THE NUTRITIONAL PRINCIPLES FOR BUILDING A GREAT FOUNDATION
The main purpose of nutrition, for a Crossfit athlete, is to fuel, support and enhance their lifestyle and training. They need to ensure that they consume the right amounts of energy to power each performance and to compensate what has been spent during each WOD. Athletes need to have the right nutrients before and after the training, as well as throughout each day.
See if this sounds familiar, or has happened to you before?
‘In a crossfit box you see an athlete, they progress and improve. This progress then reaches a plateau, or even regresses… how and why does this happen? Most of the time, the cause is nutrition.’
Many factors are responsible for achieving a constantly high performance, and nutrition is one that lies at the top of the list! Most crossfit athletes pay a lot of attention, care and planning on their nutritional patterns, but there are still missing details and even basic information that should be taken into consideration (or refreshed from time to time). Refining your nutrition means improving your performance.
SOUND NUTRITIONAL PRINCIPLES: CHECK AND SEE IF YOUR NUTRITION IS ON THE RIGHT PATH
1. DIVIDE YOUR PLATE
It is well known that for a balanced diet you should get the three macronutrients into each meal: carbohydrates, protein and fats. In each meal you should have all 3, in proportions relative to your training needs.
- Proteins are ‘king’ when it comes to recovery and growth: these nutrients, once in the body, are digested into amino acids that are the building blocks of your lean mass. At every meal you need to consume proteins (from animal or other sources).
- Carbohydrates are your fuel. They are digested and broken into smaller molecules of sugar used to produce the energy that keeps you going.
- Fats are as important to be in your plate as much as proteins and carbs are. They are necessary for the normal growth and development of your body, above all the so called “essential fatty acids”. Not to mention how fats are involved in the absorption of certain vitamins (like A, D, E, K), vital for all your body functions.
So next time you are preparing your meal, look at your empty plate and visualise 3 sections on it to fill with the food that provides you with all the 3 macros.
2. TRACK YOUR OWN NUTRITION, COUNT YOUR MACROS
You have to be aware if your daily goal of nutrients has been achieved or not. The best way is to track your nutrition. When you keep tracking your daily intake you become aware of whether you have properly replenished your energy expenditure.
For a high intensity sport like Crossfit, it is important that you have the right intake of carbs for the energy you need and enough protein to build muscle mass. Depending on what your goals in Crossfit are, you can divide your daily macros in 3 balanced segments that constitute 100% of your daily intake. Carbs and proteins usually form the larger part (about 75% of your total intake) but keep in mind that the assumption ‘one size fit all’ is not correct when talking about nutrition. You have to tailor your intake based on your own needs and metabolism.
HOW MUCH PROTEIN?
The most common question I hear is ‘how much protein do I need to eat per day?’. Well, unless you are going to strike for (high level) competitions, 1g of proteins/per kg of your body weight is enough as a rough guide. Working closely with a personal nutritionist will help to cater your exact needs.
3. TIMING IS HUGELY IMPORTANT
In the past, the traditional approach has been mainly focused on the total daily energy intake and the ratio of the macronutrients, but the most recent evidence has highlighted how the distribution during the day of the different nutrients has an important impact on training and performance.
Say you are going to hit a crossfit WOD. You need fuel for it beforehand and the proper nutrition afterwards to recover and replenish what you have spent. This will differ depending on how and when you train.
First thing first: don’t skip breakfast. This has to become your most important meal, independently if you are hitting a wod in the morning, afternoon or evening. A balanced meal within a hour of when you are awake will wake your body up and will give you the energy to feel more active and less hungry throughout the day.
Find out more about Crossfit Nutrition Advice for Morning Training
As it is true that dinner should be a lighter meal, if you are a crossfit athlete training in the evening, you can’t skip or skimp the dinner meal. After a wod, your muscles will need both carbs to replenish the glycogen they have consumed and proteins to build the lean mass.
Read more about Crossfit Nutrition for Evening Training & Sleeping Well
TIP: your body will re-build your muscle fibres overnight, while you are resting, therefore having a good amount of protein before bed time is hugely beneficial. A protein shake or cottage cheese are both examples of effective snacks for this purpose.
4. THE BIG FAT DILEMMA
Fat has always been seen as the ‘bad guy’. The myth is that eating fat makes you fat… and that could not be more misleading. Not all fats are the same, and above all, some fats are good for your health and even essential. Start filling in your grocery list with some good (and tasty) items such as:
- Nuts (almonds on top),
- Coconut oil,
- Extra virgin olive oil, and
These are a great source of omega-3 fatty acids which can improve your health on any level, not only in your crossfit journey.
‘Omega-3 is beneficial for lowering the levels of triglyceride and cholesterol in your blood, and help reduce stiffness and pain in the joints.’
Next time you are going to buy some fat-free food think as though a sugar bomb has been dropped: the modern food industry perpetuates the ‘bad fat guy myth’ trading fat free food as a healthier choice… unfortunately the freedom from fat leads to a chemical storm of other bad (for real) chemicals, and above all refined sugars…
Find out more about the nutritional principles that you need in Part 2, coming soon.