This title will more than likely get me a bit of hate and it will more than likely come from those who don’t take the time to actually read the full article. I am writing this after posting a recent 1 year transformation picture of myself on my Instagram (@adamwakefielpt).
So, the above picture was of me aged 28 standing at 6’3 (191cm) and weighing 78kg (171.6lbs). I had been ‘CrossFitting’ for just over 2 years and eating Paleo for just over 3 years. Although I could blame looking underfed and unwell on these two factors alone I know that it was actually my own wrong doing.
I started doing CrossFit to fill in the void of having to withdraw from playing rugby competitively due to a back injury. I had always enjoyed working out and once I had tried a few WODs (Workout of the Day for anyone who doesn’t speak CrossFit) I was hooked. I immediately started researching the elite times for the main benchmark CrossFit workouts and could not believe the times some of these guys (and girls!) were posting. To give you an idea of a CrossFit WOD that is pretty well known; I am going to describe the workout ‘Fran’ to you:
21-15-9 of Barbell Thrusters (40kg) and Pull Ups
So, you will complete 21 reps of thrusters followed by 21 pull ups. You then complete 15 reps on both exercises and then 9 reps on both exercises. Your score is the time it takes you to complete the entire workout from start to finish.
My best Fran time was 5:10. The elite Crossfitters would regularly complete it in around 2 minutes or under.
I was regularly humbled from workout after workout. I wasn’t strong enough nor fit enough to compete at a level that I was happy with. So, what should I do? Obviously, the answer (in my own mind at least) was to CrossFit more and train harder. This is where I got myself into trouble.
Even though I can program appropriately for others I seem to have the uncanny ability to drive myself into the ground every single workout and still come back for more. I was trying to lift heavy and improve my strength, run, row and cycle faster and longer, circuit train and improve my Olympic lifting in nearly all of my workouts. I had so much that I ‘needed’ to work on that I ‘had’ to train every day. I worked out every day for a year solid. This is doable (definitely not optimal) if you can control the intensity of your workouts and get your recovery on point. I did not do either of these.
I trained at a high intensity every session of the week. I would finish every workout with some form of metabolic conditioning to ensure that I felt like I had a taxing workout. My body was always fatigued, sore, achy, my libido had all but disappeared, I was always cold and regularly moody. I was overworked, under recovered, over stressed and not in a good place. The only thing that allowed me to train as hard as I could each day was the power of my mind. My mind was unbreakable. Regardless of the messages my body was telling me I could always over ride them. It was the strength of my mind that actually became detrimental to my physique as it allowed me to train hard even when I shouldn’t of.
Now to make matters worse I was massively undereating. I started a Paleo diet about 3 years ago, after reading a few books on the subject. I got brainwashed and actually began to get scared of ‘non-paleo’ foods. I had developed a fear of getting fat through eating too many carbohydrates. I’m sure there are several people reading this that have suffered or are suffering from the same mind-set. I’m not going to preach to you about how carbs won’t make you fat as that is for another time but I am going to explain how I got the Paleo diet so wrong.
The Paleo diet is a fantastic tool to help over weight individuals lose weight as it cuts out high calorie processed foods. I still use a Paleo diet as the skeleton for many of my clients diets today. If you can eat mainly wholesome single ingredient food, then you will give yourself a fighting chance of losing weight and feeling healthier.
Where I went wrong was that I cut out ALL carbohydrates from my diet not just processed foods. I became scared to eat things like sweet potatoes or fruits as I thought these would ‘make me fat’. I was mainly eating protein (such as eggs, beef, tuna and chicken) alongside green vegetables. I wasn’t tracking my calories but I know that I would have been lucky to make it past 2000 calories a day. My weight dropped from a healthy 85kg (187lbs) to an unhealthy 78kg (171.6lbs) over the course of a couple of years.
I was training at such a high intensity every day and eating under 2000 calories a day. It was a recipe for disaster. It was actually the very picture at the start of this article that made me realise something had to change. I stopped CrossFitting almost immediately. I turned the focus of my training to getting stronger and bigger. I have to give a shout out to the guys at Mind Pump Media here as it was through listening to their podcasts that I released how many mistakes I had been making. If you don’t know who the Mind Pump guys are then I strongly suggest heading over to their social medias to learn more about the positive messages they preach (www.mindpumpmedia.com). From all of the information I was learning and my own personal research I developed a training plan that would focus on 4 full body training sessions each week. If I felt recovered enough then I would do some additional modified strongman sessions for conditioning on the days in between my main workouts. These conditioning sessions were capped at 30 minutes MAXIMUM and I used these more as a way to calm my mind than anything physiological. I made myself take at least one full rest day a week and I started to eat more in order to fuel my workouts and allow my body to recover.
I slowly reintroduced foods that I had avoided for the last 3 years. If I had any negative reactions to these foods, then I wouldn’t eat them. rice, sweet potatoes, fruit and dairy were all fine but gluten was problematic. No real problem, as I hadn’t eaten bread or pasta for over 3 years I wasn’t craving it anyway. Nuts, nut butters and dark chocolate also became regular features in my diet as they were high calorie nutrient dense foods that tasted delicious. I was no longer ‘scared’ of food as I saw the positive impact it was having on my body and my training. I didn’t go off the rails and start eating a lot of junk food as I didn’t feel the need to do this. I enjoyed the occasional treat and when I wanted something I ate it. I no longer feared social occasions that focused around food and this made life so much easier for me. I enjoy eating so called ‘clean’ food (such as chicken, broccoli and rice) and I focused on eating to nourish my body. It needed nutrients not just calories. Within a year, I had put on 13kg. I had boosted my calories (slowly) up to around 3500 a day. All of my lifts in my training were up. My body felt amazing. I was recovering better, sleeping better and generally feeling better.
I have reintroduced some processed foods but I still tend to try and eat to nourish my body and fuel my workouts. I won’t track my food by weighing and measuring it as it tends to lead to my orthorexia rearing its ugly head again. I have an amazing ability to eyeball my food quantity now through the many years of being so anal about measuring every single thing I ate. This allows me to keep a control on my body composition without it overly stressing me out.
I am still following the same training program as listed above which focuses on getting me stronger whilst allowing the flexibility to throw in some fun strongman style workouts. I am now eating around 3500 calories and maintaining the physique you see in the picture below.
I have learnt a lot from the previous 4 years of my life. I am able to better advice my clients and help them to move, feel and look better. I don’t regret what I have been through as it has moulded my journey up to this current point in time.
I now try to advise and educate people as much as I can to learn from my mistakes. This is the purpose of my social media outlets and my YouTube channel (AWPT Hub). If you are a CrossFitter or even just a fitness enthusiast, then program your training intelligently and allow your body to rest and recover when it needs it. If you are training hard and avoiding carbohydrates like the plague, then you will more than likely under fuel your body to perform and under recover from your workouts. Be intelligent with your exercise and nutrition and don’t make it harder and more unpleasant than it needs to be. The journey to a better physique and improved performance takes time and needs to be respected. Don’t rush it and try to enjoy the journey.
The main takeaway points I want to make from you reading this article is that you don’t need to fear food. You don’t need to workout at a high intensity every day and try to drive yourself into the ground every training session. You can create a good balance in both your training and your nutrition. There will always be tomorrow. This was one thing I lost sight of. It was the ‘I want it all now’ mentally. Changes in your fitness levels and physique take time. You don’t have to try to kill yourself in the gym every day to lose weight and you don’t have to overly restrict yourself when it comes to the food that you eat. Sure, you can’t eat rubbish every day for every meal and you are going to have to limit the amount of junk that you eat BUT you can enjoy yourself in MODERATION.
If you are currently struggling with your training or nutrition or you feel that you are spinning your wheels and getting nowhere fast, then please do not hesitate to contact me. I would love to help you as best I can.
I just wanted to finish by saying that it was my own inability to program correctly and eat sensibly that led to my unhealthy body. I think CrossFit is an awesome way to exercise and test yourself but I think it needs to be structured and programmed cleverly in order for it to be optimal. The paleo diet is a brilliant tool to use as a foundation of a healthy weight loss diet. Just don’t get stuck in the notion of thinking all other non-paleo based foods are inherently unhealthy. Find the nutrition and exercise program that best suits you and stick to it. Thanks for reading and if you think anyone can benefit from reading my story then please feel free to share this article.