If you are going to the Games, YOU are an athlete no doubt, and it takes some serious hard work and dedication to keep you going. In order to reach an the elite level, also requires more than just training in the gym. Food choices, sleep, recovery methods, mobility, and stress all play a vital role in the supernatural abilities of many athletes.
Nutrition, in particular, is said to be the cornerstone of fitness. You’ve probably heard the ‘rule of thumb’: “Nutrition is 80% of your results in the gym.” While this may not be an exact percentage, Coach James FitzGerald breaks down what it takes to eat for the Games—and how nutrition is a separator when it comes honing in on that slight edge--in ways you may not think...
Q. They say ‘nutrition is 80% of results’ in the gym—what is your take on this? Truth? Myth? Tough to say?
FitzGerald: The percentages change for everyone and everyone’s views and biases on what is important.
The coach with low competency on “coaching” and psychology will say it’s the training and lifting strength that gets them there.
The coach that has high competency on lifestyle and personality will say it’s the ‘will’ and the mind that is 90% of the struggle.
The coach that is keen on science will say its the macros in food and macrocycles that get them there.
The coach that is nerdy on the movement area will says its the perfect movement that gets them there
And, you know what? They are all right, but here is the thing everyone forgets: every single athlete is there for an unknown reason, for their own reason, but it’s NOT the one everyone thinks it is.
The sport is too varied to choose this group to say that one thing works and one thing does not – WHY? Because they are all the most talented CrossFitters…bottom line.
They do CrossFit better than you do, so they are at the Games and you are not. THAT is what is the secret ingredient, nothing more special than that.
So…I am more on the side of the athlete and their essence and make up that “gets them there”…and I hold some truth in this as well as I “notice” and am keenly aware of the practices of the good, the great and the poor…and the one thing that is true : high level athletes in CrossFit use dense calories that no one wants to report on (like nutella, higher fat/sugary deserts, heavy fat ice cream, etc.). They are resilient in more ways than one…gut included.
Q. There’s a lot of hype around clean eating, but from an athlete’s point of view…where does the wiggle room come in (ice cream, peanut butter, milk, Gatorade, etc.)?
FitzGerald: I focus largely on results, so if someone eats grass and bark and horseshit, and they continually beat a lot of people, I am cool with that…honestly.
I have spent way too many years stressing over that area of clean nutrition, but it got in the mix because people misconceive that the CrossFit Games is the Healthiest Games – IT IS NOT!
I don’t care about their health. I care about points, winning and dominating workouts and their perceptions.
Can I help them somehow change some food things to recover faster and remove the bark?
Yes for sure, BUT NOT AT THE EXPENSE of results.
Again it comes down to resilience, and adaptation. Whoever can recover faster, is the eventual winner; in a workout, in an Open, in Regionals, and at the Games…and if I can build that through proper workouts, proper mental guidance and proper training dose, then I’ll do it that way and not through food.
Q. About how many calories and/or macronutrients would you say an athlete (male and female) consumes daily?
FitzGerald: For examples of calories and food profiles, I have taken a long time to investigate this nutritional analysis. Looking at a food plan or food can only give you some info—a piece to the puzzle.
For instance, if you are looking at the local CrossFit journal to give you an idea on how to eat properly to become a CrossFit champion you will: 1.) Not be given the factual information and, 2.) challenged to see how you can do that and become a champ as well.
Another example from one athlete’s log from one day:
5:10 a.m.– Greens first, max fiber, fish oil
6:30 a.m. Black coffee
7:45 am 3 nitrate free pork sausages, 3 whole eggs, 1.5 c. mixed berries, 1/3 avocado
Pre workout: Black coffee- 16 oz., B-complex
During workout: 5 g creatine, AMRAP Beverage
Post workout: 80 g carbs, 40g protein
4 pm: 2 pork sausages, 2 turkey thighs, ½ c. sweet potatoes, 1.5 c. roasted broccoli/green beans, 6 dates
7 pm: large bowl green salad (romaine, carrots, kale, almonds, shaved parmasean, lemon/oil dressing), 10oz Burger (93% lean), 1 orange,
1/3 C Macadamia Nuts
Supplements: 3 g fish oil, probiotics, ZMA
2 squares dark chocolate
80 oz water
Competition weekend example from an athlete:
6:30 Breakfast- 4 eggs, 2C sweet potato, mango, some apple juice
9:00am 2nd Breakfast- 2-3oz grassfed burger-1C rice-1 peach
12pm Workout #1
Post workout shake consisting of 69g cho from maltodextrin/dextrose-28g whey protein-10g L-glut+8oz coconut water; sip Nuun (electrolyte tablets) throughout
Pre wo- bcaa+caffeine, larabar
4/5pm Workout #2
Post workout meal: polenta (cornmeal), gluten free burger, lots of mango/peaches
icebath+epsom salt bath hot
6:30 Breakfast – 4 eggs, 2C sweet potato, mango, some apple juice
Workout #3 10/10:30
Post workout shake
few oz of fish/ 1C rice
Pre-workout: Caffeine bcaa+Lara bar
Workout #4 2-2:30
Bison burger+sweet potato+mango/peach
6:15 Breakfast- Gluten free burger+sweet potato
pre-wo caffeine + bcaa
few oz fish+rice
…And on and on….
Q. What are common questions you get asked about food/nutrition from competitive CrossFitters?
Q. What are common mistakes you see athletes make when it comes to nutrition/fueling for competition?