With so many of you starting to explore the sport side of CrossFit via local competitions, Heather and I wanted to educate on one of the most important factors when competing – “When and what you should eat to properly fuel your body?!”
Keep in mind that you will ask your body to expend more energy in a day than you have in a long time. In order to sustain a maximal level of performance, you must have the right kinds and timing of fuel.
Here is a timeline starting 2 weeks before the competition.
At Least 2 Weeks Leading Up to Competition
In short, eat super clean and be precise.
You are now no longer an everyday person just trying to keep fit, you are an athlete trying to maximize your performance. Honestly, in the next 2 weeks there is very little progress you can make physically by training. However, there are huge performance gains you can make by buckling down your diet.
Instead of the couple of drinks on the weekend, pizza Fridays, and loosely keeping to whole foods that are mostly balanced, be strict in what you know you should do. No booze. No cheats. Choose whole foods and balance the macros. If you don’t know how to balance your macros, reach out to Heather ([email protected]) – she is a wizard with this stuff.
And one more thing – bring your caffeine intake down for now so it actually has an effect on gameday. Caffeine is a performance enhancing drug but if your body is used to high levels it’s effect is minimal. Keep it to one cup a coffee or less for now (~95mg).
This step is critical. By controlling your diet now, the changes we will advise you to make closer to competition will have a much greater effect!
At Least 3 Days Before Competition
If you don’t experience frustration over these 3 days because you are getting up every half hour to pee, then you probably aren’t drinking enough. Shoot for at least 64 oz a day. It takes a couple of days to get your body hydrated enough for maximal performance, so hammer it home for a few days.
The Night Before
It’s time to fuel up. Tomorrow is gameday and we won’t our ability to consume calories will be limited throughout the day, so cal up tonight.
Eat a larger meal higher in fats and carbohydrates. Carb loading actually works if you don’t carb load everyday haha. If you’ve stuck to your diet, it’ll work tonight.
As guidance, here are approximate sized portions.
For each meal, men might begin by eating:
- 2-3 palms of protein dense foods;
- 2-3 fists of vegetables
- 2-3 cupped handfuls of carb dense foods
- 2-3 thumbs of fat dense foods.
For each meal, women might begin by eating:
- 1-2 palms of protein dense foods;
- 1-2 fists of vegetables
- 1-2 cupped handfuls of carb dense foods
- 1-2 thumbs of fat dense foods.
The Day Of
Timing will be everything today. You must balance fuel supply with maintaining a relatively empty stomach so your body can focus on performance and not digestion. Here is a general breakdown.
- Morning Of (6:00 AM – 3 hours before 1st WOD): 3 hours before your first WOD is the time for you to get in a solid meal. Make it a balanced meal with fats, protein, and carbohydrates. A personal favorite is eggs, bacon, and sweet potatoes. Make sure fats are in there because it’ll be some of your last fats of the day.
- Pre WOD 1 (30-45 Minutes ahead) – Eat a very small, balanced (protein, fats, and carbs) snack about 45 minutes before the first WOD. Use the same sizing guidance as above, but gents should use 1-2 instead of 2-3 and ladies 1 instead of 2. For me that is typically a zone bar. It should be light and just enough to give you a little energy. This will be your last fat in take of the day until post competition! Also, take your first dose of caffeine! It should be between 100-200mg. I recommend the lower side for now because your body already has a lot of fuel and we will depend on higher doses later.
- Post WOD 1 – As soon as you are done with your WOD you need protein and high glycemic carbohydrates immediately. Absolutely NO FATS! Your body needs quick absorption of protein and carbohydrates for recovery purposes. When you ingest fats it delays the digestion of all macronutrients meaning 1) your body won’t get the recovery it needs and 2) you run the risk of digesting during your next WOD! After the first WOD I would drink a protein shake. Limit proetin intake to about 25g because your body won’t really use anything over that anyway. A banana is always a good post WOD carb because it’s fast digesting and also has a potassium kicker.
- Pre WOD 2, 3, etc. (30-45 Minutes ahead). Drink a caffeine cocktail. As the day goes on, I like to increase the amount so it has an effect. Ideally we want to keep caffeine to under 500mg for the day. Thus, if you have 100mg before WOD 1, 150mg before WOD 2, and 200mg before WOD 3, you are in the clear. As far as eating before a WOD, this will really depend on time between WODs. If you have less than an hour between WODs it’ll be hard to eat anything in addition to your Post WOD recovery from previous WODS. If you have over an hour, then you might be able to squeeze in a light meal over 45 min before. Think lean meats, simple carbs. If you want a small amount of fat, limit it to no more than one small handful of nuts.
- Post WODs 2, 3, etc. – Your post WOD approach for these WODs will be very similar to Post WOD 1 except you need to incorporate real food at some point. Find the biggest gap in your schedule and eat then. So if you have 2 hours between WOD 1 and 2 but only 1 between WOD 2 and 3, then eat real food right after WOD 1
- Post Competition – This is your time to be irresponsible and live a little!! You just completed more work that you may have ever done in your life. GO CELEBRATE!! Keep in mind, your body has been used to clean eating for a couple of weeks, so if you go to nuts, it’ll hurt a little tomorrow 🙂
In most cases, water isn’t enough to properly re-hydrate yourself since water is not the only substance our bodies need to achieve optimal levels of hydration. Enter electrolytes.
Believe it or not, sports drinks are NOT the best source. We recommend 3 options:
Option 1 – Coconut Water
Coconut Water is a great option for rehydrating, and my go-to drink of choice while working out. Most people enjoy the taste and it is a natural way to rehydrate without any additional chemical additives. Unlike sports drinks, coconut water is low in carbs and is a rich source in electrolytes and natural salts, especially potassium and magnesium.
Option 2 – Electrolyte Tablets
I was first introduced to electrolyte tablets while I was training for the Boston Marathon. At this time, I didn’t know plain water wasn’t enough to get me to the finish line, so my Coach gave me a Nuun tablet to try. You can buy them at most vitamin and sports shops and they are super easy to use; you just drop a tablet into your water and wait for it to dissolve. They come in a lot of flavors and actually taste good!
Option 3 – Just Add Salt
Last but not least, you can always just add salt to your drinking water. When I ran the 2012 Boston Marathon when it was 90 degrees out and I was sweating before I even started running, this was the option I used. Salt works well as an electrolyte; it is composed of 40% sodium and 60% chloride and when dissolved in fluids, the sodium possess a mild electrical charge, making it an electrolyte. One teaspoon of salt (5,000 mg) provides about 2,300 mg of sodium. Not only is it a natural ingredient, but it something everyone has in their house so no need to spend money or run to the store when your in a rush. Simply put a couple of pinches of salt in your drinking water and you are good to go. (I recommend Himalayan salt over processed table salt because it contains other minerals that are important to your health.)
Prior to an intense workout or competition, mix a teaspoon of good quality Himalayan salt in one liter of water. During a competition WOD, there may not be time or a need to really worry about taking in electrolytes, especially if the WOD is less than 20 minutes (which most are in competitions). Post-workout, electrolyte tablets are my recommendation; one tablet will help replenish any sodium, potassium, calcium and magnesium lost through sweat. Replenishment of these four key nutrients are very important to your overall health and performance.
Eat well, try hard, and enjoy yourself! If you need any help or have questions, reach out to [email protected]
Heather & Mike