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.
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.
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.