Dear Coach: What Should I Eat Before and After CrossFit?

I think I’m eating basically paleo, but I get really confused about what’s best to eat before and after I do CrossFit. I want to build muscle, but lose fat. Help!

Dear Coach,

My name is Laura and I’m 32. I CrossFit three times a week in the evenings, spin two times a week in the morning, and usually do some Pilates on a Sunday.

I am not sure how paleo my diet is, but I have breakfast with eggs, some fruit and a coffee; lunch with meat, vegetables, and sweet potatoes; and then I get into a lot of confusion as to what to eat pre- and post- CrossFit sessions.

So far I have had half my dinner consisting of fish or meat with vegetables an hour before CrossFit and then a straight post workout shake and the other half of my meal on my return back home, after about 45 minutes.My overall appetite has increased so sometimes for dinner, post CrossFit, I have gluten free oats cooked with water as well.

My goal is to get lean, lose fat and body weight, and increase lean muscle, but I find it really hard when comes nutrition time. Can I have some guidance on what to eat to reach my goal ?I currently weigh 64kg and would like to be below 60 with more lean mass than now.


Confused By Food

Dear Confused By Food,

Great question. It can be tricky to know exactly what to eat around your workouts, so let’s get started.

First, for you to lean down to 60kg or below, you’ll need to decrease your overall daily calories. Now, without knowing your body fat percentage, it’s difficult to estimate your daily calorie requirements. However, if you can find that out at your CrossFit gym, great. Then go here to use John Romaniello’s calorie calculator.

In order to drop your calories while maintaining enough energy for CrossFit, we need to look at adjusting what you’re eating around your workouts. It looks like you’re getting carbohydrates during breakfast and lunch as well as post-workout (I’m assuming your post-workout shake contains carbs) and dinner.

One suggestion would be to swap your lunch meal with your pre-workout meal (perhaps minus the veggies). The reason for this is that sweet potatoes can be a great pre-workout nutrient and, when eaten with some form of protein, can make it less important to have a post-workout shake immediately afterwards.

The only consideration is that you may have to give yourself a little more time between that pre-workout meal and the workout itself. But, in doing so you’ll be able to cut out some calories without the risk of short-changing your recovery. This is especially true since you’re eating dinner only 45 minutes after finishing your workout.

Of course, if you really enjoy having a post-workout shake, try reducing the amount of carbs in it and keep the protein. In addition, feel free to have some carbs (e.g. the gluten-free oats that you mentioned) with your protein at dinner. This will do a great job of helping your muscles recover for the next workout.

If you like seeing specific numbers, here are some guidelines (courtesy of Alan Aragon):

Pre-workout (60-120 minutes):

  • Solid meal (i.e. NOT liquid) containing carbs and protein
  • Carbohydrates – 0.44g/kg target body weight
  • Protein – 0.44g/kg target body weight

For example, at your target body weight of 60kg, this would equal:

  • 26-33 grams carbohydrate
  • 26-33 grams protein

Post-workout (within 60 minutes):

  • Solid or liquid meal containing carbs and protein
  • Carbohydrates – 0.44g/kg target body weight
  • Protein – 0.44g/kg target body weight

Note: Including fat in any your meals is optional and at your discretion based on your overall daily calorie goals and personal preference. Some people don’t feel as good when they eat foods containing fat before a workout, but it’s up to you. You’ll still want to include them at some point during the day, but they may be best for breakfast, lunch, or dinner following your workout.

Hopefully that helps. Please feel free to contact us with any other questions!

Coach Peter Curcio

(Click here for articles by Coach Peter)

Photo courtesy of Shutterstock.

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