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Nutrition 101

The point of last week’s article was that what you do outside the gym is even more important than what you do inside. This includes nutrition and recovery. Nutrition is a HUGE topic, and a small series of blog posts could never cover everything. There are general rules, and exceptions to every rule. The bottom line when it comes to nutrition is that everyone is different, and it must be taken on a case by case basis. In order to find what works best for you, you need to have an understanding of basic nutrition. This article is the first step in getting there. It covers basic terms, descriptions of the macronutrients, and so on. I hope you find it helpful, especially as a reference for future articles talking about nutritional strategies.

calorie (lower case c):

What is it?

  • A calorie is a unit of energy. More precisely, it represents the energy required to raise the temperature of one gram of water by one degree Celsius at a pressure of one atmosphere.

Why do I need it?

  • See “Calorie”

Where do I get it?

  • See “Calorie”

How much do I need?

  • See “Calorie”

Calorie (capital C):


What is it?

  • Also called a Kilocalorie (kcal), these are the Calories referred to on Nutrition Fact labels
  • 1 Calorie is equal to 1000 calories
  • Like a calorie, a kcal is a unit of energy – specifically, the energy found in your food.

Why do I need it?

  • You need Calories to survive. Our bodies burn Calories to fuel all cellular functions that keep us alive.

Where do I get it?

  • Calories are found in all food

How much do I need?

  • This depends on your goals. For weight loss, you need to be in a caloric deficit. For weight gain, you need to be in a caloric surplus. To maintain, you need enough Calories to sustain your current bodyweight.
    • Caloric deficit – consuming fewer calories than you burn. This is necessary for weight loss.
    • Caloric surplus – consuming more calories than you burn. This is necessary for weight gain.


  • A measurement of mass, including lean body mass and fat mass
    • Geek speak: theforce that gravitation exerts upon a body, equal to themass of the body times the local acceleration of gravity:

Lean Body Mass

  • Mass including bone, body water, muscle mass, and organ mass

Fat Mass

  • Mass including adipose tissue (body fat) and intra-tissue fat deposits

Body Composition

  • Ratio of fat mass or lean body mass to total weight (e.g. 15% body fat)


What is it?

  • A type of nutrient (e.g., fat, protein, carbohydrate) required in large amounts in the human diet for survival

Why do I need it?

  • Each macronutrient has a specific purpose in the human body. See each section below for more information

Where do I get it?

  • All food is comprised of macronutrients
    • 1g protein = 4 Calories
    • 1g carbohydrates = 4 Calories
    • 1g fat = 9 Calories

How much do I need?

  • A basic diet should be comprised of 40% carbohydrates, 30% protein, and 30% fat. These percentages change based on activity level, type of activity, and specific goals, but they represent a good starting point.



What is it?

  • Protein is a macronutrient comprised of long chains of amino acids
    • Geek speak: an amino acid is a simple organic compound containing both a carboxyl (—COOH) and an amino (—NH2) group

Why do I need it?

  • Build muscle
  • Burn fat
  • Boost recovery and immune health
  • Make peptide hormones (e.g. HGH, insulin, etc.)
  • Improve digestion

Where do I get it?

  • Lean red meat such as beef, pork, wild game
  • Poultry such as chicken or turkey
  • Fish & seafood such as shrimp, scallops, salmon
  • Eggs & egg whites
  • Cottage cheese or Greek yogurt
  • Plant proteins such as lentils, beans, tempeh, and tofu
  • Protein powder such as whey, casein, egg, vegetarian blends, etc.


How much do I need?

  • Somewhere between 1 gram per pound of lean body mass, and 1 gram per pound of total weight (~.75g per lb of total bodyweight is a good starting point) depending on goals.


What is it?

  • Any of a large group of organic compounds occurring in foods and living tissues and including sugars, starch, and cellulose.
    • Geek speak: a biological molecule consisting of carbon (C), hydrogen (H) and oxygen (O) atoms, usually with a hydrogen–oxygen atom ratio of 2:1

Why do I need it?

  • Maintain low stress hormones (cortisol)
  • Ensure healthy thyroid function
  • Keep sex hormones healthy (testosterone and estrogen)
  • Build/maintain muscle
  • Preserve high intensity performance
  • Sleep well and recover more efficiently

Where do I get it?

  • Good carbs are minimally processed, have lots of vitamins and minerals, and digest slowly
  • Fruit
  • Starchy tubers (potatoes, sweet potatoes, yams, yucca, etc.)
  • Less processed whole grains (barley, buckwheat, brown/wild rice, oats, quinoa, whole wheat, etc.)
  • Beans, lentils, and legumes


How much do I need?

  • Enough to fuel performance and goals
    • Anywhere from 1-1.5 times as much protein, depending on fat loss/muscle gain goals


What is it?

  • Anyof several white or yellowish greasy substances, forming the chiefpart of adipose tissue of animals and also occurring in plants
    • Geek speak: also called a triglyceride, a fat molecule is comprised of 3 fatty acids and a glycerol. Fats can be saturated or unsaturated depending on the number of double bonds in the molecule between carbon atoms

Why do I need it?

  • Burn body fat and build muscle (FAT DOES NOT MAKE YOU FAT)
  • Ensure proper cellular function (in skin, brain, and organs)
  • Build a strong immune system
  • Absorb fat soluble nutrients (including vitamins A, D, E &K)
  • Provide satiety between meals

Where do I get it?

  • Healthy fats are naturally occurring and minimally processed
  • Nuts, seeds, avocados, pressed or ground nuts (butters)
  • Also in egg yolks and fish/red meat


How much do I need?

  • After determining protein and carb intake, enough fat is needed to hit your caloric goal

Our Golden Ratio

Our Golden Ratio

Hi everyone, I’ve been incredibly delinquent in my writing lately, and for that I apologize. I’m getting back on track with this article.

Anyone who knows me knows that I’m a little bit of math nerd. Using math to solve problems is fun for me, as is pattern recognition. Theoretical math is also really interesting. Take, for instance, the Golden Ratio (also called the Divine Proportion). This ratio is achieved when (a+b)/a is equal to a/b, and is denoted by the symbol φ. It is a ratio found a lot in nature – it gives snail shells their spiral pattern, and it can be found in the ratio of smaller to larger branches in a number of trees.


Leonardo Da Vinci used this ratio when drawing his Vitruvian Man, and our own ideas of what makes someone physically attractive have a lot to do with how their bone structure and facial proportions fit this ratio. There’s a lot more that I could talk about with the Golden Ratio, but hopefully you get the idea.


When it comes to CrossFit, and training in general, we have our own Golden Ratio. This ratio is 23/1. CrossFit classes last 1 hour, which leaves another 23 hours in the day. What we do in those other 23 hours greatly impacts our 1 hour in the gym, and our fitness and health in general. This includes our sleeping habits, eating and drinking habits, mobility work, and activity level outside the gym.

If you’re not regularly sleeping 7-8 hours a night, it’s going to be harder for you to recover from a tough hour in the gym. This will make subsequent workouts less productive. Furthermore, this can add to your overall stress. Training is a stress on the body, and too much stress can drain you. The body doesn’t distinguish whether the stress is good or bad; all it sees is the cumulative amount.  Some is good, it causes you to adapt. Too much is bad.


I’m sure everyone has heard the saying “you can’t out-train a bad diet.” This is true for the most part. If you’re eating highly processed foods, you’re not going to recover as well from a hard workout. To make things worse, you won’t have the right fuel to help your body perform at its optimal level during your next workout. This means that your training is going to be less effective. Finally, if you’re trying to lose weight, you’re going to have a much harder time if you’re not watching your diet (more on this in future articles).

As far as mobility is concerned, foam rolling and dynamic stretching before a workout are great steps, but they’re only going to get you so far. If you have serious mobility problems, such as an inability to lock your arms straight out overhead or hit full depth in a squat, a simple pre workout routine isn’t going to be enough. If you don’t take some time outside the gym to work on these issues, you won’t be able to correct your problems.

Finally, if you’re very active outside the gym, it could have an impact on what you do inside the gym. If you play in a recreational sports league and constantly get hurt playing games, it’s going to keep you from working out while you heal. If you have a job that requires a lot of manual labor, or if you’re busy with kids all day, it’s going to be harder for you to muster the energy to work out. While most of these things can’t be avoided, it’s important to be aware of the impact that they have. Always keep our golden ratio in mind. I’ll be expanding on nutrition and mobility in future posts, but that’s all for now.

Programming: Strength Bias


Part 2: Strength Bias

In last week’s article, we talked about the basic structure of the programming. If you look at the 6 day microcycle rotation, you’ll notice that we spend 4 out of 6 days working on our lifts. On one of the remaining days, we work on our strength through bodyweight movements, either weighted, or for reps. This means that we spend roughly 83% of our days doing some kind of strength work. As discussed last week, the focus of CrossFit is to build proficiency in all 10 general physical skills. If this is the case, why do we spend so much time focusing on strength? Well, there are a number of reasons for it, but the biggest reason is that I believe that strength is the most important of the 10. Before anyone starts protesting, think back to the last WOD you had to scale. Did you scale the reps, the range of motion, or the weight? My guess is that for 90% of you, you scale WODs because the weight is too heavy. When it comes to CrossFit Metcons, having a greater strength base is incredibly important. In fact, this year CrossFit HQ analyzed all regional competitors and figured out the main difference was between a regional level athlete and a games athlete. Guess what? It was maximal strength.

Now, why is this the case? The best analogy I’ve heard for this is that your strength is like a drinking glass. It creates a platform for everything else. Everything inside that glass is the rest of your abilities. Having a bigger glass allows you to fill it with more things. In other words, the stronger you are, the more other abilities you’ll be able to develop. Let’s think about this from a gymnastics perspective. While there is certainly skill involved in learning a muscle up, you need to be strong enough to do several pull-ups and ring dips before you can successfully do a muscle up.

Strength Bias glass metaphor Little Glass VS. Big Glass

Additionally, there are different kinds of strength. If you look at the strength continuum below, you’ll see five types listed. 3 of the 10 general physical skills fall into that continuum. On one end, you have absolute strength, and on the other, you have speed. Power is right in the middle of the curve. Power is the ability to generate maximal strength in minimal time. If you have a bigger strength base to draw from, you have the potential to be more powerful. This is well illustrated if you look at the top Olympic lifters in the world. They are able to clean and jerk roughly 77% of their max back squat, and snatch roughly 62% of their max squat. If you compare these numbers to your own, it’s very apparent that Olympic lifters can squat A LOT. (Obviously I am oversimplifying here and ignoring the technique aspect of Weightlifting, but that’s the subject for another article.) Thus building strength is important for building power as well.

Strength Bias Force Continuum

In addition to power, building strength can help improve other physical skills as well. For example, having a dedicated time to work on our lifts gives us time to build proper movement patterns. This includes achieving full range of motion, which is important to build mobility and stability (topics for a future article). It also includes lifting with proper technique. Proper technique is safe technique, and it is the most efficient way to lift weights. Most of you have experienced the thrill of executing a great clean or snatch; it feels almost effortless. Imagine that every rep of a Metcon felt this smooth: you would be able to go faster and expend less energy, because you would be more efficient. This allows us to move harder and faster for longer. In other words, our stamina improves.

In addition to the physical payouts already discussed, I believe that programming with a strength bias adds value to the memberships you all pay for. First, it is a simple and objective way for you all to see that you are making progress. If you were able to squat 200 lbs for 1 rep last month, and you squat it for 5 reps this month, your stamina has increased. If you’re now able to squat 225 for 1 rep, you have gotten stronger. If you were previously unable to hit full depth in a squat and now you can, you’ve gotten more mobile. Additionally, the barbell is not subject to the same variables you encounter in a WOD. Either you lift the weight, or you don’t. You don’t have to worry about strategy, equipment placement, or transition from movement to movement. You’re also free from counting reps (well, somewhat). furthermore, strength work gives you better opportunities to learn as students. Instead of just having a coach yell “knees out, knees out!” at you repeatedly while squatting as fast as you can, you have time in between reps to actually receive some coaching and learn why we give that cue, and what we’re actually after when we say it. That way, when we tell you “knees out!” or “elbows!” in a WOD, you’ll actually know what we mean.

Strength Bias Diagnosing vs. Coaching vs. Cuing

Finally, having a strength bias provides better structure and fills up your hour long classes better than simply having a WOD. If you as members pay for an entire hour, I believe you should be working for as much of that hour as possible. Our strength bias fulfills this goal. Instead of coming in, warming up, hitting a WOD, and being done 20 minutes early, we better fill that hour with higher quality movement.

I hope this article was illuminating for most of you and explains the rationale behind our strength bias. Until next week, Stay Relentless!

CrossFit Relentless

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