Your nutrition plan for the CrossFit Open should start way before the competition. While what you eat the day before your big workout matters, so does what you eat in the lead up to it.
“We’re just about two months out from the Open and about to enter a phase where people should really be focused on performance as the number one goal; any emphasis on losing large amounts of weight probably needs to stop,” says Dr Mike Molloy, founder of M2 Performance Nutrition and coach to over 40 CrossFit Games athletes.
“The reason for this is that eating in a calorie deficit is going to compromise your performance in the workouts,” he continues.
Dr Molloy says that one way to ensure your performance is not held back during the Open is to have two solid months of dialling in your nutrition and eating to support performance. This means eating to a calorie maintenance.
“Try not to lower your calorie intake, but eat the same amount as you’re burning – if not even a little bit more – to really make sure you’re building muscle and recovering well from your workouts,” says Dr Molloy. “This will also help you sleep better and all those things combined over the course of two months will prime you really well for those three weeks of working out.”
The Lead Up to the Open Is Not the Time to Focus on Weight Loss
The CrossFit Open can be a very stressful time for some athletes. Usually taking place over five weeks (the 2021 Open will be three weeks long), the Open can feel like five weeks of constantly being on edge and leaving all routines aside. This holds true for elite and everyday athletes, who sometimes feel they have to redo a workout several times to really feel like they gave it their best.
For someone who, from the start of the year to the start of the Open has been or tried to be in a calorie deficit, competition time can be a huge challenge.
“They’re already in a stressed out mindset, they’re already stressed out physically, and now they have this three-week gym challenge where everybody’s going crazy on Thursday night,” says Dr Molloy. “It typically doesn’t go very well.”
For athletes who still want to lose weight before the Open
If you or your coach are convinced that losing a few pounds will help your Open performance – it might improve your gymnastics skills or allow you to do more burpees – take a more balanced approach in the lead up to the Open.
“Take the month of January and do a smart, evidence-based cut where you put yourself into a calorie deficit, but you do it with the knowledge that this is only going to be for one month and that come February you say: ‘Okay, I’ve done what I can do and continuing to cut is actually going to cause me to have a worse performance,’” recommends Dr Molloy.
The CrossFit Open can be a stressful experience as it is, there’s no need to start the three weeks of workouts having spent eight weeks in a calorie deficit.
How To Adjust Your Nutrition Before the CrossFit Open
Use the two months leading into the Open to really dial in your nutrition; eat good macronutrient balances, eat a high-quality diet, and recover well.
Especially if your training has been going well, use this time to ensure you don’t leave stones unturned and eat to support your performance.
If you haven’t paid much attention to your nutrition before, start by figuring our how much you’re eating over the next few days. As improving on what you learn is a relatively big (yet interesting!) topic, here’s a handy guide to help you make sense of it all.
If you’re used to tracking, focus on a performance-based set of macronutrients and do your best to eat to calorie maintenance until the Open, aiming to build lean muscle mass, improve your fitness and recover well.
“You can reverse the effects of [being in a calorie deficit] with a couple of weeks of good eating,” says Dr Molloy. “But you’re going to do a lot better if you have two solid months of really dialling in and eating to support your performance, which in my opinion basically means eating as many calories as you’re burning.”
Your nutrition for the CrossFit Open starts now.