So, it’s that time of year again. For those of us in the CrossFit Community, it’s time for the Open. The worldwide portion of the race to this year’s CrossFit Games. Only this year is different… this year it’s going to be harder than ever to get there. For those truly in the running, the competition has already begun. 2 of the largest CF sanctioned events have already taken place, The Dubai Fitness Championship and The Wodapalooza Fitness Festival have already taken place, and several men and women have already been able to punch their ticket to this year’s Games. For the rest of the world, there’s still a LOT more competition left. How can those athletes ensure that they are in peak physical condition and able to perform at their highest levels for the remainder of the season? Well, yes, they’re going to train for it…. But they’re also going to FUEL for it.
Everyone has seen most of the top names in CrossFit. They’re all pretty jacked men and women and most have enviable physiques. The problem there is that the vast majority of the CrossFit Community average Jane’s and Joe’s “see” those top names training multiple hours per day doing ALL the fitness so they think that’s what they need to do in order to get the same physique.
Yes, there’s no denying that to get to the top of the sport of CrossFit you’ve got to put in the hours training. Doing metcons, lifting often, focusing on accessory work and mobility/ flexibility training to keep your body functioning properly at a peak level.
BUT, what the average Jane’s and Joe’s DON’T see if what’s happening behind the scenes after all that. What are those athletes eating each day to keep them fueled for all those hours of training? How many hours per night are they sleeping? What does their daily stress look like? Do they have a regular job? Do they have kids?
Here are a few examples of what some top tier CrossFit athletes are eating…
Samantha Briggs, Multi year CrossFit Games athlete and Champion eats a TON of food each day:
Breakfast: 1 Greens Drink, 2 Eggs, 60g Oats, 1 Banana, 2 tsp. Peanut Butter, Peppermint & Nettle Tea
Mid-Morning Snack: PROGENEX Flow, PROGENEX Build
Lunch #1: Cod, Couscous, Spinach, Green Beans
Lunch #2: Chicken, Sweet Potato, Bell Peppers
Dinner: Salmon, Quinoa, Green Beans, Broccoli
Bedtime Snack: 60g Oats, PROGENEX Cookies & Cream More Muscle, 1 Banana, 2 tsp. Almond Coconut Butter
Brent Fikowski’s breakfast alone is: 3 eggs, Seasonal vegetables, fried over coconut oil, 2 ½ cups of oats with strawberries, blueberries, cinnamon and plain yogurt over them
Noah Ohlsen entire day comes out to be 167 grams of protein, 73 grams of fat and 460 grams of carbs for a total of 3165 calories. And that’s not leading into the Games either, that’s his every day totals.
Tia- Claire Toomey also eats a lot of food each day. **For the record, I personally don’t think Tia’s macros are high enough, but as I am not her nutrition coach, this is merely my opinion based on my knowledge of her intake and athletic output.
First thing: Sometimes I’ll have a slice of yeast-free sourdough with honey or sometimes so I train fasted to use more my fats from dinner the night before.
Breakfast: Bacon, eggs and avocado with a green smoothie packed full of veg.
Lunch: Steak, chips and salad or chicken and rice.
Afternoon snack: Green smoothie with coconut water for sodium or a protein bar.
Post-workout snack: Protein shake
Dinner: A source of protein like chicken steak, pork, lamb, some vegetables and we [husband and coach] really like avocado, so generally this healthy fat is always on my plate.
The point is, the average Jane’s and Joe’s aren’t eating like this. Most are after the aesthetic results of CrossFit and not considering the difference in fueling needs for aesthetic goals versus performance goals.
So what ARE the differences in how you fuel for performance versus aesthetics? There are several.
Eating for Aesthetics
If you have a goal of getting jacked and having the best abs then here’s what you need to understand.
- You will be eating below your Total Daily Energy Expenditure, i.e. eating in a deficit, for up to 16 weeks at a time.
- You will see a small decline in your performance during that 16 week period.
- Carbohydrate and fat intake will be sacrificed in order to create that calorie deficit.
The other several things that also need to be prioritized while on a cut to reduce body fat
- Sleep and recovery must become a priority because this is when your body is actually burning fat.
- Nutrient density and food quality should be prioritized to provide your body with the most food possible with the least amount of calories.
Eating for Performance
If your goals are to perform when in the Open this year, being in a deficit is not the ideal scenario. Optimizing performance takes a completely different fueling protocol. There are several things to consider when eating for performance.
- To perform well you should be eating at or above your Total Daily Energy Expenditure.
- You need to be eating an appropriate ratio of protein, fat and carbohydrate for CrossFit (or whatever sport you are seeking to perform better in).
- CrossFit is a glycolytic sport. That means that the energy systems used in each time domain required in the sport of CrossFit require carbohydrate as their ideal energy source.
- Your aesthetics will decline slightly while you are in season.
Just as when eating for aesthetics, there are several key considerations that need to be made when eating for performance.
- You should be training intensely and specific to your sport.
- Sleep and recovery should be prioritized to lessen inflammation and promote tissue rebuilding.
- Nutrient density and food quality should be prioritized to provide the body with optimal building blocks for tissue.
While prioritizing sleep, recovery and nutrient density are the same whether you are eating for aesthetics or eating for performance, the remainder of how you eat to reach each goal is significantly different.
The main thing you need to do is get clear on what your goals are. It’s ok to want to perform well and look good naked, however you will only be able to see marginal progress towards either of those things if you’re trying to work on them simultaneously. Nutrition, like training, should be prioritized. That means that there are defined “seasons” to your programs in both fitness and in nutrition, and those seasons are ideally linked together.
Typical Periodization for CrossFit
We are in Open season. That means that you should be eating to fuel performance in that endeavor if you will be signing up and participating in the competition. Again, that means eating at or above maintenance calories with the proper ratio of each macronutrient. After the Open is over is a great time to get bikini/ speedo ready for the summer. That means dropping into a deficit and eating/ training to lose fat. Once summer is over bulking season can begin. That means reverse dieting out of the deficit and up to/ above maintenance to be eating/ training for muscle growth. After that phase would follow another period of cutting to lose some of the fat that is inevitably gained in the bulking phase. Then back up to performance levels to start the year again.
This method of periodization allows you the ability to reach a goal then set a new one. The chance to experience periods where you can relax and enjoy life to its fullest and then periods where you dial things in a little more tightly.
Food is a big part of life AND in the proper doses can help you achieve your goals… all you have to do is be honest with yourself about those goals and do what will be necessary to reach them.