There are 3 main macronutrients - PROTEIN, CARBOHYDRATES AND FATS. To perform well both in and out the gym we need a balance of all three.
There is a tonne of information stating the benefits and harms of high carbohydrate or high fat diets. However, in most of the cases it is content created by the food industry or individuals selling a product trying to favour one or the other side. We want to maximise your health and performance and move away from a “diet” and implement a “lifestyle”. A crucial element to achieve this is to be aware of what foods, when you eat and how you feel will allow you to build a sustainable nutrition plan
We need the right foods at the right times in the right amounts. We need to find what works for you as an individual. Here is a quick overview of macronutrients and how they are all crucial for optimal CrossFit performance.
Protein is a macronutrient that provides 4 calories per gram. It is made up of 20 amino acids, of which 9 are classified as essential. This means they cannot be synthesised by the body and must be consumed via food. Once the protein is ingested, it is broken into different amino acid molecules, with each one performing a different function in the human body. Protein is essential for -
Building muscle tissue
Recovery from exercise
Satiety when eating
Your protein intake should be consistent over the day. Try to eat some form of protein at EACH MEAL. It is just as important during a period of fat loss as when you are trying to support performance or gaining muscle.
Why is protein crucial for CrossFit?
As we know CrossFit and high intensity exercise places considerable stress on the body. Primarily protein allows us to regenerate new muscle tissue that has been broken down during our training. However as we mentioned above it has numerous other functions.
Ever felt a bit fuzzy or like you couldn't concentrate after a heavy morning session? Or felt sluggish in the morning after a heavy lifting session the day before? Well protein can help deal with these symptoms as it is crucial for -
Boosting neurotransmitter production – supports focus, attention and drive
Stabilising energy levels – preventing mid morning or afternoon energy dips
Boosting metabolism and detoxification
To support your CrossFit training protein intake should come from a variety of sources. It doesn't have to just be meat. Use the food table and the vegetarian section on the site to start including different sources of protein in your diet.
Simply put carbohydrates are comprised of small chains of sugar molecules which the body breaks down into glucose. They also provide 4 calories per gram. There are numerous different "types" of carbs. There are simple carbohydrates (such as sugar, honey, fruit juice concentrate, glucose, fructose) and complex carbohydrates (such as oats, potatoes, rice, whole wheat bread, vegetables, pulses etc). The difference is the number of chains of molecules that make up the structure. The simpler the carb the easier it is for the body to digest (as it has less work to do to break it down).
You may have heard of Low GI and high GI. This is based on whether the food is easier to digest or harder (in basic terms).
Now enough boring science chat. Should we eat carbs?
Carbohydrates are essential for maximising your CrossFit performance. We just need to know how to use the right ones in the right amounts at the right times.
After exercise our muscle glycogen (the form our body stores carbohydrates) levels are depleted. Glycogen is the preferred source of energy for high intensity exercise so it is imperative we refuel ready for the next training session or simply the day ahead. When we consume carbohydrates we release insulin. Insulin is a storage hormone, so it wants to take the glucose out of the blood stream and store it somewhere.
Post workout our muscles are more insulin sensitive so this is the time to take advantage of this and refuel with protein and carbohydrates. Insulin is an anabolic hormone which means it will help in the creation of new muscle tissue by improving the uptake of protein. Perfect after we have just crushed our workout.
We need to correlate our carbohydrate intake to our output. If we eat too many sugars and carbohydrates at times when we are less active then we are setting our body up to store these calories as fat. The balance we need to achieve is the correct calories and carbohydrates for the level of activity and training we are performing.
YOU NEED TO DESERVE YOUR CARBS.
Why are carbohydrates essential?
Needed for energy to fuel high intensity exercise (
Required for metabolism support
Recovery from exercise
Now what you need to do is make sure that you are eating quality carbohydrates and removing the poor quality - inflammatory ones. Use the food table below to prioritise which carbohydrates sources to use.
Just as a note, we have some of our CrossFit games athletes on over 450g of carbs per day. We have some of our less active clients on 100g. Going super low carb isn't going to aid your performance.
There are 3 main types of dietary fat: saturated, monounsaturated, and polyunsaturated. Fat provides us with 9 calories per gram.
Fat is essential in our diets and the right ones should be included on a daily basis.
Why are certain fats essential?
Aid recovery from exercise
Fuel exercise performance
Improve body composition
Vital for hormone production
Increase nutrient and vitamin absorption
Aid in eye, skin and hair health
You may have heard of "good fats" and "bad fats". Hydrogenated and trans fats that are used in processed foods and industrial cooking. Trans- fatty acids that appear in processed foods (biscuits, chocolate bars) margarine and oils such as soybean and corn oil should be removed from our diet. They provide no health or performance benefits at all.
We want to prioritise eating more of the omega-3 foods and use good quality mono and saturated fats at specific times.
Fats for performance
Crossfit workouts typically last around 1 hour meaning that in most cases this will not be fuelled entirely by carbohydrate. Therefore we have to utilise other sources of fuel to maximise our workouts. We want to be metabolically flexible, which means we are able to efficiently switch from using carbohydrates to using fats in a workout (we will cover this in more detail in the site).
Good fats can help with recovery from exercise as they help lower inflammation caused by exercise. They also help with hormone production, and as we place a lot of stress on the body from working out, we want to have an opitmal hormonal environment. More on this in month 6.
Lastly coupling fats with nutrient dense vegetables and fruits will help in the absorption of certain vitamins and minerals.
VEGGIES and FRUITS
This is essential! Vegetables are not only packed with vitamins and minerals they provide phytonutrients to support all the bodies metabolic processes. They can be used to bulk your meals out to improve satiety and feeling full. Aim for 4 fist sized servings per day
BOTTOM LINE IS TO GET AS MANY VEGGIES IN YOUR DIET AS POSSIBLE!!
Fibre comes in two main forms: soluble and insoluble. Soluble fibre forms a gel in the digestive system, trapping fat and cholesterol inside. Insoluble fibre absorbs water, forming a bulk, which keeps digestion regular. Both types of fibre are needed in a balanced diet and will contribute to fat loss.
Improves digestive health. Fibre needs adequate water to pass through the digestive system smoothly and rapidly.
Food high in fibre also decreases spikes in blood glucose after meals which may lead to fewer carbohydrate cravings and less fat storage.
Supports detoxification of the bowels which aids in weight loss.
Our food table
Most diets will give you a food list....you follow it for the first week and then uh oh, a social occasion comes up and there is only food from the "banned" list.
This just isn't sustainable.
We don't advocate removing whole food groups or having a restrictive set of foods to choose from. We want balance with a few guidelines. Here is our food guide.
The green foods are made up from foods rich in protein, healthy fats, good carbohydrates and fibre. They are some of the most nutrient dense foods on the planet. They contain foods that are eaten in BLUE ZONES. These are the places that people live the longest in the world. We have based the table on food using the inflammation factor, the ORAC scale, Aggregate Nutrient Density Index (ANDI) rating and the Naturally Nutrient Rich (NNR) score.
These should make up the majority of your meals. Use anytime.
The yellow table foods are those used depending on lifestyle. YOU HAVE TO EARN THESE FOODS. They are more calorie dense and contain higher levels of sugars and starchy carbohydrates. The meat and dairy in this section should be limited.
Prioritise using these foods on training days.
The red table foods are off limits (most of the time). They are the ones that will be contributing to fat gain, poor health, compromised immune function and disease. Limit these foods or remove completely.
These are the foods you may choose to add in a “treat meal”.
HOW DO I USE THE TABLE TO BUILD MY OWN MEALS?
Any of the recipes we use you can swap the ingredients around. Just go into the SAME section of the food table as the current ingredient and swap it for one of the other choices.
We do not advocate a specific diet. What we want is for you to build your own food table. This again is a starting point and won’t work for everyone. We encourage you to change the foods in the tables to ones that work for you.
WE WORK ON PRINCIPLES NOT METHODS.
So we don’t completely restrict any foods as we want to encourage a sustainable nutrition plan - not a fad diet you follow for 3 weeks.
HERE IS A COPY OF THE FOOD TABLE THAT YOU CAN ALTER AND PRODUCE YOUR OWN TABLE.
FIND WHAT WORKS FOR YOU
Don’t follow someone else's plan - evolve your own. Being aware of what foods, when you eat and how you feel will allow you to build a sustainable nutrition plan
We know we know...is salmon classed as a protein or a fat? Is potato a vegetable or a carb?! It is confusing...
Here we try to give you an idea of when foods crossover.
In the food table we have categorised foods into specific macronutrients. For example chicken is a protein.
We need to understand that most foods are not simply made up of one macro nutrient. They are a blend. When setting your meal plan up we need to be aware of the TYPE of food we use and how this can potentially impact our calories and macronutrient targets.
We have created a simple diagram to give you an idea of which common foods are predominately one macronutrient and which crossover into a mixture.
So you can see that simply changing the TYPE of chicken or fish you are eating can impact the macronutrients it contains.
Take chicken for example. A 100g of skinless chicken breast contains around 20g protein, 4g fat and minimal carbs. A skinless chicken thigh will contain around 9g of fat. So going from 124 calories to 164. Yep this is a small jump but add the skin.....and the breast goes up to the same amount as the thigh.
We know its a minefield!!
Small changes like this can affect your progress, both negatively and positively.
If your goal is fat loss, remove the skin...save the calories. If you are looking to support training and trying to gain some muscle then maybe choosing the thigh is not a bad option - to increase good fats and supply extra calories.
REMEMBER....the answer is always IT DEPENDS. Put it in context and make informed decisions.
Calories of specific foods
Knowing the calories and macros of common foods can help you to build your meals
The confusing world of calories and macros continues! Being aware of the amount of protein, carbs and fats in certain foods can help to build your own meal plan faster.
A few of the biggest areas that you need to be aware of
- With meat and fish the raw weight and cooked weight don't differ that much in terms of calories and macros. However the cooking method will always change it. Fry it in oil or grill it will change the macros purely due to the additional oil.
- Carbohydrates are the ones that change the most. Be very wary of cooked weight and dry weight in recipes.
- Be wary of your fat intake when eating nuts and seeds. There can be an 8g difference in fat content in different nuts.