The "CrossFit Open" Nutrition Guide

The CrossFit Open is upon us! This means its time to focus on your nutrition to optimise your performance. Providing your body with the right type and amount of nutrients is not only crucial for your workout performance, but also for your recovery.  Here are some practical tips to ensure you destroy every Open workout for the next six weeks.     


Fuel For Performance


The CrossFit Open workouts are typically fast and short, requiring high-end energy output. This means that a supply of readily available glucose will be necessary for fuel. Glucose (produced from the breakdown of carbohydrates) is the body’s preferred source of energy for short bursts of activity. Even if your body is adapted to burn fat for glucose production (from eating a low carbohydrate diet), your body will not be able to convert fat into glucose at a fast enough rate to keep up with the workload. You are going to need glucose fast, and converting glucose from fat is a slow process. As a result, your energy source must come from complex carbohydrates such as sweet potato, brown or white rice, gluten-free oats or bananas.


In addition, your body will not have time to tap into your glycogen stores (a certain amount of glucose is stored as glycogen in muscles and the liver). This makes it even more necessary to have some glucose floating around in your blood stream.


Do this:

Eat a meal with slow release carbohydrates 2-3 hours before the workout. Include some good quality protein and fast burning fats like coconut oil or avocado.

Doing the workout hours after your last meal? Have a smoothie or snack with some carbohydrates (e.g banana) and protein one hour pre-workout.


Example 1: grilled chicken salad with ½- 1 cup roast sweet potato, ½ avocado and 2 cups spinach leaves


Example 2: Smoothie 1 hour before workout: 1 scoop of clean Protein Powder, ½ banana, handful of berries, 1 peeled beetroot, 1 cup coconut water or almond milk, ice.


TIP:  Beetroot is the perfect pre-workout food! It increases nitric oxide production, which causes blood vessels to expand. This improves blood flow and results in greater oxygen and nutrient delivery to muscles and tissues, which may improve athletic performance and recovery!


Recover Like A Boss


·      Power of Protein

This should be your first point of call post workout for your recovery. After your Open Workout, your muscles will inevitably be in a damaged state. This natural breakdown of muscle fibres occurs during daily activity, however, it is significantly increased during exercise. Levels of cortisol, a muscle-wasting hormone released under stress, will also be in high concentration in the body and needs to be brought down immediately. The solution to these factors is post-workout protein.


Protein provides essential amino acids, the building blocks to repair damaged muscle tissues. Give your body the nutrients it needs to recover and rebuild by eating a variety of high quality protein sources: red meat, fish, chicken, turkey, eggs, some nuts and protein supplements such as a hypoallergenic protein (e.g. Sprouted brown rice protein)or protein of choice.


Do this:

Have a high protein snack 15-30 minutes post workout. (If you can have a proper high protein meal straight after, even better, but this may be hard to stomach after destroying yourself on an Open WOD).


Example 1:  Clean Protein shake with water/coconut water

Example 2: Scrambled eggs with sautéed veggies


A well-balanced meal with protein, fats and plenty of leafy greens should be consumed roughly 2 hours post workout to continue the recovery process. Carbohydrates are not really necessary given the short duration of the workouts. An example meal might be a grilled salmon fillet with 2-3 cups of steamed broccoli, bok-choy and asparagus.


TIP: Cook with turmeric and ginger to reduce the effect of DOMS (Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness). These foods have powerful anti-inflammatory properties and have been found to accelerate recovery. Add diced fresh ginger or grated turmeric to veggie stir fries for a pop or flavour, make tea out of the root, or blend it in to a green smoothie. Turmeric is, however, poorly absorbed so ensure you add some fats to enhance the absorption. A turmeric supplement is also an option to obtain a more powerful anti-inflammatory hit.


·      Hydration    

Although it is unlikely you will become dehydrated after a short Open Workout, it is very important to be properly pre-hydrated.

Drink plenty of fluids and electrolytes the day before – a minimum of 2L. Add a teaspoon of pink Himalayan sea salt for added minerals.

Don’t leave your pre-hydration until the last minute though and try and drink a couple of litres an hour beforehand – your body just can’t absorb water that quickly and you will feel bloated for your workout.



Essential Supplementation


·      Fish Oil

 This should be an essential component of every athlete’s toolkit! Omega-3 fatty acids have been shown to increase blood flow to muscles during exercise and decrease post-exercise muscle soreness by up to 35%. Supplementation with this potent anti-inflammatory has also shown to increase range of motion, which is a major component in maximising muscle strength.

Caution: The quality of your fish oil is of the upmost importance! Many brands you buy off the chemist or supermarket shelf are very low grade and are often oxidised (have already gone rancid!). I recommend PurePharma O3 (84% concentration), 2000-4000mg/day.


·      Take Your Magnesium

This must-have mineral can maximise both your performance and recovery. It is an extremely important nutrient that has a number of important functions in the body. A key role of magnesium is to facilitate skeletal muscle contraction. Without sufficient levels, there is an increased risk of cramping and muscle pain during exercise. Certainly not ideal in the middle of an Open WOD!


Magnesium is also vital for energy production, meaning you will experience less fatigue if you maintain good levels.


In regards to recovery, magnesium aids in muscle relaxation, significantly reducing muscle soreness. It also relaxes the nervous system, resulting in a very restful sleep. Aim for a minimum of 300mg/day, best taken at night before bed.


I recommend Metagenics (practitioner only brand) or Ethical Nutrients Mega Magnesium Powder.


·      Zinc

Zinc has been shown to improve exercise performance when supplemented, especially when supplemented by athletes whose dietary intake of zinc is low. Supplementing with zinc can allow a person to exercise harder and for a longer time period – something we all want to do during an Open workout!


·      Sleep

lthough sleep is not exactly a nutrition recommendation, recovery cannot be discussed without the mention of this key component. Don't let all your hard work in training and nutrition go to waste! Along with mobilizing, treatments and ice baths, SLEEP is a vital component to your recovery. Ensure you are getting 7-9 hours of sleep every night to restore your body and get ready to do it all over again next week.


Good luck CrossFitters!