My primary goals were to gain strength, improve gymnastics, endurance, and generally my overall CrossFit performance; secondarily I was okay if, in the process of getting there, I were to lean out a bit more.
WAG is the best nutrition decision I have made. Scratch that – WAG is one of the best decisions I have made for myself in any category of “life things,” and the results I have experienced thus far go beyond any expectations I had!
Here is some background on my experience with food and nutrition, to help put my comments and feedback in perspective. I started CrossFit in May 2013, having been a long distance runner for many years. My legs were super strong. My cardio was great. My upper body – well, not so much. I drank the CrossFit Kool-Aid, and like many others, the rest is history (including my long distance running!).
In all my years of running, I had never focused on nutrition and was never taught or coached about it (other than how to fuel/hydrate leading up to and during a very long run or race). After starting CrossFit, I had heard bits about Paleo from others at my gym. The idea of giving up dairy, grains, and some other regulars in my diet, made me laugh and roll my eyes. That was not for me, I knew, as my four favorite food groups were bagels, cream cheese, peanut butter & chocolate (they go together at all times) and wine. About six months into my CrossFit journey, my box announced it would be doing a Whole30 challenge in January 2014. I learned what it was, and figured I can do anything for 30 days, and who knows, I may learn something. I have always been one to try something and see what happens and what I can learn. That decision was a huge game changer for me, to put it mildly. Ten days in I was hooked and knew I would stay paleo once the Whole30 was over. I successfully completed it and felt amazing. I loved how I felt and really did not miss so many of the foods I presumed I would. Fast forward 2 years later. I had done probably 3 Whole30s and 2 or 3 Whole14s, stayed Paleo most of the time, but was not afraid to eat off plan if there was a reason, occasion or something I wanted. My body leaned out significantly. I started developing definition in places I never expected (arms, shoulders and abs). It was pretty easy to pay attention to just ingredients and not worry about numbers at all (calories, amount, carb, fat or protein grams) – I did not even think about paying attention to that. Nor did I regularly weight myself because I was happy with how I looked and felt and did not feel the need to be “defined” or “informed” by the number on the scale if that makes sense. I have never been a scale focused individual, so it was not a drastic change for me, but I really didn’t care at all, and went months at a time without ever stepping on a scale. My weight would decrease when I did Whole30 by a few pounds, but otherwise I hung out in the same range, or so the scale told me when I did bother to check in with it. I share all this so you can appreciate just how different WAG was going to be for me – coming from a place where all that mattered when eating was me asking “is it paleo” and if so, eating in whatever amount I wanted.
I had heard about counting macros well before I came to WAG but thought it sounded tedious, challenging, like way too much work, and why would I bother with that when I’m feeling so good and pleased with how I look and feel eating paleo. But I kept hearing different success stories from people using macro programs, both people I knew personally and knew of out in social media and podcast land. The seed was planted, I let it hang there a bit, and finally decided, as when I did my first Whole30, let’s see what this macro thing is about, how I will feel, and let’s look at this at another experience and opportunity to learn how my body performs and how I feel eating a specific way. I put my name on the WAG wait list and then, after a few weeks, got my “you’re in” email!
It was definitely a bit of a learning curve going from counting and tracking nothing to counting, weighing, measuring and tracking everything. It took me about 3 weeks to settle in enough to feel comfortable with the “logistics” of doing that with everything I ate or drank that had a macro in it. My wonderful coach, Francesco, provided great support to me during this initial time, reminded me to be patient, stay focused on learning, and trust that I would get the hang of it. In fact, my very first week on WAG I was actually traveling for work and home life and only had two days “at home”. Yet, I managed and just told myself to do your best, you will get it figured out. And I did. As with anything new, give yourself a few weeks to learn how to eat and think about eating this way. It is different, but once you get used to it, it truly does become second nature.
My body responded instantly to this way of eating. Initially I had planned on staying as true to paleo as I could, but the protein/fat macro numbers made that a challenge. I had been eating meals from one of these paleo meal delivery companies, and nearly all of my favorites were my total fat macros in one meal! My breakfast most work days was 2-3 eggs, 2 links of chicken sausage and half an avocado (yep – all the fats). So I had some major food rethinking to do. I added dairy back in quickly as well, so I could get my protein numbers up without all the fat. There was only so much shrimp, egg whites, and low fat protein I could eat in one day.
I am not one of those prep ahead kind of meal planners. I eat for the day and cook for the day, and that works for me. I know many do more meal planning, or enter their food into my fitness pal ahead of time and I think that is great. But this is one of the things that makes WAG great – your approach to how you prep and plan your meals and eating does not make or break success on this plan. So long as you focus on hitting your macro numbers in the way that works for you, it will work!
I have also learned that my body wants as many macros as it can get in real food format. I definitely had to use some protein powders and other similar tricks to hit my protein numbers without going over on fats during the first 6-8 weeks. I still love wine but those are valuable carb and/or fat macros so I am really mindful about drinking now. If I want it, I go for it, and plan for that. Or else I know that I may be hungry later because of it.
I remember one day when I was making a bowl of salted watermelon (one my favorite summertime snacks), I had weighed out 10 ounces of watermelon, which is about 20 c, 1.5 p and 0f. 10 ounces of watermelon is a huge bowl! I then decided to look at what else in my house fit that macro profile and quickly found a snack cup of fat free chocolate pudding; a handful of microwave popcorn; and one red twizzler stick all are about the same – the difference in how satisfied I would feel after eating any of those other options really hit me. I personally need to eat for volume and do all I can to minimize eating or drinking my macros in a way that will result in me feeling hungry/hangry later in the day or evening.
I now have an appreciation of eating to fuel, of eating things I enjoy while meeting that goal (I’m happy to report that me and my bagel and cream cheese have been happily reunited), and being aware of how much and what exactly I am eating, not only from an ingredient perspective, but from a macro nutrient perspective. I have learned that my body really likes a huge hit of carbs in the first 6 hours of the day, with some protein and fat here and there. I need minimal fat during the day and really feel good when I tend to eat the majority of my fat macros in the evening. I would never have even thought about this before, or that this makes a difference, or that I would even have learned this, but yet I did, somewhat unintentionally while going through the process. I made it a point to really listen to my body and how it feels after eating and really consider what days I felt best and what I had done. It is amazing how much your body will tell you if you focus. WAG has taught me how to do that. I have learned exactly what I should eat when I feel hungry depending on the time of day and I’m no longer just eating “something” or “anything” to take away the hunger.
I started WAG on 220c/110p/50f. I’m now at 340c/110p/50f. My body THRIVES on carbs in a way I never imagined or expected. With the help of my amazing Coach Francesco, who paid attention to what my body was doing, my data, and all the feedback I would give him about my workouts and how I was feeling each week, he steered me in the absolute right direction to where I am now -- leaner and lighter than ever; and stronger and more fit than ever! I have PRed numerous lifts, my endurance and stamina and energy level during WODs is significantly improved, my mental determination is so much better (I am doing all this hard work and treating my body right with macro eating so I can work hard and get better, so hell yes I’m going to push hard through this wod…), my gymnastics, my rowing (short girl problems), really – all of it.
I have improved in all the areas I wanted, and in areas I did not even consider (my mental game, my knowledge about my body, how food really works as fuel, that carbs are NOT the enemy, that eating clean or paleo is actually not the best method of eating for me given my goals, that eating based on macros is really easy and opens the doors to try a whole world of foods to see what works). This was just the first 18 weeks! I can’t even imagine what the next 18 weeks will look like! I’m so excited to find out. THANK YOU WAG!!!