Nutrition and Performance, Using One to Enhance the Other.
by Brianne Sweetland and Lisa Cole
Perfection—the ultimate goal that we all still strive for, even though we know we can never quite attain it. Any serious CrossFitter can attest to the drive for perfection—even after years of working on technique, you’re never as good as you could be, if you only got a little better. And a little better could be all that stands in the way of climbing onto that podium. So no matter how good you are, you always want to be better. That requires sacrifice—doing that WOD when we don’t feel like it, eating chicken when we want pizza and going to bed early when we really want to stay up late. The Athletes who make it to the CrossFit Games are the ones that realize the importance of those small choices each day.
Dennis Cole, Masters Games Athlete, is no different—though always wanting perfecting, he actually isn’t perfect either.
I know, it is a shocker.
About a month ago, Dennis found one of Ben Bergeron’s Podcasts, “Chasing Excellence”, where Ben mentioned a program called Inside Tracker that he uses for all his Games Athletes.
You can listen to that Podcast here–Simplifying Nutrition: Chasing Excellence with Ben Bergeron: Ep#014.
Inside Tracker wants you to “Take a Selfie from the Inside”—fantastic concept to really take your training to the next level. Why? How? Well, it’s simple—One of the basic concepts in CrossFit is the need for results that are observable, measurable, repeatable—that’s why we do benchmark workouts—we want to see progress. Inside Tracker gives you actual data to inform your choices, instead of just making decisions in a vacuum. And because food is the foundation of everything we do in the gym, the majority of their recommendations come in the form of nutrition suggestions.
Using bloodwork, Inside Tracker provides an analysis of up to 41 biomarkers, including glucose, cholesterol, iron, inflammation markers, stress markers among others. Then, they look at you as an individual—your age, gender, goals, ethnicity and physical activity level all play a role in their analysis. From there, they provide a plan of action to get you to your best self through a combination of food, lifestyle and supplement recommendations. The bloodwork and analysis is not a replacement for going to your doctor, but rather an additional tool to help you dial in your own system based on goals you set.
Registered dietitian, and sales executive for Inside Tracker, Mike Tarnapoll says his company aims to provide the athlete with a means to look inside and see how their current health routine is impacting their body.
“(Inside Tracker) arms them with tools necessary to help them reach their health goal,” Mike said.
Dennis’s interest in the program was piqued because he was only two months away from his fourth CrossFit Games appearance, this time ranked as #2 in the World for the 55+ Men. Maybe this tool could be the podium-making tweak. Also, he wanted to get better sleep and find a way to deal with a new intermittent cramping issue he was experiencing.
“I eat well,” Dennis said. “I am about an 80/20 percent person.”
While Dennis doesn’t follow a specific diet plan, he makes sure to eat his weight in protein (grams) and gets a variety of vegetables despite the fact he doesn’t really like them.
“Kale is dumb,” Dennis said. “I hate broccoli, but I still eat it.”
He avoids foods like sweets and bread. Most of his carbs come in the form of veggies, rice, and quinoa.
In addition to following a “mostly healthy” diet, Dennis said he also takes a variety of supplements and some ibuprofen.
That list includes:
- Parent Essential Oils vs. Fish Oils—Dennis has done a lot of research into all the supplements he takes—in a search to find the best fish oil several years ago, he discovered fish oil may not be the best option at all! Instead, going to the source or “parent essential oil” for his Omega 3 and Omega 6 needs, Dennis takes these every day. The goal is to help with circulatory function, reducing inflammation, aiding in brain function, and flushing bad fat from the system. You can read more about the benefits of PEOs here.
- Xendurance Products, including (available at the gym):
- Extreme Endurance for lactic acid reduction
- Fuel 5, a healthy carbohydrate formula made from sweet potatoes and natural green tea to help increase focus and performance
- Creatine to help lean muscle growth
- Doterra Essential Oils Lifelong Vitality Supplements (all natural, food based multivitamin and mineral)
Dennis still gives into a craving for a good beer every now and then–Moose Drool is his favorite. And a little high-quality chocolate is a sweet indulgence as well.
Water intake is another big focus for Dennis.
The recommendation for daily water consumption is to drink about half your body weight in water. If you weigh 150 pounds, then you should be drinking approximately 75 ounces of water each day, and when working out consistently, you need even more. Dennis said he doesn’t drink enough water, which could be the source of his cramping.
He admits that his diet philosophy might not be right for everyone but encourages those who are trying to focus on better nutrition not to go overboard.
“Slowly add or take away things,” Dennis said. “Don’t do it all in one shot.”
This is exactly how he decided to bring the Whole Life Challenge to his gym members at CrossFit Raw Appeal last fall.
In the Whole Life Challenge, players earn points for completing the 7 Daily Habits, such as nutrition, sleep, exercise, mobilize, hydrate, reflect, and lifestyle. Players compete with others to climb the scoreboard while improving different aspects of their lives. During the challenge, Dennis cut bread from his diet because it was one of the foods that was off limits. And even after the challenge ended, he has kept away from bread because he feels so much better when he does. Bread is typically made from refined and bleached flour. It lacks nutritional value, spikes sugar levels in the body, and leaves one feeling hungry.
“I try to do things perfectly, but I don’t feel perfect,” Dennis said. “Staying away from bread, chocolate, and sweets — it is a huge challenge.”
Taking advantage of available shortcuts for food prep help tremendously—Dennis uses a meal delivery service called Plated, which sends a box with ingredients and recipes each week—you make the meals yourself, and they have a large selection to choose from each week. Also, Las Vegas based Fork and Knife Kitchen delivers ready to eat meals directly to the gym—Dennis eats these for high-quality protein/veggie breakfasts and lunch every day.
Dennis has updated some food choices based on Inside Tracker’s recommendations—he is upping his water intake at each meal by including more foods with naturally higher water content like strawberries and blueberries. He also added Ashwagandha to his supplement routine—this is an Ayurvedic herb used for thousands of years to combat inflammation and stress hormones, as well as prevent catabolism of muscle tissue during intense workouts.
Dennis plans on retesting every quarter, as recommended by Inside Tracker, to watch how his body actually adapts to the changes. He plans on staying around the 80/20 model though—as a Master Athlete, Dennis still wants to live his life, enjoying those sweets or beers on occasion.
The packages for the Inside Tracker range from $89 to $500. Testing availability for gym members is projected for the fall, as well as an in-house nutrition adviser who will provide individualized assistance to anyone wanting to dial in their nutrition.