CrossFit Workout Nutrition for EVERY Body Type

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Written By

Rhea Dali

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Expert Reviewed By

Dr. Lauryn Lax, OTD, MS

Dr. Lauryn, OTD, MS is a doctor of occupational therapy, clinical nutritionists and functional medicine expert with 25 years of clinical and personal experience in healing from complex chronic health issues and helping others do the same.

140104 8 1 | Crossfit Workout Nutrition For Every Body Type

 

Workout and performance nutrition is one of those topics with as many opinions as politics and religion. What do you believe? What works? Does it really matter THAT much anyway? (After all, you’re a natural!). Clear up the confusion with these no-nonsense guidelines here. Eat to perform.

 

It’s coming…the CrossFit Open kicks off on February 25th.

If you have NO idea what the CrossFit Open is, think: Christmas Day (for CrossFitters).

The annual CrossFit Open is a 5-week-long online-based competition, wherein thousands of CrossFit athletes, world wide will compete in one weekly workout released each week, battling for a top-20 spot in one of the 17 world regions, in order to advance to the CrossFit Regionals. (From there, the top 5 in each Regional competition advance to the CrossFit Games).

While something like the top 1% (of the thousands upon thousands who participate in the Open) will qualify for Regionals, there is still nothing quite like the Open to bring the entire CrossFit community together as a whole—around the love for sport, competition and self-improvement.

Although my personal pursuits to compete at a higher level are gone, I still love trying my hand at each workout to see where I measure up in comparison to, not only other athletes, but more importantly myself—and how far I’ve come in the past eight or nine years of my CrossFit journey.

The biggest difference perhaps in my past history, since beginning CrossFit in 2007?

My diet.

When I first started CrossFit…I was your classic Stairmaster, treadmill-hamster chick in the gym, subsisting off of baby carrots, fat-free yogurt, egg-whites and broccoli.

 

Fast forward to today, and I definitely have MORE energy to fuel my machine with plenty of egg yolks, avocados, sweet potatoes, butter, greens, chicken and beef, fish, bananas, almond butter and more.

While I am constantly learning (and ALWAYS trying to get stronger—a fun, ongoing pursuit), I have definitely learned the POWER of nutrition in taking my own game (and health) to the next level.

However…it never ceases to amaze me the athletes that I do talk to that…

Don’t think about their nutrition—at all.

(The ultimate power for your engine!).

This post goes out to all you athletes out there—particularly those training or competing in the CrossFit Open.

You are a fitness guru. An athlete. A weekend warrior.

 

 

You work hard—and take no prisoners.

So when it comes to the fuel you put in your tank…why don’t you care?

After all you are an intelligent athlete, and you know how important it is to do other things like:

  • Balance workouts (more intense days, coupled with less intense days)
  • Stretch and maintain flexibility
  • Keep hydrated
  • Work on skills and the ‘nitty gritty’ aspects of their sport in practice
  • Practice consistency
  • Get enough sleep

So why is it, that the food you eat (or don’t eat) doesn’t matter—much?

“I eat whatever I want.”

“I workout enough to justify donuts and Buffalo Wild Wings.”

“I just use the cheapest protein I find at the grocery store—as long as it tastes good.”

“I’ve never really thought about it.”

While the athlete body (and mind) is definitely more resilient than the Average Joe, there is no denying that if anyone needs quality nutrition, it is the athlete and active individuals.

Regular vigorous exercise obviously increases the body’s demands for most everything—particularly nutrients and calories (energy).

Unfortunately, there are a TON of nutritional controversies in the athletic and fitness world—making it all the more difficult for athletes to know what is good for them in the first place:

  • High-protein diets
  • Carb-loading before a marathon, competition or intense workout sesh
  • Cutting the carbs to lean out
  • A “critical” 30-minute window to drink a protein shake post-workout
  • No fat/low-fat
  • Special vitamins and supplements
  • Intermittent fasting
  • Carb cycling

Ahhhhhhh!

 

What do you believe?

Chances are, if you are an athlete, you either (a.) feel jaded by the inconsistent nutrition theories and advice out there, and/or (b.) may have tried several different approaches to nutrition yourself, from:

  • The bodybuilding “eat six small meals a day” approach, to,
  • “I don’t care. I’ll eat whatever the heck I want! Just-get-calories-in” approach
  • The Zone-diet
  • The Paleo-for-athletes approach
  • The “football diet” (put on mass through milkshakes, cheeseburgers, pizza) approach
  • The ‘eat-clean’, build muscle or lean-out approach
  • The GOMAD (gallon of milk a day) for mass approach
  • The macro-nutrient approach

The answer: There is not a one-size-fits all approach.

(i.e. Just because Rich Froning is renowned for eating peanut butter and drinking chocolate milk post-workouts to regenerate, does not mean you, too, will respond in just the same way (just like following Rich Froning’s exact training program will NOT make you Rich Froning).

HOWEVER, there are a few rules of thumb that DO apply for the masses when it comes to workout nutrition.

In light of the upcoming CrossFit Open, there is no time like the present to really see what paying attention to your nutrition can do for you—(especially since the Open is not JUST a weekend-long comp, but a 5-week-long competition).

Here are a few basic nutrition guidelines to consider that apply to all athletes, across the board.

[PLUS, check out a few of my favorite post-workout snacks and meals to keep you nourished and help you recover for your next endeavor].

(Note: Even if you are not a CrossFit athlete, or participating in the Open, these general guidelines can apply to you as well. Watch. Learn. Experiment. And find what works for you).

 

 

Muscle-Fuel.
Contrary to popular belief, protein is NOT the only superstar when it comes to muscle development. Muscles NEED glycogen for their fuel—and they use a lot of it DURING your workouts. Therefore, post-workout, it is essential to replenish muscle stores (feed the muscle) with glycogen. The preferred primary source of glycogen is found in the form of carbohydrates. This is why carbs should be known as ‘lean muscle builders’—not just ‘insulin spikers’, ‘blood-sugar-boogers’ or ‘fat enhancers.’ Nope. Carbs, for the active individual in particular, do the furthest thing from ‘making you fat.’ Instead, they nourish and replenish your muscles after working hard. Pair carbs with your protein post-workout to reap the benefits from the work you just put in.

Water.
Perhaps the greatest nutritional need for supporting exercise and competition efforts. Keeping hydrated every day (half your bodyweight in ounces + replenishment around exercise of at least 12-24 ounces) is the ‘secret sauce’ for energy, power, digestion (of all your other nutrients). This means straight up water—not the liquid in your protein shake, your pre-workout supplement, fresh-squeezed juice or smoothie. High-quality H20. Sports drinks like Gatorade supply your body essentially with sugar—which, post workout (see Muscle Fuel) is not a horrible thing. Otherwise, you can’t beat

Smart Supps.
Supplements in athletic world are like cereals in kid world—so many options calling your name. It is critical that you DON’T BELIEVE EVERYTHING YOU HEAR when it comes to marketing hype (you know this—you are intelligent). Just because the label says “Big Muscle” doesn’t automatically mean…big muscles.

A few recommendations?

And for women, Equi-Fem—an amazing supplement to promote hormonal balance during your intense training and competition season.

Potential other considerations that I see often benefit athletes, depending on the level of training and current health status, include:

  • Zinc
  • Vitamin D & Krill Oil/Cod Liver Oil
  • L-Glutamine
  • An adrenal support—that is right for you

For a personal work up to see exactly what you are at—and any underlying deficiencies—schedule a Thrive Nutrition consult today.

Protein.
How much protein should I eat? Of course, this is bio-individualized, but in general, here is a protein guidelines list, dependent on your activity levels:

  • Light activity – 0.7g/lb of Lean Body Mass
  • Moderate – 0.9g/lb of LBM
  • High – 1.1g/lb of LBM
  • Intensive – 1.3g/lb of LBM

If protein powders are part of your diet, look for a reputable brand with quality ingredients (not crappy fillers, additives or sweeteners).

Here’s a few of my recommendations:

Fat Phobia.
Fat burns in a carbohydrate flame”—meaning, when your carb stores are burned up or used, your body turns to fat to run the engine. While the Open workouts are generally short and intense efforts—using primarily carbs—fat incorporated in each meal throughout the week will keep you strong and steady. Avocados, raw nuts and seeds, cooking with coconut oil or ghee, extra virgin olive oil, coconut butter, organic grass-fed meats, pasture-raised egg yolks.

Check out this study from the Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise journal:

The participants were ‘well trained runners’, prescribed three different diets to eat over three different 7-day trila periods.

On the normal diet, they ate 61% carbohydrates and 24% fat (the rest protein);

On the ‘high-fat’ diet, they ate 50% carbs and 38% fat;

And on the carb diet, they ate 73% carbs and 15% fat.

The results?

The fat diet produced the BEST average times to exhaustion (91.2 minutes) compared with the carb-based diet (75.8 minutes) and the ‘normal’ diet (63.7 minutes).

This is particularly true for fat and our own performance when we consume cocnut oil and/or coconut butter.

 

 

Coconut is a “Medium Chain Triglyceride” and MCTs are processed differently (read: quickly).

When we eat a fat containing MCTs, such as coconut oil, it travels through the stomach and into the small intestine. And since MCTs digest quickly, by the time they leave the stomach and enter the intestinal tract they are already broken down into individual fatty acids (MCFAs) [i.e. they do not need pancreatic enzymes or bile for digestion].

Since they are already reduced to fatty acids, as the coconut oil fats enter our small intestine, they are immediately absorbed into the portal vein and sent straight to the liver. In the liver they are preferentially used as a source of fuel to produce energy.

 Thus, a tablespoon of coconut or coconut butter if you feel you need an extra boost can be a powerful weapon pre-workout period.

And, fat, in general, as a regular part of your diet, does a body good.

How much? Moderate can be totally fine. And despite the claims that you should NEVER EVER eat fat post-workout (‘because it slows your digestion’)—again this will all depend on your individual body’s response. Experiment.

I, for one, find I get an energy boost post-workout from adding some fat to my post-workout meal of protein and carb—keeping it moderate.

As for athletics or events wherein you know they will be longer efforts (such as the CrossFit Games or marathon training sessions), upping fats a little bit more throughout the day can be a ‘slight edge’ to preventing any “bonks” or declines in performance.

Cortisol Conundrum.
If you’re an athlete—particularly a competitor—you are used to stress. Stress is necessary and part of the “deal” in training and the big show. That being said, nutrition to support your cortisol balance and adrenal glands (producers and monitors of cortisol) is like water for a plant—neglect it, or pour gasoline (instead of water) on the plant (i.e. “eat whatever”) and your plant is going to eventually wilt (your adrenals are going to get shot).

When your adrenals are “shot” this looks like:

  • Burnout
  • Impaired recovery
  • Increased breathing frequency
  • Decreased maximum workout capacity
  • Wonky digestion
  • Loss of appetite
  • Discombobulated hormones
  • Exhaustion, run-down or sluggishness
  • Lowered immunity
  • Hitting plateaus
  • Increased inflammation
  • Injury prone
  • Damaged metabolism
  • Not realizing your full potential

In other words: No bueno (especially if you want to be on you’re A-game)

Cortisol is especially going to sky rocket during the CrossFit Open— You KNOW that feeling and deep dark place that’s necessary for reaching new limits, hacking the leaderboard and achieving personal gains?! That pit in your stomach prior to the workout; Adrenaline rush during your 7-18-minute fight or flight effort; Sudden crash—flat on your back at the end of the workout…

And, during the Open, this extreme fight-or-flight rush is going to happen anywhere from 5-10 times over the course of 5 weeks with each weekend workout—it’s the nature of the beast.

 

 

What more crucial time than the Open then to replenish and support your adrenals through nutrition?!

Continue to stick to refueling your WODs and training with an emphasis on protein and carbs post-workout, but outside of workouts, support balanced blood sugar and cortisol levels by opting for protein, healthy fats (1-2 sources), veggies, and…EATING ENOUGH (often times athletes under-eat due to elevated cortisol levels in their bodies that have depleted their appetites, unbeknownst to them).

In addition, try this hacking secret: in the mornings, drink a cup of warm lemon water with a pinch of sea salt—this promotes balance for your adrenals.

Caffeine.
Caffeine is not an authentic source of energy—and if you’ve been running off it (energy drinks, coffee, pre-workout), if you quit it, you will find with a bit more serious approach to your nutrition, you will have MORE ENERGY. Caffeine has a significant impact on your hormones and cortisol (i.e. intense training and competing + caffeine=sky-rocketed cortisol).

You have a little time still to give it a chance. Cut it out—all of it. Detox your body of the dependence and empower your hormones to be steel (Blue Steel).

Pre-workout Fuel?
A snack or meal directly before your WOD is not necessarily necessary. In fact, you may find you perform a little better with less on your stomach, then an apple, bar or shake you ate 30-minutes prior. In fact, digestion takes about 6-12 hours (depending on what you ate), so your previous meal from a few hours before could be enough to tide you over. If you are training first thing in the morning, even before breakfast, a little something-something—like a protein powder in water, ½-1 banana, hardboiled egg, green smoothie—can give you the extra energy umph for training or the quick burst of effort. The more important meal if you’ve been fueling yourself regularly and consistently? The meal AFTER your training or workout—your recovery depends on it.

Digestive Support.

This goes hand-in-hand with cortisol, mentioned above.

As an athlete, your bod is stressed more than the average person—this includes your digestive system. Cortisol impededs with the otherwise ‘norm’ functions of your body (digestion included). Arm your gut with a probiotic to ward off bad bacteria, as well as consider an HCL supplement prior to meals with protein for improved digestion, and digestive enzymes to help break down and move your nutrients (quickly) throughout your body.

Get it? Got it? Good.

 Again, all baseline general guidelines for any intelligent athlete like yourself.

Cut the crap (the “eat whatever” philosophy) and begin eating like the athlete you train to be.

On a side note…want some inspiration to spice up your post-workout meals?

Here are some of my favorite go-tos:

 

Post-Workout Fuel Recipes

Applesauce Pancakes

Ingredients

¼ c unsweetened applesauce

cinnamon to taste

1 pasture raised egg

1 tbsp almond butter

Optinonal: Enjoy Life Chocolate Chips

1 tsp baking soda

 

Directions

Mix all ingredients together into a batter.

Pour half the batter into a no-stick pan.

Pan fry like an omelet-flipping to other side when golden brown.

 

Stuffed Sweet Potatoes with Ground Turkey or Pulled Chicken

Ingredients

2 White Hannah Jane or Garnet Sweet Potatos

1 lbs. Ground turkey or Pulled Chicken (Rotisserie)

1-2 tbsp. Coconut aminos

Garlic powder

Sea salt

Pepper

Onion powder

1-2 TBSP coconut butter

 

Directions

Bake sweet potatos at 425-degrees for 40-60 minutes.

Pan-grill meat in 1 tbsp coconut oil or ghee.

Add coconut aminos and seasonings.

Stir fry.

Add greens to pan once meat is lightly browned.

Cover with lid for 3-4 minutes to allow to wilt down on low-medium heat.

Add meat and greens to sweet potato.

Top with 1-2 tbsp. coconut butter.

Keep other potato on hand for future.

 

Pan-grilled Salmon + Orange or Strawberries +Mixed Greens + ½ Avocado

 

Ingredients

Wild-caught salmon filet

Dijon

Rosemary

Sea salt

Pepper

Orange or Fresh berries

Mixed greens

Avocado

 

Directions

Pan-fry salmon over medium heat in pan sprayed/coated with coconut oil

Season while cooking

Add to top of salad with fresh fruit and avocado

 

Chicken Thighs + White Rice + small amount of broccoli or zucchini

Ingredients

Organic boneless skinless chicken thighs

Dijon

Balsamic vinegar

Sea salt

Pepper

Garlic powder

Rice.

Green veggie of choice.

 

Directions

Season chicken with spices and seasonings.

Heat cast-iron skillet on medium heat.

Add chicken and cook until golden brown on each side.

Serve atop white rice and with a small amount of green veggies.

 

Coconut Smoothie

IngredientsCoconut milk + 1/2 -1 banana + spinach greens + 1 serving protein powder + 1 tbsp almond butter or coconut oil or 1/3 avocado.

DirectionsBlend all ingredients.

 

Bison Meatballs + Spaghetti Squash/Sweet Potato Noodles/Zucchini Noodles

 

Ingredients

Grass-fed bison, 1 lbs.

Coconut aminos

Sea salt

Pepper

Garlic powder

Onion powder

Squash Noodle sof choice

 

Directions

Mix seasonings with bison.

Form into large golf-size balls.

Pan fry on medium-high heat.

Serve atop squash noodles or sweet potato noodles of choice.

Add sugar-free tomato sauce if you prefer.

 

 

Butternut Squash Soup with Pulled Chicken or Pork

Ingredients

1-2 lb. butternut squash, diced

1 can coconut milk

cinnamon, to taste

sprinkle sea salt

8-16 oz. pulled chicken breast (I use rotisserie)

 

Directions

Lay squash on baking sheet or glassware baking dish

Brush with coconut oil or ghee + sprinkle with cinnamon

Roast diced squash at 400-degrees for 30-45 minutes

Add to a blender or food processor along with coconut milk

Blend

Stir together for thick soup like consistency

Add chicken or other meat of choice

Optional: Add steamed spinach or Power greens to soup

 

 

 

 

 

 

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