storage capacity like a gas tank. If you try to put more gas in your tank, the tank itself doesn’t get bigger to accommodate; the gas overflows.

Significantly bumping up your carb intake can also cause some water retention, leaving you feeling bloated and heavy.

Eat normal meals the day before your CrossFit competition.

(Need some help understanding how to structure meals on normal training days? Click here.)

Stay hydrated.

This one would seem obvious, but it’s amazing to me how many athletes overlook hydration in their CrossFit competition day plans.

Even slight dehydration can significantly ding your performance and impact things like decision-making and mental clarity. Of course, hydration doesn’t just start the morning of your competition, so you’ll want to be mindful of what you drink in the days leading up to your event.

How much water does one need? There’s no one exact formula, and the guideline of half your bodyweight in ounces per day is just that, a basic guide.

You may need more  – or sometimes less – depending on your body chemistry, how sweaty you are, the amount of veggies and fruit you eat, the weather, intensity of your workouts, and so on.

Since CrossFit competitions don’t require athletes to make a weight class, there shouldn’t be a concern with staying well hydrated leading up to the event. (Stay tuned for another post about weight-dependent sports like Olympic weightlifting, powerlifting, etc.)

Even amongst athletes who do consume enough fluid, electrolytes are often lacking. Click To Tweet

If you’re constantly drinking water and your urine is very light yellow or nearly clear, your tissues may still not be well hydrated.

Including electrolytes in your water means you’ll retain enough water to stay hydrated and preserve muscle function instead of just running to the bathroom every 45 minutes to pee.

Do you suffer from muscle cramps, particularly during strenuous efforts? It could be a sign of low electrolyte levels.

My favorite electrolyte replacement is Elete, but you can find tablets like Nuun or even salt tablets in most retail sports stores.

Another good option: coconut water plus a couple pinches of sea salt. Why the salt? Despite its rich potassium content, coconut water is pretty darn low in sodium.

Between events, sip on water with some electrolytes added. Don’t gorge yourself with water since your stomach tends to empty slower during intense periods of exercise which can make you bloated and uncomfortable.

Eat a full breakfast.

This one’s important since pre-competition nerves can make people feel like not eating, but performance tends to suffer on a quick breakfast of protein shakes, coffee, or worse, nothing at all.

While I’m not a fan of skipping sleep to eat breakfast, on CrossFit competition day, you may be better off getting up a bit earlier than usual to make sure you get a meal in you.

Most competitions will have at least two workouts – three or more being typical – and generally, everything kicks off in the morning. That may mean waking up early to drive there. If so, think about prepping breakfast the night before.

Eat something you're familiar with for breakfast that's easy to digest on competition day. Click To Tweet

Stay away from anything with a ton of fiber – not the time to be chowing on a breakfast salad – and be sure you’re eating something with protein, carbs, and fat. Examples might be a few eggs with bacon and sweet potato hash, oatmeal with coconut milk or chopped nuts and some fruit, etc.

Of course, you’ll want to plan for 2 to 3 hours of lead time to allow your breakfast to digest, so plan accordingly.

Focus on protein and carbs during the event.

Okay this is the big one for CrossFit competition nutrition.

Since most competitions are typically multi-event / multi-workout with breaks in between heats, you’ll want something to eat between those events.

This is where planning – or lack of it – can make or break the performance.

First common mistake: Eating or drinking something that came in your swag bag, mooching off a friend’s food, etc.

Never eat or drink something on competition day you haven't tested in training. Click To Tweet

It may contain an ingredient that upsets your stomach, leaving you running for the bathroom or bloating your belly.

Second common mistake: Timing nutrients wrong.

Fatty meats, slow-digesting foods, casein-based protein powders, and big doses of fat all take longer to digest than is appropriate on competition day.

Why? Fats slow down the emptying of your stomach. If you’re between events or heats and you’ve got a little recovery time, you want that nutrition to go to your muscle as fast as possible. Skip the fatty foods between events.

Certain protein powder, like casein, also digest more slowly. Time is of the essence, so choose a protein powder that’s whey- or egg-white based instead. If you want to eat something instead, opt for egg whites, lean meats, etc.

Protein examples:

  • Whey protein powder
  • Lean meat
  • Egg whites
  • Recovery-type protein powder (typically a whey + carb mix)
  • Protein bar with little fat

Between events, eat or drink proteins and carbs that are easy to digest.

For carbs, stick to something with a high glucose content. Why? Glucose replenishes muscle glycogen most directly.

If you want to drink something, stick to things like coconut water or a fruit juice like pineapple which is high in glucose. You can also mix that into your protein powder.

Other ideas to mix into a drink: Vitargo, dextrose, or a recovery protein powder. If you opt for the recovery protein powder, just check the ratio of carbs to protein. You want something close to 2:1 carbs:protein. If it’s far off from that, adjust by adding carbs.

Prefer something more solid? Try baby food squeeze packets (look for ones with pureed sweet potato or banana as a main ingredient), white rice, or plantain paired with a little bit of lean protein like chicken breast or egg white. Or, have a few bites of your favorite protein bar.

Carb examples:

  • Coconut water
  • Fruit juice (ex: pineapple)
  • Vitargo
  • Dextrose
  • Recovery-type protein powder (typically a whey + carb mix)
  • Baby food fruit packets
  • White rice
  • Potato

Avoid eating tons of fiber between events.

Don’t count on competition coordinators to have food vendors; some don’t, and you might be left with no options if you don’t pack your own stuff. Bring a cooler!

After your workouts, let your body calm down a little before trying to force food or drink while you’re still breathing hard, sweating, etc. Your body will still be in a sympathetic state and not super receptive to food anyway.

When the competition is over, you may want to do a simple post-workout recovery shake or eat some easy-to-digest protein plus carbs. Once the next meal time rolls around, eat normally and perhaps add a bit more carbohydrate than you might otherwise.

Summing Up These CrossFit Competition Nutrition Tips

  • Eat normally leading up to your CrossFit competition.
  • Pay attention to hydration ahead of time, and consider adding an electrolyte replacement.
  • Have breakfast the morning of the competition.
  • Between events, eat or drink easy-to-digest protein and carbs. Avoid fats.
  • After your competition, have a post-workout meal / snack. Then, eat the next full meal that comes after.

It’s my hope that by paying attention to these basic CrossFit competition nutrition tips, you’ll avoid common pitfalls and perform your best!

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CrossFit Competition Nutrition Tips | StephGaudreau.com

Questions or comments about these basic CrossFit competition nutrition tips? Leave them in the comments below.

Photos courtesy of Claudette Wilkins

3 Ways to Flip the Fitness Industry the Bird

It’s about damn time that you flip the fitness industry the bird, and I’m giving you three strategies for doing it.

3 Ways to Flip the Fitness Industry the Bird | StephGaudreau.com

This post started as a little Insta-rant, and has blossomed into a bit of a manifesto, but I digress. Let’s start at the beginning.

Words matter.

Yeah, actions do matter, but words are powerful and they are streaming past your eyes and into your mind every single second of the day.

Just stop for a second and think about the words bombarding you on an average day from the health and fitness marketing space:

  • Skinny _____ (insert recipe name here)
  • Detox diets
  • Cleanses (because you must be dirty)
  • How to “control” cravings
  • Shrink your _____ (insert body part here)
  • Quick fixes
  • Slim down (because size, and not quality of life / health is most important)
  • No pain, no gain

I could go on, but you get the point.

These messages – and a majority of what’s directed at us as women – are crafted from a place of fear.

Fear that we aren’t enough, we’re broken, and there’s something wrong with us.

The illusion is that if we could just fix the parts we don’t like, we’ll be happy. (Spoiler: If you finally manage to lose those ten pounds, you won’t magically find happiness.)

Everything marketed to you is done in a way that causes you to act out of fear:

Fear of failure.

Fear of rejection.

Fear of isolation.

Women have been bullied, intimidated, and shamed into trying to fix their bodies for years. Click To Tweet

Since I’m not one who just likes to complain about what’s wrong, I’m offering you up three strategies for being a more conscious consumer of media and the messages these industries are feeding you.

3 Ways to Flip the Fitness Industry the Bird

1) Be present.

This one sounds so simple, but it’s not easy. The key is to develop awareness about the messages you actively and passively consume.

Even if you do this for just one day, you’ll be shocked – and appalled – with what’s marketed your way by the fitness industry.

How often does the language of dieting and minimizing and “you-aren’t-enough-ness” come your way?

These industries exist on the premise of psychological manipulation and subliminal messages that, unfortunately, make their way into your subconscious mind without you even realizing it. I first learned about these trance states my friend, hypnotherapist Chel Hamilton, and it’s the way everything from casinos to TV commercials work.

The first step is to simply be aware and awake. Are these messages motivating you from a place of fear or a place of love?

 2) Opt out.

Once you’ve developed some awareness, it’s time to do something about it and opt OUT.

I can’t recommend this one enough: Get rid of cable and stop watching TV.

Shocking? (Maybe.)

Impossible? (No.)

In 2007, I got rid of my cable subscription and my TV.

Yes, I still watch programs and documentaries –  recently we invested in an LCD projector and a Netflix subscription – but I’m seeing nowhere near the advertisements that I was via mainstream networks.

Now that I’ve been desensitized to it, whenever I go visit my parents and the TV is running, I cannot believe the shit that I see. It horrifies me.

Not ready to bring your boob tube to the local thrift shop?

Start opting out of email newsletters and unfollowing accounts on social media that aren’t serving you. Stop buying fitness & diet magazines.

Take a cue from the recent #UnfollowFriday movement, and make some changes. Are there accounts and personalities online that make you feel less than? Get rid of them.

3) Find your people.

Once you’ve done the step above, it’s time to get really keyed in to the people and brands that are helping you in a positive way.

Be judicious with who you follow in the fitness industry. Click To Tweet

Do they motivate you from a place of genuine self-love?

There are lots of voices who are doing it right.

Creating an online support network matters, but even more important than that, find people in real life that share your core values.

The internet is both a wonderful and a terrible thing: It connects us across distances – hello, I met my husband on Twitter (true story) – but it allows us to wallow behind a screen, desperately unable to find real human connection.

Your act of meeting a friend for coffee or joining a local running group is exactly the thing the diet and fitness industry don’t want. It’s through time spent in person with people that lift you up, when you truly disconnect from the messages that marketers bombard you with, that you strengthen your core values and resolve from a place of love instead of a place of fear.

To Summarize…

The fitness industry (and let’s be honest, the diet industry too) operates on the premise of fear and manipulation to keep you stuck in the endless cycle of spending.

Exit the loop by first becoming aware.

Then, opt out of what isn’t serving you.

Finally, develop stronger connections – online but more importantly, in person– with people, groups, and brands that resonate with your core values.

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