CrossFit Competition Day: The Dos and Don'ts of Feeding the Fittest on Earth With Jaime Filer
Imagine having to do 11 workouts in two hours in one day. Sounds like a professional league's combine, right? Or it's just GRID, also known as the National Pro GRID League â€“ â€œthe world's first professional spectator sport with two co-ed teams racing head-to-head in a two-hour match." GRID matches bring together speed, skill, and strategy in an amalgam of gymnastics moves, Olympic- and powerlifting, and random body weight exercises you'd never think to do on your own, in one epic match.
The only thing that involves potentially more strategic planning than how to train for two hours of functional fitness, is how to EAT for two hours of functional fitness. If you spend a day (or a weekend) competing in GRID or CrossFit, it's complicated to structure your meals around the events. What's too much volume? Too little? How do you get enough calories in to sustain two hours of intense, vigorous exercise, but without the quantity that will cause your lunch to end up on the gym floor? It's a fine balance, requiring knowledge about what your body wants and needs, how much it needs quantitatively and qualitatively, and prepping EVERYTHING in advance. Grabbing a barbell and lifting heavy things isn't as easy as it seems. Take it from these pros (and coach): Nutrition is of the UTMOST importance in CrossFit and GRID, and sometimes it's not all about performance; there's an element of aesthetics in there too!
2016 CrossFit South Regionals 15th place
2015 CrossFit Games Team 2nd place
2015 CrossFit East Regionals 7th place
2015 Wodapalooza 3rd place Elite Female Division
2014 CrossFit Northeast Regionals 10th place
2013 CrossFit Games 19th place with 3 1st place finishes in individual events
2013 CrossFit Northeast Regionals 3rd place
2012 CrossFit Northeast Regionals 8th place
2011 CrossFit Northeast Regionals 11th place
Miami Surge â€“ NPGL Strength Specialist
USA Women's Rugby 15s team from 2008-2013
USA Women's Rugby 7s team in 2012
USA women's Olympic Team Handball team in 2014
Collegiate All-American Rugby in 2010
USA West Rugby 15s team from 2006-2013 (co-captain in 2012)
USA West Rugby 7s team 2011-2012
Texas Bloodhounds Amateur GRID Team 2015 (3rd place overall in GRID Invitational)
General Manager of Miami Surge, National Pro GRID League team
How does your nutrition change from an off day/recovery day, to a normal training day, to a competition day?
Kaleena: For the past month I have been following RP strength. The amount of carbs and fat changes depending on the intensity of the workout that day. More carbs on training days. I have used nutritionists in the past and my overall caloric intake is always less on non-training days. And I will carbo load before big multiple-day events such as regionals.
Mather: That varies a ton from athlete to athlete. I'm going to say that is true for most answers to these questions. Some are very regimented about pre-comp meals/training meals/and rest meals. Some don't really think about it. From my perspective, when it comes to trying to get max performance out of our team, we try to go with whatever an athlete is used to doing and facilitating that in any way we can. We supply plenty of all macros, in forms that are most commonly requested, and let the athletes choose what they feel is best for them. I personally believe that the mental comfort for the athletes to feel well prepared is more important than the actual nutrition itself when it comes to a specific day's performance. The day-to-day training nutrition is very important but I personally believe athletes are different in what is optimal for them and we trust that they know what works for them. Most of our athletes are coaches too, so they have put a lot of thought, research, and experimentation into it for themselves.
Dee: I am very picky about what I eat and when I eat; when I'm working as a teacher is different than when I am off for the summer. Since it is summer now, on a normal training day, I have my morning smoothie of kale, spinach, strawberries, and protein and drink it on my way to the gym. I get my first workout (which is GRID training) done and by that time I have a lunch that tends to be meat and veggies. While I rest before my second training session, I tend to eat some sort of nut mix. During my second training session (which is generally Olympic weightlifting), I tend to munch on a fruit leather to replenish my glycogen while training, and have a protein shake after. Then I go home and have dinner, which is a struggle because I eat with my parents and it isn't always what's best for me, and another snack a couple of hours after dinner.
During an active recovery/rest day, I tend to eat the same; just a little less calories on rest day since I am not working as hard on these days. But every once in a blue moon, my rest day also becomes a cheat day with some frozen yogurt or pizza, and almost every time, I regret it the next day!
On a competition day, I try to eat the same as I do on training days. My body is used to the same consistent amount of food and at certain times, I want to feel the same on competition day as I do on training day. I am afraid if I try to do something new for competition day, I won't feel as good or the same. It's like that saying, "If it ain't broke, don't fix it."
How often and what do you eat the day of a comp, and how hard is it to structure if you're competing over a whole weekend (like WodaPalooza or Regionals)?
Kaleena: I eat a good breakfast, then small easy-to-digest meals throughout the day, such as peanut butter and jelly sandwiches or bars. I just try to make sure I stay hydrated and take BCAAs and protein post-events to recover properly. Then a big healthy dinner to refuel.
Dee: I try to keep with the same routine as training days when it comes to food, although after the GRID match I love to treat myself to a huge burger and mixed veggies. I generally try to eat some sort of food or something nutritional about 8x a day. The hardest part of a competition day is the butterflies and the anxiousness to play, so I tend to not eat about an hour before competition, or else my stomach is unsettled when competing â€“ and while under pressure, that is a horrendous feeling to try and perform with.
In bodybuilding, they say that it's 80% nutrition, 20% training. How important is nutrition in CrossFit? Do aesthetics play a role in how you structure your diet, or is it purely performance-based?
Kaleena: Nutrition plays a huge role in recovery in CrossFit. I have a huge sweet tooth and I used to get away with eating a lot more sugar and not feeling the effects of inflammation in my joints as much, but as I have gotten older, I definitely have to eat cleaner sources of carbs and try to sneak in my sugar cravings in moderation. Aesthetics definitely plays a role but personally, I'd rather do more cardio than eat less in order to attain the physique I prefer. I won't give up my chocolate or a few beers on the weekend. I would rather just go for an extra run.
Mather: I can tell you confidently our athletes prioritize performance way over aesthetics. It's really not a consideration. I will tell you that most of our athletes pay very close attention to what they put in their bodies, and while it might be less than 80%, to them it's up there. But there are exceptions. We have had athletes who eat pizza and fast food as their primary diet and actually were unhappy with healthier food options. Mentally they felt prepared and comfortable with foods they were used to.
Dee: Nutrition plays a huge role in GRID, as it is essential for performance. If you put crap in your body, you will perform like crap. Put good in the body, you will perform well. Aesthetics do not play a role in my diet for GRID; not yet, since I am not in Olympic weightlifting season (during that time I might have to cut weight). My diet is actually structured for positive mood and performance. What I eat is to help keep me off antidepressants as well as help me be the best athlete I can be. I would say that for GRID and Olympic weightlifting, not only is nutrition and training obviously a huge part of being a successful athlete, but mental strength has a HUGE role in it all as well. You have to be very mentally tough to go to the gym on the days you feel down or don't want to go and still put the work in, mentally strong to ignore or push away the cravings that may derail you from your nutrition, and mentally strong to keep a growth mindset in order to become the best version of you that you want to be. I also learned that the more I focused on my performance, that the aesthetics start to come along without even realizing it.
This CrossFit competition feature has been generously provided by Jaime Filer, Online Editor-In-Chief of Muscle Insider, Canada's #1 Muscle Magazine. Love Jaime's inspiring and energetic voice as much as we do? Check her out on Instagram and read more of her work on how to CrossFit meal prep, the best time to work out, and even her own fitness transformation. Jaime rocks the Expedition 300 backpack â€“ find your perfect gym backpack, gym tote, or meal management system today.