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Eating Disorders: Performance’s Quiet Killer

When we begin CrossFit, or similar high energy output training, we notice results fast. Somewhere down the line however, our lightning fast results taper off and the Gainz Train chugga-chugs to a halt. We reach the limit of our linearly progressive strength gains and can no longer boast about our pants falling off our waist and getting caught by our gapless thighs. We look back on our first few months as part of the #fitfam, hoping for a hint. Was it the adoption of a strict diet or  exchanging evenings with the Pawn Stars to dates to the barbell with the “Benchmark Girls”? In our competitive, type-A style of mathematics we deduct that if the addition of x did the trick, x² would do the trick twice as well.

We Paleo stricter. We Murph more often. In what seems like the bodies way of telling us we are not good enough, we begin to look even softer. What gives?!

To punish our weakness we try x³ and begin looking for ways to clean up our diet. We begin cutting carbs and adding extra workouts, or look to “cleanses” and supplements that promise to suppress our appetite or increase our metabolism. Daily weigh ins increase to post meal weigh ins and our heart sinks if post lunch weight differs from post breakfast weight. You hate yourself and are beginning to hate the new lifestyle that you can’t seem to succeed in.

If you have made it this far and are beginning to feel personally attacked, please keep reading as the following information could potentially pull you from the trap you’re in.

Studies show that eating disorders affect up to 30 million people in the US. It’s estimated that 10-15% of victims are male, and 90% of those with eating disorders are between the ages of 12 and 25. In a study of NCAA Division 1 athletes, it was found that over one-third of female athletes showed risk factors for anorexia. Bear in mind, these statistics only reflect those who have admitted to, or have been diagnosed with an eating disorder.

For the sake of this discussion, we will focus on eating disorders in the strength and conditioning world. It’s been my experience that unhealthy food habits surface in the presence of an inverse relationship between performance and aesthetics.

Ever noticed that the world of high intensity, anaerobic training shares a trendy universe with the world of calorie restriction, low carb dieting and cleanses?

For most of us, it isn’t enough to hear the compliments of others if we can’t feel the same about ourselves. I am not well versed in psychology and not here to rewire the way you think about yourself. I am, however, learned in the practice of power athletics and I can restructure the way you view your workouts, nutrition and goals in order to form a better relationship between you and your food.

First off, we need to understand the importance of following intelligent programming; programming that is designed to constantly drive adaptation and growth through properly applied stress. High intensity interval training (HIIT) is all the rage. Half of your Facebook friends are doing it. While words like “varied” or “intensity” may have attracted you, they could also be holding you back.

Random doesn’t work long term. If it did, the NFL would have nixed the multi-million dollar weight room facilities and canned the exercise kinesiologists. Smart programming works, always. The key to continued strength and conditioning gains is to employ the same movement patterns and programming principles that have been making athletes strong since the early days of athletics.

You want to look lean? Build muscle.

How do you build muscle? With a barbell.

The jacked dude in the infomercial didn’t get that way with the resistance bands and dance moves he’s trying to sale you. Those with the muscles you want got that way by picking heavy stuff up and putting it back down. Intelligent programming focuses on compound movements in order to recruit more muscles-> lift heavier-> burn more calories-> look ball’n.  

Atlas Girl

The world’s top athletes aren’t eating to look good. What the world’s top athletes are managing to do, however, is look hella great. Athletes eat in a way that allows their bodies to perform required functions at a high capacity for their sport. High level athletes know that food fuels performance, and that follows function. Be great, look great: Form Follows Function. As I mentioned in Fuel the Fight, anaerobic training requires glucose and the absence of adequate amounts of it will result in a drop in performance. What I’m trying to tell you is, the way you’re training doesn’t like the way you’re eating. Don’t be the dummy who thinks he or she can “trick” their body. If you’re “earning your carbs”, eat them.PA Gils Eating

If you’re a coach, it’s important to know the warning signs that a client or athlete may be suffering from an eating disorder:

  1. An already thin client showing a desire to lose more weight.
  2. A client continually looking to add more to their already full routine.
  3. Extreme fad dieting.
  4. Avoidance of food at gym socials, or an altogether avoidance of gym socials where food is involved.

Most of the clients I have seen who suffer from eating disorder have made it very known to me, if only accidental. As a coach it is your responsibility to listen to your athletes and to educate them. If you suspect a client is suffering from an eating disorder you should do your best to reinforce positive training, nutrition and recovery habits that will foster both better health and results. Don’t be the coach who responds to an athlete’s desire for leanness with irresponsible “eat less, run more” type anecdotes.

Eating disorders are a very serious problem that goes beyond a decline in performance. If you suffer from an eating disorder, I ask you to wrap your mind around the concepts of proper nutrition and training habits. If you are the coach of an athlete suffering from an eating disorder, you must use your leadership and position responsibly to combat the issue with proper education and programming.

Tyler Minton

Nutrition Coach at Power Athlete
Professional mixed martial artist, gym owner and Power Athlete Nutrition Coach. An avid follower of CrossFit Football since its inception, Tyler has implemented Power Athlete methodology with thousands of athletes in his own gym and abroad. A student of Robb Wolf's for 7 years, Tyler uses the principles of ancestral health to help athletes empower their performance. One of the worlds leading weight cut experts, Tyler works with some of the UFC's top athletes, preparing them for peak performance when they step into the cage. Tyler utilizes his own personal and coaching experience, combined with the very best in nutritional education to help athletes fuel the fire!

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One Response to Eating Disorders: Performance’s Quiet Killer

  1. Ha…you said “hella”. You originally from the NorCal Bay Area?

    Good article. I’m reposting this in the Leaning Protocol forums. I feel like they need to read this a few times.

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