Good morning and welcome to the weekend edition of the Morning Chalk Up. Meredith Root takes on nutrition and fitness in her Op-Ed. Plus, we have the day one recap and more, from the Norwegian CrossFit Championship. Today:
The State of Nutrition in CrossFit, by Meredith Root.
The Day One Recap from the Norwegian CrossFit Championship.
Norway’s Slice of Nature: NCC Event One Recap, by Tommy Marquez
An Achilles Tendon Tear Ends Alexis Johnson’s Season.
“Do your little bit of good where you are; it’s those little bits of good put together that overwhelm the world.” — Desmond Tutu
OpEd: The State of Nutrition in CrossFit
By Meredith Root
There are few things that get people as fired up on social media as nutrition. Like politics and religion, nutrition is quickly a no-no topic at family gatherings and simply mentioning the words “plant based”, “intermittent fasting”, or “ketogenic” on the internet is enough to launch normally calm individuals into an absolute rage-fueled frenzy of cell phone typing.
I know this because I have been guilty of it in the past.
One such situation presented itself last weekend when an Op-Ed was published touting the benefits of the ketogenic diet with regards to performance in CrossFit. It is not my purpose here to debunk or directly rebut that article, but suffice it to say I vehemently disagreed with the majority of the piece.
The purpose of this article is to examine the state of nutrition within CrossFit. So, before we get going, get out your brown paper bags and practice some deep breathing because I am going to give you my opinions, some of which you might disagree with. There will be no science here, I am simply going to paint a picture that allows for many different diets and lifestyles to coexist in the same space.
I have had the great pleasure of being involved in CrossFit for almost a decade. I have gone from gross novice to Regionals hopeful to CrossFit Games athlete and now I wear the hat of nutrition coach and business owner. My observations are not simply my own but the experiences shared with the hundreds of clients that Alex Parker and I have worked with personally. We have worked with the entire spectrum of human beings. Elite level athletes, recreational exercisers, triathletes, couch potatoes, and everyone in between. We have used all types of diets as tools for our clients. Ketogenic, intermittent fasting, autoimmune paleo, FODMAP, all have a role in health in the right scenario. We spend a great deal of our free time reading and discussing nutrition, performance, behaviors, and psychology. It is our obsession. Combining that with my understanding of the history and evolution of
CrossFit, I have come to the conclusion that the state of nutrition in the world of CrossFit can be broken down into three groups. Each of these groups necessitates a different approach.
Group One: “CrossFit for Health”
These are people who are doing CrossFit to improve their health, reverse disease, and prolong their lifespan. These people can be young, old, obese, skinny, disabled, or already healthy, but their goals are the same. They want to get or stay healthy and they do this by joining an affiliate and taking CrossFit classes or following along with main site workouts. This is the core focus of CrossFit. Producing the fittest people on earth is a neat by-product of training CrossFit style workouts in volume, but the goal of CrossFit has never been to create the world’s most elite competitive athletes. The goal of CrossFit has always been to positively impact the health of as many people as possible.
Understanding that CrossFit class is only one hour per day, there has to be a nutritional component to the recommendation from CrossFit. To quote Greg Glassman “Go ahead, exercise as hard as you can. If you stuff your face like an unsupervised eight-year old, you only have one oar in the water.” You cannot reverse disease by working out for one hour per day. Enter the paleo diet. Eat meat and vegetables, nuts and seeds, some fruit, little starch and no sugar. Keep intake to levels that support exercise but not body fat. That is the recommendation from CrossFit and to be honest, I agree with it. Do I think the paleo diet is the best diet? Absolutely not. But it addresses a lot of issues with the modern American/Western diet consumed by millions of people around the world. It is a low hanging fruit approach. The paleo diet eliminates highly processed foods that are easy to consume in
excess. This results in an immediate improvement in food quality and intake. If someone who was once eating fast food burgers, potato chips, and drinking soda is now eating high volume vegetables and quality meat, you can bet their blood markers, body fat, and overall health are going to improve! When we are dealing with the elderly population, the adoption of the paleo diet means an immediate increase in protein consumption which is vital as we age to retain lean body mass.
Most recently, CrossFit has started to advocate the ketogenic diet, although to my knowledge has not made an official shift away from their recommendation of the paleo diet. Again, the ketogenic diet is one that might result in weight loss and improved health markers in otherwise unhealthy populations. This is not necessarily because of the specific foods included in that diet but rather the specific foods that are excluded. Additionally, dietary habituation and palate fatigue occur naturally on a restricted diet which results in a subconscious decrease in caloric intake over time leading to weight loss.
If you want to think of this in a coaching sense, recommending the paleo diet to a person starting CrossFit to improve their health is like using a basic cue to fix errors in the beginner athlete’s snatch. “Jump” is certainly not a cue I would likely give to an advanced lifter, but when someone has never touched a barbell before, it works pretty well! A simple cue like this potentially eliminates a lot of faults all at once and is a perfect foundation on which to build more advanced technique. The same goes for nutrition. Paleo does the job for people with limited resources and education on nutrition who are historically unhealthy eaters. The limitations of this type of diet reveal themselves over time. More on that later.
Friluftsliv, a 160 year-old word that translates literally to “free air life” in Norwegian, embodies the cultural ties of Norway’s population to the natural world around them. Norway consistently ranks at the top of the United Nation’s World Happiness Report, and it seems fitting then that for a country that finds fulfillment in exploring and connecting with nature, a word exists for the purpose of properly capturing this aspect of the Norwegian people.
“It’s a real thing,” says Andrea Solberg, who will be representing Norway at the 2020 Games, “many Norwegians love and take pride in spending time outdoors, in the mountains, sleeping in the mountains, and if the weather allows it, doing so without a tent.”
The individuals and teams at the Norwegian CrossFit Championship got a full taste of friluftsliv, as they braved the cold and the snow to traverse up a ski slope, and through the countryside of the Storefjell Resort in event one today.
With a starting time temperature of -6℃/21℉, the roughly three and a half kilometer run began with a steep climb up the snowy hillside. Athletes were bracketed on either side by ski lifts still actively spinning, and after reaching the top the of the climb, they were treated to panoramic views of the Storefjell countryside.
“Once you get to the top, it’s just you and the mountains out there, it’s a perfect little piece of Norway,” proclaimed national champion Kristin Holte.
The next two kilometers were spent weaving alongside snowmobile tracks and terrain usually reserved for cross-country skiers, as the added wind dropped temperatures to -12℃/10℉.
The cold sting of each breath paled in comparison to the visuals of the landscape, and as athletes sprinted full bore during a downhill stretch to the finish, the pain of the event gave way to smiles.
“It was a pretty amazing experience, not like anything I’ve done before in competition,” said Hayley Murillo, who traveled from California for the event, “Thankfully I googled what to wear before I came here.”
In an exemplary display of friluftsliv, the Norwegian contingent of athletes left their mark at the top of the leaderboard for the event.
Runa Egeland and the CrossFit Oslo Warriors took home the win in the elite women and teams divisions, while Norwegian national champion Nicolay Billaudel finished second overall for the men.
After the finish, athletes and fans hustled back inside the Storefjell Resort hotel to thaw out and prepare for the rest of the day’s events, and regardless of result or finish, everyone walked away with a proper piece of Norwegian culture and an opening event experience unlike anything seen before in Sanctionals history.
Achilles Tendon Tear Ends Alexis Johnson’s 2020 CrossFit Games Season
In an Instagram post on Thursday afternoon, Alexis Johnson disclosed that she tore her Achilles tendon. The injury occurred on Tuesday morning while performing box jumps. On Wednesday she underwent surgery to repair and reattach the tendon.
Johnson has three CrossFit Games appearances, two as an individual in 2016 and 2017 before transitioning to team competition. Last season she competed with Team Don’t Stop which finished sixth at the 2019 CrossFit Games. This season, she received her fourth Games invite after her team, Team Odd Squad, won the SouthFit CrossFit Championship back in early December.
Morning Chalk Up reached out to Johnson, who took the time to talk to us about her injury and recovery.
On the extent of the injury. “I completely tore my Achilles. Luckily there aren’t any other injuries.”
On the surgery and upcoming recovery. “The surgery lasted about 40 minutes. It’s possible that in nine months, I’ll never even think about the injury. I’ll spend the next two weeks in a cast, and completely non-weight bearing. Then I’ll move to a boot and start walking with crutches. That’ll be for 3-5 weeks. After that, we’ll just have to wait and see how everything is healed. I want to be cautious, but I’m also itching to breathe hard again already!”
What happens to Team Odd Squad?
The injury to Johnson comes just a week after Team Odd Squad accepted their formal invitations to the 2020 Games. Part of that invitation process was declaring the male and female athletes who would act as alternates. According to the official 2020 CrossFit Games Rulebook, once those alternates are declared and submitted to CrossFit headquarters they
cannot be changed and teams can only choose from those athletes submitted to field a team at the Games.
The team that competed and won at SouthFit consisted of Johnson, Emily Tanner, Brandon Luckett and Jordan Cook. Those four names were submitted to HQ as the team competing at the Games with Johnson serving as team captain.
McKenzie Flinchum and Nick Mathew were named alternates. Flinchum will now step in for Johnson per the rulebook.
Flinchum is no stranger to the Games, having burst onto the scene last year. She made her first Games appearance after finishing 17th in the Open last season. At the Games, she finished 50th overall.
According to Johnson, the team had planned on competing at the West Coast Classic, Rogue Invitational and the Granite Games in preparation for the Games prior to her injury. She stated that plans are “up in the air a bit” after the setback.
Johnson has kept in contact with Flinchum, “she is ready to to step in” and “I trust her fitness,” she said.
Johnson’s response to the outpouring of love and support from friends, fans and the community:
“I have never felt so much love and support. All from people who are as bummed out as I am. I love training and I love competing with my team and I am going to miss out on that for a while. That part sucks. But, CrossFit has provided me with so much joy, great memories and strong friendships. Sure, I wouldn’t be going through this if I sat on the couch eating Doritos, but it happened because I was doing something that I love, something that makes me proud of myself and something that has provided me with opportunities to meet incredible people.”
“The Fittest” – Official Trailer
In 2019, the CrossFit Games season experienced dramatic changes. In the newest installment of their acclaimed “Fittest” documentary series, Heber Cannon and Marston Sawyers track all the developments and ask, “Can the top male and female athletes find their way in this new format to be crowned The Fittest on Earth?”
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Kelsey Kiel is getting ready to make her first individual trip to the CrossFit Games after earning an invitation from Strength in Depth. She talks with Sean Woodland about her collegiate soccer career, her experience competing at the Games on a team, how she went from making fun of CrossFit to being good at it and what she has to work on from now until the Games roll around in August.
A simple, warm, and hearty soup is something we crave all winter long. This one is full of shrimp, brown rice, and rich flavor to really hit the spot. It’s healthy, delicious and exactly what you need.