[This content comes from the Nutritional Seminar we hosted in February 2017. Feel free to email us at info@tectoniccrossfit.com with any inquiries!]


I. Why We Haven't Done A Weight Loss Challenge: our approach to sustainable, lifelong athlete progress

  • long-term success with changes in body composition require athletes to balance individual, shifting, sometimes conflicting prioritizations of: a.) cost b.) availability c.) convenience d.) personal preferences e.) culture f.) goals. these factors are not often considered in 6-8 week challenges.
  • evidence-based studies repeatedly show that crash dieting (intended for rapid weight loss) have poor sustainability outcomes and often produce adverse effects on long-term changes, mood and depression, body-image psychology, healthy hormone balance, athletic performance, etc.
  • retention for the full duration of diet challenges is often poor
  • weight loss challenges have merits, and we respect & appreciate that these programs often kickstart great, healthful changes in some athletes' nutrition
  • however, we do not support many of their frameworks, which often involve incentivizing or rewarding as much weight loss as possible in very short periods
  • rather than incentivizing and rewarding weight loss, our approach is to educate and empower athletes to better understand what goals they actually have, learn the concepts that will help them take steps towards meeting their goals, and derive their own long-term lifestyle solutions that will work in perpetuity

II. Caloric Balance, Metabolism, Anabolism, & Catabolism: the critical concept that dictates both muscle gain & fat loss

  • a calorie is a scientific unit to calculate energy (1 calorie = the energy required to heat a kg of water 1 deg Celsius)
  • more practically, all foods contain and provide us calories
  • we use calories for all physiological functions--even when we are at rest

THERMODYNAMICS: energy cannot be created or destroyed, only transformed

  • when we consume the same amount of calories that we expend, we are said to be in caloric balance
  • when we consume more calories than we expend, we achieve caloric surplus
  • when we consume fewer calories than we expend, we achieve caloric deficit
  • the most critical concept to changing body composition comes down to consuming the amount of calories we need (relative to the calories we expend) in order to either gain, lose, or maintain


  • metabolism: all the chemical processes that occur to sustain life functions
  • catabolism: breaking down large complex molecules (such as fat or muscle) into simpler, smaller ones
  • anabolism involves building larger, more complex molecules (such as muscle or fat) from simpler ones
  • thus, fat loss is a catabolic process: breaking down stored fat to release energy for use
  • 1 pound of fat is 3500 calories: to achieve a moderate caloric deficit, reduce caloric intake by 300-500 calories per day to lose about 1 pound per week
  • in contrast, bone mineralization & muscle growth are anabolic processes: they involve creating, building, and adding body tissue from the foods we consume
  • in order to add muscle and build bone density, the body will need to operate with a caloric surplus (consume more calories than we burn)

III. Macronutrient Balance: where calories come from and how they are used

  • while caloric balance it is the most essential concept, it is not sufficient or complete
  • a close second is macronutrient balance
  • while all calories are equal in terms of energy, they are not equal in terms of practical effect
  • our calories primarily come from one of three primary macronutrients: 1.) fats 2.) carbohydrates 3.) proteins
  • every cell in the human body can use glucose (a simple carbohydrate) as a direct energy source to produce ATP, the high-energy molecule used for most physical tasks such as muscular contractions


  • most calorie dense (average calories/energy per gram) at 37 MJ/kg
  • medium metabolic efficiency (energy expenditure needed to catabolize)


  • medium caloric density at 16.8 MJ/kg
  • low metabolic efficiency


  • medium caloric density at 17 MJ/kg
  • highest metabolic efficiency (requires the least energy to catabolize)


  • the body's preferred energy source is carbohydrates because they have the highest metabolic efficiency: it is a straightforward process to convert carbohydrates into glucose for usable energy in the body
  • thus: carbohydrates are a reliable and immediate source of energy
  • unfortunately, excess carbohydrate intake leads to storage of the excess energy (eventually as fat deposits) for later use
  • when we consume carbs, the pancreas releases insulin hormone into bloodstream signaling body to reduce glucose concentrations by removing glucose from bloodstream and storing in cells
  • when insulin is low (several hours without food), the opposite happens: body signals breakdown of fatty acids and glycogen
  • THUS: insulin is powerful fuel selector that shifts body energy usage towards biases of using carbohydrates versus fats
  • note that dietary fiber is functionally a carbohydrate that the body cannot digest, so it subtracts from total carbohydrate
  • proteins are the building blocks of muscle
  • strength training causes microtrauma to muscles; the body responds by adapting and compensating through growth
  • for muscles to grow, they need the necessary amino acids (the smallest building blocks of protein)
  • proteins are also valuable because they are not metabolically efficient: it takes a lot of energy to break down protein molecules for use, requiring nearly as much ATP to digest as it produces once metabolized
  • thus, the body won't typically store consumed protein as fats unless the body is not getting enough energy from carbs and fats, which are much more energy efficient fuel sources
  • fats serve essential cellular functions and are critical for health
  • for athletes, fats can serve as a caloric buffer to meet daily caloric needs once the macronutrient needs for protein and carbohydrates are met, in order to balance the remaining necessary calories
  • in contrast to proteins, fats are easily broken down and converted to ATP


IV. Nutrient Timing & Supplements: fine-level details of creating nutritional plans

  • these should not be prioritized for effective body compositional changes and weight management
  • these are irrelevant without primary establishment of proper caloric + macronutrient balance
  • energy is lowest first thing in the morning and after extended periods without eating
  • to maximize utilization of fast-digesting carbohydrates for workouts, plan to consume these either immediately before, during, or immediately after training because that is when the metabolic engine requires fuel most acutely (either for the workout itself or for the intense metabolic demands of the recovery processes that follow workouts)
  • fast-digesting protein supplements (including branched chain amino acids), like fast-digesting carbs, should be consumed either immediately before, during, or immediately after training
  • full meals should generally be consumed 2-3 hours before training (depending on how the athlete tolerates food/digestion before training) or approximately an hour after training


V. Dieting for Aesthetics vs. Eating to Perform: concepts behind how nutrition and training intersect for athletes with different goals

  • we are human too, and we also live in the same society: we deeply & personally understand the desire of many athletes to "look better naked", to feel proud of how we look, to put our best foot forward, to feel confident in our bodies
  • however, our training methodology markedly de-emphasizes aesthetics--which are shifting sands based on cultural values and social mores which change
  • our focus is on optimizing & improving what your body is capable of doing, rather than what it looks like on any given day of the week
  • gaining strength, for example, will look different on different people; so will a sub-7 minute mile. body types, genetics, and shape impact performance but do not define performance.
  • we are devoted to building stronger, faster, healthier, fitter, more explosive athletes with better endurance, better stamina, better agility, & better functionality
  • an aesthetic orientation builds nutritional plans around bulking and shredding (and for competitive body builders and figure competitors, sticking to their nutritional plans is often as rigorous as the training itself)
  • our nutritional focus at Tectonic is about functional fitness
  • we advise athletes on eating in order to enhance and optimize their functional performance as human beings day in and day out, week in and week out, when training and when not training
  • if you are getting & feeling stronger, faster, fitter, and more energetic across time, and you are developing a greater understanding of your bodies & minds in the process, then we are manifesting our ultimate philosophical vision
  • not everyone has the same goals, and it is neither up to us nor your peers to make those decisions for you
  • we will absolutely discuss your goals with you and strive to ensure that our approach here fits within the paradigm--and we will absolutely communicate concerns we have as coaches if your goals seem to be inconsistent with either your plan of action or our ethos, as we cannot support goals that (for example) we feel lead to a decrement in overall health and wellness
  • every athlete must engage in a balancing act between physical, mental, and emotional wellness
  • as coaches, we are here to try to understand your goals, help you understand how your goals work & fit with your training and nutrition, and support your individual journeys

VI. Tools for Success: worthy investments to achieve your goals

  • define what your vision is, and why it is your vision
  • refer to it as needed when challenges or setbacks arise along the way
  • break down your general vision into manageable goals in short, middle, and long term frameworks (e.g. daily/weekly, monthly/quarterly, semi-annual/annual)
  • review your frameworks and consider their feasibility; consult coaches and other resources in this part of the process
  • create strategies to meet those goals
  • consider key elements to long term progress and success such as: a.) cost b.) availability c.) convenience d.) personal preferences e.) culture f.) emotional needs
  • unless you are highly experienced with changing your body composition, absolutely prioritize the macro (caloric balance, macronutrient balance, training & recovery) over the micro (nutrient timing, supplements) for the greatest progress
  • consider investing in a food scale for measuring your macronutrient intake and/or nutrition coaching for accountability
  • experiment with various approaches, but try to be consistent with any one approach for 2-4 weeks (unless it feels unhealthy) before switching it up to something else
  • consider combining your training journal with a nutritional journal to track your consistency, input, and output