The "Gluten-Free" Debate

The "Gluten-Free" Debate

Is going gluten-free all it's cracked up to be?

For those who suffer from celiac disease, the short answer is yes.

For those of you who do not have celiac disease but still suffer from gastrointestinal discomfort after eating gluten-containing foods, you may have what is called "non-celiac gluten sensitivity." In such a case as this one would surely benefit from following a gluten-free diet. For this person, it is best to cut out gluten in order for their body to process foods properly and in turn for their body to absorb vitamins, minerals and proper nutrition from foods it can digest easily, without added stress.

What about those who are not gluten-intolerant or sensitive?

Many people these days are falling into the trend of removing gluten from their diets in order to spur on weight loss. According to the independent research firm Mintel, just under 30% of Americans specifically choose gluten-free foods as a way to help them lose weight.

However, we are finding that cutting out gluten does not cause weight loss, but rather, choosing to follow the recommended diet for all people (gluten intolerant or not) is what spurs on weight loss. Celiac disease is an auto immune disorder that requires people to adapt to a diet consisting mostly of naturally gluten-free whole foods including fruits, vegetables, dried beans, nuts, seeds, dairy, fish, and lean meats. However, this diet recommendation is the same for people with or without the gluten sensitivity or celiac.

Therefore, following a "gluten free" diet is not what is causing others to lose weight, but rather keeping in mind that gluten is found in many processed, trans-fatty, and calorie-rich foods may remind people to choose whole foods that are naturally healthier.

On another hand, the "gluten-free" diet is giving teens and other young adults illegitimate reasons to fuel eating disorders. Teens are choosing to skip out on meals that contain gluten, all the while thinking it will help them lose weight, and cut out countless foods from their diet altogether for the same reason. It is here that we remind ourselves that there is no magic food, enzyme or pill that will help you lose weight.

Gluten and athletic performance

Some of the most common symptoms of a gluten intolerance are unexplained aches, fatigue, headaches, joint or muscle pain, bloating, inflammation or other digestion problems. Therefore, many people claim that consuming gluten will hurt their athletic performance, especially since inflammation can lead to injury.

Some athletes are concerned that following a gluten-free diet will inhibit their carbohydrate/energy intake. As an althlete, your diet typically relies on adequate carbohydrate intake. Carbohydrates before, during and after training or competition are essential in maintaining energy levels, regulated blood sugar, prevention of fatigue, and quick recovery after an event. However, some athletes believe that following a gluten-free diet has performance enhancing advantages. This is because most athletes choose sugary, refined or processed carbohydrates as a quick recovery food, most of which contain gluten. When these foods are eliminated from one's diet, the benefits outweigh the risks. The best athletic performance derives from a diet that consists of low sugars (sugars that are not refined or are naturally found in whole foods), high fiber, and sufficient in lean protein. Carbohydrates are an important source of energy, especially during exercise. Depending on the sport and energy output, the recommended intake of carbohydrates can be up to 15 g/kg of body weight yet. Breads, pasta, cereal, rice, and fruit are the common food products that an athlete is likely to choose. Typical healthy carbohydrate substitutions within a gluten-free diet include all varieties of rice, organic corn, flax seeds, quinoa, tapioca, potato, amaranth, tofu, nuts, and beans. If you feel like you have a sensitivity to gluten and experience the symptoms listed, try not eating gluten for 10 days and then re-introduce it to your diet to see how your body responds. If you feel like gluten is affecting your athletic performance, following a gluten-free, whole food diet could be best for you.

Proceed with caution

One size does not fit all. The nutrition field warns that a poorly planned switch to gluten-free can backfire, leading to an inadequate intake of complex carbs, vitamins, and minerals. And while there are lots of healthy gluten-free packaged foods, "not all are nutritional bell ringers." Some people associate 'gluten-free' with 'healthier,' but an athlete who isn't careful could end up eating a lot of refined carbs and added fats, leading to weight gain.

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The Low Down on Post-Workout Nutrition

The Low Down on Post-Workout Nutrition

If you're reading this blog, you're probably sick and tired of hearing so many different opinions on what an optimal post-workout meal should look like. In this post, I'll give a simple rundown of what goes on in the body during/after a workout and how we as nutritionally contentious CrossFitters can respond to what our body needs in the 30-60 min time frame following a workout. This post includes information from Jim Stoppani, an avid powerlifter and Ph.D, as well as the British Journal of Sports Medicine on their study of post-exercise anabolism and the search for the optimal recovery drink.

During a workout, the body calls on blood sugar, muscle glycogen and ATP for the energy it needs during a workout. The body only has small storages of glycogen and ATP, and thus the body calls on more oxygen to create additional ATP for energy. If not enough oxygen is available, lactic acid will form, and while it can be used as an energy source, lactic acid is attributed to post-workout muscle soreness. Lastly, during a workout, tiny tears form in the muscles that help them grow bigger and stronger as they heal. A healthy and nutritious post workout meal can help the body heal and recover, and while muscle soreness is the indication that muscles are changing, eating protein and carbohydrates can help reduce said soreness.

Lactic acid typically leaves the system within 30-60 minutes after a workout, and in order to help repair the tiny tears in the muscles, avoid muscle breakdown and replenish energy storage's in the body to regulate insulin levels, a nutritious meal should be consumed within that exact time frame.

There are a couple components to a healthy and effective post workout meal:

- Sugar/Carbohydrates

- Protein

I will go over the importance of each below:


When you train, your body burns glycogen, or sugar. Both blood sugar and muscle glycogen are consumed by your body during a workout, and to recover, as well as progress, you need to restore depleted glycogen levels as quickly as possible. However, not all sugars are created equal. Of the 4 types of sugars out there (fructose, dextrose, lactose and sucrose), you want a sugar that is quickly converted, and will make it to your muscles as fast as possible to speed you on your way to recovery. Fructose can be considered fruit sugar; dextrose comes from wheat, potato or corn starches; lactose comes from milk; sucrose is table sugar. According the the glycemic index that is scored out of 100, dextrose converts to glycogen the quickest (score of 100), followed by sucrose (65), lactose (46) and then fructose (20). It seems appropriate, therefore, that consuming foods with dextrose prior to a workout would make for the most efficient and effective recovery. Ruling out all fruits because they contain a low glycemic index is poor logic, since not all fruits only contain fructose sugars. For example, dried apricots and plums have 9 grams of dextrose and 3 grams of fructose in one serving. One cup of cranberry juice cocktail has 17 grams of dextrose to 12 grams of fructose. Medjool dates have equal amounts of dextrose and fructose, as does pomegranate juice. Read labels of your favorite foods, most natural, healthy and "whole" foods have a combination of dextrose and fructose. Carbohydrates in addition to sugar (since sugar is a carbohydrate) are important to restore blood and muscle glycogen levels. Carbs serve as the key to the door that allows protein and amino acids to absorb into your muscles. Consuming carbs (including sugar) spikes insulin levels which signals muscle cells in the body to open up, thus allowing glucose and protein to enter the muscles.


After a workout, you have successfully broken down muscle tissue which is in need of repair, this is the ideal time for both protein and carbohydrates. Lean proteins such as certain fish, shrimp, chicken, turkey or even whey protein are all excellent sources of protein following a workout. Since protein (amino acids) is the main element of what builds and sustains muscle, it is critical to consume after a workout to ensure that your workout was worth the while.

Insulin and Fat

If this information has caused you to believe that eating a donut after a workout is going to benefit you, you are sorely wrong. A momentary spike in one's insulin post workout through sugars/carbs will indeed allow protein to absorb quicker into the muscles for synthesis. However, once insulin has been released from the pancreas, it signals the body that it has just been fed. Since the human body is always trying to spare energy, this signal halts the body from burning the stored fat and instead turns to the nutrients that have just been ingested. If the food you have just ingested is high in saturated or trans fats (monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats are good in moderation), the body will simply store those fats for later use and will break down whatever takes less energy to convert to nutrients (the carbohydrates and proteins). Thus, More fat is stored, less is burned. So while sugars are meant to be replenished in your system and will allow for protein to better absorb into your muscles to repair and build, there are still healthy and unhealthy manifestations of sugars to choose from. Like I said above, dextrose (the highest converting sugar) can be found in healthy foods such as whole wheat grains, sweet potatoes (for you paleo-folk), quinoa, and most chocolate protein powders have maltodextrin which converts even faster than dextrose.

In short, eat a quickly digesting carb source 15-20 min prior to exercise and within an hour post-exercise. The post exercise meal should include a ratio of carb to protein right around 4 to 1. Keep your post workout meal low in fat and enjoy the benefits of fueling your body intelligently!

-Erin Kelly

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Fit After 40...Armando's Story

Fit After 40...Armando's Story

My name is Armando Garcia-Besne, I am 57 years old and have been doing CrossFit for 2.5 years. My journey began with my wife taking a beginner CrossFit class. She invited me to come and watch her first workout so I stood on the sidelines wearing jeans ready to observe. Her coach suddenly asked me to join in and I quickly found I wasn't as fit as I thought. We had a blast training and I was hooked instantly.

CrossFit has certainly improved my level of fitness and eating habits but the stress relief has been invaluable. I own a business, and as any business owner knows, the hours, pressures, and general stresses are a serious challenge. CrossFit helps me sleep better and keeps me focused. It also provides an outlet for my competitive side that has been really enjoyable.

I would even go so far as to say it gives me the sense of "getting lost in the game." Remember that feeling most of us experienced in our childhood playing around the neighborhood!? It's like playing "kick the can" (we didn't have video games back then) except that now I'm getting my can kicked! :-)

The support and encouragement I receive from my community at Left Coast CrossFit is so important. My coach Stephen Gizzi and my friend/training partner Mike Wiekamp, as well as other members drives me to do my very best... especially during the open and regional season!

The down-to-earth, unpretentious environment at Left Coast CrossFit makes me look forward to each WOD even if it includes burpees.

Many men and women at my age think that CrossFit is too difficult to attempt. I have found the opposite to be true. CrossFit is the best way to stay young and healthy and the key to safety is scaling the movements to appropriate levels. As a matter of fact, I still scale most of my WOD's.

Feeling this great has had a spillover effect into other aspects of life. I think it's important to respect and take care of the bodies we've been given.

My CrossFit buddy Mike Wiekamp and I do 5 WOD's per week which include lots of jokes and high five's, but we skip the chest bumps because we're old school :) We keep each other accountable and recently won a local team competition at CrossFit Tustin!

As mentioned above, my main goal in CrossFit is to stay in shape and when I signed up for the 2014 Open competition I was shocked and pleasantly surprised by my placement.
I thought to myself: Gee, this CrossFit thing really works!
I just kept going, gave it my best shot, and ended up qualifying for Regionals.
At this point I was really fired up and realized that I might have a chance to make it to the top 20 and possibly go to the Games.
I placed 24th in my age group (55-59) which I'm very happy with.
Who knows what will happen in 2015.....suffice it to say that I will not be resting my laurels.

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Beginners Baking

Beginners Baking

You have begun CrossFitting and evidently we are now supposed to eat like cavemen and get ripped and lean by doing so... but what if you want to re-capture that good old feeling of eating some baked treat every once in a while? Well you will have to undergo a learning curve with the ingredients you'll have to choose from and the items you invest your time into etc.

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Why We Pay for CrossFit

Why We Pay for CrossFit

With Globo Gyms out there offering every kind of cheap deal possible, it's easy to sometimes wonder why we should be paying so much for CrossFit. But when you really look at each community, and realize that those other gyms don't even provide a community at all, it starts to become clear. We're comparing apples to oranges, or grassfed beef to a box of Hamburger Helper. When you really examine what a quality CrossFit box provides and how it improves your life, other habits and decisions we make are called into question...not so much the price of our membership.

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