We get this question a lot from new members or prospective members weighing their options. And as with many high-level questions like this, the answer is a definitive “Yes!” followed by the dreaded “but…” So, let me explain!
- If you consistently train with intensity at least 3 times per week, your body will gradually change into it’s ideal state. Intensity is relative for everyone, and is based on your current fitness level. If you haven’t been doing anything, then getting into the gym and doing SOMETHING on a consistent basis will be intense. As you gain experience, your coach will help you add intensity to your workouts by adding more resistance, more speed, or more time. For many of us, “changing into our ideal state” will mean losing bodyfat – and gaining some muscle. What some people notice first before the weight loss is that their clothes start fitting differently – as you start squatting you may feel like your jeans are a bit tighter – but again this is your body’s adaptation to your increased focus on fitness, and as your composition shifts from fat to muscle your metabolism will increase, resulting in the weight loss you are shooting for.
- Although your muscles will start becoming more toned as you gain strength and lose fat, by just doing CrossFit you will not gain weight and become “bulky.” That outcome has to be achieved with an emphasis on powerlifting movements and a big increase in the amount of food you are eating, and it also has to be a part of your genetic makeup. Athletes that have a high level of muscular size and definition have worked very hard and made a lot of sacrifices to achieve that goal, and also are blessed with the body type to achieve it. For the majority of us, a balanced training approach like CrossFit of building strength, endurance, speed, stamina, and new skills will create a lean, balanced athlete, ready to take on any challenge.
- You can’t outwork a bad diet. The physical training component of CrossFit has to be joined with a nutrition plan that has us first focus on eating real food and cutting out the processed garbage, and second dial in the amount of food we are eating in order to sustain our level of training but no more. The great news here is that the approach of consistent training plus eating well is proven to work, and there are tons of resources to understand how to implement a good diet (in addition to coming in and chatting up your local CrossFit coach!)
- In terms of which foods to choose, consider CrossFit’s general guidance of “eat meat and vegetables, nuts and seeds, some fruit, little starch, and no sugar.” Pretty simple, and based on the fact that humans require protein and healthy fats to operate, but not very much carbohydrate and especially not sugar – which if not used immediately is stored as fat. A Google search of the Paleo diet will provide you with tons of more detailed instruction, as well as the science behind it. You’ll also find some people speaking out against the Paleo diet, as it quite strikingly goes against the previously common nutrition guidelines of staying away from dietary fats and basing our diet on grains and other complex carbohydrates. Modern science has shown however that excess consumption of carbohydrates is primarily responsible for our current state of obesity and related complications.
- After understanding which foods are the healthiest options, there are a few good options to use to dial in how much to eat – and even when to eat it. Many of us that have been at this for a while started with the Zone Diet, made popular by Dr. Barry Sears and his book Enter the Zone. The Zone Diet has us calculate how much food we need based on our size and activity level, and then prescribes a certain number of “blocks” of protein, fat, and carbs at each meal. You can use your Paleo knowledge to determine which foods to choose, and then use the Zone blocks to determine how much to eat. You might have also heard of this general method as “counting macros”, where the macronutrients to be counted over the course of the day are protein, fat, and carbs. Set a goal for each, track your food in an app like My Fitness Pal, and stick to it! Another more recent development that builds on this concept is Renaissance Periodization, or “RP”. RP adds the layer of planning when in your day you are going to work out, and based on that you plan out how many grams of protein, fat and carbs to eat at each meal. You load a lot of your carb intake before and after your workout, so that your body will use it right away and not store it as fat.
- If you eavesdrop on some post-class conversations at CrossFit Kent Island you’ll hear people discussing their “RP templates” and asking questions about food choices. We have a very supportive culture when it comes to food and getting people started on a nutrition plan that works for them. When it comes down to it, the best plan is going to be the one that works well for you and gives you the results that you want. Starting off with small changes, like working on eliminating sugar, can go a long way in the beginning, and it’s not about perfection. We all live real lives that present choices to us about what to eat, and it’s important not to beat yourself up when you go off-target in a social setting – enjoy yourself, remember to use moderation, and come back strong with your next choice. Many athletes plan out their “cheat meals” in advance so they know they have something to look forward to on Friday night as they’re grinding out their week!
In summary, to the question of “will CrossFit help me lose weight?”, the answer is Yes! BUT in addition to the consistent training in the gym, a commitment to eating healthy foods most of the time, and knowing and adhering to how much you should be eating, is what will make those weight loss results start to really happen for you.
Best of luck, and feel free to reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org or any of our amazing coaches if you have any questions or need some help getting started.