Fuel Use During Crossfit
Crossfit workouts are intense in nature which means the demand for energy is high, meaning you burn a substantial amount of calories, but where from and how does that affect our nutrition needs? We will answer that question here!
As exercise intensity increases, we see a sift in how we use stored nutrients, fat and carbohydrates primarily, to produce energy. In low intense exercise, such as walking, energy demand is low and the body has lots of time to use fat as a fuel to support exercise. As exercise increases in intensity the demand for energy increases. We use significantly more carbohydrates along with some fat to provide the fuel because carbohydrates are more effective at producing energy and break down more quickly to support the high energy demands during intense exercise.
Timing and type of nutrients
From the description above, you may be able to tell what types of food you would likely be wanting to eat to be able to provide your body with enough of the right nutrients to perform well during your Crossfit workouts. Since carbohydrates are the main fuel source, and especially since our bodies ability to store them is relatively small compared to fat sources, we want to make sure we have adequate and high quality carbohydrates to support our exercise. Especially if you are trying to achieve changes in body composition and have limited carbohydrates for the day, you want to be extra careful to surround your workout with enough carbohydrates to still be able to perform and recover well from your workout.
Depending on the timing of your workout, you want to have a balanced, but carb heavy meal 3-4 hours prior to your workout. This meal can look like the plate model with 1/4 protein 1/4 grains/starches and ½ plate vegetables with a small amount of fat. This timing will allow you to get the fuel you need, however will be enough time for the food to digest. As you move closer to your exercise you can top up your fuel sources with a carbohydrate containing snack with small amounts of protein. This could include fruit, crackers, energy balls (homemade with dates, oats and peanut butter etc.) or toast and jam.
Now that you fuelled and had enough energy to crush your workout, it’s important to replace the carbohydrates you just burned so you can be ready for the next exercise session! If you are exercising every day it is important to get a carbohydrate containing snack with some protein after your workout, preferably within 30-60 minutes. Glycogen re-synthesis, storage of the carbohydrates post workout, occurs quicker within 30 minutes post workout and can help speed up your recovery time. Having a small post workout snack followed by a meal can be a good option if you don’t want to eat a whole meal right after your workout. Some examples you could pack in your back could include: Greek yogurt with fruit and granola, crackers with low fat cheese, peanut butter and jam sandwich, dried fruit and a glass of milk. EXTRA TIP: using dried milk powder can be a great option to carry in your bag for a post workout- just add water and you have a nice glass of milk! That way you don’t have to worry about your milk going bad!