CrossFit workouts can be intense and fast-paced. Gymnastics, weightlifting, and cardio exercises, such as running and rowing, are among the intense activities Crossfit training involves daily. However, for your body to perform well at CrossFit, you need to fuel it properly via appropriate nutrition, which is a crucial part of the training process.
In putting together your nutrition plan to support your CrossFit workouts, there are so many factors to consider that it can be hard to know where to start. In this article, we will discuss each essential nutrient/macronutrient and show you how you can adjust them to optimize CrossFit performance and get the results you want.
Understanding The Calorie Intake In CrossFit
Achieving better CrossFit performance starts with understanding how many calories you require to fuel your workouts. In most cases, people don’t know how much to eat, and they eat too little, which eventually affects their performance. The undereating fuels the workouts first, then the bodily functions, meaning their workouts may seem good for a while, but other parts of their bodies are being affected.
For example, due to undereating, your concentration may be impaired or you may become unfit to think clearly, or your period may become irregular or disappear completely if you’re a woman. As time goes on, your body struggles from a lack of calories to boost your workouts properly- and this is what needs to be cured!
Calculate Your Calorie Needs
You can estimate how many calories you need to maintain your current weight by multiplying your weight in pounds by 15. It would be roughly enough for a moderate workout (i.e. 1 to 2 hours long, 10-25 sets). Plus, take 300 calories off this amount on rest days, and add 300 calories if you train twice, either moderately or intensively. For instance,
- In order to maintain calories, an athlete weighing 160 pounds should consume 2100 calories for a rest day, 2400 calories for a moderate day, and 2700 calories for a hard training day.
- Also, to lose weight, one needs to reduce 500 calories per day. So for a 160-pound athlete, the calorie count should be 1600 calories for a rest day, 1900 calories for a moderate day, and 2200 calories for a hard day.
- Alternatively, to gain weight or to build muscles one needs to add 500 calories to each day. So for a 160-pound athlete, 2600 calories on a rest day, 2900 calories on a moderate day, and 3200 calories on a hard day will be required.
Nevertheless, whenever you calculate calories, don’t forget they are estimates, and they may need to be adjusted to meet your specific needs. You can determine if you’re getting the right amount by weighing yourself every week for three weeks. Moreover, the amount you gain or lose should not exceed 1.25% of your body weight when you are in maintenance mode. If you do so, then you may need to reduce or increase your calorie intake resultantly.
Macronutrients For CrossFit
Having determined how many calories you should consume each day, how do you break them down into carbohydrates, protein, and fat? To begin, let’s take a look at the most essential macronutrients for CrossFit:
Carbohydrate fuels your cells, especially those of your muscles, which are essential to any form of workout, including CrossFit and strength training. As long as you consume sufficient amounts of protein and fat, eating a lot of carbs does not have any substantial downsides. However, it is recommended to change your carb intake daily, depending on how much you train.
Moreover, the carb requirement as suggested by fitness experts for male athletes is 1g per pound of body weight on a rest day, 1.5 g on a moderate day, and 2 g on a strenuous training day. For female athletes, it is 140g on a rest day, 210g on a moderate day, and 280g on a hard day. This shows that you will probably need fewer carbs on non-training days than on training days
When your body lacks protein then your muscles become unable to grow and repair. Under this condition, your muscle tissues are used by your body as fuel during workouts. Our muscle building and its maintenance are, therefore, majorly dependent on protein. While the amount of protein we consume depends on our body size, our food preferences, and our nutritional needs.
Furthermore, protein is always needed in high quantities by our bodies. Typically, for CrossFit athletes and strength trainers, 1g of protein per pound of body weight is recommended. So in the hypothetical example of our 160-pound athlete, the protein consumption should be 160g per day.
Along with other macronutrients, fat is equally integral in enhancing Crossfit performance. Our bodies rely on fats to regulate hormones, which control many processes. As a general rule, 0.3 g of fat per pound of body weight is the minimum recommended amount you can consume per day.
But once you have consumed the minimum amount of fat, consuming more fat will not contribute to your training. However, they can help you reach your calorie goal as they are easy to eat and contain more calories than protein and carbohydrates (1 g of each; protein and carbohydrate contain 4 calories while 1 gram of fat contains 9 calories)
In order to calculate your fat intake, you must first work out how many calories you consume with the recommended amounts of protein and carbs. Then divide the remaining calories by 9 to calculate your recommended fat intake which should be higher than the minimum.
Additionally, If fat is kept at a minimum and you’re trying to reach your calorie requirement, you can eat less fat and more carbs. Therefore, to achieve optimal health, you should first focus on your calorie intake and then on macro splits.
Having trouble determining ‘when to eat what’ is a problem for many active people like CrossFit athletes and strength trainers. The majority of us are aware that we should have a meal before and after working out, but how long should we wait before consuming food? Is there a particular type of food we should eat? Does nutrient timing really impact your Crossfit performance?
Ideally, you should be hitting your calories and macros consistently, but timing your nutrition can help you perform better. If you fail to do so, your CrossFit performance will likely suffer. The nutrient timing system is divided into the following four distinct phases:
You won’t be able to perform your best if you work out on an empty stomach, so make sure you fuel yourself appropriately before training. It is, therefore, recommended by fitness experts, to eat a medium-sized meal three to four hours before a workout, along with some protein and fast-digesting carbohydrates 30 minutes beforehand.
In addition, if you’re working out in the morning that would mean skipping the meal, but make sure to fuel yourself at least 30 minutes before the workout. In your pre-workout meal you can have oatmeal topped with delicious berries, carb supplement shakes, plain greek yogurt (with or without honey), and apples with almond butter or raisins.
For an intra-workout meal, you might benefit from consuming carbohydrates and protein during a workout lasting more than 1 hour. A quick-digesting carbohydrate should be consumed with a small amount of a fast-digesting protein (e.g. whey). You should, therefore, adhere to the rule of not exceeding 5-10% of your daily protein intake and slightly less than your maximum carbohydrate intake per hour (0.3g/lb).
If you have just completed a workout, you should eat something to start the recovery process. Following recent training, your muscles are especially sensitive to carbs, so it’s the best time to consume carbs for energy replenishment since this sensitivity gradually decreases over the next 3-6 hours. Additionally, protein and carbohydrates must be consumed together for muscle repair to begin. Fats must also be kept to a minimum in order to digest carbohydrates efficiently.
When you eat the right kind of food before bed, you can have a better night’s sleep. But If you eat too close to bedtime or consume the wrong type of food, you may experience gastrointestinal distress and sleep disturbances. It is, therefore, suggested to have protein before going to bed as it helps in quick recovery overnight.
Moreover, consuming a little bit of fat slows down the digestion of protein, which is a benefit in itself. However, it can cause you to have disturbed sleep. So, try to be aware of this and monitor how things turn out for you. Generally, you should have a bedtime snack such as casein protein with low fat or alternative milk before going to bed since it is a slow-digesting protein.
Nutritional Composition for Optimal Crossfit Performance
The composition of food is determined by the quality of what you consume. Let’s look at how you can choose high-quality foods for each macronutrient so that you can have the optimal nutritional composition for your fitness goals.
Carbs that are nutrient-dense and digest slowly by the body are better quality carbohydrates, although fast-digesting carbs may be desirable at times. Among the high-quality sources of carbohydrates are potatoes, oats, whole-grain bread, quinoa, fresh and frozen fruits, and plain yogurt. An ideal diet should mainly consist of these types of carbs, except during workouts where quick-digesting carbs such as white rice, gatorade, and potatoes are required.
Protein quality refers to how a protein source promotes growth, development, and muscle building in an individual. High-quality proteins are digested well by the body, have a complete amino acid profile, and also contain some essential vitamins, minerals, and fiber. There are several high-quality protein sources, including fish, eggs (especially egg white), plain greek yogurt, beans, lean meats, lentils, etc. So make sure to include one of these proteins in your diet.
There is a difference between fat types in terms of quality. Among the four types of fats is Monounsaturated fat, which promotes good health when eaten in the right quantities, and is found in plant sources e.g. avocados, olive oil, etc. Plant oils, nuts, fatty fish (the richest source of Omega-3 & Omega-6), animal meat, and some vegetables contain Polyunsaturated fat.
Saturated fats, majorly come from animal products, such as meat, eggs, and dairy products. However, the consumption of this type of fat in small quantities is certainly beneficial, although large quantities are not recommended. Lastly, trans fats, if consumed in high quantities, can have negative health effects. Plus, It is very rare in nature, and is created artificially to extend the shelf life of foods.
It is advisable to consume monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats in a balanced diet, limit saturated fats and avoid trans fats as much as possible. Avocados, cashews, olives, peanuts, chia seeds, flax seeds, egg yolks, and olives are some of the food items that contain nutritious fats. Therefore, maintaining a diet rich in healthy foods and performing better at CrossFit is possible when you consume a variety of healthy food items included in each of the macronutrients.
After you have made sure you are consuming enough calories and a sufficient amount of each macronutrient, in addition to eating at the right time and choosing the right quality foods, supplements are the last thing you should add to your diet. Supplements for enhancing CrossFit performance are only useful when consumed along with essential macronutrients.
It has been found that not many supplements work the way they advertise even though there are tons of supplements available. Aside from that, in most countries of the world, it is legal to make unfounded claims about supplements. Nevertheless, research shows that supplements such as whey protein, creatine, casein protein, carbohydrate formulas, and multivitamins are beneficial when taken regularly.
When it comes to balanced nutrition for optimizing CrossFit performance, each nutrient must be considered mindfully based on your health requirements. The food you eat has an overall impact on your strength, training, performance, and recovery. Plus, it is not only the type of food that matters in CrossFit or any other sport but also what you eat throughout the day.
So when you consume the right kinds of food in the right quantities at the proper time, you’ll see huge improvements in your CrossFit performance as well as your general health. Therefore, once you understand how calories, macronutrients, and supplements impact your CrossFit routine, you will be able to make better decisions toward your fitness goals.