Do you know your goal? Why?
Probably the number one thing I get asked is ‘how can I burn fat, build muscle and get stronger or faster, etc.?’ This question is usually in the context of doing all three simultaneously because we’re American and want things done last week. It would be nice, I agree. However, it CAN’T be prioritized at the same time. Allow me to explain what I mean.
P.S. Sorry to break your heart on that one.
Performance– the action or process of carrying out or accomplishing an action, task, or function.
In the performance setting, one’s calories need to be from a maintenance to a surplus range. When fueling for this purpose you will naturally gain weight slowly over time from lean tissue and some fat which will be a little different from person to person; just know that it’s inevitable. It’s okay though because the goal is performance.
Now let’s look at the other side of the coin.
Aesthetics– a set of principles concerned with the nature and appreciation of beauty; especially in art.
For most people, improving aesthetics means to reduce body fat. To do this, one must be in a caloric deficit. When looking at performance, what does being in a caloric deficit mean? It means that your body will not recover the way that it would in a surplus. When looking at the long term being in a perpetual state of slacked recovery, you will not perform at your peak. For me, this would mean no CrossFit™ Regionals or Games.
So what is someone to do who is trying to reach his/her peak genetic performance goals while also trying to be lean? PRIORITIZE your year in different stages. This is know as Periodization.
When I think of periodizing nutrition, I think of 4 KEY times/phases of the year to prioritize.
Phase 1: Competition
For me, this means the Open, Regionals and Games. (Not Regionals and Games yet). If you don’t know much about CrossFit™, you’re competing for time and load in a variety of different skill sets. It’s very demanding on the body. Your abs and vascularity are of no concern to you in this phase. You just want to be the most tuned machine that you can.
This means that you will need to be EATING during this phase. CARBS are extremely important as they will help to minimize the high demands being thrown onto the central nervous system. The further into competition season you are, the more important this is.
Phase 2: Recovery/Rejuvenation
Recovery is usually around 2–3 months long and depends on how long your competition season lasted.
Usually training takes a brief deload in this phase, if your coach is smart. The MOST IMPORTANT part to remember in the recovery phase is that you CAN NOT be in a caloric deficit during deload to recover. If you are, then you’ll start the following prep season in a deficit. Do this for very long and you’ll be wrecked (aka no more competition for you). A deficit here will not allow for full recovery. Also, you’re looking to restore sex hormone profiles that were heavily tapped during the season as well as the adrenals and the CNS. Going 5–6 months (open) or 7–9 months (regionals and games) in completion prep and competition. mode is hard on your body. Recovery is ABSOLUTELY necessary.
Phase 3: Skill/Strength Acquisition
If you’re still wanting to achieve aesthetic goals, it would be beneficial to do so here as you’re looking to get stronger or gain endurance/ get gymnasty.
On one hand, if you want strength then you’re going to need to be eating more. Generally those who need strength are not looking to lose weight too.
On the other, if you’re looking to improve gymnastics skills/endurance base then losing some fat will go a long way in helping you reach those goals. Remember this means being in a caloric deficit. Albeit not to aggressive of a deficit for the sake of hormonal health and CNS/adrenal function. The name of the game is gradual. Here in the South East people might say, ‘keep it in granny gear.’ Keep in mind that your training volume/intensity need not be excessive either for this.
Phase 4: Competition Prep
In the Prep phase your intensity and volume will increase as you begin to test your acquired strength/skills. Subsequently your caloric intake will increase with your training volume/intensity. You will not be able to live in a deficit any longer if you wish to be the beast that you dream to be. So EAT!
So to answer the question in the title of this post. I believe it is possible to have the best of both worlds. Just not at the same time. If you do this year after year, then you will eventually smash your current goals and be in dire need of setting new ones.
Periodization well, my friends.