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If you're into CrossFit, then you're no wimp! If you're ready to go to new heights of personal fitness and toughness; if you want to BREAK YOUR PERSONAL-BEST RECORDS; if you want to get the edge on your competition; let us show YOU how!
CrossFit will test your limits of mental toughness and physical discipline. CrossFit is a fitness program that combines a wide variety of functional exercise movements into a workout that is timed and scored. It involves jumping, running, rowing, weightlifting, chinning, sit-ups, and other key fitness-determining exercises. CrossFit is always varied and always changing.
The serious CrossFit athlete requires a nutrition and supplement program tailored to his/her demanding program. Labrada can help you to fully recover from grueling workouts faster and more completely, enabling you to reach PERSONAL BEST RECORDS.
If you're serious about your fitness, take that important first step NOW -- start by reading below!
I'm a former professional bodybuilder, so I wouldn't blame you for thinking that Labrada.com is all about bodybuilding.
It’s not, however.
Naturally, I think the bodybuilding lifestyle is a great way to improve fitness and health...but it's not the only way, of course. The world is in the throes of an obesity crisis, so it's important to look at a wider range of options for my site visitors and customers. As the city of Houston's first Fitness Czar, I'm for any reality-based program that motivates people to become healthier, fitter, leaner and –above all – happier with themselves and their bodies.
That includes one of the "new kids on the block" - CrossFit. CrossFit's short-but-intense workout style is great for individuals seeking maximum results for a minimal investment of time; and its emphasis on "functional fitness" means no stone is left unturned. It is a complete, whole body conditioning program.
In addition to physical conditioning, CrossFit advocates a dietary philosophy that overlaps with my own: we both advocate eating balanced meals consisting of lean protein, healthy fats and natural, unprocessed, low-glycemic index carbohydrates. CrossFit goes further than I do with respect to dietary restriction, however: the ideal CrossFit diet follows “paleo” diet principles, in a precise, “Zone Diet” macronutrient ratio (30% protein, 40% carbohydrate, 30% fat). My own “battle tested” recommendations aren’t as restrictive: “paleos” exclude dairy products, grains and legumes, in addition to processed/junk/convenience products.
We can agree to disagree here. Certainly people can get "lean and mean" on diets that don’t arbitrarily restrict categories of foods that have nourished humans for thousands of years. Nonetheless, if you can follow a paleo diet, it will certainly do you no harm. As the creator of the original Paleo Diet, Dr. Loren Cordain, documented, a diet consisting of lean meat/poultry/fish, vegetables, fruits, nuts and seeds is far more nutritious than a diet based on the traditional USDA "food pyramid.”
As such, my CrossFit nutrition plan is inspired by Dr. Cordain's recommendations for athletes.1 Feel free, however, to combine your CrossFit workout program with the (healthy... and, I think, more enjoyable) diet recommendations found in my book, Lean Body Promise, or my 12-week Lean Body Challenge. Either way, you should be pleased with the results!
This part is pretty simple, really. Food – all food – provides you with energy (calories) and macronutrients. The latter are divided into three basic biochemical categories: protein, fat and carbohydrates.
A calorie (actually a kilocalorie) is a unit of energy. Scientifically speaking, it's the amount of energy needed to raise the temperature of 1 kilogram of water 1°C. Since your body maintains a core temperature of roughly 37°C, 24/7, it’s obvious that you need a certain number of calories just to exist. The number of calories needed to perform basic life functions (like breathing and thinking) is known as your resting energy expenditure (REE).
Activities such as walking, talking, eating and – yes – exercise require additional energy. So, your total daily energy expenditure (TDEE) is your REE, plus the energy used for physical activity and digestion (aka the “thermic effect of food”).
To put it another way…
Your TDEE is the total number of calories you can eat without gaining or losing weight.
Not surprisingly, this is the starting point for any nutrition plan, whether you’re interested in gaining mass & strength, maintaining your weight, or losing body fat. Too many calories – even from healthy foods – will result in fat gains. Too few will flatline your training progress, impair your ability to recover from your workouts, and trigger muscle loss. No matter what your goal is, you never want to go too high above; or drop too far below your TDEE for an extended period of time.
The best way to determine your TDEE is to accurately track your intake and body composition statistics (weight, body fat percentage, girth measurements). It takes time to accumulate enough data to analyze, however. If you don’t have it and don’t know where to start, a standardized equation can provide you with a reasonable estimate.
To lose body fat, deduct 15% - 25% from your TDEE. For optimal athletic performance, construct your diet to meet your TDEE.
For good health and well-being, the majority of your calories should come from quality sources of the three macronutrients: protein, fat and carbohydrates.
You need to consume high-quality, lean protein to build and maintain muscle tissue. Your protein sources should be low in fat, as fat is a highly concentrated source of calories! The “hidden” calories in fatty meats can easily tip the scales in favor of body fat gains.
|Optimal Protein Sources||Sub-Optimal Protein Sources|
|lean beef (flank steak, beef tenderloin, 96% lean ground beef)||deli meats|
|skinless chicken breast||hard cheeses/processed cheese|
|turkey breast||lunch meats/hot dogs|
|fish/shellfish||whole milk/milk drinks/milk substitutes|
|pork tenderloin||fried chicken/fish|
|non-fat cottage cheese||ground beef with >4% fat (by weight)|
|nonfat Greek yogurt (plain)||cuts meat with visible fat/marbling|
|water-packed tuna||buffalo wings, bbq ribs|
Note: don’t be fooled by front-of-package labeling! This may come as a surprise, but more than half of the calories in 15% “lean” ground beef come from fat! This is because the label is based on the percentage of fat by weight. Since fat is a concentrated source of calories, even small amounts of fat can add a lot of unwanted calories.
As you can see from the table, an optimal source of protein is…
Meat, fish, poultry, egg and dairy proteins are not only concentrated sources of protein; they’re also rich in the essential amino acids (EAAs) that our bodies cannot make. One of these, leucine, is especially important for muscle protein synthesis. 2 By contrast, plant foods contain less protein (and leucine!) overall; and may be deficient in one or more EAAs.
Needless to state, “paleo” and “vegetarian” don’t mix. In addition, paleo advocates, such as author/researcher Robb Wolf3, feel that vegetarian/vegan diets are sub-optimal for CrossFit. Not surprisingly, vegetarian/vegan CrossFitters disagree.4
Personally, I find “food fights” tiresome. From my perspective, when people make a dedicated effort to eat a variety of whole, nutritious foods; lean out; and improve their health, strength and athletic performance; it’s all good. Certainly, vegetarians and vegans athletes can thrive, if they follow certain guidelines.
Meat and fish are concentrated sources of protein and essential amino acids, so it’s not hard for omnivores to eat high protein diets. Vegetarians, however, may have a tougher time. Lacto-ovo vegetarians can fill the void left by meat with eggs/whites, lower-fat dairy foods like cottage cheese and Greek yogurt and - of course – high-quality protein supplements like Lean Pro8TM or Lean Body®.
But vegans can also manage, if they choose their foods and supplements wisely. Vegans should focus on plant foods that contain the highest amount of protein, such as lentils, soybeans, split peas and other legumes; peanuts/peanut butter, spinach, oatmeal and whole grains (including products like whole wheat pasta and bread). Certain specialty products (like “Quorn” or "Gardenburgers") and plant-based protein supplements (brown rice, pea, soy and hemp protein powders) can also be used, although whole/minimally processed foods should form the core of a vegan diet.
Vegans/vegetarians may also come up short in certain food elements that omnivores take for granted: vitamin B12, zinc, calcium, creatine, vitamin D (assuming lack of daily sun exposure),5 EPA/DHA6 and carnosine.7 Certain supplements in my line are perfect for vegans, such as my BA-Endurance, EFA Lean Gold, CreaLean, Kre-Alkalyn, BCAA Power and HICA-Max, as they restore the carnosine, EFAs, creatine and certain essential amino acids that may be lacking in a vegan diet.
How much to eat? The official CrossFit recommendation is that 30% of your total calories should come from protein.
As noted above, fat can contribute a lot of extra calories to your diet, so it’s important to keep your fat intake down. Nonetheless, some dietary fat is important for good health and optimal anabolic hormone levels. A little goes a long way, though, since fat contains 9 calories/g vs. 4 calories/g for protein & carbs. Because of this, limit your fat intake to small servings of natural, whole food sources and unrefined/supplemental oils, such as the ones listed below.
|Optimal Fat Sources||Sub-Optimal Fat Sources|
|almonds/walnuts/pistachios/other raw nuts||commercial cooking oils|
|ground flax seed||margarine/butter|
|hemp/sunflower/sesame seeds||commercial salad dressings/mayonnaise|
|avocadoes||whole milk/half & half/cream|
|extra-virgin olive oil||shortening/lard|
|fish oil||ground beef with >4% fat (by weight)|
|EFA Lean Gold||cuts of meat with visible fat/marbling|
Note: be especially wary of foods containing “partially-hydrogenated vegetable oil.” Partially-hydrogenated oils contain harmful trans-fats, which are linked to heart disease and strokes.8
What makes the fat sources on the left better choices than the ones on the right? The ones on the left provide heart-healthy monounsaturated and/or omega-3 essential fatty acids. Foods like nuts, seeds, avocadoes and salmon also supply valuable nutrients in addition to the fat. On the other hand, the fat sources on the right contain excessive amounts of saturated fat, trans-fats and/or pro-inflammatory omega-6 fatty acids.9
If you wish to follow the official CrossFit recommendations, then 30% of your total calories should be from fat.
Carbs are not the enemy, despite what low-carb advocates claim. Complex carb sources like fruit and fibrous/starchy vegetables provide energy, vitamins/minerals, disease-fighting phytochemicals and fiber - which are important for both athletic performance and long-term health.
|Optimal Carb Sources||Sub-Optimal Carb Sources|
|fresh and frozen (unseasoned) vegetables||sauced/buttered frozen vegetables|
|fresh and frozen (unsweetened) fruit||dried fruit/”fruit snacks”/juices/juice drinks|
|sweet potatoes/yams; white potatoes||french fries/potato chips|
|old-fashioned/steel-cut oatmeal*||packaged, ready-to-eat cereals|
|100% whole wheat bread/pasta*||bread/pasta made with “enriched” white flour|
|brown/wild rice, barley, quinoa*||baked beans; canned bean/pea soups|
|commercial crackers and tortilla chips|
|jams/jellies/honey/agave syrup/sugar/maple syrup|
|candy, cookies, snack cakes, breakfast bars|
|sweetened coffee drinks, energy drinks, Gatorade, sodas, “Vitamin Water”|
*Although grains/carbohydrate supplements are not recommended as part of a standard paleo diet, Dr. Cordain suggests that they may be consumed post-workout to help facilitate recovery and glycogen restoration after a hard workout.
It should be easy to see the differences between the optimal and sub-optimal carb sources in the table above. An optimal carb source…
If you wish to follow the official CrossFit recommendations, then 40% of your total calories should be from carbohydrates.
I always recommend that each meal contain a balance of lean protein, carbohydrate and healthy fat; but at the end of the day, there is no “real world” muscle-building or fat loss magic in meeting a precise, 30-40-30 macronutrient ratio for each meal or snack. Indeed, research suggests that adherence to a diet program is more important than the macronutrient composition, when it comes to fat loss success10. This is borne out by my experience: the less complicated a program is, the more likely it is that people will stick with it. Getting hung up over precise numbers is a recipe for trouble.
Personally, I’ve found that most people tackling basic diet/lifestyle changes get great results using the following formula for each main meal:
It really is that simple!
If you like dividing your meals into Zone blocks and feel comfortable with the system, feel free. If not, try the time-and-stress saving formula above!
It goes without saying that you should strive to eat more than 3 meals a day! For most athletes, 5 – 6 meals a day is ideal. Eating frequent, smaller meals helps trainees feel more energetic, rather than stuffed and sluggish. This system helps prevent overeating, keeps insulin (a fat-storing hormone) levels lower11, and provides a steady supply of protein to your body throughout the day.
Note: you don’t have to be a slave to the kitchen to manage 5 – 6 daily meals! While eating frequent, protein-packed meals is important, you can rely on specially-formulated products – like my Lean Body® meal replacement shakes or bars – to fill in the blanks.
Use the spreadsheet below to calculate your (starting) calorie and macronutrient needs:
Here’s a simple meal plan for a 160 pound CrossFit athlete consuming a maintenance diet of approx. 2660 calories (30% or 200g protein; 40% or 266g carbohydrate; and 30% or 89g fat).
|Meal||Protein (g)||Carbs (g)||Fat (g)||Calories|
|Breakfast: Veggie omelet (2 eggs + 2/3 c. egg whites, mixed veggies + olive oil for sauteing), ¾ c. unsweetened blueberries, 1 tsp. fish oil||32||27||20||416|
|Mid-morning: 2 oz. (1/4 c.) lemon-pepper tuna; 1 oz. almonds; large tangerine||21||22||15||307|
|Lunch: 4 oz. grilled chicken breast, ½ sliced avocado, 3 c. shredded romaine lettuce, 1 c. broccoli florets, 4 oz. shredded carrot; drizzle of olive oil vinaigrette||40||27||27||511|
|Mid-afternoon: 1 serving Lean Body® Whole Foods, 2 kiwi fruit||37||37||7||439|
|Pre-Workout: 2 scoops of Power Carb, 2 scoops BCAA Power||0||50||0||200|
|Post-Workout: 1 serving Lean Body® Whole Foods, 1 large banana||36||53||6||410|
|Dinner: 4 oz. grilled orange roughy, 1 c. steamed green beans, spinach salad w/1T olive oil-vinaigrette dressing; 1c. fresh pineapple chunks, 1 tsp. fish oil||36||31||14.5||399|
Note: pre- and post-workout supplements have been added to the above plan. Although they’re not formal meals or snacks, they still count toward your total calories and macronutrient targets. You will not need these supplements on days when you’re not training, so the calories/macronutrients should be divided amongst your regular meals/snacks.
As you can see, each meal features a solid amount of lean protein, a source of healthy fat, some starchy carbs and LOTS of veggies/fruits. This is one area where I strongly agree with paleo diet advocates: leafy green/fibrous veggies and fruits are vitally important for your health and well-being.
Keep a journal. If you're serious about your training, you already keep records of your exercises, sets, reps and loads. If you're serious about your nutrition, you'll do the same for your meals. There are a number of online programs and mobile apps you can use to make this simple, although even pencil-and-paper will do. If you need to tweak your program (and most people do, at some point), your journal will provide you with valuable insights on how to do it.
Measure your food. The “normal” portions we’re used to eating and drinking have expanded over the years... and Americans have been expanding right along with them! "Portion distortion" is one reason why people add excess body fat: they're eating many more calories than they think they are! Take almond butter for an example: a "serving" is two LEVEL tablespoons. Most Americans use heaping spoonsful, which are equivalent to 2 - 3 servings. Even small underestimates, over the course of day can add up to a lot of extra calories.
Keep tabs on your body composition – don't rely solely on the scale. Since you’re trying to keep your body fat under control, you need a method for assessing changes to your fat and lean mass. The simplest and best method is to pick up an inexpensive caliper, Accu-Measure™.
Plan ahead! Shakes and bars can be lifesavers, but you still need to eat real food! To make this easier, you should prepare certain staples in advance. It's easy, for example, to put together a quick, healthy stir fry, if you have pre-chopped veggies and grilled chicken breasts already stored in the fridge or freezer.
Pack a cooler. There are a lot of simple to prepare-and-eat foods you can take with you to work: sliced pre-cooked meat or poultry, raw veggies/grape tomatoes, hard-boiled eggs, fresh fruit and foil tuna packets are some examples. If you have access to a microwave, you can also bring leftover chili, stew or other entrees from home.
Don’t forget to pack some nutrient-packed snack foods too! Raw (or lightly toasted) nuts/seeds, jerky and Lean Body® Bars need no refrigeration and fit easily into a pocket or backpack: perfect for munching on-the-go.
Stay well-hydrated. According to the US Institute of Medicine, an adequate intake for men is 3 liters of total fluids/day; 2.2 liters for women. Athletes need more than this, however. Make sure you drink extra water before, during and immediately after training. While you don’t need to flood yourself with fluid, you should drink ahead of your thirst.
Limit your alcohol intake. At 7 calories per gram, alcohol contributes more empty calories than pure sugar! You should be consuming (mostly) quality calories, whether you’re trying to gain, maintain or drop weight!
Although supplements are a controversial topic in the CrossFit community, I think it’s unwise to dogmatically rule them out. While you don’t need a lot of different products, a few, carefully chosen ones can make a big difference to your health and performance.
A good meal replacement product (MRP). A well-made MRP can be used as a between-meal snack or as a quick meal-on-the-run. Not everyone has time to put together 5 – 6 complete meals, so an MRP can be a real life saver.
What makes a good MRP? A lot of commercial products consist of little more than whey protein and maltodextrin. These quickly-digested ingredients have little staying power. The best products, like my Lean Body® formulas, utilize a blend of proteins to provide a steady supply of essential amino acids; as well as supply fiber, healthy fats, vitamins and minerals.
Pre-workout carbs. A supplement like Power Carb is high-octane fuel for your muscles. Taken before, during and/or after your workout, Power Carb provides you with the energy you need to push through a strenuous workout.
Branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs). These essential amino acids help prevent muscle breakdown and fatigue, promote muscle protein synthesis, provide fuel, speed recovery, and promote anabolic hormone production. The BCAA’s provided in BCAA Power drink mix are Ajipure™ brand pharmaceutical grade—the finest and purest in the world.
A solid anti-catabolic. A lot of trainees focus on muscle protein synthesis (MPS); but when it comes to building muscle, MPS is only half of the story. The other half is reducing muscle protein breakdown! High-quality protein provides the building blocks for new muscle fibers, while a clinically-validated supplement like HICA-Max keeps catabolism at bay.12
Creatine Monohydrate. Creatine monohydrate is the best-studied, most-effective and safest muscle-building supplement on the market. No strength/power athlete should be without it. A pharmaceutical-grade supplement like CreaLeanTM is the perfect source, to help you build mass, increase muscle torque production and sustain higher levels of intensity throughout your workout.
Optional extras... Humanogrowth naturally supports healthy testosterone levels, which can take a hit from stressful training or reduced calories. Likewise, a beta-alanine supplement like BA-Endurance can mitigate muscular fatigue so you can power through more reps.13 Lastly, if you’d like to boost the protein content of a meal or snack, give my ProV60® multi-purpose protein blend or Lean Pro8TM super-premium protein a try. Both are high-quality protein blends that were designed to meet the needs of elite athletes… and they taste amazing, too!
You can get it right here! If you hit a stumbling block, have questions or want to share your progress, contact us. We want to hear from you!
Cordain, Loren and Friel, Joe. The Paleo Diet for Athletes. Holtzbrinck Publishers. 2005. EPUB file.
RobbWolf.com. “What About Vegetarians?” 4 Feb. 2009. 19 Dec. 2011. [Site]
OliviaDeSantis.com “Vegans of the World, UNITE and Take Over!” 20 Dec. 2011. [Site]
Harris RC, Jones G, Hill CA, et al. The carnosine content of V Lateralis in vegetarians and omnivores. FASEB. 2007;21:769.20. [Meeting Abstract]
Heart.org. “Trans Fats.” American Heart Association, 29 Oct. 2010. 3 Nov. 2011 [Site]
umm.edu. “Omega-6 Fatty Acids.” University of Maryland Medical Center: Complementary Medicine, 17 Jun. 2011. 5 Nov. 2011 [Site]
Hoffman JR, Ratamess NA, Faigenbaum AD, et al. Short-duration beta-alanine supplementation increases training volume and reduces subjective feelings of fatigue in college football players. Nutr Res. 2008 Jan;28(1):31-5. [PubMed] [Abstract]