Good nutrition, especially when concerned with high intensity exercise such as CrossFit, should have a proper “energy balance”. Energy balance simply refers to whats going in your body (nutrition) and what you’re using (exercise).
This is a simple, but no less vital, component to any good nutritional program. A sway in either direction could result in loss of gains and a downward spiral of health, body composition and performance.
A positive energy balance is when we take too much and use too little. The energy that can be broken down from the macro-nutrients (proteins, fats and carbs) we eat is measure in “calories” or kilocalories. If the calories we are taking in out due the calories we are using through-out the day than we are most likely in a positive energy balance. Of course, it is much more complex then this and hits us way down to the cellular level (another post).
While the obvious side effect of positive energy balance would be weight gain, there are various other, more severe, consequences. This over abundance of food affects our cellular fitness and abilities leading to plaque build up in our arteries, blood pressure and cholesterol increase, and increasingly becoming more insulin resistant, which is the precursor to type 2 diabetes.
A negative energy balance could be just as bad, if not worse. If you eat less or exercise more than you may be breaching the negative energy balance. This is the side that particularly stuck out to me because of the volume and intensity CrossFit requires.
When you enter a negative energy balance your body thinks one thing; “I’m starving”. All “non-survival” functions such as the reproductive system, metabolic function and brain function slow or shut down.
A study done on military recruits that were experiencing a massive negative energy balance led to massive metabolic decline and inability to concentrate; it reduce thyroid hormone production, testosterone levels, and physical performance. These same malfunctions are seen in those with anorexia nervosa: they lose physical fitness, metabolic fitness, mental fitness, bone mass, and muscle mass.
Avoid the Scams, Watch what You Eat
What do the Zone and Adkins diets have in common?
They promote a negative energy balance. They restrict your food and preach to exercise. Its no wonder people lose weight on this diet, though, it’s just a matter of time untill the other nasty consequences peak their heads. Once these consequences do kick in, guess what? Not only will all the weight be put right back on but you will be adding the inability for performance, sex and health. Sound fun?
Think of it this way; how can a diet preach to you that all 21-year-old males need the same amount of macro-nutrients? One of these 21-year-old male’s is training to be the fittest man in the world, while the other is training to watch as many episodes of jersey shore as possible in a month. Really think they need the same “energy”?
Everyone is different as I discussed in my CrossFit Nutrition post, it’s on you to find your own balance. Here are some questions to help you;
Are you on a weight-gain diet? If so, are you exercising or lifting enough to match that energy? If not you may end up solely gaining fat.
Are you trying to lose weight? Sure, a positive energy balance can do the trick by not eating and starving yourself, but so can being thrown in a prison camp or poor African village. Be wise.
Think you are over-trained? Perhaps you are simply “under-fed”.
Likewise, maybe your performance has dropped or you feel drowsy, this could be a negative energy balance.
Gaining weight? Are you eating more? (Obvious)
These simple questions can help point you in the right direction. As simple as this all may seem, no nutritional program is going to show long-term results unless you maintain this dynamic. So eat up and hit the weights!