Test Your Way to the Top: CrossFit Edition

By Laura Ligos, RD May 18, 2016

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As a CrossFit L1 Trainer and all around enthusiast of the sport, this time of year is exciting because we get to watch our sport take the spotlight. We see the underdogs reach new levels at CrossFit Regionals and in the same moment see our favorites fall from their podium. It is exhilarating and heart wrenching. The sport is constantly varied which seems to mean anyone can come from the shadows to win, and we’ve seen that happen many times. But, are those athletes lucky? Are they really in the shadows?

No. They put in the time, effort, blood, sweat, and tears to get where they are, they just might do so in a secret garage in the middle of nowhere. Yes, I said BLOOD, sweat and tears. Sure we could focus on the time and effort, but InsideTracker is all about blood, and your time and effort is reflected in it, so why don’t we just cut to the chase?

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Since CrossFit is relatively new to the competitive scene, or at least in the public eye, many do not realize the demand the sport puts on your body, no matter what level you are at. We are told that high intensity movement is good for us, but are we so sure that we are immune to its negative effects? Is more really better in this case? The answer is, it depends. Some people react well to the increase in volume and intensity, while others become stressed out and run down.

With CrossFit Regionals underway, and some of our top athletes competing, we want to make sure that the CrossFit Games, or even just one pull-up, can become a realistic goal for anyone who puts in the time and effort, as well as the blood, sweat, and tears. 

As a Dietitian and Crossfit L1 Trainer, I have seen a trend in many of my CrossFit athletes, and while we may all feel invincible with our barbell and protein shake in our chalked up hand, it's worth noting that our sport places a high demand on us. Instead of letting it get us down, we can do something about it. We cannot manage what we do not measure, and blood should be no different. In an effort to help you be the fittest athlete you can be, here's what I've learned about the blood that fuels the fire of CrossFit athletes from beginners to Games Champions.

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Stress knows no bounds 

We think that more pull ups, more rowing, and more handstand push ups will equal more success. However, if you are working out twice per day, coaching all day long, not eating the right food, and pushing off sleep until next year, your body takes notice. Sure, you may be able to function like this for a short period of time, but I guarantee your body is taking notes and will soon want to revolt against you. By checking in on markers like Cortisol, DHEAS and Testosterone, we can ensure that we are adequately fueling our body and taking enough rest to support high intensity training. What good is a heavier deadlift if we cannot get out of bed the next day? Overtraining can do harm, and if we can look inside before it gets worse, we can avoid injury, and as an added bonus, we can take a rest day when needed and not feel guilty about it.

A sugary six-pack is a slippery slope 

Sometimes athletes can fall into the trap of working out so they can eat whatever they want. I've seen that pop tarts and doughnuts are a (surprising) key staple to a CrossFit athlete’s diet, and yes, if you work out at a top level and eat junk food you will likely still have a six-pack, but how long can your body take junk and produce top results? A high fasting glucose can be a signal that you are not, in fact, capable of eating sugar coated cereal after every workout. Sure, in the short-term you may not see the effects, but in the long-term, does diabetes and kidney disease seem worth it? If you fuel your body with better foods, you'll not only see short-term results, but long-term as well.

It is time to get outside of the box

We take part in a sport that occurs predominantly in garages and boxes inside large empty buildings. We are lucky if our gym has a garage door to open up to the outside, let alone a window. We spend countless hours building our muscles inside of a dungeon of sorts and we forget to spend time outdoors. It's amazing how many of us are not optimized when it comes to our levels of Vitamin D. This vitamin, or should I say hormone, is important for muscle strength, coordination, reaction time, and much more. Even if you live in a southern, sunny state, you are likely to be deficient. Sun exposure might not be enough, but we cannot know if we do not measure. 

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There is more to life than bacon and eggs

I know, I cannot even believe I said that myself. I am not demonizing the delicious breakfast duo, but I am drawing attention to our less than optimized menus. While some quality bacon and eggs are good during the week, we forget to fill our plates with fiber-rich fruits and vegetables. Cholesterol is a topic we’ll have to leave for another day, but I am seeing many CrossFit athletes with lower HDL ("good") and higher LDL ("bad") cholesterol values. We can still eat bacon and eggs, but if we eat those alone and forget to fill up on broccoli, carrots, asparagus, and raspberries, we'll continue down the same path, which may not be good for our overall heart health.

Life is constantly varied 

We believe that to be the fittest we can be, we have to continuously vary our workouts. Well, we don't live in a vacuum, so no two days are the same. However, we forget that we may need different nutrients, lifestyle habits, or supplements at different points in our lives. Whether you are a competitive athlete or not, it's important to track your biomarkers to see how different stressors and life events affect your health. Testing your blood once is great, but testing multiple times is even better. It allows you to see what your diet, exercise routine, and lifestyle habits are doing to your overall health. 

At InsideTracker, we like to say that when you know better, you do better. In a sport of functional fitness, it is important to check inside to see if we are actually functioning at the highest level we are capable of. We cannot manage what we do not measure. We all know what our "Fran" time is, so why don’t we know what our Vitamin D level is? Get tested today, and find out how the information inside your blood can propel you to the top of your CrossFit game.

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