Can time restricted feeding make you fitter?

DISCLAIMER: You need to do the basics really well first before thinking about the approaches that are covered in this article.  Eat the right amount of food for your training volume, eat high quality food, sleep 8+ hours a night, and manage your stress.

Over the last decade, there's been an increasingly loud movement that says intermittent fasting (IF) can improve life span, cure cancer, and turn you into a super hero.  But is it everything that its cracked up to be?  We're going to dig into the science here. We're also going to talk about a new approach to dieting with a similar theme called Time Restricted Eating, which has a similar concept but with a different implementation.  The goal is not to say whether these approaches work for weight loss, they do, but to figure out if there's some magical reason, or if its simply because people eat less when given less time to eat.

At a high level, there are studies that show that intermittent fasting (8 hour window to eat, 16 hour fast) can improve weight loss, inflammation, and insulin sensitivity.  One common criticism of many of these studies is that calories are not controlled in IF protocols, so most of these effects likely have to do with simply eating less food, as people tend to eat less if given less time to eat.  This is especially true when we stop people from eating at night, since emotional humans are most likely to binge after 8 PM and not in the morning.  As James Smith would say, when was the last time you crushed a pint of Ben & Jerry's right after waking up?  

 This is me...

This is me...

Additionally, a recent study basically came to the conclusion that intermittent fasting was NOT a better diet strategy over the LONG term than traditional dieting, and that you were less likely to stick to the diet overall. OUCH!  There are a lot of criticisms about that study, but I don't think it can be entirely dismissed.   

So if you were tracking your diet with a macro-counting approach, the thought is that there shouldn't be a HUGE benefit to time-restricted eating.  Additionally, when you add in the fact that a significant percentage of the clients that come to M2 are doing a ton of exercise and generally under-eating to begin with, giving them less time to eat seems like a bad idea.

Of course there's a ton of other reasons to try IF, as there are a whole slew of claims that it can reduce cancer risks and extend life span amongst other things.  However, being blunt, the research on this is still very young and needs to be extended further before final conclusions can be drawn.

One last comment for athletes: eating all the food you really need to eat in an 8 hour window is HARD and can be rather uncomfortable, especially when training for 4 hours a day, if not longer.

Time restricted eating, weight loss and athletic performance

So where intermittent fasting restricts the time you're eating into an 8 hour window, a new set of research around "time-restricted feeding" changes the game a little bit.  Here's the major differences:

  • With time-restriction eating you have a larger window to eat.  Instead of the 16/8 protocol, you have anywhere from a 9-12 hour window
  • Your goal is to also time the eating window into the the normal waking hours, with the goal of aligning your dietary intake with your circadian rhythms (AKA your body's natural 24 hour clock).

Researchers at the Salk Institute tested the hypothesis that time-restricted eating would impact obesity. Whats the reason to even test this??? Well, its become clearer and clearer that MANY biological processes including metabolism, immune system function, stress responses, etc have diurnal patterns, which basically means they act differently at night than they do during the day. Lets dig into the data

Here's the first study from the Salk Institute group, using mice:

There were four groups of mice (IMPORTANT: all mice ate the same calories):

  • Groups 1 and 2: Mice allowed to eat whenever they want on a normal diet OR a high fat diet
  • Groups 3 and 4: Mice allowed to eat whenever they want on a Time Restricted diet with a normal diet OR a high fat diet

Here's what the results basically showed.

  • Putting mice on a high fat diet and letting them eat throughout the full 24 hour clock induced obesity and changes to their metabolic gene expression that are related to circadian rhythms (basically they got fat, and the ability to use carbohydrates vs fat stores was disrupted).
  • Putting mice on a high fat diet but RESTRICTING their intake to a shorter feeding time prevented disruption of their metabolic pathways and resulted in less obesity.
Screen Shot 2018-08-26 at 8.47.28 AM.png

Pretty damn cool... OK, so the same group followed this study up with a second, more in depth analysis, again in mice.  Here are the groups (the goal was to model factors that cause obesity and metabolic disease).

  • High fat diet with and without time restricted feeding
  • High fructose group with and without time restricted feeding
  • High fat, high fructose group with and without time restricted feeding.
  • The study also experimented with allowing a group of mice to essentially have a “free weekend” where the time-restriction feeding pattern was removed for two days

The authors of the study actually put together a pretty nice cartoon of the major findings, which helps explain a really complex paper.  I'll explain more below.

 Ad libitum means the mice could eat whenver they wanted.  The cheeseburger represents high fat and the soda represents high fructose.

Ad libitum means the mice could eat whenver they wanted.  The cheeseburger represents high fat and the soda represents high fructose.

So here's what they showed:

  • Most of the health benefits only occurred when the time restricted feeding (TRF) window was less than 12 hours.  Interestingly, the 2 day "free weekend" with ad libitum eating did not harm the overall results of TRF. I refuse to use the term "cheat meal" but thats what they're going for here.

  • TRF mice had improved insulin sensitivity and an improved lipid profiles, lower levels of systemic inflammation and healthier liver function.

  • TRF mice had increased levels of a protein called PGC-1a, which controls mitochondrial biogenesis. (Mitochondria are basically the "power plants" of your cells).

  • TRF mice had increased muscle mass compared to non-restricted mice.  The reasons for this are still unclear, but its a pretty cool finding. Researchers did also note increases in the molecule NAD, which has been linked with longevity and muscle mass retention, but it was just a correlation.

  • BETTER FITNESS:  TRF mice in the 9-hour restricted group had significantly improved aerobic fitness. Using something called the  "treadmill run-to-exhaustion test" the non-time restricted mice ran for an average of 77 minutes,  while the 9-hour TRF group ran for an average of 141 minutes.  Now that sounds pretty amazing... also, please never make me do that running test :)

A study with humans was also performed, but it was basically observational and as calories were not controlled between groups, its hard to read too much into the results.  The only conclusion of note really was that, "when overweight individuals with >14 hr eating duration ate for only 10-11 hr daily for 16 weeks... they reduced body weight, reported being energetic, and improved sleep. Benefits persisted for a year."  So... did they lose weight because they ate less calories or because they ate them in a smaller time frame?  We cannot tell here sadly.

If you want to learn more about this topic, Rhonda Patrick does a GREAT job going into details on this podcast with Joe Rogan.

Conclusions and Recommendations

While there's a ton of research on intermittent fasting, we still don't know for sure what the benefits of it really are and if it really is better than other dietary approaches.  TRF is even LESS well studied and well controlled human trials need to be performed, but the initial research from the Salk Institute is really compelling. All that said, if you're looking to lose weight and are sedentary or are training 3-4 days a week then restricting your window to somewhere between 9-12 hours seems like a good idea.

If you're looking for increased endurance capacity, then you should be at least intrigued by the idea of restricting your eating window into the 9-10 hour range.  To be clear, you will have to work HARD to structure your meals within that window, to ensure that you have pre workout and post workout nutrition are still on point.  

Remember, do the basic things right first, then start worrying about the finer details at that point.

Dealing with Hypothyroidism

The thyroid gland, located at the base of your neck, is the main metabolism gland in your body. If your thyroid gland is not working correctly, either through not getting the appropriate signals, or conversely not producing the right hormones, you will have a difficult time losing weight.  However, to say that the thyroid gland only impacts body composition would be a dramatic over-simplification. Why's that?? Well...

  • Every single cell in the human body has receptors for the major thyroid hormone(s) T3 and/or T4 and requires T3 signaling for optimal function.
  • Low thyroid hormone levels are associated with elevated triglycerides.
  • There’s a higher chance of mental retardation in kids whose moms had hypothyroidism during pregnancy.
  • Low thyroid hormone also can lead to poor digestive function and constipation.
  • Thyroid hormone influences other major hormones in female reproductive health, notably by making progesterone receptors more sensitive, meaning a woman with intense PMS symptoms every month, may actually be dealing with a thyroid issue.

The thyroid is also incredibly sensitive to external signals. It can be negatively impacted by a number of chemical compounds including fluoride, several heavy metals and other synthetic compounds, which is why many hypothesize that thyroid issues are on the rise due to increased exposure to these things in modern society. How prevalent is hypothyroidism? Well, it's estimated that nearly 10 million Americans, mostly women, are dealing with some dysfunction in their thyroid physiology.

At the most basic level, the function of the thyroid gland is to produce the hormones T3 and T4, which regulate gene transcription throughout the body. Basically, T3 makes every cell in your body work optimally when levels are appropriate. But... why have this regulated at all? Wouldn't you always want your cells running optimally???

Thyroid hormones are HIGHLY regulated during the transition from the fed to the starved state. This has been well-studied in some animal models where a drastic reduction in calories rapidly suppresses T4 and T3 levels.  This was also shown in humans in something called The Vermont Study as well as several others where carbohydrate consumption was implicated as being critical for optimal thyroid functionality. Why does the body suppress thyroid function in a "starved" state?? Caloric restriction at high levels represents a severe threat to survival and because thyroid hormones set the basal metabolic rate, a drop in thyroid hormone levels should reduce extend to use of energy stores (AKA body fat). Basically, this is an evolutionary survival mechanism from a time period where humans could go long periods of time without eating. 

Why is this a problem for you?  Well, when you try to diet yourself into a 6-pack through pretty extreme measures, your thyroid function is decreased in an attempt to basically keep you alive. Your basal metabolic rate drops, you stop moving around as much (non-exercise activity thermogensis, or NEAT, drops) and basically you are no longer in the calorie deficit you were a month ago when you started dieting in the first place.  So you push the calories even lower and lower, try to do more in the gym which causes increased stress, an altered immune state and next thing you know, your body is broken.  Now... this is the extreme case, but we see it happening more and more frequently. 

So, what are we going to do about it... well, its a good idea to figure out if we have a thyroid problem in the first place.

How do you know if you might have a thyroid issue?

The obvious answer is to go to the doctor and get tested, but there are a number of problems with taking that approach alone, notably that your lab values are going to be compared to a "standard" range of people. Note I did not say HEALTHY people, just the average amongst the population.  Do most of the people you encounter on a day-to-day basis look healthy???  Secondly, most physicians don't want to check anything beyond TSH, but to get a real good picture we need to look at T3 and T4, and T3 uptake at a minimum.

So, if we're going to take matters into our own hands, some symptoms to look out for would be

  • Consistent fatigue
  • Muscle weakness
  • Weight gain and difficulty losing weight
  • Dry skin and coarse, dry hair, and/or hair loss.
  • Cold, especially in extremities and fingers
  • Constipation
  • Depression
  • Menstrual cycle abnormalities
  • Low sex drive

OK, so don't go full hypochondriac on me and assume you have an issue with your thyroid if you occasionally have one or two of those symptoms.  But, if that list rings a little too close to home, its time to get some additional testing done.

Lets assume things are out of whack and you do have a thyroid issue, what can we do about it?  Sadly each case is really unique and you need someone that can help figure out which aspects of your life are really the cause.  Too much stress? Over-active immune system? Leaky gut? Vitamin and mineral imbalances? Liver issues? All could be at play.  With that in mind... we're going to present to you a case study of one client and how we helped move her in the right direction.

"Stress, vitamins and goitrogens, oh my!"

This client came to us after hitting a major plateau with weight loss. We made some adjustments, but she was still not seeing the kind of changes we would expect. At this point, we asked her to reach out to a doctor where it was discovered that she was having some issues with her thyroid as TSH was elevated.  

Looking at the big picture, our client was extremely active within the CrossFit community-working out, coaching, and was in general very health conscious. One of her biggest goals was to get her energy back, so she could train the way she wanted to in the gym, and to have enough energy to live the life she enjoyed. She wanted abs too, but at this point, those became a secondary focus - our primary goal was to get her healthy... and remember, abs don’t always mean your healthy.

The first thing we took into consideration was her diet history.  She had been at an extreme deficit for an extended period of time.  As we just went over, this can cause a ton of stress on the body, exacerbating an already out of control thyroid. So the first thing we did was to get her OUT of that calorie deficit to create a less stressful environment for her body to heal in. Generally speaking, asking someone to eat more to lose weight doesn’t go over to well, but luckily the client understood the purpose and agreed to our approach. We went to a higher carb/protein ratio in terms of macros and cut back on fats, as depending on their source, fats can cause excessive free radicals and extra stress on the body.  Additionally, we asked the client to really try and spread her protein out throughout the day to attempt to balance out blood sugar levels and improve satiety.

We next went about eliminating any extra stress or irritants that often times alter the thyroid and related hormones. We eliminated any foods that could be considered inflammatory (highly specific from client to client, but in general gluten and dairy are a good place to start). On top of that, we removed RAW cruciferous vegetables (broccoli/cauliflower/Brussel sprouts/kale/spinach). These types of veggies contain elevated levels of goitrogens;  Goitrogens can block the process by which iodine is incorporated in the key thyroid hormones thyroxine (T4) and triiodothyronine (T3). Fun fact, T3 has THREE iodine molecules and T4 has... you guessed it, FOUR.  Goitrogens, also inhibit the actual release of thyroid hormone by your thyroid gland, and disrupt the peripheral conversion of the thyroid storage hormone T4 into the active thyroid hormone T3.

Next was soy. Soy hides in a lot of products as a filler so we had to be mindful with this one. Soy has a significant amount of isoflavones and these compounds are often considered endocrine disruptors.  We definitely want to avoid those with a thyroid issue.  There's also some evidence that soy products can also disrupt the absorption of certain medications and supplements that we were going to be implementing. 

Next was coffee (GASP!!!). We wanted to limit coffee to a minimal amount for two reasons. First was to get an accurate gauge of the client's energy levels and how well she was responding to the plan.  Secondly, excessive caffeine can also interfere with the absorption of certain medications and supplements that were being incorporated.

We suggested trying to stick to sweet potatoes, squash, fruit, and COOKED vegetables as the as primary carb sources.  Cooking the veggies helps with the goitrogen issue above, and cooked vegetables are just easier to break down for the body.  As we mentioned, there are often digestive issues with hypothyroidism, so anything we can do to make digestion easier is a good idea.  We also made suggestions to focus on foods rich in Vitamin D (whole eggs, fish, mushrooms). Vitamin D play a crucial role in the production, conversion, and activation of the thyroid hormones. We also tried to increase the clients intake of iodine and selenium as well through the consumption of fish, seaweed, salted nuts (brazil nuts in particular are good for thyroid issues), and sunflower seeds. Iodine is a necessary component to hormone production/secretion in the thyroid. 

When it came to straight supplementation, we took a gentle approach as it was important to the client, and went with vitamin D and vitamin B12.  B12 is great for overall energy, thyroid/hormone health, and most people don’t get enough through diet. Not only can thyroid issues contribute to vitamin B12 deficiency, but ongoing vitamin B12 deficiency can lead to people being less likely to respond to treatment for their thyroid and interfere with getting relief from their symptoms.

Finally, we added the adaptogen ashwagandha. We suggested this versus some other options since it can be taken as a tea and the client was wary of adding another pill to her routine.  In this case we were looking for an adaptogen that would provide immune support and hormone health.  On top of encouraging your thyroid to produce more or less hormones depending on your needs, taking this herb also offers other benefits like appropriately regulated cortisol levels (stress hormone) and improved insulin sensitivity, both important for achieving body comp goals

We also made sleep and hydration a huge priority. With her decreased energy levels sleep was easy, so we had to try to work our way from needing naps to get through the day and getting good quality sleep at night. 8+ hours in a pitch black room was the goal. Getting in enough water does wonders for your body and allows it to carry out the daily function it needs to for survival and to operate at its prime.

The pictures below show how well her body responded to the changes we made, but what is so much more important is that she was able to get back to her normal workout routine, didn’t need naps on a regular basis, and was overall happier. These pictures are approximately 6 weeks apart and at the end of those 6 weeks her symptoms were pretty much resolved.

Screen Shot 2018-08-19 at 9.14.51 PM.png

The caveat with this is client is that whenever stress levels increased, symptoms would increase/pop back up.  Emotional stress is SO IMPORTANT in thyroid conditions and something that is often overlooked in clients.  You'd be surprised how many people with hypothyroidism had a traumatic incident in their past OR are dealing with a current stressful situation in their life such as a demanding job with 80 hour work weeks, a family illness, etc.  But that's another post entirely...

If you're looking for help with something similar reach out to us here.  We're always ready to help get you on the path to long term health.

Co written by M2 coachs Casey Mendrala and Mike Molloy

Reflection: M2 Turns 1

one_year.jpg

I've been coaching in some capacity or another for 7 years now, but I didn't actually formally create M2 until June of last year. Up until then, it was just me doing my thing pretty much all by myself. Man oh man has a lot changed in the last 12 months. I wanted to take some time to reflect on where we've come from, and then talk about where I see things going.

The metrics for success at M2 will always be defined first and foremost by the clients. Are we helping them to succeed in what matters most to them? Whether thats performance, body composition or overall health.  Are we making people happier?

 Power Monkey Camp. Just one of the many cool things from the past year.

Power Monkey Camp. Just one of the many cool things from the past year.

At a performance level, its been an amazing year.  In 2017, we sent about 22 athletes to Regionals and qualified 10 athletes to the Crossfit Games.  In 2018 we had over 50 Regionals athletes, and will have 22 people competing at the Games in a few short weeks. Whats pretty cool though is that about 50% of those athletes accomplished something they've never done before.  Its one thing to just help an athlete like Chyna Cho or Carol-Ann Reason Thibault stay at the high level they've already achieved, but its another thing entirely to help someone take that next step to Regionals or the Games for the first time. Those are some of the best memories and the ones I'll never forget.

How do we measure success with the other aspects of what we offer? How does one measure body composition, health and happiness in meaningful way?  Don't even start with me about pounds lost... I don't have time for that BS. 

 That back tho...

That back tho...

The best way I can think of it is to look at our growth.  Our advertising budget is exactly $0, so all of the new clients we're getting are coming through referrals in some capacity.  Over the last year, we've grown the number of full-time coaching clients we work with by about 500%. I think this says we're doing something right, that we're connecting with people in a way thats different from what else is out there, and that its resonating with what people are really looking for.  Of course, there's a laundry list of things I want to do better and if I'm being honest, I lose sleep obsessing over them every single night.

I want to help people be the best versions of themselves.  Its what I'm passionate about and I think I'm pretty good at it. When I was just "Mike the Nutrition Coach" I was able to derive pride and happiness from seeing client's success on a competition floor, or winning a small battle against an eating disorder, or watching them brag about the new abs they were sporting (of course while eating more food than ever).  The messages about changed attitudes and accomplishments just puts a smile on my face and makes every last second of work worth it.

I never thought anything would compete with that satisfaction... then I started hiring coaches.  Its just amazing to me that I get to provide a platform for amazing human beings to do amazing things helping others.  I LOVE all my coaches... literally I love all of them.  We met for the first real time as a team in Chicago and it was like being surrounded by a warm blanket on a cold day.  I could just tell that they cared about their clients, about each other and about the company.  

Being a nutrition coach is pretty freaking amazing... but running a team of nutrition coaches with the people I have is just about the best damn job on planet earth.  It is so freaking hard to choose just one of them to illustrate WHY this makes me so happy, but I'm going to do it anyway.

Jenny Sharp is one of the truly beautiful human beings on this planet.  She's smart as hell, hard working, compassionate, intuitive, humble and honest. She's just a GOOD person that wants to help other people be better versions of themselves. I don't want to speak for Jenny, but I'm not sure that she really had an appropriate platform to truly use all those amazing traits until we connected and she came to work with me. 

 Fun fact: Jenny knows everything about the food scene in Chicago... literally everything.

Fun fact: Jenny knows everything about the food scene in Chicago... literally everything.

Now... she basically gets PAID to be her awesome self.  Its pretty damn cool to be able to provide that opportunity to someone, to create literal VALUE for their incredible traits in a way that wasn't there before.  Multiply that by 11 other coaches, add in an amazing creative business team, and you can see why I think I have the best job in the world.

Side story: I took a Crossfit Weight Lifting class with Mike Burgener years ago.  If you've ever seen or met Mike, you know that he has a larger than life personality and he applies it to his absolute love of weight lifting.  At the end of his seminars, he always tells the class that they can email him ANY time with video to review of lifts, to ask questions, etc.  So... about 3 months after taking his class, I did just that. I figured I might hear back with one or two cues.  Ummm, no. I got a 2 page email telling me everything that I had done right and what I could work on.  Then 3 more emails came the next day with video representations of drills and exercises to work on to help fix my issues.

A few months back, I was really forced to think hard about what I wanted M2 to be, and what I wanted for myself out of the business.  It was absurdly hard to define a vision at the time, until one day I thought about Mr. Burgener.  The man just LOVES to coach and gets fired up when his help results in a new PR. I want M2 to reflect that same passion in the "nutrition" community.  No matter how big this thing gets, I'll never stop coaching and here's why.

I want to CONNECT with athletes. 

I want to care so much that I cry tears of happiness when they succeed, and I want them to trust me so much that they can cry on my shoulder when they don't.

I want to train other coaches to do the same things I do... but in their own unique way.

I want to teach the broader community that there's more to life than the scale, and that the mirror doesn't easily reflect true self-worth or accomplishment.

I want to have fun.

This past year has been one of the hardest, most exhausting, terrifying, amazing, exhilarating, satisfying years of my life. I can't wait to see what else is coming in year two.

Mike Molloy

Owner & Head Coach

M2 Performance Nutrition

What it takes

Over the years, I've had the opportunity to coach over 100 athletes that list "Performance" as their number one goal.  The reality tho is that its HARD to maintain that focus 24/7/365. Sometimes people stray down the road of "GIMME ABS, BITCH" or they want to just relax for a few weeks and not focus on diet, training, etc, to take a vacation and just act like a "normal human being."  This is why its SO HARD to qualify for the CrossFit Games.  The sheer focus that most people need to apply is just beyond comprehension.   

This a post about recognizing hard work, and celebrating ALL the M2 clients that dedicate their lives to this sport.  I could just as easily written about Chyna Cho, opening her own gym and still finding time to train her ass off, Mia Akerlund for pouring her heart out all weekend after suffering a devastating injury 3 days before Regionals, or Alex Parker for being a full time lawyer and still finishing top 10 in the best Region in the world.   EACH athlete has their story of sacrifice and hard work, and each one deserves to be recognized.

I chose to write this post about Meredith Root for a few special reasons though.  First, Meredith is incredibly coachable.  She listens and adapts her effort better than anyone I've worked with.  Secondly, I know for a fact that she thinks she's not that great or gifted (she's so wrong), and therefore is borderline obsessed with doing everything she can to be better.  Finally, even though she applied her incredible focus on making it to the Games, she came up just short of her goal.  It's easy to find perspective when all your dreams come true.  It's another thing entirely when you fall just short. On top of that comes some loyalty... We've been working together for over a year now. Meredith trusted me when I was really still new in the Crossfit scene and my reputation was still developing.  That counts for something in my book.

For all these reasons, I wanted to share Meredith's story.  Thank you Meredith.

I met Meredith Root in 2017 at the Atlantic Regional the day after she had to withdraw from the competition due to a fairly serious bicep injury.  How did I meet her you ask? I slid right into those DMs 😏 

 Not creepy at all...  P.S. Love you Kenzie :) 

Not creepy at all...

P.S. Love you Kenzie :) 

Haley Adams had a rough event 2 where everything just seemed to go against her on a set of ring dips.  She took it pretty harshly, as 16 year olds tend to do. Meredith, having literally just finished her event as well, went out of her way to pull her aside, to talk to her about how to learn from the experience, to explain that this was an opportunity to grow.  I was floored... 

The next day, Meredith had to withdraw, and it was her turn to deal with the emotions.  You could see how hard she worked, to see how BAD she wanted to show people what she could do, and how devastating it was to have that opportunity taken from her.  I literally NEVER send strangers messages but sensing her character, I wanted to try and lift her spirits just a little bit.  I'm so glad I did.

Meredith and I started working together as coach/athlete about a month after Regionals.  From day 1, she was focused on performance and doing anything she could to improve her chances of going to the Games one day.  As with most athletes, she was under-eating and doing a few other things that needed to be dialed in as well.   I told her she was going to have to eat more, and after going off and doing some research on her own (freaking scientists...) she did just that.  We talked about the importance of having individualized programming, and she went out and did that too, finding an amazing coach in Mike Fitzgerald.

It's honestly hard for me to tell you what difference our work together made because 1) Meredith gave nearly zero shits about body composition, only performance, so the update pictures were few and FAR between and 2) She doesn't brag much, so I didn't hear about PRs unless I asked. 

To get a sense of what working together was like, I asked Meredith to describe what differences having a "nutrition" coach made.  Here are her words:

"I was always a clean eater, but never really paid attention to particular quantities. I consumed three big meals a day and was eating too much protein and too much fat. I had read books and articles, I knew the science around performance eating and yet I was reluctant to apply those principles to myself.

I thought what I was doing was "good enough." Those are the two most dangerous words in the English language. "Good Enough" is not what gets you on top of podiums. "Good Enough" does not get you to the CrossFit Games. We are in an age where fractional increases in performance make a huge difference. After talking with Mike and seeing what a giant impact he had on Kenzie at Regionals in 2017, I decided I was done with "Good Enough." I decided it was time to work with the best to become the best that I could be. Why put all this effort into training and leave something like nutrition on the table? 

Having someone not only set my numbers but also hold me accountable was huge. I was afraid of carbs, but I knew what was coming if I didn't hit my numbers, so I hit my numbers. And then I started to notice my performance improve. I felt better, I slept better, I looked better. The conversation shifted from accountability to validation. Yes, we are doing the right things, how can we do more? What else can we improve on? 

There were little things that made a big difference. Rinsing my rice before cooking it. White rice contains trace amounts of arsenic. Arsenic blocks testosterone production. You said, "If you're eating 3-4 cups of rice per day, you better be rinsing your f***ing rice before you cook it!" 😬😬😬

I had never had anyone tell me to chew my food before, nor had I even thought about it. When I did think about it, I realized quickly that I was in a bad habit of swallowing a lot of may food whole as I rushed to eat it. I started chewing my food more. It takes me twice as long to eat a meal now, but have much fewer digestive issues and I *think* it's made me a bit leaner."

While the goal wasn't to get leaner or look better in the mirror... shocker, it happened.  The lesson again, if you chase performance and take care of your nutrition and sleep, the body tends to respond favorably.

 M2 takes no responsibility for the loss of tan.  If you choose to move to Calgary, thats your own damn fault.  That bicep vein though... thats all us ;) 

M2 takes no responsibility for the loss of tan.  If you choose to move to Calgary, thats your own damn fault.  That bicep vein though... thats all us ;) 

The first opportunity we had to test how things were working was down at Wodapalooza, where Meredith was going head to head with 30 or so other elite CrossFit women. 

Day 1 was a damn good start.  Meredith can run pretty well and ended up with a 5th and a 3rd place finish on the first/second events which were merged together.  That night was what we'd consider a "wheel-house workout" with 3 rounds for time of: 9 muscle ups, 12 power snatches and 15 cals on the assault bike.  She went unbroken on the muscle ups in both rounds 1 and 2, putting serious space between herself and 2nd place.  I was standing right in front of her watching her dissect the workout.  Coming out of the rings on round 3, she was all alone, minutes ahead of the competition.  As she sat down on the bike, she looked at me and gave me this look of "Where the F is everyone?"  Very casually she coasted to a ~30 second victory ahead of the field.  She described it to me as the highlight of her CrossFit career to that point, and the smile on her face proved it was true.  It was a proud moment for me as her friend.

 Half a week in Miami... still no tan.

Half a week in Miami... still no tan.

The very next morning, Meredith experienced what can only be described as the stomach plague, and after trying everything, she was forced to withdraw.  A second major competition ending before she wanted it to... it was hard to watch, but you just try and be there for a person.  I think this is the value of having a coach that really cares about you.  You can lean on them when life punches you in the face, you can be emotional and know that they've got your back.  Miami was just one of those moments.

Life Coaching 401

I've talked about this before, but the macros and the supplements are the easy part of being a nutrition coach. LONG-term nutrition coaching is more about balancing emotions and keeping athletes focused.  Asking them to find things they're proud of in themselves, getting them to confide in you when they're stressed.  If I can get an athlete to open up and vent about the stress of work, or family, or a relationship, then maybe they sleep better that night, do a better job with food choices the next day and have a 10% better training session.  Over a year, this adds up and makes a difference.  Here's Meredith again to give you an idea from the other side of this relationship.

"We all know, M2 is not just a nutrition company. More importantly almost, it's a lifestyle company. Nutrition is too emotional to exist without this component. We are not cells in a bioreactor, you cannot simply pump in glucose and amino acids and get the response you desire.  This year was huge for me. I moved my whole life across the continent right at the beginning of winter. I went from sub-tropical North Carolina to the then frozen tundra that was Calgary, Alberta. But it wasn't just my physical location that changed, it was my training environment, my living environment, my access to food, and my relationships."

Coming back to the idea of doing things the right way, Meredith always opened up when I asked her to and evolved to pro-actively telling me about her stress. She understood that bottling shit up wasn't healthy for her as a competitor, never mind just as a person.  It's not my job to fix any of that, but it is my job to listen.  Of course, over time we became more friends than coach/client, or as Meredith describes it, "The waters have become very muddy in a good way. Add coach, athlete, mentor, mentee, boss, employee, and friend into a big pot, stir together, and you get our relationship. It's pretty cool."  

So after just about a full year of working together, there I am at the West Regional with 6 individual female athletes.  Thanks to the lovely CrossFit Gods, I went from having 3 athletes in one Region and 3 in another to having them all shoved together into one Super Region.  Want to talk about stress?  Take 5 spots for the Games and put 6 highly competitive females that you're all "responsible" for in one location... Oh, and add another 10 former Games athletes for good measure.  Thanks Castro...

If you want to see what happened in each event, watch the Regionals replay.  All that matters is at the end of it, Meredith ended up in 6th place, missing out on a Games spot by a painfully close margin, and in a way that was hard to stomach. Watching her sit in the dirt and cry into the shoulder of Alex Parker (complex situation, read here and here) was heart-breaking.  It suuuuuucks to see someone come SO CLOSE and miss.  You're helpless to do anything other than try to be there for them when they want you, and to stay out of the way when they want to be alone. 

I saw Meredith a week later in West Palm Beach at the Atlantic Regional for her twin sister's competition.  While still hurt, she had gained an amazing amount of perspective in an amazingly short period of time.

"And then at the end of it all, there we all were together at the California Regionals. What a weekend! I found you in the crowd during every event. You were a human safety blanket in the midst of the chaos. You were my Guru all year and I was glad to have you there!

Even though I fell a little short of making the Games, I made huge improvements on both the physical and mental side of my game. Sometimes I forget that it's barely been a year since we started working together. Most of my biggest improvements didn't even start until August or September. I now believe I have the best programming available (OPT) and the best nutritionist in the industry. Who knows where we go from here, but it's hard to believe it's anywhere but up."

A few days after that weekend, we were texting back and forth and she told me, "I would rather people remember me as a good person than a good competitor.

Meredith Root, you will NEVER have to choose between those two.

 Three of the best "clie-friends" a coach could ever ask for.

Three of the best "clie-friends" a coach could ever ask for.

2018 Crossfit Games Regionals Nutrition Plan

Congratulations!!! You've made it to Regionals, an amazing accomplishment that so very few will get to experience. This achievement is the result of countless hours in and out of the gym, and five very impressive performances in the Crossfit Open.  What's coming next though is an entirely different beast and you need to be prepared for it.  If this is a repeat trip to Regionals for you, then you'll know that sleeping and eating are going to be very, very different for those three days and nights so you better have a plan.  You don't want to let poor nutrition and sleep screw up 12+ months of hard work.

Here are our recommendations

Day -5 to -1

Most athletes will be in some form of a deload heading into Regionals allowing for a fresh body and mind.  During this time period, there may be a desire to seriously cut back on your carbohydrate intake over the full week.  RESIST this urge.  The first few days you need to keep the macros more or less the same to make sure your recovery does not suffer and that sleep stays steady.  By Wednesday, we're basically into the phase where what we eat will influence the state of our glycogen stores for Friday already, as full digestion/absorption is about a 36-48 hour process.  Moral of the story, stay more or less on the same plan with your plan and don't make major cuts of any kind. 

A few additional quick thoughts:

  • Food quality needs to stay on point as well. This is not the week for donuts and pizza shoved into your macros.
  • Make sure food is well cooked. You don't want to catch even a small bout of food poisoning right now.  Sushi can wait until next week.
  • Hydrate well and make sure you work electrolytes into the middle part of your week.  Think Pedialyte, The Right Stuff, NUUN, etc... 
  • Make sure you set yourself up each night for a good nights sleep.  The further into the week we go, the harder this will likely be so have plan. Check out our Power Down Routine if you haven't already for the basics.
  • Make sure you've got all your food and supplements ready for the weekend by Wednesday at the latest.

DAY 1 of COMPETITION

This should go without saying, but its so damn important that I'm going to put it in big freaking bolded letters

NEVER TRY ANYTHING FOR THE FIRST TIME ON GAME DAY

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This is not the time to swing through vendor village and pick up a sample of pre-workout that you've never taken before Event 1.  Also... if you don't normally drink coffee, don't do it now unless you want your heart to explode on double under 187 (see what I did there??). 

PREWORKOUT 1

Fun fact, stress slows down the digestion process.  Think you might have some butterflies on Friday morning??? Yea, I thought so.  Lets make sure we get breakfast taken care of way before we start working out.  2.5-3 hours before your warming up for Event 1, eat about 600-700 calories for the women and 800-1000 for the men.  This gives you enough time to get most of the digestion done and out of the way.  Keep things pretty low in fat here as well just to keep digestion nice and speedy.

AMENDMENT: Several people asked what to do if you eat breakfast rather early in the day (say 8 AM) and then have a LONG time until workout one, as the women may not be going until as late at 1 PM.  In that situation, we would recommend adding up to a 400 (women) or 600 (men) snack about 2 hours out. So depending upon your heat time, that could be around 11:00 AM. Once again, keep it pretty low in fat and easy to digest.

Reality check: There are a TON of variables that confound how much food you should be putting down, whether you need a late morning at all, what that snack should look like, etc.  This is why people work with coaches.  We plan to be answering questions ALL weekend for our 50+ Regionals athletes.  As Mike Tyson once said, "Everybody has a plan until they get punched in the mouth." 

An hour before the first workout, I'd have a very easy to digest snack.  Something like a Fuel for Fire, Smash Pack, or even just regular old baby food squeeze pack would work well.

Most of you out there don't do a good enough job with your warm ups while in the gym on a random Tuesday, but now we're at Regionals and you've decided that you're going to be the warm up king and get on the bike for 30 minutes, aggressively mobilize for another 20, and then start movement specific prep. 

You need to have something sweet to just sip (not chug) through this process. There's a very cool set of studies that shows that glucose mouth washes (meaning you don't even have to swallow) can seriously improve athletic performance. So lets use that information to maximize performance here.

Finally, follow your typical pre workout routine from 30 minutes out. If thats BCAAs/EAAs + supplement XYZ, then stick to those here as well.  Nothing new and fancy...

POST WORKOUT 1 / PRE WORKOUT 2

Now the Triple 3's is pretty beastie and you're most likely going to be doing some serious work for about 40-50 minutes at moderate to high intensity.  Our goal for the day is to make sure you're recovering well after each workout, so coming out of this event I'd recommend 25 (women) to 35 (men) grams of protein and 75 grams (women) and 100 grams (men) of carbs.  To be clear, that is still not enough to replace the energy you've just burned out there, but it will tell your brain that fuel is coming and to not stress so much.  Follow that shake up 30 minutes later with something like a FFF or SmashPack, or even just a GreaterThan, Gatorade, Juice, etc.

We typically have about 2 hours between events at Regionals so you really don't have time for much solid foods here in your post workout phase which is why its key that the fueling options be easy to digest and absorb.  Protein and carbohydrate powders are your best option as very minimal digestion is required. 

If you insist on using real foods, make sure that its 1) hyper palatable as your appetite for things like chicken and sweet potato is going to suck, and 2) chew the shit out of the food so that your stomach doesn't have to digest it for even longer.

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In reality, this time period is also your pre workout window for Workout 2 as well.  So try and make sure that you're done with all foods (even the mashed up, squeeze bag king) 1 hour prior to the next workout.  

From 60 to 15 minutes out from workout 2, just keep focused on staying warm and sipping on more sweet beverages based on thirst.  I do not think you need another big hit of pre workout supplements, but if its your usual routine, then stick with it here as well.

POST WORKOUT 2

This event will be somewhere in the 15+ minute range for almost all athletes, with a huge CNS demand from the 55 DL, bench press and cleans.  As soon as you're off the floor, I would have one more protein and carb shake with 20/25 grams protein (women/men) and 50/60 grams carbs (women/men).  An hour after that, have a real meal with plenty of protein, fat and carbs.  This is essentially lunch.  

For the rest of the day, you're going to need to continue to eat some real food, and almost certainly exceed your normal macros by 20% to attempt to recover for day 2.  Higher fat foods can help central nervous system recovery, so don't be afraid of those at all.  Again... this is a fitness competition and not a body building show so EAT... you need it.

Before bed, if you're still wired from the day, try taking a shower where the last 60 seconds are pretty cold.  From there get right into bed and turn the lights off.  Keep the hotel room pretty cool at 65F or so, as this has been shown to be about the optimal temperature for sleep.  Also you might want to bring some kind of white noise machine with you if you're used to using one.

ONE FINAL RULE: No going to bed hungry... period.  

DAY 2 and 3 of COMPETITION

Nothing too drastic is going to change headed into Days 2 and 3 for your breakfast, pre workout routines and dinner, but there are some considerations that we want to take into account for recovery for workouts 3 through 6

  • Workouts 3 and 4 are in the 6-13 minute range, so you might not think you need much fuel to recover from them, but don't forget the intensity of the events is greater than almost anything you've experienced.  Aim for 20-25 grams of protein and 50-60 grams of carbs after each event.  
  • Workout 5 is absolutely brutal with the box step overs, biking and lunges.  Again, 20-25 grams of protein and then 60-70 grams of carbs are recommended after this event heading into the final.
  • Workout 6 is ALWAYS a burner at the end of a long weekend.  Those that succeed here will have put the right focus into their fueling and recovery over the whole weekend.  Get warm, have a few sips of carbs and then be prepared to leave it all on the floor with everything you've got.

Post workout from Event 6 and onwards..

Whether you finish in 1st or 40th, don't track a damn thing for the rest of the day.  Go enjoy a nice dinner with your friends and family.  If you're heart broken, lean on them and remember that they love you for who you are, not what happens on that arena floor. The same goes for your nutrition coach :)

Over the next couple of weeks, take an actual break from the gym and from your nutritional program.  Eat well, enjoy some complex meals that are damn near impossible to track, have a few things that you normally would avoid, and sleep... sleep so much that people start to ask where you've been.

Back when I was competing in 2009-2011, a very smart coach told me not to start back in the gym until you had the Three H's going on in your life; Happy, Hungry and Horny.  Once you're feeling those emotions, you can start thinking about 2019.  Everyone is unique and their recovery from major competitions will be as well.  Don't worry about what others are doing, just listen to your body.

 This should help with those Three H's a little...

This should help with those Three H's a little...

A Final Thought

At the 2017 Atlantic Regional, I worked in the athlete area with Mekenzie Riley before and after each event on her nutrition while her Misfit coaches took care of the warm ups and cool downs.  She didn't always want to drink the protein and carb shakes, the GreaterThans, etc... but she did it anyway.  Kenz entered the final day needing to do some work on the leaderboard to punch her ticket to Madison.  She finished with a 4th and a 1st place finish to put herself on the podium. Watch this and tell me if she looks like its Day 3 of the biggest competition of her life. I 

Carly Fuhrer had another very educational experience.  On Day 1, nerves were high and eating was tough.  She had enough energy stores to do extremely well on the first two events, but Day 2 was a struggle and left her in a hole.  We chatted and even though it was the last thing she wanted to do, she ate and drank a good amount of food (mostly PB &J sandwiches, right Carly???) that night to try and get some energy back.  On day 3, she absolutely crushed the workouts and made up a massive amount of ground to qualify for the Games.  Her final event was one of the guttsiest things I've ever seen in this sport.  The fact is that she was able to go to that dark place because of the effort she put in the day before and after Event 5.

You will likely not be excited about eating if your nerves are high, but you have to make it happen. Its a long weekend and if you don't put the effort in, your performance will drastically suffer on Days 2 and 3.   Its not too late to make smart changes that can influence your short term goals over these next three weekends.  If you need some help, shoot us a message here.  

When Less is More

There are times in life when you just have to work harder.  Whether thats at your job, with your family,  in the gym, we ultimately want to see that hard work rewarded with a great result.  When the effort doesn't pay off, that can be incredibly frustrating.  Recently in the world of Crossfit, there seems to be this sense that when it comes to trying to build a lean, healthy body, that training MORE is the answer.  This post is here to show you that this isn't always the case.

When eating more doesn't solve the problem

I've said before that somewhere between 75-85% of the people that come through M2 are NOT eating enough food to support either their performance based goals or their body composition goals, or both in some cases.

"We've got to stop starving our athletes" Part 1 and Part 2 show that adding MORE food to your diet can absolutely make enormous changes for people.  Part 3 showed us that sometimes we just need to be patient and that changes will come to those who stick with the plan. But what do you do when you add in the appropriate macros, get people sleeping enough and STILL don't get the results that you want in your body composition? 

The answer is often not what people want to hear.  Training needs to change, and not in the way that people want, as we typically have to have a rough conversation around doing LESS in the gym.  I recently went through this with about a dozen clients and I want to highlight the changes that we made to get the desired results with just one of them.

Ashleigh first contacted me in the summer of 2017 with a goal of improving her body composition, and to be honest she also was a little attached to the scale with a goal weight of 135.  She came to me with a pretty solid nutrition plan after having worked with some of the better coaches in the industry, so she was not massively under-eating.  Ash was in good shape, training HARD in the gym but things had been going sideways on her for a while, with a slow steady increase in the scale from the low 130's to almost 140.  This was definitely concerning to her as she came from a background of having lost a significant amount of weight from about 168 lbs earlier in life.  

Getting back to the point, she wasn't happy with the results that she was getting both in the gym or in the body composition that she was after either.  With her 3-4 hours of training from MISFIT programming, we bumped up her macros pretty quickly and steadily, settling her in at about 400C per day. She felt better and better, and performance was honestly headed in the right direction as well.  She had great strength gains in back squats and olympic lifts, with huge performances in the aerobic capacity department as well.  While this approach of "train more, eat more" has absolutely helped people to lose weight in the past, it wasn't happening with Ashleigh here.  In fact, at one point she was up to 142 lbs. Honestly, her body composition was still GREAT but there were all kinds of warning signs.  Anxiety was through the roof, and some ice cream binges were becoming more frequent as well. 

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What I haven't mentioned yet is that the other factors in Ashleigh's life were starting to dominate her time as well. School was keeping her busy and her burgeoning small business was starting to generate traction as well.  All of this on top of training like someone that wanted to go to Regionals someday. Ashleigh and I had a number of chats about how to "fix" this.  I told her straight up that she had three choices: 

1) Focus on performance and not on the scale. If she chose this, she needed to be prepared to sacrifice some of the other things in her life.

2) If she wanted to lose body weight, eating less was not the answer, training with lower intensity and volume was.

3) Continue down the path and be totally burned out, fatigued beyond belief and continue to gain weight.

Unfortunately for both of us, Ashleigh really needed to prove to herself that eating less wasn't going to be the answer.  I didn't love this but we slowly dropped her macros down, losing about 400 calories a day over a month. All that and she lost.... 1 lb.  We had more conversations about training less being necessary because ALL the other stresses in her life were mounting up on her.  It took another month and me basically asking "Do you want to be an athlete, or run a successful company? Because you are not going to have both" for it to finally sink in.

To her absolute credit, once Ashleigh decided to commit, she was all on board.  Training was reduced first to less than 2 hours a day, then closer to 90 minutes.  We let that settle in and then adjusted her macros down to match.  She got back into the 130's with these changes and was feeling MUCH better, much happier and much healthier honestly as well.

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However, she was still dealing with some anxiety around the whole situation.  Fun fact: Ashleigh had tracked her macros everyday for something like 4 years. While admirable, it was also another source of stress in her life.  She felt like she had to be "perfect" with her nutrition otherwise she wouldn't be successful. 

Of course we don't need to be PERFECT, and I just had to convince her that 80-85% accuracy with tracking and LESS stress was better than 99% accuracy with lots of stress.  Finally, Ash agreed to stop tracking for a while and just to eat intuitively. Instead of tracking food, we tracked other aspects of life such as food quality, GI health, getting off her laptop at a reasonable time and keeping exercise to less than 90 minutes and 5 days a week.

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First day... definitely some anxiety, but by day 4-5 she was feeling more at ease, more relaxed.  Her sleep went through the roof, her business did even better than ever thanks to more energy dedicated to it and sure enough she dropped another 7-8 lbs of healthy weight loss ending up in the 131 range.  Sure, some of it was due to muscle loss from a decrease in training, but at the end of the day she just was a much healthier person and it was reflected in her body composition and her happiness.

This is just one story out of about 12 that I've deal with recently where training LESS produced the desired results.  Why? Crossfit is a damn stressful exercise program and hammering it for 2-4 hours a day 5-6 days a week can have consequences. 

  • Elevated cortisol will cause insulin resistance and preferential body fat accumulation. 
  • Higher stress will result in aldosterone increases, which causes water retention and elevated blood pressure.  People will talk about feeling puffy.
  • Cortisol also breaks down muscle tissue since protein is metabolically expensive, while fat is very much inexpensive. When survival mode hits, the body will sacrifice muscle mass first.

All this leads to a lower metabolic rate.  Lowering calories typically just makes it worse, induces thyroid issues or adrenal insufficiency.  Not GOOD.

So what do we learn from this???

  • If someone's biofeedback sucks (poor sleep, always or never hungry, preferential midsection weight retention, lack of menstrual cycle) start by increasing the macros and getting them to sleep 8 hours a night, and focusing on good food quality to address
    • If you're the client, do NOT simply work out more when a coach bumps your macros.  That is annoying AF when we're trying to fix your broken ass :) 
  • Some supplementation can be helpful, but there are no broad recommendations, everyone is different. Gut health and adrenal support can be helpful to look into.
  • If that does NOT solve the problem, you have to remove other stressors, such as high intensity, high volume exercise. 

This is complicated S#!*, you might want some help with this process and figuring out the right balance of exercise and nutrition for you.  Hit us up here and we'll get you headed in the right direction.

I'm Proud of You

 The M2PN mission statement

The M2PN mission statement

If you follow us on Instagram, you may notice that the content we post is a little different than most other nutrition companies.  Sure we have a few "Before/After" photos, but most of the material revolves around athletic accomplishments in the gym. If you glanced quickly, you might assume we're a programming group like MisFit, TTT or OPEX.  But we're not, we're a nutrition company... in theory.

Lets start of by focusing on what we're NOT trying to do with our social media posts.  We're NOT saying we're responsible for the PR lift, the high end gymnastics movement or the podium placing at a competition.  Those successes are accomplishments of the ATHLETE, pure and simple. Its not to say that nutrition doesn't contribute to athletic success, it certainly does, but that achievement is not ours to claim.

What we ARE trying to do is to help people redefine the values that they choose to determine their own value with.  So many people, but especially women, have visual goals reinforced into their psychology from a young age ("You look so pretty!!"), which are hammered home by media for the next decade or two before we start working with them.  Things are definitely moving in the right direction globally, but there's a ton of work to do.  

We've chosen to fight this battle against a world that values what you look like versus what you can do by celebrating PRs and the training process that gets us there.  I don't care if you're a Crossfit Games athlete or a grand mother of three (or both! Heyyyy Linda Elstun), our check ins will ALWAYS start with some variation of, "How's it going? Tell me about the gym, your sleep, your energy levels in life. How's your mood?"

Ultimately we're trying to get at whether you're happy more days than not, because we’re really in the business of trying to help people lead happier lives. Sometimes that means changing diets, or getting people to sleep more. Sometimes it means letting people vent about a stress that they’ve not told anyone else about. Sometimes it means playing the bad guy and telling people that no matter how bad they want a certain body weight, there’s no short term way to get there that won’t leave them a physical and mental shell of themselves. It SUCKS having to be the one to deliver that message sometimes, but we are in this for the long game. 90 day transformations??? I have no interest in those unless I also get to see what you look like 6 months after that. We will never compromise someone’s health just for a cool IG post... Never.

 The best part about this update pictures from  Allison  isn't the abs... 

The best part about this update pictures from Allison isn't the abs... 

There is NOTHING wrong with wanting to have abs, a defined back, or quads that hang over your knee caps.  It just needs to be done is a sustainable way that allows for long term success.  I saw a post the other day that said something along the lines of, "If you're cutting for more than 2-3 months, you're doing it wrong."  I absolutely love it.  It would be SO EASY to put people on highly restrictive diets for 3 months to generate short term results.  About 50% of people would respond in the short term, the other 50% wouldn't... but shit who needs them, we'd have more than enough posts to fill our storyline up with (It hurt my soul just to write that).  Its more WORK to tell someone that they need to spend 2-3 months at "maintenance numbers" before they can try to cut.  Its more work to tell someone that they should alternate between 2 weeks at deficit and 2 weeks at maintenance (That works better by the way) but that doesn't mean that its not the right thing to do.  

In my opinion, good coaching tries to focus on the "means to the end" and not the actual goal itself. If you focus on enjoying the process, the actual training in the gym, or the discipline to get your butt in bed before 10 PM, then there can be 1000 small wins along the way that we can celebrate in addition to the final "after" picture.  If you've worked with us for long enough, you probably get the impression that the "update pictures" are kind of an afterthought.  They're important of course, but we'll always ask "How's life? How's your sleep going? How was the gym this week? Are you hungry? Anything stressful going on these days?"  Its not that we don't care about the progress in the mirror, we just know that if we can dial in those other things, the mirror will take care of itself. 

I've joked that I would market myself and M2 as a life coaching company, but everyone would think we're nuts and never hire us.  But thats what we do... we help people get their day to day actions in line with their long term goals.  Macros are a PART of that process but way less than you might expect.

I think its equally as important to someone's success to help them define what success means in a bigger sense. To let them know that you're PROUD of their effort to eat well that day when shit hit the fan at work, to tell them that you're PROUD of their PR in the gym, to tell them that you're so freaking PROUD of them for finally sharing their story that for so long defined who they were.

 Read  this ... its important.

Read this... its important.

I feel a need to share this example.  I cried tears of joy when Mekenzie qualified for the Crossfit Games.  It was a proud moment for me as her nutrition coach, but I teared up because I was just so damn HAPPY for her.  To see her realize her goal was an amazing moment and something I'll never forget, but the moment was made so much bigger because of all the small victories that she had won over the last two years of us working together.  I don't think she makes it to the Games without facing some demons along the way and choosing to focus on the process and not the result.  If you go check out the IG post from the day she qualified, you'll see that I wrote the following, "18 months working together... there's been laughs, tears, fights and hugs. I was proud of her before she even took the floor and now I'm just so freaking happy for her. Mekenzie Riley, Crossfit Games athlete."

If you want a nutrition program thats JUST focused on the macros, update pictures or the end result, we're probably not the company for you.  If you want a coach that cares probably a little too much, then give us a shout.  We'll be ready. 

Of Macros and Men

I’ve been a nutrition coach in some capacity for about the last 7 years.  I’ve worked with hundreds of athletes, and built customized nutrition plans for more than 1000 people in that time.  I would estimate that the male to female ratio of my work is close to 90% in the favor of women.  Let’s be clear, it’s NOT because men do a better job with eating than women.

As a male, and someone that has seen huge benefits from paying close attention to my nutrition, I want this to change... so now you get to read a blog post on the topic!  This isn’t just for shits and giggles, but because I know for a fact that you’ll look, feel, and perform better if you learn to pay even just 50% more attention to your diet, guys.

To spice it up a little bit, I’ve enlisted the help of my good friend, and all around Crossfit badass, Jake Marconi.  Jake started working with me in August and has seen some pretty remarkable results.  He was already a beast in the gym, but he’s taken his game to a new level.  Of course, much of that is due to great programming and hard work, but fueling him appropriately led to some FAST changes.  On top of that Jake has seen some pretty great benefits in the head space category… never mind the mirror.  Let me tell you, you haven’t lived until a hairy dude with a man bun sends you update pics out of the shower.

 Swear to god, this was Jake's before picture...

Swear to god, this was Jake's before picture...

The reason I chose Jake for this post is because of where he came from, as it relates to his relationship with food, and where we have him headed now. Its been an amazing transformation and I can't wait to see how far it takes him in the future.

WHY DON’T MEN TRACK

I think there’s this idea in fitness that men don’t under-eat as much as women do, and therefore don’t need to pay much attention to their diet to fuel their performance appropriately.  That’s just nonsense in my opinion. The best evidence that I can use to support this is about 75% of the men that I build nutrition plans for end up eating significantly MORE food than prior to us working together.  I polled four other nutrition coaches in the Crossfit community and each gave me a similar answer.  So I think we can easily dismiss the fact that men are doing a “good” job with their nutrition to support performance and/or body composition goals.

To be fair, there’s absolutely no evidence that the last 8-9 years of male Crossfit Games Champions (Fraser, Smith, Froning or Holmberg) counted anything in their diet.  Sure, Rich has partnered with RP now, but all evidence points to the fact that his four years of dominance was fueled pretty heavily by whole milk and peanut butter. However, it’s a dangerous game to think that what the best in the sport are doing will work well for the other 99.99% of us.

I think the other aspect of men not wanting to track their diet is related to the idea that men are more liable to think that they can simply “out train” a bad diet.  The concept of “Well I’ll just do an extra couple miles on the track tomorrow so I can have a few extra beers tonight” is one that I see frequently. The reality of this situation is that it typically backfires horribly.  More training simply does NOT equal better results. 

I thought about whether there are more social stigmas placed on men than women with tracking and dieting in general... is a man is more likely to be teased for weighing and measuring food, or carting his Tupperware around?  In the end, I don’t think we can say that there’s a disparity here.  Both sexes deal with comments from family, friends and coworkers that send the message of “Come on man, just eat the cake… have another beer… why are you dieting anyway, you look fine!”  "Health shaming" is a huge topic deserving its own post, so I won't expand here, but I think its safe to say, most everyone deals with that in some form or another.

I asked Jake about stigma’s and here’s what he had to say, “There is definitely a stigma with tracking your food for both men and women, but I feel it comes from people outside of fitness. Tracking what you eat has been commonplace in athletics for a very long time, so inside of our bubble it is not head turning when someone is weighing their food or sipping La Croix in place of a few beers.  There are still jokes, but for the most part I personally don’t feel a stigma as a male athlete. This is in large part due to surrounding myself with like-minded people who are either focused on similar goals or understand what it takes to reach a high level in any field. The stares, questions, and comments come from those who simply don’t understand why we are doing what we’re doing.”

Jake’s attitude and approach of building himself a strong support network that is aware of his goals and understands the larger picture is admirable.  Feeling isolated in your actions can be very daunting, but having others that understand the choices and respect the dedication can make life significantly easier.

 WHY MALE ATHLETES SHOULD TRACK

I’m clearly biased as the owner of M2PN and as a nutrition coach, so I thought I would let Jake give us some insight onto the benefits he’s seen as a result of working with M2PN.

Why did you enlist the help of a nutrition coach?

I’ve worked with nutrition coaches in the past but I never found a great fit for me until working with M2. I didn’t realize it but I had always been searching for a coach that I could be in consistent contact with, so that we could work collaboratively instead of just telling me what to do, then checking in every so often. I love to geek out on both training and nutrition and have since I was 13 so having someone to discuss concepts, methods and theories with is awesome.

The reason I reached out initially is because one of the M2 athletes gave a raving review and made fun of me because she was eating SIGNIFICANTLY more than I was at the time. I had also been in a spot where I was willing/ready to make a change nutritionally because what I had currently doing was not working. For me, performance was not an issue although it has improved since working with Mike, rather I never saw the body composition results I was looking for given the amount of training I did.  

What difference have you seen since working with M2PN?

Since working with M2PN I have both gotten bigger and leaner which is every dudes wish, right? I’ve also developed a heathier relationship with my food seeing it as fuel that will help my performance opposed to something I was restricting due to fear of gaining weight. The difference goes beyond body composition though, my performance has continued to improve, I feel less run down between sessions and have much more energy outside of the gym.

What benefits besides food/macros have you found from working one on one with us?

The two biggest benefits I’ve had since working with you are my sleep and my relationship with food.

 When we started working together I was waking up 5+ times a night and never feeling rested upon waking. Now I am able to sleep through the night without getting up and I wake up ready to train/take on the day. This has come through a lot of trial and error of techniques and enforcing habits such has creating a wind down routine, blocking/cutting out blue light, and journaling before bed (probably a bigger stigma around this then tracking, a dude writing down their feelings… WHAT THE F$%!??) Honestly, dialing in sleep has been our biggest priority and it has become clear that the better/longer I sleep the better I perform and look.

On my relationship with food, you helped change my perspective on carbohydrates a lot. FOREVER I had a fear that a lot of carbohydrates would inevitably make me fat, not fuel my performance. I have learned that I was quite wrong and it didn’t take long to realize this. I was eating around 260-300g of carbs a day when we first started working together and you immediately bumped me up to 405g daily which was scary as shit… but there was no negative change, I only felt better and looked better. After that it didn’t take much convincing.

 Amazing what some attention to detail and appropriate fueling can do for a guy.  

Amazing what some attention to detail and appropriate fueling can do for a guy.  

 

If you had to give advice to someone deciding whether or not to work on their diet, what would it be?  

As humans, we often live in a constant irony; we don’t know exactly what we want but we keep ourselves constantly busy chasing “something”. This is a quote I often use as a self-check, “Am I doing busy work or am I doing things that are in line with my goals and are moving me further towards the goal.”

 I was asked by my training partner the other day what I thought the biggest change has been in my training over the last year. It got me thinking, that the most significant change was a LONG series of tiny changes in my daily actions that have become routine. Things like having a bedtime routine, morning routine, food prep routine, mobility work daily, body work weekly, warming up and cooling down daily, etc… the accumulation of good habits has entirely changed my daily life to be in line with my goals and this took TIME and will continue to.

 Jake has a great perspective on the mental aspects of training and I think its allowed himself to start realizing his full potential.  He was already doing a great job with his training before working with us, but now he’s layered additional levels of successful practices on top of that.  Nutrition, food quality, sleep, body work, and all the other seemingly factors that add up to give huge results.  I would wish Jake the best of luck in the rest of the Open and what appears to be a very solid chance of making Regionals, but I know for a fact that he would say “F#$! luck, I’m prepared.”

If you’re looking to dial in your nutrition, sleep and lifestyle hit us up here to start working with a coach towards your goals.