Fuel For Every Body
written by Sarah Messervey
Hi again, Friends! We are about to hit 18.3 today in the Crossfit Open. We have done two of the five workouts so far and I’m so curious to hear how people have been fuelling these workouts. With so many great results, you must be doing something right!!
Throughout the week, I attend the 7am class. I love it because I can workout in a fasted state. I only consume water (and sometimes a little toothpaste) before hitting the gym and I find my energy and stamina are the best this way (this is also when my cortisol is highest, but we’ll save that for another blog). Others, even those who attend the 6am classes, need to eat breakfast before they come and feel weak and slow if they don’t. Why such a difference??
Because… Every Body is Different!
It seems everyone and their uncle has the latest and greatest dietary guidelines to follow for every sport from weightlifting to marathon running to competitive eating (…now THAT is my kind of sport!). Unfortunately, we don’t know the exact recipe for success because every body is different and every body uses fuel in different ways. Some people are very good at burning glucose for fuel and need it for the quick bursts of energy and explosive movements required in HIIT training. Others prefer the slower burning and more satiating protein sources for longer, heavier workouts. Even fats are hitting the main stage now as a steady source of fuel when the participant is following a ketogenic diet.
If what you’re doing is working for you, great! Keep it up! That means you’ve listened to your body and are giving it what it needs. For those of you who still struggle a little with how to fuel for a Crossfit competition (or even your daily workouts), here are a few recommendations:
The Night Before: Avoid any new foods! I can’t stress this enough, as I’ve witness marathon runners having….difficulties, let’s say, in a stranger’s front bush. The last thing you want during a competition is a stomach ache, or worse, the runs! Stick to paleo friendly foods like sweet potatoes or squash for starches, vegetables, good quality protein like beef, fish or chicken and some ghee or butter or coconut oil on your veggies. This is a well rounded, low inflammatory meal which will allow you to store energy as glycogen to be used during your workout.
The Morning Of: Our Open WODs begin fairly early, so to avoid getting cramps or reflux during the workout, I would advise you to eat no later than 7am the day of the competition. This will allow your body to process the slower digesting foods (fats & proteins) and give them time to pass into the duodenum (the first part of the small intestines). Some protein can take SIX hours to digest, so keep the meal fairly small. 1-2 eggs, a slice of ham and a small banana/ spinach smoothie (~250mL) will suffice for most people. There is no harm in bringing a snack with you to consume while waiting for your heat, but keep it small like a handful of nuts or a diluted protein shake.
After The WOD: Before you jump into recovery mode and start eating all the food, let your body return to its steady state. Drink some water, move around, relax. Your body is in “fight or flight mode” meaning all of your blood is shunted to the muscles and there is not much left for digestion. Eating at this point can lead to extreme abdominal cramps, acid reflux, diarrhea, vomiting, etc. Not pretty. Once your heart rate is down and you’re feeling good, focus on recovery by eating protein and carbohydrates. My favourite recovery meal is 1 small sweet potato (steamed), 1/2 – 3/4 chicken breast (poached) both cubed and mixed with 1 tbsp. dairy-free pesto (I get mine at Loblaws). You want to get these macros in right away to help with tissue recovery, to prevent muscle wasting and increase muscle growth (anabolism). Too much fat at this time with slow the absorption of the amino acids from the proteins and the glucose from the carbohydrates.
2. Foods: Macronutrients are how we get calories from foods. Macronutrients, or macros as they are often called, include carbohydrates (carbs), proteins and fats. It is important to have a well balanced diet with all the macros to provide high energy, promote tissue repair and to build muscle, especially during Crossfit competitions. Y’all know I’m a huge fan of the Paleo diet so stick with those caveman foods, which means avoiding peanuts, legumes, grains (including gluten-free grains) and dairy. Good alternatives to the ever popular whey protein shakes are egg-white protein and/or collagen. You can get both of these protein sources in flavoured options.
3. Hydration: If you’re dehydrated, your performance, both physically AND mentally will be affected. A good way to test if you’re dehydrated is the pinch test. Lay your hand flat on a table and pinch the skin on the back of your hand for a second. If your skin bounces back quickly, you’re probably decently hydrated. If it slowly rolls back or stays pinched up, you’ve got some (water) drinkin’ to do! The common rule you’ll hear for drinking water is half your body weight in ounces. So, if you’re 150lbs, drink 75 oz. of water per day. This can vary greatly person to person and even day to day. Things to consider are physical activity, illness, food choices (hello, sodium!), weather, occupation, etc. Make sure you’re well hydrated, not just the day of the competition, but for a few days before as well. Keep your urine light yellow, or straw coloured!
On the day of, ensure you’re not only hydrated but that your electrolytes are okay. Muscle cramps, dizziness, nausea and headaches can be signs that you’re low on electrolytes. Add in some electrolyte powder to your water, drink coconut water or make your own electrolyte drink the day of the competition. I’ve included my recipe below!
4. Avoid: On the day of and even a few days before, watch out for:
– Too much fat, which can slow the digestion of foods in your stomach leaving you feeling full and bloated.
– Sugar which will increase inflammation in the body, leading to higher chances of injury
– Too much fibre which will also slow the digestion of your food
Good luck to all the competitors, thank you to all the judges and may Dave have mercy on your soul!
Until next time, Keep Smiling!
Simple Electrolyte Water – Makes a 1L serving
1L filtered water (may also use herbal or green tea)
1/8 tsp Himalayan Salt or Sea Salt*
1 slice cucumber
2 tbsp fresh lemon juice
1 orange round
1 tsp magnesium powder (like Calm) – OPTIONAL
Any other herbs or flavours you like. For example
– fresh basil
– strawberries or raspberries
– mint leaves
Place all ingredients in a glass mason jar and shake well. Let sit over night in the refrigerator.
*Recent studies have found sea salt contains higher levels of PCBs and BPA from the plastic and industrial pollution in our oceans. While sea salt does contain trace minerals and is a better option than processed table salt, Himalayan salt is a better alternative.