Nutritional Challenges at Rocket
It’s that time of year again. Three times a year, we do a nutritional challenge at Rocket. It’s changed a bit over the last 6 years, but the basics have stayed the same. And this time, we’re trying something new, a “scaled” division. When we began, we always did a Whole 30. After Brady and I discovered Keto, we let people choose between a Whole 30 and strict Keto. But there were always people who asked for a “half-assed 30.” We scoffed, because we were some combination of clueless and sanctimonious. But really, that was incongruent with who we are as a gym, and what we love about CrossFit. If the idea is that we’ll meet you where you’re at, and can scale anything, why would we leave nutrition out of that?
So, because I am constantly explaining to both members and other gym owners how and why we do our nutritional challenges, I’m gonna spell it all out here. My hope is to inspire others to do their version. Even if you’re not a member of Rocket, get a group of friends together and commit to nutrition for 30 days.
It’s simple. Nutrition is the single most important thing you can do for your body. It is, literally, the fuel that your body needs to run. If your body were a car, food is your gas. Without gas, or with bad gas (and no oil, and no coolant and….) your car will break down. So will your body. This isn’t about shame and control, it’s just logic. Put the fuel that your body needs into your body and it will work better. Don’t put harmful things in the tank (at least not often) and it will work better.
We always tell people that you can come to the gym every day if you want, but if you’re not paying attention to nutrition, you’re rowing a boat with one oar.
But why do it as a 30-day challenge? Isn’t that just a “diet?”
Maybe. But for many people, it’s less claustrophobic and overwhelming to bite off a piece. With 30 days, there’s an end in sight, but it’s also enough time to learn that you can, in fact, control what you eat and drink. And for us, that’s actually the more important part. We want people to learn that you are in charge of what you put in your body, not your mother, not some magazine or celebrity web site, not some desperate sense that you can’t survive this one event without drinking. You can. Just like showing up in the gym forms a habit, showing yourself that you can make decisions around your food can build habits.
It’s also enough time for your body to begin to adjust to life with different fuel. Not only might you start to feel better, but you might be able to feel the difference when you deviate again. (Note, we try not to use words like “cheat” and “bad” when we talk about food. There’s what we typically do, and there’s deviation from that. We don’t need more shame around food, we just need to acknowledge patterns. We need to acknowledge cause and effect.) For me, when I went from a standard diet to Paleo, I felt enormously better. Massively. So I knew I was on to something for me. After being Paleo for a while, when I’d eat certain foods, I’d feel it, so by listening to my body, I learned how food effects me. One of the things I learned is that my body loves dairy. Which is how I wound up at keto, and felt amazing. But after a year and a half, I started feeling a little low energy, so experimented with adding some carbs back in, especially after a workout, and boom, this is currently how I feel best and how I typically eat. (Conversely, my body hates grains, except rice. Grains, however, are a great source of vitamin B, so I supplement Vitamin B.)
It is this kind of learning about your own body that we hope to encourage. Because there is no single nutritional plan that is perfect for everybody. Just like we aim to help you learn how your body works in the gym, we hope to empower you to make decisions about your own food with our nutritional challenges.
I’ve explained the differences between Keto and Paleo in other posts, so this one will focus on how our challenges work. Including the new scaled version.
EVERYONE BUYS IN We charge $30 to do the nutritional challenge. Why? Because people commit better when they have skin in the game. It also pays for great graphic design for a t-shirt, because we have learned that more people do it when they get a shirt for it, and we have an amazing graphic designer, so we love to use her.
DECLARE YOUR INTENT
Previously, as I’ve said, we’ve had people do either a strict Whole 30 or a strict Keto plan. This time, we’re having a scaled division. Now, it still isn’t gonna be easy. It still needs to be a challenge. But you can declare the big changes that you think you need to make. Everyone is giving up alcohol and dessert that isn’t fruit. But what habit are you trying to break? What habit are you trying to form. Declare it. It might look like this: I am going to give up alcohol, dessert and bread for 30 days, and I will eat vegetables at every meal. That counts.
DECLARE YOUR REASONS
Why are you doing this? Losing weight isn’t necessarily a thing that we love as a goal, because it doesn’t always happen. Sometimes, if not often, when we get stronger and healthier, we actually gain weight, and even size. But we want you to dig into yourself and know why you’re doing this. You’ve been feeling stuck? Foggy brained? Your immune system seems to be bumming? And yes, “I’m curious” is a 100% legitimate reason to do this. It’s why I do almost everything. I’m very curious about my body, so I love to explore it.
When someone joins our challenge, we put them in a secret Facebook page, and put them in a Google Doc where they keep score. This is part of the challenge, sharing with the group, supporting others in the group, and being accountable.
We have a 10 point scale. Winners get a prize. (Usually the cookbook of their choice.)
5 points for food. Food is all or nothing. You get 5 points for adhering to your plan perfectly. 0 points for food if you deviate at all.
1 point for exercise. Every day. It doesn’t have to be intense, though we’d encourage you to really hit it hard at least 4 days a week. But every day, something. Yoga. A long walk. Super intense and active sex. Whatever, get your heart rate up, use and stretch your muscles.
1 point for hydration. 1/3 – 1/2 in ounces of your bodyweight in water every day. I hate water, I do, it’s just boring. So I add Ultima electrolytes to my water. It makes it delicious, and replaces electrolytes lost to sweating when working out. (We sell it at the gym, so if you’re at Rocket, you can charge it to your account.) I have also found that loving my water bottle helps, and for some reason, a Hydroflask tricks me into drinking. I know that if I drink 2 32-oz bottles a day, I’m on track, and it’s small enough to carry around with me. Do whatever works for you.
1 point for mobility. (I never get this point, for some reason, I am recalcitrant in my belief that I hate to stretch.) 10 minutes a day of rolling, stretching. It matters. We are always chasing a balance of strength and mobility. If you have too much of one, not balanced out by the other, you’re at greater risk for injury.
1 point for sleep. Yup. Sleep is super important for both your brain and your body. It’s when your body releases growth hormone to heal (and build) your muscles. It’s when your brain sorts things out. 7 hours a night, minimum. We know this is hard for some people, especially those with kids, but by trying to prioritize it, we’ve seen people make big changes.
1 point for reporting to the group. This is actually super important, because this is where community and accountability work their magic. We ask people to fill out their score on the Google doc (it’s 6 yes or no questions, takes 30 seconds) AND write a post in the secret page about what they ate, did and how they felt. This is where the magic happens.
NO WEIGHING YOURSELF
The scale is your enemy. Period, end of statement. Fuck that thing. Especially when you enter that mythological nightmare zone of “the last 10 pounds” or whatever ghoulish idea the media has foisted on you. Your body, when you eat nutritiously and exercise rationally, will show you what it looks like when you are in optimal fitness. We don’t like the scale. We like to measure, over the long run, things like how strong you feel, how much energy you have in your day, how well you sleep….. things like that. We set goals to DO things, not look like things. (Unless I can look like a bearded dragon, I really love those things.)
At the end of the month, we tally up the points in the Google doc, and announce the winners.
Other random thoughts…..
Your relationship with your body is not a one-night stand or a summer fling. You are literally in that thing for your entire life. Just like any relationship, it involves learning to listen and to compromise and to pay attention to how things feel. Be patient with yourself as you learn your body’s language, and be patient with it while it learns how to interpret the things you do to it. 30 days is a start, that’s all.
And on that same note, things change. Your hormones, stress levels, activity levels…. all of that changes what your body needs and does. Remember how earlier I said that after a year and a half of keto I “suddenly” started feeling sluggish, and like I needed some more carbs? That first year and a half of keto, I was basically recovering from shoulder surgeries, so I wasn’t very active. Now I’m back to being my super active self, and my body DOES need more carbs to match the change in activity. Seasons will change what you need (VITAMIN D!). Hormones. All of it. The only constant is constant change. (Back to my car analogy. If you typically only use 10 gallons of a gas a week, but then go on a long road trip and use 10 gallons in a day, are you going to be surprised? Are you going to shame your car, or fill it up and be psyched that it’s taking you to such great places? Are you surprised and shamed when you have to put on snow tires to drive across a mountain pass?)
Food isn’t always enough. I used to believe that if you just ate some magically perfect diet, you would never need to supplement. My amazing nutritionist disavowed me of that naivete. I have my nutrition dialed in, in general. And I still have laughably low levels of Iron, B and D. So I started supplementing, and feel worlds better. Likewise, my daughter is a serious athlete, and her needs for protein and amino acids, in addition to the apparently genetic deficiencies in those same vitamins, can’t be met by food, so she supplements. It made a world of difference.
BUT, supplements are just that, supplements. They are not substitutes for food. They help you get what you’re not getting from food. Food first. (If you’re at Rocket, we sell Thorne supplements at the gym. We sell the sports-specific supplements that Celia uses, as well as the general vitamins, minerals and probiotics that Brady and I take. I’m a fan, feel free to ask me my opinions. But they are only opinions.)
And with that, let’s get to it. Our challenge starts September 12. When does your’s start? What do you want to learn about yourself? What do you want to do? I love these things.
I love learning.
I love bodies.
And I really, really, really love food.