We are excited to share with you all our first Q&A blog! As requested it is on Nutrition: this is a very broad and dynamic topic. So here is what we did… we picked a few of the top questions from you, our readers… and had three nutrition professionals (all from 12th State) give you their answers!
These questions are straight from you all!
All questions were answered by three nutrition professionals Coach Tim, Kylie G, and Abby N. (both Abby and Kylie are current members at 12th State) We hope that giving you a different perspective on the questions allows you all to see how varied and different nutrition advice can be and also where some constants can be found! Most of the variance comes from new research and also comes down to the individual trying to implement the diet. Points are not meant to contradict but they are also not edited to force symmetry, just real answers to real questions. Take it all with a “grain of salt” and we hope you learn a little from it all!
So here we go!
What to eat pre-workout to fuel performance, and how many hours before, etc. ?
If you are training shortly after waking, you can either train fasted or have a small snack consisting of easy to break down carbohydrates such as a banana, toast, etc. If you can’t fathom the thought of eating something prior to training, then you can train without consuming anything prior. What I tell clients to do if they train fasted is to consume BCAA’s on their way in. Your body will utilize the amino acids as energy prior to tapping into your glycogen stores. Is this 100% necessary? No. You will most likely be just fine if you go into training fasted, however your performance may increase if you have readily available energy floating around in your blood stream from your snack.
First off, you should eat pre-workout to fuel your performance or else working out may leave you dizzy and weak. It should be just a snack, otherwise a full meal might leave you feeling full and lethargic. These are all negative things, but we workout to feel good! This can be accomplished with a high carb snack to prep your body for exercise- your body needs energy. Your snack should also have protein to fuel your muscles. Timing-wise, I would suggest you eat within a 30-60 minute window before your workout. If you eat any earlier than that, you’ll be hungry again when you get to the gym and any closer than that you might feel queasy when you workout.
Depending on what your stomach can handle, pre-workout fuel is best consumed between 1-3 hours before exercise. I highly suggest a good mixture of carbohydrates and protein, with some fat as fat can help maintain blood sugar throughout a workout. 15-30g of protein mixed with 1-2g of carbohydrates per kg of body weight is a good rule of thumb, so for a 135lb female that would be about 60-90g of carbohydrates. A good pre-workout snack could be a whole wheat English muffin sandwich with one egg and Canadian bacon, plus a medium banana.
What to eat/drink (if protein shake) post-workout?
Protein powder, is an important aspect of post workout protein. In simplest terms, you just worked your muscles hard and they need to be fed and recovered! A post workout shake is not just for dudes who want to bulk up. Feeding your muscles post workout does not necessarily meaning getting bigger/bulkier muscles, but supplying your body with amino acids to maintain lean muscle mass (which in turn burns more fat). That being said, the protein shake is for convenience to drink immediately post workout- if you can eat chicken (or another low fat meat) right after your workout then that does the trick as well.
This depends on your goals. If your goal is performance, ideally you are consuming protein and carbs immediately post workout most likely in the form of a shake because it is quick to digest. Most athletes consume a 1:1-1:3 protein to carb ratio in their shake and then have a post workout meal an hour or so later….I drive home and eat breakfast (or some random leftover dinner) after my workout because I would rather eat my calories than drink them.
Post workout, I recommend eating a good source of protein and carbohydrate within 2 hours of finishing a workout as this is the time when the muscle cells are most receptive to uptake of protein and storage of carbohydrates in the useful form (glycogen). A protein shake is fine, but its not necessary to have anymore than 30g of protein post-workout. The big sellers that are 60g+ are a waste of money…you’re paying for expensive urine!
Are supplements/protein needed, and if so, which ones should I use?
Supplements are to supplement your diet, not replace it. Ideally you consume most of your macro and micro nutrients through your diet, but there are some supplements I typically recommend no matter what.
Fish oil- great source of omega-3 fatty acids which helps reduce inflammation. Typical blanket recommendation is 3g/day for women and 4g/day for men.
Probiotic- a healthy gut is a happy gut! Find one with over 15 billion CFU, over 10 different strands, and has live cultures (should be located in a refrigerator section or live cultures will die)
Greens powder- because none of us consume enough and it’s a great micronutrient punch that are as close to “from food” as you’ll get for a “vitamin”
Vitamin D3- since over 50% of the US population is deficient. Blanket recommendation is 3000 IU for women and 4000 IU for men.
Protein is not a necessary supplement but it can be helpful when it comes to quick recovery or assisting in hitting your protein goals for the day. You should only consume a whey protein isolate and avoid protein concentrates. The quality of concentrates are terrible and most people have GI distress from them. If you can’t do whey due to a dairy intolerance (different from a lactose intolerance as most isolates are lactose free) then try a beef protein. There are also vegan proteins out there. I like About Time as their ingredients are simple and decent without the fillers.
Carb powders- Highly Branched Cyclic Dextrin is the highest recommended carb powder for post workout. Once again, you could also just have a banana or gatorade after a nice, warm summer class.
To start REAL FOOD options are always the best option! If you can eat all unprocessed food without supplementation than that is prime. The main supplements I suggest are fish oil, protein powder that reacts well to your belly (everyone is different) and Superfood “greens”. Fish oil is very important for joint health and as CrossFitters we want to ensure our joints are ready to go! It has also been shown that supplementing with fish oil, in addition to exercise, can help you lose weight. Not to mention the heart health benefits associated with fish oil. Unless you eat lots of fish, fatty acids are usually deficient in most people. Secondly, protein is an important post workout food. It is not always realistic in terms eating on the go, i.e after a CrossFit workout. See below for more info on supplementing protein post workout. A Superfood “greens” powder supplement when taken on an empty stomach first thing in the morning will do wonders for your gut health… not to mention the micronutrients you will be adding to your diet!
In my opinion, protein is not necessary, but it can help with nutrient timing and muscle repair if you are able to drink it within 2 hours post-workout. Other supplements I suggest are a high quality fish oil as it can help reduce inflammation and provide healthy fats, zinc (up to 40% of Americans are deficient!) especially if you’re a heavy sweater, and magnesium as the NIH has found most Americans do not meet their daily recommended intake with food alone and it can help with muscle function. Vitamin D, especially in the winter months, may also be advantageous as we’re finding out more and more how much Vitamin D can do in the body; improve mood, aid in bone health, support immune function, reduce inflammation, etc.
How do I know if I’m eating enough (or too much)? And then how does all of this differ for men vs women? E.g., if I want to be strong but not build enormous guy muscles, should I have less protein than a guy?
Each person will eat according to their current body state and their goals for what they want their body to be like. Your current body state depends on your weight, your muscle mass, how many calories your body burns at rest (your basal metabolic rate), your hormones, how much you exercise, etc. Each person’s nutrition plan should be individualized! A one-plan fit all will not work because of how many factors go into a persons nutrition plan. Gender is less important as there are plenty of women that have more muscle mass than men and require more protein in their diets. Each plan, calorie-wise and protein-wise, will be dependent on the specific person.
The best way to tell if you are eating enough, or too much, is to try and get back in touch with your internal cues. If you are constantly hungry, feeling tired and lethargic all the time, experiencing hair loss, notice brittle nails, inability to concentrate well, or are constipated constantly, your body may be asking you for more food!
Eating too much can lead to weight gain, bloating, feeling of needing a nap after every meal, a racing heart rate, acid reflux, etc. Try to pay attention to hunger and fullness cues and listen to what your body is telling you. Men typically need more food than women, even a man and woman who are the same height and weight typically have very different needs due to muscle mass, hormones, etc. Aim for no more than 1g of protein per pound of body weight—but as always, as an expert when you’re unsure.
Not much differs from men to women in regards to macro breakdown outside of men just consume more food typically.
You most likely aren’t consuming enough on a regular basis. Most people get into a habit of undereating during the week and over consuming on the weekends. If you really want to figure out what you should be doing, talk to a knowledgeable coach.
Women need just as much protein as men in relation to their goals, weight, and body fat. If lifting heavy as shit weight and eating enough protein turned women into men, we’d have quite a few manly women at 12th state 😉 Women don’t possess enough testosterone to develop man muscles. But trust me, if you lift as heavy as you can and eat enough protein, you will only love how you look months and years down the road!
How workout day diets differ from rest day diets?
As long as you’re consistent in your workouts, rest day diets do not need to vary considerably from workout days. If you are taking multiple days off, I would suggest reducing your carbohydrate intake by 30-50g (if you track your food), or choosing fresh vegetables and fruits rather than starchy foods like potatoes, rice, breads, etc. on rest days.
They don’t have to. This is another fancy new trend that overcomplicates things for fun and does not make sense with how it is being applied. Coaches who use this method typically decrease calories, usually in the form of carbs, on “off days”. Off days are defined by days in which we are not training at all, or doing some active recovery. The thought behind this is that since we are decreasing our energy output, then we should decrease our energy input. In theory this makes sense. But let’s look at how the body works more closely. The body uptakes glucose and stores it as glycogen in the body for up to 18-24 hours post workout! So what does that mean? It means that if you train in the morning, you have the whole day to replenish your glycogen stores. But what if you train at night? That means you have the rest of your night to replenish stores as well as at least half of the following day. But oh wait! Tomorrow is your off day, so instead, you don’t get as many carbs. So what happens? Your body doesn’t get the opportunity to fully stock up on glycogen, decreasing your recovery. And what is the whole purpose of an off day? TO RECOVER!
So if these coaches really wanted to apply this effectively, they would have your “day” start with your pre-workout meal and end 24 hours later, which is way too confusing for most.
Are there certain situations in which may be a useful application? Sure just as there are some clients of mine that actually consume more carbs on their rest days than on their training days.
But for most people, it is unnecessary.
This question is more concerning for athletes that are training for 3+ hours a day, multiple sessions in one day, or 6-7 days per week. Particular to the athlete, some use rest days as “re-feed” days where they eat MORE, some eat less on these days and some eat the same! For a CrossFitter that trains 3-6 days per week, 1 session per day, my advice is to eat the same on rest days or workout days. My main reason is the following: how many calories you burn in a day is made up of many aspects, one of which is doing your WOD. The biggest determining factor for how many calories you burn in a day is your resting metabolic rate. This is how many calories you burn at rest or doing nothing at all, based on how much fat/muscle you have (aka your fitness level!). The more fit you are, the higher your metabolic rate will be. Ever seen how much Michael Phelps eats in a day? His resting rate is HIGH. This goes to show each person will have a different resting rate and therefore a different amount of calories necessary to be eaten each day, regardless of your workout or not.
Thanks for reading and A BIG THANK YOU, to Kylie, Tim and Abby for taking the time to share their knowledge with us all! Knowledge is power and you are now more powerful thanks to these three!
Feel free to reach out to our in-house nutrition coach Tim (Tim@12thstatecrossfit.com) if you are interested more information on our 12th State Nutrition Program.
Next week…. “Workout basics: Volume, Intensity…. What is the make up of a “GOOD” workout?”