EDITOR’S NOTE: Welcome to the athlete journal of CrossFit trainer and masters athlete Patrick McCarty. Patrick competed in the 2011 Reebok CrossFit Games in the 45-49 age bracket and has his sights set on the Games again this year. Follow Patrick’s journals here every Wednesday.
Athlete Journal Entry 3: 3/13/2013
After week one of the CrossFit Games Open, I sit in 29th place, out of about 1,600 initial competitors. The top twenty will go to the games. 29th is a manageable number, as many of the initial leaderboard kings will fall, others will rise, and as long as I stay strong and consistent, I hope to climb, over the course of these next four weeks, into the top twenty and clinch a berth to the games.
One thing I have in my favor is that I feel, literally, better than I have ever felt in my life. I am injury free, strong, and the workouts, while always awful, are less awful.
I have discussed my programming and warm up routines in past entries. The third cog in that wheel is nutrition. It plays such a critical role in how I perform.
We hear so much about Paleo eating as CrossFitters, and initially, I adopted a very strict paleo diet. I ate meat, veggies, fruit, fish, eggs, nuts, and that was about it. Aside from convincing myself that Homo erectus drank coffee, I stuck to the plan and found a lot of aesthetic success. I got lean, vascular, found all of the abs I had been trying to uncover for the last thirty years, fit easily into a size 31, and was generally thrilled with how I looked.
The problem: My ability to perform in the gym was mediocre. Metcons tended to ruin me, and I was extremely weak. This was never more evident than in the 2011 CrossFit games when, for the second workout of the weekend, we had four minutes to find a max clean and jerk. I overheard some of the other competitors stating they were going to ‘open with 225lbs.’ What? My PR was, up to that point, 185lbs.
As soon as the Games ended, I began to glean information from some of my friends who were undergoing one-on-one coaching with OPT, which includes nutritional counseling. One thing I found out from the discussions with these fellow competitive athletes was that based on the stress load under which we put our bodies doing competition level CrossFit training, strict paleo doesn’t provide the level of carbohydrates needed to support both pre- and post-workout fueling.
After much research I began to realize that carbs equal energy and protein equals repair. Carbs provide the energy that fuels muscle contractions, and without being a scientist, I arrived at this conclusion: Strict paleo is good for gut health. It is not optimal for performance.
Hence, I began to tinker. I added oats, rice, and more fruit to my daily intake. I began to focus on timing of nutrients, especially immediately pre and post workout.
I began to put on weight – muscle weight. And in general, I lost the extreme cut that I once had, but in its place my ability to perform began to skyrocket. My average clean has increased by over fifty pounds, my back squat and front squat, the same. I have noticed my ability to work has increased as well. I can typically maintain a constant steady pace in workouts, especially when heavy weight is involved. And my recovery is excellent. For me, adding carbs has been a perfect means by which I have been able to gain strength, endurance, and increase performance. My muscles literally have more fuel in the form of glycogen, which is being provided by the carbs.
So what is a typical day’s food intake? This would be a best-case scenario day for me, assuming a 10:00 AM workout:
- Breakfast: Oatmeal with a half banana
- Pre-Workout: Sweet potatoes with a couple of Clif Shot Bloks on the side
- Post Workout: Protein shake and a piece of fruit (banana or apple)
- Lunch: Spinach salad with cubed chicken, almonds, dried cranberries, avocado, and a drizzle of raspberry vinaigrette dressing
- Snack: Almond butter, cup of grapes.
- Dinner: You name it – as long as it’s protein, carb, and fat. One-third pound of hamburger with chopped veggies on top, chicken and mashed potatoes, eggs and bacon, Tilapia and grilled veggies, etc.
- Evening snack: Almond butter and a few cubes of Monterey jack cheese.
- What I don’t eat: Bread, pasta, anything containing refined sugar, cereal, cookies, cake, ice cream, peanut butter, jelly, etc.
Essentially what I try to do is think to myself, before I put it in my mouth, ‘Is this fuel?’ If the answer is yes, I will eat it. If the answer is no, I won’t. This works for me but admittedly, may not work for everyone. Paleo purists will cringe at the grains. My suggestion is that you simply tinker until you find what works best for you.
Next week: The mental game. The hardest variable to control.