CrossFit competitions bring on an interesting fueling challenge. You are required to repeat high intensity bouts of exercise in a single day. Due to the constraints of most local competitions workouts are likely to be anywhere from 1-12 minutes in duration. Most competitions will have you complete between 3-4 of these high intensity sets. Preforming optimally during all of these events is going to come down to a few things, first and foremost is the training that you have done leading up to the competition. Hopefully your coach has made sure that you are physically prepared for the challenges that you are sure to face. (Here is a short piece on how to taper for your event) The other factors that will determine your success is your pre-comp prep and ability to recover post workout.
***Warning*** I DO NOT subscribe to the paleo diet. While I believe there is validity to some of the theories in regards to inflammation response and body composition I don’t think that it provides optimal energy for most competitive athletes.
If you are already adequately hydrated you should be consuming between 5-7 ml/kg 4 hours prior to your event. For those of you who prefer your conversions in good ol American that’s about 1/2 of a nalgene bottle for a 165# athlete. I know that a lot of people in the CrossFit community are going to scoff when they read this Gatorade is pretty ideal for Competition day hydration. The electrolyte content is optimal for absorption The specific amount of Potassium, Chloride and Sodium increases the transport of water into the cells. The type of sugar used is also ideal for absorption. There are other options that are similar, this one is just cost effective and readily available.
Pre event nutrition-
At three hours prior to the event, the athlete should consume 3g/kg body weight. For the 140lb athlete this is about 190g. of carbohydrate, or approximately 760 calories. I would recommend that the majority of these calories come from carbohydrates, however, some will come from a protein and fat source as well. Keep in mind that any sports drink that you consume counts toward that total. (a 32oz bottle of Gatorade supplies 200 calories). If you eat two hours prior the amount should be reduced to 2g/kg. (500 calories of carbohydrate for the 140lb athlete)
Pre-event meal for 140lb athlete (3 hours prior)
double serving of oatmeal- 330cal (2 cups) 28g. CHO, 6g. PRO, 3.5g. FAT
banana- 100cal (medium) 28g CHO, 2g. PRO
Peanut butter- 80 (1 tablespoons) 6g CHO, 8g. PRO, 16g FAT
Honey- 60cal (1 tablespoons) 17g. CHO
Sports drink- 310cal. (12 oz) 78g CHO
Post workout nutrition-
The primary full source utilized during your 2-12 minute event will be carbohydrate. In the time immediately following the event, the athlete should consume carbohydrate, additionally consuming protein will aid in recovery. A common ratio that has been shown effective is 4 CHO / 1 PRO. 1-2 cups of chocolate milk within 20-60 minutes of finishing will provide the necessary carbohydrate and protein replenishment necessary for immediate recovery. Every 3 hours following the event the athlete should consume between 50-95g of CHO (200-380kcal). SPN makes an elite performance and recovery fuel mix that I use when available.
If you have more than two hours between events I suggest eating a full meal. Find out before hand if your event will have food on location. If you are competing in the Denver area I’m sure that you have seen the paleo wagon. They provide a very well balanced meal as far as fat, protein and carbohydrate ratios. Make sure if you are going that route that you provide ample time for digestion. Remember the 3g per kg body weight at 3 hours prior to your event is in regards to carbohydrate. Carbohydrates provide 4 calories per gram, fat contains 9 calories per gram. This just means that if you are adding in fat you only need about half as much in regards to portion size.
The other stuff….
I know first hand how much doing a workout in a competition environment takes it’s toll on you. You are exhausted and don’t want to move. Do your best to resist this urge. It is imperative that following each workout that you get up and move immediately. Get up and walk around, go for an easy jog, hop on a row machine and pull slow. Do this for at least 5 minutes post event. Your body will thank you when it comes time to hit WOD 2,3, or even 4 of the day. Bring a lacross ball and foam roller with you to the event if possible.
Recent studies have shown that simply putting a drink that is high in sugar content in your mouth during exercise will immediately release blood glucose for use. So even though you don’t need to worry about becoming dehydrated in 12 minutes your performance may benefit from taking a pull off of that Gatorade bottle right before or during your WOD.
Lastly but most importantly…. Have fun! There is an etiquette to these events. Understand that everyone there may not be taking this as serious as you are, on the flip side of that there are people who will treat these events like it is the super bowl. Be respectful of other peoples goals. Be respectful to the person that is hosting the event. They have gone through A LOT of trouble to bring you a safe and positive experience. Asking them when the score is going to post every five minutes won’t help. Stick around a cheer for your fellow competitors, they will appreciate you for it and will return the favor when it is your turn to suffer … ah I mean compete. Every time we elevate someone in our community, we all get taller.