Bodyfat and CrossFit

CrossFit is a fantastic method at reducing your body fat.....if we structure your nutrition in the correct way. 

In this section we delve into how it can help improve performance, the ideal body fat levels and why it shouldn't be the sole focus


So why should we be lean for CrossFit?

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Body fat can be a determinant of performance. The more fat mass you have the lower your strength to body weight ratio will be. Think of all those gymnastic movements such as double unders, pull ups and handstand push ups that could be improved by losing some body fat. Increasing your power to weight ratio will help boost your performance. 


Secondly body fat needs to be oxygenated. Having a higher percentage of body fat will mean that you have a lower percentage of oxygen going to the heart, brain and working muscles essentially diminishing your athletic potential. Lastly, fat is not just an unsightly inert substance that sits on your love handles. It does not just serve as a reservoir of energy to be called upon when needed for energy. Fat is metabolic tissue that can cause all manner of things to happen in your body.

There isn't a perfect body for CrossFit. The best athletes in the CrossFit games range from 6 foot 3 to 5 foot 5. However they all have relatively low body fat levels.

At pH Nutrition we have certain parameters that we use for different clients.

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Our Games and regional athletes

MALE - sub 11%

FEMALE - sub 15%

Members who compete

MALE - sub 14% 

FEMALE - sub 19%


General members  

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MALE - sub 20%

FEMALE - sub 25%

Now these are targets that we have - there are exceptions to the rule but on the whole these are the levels that result in the best performance outcome. 

Their is a balance with body fat and CrossFit - as we know it is a mixture of bodyweight movements as well as having to move weights quickly and efficiently. 

 


MASS MOVES MASS

So having a good amount of muscle mass is essential to RX'ing that WOD. If you are too lean (sub 7-8%) you run the risk of not reaching your strength potential in CrossFit. Unless you are the chosen one that has a metabolism of a race horse you will have to be in a deficit to get that lean!

BEING IN A DEFICIT FOR A LONG PERIOD OF TIME WILL NEGATIVELY EFFECT YOUR CROSSFIT PERFORMANCE. 

The other edge of the sword is having a high body fat percentage. As explained in your guide we want to strip the "non usable" weight. Excess fat negatively effects -

  • Power to weight ratio
  • Aerobic capacity
  • Anaerobic threshold
  • Recovery from exercise 
  • In some cases mobility

We work with a number of clients who are super strong but really struggle to get their pull ups nailed. Is it a strength issue that is preventing them getting the pull up? Maybe, maybe not. However if they dropped their body fat percentage there would be less body fat to shift and the movement becomes easier. 


Why fat loss shouldn't be the sole focus

Dropping the little excess body fat is great, however you can't keep losing fat forever....

One of the main focus areas of CrossFit is recording and tracking performance. 

“IF YOU ARE NOT ASSESSING YOU ARE GUESSING.”

We want to be getting faster times, heading towards RX'ing those benchmark WOD's and putting more weight on the bar. If fat loss is the sole focus we will inevitable end up disappointed. 

THIS IS WHY HAVING PERFORMANCE RELATED GOALS IS ESSENTIAL

Now these can go hand in hand. Your goal could be to drop some body fat to help get your first pull up. 

You see with CrossFit, body composition can change considerably. We can drop body fat but increase lean muscle. If we do this then what happens to our weight? It may stay the same. This is is why focusing on PERFORMANCE measures is crucial. 

We can get caught up worrying about if the scale has dropped by 0.3kg. If it doesn't move we can get disheartened and think we are not making progress. Often this couldn't be further from the truth. 

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Dropping the little excess body fat is great, however you can't keep losing fat forever....

One of the main focus areas of CrossFit is recording and tracking performance. 

IF YOU ARE NOT ASSESSING YOU ARE GUESSING.

We want to be getting faster times, heading towards RX'ing those benchmark WOD's and putting more weight on the bar. If fat loss is the sole focus we will inevitable end up disappointed. 

 

THIS IS WHY HAVING PERFORMANCE RELATED GOALS IS ESSENTIAL

Now these can go hand in hand. Your goal could be to drop some body fat to help get your first handstand push up. 

You see with CrossFit, body composition can change considerably. We can drop body fat but increase lean muscle. If we do this then what happens to our weight? It may stay the same. This is is why focusing on PERFORMANCE measures is crucial. 

We can get caught up worrying about if the scale has dropped by 0.3kg. If it doesn't move we can get disheartened and think we are not making progress. Often this couldn't be further from the truth. 

A common conversation we have with clients....

CLIENT - "I'm disappointed with my progress as I have only lost 0.4kg in the last month. In the first month I lost 2kg".

NUTRITIONIST - "Ok so how have you been performing in training?"

CLIENT - "Feel great been crushing most workouts!"

NUTRITIONIST - Amazing! Lets focus on supporting this and make SMALL adjustments to your plan. But body composition will be a by product if you keep training well

“Focusing on reducing your body fat levels will give you more performance enhancement then just solely focusing on getting stronger. It’s like a cyclist buying new wheels that are 150g lighter but they are 25% body fat. 

Drop to 20% which may be a 5kg loss and you will have increased performance exponentially compared to buying the new wheels.  This highlights the issues of the “quick fix”. We all want the quick easy fix. Choosing the harder path will result in more progress. Trust us”

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INFOGRAPHICS FOR CROSSFIT

Here is a link to a collection of INFOGRAPHICS that you can download and save to your phone or computer. 

Liam HolmesComment