Q: I’m new to CrossFit and loving every minute of it. While I’m getting the hang of it at the #Box, I’m still a little unclear about what I should be eating to better fuel my training and help me to recover better. Any advice on how I should be eating?
A: You are very correct in your assertion that nutrition plays a key role in both your training energy and your muscle recovery following workouts. The best way to describe optimal CrossFit nutrition would be “SIMPLE”. Instead of trying to focus upon complex diet plans and all sorts of tips & tricks, the best eating system for crosstrainers is one comprised of clean foods in moderate sizes, spread throughout the day. Don’t measure every gram – eat sensibly following a few simple, fairly common sense rules. Choose the right foods, and map out a diet plan which works best for your schedule, preferences, and demands of your body.
Q: What foods should make up my CrossFit nutritional plan?
A: Stick with fairly natural food choices. You already know the healthy options in which you should be indulging. Protein sources such as fish, chicken, lean beef, whey/casein protein, and lean ground beef are ideal, along with some turkey and veal to keep things fresh. For carbohydrates (energy), whoose oats, rice, pasta, and beans, along with the usual fruits, vegetables and leafy greens that you enjoy. Finally, choose natural peanut butter, almonds, fish oil, and EFAs for your essential fats.
Q: How many meals should I be eating each day?
A: Ideally, you’ll be consuming about 7 meals each day. This includes a shake when you wake up, two regular meals, a pre- and post- workout meal, another standard meal, then finally, a late meal toward bedtime. Start your day with a protein shake, using 1-2 scoops of whey. Your “standard meals” should be 1 part protein (8oz or so), 1 part complex carb (think pasta or rice) and 1 fruit/vegetable. Drink a lot of water to stay hydrated and aid your digestion with all of this food consumption. Your night-time meal should be high in protein, low in carbs, such as 4 whole eggs or 1 scoop of casein whey for 8 hour slow digestion while you sleep. You grow while you sleep, not while you train, so enjoying a steady stream of protein’s rich amino acids while sleeping is ideal.
Q: What should pre-workout nutrition look like?
A: Before your workout, stick with a very low-fat, highly digestible protein such as egg whites of lean chicken breast, along with some light carbohydrate of your choosing. The last thing you want to do is go ‘heavy’ on your pre-training workout. You’ll be slow and groggy when training. Leafy greens are a fine addition, as is fresh fruit. Eat about 90 minutes before you train and don’t go overboard with diet sodas and other drinks which could bloat you.
Q: What should my post-training meal look like?
A: Following your workout, there is a small period of time known as the “anabolic window”. This is a small 30 to 45 minute slot where your body is very much in need of nutrients. In particular, you need protein (to bring animo acids to your muscle fibers which have just been scorched) and you need simple sugars to shuttle these amino acids to your muscle fibers quickly.
Q: Are cheat meals okay?
A: Absolutely! The metabolism can begin to slow down when you eat extremely clean all of the time for weeks at a time. Additionally, your mental outlook can get a little bleak as you abandon the junk foods you love for weeks and months at a time. Choose a time (not before or after training) when you want to enjoy a moderately-sized cheat meal, and wash it down with a great deal of water. Your metabolism and mood will get quite a boost from it!