“Athletes eat and train, they don’t diet and exercise.”
If you train like an athlete, you also have to eat like an athlete. Which means the sole goal of your nutrition plan should be to allow your body to recover, replenish and refuel itself. And a 1000-calorie diet simply won’t do that.
Crossfit started as a fitness trend which, by focusing on the performance rather than the outlook, offered a more effective way of training. That more effective way of training meant that people also needed a more effective way of fuelling their bodies: diets for performance.
What are the most popular diets among crossfitters?
At the beginning the Paleo and the Zone diet were probably the most popular eating regimes among crossfitters. But as the trend developed into a competitive sport, athletes started dropping the no-gluten & no-milk trend and began following a more inclusive diet – the IIFYM. You might better known IIFYM as “If It Fits Your Macros”.
Professional athletes have their macros custom tailored specifically for them and meals delivered right into their (gym) fridge. That way they spent much less time calculating, tracking and analysing.
Putting too much attention to calculating and worrying about how much macros you have just eaten can quickly become too mind-occupying, and stressful. That’s why a majority of crossfitters sooner or later switches to the good, old clean eating. Now what is clean eating? Well, I believe each one of us has its own definition of it, and that’s ok.
What diet to choose?
When it comes to diets for performance, keep in mind that what works for your friend, probably won’t work for you.
Tailoring a diet for CrossFit athletes to fit your (individual) needs is the most important step on the way to improve your nutrition, and consequently your performance. Some of the things you have to consider are:
- Foods you like, foods you don’t like.
- Your past eating habits and the relationship with food.
- Age and gender
- Body type
- Your daily and weekly amount of physical activity (and your current physical preparedness).
- Type of job: sedentary or active? Stressful or relaxing job?
- Your goal
Most recreational crossfitters don’t have to follow CrossFit diets. Smart food choices and balanced approach will work wonders. But in case the topic interests you, let’s have a look at the 4 most popular diets used by crossfit athletes.
Clean eating is nothing else but avoiding the so called junk food. There’s no calculating or measuring, clean eaters solely rely on their intuition. The rules are simple: avoid processed foods with sugar and saturated fats, and try to eat as natural as possible.
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A very common rule in clean eating is 80:20. That means 80% of the food you eat is clean and healthy. The 20% left presents a free choice; eat whatever you crave for.
When it comes to the ratio of protein, carbs and fats, make sure each of your meals has all three included. If you feel weak, add more protein and fats. If you feel washed out and sleepy, add carbs.
How to start this crossfitters diet: focus on adding more meat (or other protein) and non-procced foods to your menu. Then slowly start removing the sugary and fatty snacks until the 80:20 rule develops into a habit.
If it fits your macros
IIFYM is basically a form of clean eating but with a twist; you have to track the amount of macro-nutrients (protein, carbs and fats) you eat.
Most athletes using this method track their energy intake with an app that sums up the macro and calorie value of each meal. By the end of the day, they know exactly how much, and what, they eaten throughout the day, week, month, year…
Current macros on @avatarnutrition I also have 3 higher calorie days per week on squat days. I started this cut 3 weeks ago and have lost 5 lbs so far. Almost dead on the projected 1.7 lb per week target Avatar set. Pretty crazy how well this system works. But it had a pretty good couple of designers. Right @the_fit_dietitian ? 🤓🤓🤓I use calipers to measure bodyfat. If anyone asks me what I use in the comments I will delete your post, block you, fly to where you live, uber to your home, and smack the crap out of you 😘 #teamscience #flexibledieting #avatarnutrition #biolayne
IIFYM doesn’t mean you can eat whatever you want; the method still emphasis good food choices. But it does support to have a little sweet treat each day to keep your mind sane and prevent the overeating most often triggered by restriction.
IIFYM works great if you want to get to know your body better and find out what amount of what fuels your performance best.
How to start this crossfitters diet: you can calculate your macro needs with one of the many web-based calculators or start with a basic rule: 40% of protein, 40% of carbs and 20% of fats. Most people who decide to use this method actually hire a nutritionist who sets the starting macros for them.
The Zone diet
The Zone diet is a well-known eating regime developed more than 30 years ago by Dr. Barry Sears. Sears’ goal was to reduce the diet-induced inflammation.
As the diets above, Zone too focuses on choosing the right, healthy foods, but it’s a little bit more precise. It encourages its followers to pick foods with lower glycaemic index and healthy fats.
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A simple way to start is to divide your plate on 1/3 of protein, 2/3 of carbs and a dash of monounsaturated fats. Another version advocates the ratio of 30:40:30 (protein, carbs and fats). The more complex way of the Zone, often used by crossfitters, promotes the use of “the zone blocks”.
Zone blocks are actually very similar to calculating your macros:
1 block of protein: 7 grams of protein
1 block of carbs: 9 grams of carbohydrates
1 block of fats: 1.5 grams of fats
How to start this crossfitters diet: remove all processed foods from your kitchen and fill it low GI and no-sugar products. Study the Zone blocks, and the ration you’ll need, and get it started.
The Paleo diet
A few years back, the Paleo diet was probably the most popular way of eating among crossfiters. The diet imitates the eating habits of our ancestors and rules out all grains (and gluten), milk products and any kinds of proceeds products. Opposed to other CrossFit diets, Paleo supports eating animal fats with bacon being the most popular choice among its followers.
A lot of competitive crossfitters started with Paleo but later switched to a more relaxed regime with keeping milk products and grains in their menus.
How to start this crossfitters diet: educate yourself and shop for anything but grains, gluten and milk. Some must-have foods include coconut oil, sweet potato, bacon and a great, juicy beefsteak.Diets for performance are used to do just that: improve performance. If the nutrition for CrossFit athletes is making you miserable, you know the current choices might now be the right kind of choices. When choosing a diet, keep in mind you don’t want to miss out on a life because you’re too busy stressing out on what to eat and how much weight you still got to lose.
Picture: The Adonis Project