Nutrition is the foundation for performance. CrossFitters know this from the Fitness Pyramid but it is true for all sports.
The following article is my synopsis of material presented by Dr. Kevin Jardine of Urban Athlete, and creator of CrossFuel. He spoke this past Saturday January 23rd at Radix Performance Centre to CrossFit athletes and Olympic weightlifters about performance nutrition and appropriate supplementation for pre-workout, peri- or intra-workout, and post-workout to maximize training and recovery.
Performance nutrition is not the same as health nutrition; many athletes will sacrifice health for performance, but at some point your performance will begin to suffer, too. No supplements can replace a foundation of whole foods from anything that could “run, fly, swim, grow on the ground or on trees”! Endurance sports require different performance nutrition strategies from weightlifting and CrossFit, but the goal remains the same: increase work capacity.
In order to do more work, your body has to adapt to a stress. The better you can recover from training (stress), the better you can perform at your next opportunity.
There are 3 main focal points for performance nutrition:
- Energy Balance and Fuelling
- Damage Control
- Repair and Regeneration
Energy Balance requires a balance between intake and expenditure. You need enough energy to do work, in our sports primarily as ATP. It is important to have an accurate measure of your activity factor in order to determine how many calories your body needs for work. Under-eating can lead to a host of problems, and over-eating can lead to unnecessary weight gain. Once your body is fuelled and stores are topped up, anything extra is oxidized or stored as fat.
Damage Control is important to minimize stress, oxidation and excess free radicals, inflammation, and cortisol imbalances. Too many free radicals and oxidation from excess consumption of protein, sugar, and trans-fats can cause your body to “rust” from the inside out. Fresh produce with every meal helps counteract this process, as well as portion control and foods with a high ORAC (Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity) such as herbs and spices. Cortisol levels should fluctuate throughout the day, but if they remain elevated, your body is stressed and your immune system may suffer.
Repair and Regeneration occurs when the body is in an anabolic state. Each training session is catabolic: your body is being broken down to produce energy. This is a destructive process, so you want your body to convert back to anabolism, or storing energy, as soon as possible and stay that way. This will help your body develop the architecture it needs to get stronger and do the tasks you demand of it.
Your body’s activities are naturally periodized throughout the day – work and rest, and you have a periodized training cycle throughout the week, and a bigger picture plan from your coach as to your monthly program. It is important to periodize your nutrition to match this cycle of increased and decreased activity in order to fuel energy and repair without excess consumption. Each meal should have a purpose or goal, such as to fuel a training session, replenish lost glycogen stores, improve protein synthesis, and reduce inflammation.
The pre-workout window begins 3 hours before your training session. Have a normal meal balanced with protein, carbs, and fats.
** Rachael’s Notes** Women need 20g protein, men 30g, with about the same number of grams carbohydrate from real food sources such as white rice or potato, and 10-15g healthy fats such as olive oil, avocado, organic dairy, or nuts and seeds.
This will ensure your blood sugar is stable and your meal is digested before you start exercising!
Immediately before training, have approx. 100cal from a simple sugar source. Baby food is a super convenient way to get some natural sugars into your system along with your pre-workout supplement.
CrossFuel’s INTENSITY includes caffeine, creatine, L-citruline (increases nitrous oxide, decreases fatigue), beta-alanine (buffering, like baking soda), and ATP, “the currency of power”! These supplemental components have the most independent research proving their efficacy, but may not be necessary for all athletes.
If your workout lasts longer than the average 1 lift + met-con WOD (e.g. multiple lifts and/or conditioning sessions, endurance sports), you’ll need more fuel for your training. BCAAs can help your body overcome fatigue while training. The Branched Chain Amino Acids are absorbed directly into the bloodstream to provide fuel and delay catabolism, while the other amino acids found in protein powder and whole proteins must pass through the digestive system. This makes it easier for you to get extra energy during your session.
Electrolytes are also an integral component of a peri-workout supplement, as your body becomes at risk of dehydration throughout long session. Choose coconut water or coconut electrolytes added to a BCAA supplement.
According to Dr. Kevin, this is the #1 missed area in sports performance improvement. Consuming protein and carbohydrate 10-15 minutes after your workout can improve your body’s ability to reduce inflammation, replenish glycogen, and synthesize protein by up to 50%! The anabolic window, that period of time where your body is rebuilding rather than tearing down, can stay open up to 48 hours after training if you eat a balanced meal every 4 hours. However, as soon as you spike your blood sugar with a carb-rich snack or go more than 5 hours without fuel while awake, the window shuts until your next workout. The best recovery shake should have a 1:1 ratio of protein to carbs, and about 20-30g of each.
Dr Kevin also discussed how Essential Fatty Acids are most lacking from the typical diet and required for anyone exercising regularly. Low levels of Omega 3’s, vitamins D3 and K2 are associated with all autoimmune disorders. Add these supplements to your breakfast with healthy fats every day to fight inflammation.
Special mention also goes to Garlic pills: a special compound in garlic signals your body to send out the clean-up crew and sweep away cancerous cells, as well as improves your immune system and reduce inflammation.
If you have any questions about the material presented here, or any of the CrossFuel supplements or other products sold at Radix, please feel free to talk to Rachael about how to help you incorporate these strategies into your personal nutrition program.