Where's the Beef? - Part 1

By Kristin Steinmetz

Ok, I might be aging myself with this saying from a long lost fast food commercial from my days of youth, but this has been the question my coach has been asking me for what seems like forever.  This blog is about my quest to eat more, and in particular more protein!!! As you will see from my week one attempt results, this will be an ongoing struggle for me and I hope to document some eventual successes in future blogs.

This is how a typical conversation goes with my coach, Jason:

Me: I’m frustrated! Why is everyone lifting more than me??

Jason: You’re small and you don’t eat enough.

Me: I had an omelet AND a Quest bar today!!!

Jason: Not enough.

Me: I know.

You get the idea. I know this conversation might sound familiar to many athletes out there, many of them women and newer CrossFitters.  This concept seems so counter-intuitive to everything we’ve been doing.  We’re used to counting calories and eating less to shrink down our frames and supplement our fat-burning workouts.  So now I’m supposed to eat MORE??? Yes!!  This blog isn’t about the science behind this – for that, you can go check into articles like this:  http://breakingmuscle.com/nutrition/how-much-and-how-often-7-articles-about-protein.  But basically, CrossFit is a tough workout. It will burn tons of calories and make you stronger.  But if you’re not feeding your body the right way, with enough calories to burn energy and enough protein to build muscle, you will hit a wall.

After finishing my first CrossFit Games Open this year, I was thrilled with my results.  Going in, I knew it was going to be Me vs. The Barbell.  At 5’2” and 117 pounds (yup, I said it), lifting the heavier weights always felt like a struggle to me. For the Open WODs, I hit my 95# clean when it mattered, I got through the 65# thrusters and the 155# deadlifts…but my numbers still don’t stack up. Neither do my excuses.   Plenty of athletes that are smaller and older than me can pull bigger numbers. So I’m left with two variables I CAN control: what fuel I put into my body and time I put in training.

So I started off by tracking my food for a week. This is something I’ve often done before.  I was a veteran of Weight Watchers and I believe it’s a great tool to stay conscious and accountable of what’s going in your body, how much and how often.  But this time, I was only tracking protein because my coach thought my carbs and fats were already well-balanced.

My best day by far, I only hit 70% of my target protein intake.  And that was including my morning protein shake and my after-workout recovery drink.  I made more protein-dense choices, such as ordering fish when I went out to dinner, but I was still way behind.  One of the other days, in which I labeled my lunch “virtually protein-free meal of Italian tapas”, I couldn’t even hit 10# below my previous snatch PR and couldn’t match my clean 1RM.  Was I actually weaker or was I just hyper-aware of how this quest for protein could directly affect my physical performance? Either way, I wasn’t prepared to hit those numbers.

As a woman who has struggled with weight for years, from a bout with anorexia in high school to losing 40 pounds of pregnancy weight – twice! – this will be an uphill battle for me.  But I’m fully aware of what lies ahead and the work involved on my part.  This should be the dream, right?!  To eat MORE, be able to look great in a bikini AND reach my goals of a 100# snatch and 200# deadlift!  I’ve quoted those mottos time and again: “Strong is the new skinny” and “Food is fuel”.  I believe that.  But can I live it?

So are you in on this struggle with me? Let me know and we can work on it together – share secrets and favorite recipes, our bad days and strong days.  We all have weaknesses, in CrossFit and in life.  But by setting goals and surrounding ourselves with the right support team, we can turn them into strengths.  Now go eat some grilled chicken.