Nutrition for Crossfitters – Why Eating Enough is More Important that Eating Clean

It can be close to impossible to eat clean 100% of the time and still make sure you get the calorie intake that you need in order to maintain a high intensity sporting lifestyle. So what’s the solution?

Let me start by saying that I’m not advocating you to avoid eating clean. There is however a growing issue with the clean eating culture, and a confusion of who it’s targeted at and how to tackle your nutrition.

As an athlete who’s aspiring to do any of the following:

  • Improve performance in Crossfit,
  • Get stronger overall
  • Improve your big lifts
  • Pack on muscle
  • Lose fat

You need to think about what you put into your mouth and equally importantly, how much of it.

THE BALANCE BETWEEN EATING CLEAN AND EATING ENOUGH

I’m a large advocate of eating clean and do so myself, however there is a limit to how clean you can eat when you are trying to gain muscle and strength. Furthermore, there is a balance you need to strike between eating clean and eating what you like in order to ensure that you can stick with this diet for the rest of your life without having to make too many sacrifices.

nutritional principles fruit veg wooden table importance of recovery eating clean
fruits and vegetables are essential for a healthy diet

EATING CLEAN FOR LIFE

I’m not talking about doing a two week cleanse, or going on a 2 month diet to lose some weight. I want you to be able to live the life you enjoy, whilst being as healthy as you can be.

I don’t want to be jumping on the bandwagon, however a nutribullet or a similar product is very useful for a sustainable healthy ‘clean’ diet. I also tried juicing for a year, however from my experience a nutribullet is much easier and quicker to use and more versatile in what you can put in it.

When you’re doing high intensity training such as crossfit and are chasing big numbers in the big lifts you will need to replenish your body’s nutrients and ensure you have a surplus to help you recover and fuel your next workout. Depending on how often you train, this will be very difficult to achieve by eating ‘clean’ 90-100% of the time.

male crossfit athlete snatches barbell during intense crossfit conditioning eating clean
Work until your idols become your rivals

FINDING THE RIGHT BALANCE

Now there are two ways of looking at this. You can either eat ‘clean’ 90-100% of the time and then allow yourself to get the much needed additional food from less clean sources, or you can just accept that you’ll only be eating ‘clean’ around 75% of the time.

The key to making your diet sustainable will be how you allocate that 25% of ‘non clean’ eating. In many circles people advocate ‘cheat meals’ and I certainly don’t agree. However, a cheat meal should only really happen a couple of times a week meaning that you’ll have to be 100% clean for all your other meals. This is not sustainable long term and can be difficult to fit into your lifestyle and it does not solve the issue of ensuring you get all the nutrients you need to fuel your workouts and recovery.

berry protein smoothie eating right eating clean
Protein smoothie

I find that a much simpler and effective way of doing this is by just having up to 25% of each meal be ‘non clean.’ It’s important to make sure that you don’t go over 25% and you do not have to do this for each meal. I find that doing it for one meal a day, usually my post workout meal works best.

HOW TO PUT THE THEORY INTO­ PRACTICE

An example of this could be having homemade chicken, a side of peas, spinach and broccoli and then just to make it more satisfying you have some potato wedges possibly with some sour cream. The addition of the unhealthy potato wedges will push your calorific intake, and your carbohydrate count closer to what you want to be hitting to make sure you are not under nourished. This example would be a post-workout meal however.

  • This can be done in many ways. You can have a 100% clean meal and enjoy a cold pint of beer or a glass of wine on the side. Or one day you may want to have 2-3 clean meals and enjoy a pizza for dinner.
  • The trick is to be sensible and make sure that your ‘clean’ eating really is clean. The best way to do this is to eat real homemade food rather than ready meals or store bought sandwiches.
  • I find that by using smoothies you can very easily ensure that you add in some vegetables to boost your clean percentage when you are having a particularly unhealthy day.

THE PERFECT VEG/FRUIT SMOOTHIES

Important note: When juicing and making nutribullet smoothies, it’s very important to ensure you only have 1 portion of fruit per 4 portions of vegetables.

regionals athletes crossfit lucas parker emily abbott
Regionals athletes Lucas Parker and Emily Abbott eat to Perform

You’ll see a lot of articles out there purporting that juicing and nutribullets aren’t as healthy as you think and this is true if you fill it all with fruit. However, if you just use 3-4 portions of vegetables and just one portion of fruit your juice or shake will be healthy.

HOW TO MAKE CHANGES IN YOUR NUTRITION THAT WILL LAST LONGTERM

In summary, in order to recover and perform at your best it is important to get enough calories and nutrients from your diet.

  • It’s difficult to get enough food by eating clean 100% of the time
  • For most people, such a diet is not sustainable over the long term.
  • It’s better to eat ‘clean’ 75% of the time and instead of having whole cheat meals a couple of times a week it’s more beneficial to have up to 25% of each meal be a ‘cheat’ ingredient.

This will ensure you get the right about of food and are able to stay on track with your diet over the long term. Furthermore, it’s easy to up your intake of vegetables by using a juicer or nutribullet as long as you ensure you use the right ratio of vegetables to fruit.


nutritional principles fruit veg wooden table importance of recovery eating clean ©

male crossfit athlete snatches barbell during intense crossfit conditioning eating clean © Stevie D Photography

berry protein smoothie eating right eating clean ©

regionals athletes crossfit lucas parker emily abbott © Lucas Parker / Emily Abbott

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About The Author

Editor-In-Chief at BOXROX. I come from a background of rugby and weightlifting. Growing up in the English Lake District, I spent a great deal of time swimming in its stunning lakes and rivers. In 2015 my brothers and I became the first people to swim the 145km length of the River Eden, from source to mouth, in 9 days. We also swam the Corryvreckan whirlpool, the third largest in the world, and Crossfit is a huge part of my training for these events.

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