Fueling for a CrossFit Competition

Fueling for a CrossFit Competition

I was surprised when I tried to research this topic that there isn’t much information specifically related to fueling for a CrossFit competition.  As you all know a CrossFit competition is at least one unique day but maybe even two unique days of stress on your body. I want to try and answer some common questions I get about competing with these 5 tips for what to do the week of a CrossFit competition and the day of your competition.

-This is not an endurance event so there is no benefit to carb loading.

There is no need to overeat or even change how many carbs you eat the day before you do a CrossFit competition. In fact, you shouldn’t be doing more than a light movement and technique workout with lots of mobility so your calorie needs for that day should be medium to low. Having said that if you follow a carb cycling nutrition plan you can either make the day before a low to medium day so that you can have a high or super day on the day of your competition. If you are eating a good post-workout recovery meal of protein and carbs with little or no fat after hard training sessions, then you are adequately topped off on carbs and recovered from a nutrition standpoint.

Overeating carbs means that you have to store it somewhere since you aren’t using it immediately and that leads to feeling slow or “heavy” the next day. This also means you need more water to help with the digestion and that can lead to bloating. Think of that last Saturday night pizza binge and how you felt trying to workout on Sunday, can you say Slug? NOT what you want the day of a competition.

In summary eat normal meals the day before your CrossFit competition and be confident you are well fueled.

-Hydration is a full time job.

We have all heard that even slight dehydration of less than 2% can drastically affect performance. So the day of your competition make sure you have a hydration plan.  

Drink only what you have tried in the past and know you can tolerate. Don’t drink some weird drink you got in your registration packet or something your friend really likes because if you haven’t tried it before, it could make you feel less than optimal.  Combining competition nerves and a new drink mixture = running to the porta potty.

Between events think sip, sip, nibble, nibble. Sipping on water with some added electrolytes or coconut water with some added sodium (pinch of salt) will help with absorption into your tissues. Nibbling on some carbs will help fuel you along with the hydration.  Don’t chug water since your stomach tends to empty slower during intense periods of exercise which can make you bloated and uncomfortable.

It’s not so obvious that you need to hydrate the days before a competition but this is what sets you up to be hydrated during your competition. Don’t wait until the morning of the competition to start hydrating, it’s going to be hard to catch up.

In the days leading up to a competition sip on an electrolyte drink of approximately 20-30 oz with balanced sodium, potassium and minimal carbs/sugar, so electrolytes. Then keep on drinking your water throughout the day as well.  You are looking for clear pee or very slightly yellow and you should be peeing regularly throughout the day, somewhere between 5-7 times.  Including electrolytes in your water means you’ll retain enough water to stay hydrated and preserve muscle function instead of just running to the bathroom every 45 minutes.

Eat a real and complete breakfast.

When I say a real and complete breakfast I mean get your carbs, protein and fat from real food sources NOT protein shakes and bars. This is probably the most important one of all because if you start the day off low on fuel your performance will suffer.  

Most competitions will have somewhere between 2-4 workouts and everything kicks off in the morning. That will mean waking up early so you can drive to the competition and get your gear setup. This will require planning and maybe even prepping your breakfast the day before so you know exactly what you are going to have and how long it will take in the morning.  

Stay away from anything with a ton of fiber (this is not the time to get all your veggies) and be sure you’re eating something with protein, carbs, and fat. Here are some ideas of what to eat on competition morning.

  • A few eggs with bacon and sweet potato hash
  • Oatmeal with coconut milk or chopped nuts and some fruit
  • Protein pancakes with some nut butter and maple syrup
  • Breakfast cupcakes, these are basically omelets in a muffin tin you can make the night before, with a couple slices of Dave’s Killer bread with nut butter on it

Of course, you’ll want to plan for 2 to 3 hours of digestion time to allow your breakfast to digest and assimilate.

-Focus on protein and carbs during the event.

Here is the biggest challenge for an all day CrossFit competition: getting quality protein and carbs when you need it.

Since most competitions are typically multiple events/workouts with a 45 minute break and up to a several hour break between heats/events, you’ll want something to eat between those events.

This is where planning, or lack of it, can make or break the performance.

Let’s talk about what NOT to do:

  • Don’t eat or drink something that you haven’t tried and tested in the past. Nothing from your swag bag or your friend’s cooler that you don’t know what’s in it.
  • You don’t have a plan with a time schedule for your nutrients
  • Don’t eats
    • Fatty meats or any high fat food
    • Slow-digesting foods that contain a lot of fiber
    • Casein-based protein powders

All of these “don’t eats” slow recovery time by not allowing the nutrition to go to your muscle as fast as possible. Avoid the fat on competition day until the celebration that night.  

Good protein examples:

  • Whey protein powder (cow or goat)

  • Lean meat (chicken, turkey, lean beef)

  • Egg whites (not the yolk)

  • Recovery-type protein powder (typically a whey + carb mix like SFH)

  • Protein bar with very little fat

So what do you want to do between events?

  • Eat or drink proteins and carbs that are easy to digest
  • Eat just enough to keep you fueled but not full if your next event is less than 90 minutes away

For carbs, stick to something with a high a glucose content. This is the exception to the rule of wanting to keep the glucose content down in your diet. In human metabolism, glucose is responsible for providing energy. Simply put, it replenishes muscle glycogen which equals energy. The following are easy to digest foods and liquids that are high in glucose:

  • Lower fiber breads, pasta, white rice, potatoes
  • Lower fiber veggies, fruits like bananas, apples, peaches
  • Dairy products like yogurt with fruit and milk
  • Fruit juices, be careful of getting to much sugar (pineapple is good)
  • Coconut water with pineapple juice
  • Baby food squeeze packets

You could also mix things into your coconut water like dextrose or protein powders. Look for a 2:1 carbs to protein ratio if you are mixing up your own recovery drinks or you can use SFH recovery that already has that ratio figured out for you.

If you’re looking for more real solid food than try baby food squeeze packets. They are usually organic and you can find ones with sweet potato or banana as the base ingredient. Then you can pair that with some lean protein like chicken or egg whites. The backup can always be a few bites of your favorite tried and true protein bar.

The last thing to be aware of is who the food vendors are going to be at the event. You should be able to find this out from the coordinating gym and then you can plan on some back up food from them if you really need it. Don’t count on them exclusively because you never know what they might run out of or change up on you.

This one seems obvious but bring a cooler! Also bring plenty of water and ice.

If you got anything out of this article I hope it’s that you MUST have a plan and execute it.

Once the competition is over…It’s CELEBRATION TIME!  Have something easy to digest right after you are done then when you get to your next meal allow yourself to enjoy a normal meal and celebrate with some more carbs than normal…in solid form or liquid form! Cheers!

Move Well, Live Well

-Brant