Performance Nutrition @ SF with Natasha Bradley Nutrition

SF Gym | West Coast CrossFit | Perth, Australia | www.sfgym.com.auEach year at SF we organise a nutrition event for our members to work in with our programming. For this year’s event we put it to a member vote and the overriding choice was for a Performance Nutrition option.

In signing up the participants received personal nutrition programming for their Proform Pro2000 review and training performance for 12 weeks specific to their body, schedule, lifestyle, and goal/s as well as one-on-one nutrition coaching and support from Coach Tash (NB Nutrition).

The intention of this program was to help participants learn how to fuel their body for performance. In doing this, they completed the program with a deeper understanding of nutrition for performance/body composition and how to maintain their changes. The program was designed to be sustainable. We included an optional DEXA scan before and after the event so members could further track changes.

We have asked SF member Charlie Maughan to write about his experience and following is his account. Thanks Charlie, we love that you had such a positive experience and we could not have hoped for a better experience for you!

30% Training, 70% Diet”, “You can’t out-exercise a bad diet”, “Abs are made in the kitchen”

Charlie Maughan

I don’t know about anyone else but there isn’t a day that goes by that someone on my Instagram doesn’t have a quote like this, artfully strewn across a picture of some size -0 model holding a plate with some bland chicken breast and apologetic asparagus. The “unfollow” button then gets hit and it is banished out of my life. Unfortunately my early Instagram was rife with the stuff.

The reality is, unless you’re living under a pizza-laden rock (which would be amazing just quietly), you will know that to really make those hours of pain and sweat at training worthwhile, your diet needs to be on point. After all, you’re in the gym for what 1-2 hrs per day? What are you doing with the other 22-23hrs in your day? If it is stuffing pretzels and chips in your mouth then you can hardly be surprised if you aren’t quite making the “gainz” in the gym that you’ve come to expect.

Like many people out there, I was a fat-kid. Fast forward to teenage years and adolescence, the lure of the weights room called and ever since then, I have been obsessed with losing weight and being fit. I love sports and will play anything and everything but around 3 years ago, I saw my first CrossFit video and thought “I have to be doing this… right now”. Rugby, swimming and globo “back-’n-bis” fell by the wayside, replaced by AMRAPs, EMOMs and 1RMs.

I have always been what I would consider a “healthy” eater and I would say that I am more knowledgeable than the average Joe (after all, Nicki and I do have our own health-food catering company, Fit Stop Food (shameless plug). However if you ask my better half, I have never been satisfied with my body or my performance (body dysmorphia is a real thing FYI), always wanting to be stronger/fitter/leaner/bigger. Goals can complement each other at times but can also completely flip within a week and contradict each other, for example “I want to get really strong and put on some mass” at the start to “no I want to really lean out and lose some fat” by the end of the week when you catch a glance of yourself in a mirror and decide that those extra carbs were obviously not working properly.

Fast forward to around 14 weeks ago…, I heard about the nutrition challenge that was being run at SF CrossFit, overseen by Tash Bradley, for an incredibly reasonable price. At the start I was skeptical, as was my partner Nicki (understandably so, given that at times I switch between diet plans as regularly as I do TV channels). But eventually I put my name down and I must say that I was super excited to get stuck in. 12 weeks to just follow exactly what I get told and to let someone for once just tell me what to eat, when to eat it and how much to eat. Perfect.

Testing and the First 6 Weeks

As the whole challenge was based around “performance”, it was important to establish a base level in some of the basic lifts (Deadlift, Squat & Press) as well as in a conditioning workout (15.5 – everyone’s favourite pairing of rowing and thrusters – not). I certainly didn’t hold back. After all, what is the point of the whole Challenge if you don’t give your best? I PR’d my 15.5 time (09:36) and my CrossFit Total was 382.50kg (a score that I wasn’t happy with – but hey, that’s the point of the Challenge right?!).

Receiving the first template from Tash (and subsequently all the following templates) was like lots of mini-christmases… Christmai? Christmasees? I remember opening up the first one and just saying “Oh s***”. There were different colours and grams and times and and and… Nick and I always do a big cook up on the weekend so that we don’t need to cook during the week but this was a step up. The first lesson I learnt was that preparation is everything. My eating plan would vary whether I was doing a “Strength” or “Conditioning” day and would then vary further whether it was an AM or PM session. If I was doing a double day then it varies again. As a self-confessed geek when it comes to health & fitness, this was great. Out came the tupperware and I got busy planning away on my food-tracking app – MyFitnessPal.

The first thing that Coach Tash did was to try and build up my metabolism back to a “healthy” level. As I always used to eat in a “deficit” to “encourage fat loss”, my body had simply forgotten what its true baseline was. I was therefore amazed to see that as I started the plan, I was told to eat far more than I had previously been eating. This was great! Not only was I eating more but my body weight wasn’t shooting through the roof and if anything, was actually losing weight! Also through the feedback template that Tash had set up, I learnt my second lesson, sleep is crucial. Everyone knows that sleep plays a vital role in recovery and energy but it was only when I was writing and recording how I felt everyday that I realised the difference in how I felt when I got 8 hours sleep, compared to my usual 7.

As the weeks and weekends progressed, around the fourth week, I learnt my next lesson. As much as you wish they didn’t, weekends still definitely count. Like everyone, I love food and I like to hang out with friends. Celebrations of some kind seem to come up every weekend and when you are tracking your energy, performance and sleep everyday and tracking your food and training hard during the week, I used to stop tracking my food on the weekend as a mental “break”. But this would just result in eating in a surplus as well as being too high in carbs as I typically don’t train as hard on the weekends either. This would mean that yes, that night out was fun but wow, I didn’t realise that I was actually still feeling “flat” for 2 days after?!

Another really insightful thing of the doing the Challenge was talking with all the other participants. Everyone was doing something completely different! Some were on bulking programs, others were cutting, others were on maintenance; it was really interesting to hear how everyone was going. Whilst no one person was on the “same” program, we all had a “we are in this together” attitude which was great.

The Middle Weeks (7-9) & August

Week Seven was the first time I came off a “Metabolism Reset” template and moved onto something to support “Strength and Lean Body Mass”. This was really exciting as I had already had good results and was really enjoying the eating plan. Tash made my template fit to my lifestyle and was always on hand to answer the silly questions that I had along the way. When the timing of my carbs was getting moved around, the amount of energy that I had was exactly what Tash had expected. After one day in particular, I remember really struggling through an energy lull and Tash gave me this response, “The pattern of carb timing for you at the moment means that you’re going into your conditioning sessions a bit depleted. So I’d expect them to feel a touch on the hard side. You should notice the difference when you re-fuel ahead of Sunday :)” Low and behold, later that week when I competed on Sunday.. I felt great! Tash really knows her stuff!

For me, it was in the month of August and through these Middle Weeks that this whole plan kicked into top gear and it all the weighing and measuring of food and generally being “anal” became worth it. Please note, what you will read is not some egotistical rant, just some actual facts of what happened while I was on this program.

  • In August, I set 10 new strength PRs.
  • In September, I set another 7 strength PRs (including a 25kg PR on my front squat!)
  • I PR’d 5 of my Benchmark Workout Times.

Now for me, this alone means that regardless of what happened at final testing, this Performance Nutrition Challenge had been an undoubted success. The best part is, I know that plenty of others on the program made similar massive gains on their lifts which was great to hear (special shout out to Gemma for her monster squat PRs!!). If I said that there was a supplement that you could take that would give you 22 PRs in 12 weeks, I bet you would want to know where you could get your grubby chalk-covered mitts on it. A tip here – check resources like Omega Boom.

After getting the intense gratification of setting those PRs in a matter of weeks, it very dramatically changed something within my mindset which brings me to the next lesson. Setting PRs in the gym is so much more gratifying than any ‘body’/physique goal you may have.

The Last Few Weeks

This is where the story took a twist. In an ideal world, I would have stayed at home in the gym, nailing more PRs and having a merry old time. Unfortunately a spontaneous trip back to the UK came up and despite my best efforts, macros were certainly not hit and too much alcohol was most certainly drunk. Desperate to not undo all the hard-work in the previous weeks, I dragged myself into the garage (at times arguably still drunk), to do my homemade workout (25min Alt EMOM: 50 D/Us, 15 Burpees, 25 Air Squats and 15 Push Ups). It certainly wasn’t pretty but I like to think that it was worth it. I even dropped into a couple of boxes to try and not lose the strength gains that i had fought so hard for.

Coming home, I had to push my retest date back by a week, just because I couldn’t face the idea of failing miserably in retest just because I had had an impromptu trip across the world. I was really strict (I’m talking within 5gs on my macros) on myself through those last two weeks of my template and felt great come retest time.

As I started my retest, I felt really good even though I hadn’t “de-loaded/tapered” at all and had even trained the night before. I started my back squat with a “greedy” goal of 170kg which would be a 10kg PR. I moved through to 160kg well and recruited Coach Wazza to give me some shouting in my ear. I hit 170 and was absolutely stoked. Next I went to my strict press (a notoriously bad lift for me along with deadlifts) and was again stoked to breeze through my previous best of 62.5kg and ended up settling on 70kg, after what felt like an eternity getting stuck on the way up. Deadlift I left until last and I knew that if i could just pick up 160kg then I would be happy. My previous best was 160×3 but at the start of testing, I had struggled to even pick 160 up. Again I recruited Coach Wazza for some cheerleading and I was really happy to get 170kg.

Needless to say I was dreading re-doing the conditioning workout 15.5. I just assumed that because I had got stronger, that naturally my conditioning would have fallen off. Starting the workout – it felt terrible haha. It felt so much harder than it did the first time and I was actually saying “this is shit” and shaking my head while Nicki was trying to cheer me on. Needless to say, when i finished in a crumple of sweat and profanities and I saw my time I was absolutely shocked to see that I had finished just 2 seconds after my previous time. I was exhausted but so happy.

My CrossFit Total had increased by 27.5kg and my 15.5 time was basically the same (9:38). An awesome result in 12 weeks.

Key Findings:

  • Preparation is everything.
  • Sleep is crucial.
  • As much as you wish it didn’t, what you eat on the weekend still counts.
  • Aim for PRs not for ABz.
  • Recording information really helps (sleep, performance, energy etc.)
  • Being accountable is a very strong tool for success.
  • Consistency is king.

Concluding Thoughts

If you are on the fence about whether to contact Coach Tash and reading about my recent experience wasn’t enough to get you over the line then I will just leave you with this parting thought. If you want to be the BEST that you can be (and be honest, who doesn’t?), then you simply cannot expect your training to be enough. I would consider myself to be fairly clued in with healthy eating but working with Tash really opened my eyes. If you want to invest money in your health and wellness not only for now but in the future, then getting your food on track HAS to be the priority. Fuel Your Potential (*cough* plug *cough*). Thank you to Coach Tash for all your help and thank you so Nicki for putting up with all my weighing and measuring! Now time for a holiday!!