CrossFit Nutrition: Come for the Workout, Stay for the Food
Brightly colored bottles filled with hope and promises line the aisles. You pick one up and shake it, hoping to unlock the mysteries of the content (because, really, the 15-letter ingredients on the label will be of no help.) The powder softly hits the sides of the container, but does not offer any guidance on your path to health. What the heck does all this stuff do, you wonder? Do I even need it? Will it really contribute to my CrossFit nutrition arsenal? And why are there 34 variations of protein staring back at me??
Don't worry â€“ we get it! Food and nutrition are ever-changing topics, yielding confusing (and sometimes contradictory) information. Is coffee good for me? How about fat? Should I avoid carbs like the plague? And chocolate â€“ please tell me it's good for me this week!
Of all the nutrition knowledge presented to me in classes, the most resounding fact also happens to be the most frustrating; there isn't one diet or supplement regime that fits everyone. Our bodies respond in unique ways to macro and micronutrients, making it impossible to serve up a â€œone size fits all" prescription when it comes to diet. This applies to subsequent groups, too â€“ women over 40, teenage boys and competitive CrossFit athletes alike. This latter group is actually the focus of my graduate studies (specifically, I'm pursuing a degree in Sports Nutrition and Dietetics). While I firmly believe that athletes need to find their own wellness routines, I also feel that there are a few CrossFit nutrition tips and tricks that apply to the vast majority. Here is what I've learned:
CrossFit Nutrition â€“ Food:
In general, more activity yields a greater need for carbohydrates. Carbs act as energy for your more intense training sessions. Heavy squatting and Fran-Grace-Helen type of day? Do us all a favor and eat some carbs. Please note that carbs come in different forms (ever heard the terms simple and complex?). Complex carbohydrate consumption tends to provide a more even and long-lasting distribution of energy. Mmmm, sweet potatoes :)
How did it ever get a bad rap? My guess is fat's caloric density (it clocks in at 9 calories/gram, which is over double the 4 calories/gram in carbs and protein). We need fats, though â€“ for proper brain functioning, healthy tissues and skin, fat-soluble vitamin absorption, hormone production, and more! Fat also becomes an energy source in lower intensity, â€œCrossFit rest-day WOD" type activity. Finally, peanut butter is life. Nom.
Everyone's favorite (especially our Lost Friend who was attempting to navigate the supplement aisle!). The building block of protein (amino acids) are also the building blocks for your guns. A fairly standard recommendation for athletic performance is between .7-1.0 grams of protein/pound of body weight. In English, this would suggest that a 150-pound CrossFit athlete take in 105-150 grams of protein per day. More than this has not been shown to give you more gainz, though.
No, not Skittles:
Add color to your plates in your fruit and vegetable choices; micronutrients are just as important as macronutrients for your performance!
CrossFit nutrition 101 alert! You'll need to spend some time preparing each week. If you are out and about, you may also consider a meal management bag to carry around your grub! Personally, my Expedition gym backpack goes with me everywhere.
CrossFit Nutrition â€“ Supplements:
Let's just start by saying that in terms of CrossFit nutrition, supplements ARE NOT NECESSARY!!!! A focus on a nutrient-dense diet is definitely the place to start. However, there are a few supplements that I feel can benefit a majority of athletes:
A fabulous supplement for diets low in fatty fish. Its benefits are numerous, so I'll stick to athlete-focused ones! Fish oil has been shown to improve our immune system, battle inflammation, reduce delayed onset muscle soreness, improve cognition, and protect the heart!
Especially for those cold weather climates! Vitamin D helps with protein synthesis, calcium absorption, cell signaling, cell regeneration, and more.
Time to recap. Find balance in your macronutrient intake before considering supplementation (I'm looking at you, Lost Friend in the Protein Power Aisle!!). Bring color into your life with a variety of fruits and vegetables. Or M&Ms. If you'd like to supplement, fish oil and Vitamin D are valuable assets to your CrossFit nutrition plan. Finally, have fun with your food â€“ it's there to fuel both your gigantic gains as well as your smiling soul.
This primer on CrossFit nutrition has been brought to us by Danielle Levy-Wolins. When she's not at Six Pack Fitness handling customer concerns, she is just as likely to be found working on her Master's in Nutrition as she is upside down in a handstand or right side up lifting a barbell at CrossFit!