If you are a CrossFit athlete and want to improve your performance, you should cross out the word “low carb” from your vocabulary. Why? Read the article.
Combining the most powerful presses and holds on the chest with explosive swings, push-ups and jumps is hard work. Even one 10 minute metcon (metabolic conditioning workout) can be an ordeal, a test of all the muscles in your body, pushing your energy systems to their limits. But for CrossFit enthusiasts, it’s just an ordinary day at the gym.
What is the best way to prepare your body for such a test? In addition to the mental attitude, preparation comes down to a balanced diet, and in particular to carbohydrates. You need a lot of energy to fuel short, intense workouts. And the longer the workout, the more energy you need. If you’ve combined CrossFit workout with a paleo diet and skipping starches (a common approach), then it’s time to rethink your CrossFit carbohydrate strategy.
A low-carb diet is dangerous because your gains remain on the table.
The body uses carbohydrates stored in muscle (glycogen) and carbohydrates in the blood (glucose from the last meal) to help you exercise. As soon as a large amount of available glycogen and glucose is consumed, the body begins to look for ways to conserve energy. What follows this? Increased fatigue and decreased concentration, power and strength. Over time, all this leads to a deterioration in results.
Yes, there is research linking a low-carb diet with higher levels of fat breakdown and improved performance. However, such research focuses on endurance, which relies more on fat as a fuel source. And knowledgeable CrossFit athletes will tell you that CrossFit training is very different from a marathon run.
Not only are low-carb, higher-fat diets far from ideal for workout of the day (workout of the day) and strength training, they can also make high-intensity exercise much more challenging. This is partially due to the fact that fats slow down the body’s ability to use carbohydrates for fuel. And because fat replenishes energy more slowly than carbs, your workout will end long before you experience the energy benefits of fat.
How to combine carbohydrate intake and exercise
Porridge is an excellent source of carbohydrates. CrossFit athletes are very responsive to training, so it’s not uncommon for them to do extra workouts after their WODs. Crossfitters train to develop new skills, additional strength practice, or even do another metcon. Suddenly, an already strenuous 30-minute workout turns into at least an hour marathon of explosive power, in which the body simply requires additional fuel.
To find out how much energy you need, start by assigning a difficulty level to each of your workouts.
Refer to the guidelines below for examples of light, moderate, and heavy CrossFit workouts. The intensity of your workouts may vary throughout the week. Just mark the difficulty level of each one for yourself.
- 30-60 minutes
- Power WOD / Skill Formation + 1 metcon
- 60-90 minutes
- WOD + 1 additional metcon / work with inventory
- 90+ minutes (just per day)
- 2–3 WOD per skill building / movement + 1–2 metcon workouts
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How many carbohydrates do you need to feed a CrossFiter?
It’s time to name the exact amount of carbs needed for each level of workout. I know that protein, fat and carbohydrate counting is more popular in the bodybuilding world than crossfitters, but if you are serious about training, this is worth considering. The idea is this: When athletic performance is an important part of your life, you should sit down with nutritional counts in order to have a complete arsenal of tools to achieve your goal. If you consume too few carbs, you will not be able to work to your maximum, plus you risk losing hard-earned muscles. If you eat too many carbohydrates, your body composition will shift towards more fatty tissue over muscle. And every extra kilogram of fat is an additional weight on pull-ups!
- Non-training day: 1.1-1.65 grams of carbohydrates per kilogram of body weight per day
- Light workout:2.2 grams of carbohydrates per kilogram of body weight per day
- Moderate workout:3.3 grams of carbohydrates per kilogram of body weight per day
- Hard workout:4.4 grams of carbohydrates per kilogram of body weight per day
Maximize fuel availability
Fruit is the most readily available source of carbohydrates. The type and timing of carbohydrates on training days is up to you. But if you want to get the most out of your workout, we recommend that you eat most of your daily carbohydrate intake shortly before and after your workout. And don’t forget that you can also drink carbohydrate drinks during your workout. There are tons of brands out there these days, but remember that they are designed specifically for hard training athletes and are not necessary for everyone.