The open is very nearly upon us. It’s so close that you can taste it. SPEAKING of tasting things. One question we get fairly often is something along the lines of, “How should I eat so I perform my best during the open?” So I’m going to get into the weeds a little bit on eating so you can feel and perform your best during the upcoming CrossFit Open.
First, I am not a registered dietician and neither are any of the other coaches. Therefore, when it comes to food and drink consumption, we cannot make specific clinical recommendations. However, with the exception of sleep, nutrition is the most important aspect of your health. As such, we have done extensive amounts of reading and experimenting with our own diets and performance and would absolutely love to help any of you when it comes to your eating and drinking habits.
Now, for the open. Most of you reading this have rarely, if ever, participated in a CrossFit competition. So most of you have very little experience in a “competition-like” environment. It can be stressful. And stress absolutely affects our appetites and how we feel during eating and digestion of food. Each person is affected a little differently by stress. Because of this, any recommendation I make will basically just be some version of “it depends”. But here we go anyway!
First, any dietary recommendations we would make during the open are going to be essentially the same as what is written on the wall in the gym and what Greg Glassman has been saying since he founded CrossFit. “Eat meat and veggies, nuts and seeds, some fruit, little starch, and no sugar.” We feel strongly that adhering to a diet of REAL food without excessive amounts of sugar will help you feel your best on a consistent basis.
Now that we are changing our format to using the open WOD as our class WOD for Friday, some of you will do the workouts at the same time of day as you always have. So if you are planning to do the open WOD’s on Fridays, you want to perform your best, and you have been keeping your diet mostly in line with the above, then you can probably just keep doing what you are doing. Any dietary recommendation I have ever read for competitions says something about not changing things up at the last second. If you don’t know how a certain food or drink will affect you, then right before your event is not the time to experiment. Caffeine is a very well-studied performance aid. But if you are like me, and never drink coffee or tea, the morning of your first attempt at 18.1 is probably not the time to try it out. You might get a performance boost. There’s also another thing that I’ve been told coffee makes you do and it would be the last thing I’d want to happen right before I’m supposed to hit a WOD.
Everybody is going to be a little different as far as how recently they like to have eaten before a WOD. I prefer to have an empty stomach. If I’m training later in the day and I’m really hungry, I might eat something small just to quiet the hunger. If I have eaten a normal-sized meal I need a minimum of four hours until I can train. You might be different. It is very helpful to pay attention to how your body feels after eating different things and training. If you are stuck and have to eat something but you know you are going to train relatively soon, I would stick with something light. Generally speaking, foods that are higher in protein and fat take longer to digest and could cause discomfort while training. Also, your body actually uses energy to digest food. So a meal higher in protein and fat would likely take more energy away from your performance than a lighter meal with more carbs. I actually know quite a few people who use and recommend baby food for pre-workout meals. It’s a small amount of food and the better brands are just pureed fruits and veggies anyway.
For those of you who will hit an open WOD on Saturday, chances are the timing of the WOD will be a little different for you. Even if you are a regular on Saturdays and you end up in an early heat, the majority of most people’s training sessions during the week are not in the 8:00 – 10:00 am range. Are you a morning person who gets up early on Saturdays? Then it might be a good idea to get your morning coffee in well before the WOD and also get a light breakfast. Ideally give yourself at least one or two hours to digest and, um… take care of business. Maybe you like to use your Saturdays to sleep in until 7:45 and then roll out of bed and drive to the gym. In this case, unless you have a very late heat, I don’t recommend consuming anything but water. If you are really hungry and its uncomfortable/distracting then I’d recommend something very small. Examples would be an Rx bar, ½ of a banana, a spoonful of peanut/almond butter, a handful of raisins, or baby food. As far as drinks go, water should be your top priority. I know some will cling to their pre-workouts like it’s the elixir of life so if that is part of your
routine, stick to it. If it’s not, don’t start now. Most of your water should be consumed the day/night before. If you drink too much the morning before the WOD, you will end up making frequent trips to the potty. And most of you make enough pre-WOD potty trips as it is. Not that it bothers me. I swear. I barely even notice.
If you have any more specific questions that I didn’t answer in this post, please hit us up!