Keto. Paleo. Low Carb. High Carb. Intermittent Fasting. Zone Diet.
You name it and it’s probably up for discussion in the gym. Everyone has an opinion and probably half your workout buddies have tried at least one of these diets. Some swear by them, others just want their donuts.
Is there, in fact, a BEST way for Crossfitters to be eating?
Could we state as coaches and nutritionists that there is an ideal? The answer is yes and no. The fact of the matter is that every person’s body is different while it’s also the same. Confusing right?
You won’t argue with me that we are all humans (well maybe sometimes we question some of our weirder friends) but once we go beyond the basics of being homo sapiens, a huge array of factors play roles in our metabolisms and nutrition needs.
Some of these factors include:
- Level of athleticism
- Sleep habits
- Body composition
I think it would be downright crazy to put every Crossfitter into a box (no pun intended) and state that “this is the BEST way to eat for every person…”.
That being said, there are some general guidelines everyone could follow and would most likely see positive results.
I like the idea of Paleo, but I don’t like the idea of low carb, especially when it comes to the work we do at the gym. Our workouts require energy, and while yes we can use fat as fuel, our bodies like carbs.
I think you should be eating clean for the most part, so stay away from lots of the packaged crap- but I like my athletes to get a decent amount of carbs every day (shooting for 40 to 45% of their calories).
The argument for low carb goes like this- in the absence of adequate carbs our bodies utilize fats as energy. Yup- that’s correct. When carbs aren’t available we will use fat. Except ever stop and wonder where those set points are?
Ketosis happens usually under 50 grams of carbs, so what are you doing to your body at the 50 to 150-gram point?
If you’re not fat adapted and your body struggles to use fat willingly yet you eat large amounts of fat (which requires the least amount of fat to store) you set yourself up for a vicious cycle.
Instead what if you used your carbs the way nature intended? It’s a readily available fuel source.
What if you used carbs to fuel your workouts, then decreased your carbs on rest days? Doesn’t this align more with all our energy systems? You can even do intermittent fasting AND lower carb on rest days.
I argue that you will perform the best, recover the best, and lean out the fastest with the appropriate level of carbs. Set your macros for 40 to 45% carbs on gym days and then go for less on rest days and see how you feel.
The rest of this are points I’ve made before and I believe are the ideal ways to eat for what we do.
Eat enough. Please. Find the right level of calories for your needs and activity levels.
It’s fine if you want to lean out, but creating massive deficits only screws up your metabolism, sets you up to get sick or injured, and ultimately affects your performance. Shoot for an intake deficit of no more than 500 calories a day if you’re training hard.
Deficits cause stress on the body and impact gains. It’s why I advocate for my clients to treat themselves like athletes and not dieters.
I for one like to exercise, so the other option- create a larger deficit but decrease output in the gym- is my least favorite idea ever.
As for protein– go for 0.75 to 1 gram per pound of body weight, have 20 grams of whey if you digest it before you workout, and then eat lean protein post workout. Simple and straightforward. If you are a vegetarian I’m sorry. I like this way of eating for the animals and the environment, but I think Kendrick Farris is the only one I know of that can make gains like this.
For fat intake, be reasonable. Shoot for 20 to 25% of your calories. You don’t need 100 grams plus unless you’re keto. If you want to eat this much, cycle it with the seasons. In the colder months eat like this, in the warmer months eat more carbs.
Is there a perfect diet for Crossfitters? Maybe not. But the majority of people I work with do the best following these recommendations.
- Try some carbs. Shoot for 40 to 45% of your calories and center them around your training.
- Rest days you can do IF and low carb (under 50 grams)
- EAT ENOUGH!!!!
- If you are trying to lose weight no more than a 500 calorie deficit from food
- Eat .75 to 1 gram of protein ber lb of body weight
- Have 20 grams of whey before you workout if you can digest it
- Eat lean protein post workout
- If you like your fat try cycling it with the seasons. Otherwise, go for 20 to 25% of calories as fat.
- Don’t forget to enjoy yourself
- And eat your vegetables!
Questions? Comment below? Want to know how much you should be eating? Check out my nutrition coaching page for the coaching service I offer!