I’ve considered myself an ‘athlete’ since I started my journey into Roller Derby, and have at various stages dabbled with Nutrition to attempt to improve my performance, but I am not a nutritionist – I can be a keyboard scientist all I like but the internet is literally a bottomless pit of fad’s, crap advice and generally a whole bundle of confusion!
So to not be one of those people – if you want nutrition advice, go to a nutrition coach/nutritionist, you wouldn’t ask a GP to change your car exhaust* – in much the same way your mechanic can’t offer a health diagnosis! In some ways this is where our GP office’s let the general public down, but more on this another day (or some day, when I have the time to reflect further). I am not here to offer you nutrition advice, I am here to reflect on my experience and the effect focusing on this has had on my ability to train, maintain or improve my performance and any positive or negative impacts of this approach to my general life.
*Please note, this is a generalisation for dramatic effect, I’m sure some GPs are also efficient mechanics!
I signed up with a nutrition coach on a ten week program, which had a varied membership of folks with many different goals from fat loss to performance, to muscle building, and most people had varying activity levels.
My primary goal was to learn to fuel myself more effectively and improve my performance. I have been a Roller Derby player for 5+ years and have been a Crossfitter (I feel like I can call myself this now) for 2+ years and during this time I have been fine – I can get the job done, to a point, but I also can end up running out of fuel in the tank and I’ll be the first to admit I have no idea what my nutritional intake actually is anymore – but in general my body weight and overall condition just doesn’t fluctuate.
I’ve been a solid 70-75kg for around 5 years, prior to my coeliac diagnosis I was 65-70kg but on the flip side although I was lighter I was constantly exhausted, looked drained and was generally ill (because gluten was destroying my body). I was much happier with my weight gain after my diagnosis, as it showed me my bowel was improving in health and also meant in general I was internally more functional and was healing my gut. But I’ve reached a point where I want to improve further, and beyond training more (ahem, full-time demanding job over here) looking at my nutrition seemed a logical next step. So I joined the group, and after submitting various measurements and information I was sent my calorie and macro targets and the program outline – so how did it go?
- Pre-LOCKDOWN I trained ~3 times a week at a Crossfit Chester-le-Street, and played/trained for Roller Derby 3 times a week.
- Post-LOCKDOWN I train 5 days a week at a Crossfit Box; 3 days on / Rest / 2 days on / Rest
- Roller Derby is currently cancelled until further notice due to COVID restrictions.
This week was about learning what I do actually eat, while attempting to stick to my calorie target – it was actually a really educational process. I had no idea that my diet was so based around my cravings. I’ve always been a snacker, a constant grazer, but I also discovered that the choices I was making weren’t overly nutritious; I think I probably have a sugar and salt addiction – it certainly explained why I was constantly snacking because I don’t think I ever felt full!
Over the week I also noticed I eat more in the mornings and midday, and I’m generally not really hungry in the evenings – but if I miss out on these morning or midday feeds I turn into an absolute monster and eat everything in site with no regrets!
This week the focus was trying to hit the Macro targets, but these always came secondary to calories.
Again this was teaching me what foods balance out both Macros and Calories, whilst keeping me satiated throughout the day. As a ‘flexitarian’ verging more on vegetarian, at this stage, hitting protein became a real challenge and there literally isn’t enough Tofu in the world that can fill that protein hole! However I did go away with my friends for a mini-break and found it really hard to track whilst out in the real world, and lost around 3 days of data – but I was also quite at peace with the fact that I was having a nice time and it wasn’t going to destroy the progress I was making.
This week is all about moving more – and I definitely did this! Christ, my legs weren’t my own by the end of the week! But I also managed a load of PB’s at the gym, and was buzzing that I did better than I expected on a 2K row for time.
I’ve been feeling really energized and generally perky and vibrant (I know weird description). The scales haven’t moved much but I’m not too fussed about that because my performance has shot up which is goal numero uno, and I have had a couple of comments on my body condition changing this week…
Micronutrients, or whole foods week. This one is proving to be less of a challenge as it would have been when I wasn’t diagnosed coeliac, I eat a lot of fruit and veg and what are considered less ‘processed’ sources, I mean as a coeliac I was pretty limited on processed things for a while. And other than my Percy Pig addiction (which is legit a thing) I’ve generally been ok – I just don’t buy them unless I decide I want them – I’m an abstainer not a moderator ha!
My weight has dropped to a level I haven’t been since I was diagnosed, which initially made me a bit concerned and I was genuinely shocked on the Monday because it seemed to just happen overnight.
It’s tweaking week for some folks, (altering targets and looking at progress) so I took some new photos as a record of the mid-way point (below).
My targets have remained the same, and we’re also looking at increased activity again. Which for me has been a bit harder due to general life things. But I’ve managed to sustain the loss I had initially, and again I’ve also managed to have increased lifts, my performance has felt good this week – even if I have had a mentally draining week, the gym has gone well.
The last 5 weeks of the program focused on looking at the non-scale benefits (the improvements beyond your number on the scale), for me those benefits have been new PB’s, improved lifts at the gym, improved gymnastics ability (not quite there yet but improvements still count), confidence increase and quite frankly all the comments.
From around week 8 onwards it’s been interesting having folks approaching me just to tell me about the improvements they can see visually but also in my physical outputs as well.
The last week of the program was the impending second English lockdown news and a second carb refeed (we did one of these earlier in the program as well) – this couldn’t have been timed worse by w’or Boris as I stress ate more than I should have, but even though the number on the scales increased my actual body didn’t, and I didn’t try to punish myself for it either, because it’s about trusting the process and rebooting the next day.
So what did I learn?
It’s been really amazing to see just how much balanced and focused nutrition can be the last piece of the puzzle in achieving any fitness goals. It sounds really obvious in hindsight but I was very much of the mentality that by being consistent in my training I could fuel however I wanted and stay the same – and that’s the truth, without change you will stay the same….
But to see real change you need to enact and embrace that change and do the thing! It’s been really easy to work with Craig and the group have been super friendly and supportive, and I’d 100% recommend his program to anyone who’ wanting to take those last steps to their program to make gains, get stronger, eat well and just be better.
Over the whole 10 week program I went from 75kg (ish) to 65kg overall. That’s a 10kg loss and what’s more is I have increased my lifts from;
|POWER CLEAN||40kg||65kg +25kg|
|BENCH PRESS||30kg||50kg +20kg|
|‘RANDY‘ (10 MIN CAP)||52/75 REPS (DNF)||6:34 +23 REPS|
If you’d like to get involved drop Craig Newbigin (Newbigin Nutrition & Coaching) a message via his facebook page, as the next program starts after a 2 week break (maintenance fortnight) for the winter round – and buy some kitchen scales!
*Disclaimer; You may not experience the same levels of weight loss, or performance improvements as myself personally, everybody and every body is different depending on what their level of commitment to the program (or any nutrition and training program) may be at their stage of life – this post is a description of my journey and experiences, and I went ALL IN.