When we lose blood, our heart pumps faster and our vessels constrict to increase blood pressure. When we lift weights over long periods of time, our hands develop protective calluses. Our bodies are constantly adapting. As discussed in last week’s video, the fuel system of the body is no exception. When conditions are ‘easy’ it becomes lax and less efficient at what it does: turning food into usable energy. Athletes shouldn’t want their bodies to get used to ‘easy.’ Would you drive a car around a track to prepare for a foot race?
Are you satisfied with your athletic performance? Do you find yourself worrying about your athletic potential as you age? Many athletes don’t notice the affects of nutrition on performance until later in life and spend years dodging their true potential. By focusing on the factors that differentiate top end athleticism between the 1 and 3%, individuals can eliminate holes in their game before they even appear.
In last week’s discussion, CrossFit Endurance founder Brian MacKenzie and WellnessFX CEO Jim Kean touched on how athletes can push towards peak performance. In the second part of our CrossFit Endurance & WellnessFX series, Dr. Justin Mager walks Brian through our body’s fuel system and why the traditional American diet is not optimal for athletic training.
In a nut shell, the body’s fuel system works as such:
- Fuel in the form of carbs, proteins, or fats are used to produce acetyl-CoA, an important coenzyme involved in metabolism
- Acetyl-CoA moves into the mitochondria, the powerhouses of the cell
- Mitochondria use acetyl-CoA to generate ATP, the body’s ‘unit of currency’ for energy transfer
We’ve been told time and time again that high-carb diets are the best way to feed this fuel system due to its role in aerobic activity. Surprisingly enough, however, fat is the fuel of choice when the body is in the oxidative state experienced during endurance exercise. Because it takes longer to process, fat as fuel puts ‘stress’ on the system, but the overall energy output is greater. Much like athletic training itself, this stress is a good thing! More mitochondria are generated to deal with the ‘stress’ and the body becomes more efficient at turning all types of fuel into energy. When the system is instead bombarded with carbs, the ‘easy’ fuel source, mitochondria levels decrease and the efficiency of the entire system drops. Come performance time, it’s obvious which system will come out on top!
As Brian can attest to, high carbohydrate diets can be adequate for endurance training. But why settle for adequate, when you can have optimal?
As the popularity of The Crossfit Games increases, so does the competition. Teams were baffled to find that, despite improving 10-20% over winning performances last year, they weren’t even placing! Four or five years ago athletes could get by on raw athletic talent, even with holes in their abilities. The Games expanded, became more structured, and the margin for these ‘holes’ decreased. Players found themselves walking the edge of their athletic potential just to stay in the running. They were fighting for that 1 or 2% increase, and soon had to look beyond training to find a way. It’s not a situation exclusive to CrossFit. Any athlete who’s been training for a long time soon finds him or herself facing the same question: how to push further?
CrossFit Endurance founder Brian MacKenzie came by the WellnessFX offices to chat with our CEO Jim Kean and Dr. Justin Mager for a series of conversations about the evolution of the CrossFit Games, why athletes are becoming pre-diabetic and how to turn on your “athletic gene” with nutrition. In the first video below, Brian talks about diet and its importance in reaching athletic potential.
The problem begins with younger athletes. Many have the luxury of being able to ignore nutrition and get away with it. When we’re young, hormone levels are high and everything we eat essentially goes towards growth and development. With age, internal conditions become less ideal for optimal performance. Factors outside of training become more and more relevant. Did you sleep last night? What did you have for breakfast? What does your nutritional plan look like? When Brian MacKenzie first started his training program, he began to ask these questions. His workout program evolved from solely high-volume, long-distance endurance exercises to skill-based training with incorporation of a Paleo-based diet. His athletes experienced considerable improvement. So why can’t you?
To see the culmination of Brian MacKenzie’s quest for a perfect mix of training and nutrition, check out 3Fuel, a supplement for performance and recovery. Learn more about 3Fuel at the official website, 3fu3l.com, or purchase from the CrossFit Endurance Store.