Lean Enough

Thursday December 7, 2017
Ben Bergeron & Christine Bald

“Eat meat and vegetables, nuts and seeds, some fruit, little starch and no sugar. Keep intake to levels that will support exercise but not body fat.”

These are the opening lines of CrossFit founder Greg Glassman’s prescription for world class fitness.

It is telling that a strategy for world class fitness begins not with fitness, but with nutrition. It’s not a coincidence. Nutrition is the foundation of our sport, the building blocks for everything we do. And while this is not new information, you’d be surprised how many competitive CrossFit athletes either try to out-train a bad diet or just don’t know how much nutrition matters.

If you’re trying to be competitive in the sport of CrossFit, you have to be lean enough. Think about it this way: If you’re carrying around 5, 10 or 15 extra pounds, you are, for all intents and purposes, working out with a weight vest. You’re just not going to be as competitive.

If you’re a male competing in the Open division (ages 18-34), we’re looking to be around 11 percent body fat or lower. We’re looking for females to be around 16 percent or lower. These numbers vary from athlete to athlete, but these are starting points to work with. If you’re not there yet, that should be the primary goal with your nutrition. After that, we can start to add in additional calories (mostly carbohydrate) to fuel even better performance while closely watching body fat levels.

A good place to start is monitoring your caloric intake, to find where we may potentially be overeating, especially on carbohydrates.

  • Use a macro counter. Apps like MyFitnessPal are great ways to both gauge how much you’re currently eating daily and begin scaling back excessive intake. Things that get measured get improved.
  • Drop carbs from your post-workout window. There is a common misnomer that we need lots of carbohydrates after we workout. But until we reach our desired level of body fat, we can leave the carbohydrates out. Once we’re there, we can steadily start to reintroduce them to dial in performance.
  • Opt for high quality, fibrous, colorful vegetables. Instead of carbohydrate-dense rice or oatmeal, fill your plate with varied vegetables, which provide ample micronutrients while keeping you full. You can’t overeat on vegetables, but you can very easily overeat on starchy carbohydrates.
  • Cut out junk food. Cheat days definitely have their place, but if you’re trying to lean out, they’re only going to slow your progress. Cut out cheat days until you’re lean enough.

Once we’re lean enough, we can start tweaking the dials of our nutrition plan to fuel performance. But focusing on finding our competitive body composition first is the best thing we can do improve our fitness.