It’s submission day for the 2015 CrossFit Open workout 15.3, which means there are only 2 workouts left! Thank goodness. I don’t know about you but my legs are still on fire from all that work. Who knows what challenge will be thrown at us next. In the meantime let’s talk about nutrition and meet Blaine, bulletproof coffee lover and athlete to learn about his balanced, smart, and sensible approach to nutrition.
Please introduce yourself. Who are you, what is your background professionally/athletically?
I am Blaine McConnell from Tacoma, WA. I have been involved in athletics throughout my life and was fortunate enough to play at the Division 1 collegiate level. After college I started doing more power lifting and plyometric type workouts since I have always liked to lift heavy and jump around. I wanted to get back into competing and found CrossFit about a year and a half ago and got hooked on that style of fitness and competition. Recently I have competed at the regional level on a team for the CrossFit Games, and even more recently signed with Phoenix Rise in the NPGL (National Pro Grid League).
What are your current goals? Are you training for something specific or training in general?
I am training for two main goals right now. I am training for the 2015 CrossFit games, and also for the upcoming NPGL season in June.
What motivates you?
My motivations come from many different areas. I have always been an athlete so competition runs through my blood. Being in an atmosphere like CrossFit allows me to stay in a competitive environment and motivates me to get better every time I step in the gym. Watching others do something great, it doesn’t necessarily have to be from the CrossFit world either, also motivates me. Everything from seeing an athlete make a great play on the field to the mom with three kids kicking butt in the gym. Seeing people go out and do great things helps give me more motivation to be great at what I am doing.
Tell me about your diet/eating philosophy.
My dieting and eating philosophy is very simple. It all starts and ends with what you put in your body. 80% of what I can do in the gym and how I look comes from what I eat and when I eat it. If you put in bad foods, you are going to perform bad and look bad. If you put in good foods, you are going to perform good and look good.
How are you using nutrition to help reach your goals?
I am basically relying on my nutrition to help fuel me for workouts and help me recover after workouts so I can perform at my best. I plan out my whole weeks worth of food in advance and pre-make my meals so I always have them with me after the gym, at work, and when I am out and about.
How important do you feel nutrition is to getting you to your goals? Would you still be able to achieve your goals without paying attention to your nutrition?
I would not be able to achieve ALL of my goals without having the proper plan in place. I could probably achieve some, but I do not do what I do just to achieve some of my goals. Having the proper nutrition for what you are trying to achieve, is like having an unfair advantage. It becomes SOOO much easier to reach your goals when your workouts and you nutrition are working together to achieve the goal. Rather than having great workouts and terrible nutrition fight each other the whole time. Nutrition will win that battle every time.
Tell me about your nutrition journey. How did you find what works nutrition wise for you?
I played around a lot with my nutrition during college and still do to this day. I have taken some nutrition courses in school, read books, and looked up articles to find ideas about what other people are doing and what I can learn to implement some of that for my own benefit. I would find a nugget in a book, for example, about hydration and when the best times to hydrate before/during/after a workout and tried it out and it worked so I stuck with it. I have also read an article about what to eat before a workout for energy, tried it, and not feel the benefit from it so I didn’t stick with that. Doing little things like that and sticking with them have added up over time and basically become a true tailored nutrition plan for me.
What nutritional information have you learned that you find most people don’t know or find surprising?
Most people do not know WHEN to eat WHAT. Nutrient timing is huge. For example knowing when the best times to eat your carbs can be the difference between recovering faster between workouts and feeling better, to storing more fat! There are a lot of little things that you can tweak that people just have no clue about, and make a world of difference in how they feel and look.
What do you eat on a typical day? If you time your meals to a schedule according to your training, when do you typically eat?
I always time my meals according to my training. I usually get up around 6am and make my bulletproof coffee. Bulletproof coffee is black coffee (no sugars, no creamers), with 1 tablespoon of MCT oil (for energy and healthy fats), 2 tablespoons of unsalted grass fed butter (for good fats and energy) and 30g of protein. The bulletproof coffee helps kick start your day AND your metabolism as well. It basically gets the furnace burning and kick starts your body in to fat burning mode. I could go on and on about the benefits but there are many many articles online about the benefits of bulletproof coffee. About an hour after that I go train at the gym. After my workout is when I eat the majority of my carbs. I usually drink a protein shake with 40g of protein and add some extra carbs, about 200-300g depending on how hard my workout was, to help refuel and recover faster. A couple hours after that I usually have 8-10oz of lean meat (chicken, fish, turkey) along with a sweet potato and asparagus. An hour after that I usually snack on some almonds or a bar and have another bulletproof coffee. 2-3 hours later I usually eat 10-12oz of lean meat and cut out some of the carbs and just stick to about 1 cup of mixed veggies. Then before bed I will snack on something small like a bar so I don’t go to bed on an empty stomach. And throughout all of that I am constantly staying hydrated.
Do you change your nutrition in preparation for a competition?
In preparation for a competition I do not change what I eat. I perform best when I stick with my routine. The day of the competition may be different because I could be doing multiple events in a day which would make me change my protein and carb intake a little so I can recover between events, but as in preparing for the competition I have found that sticking with my daily routine will keep me at me best.
What are your favorite pre and post workout snacks?
Since I workout in the morning my favorite pre workout snack is my bulletproof coffee. There are sometimes when I will skip the usual protein shake and go for some chocolate milk and a donut! Sounds terrible I know, but sometimes after a really long and tough workout, you just need it!
Do you plan your meals? If so, how do you plan and what tips do you have for others who might need help planning their meals?
I do plan my meals. If I did not I would just go order some food which is what most people do too. I usually make 3 days to a weeks worth of meals on the weekend and then if I need to make the other 2-3 days worth of food for the rest of the week later on. It is easier for me to break it up in two cooking sessions so then you don’t have to spend 5 hours in one day trying to do the whole week at a time. I would say that would be the biggest tip for people starting out. Do not try to make the whole weeks worth the first time you want to plan your meal. Start with 3 days for the week. Then if you have time, a few days later make a few more days worth and your life will be much easier.
What is your favorite treat meal?
PIZZA!! I love pizza. Treat meals or cheat meals are the best way to keep your sanity. Some people start a meal plan and they get depressed because they think they can never eat the fun foods again in their lives, which is 100% not true. You can, you just can’t go crazy and let one meal turn into one day and then lead into one week of treating yourself, because then you are really cheating yourself.
How important is supplementation to you? Do you think supplementation is required of an athlete to have the best measure of success or do you think nutrition and training are enough?
First off I like to break supplementation into two groups. Performance supplements, and Sexy supplements. Performance supplements are things like creatine, pre workout powders, BCAA and other things that can physically help you perform better in the gym. Which if used right can definitely assist in you in achieving your performance goals. I myself take creatine and BCAA powders because I train hard and my body cannot physically perform at the level I need it to without supplementation. Sexy supplements are things like energy boosters, fat burners/weight loss pills, and other supplements along those lines. Which are ones that no one needs to take. With proper nutrition you can achieve your results better and keep those results longer than using “sexy” supplements. When you take things like energy boosters, energy drinks and fat burner/weight loss pills, you throw off your body’s natural ability to produce the things your body can to give you energy, help boost your metabolism and lose weight.
What suggestions or advice would you give others who are trying to optimize their nutrition to nourish and fuel their bodies?
For anyone who is not an elite level athlete, DO NOT MAKE DRASTIC CHANGES IMMEDIATELY. I had to all caps that because it is super important. If you are a person who eats a ton of sweets, do not stop cold turkey and throw out all of your sweets tomorrow. You will go insane, have withdrawals and eventually give in and go on a bender eating every doughnut in site. Same with the person who drinks a lot of soda, do not stop drinking soda all together in one day. Start off by trimming a little off the top, as I like to say. If you eat a bag of skittles every day, start by not eating them on Mondays. Then when that feels comfortable, cut out Monday and Wednesday. And so on and so forth until you have cut out sweets. Same with the soda drinker, if you drink 3 cans of soda every day, start by cutting it down to 2 cans, then cut out a day, then 2 days. Then start substituting. Every time you get a craving on your day you are not suppose to eat those skittles eat some fruit instead, or when you have the craving for a soda, drink some water or even get some of those calorie free flavored waters. Moderation is the best way to succeed. Eventually they build up and when you look back you see the drastic change has been made all while taking these baby steps along the way.
Is there anything else you would like to share?
The last thing I would like to share is that no one meal plan is perfect and no one person is perfect. If you started a new plan and it isn’t going as well as you had hoped (and hopefully this feeling is not on day 3) then don’t get discouraged and quit. Anything worth having takes time. Nutrition takes time, results take time. No one person is perfect either. So if you cheated on your meal plan and ate a bag of chips, don’t beat yourself up about and just give up on the whole thing. I to this day, have days where I feel like it was just a terrible day and the only thing that will make me feel better is some Ben and Jerry’s. Just don’t let that day become every other day ok! Stick to your guns and stay the course.
Where can people follow you?
You can follow me on Instagram @blaine_mcconnell and see how I train, how I eat and how I like to unwind.
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