Here is part 2 of the 3 part series. Sorry for the spotty posting. Weddings, moving the gym and a death in the family have kept us BUSY.
Feeding the Machine 2:
Optimum Performance Time!
There are a lot of acronyms, obscure lingo and odd terminology in CrossFit. KTE, HSPU, pistols, thrusters…burpees, snatch, jerk. Is it porn? An armed militia movement? Nothing so exciting, just constantly varied, functional movements, performed at high intensity. Well, that’s one side of it anyway, the stuff that’s done. The other side involves the people doing it. Not surprisingly some of these folks run with odd names, occasionally even their own acronym. Case in point: Last years’ 1st annual CrossFit Games Champion, James “OPT” Fitzgerald. OPT is short-hand for “Optimum Performance Training” which is exactly what this guy does. Here are his vitals and a few of his benchmark WOD’s:
Age: 34 years old (That’s 25 in Canadian years)
Fran – 2:17
Nancy – 10:37
Diane – 2:32
Helen – 6:59
Elizabeth – 5:14
Murph – 31:50 w/20 lb pack
Heavy Cindy – 24 rds w/ 20 lb pack
Linda – 13:01
Angie – 9:54
DL 1RM – 459
BS 1RM – 359
Max Chin Ups – 51
Tabata something else – 551
FGB – 397
Clean – 245
Snatch – 185
Clean and jerk – 229
Cindy – 32 rds
Mary – 20 1/3 rds
5K Run – 18:15
500 m row – 1:28
I first met OPT at the Feb’08 certification in Santa Cruz. This is the same event James turned a 6:59 Helen! I was cheering so hard I thought I might vomit just watching his exertion on that workout. I also had the good fortune to watch the OPT vs. Freddy “you want that donut” Camacho (YWTD) ring dip/SDLHP workout. Both guys are amazing competitors and tough as hell but it was particularly impressive that James was coming off of 6 weeks of only strength work yet he turned that WOD in 6:15! I was able to talk briefly with James at this event and he asked if we could talk on the phone and make sure his training and nutrition was “optimized”. About a week later I tracked James down and he proceeded to blow me out of the water with the level of sophistication and detail he brings to his training and nutrition. For most people adopting a basic paleo approach (food quality, little to no junk, minimizing grains legumes and dairy) or the Zone (carefully weighing and measuring food for optimum hormonal control) or a combo of this (egad!) is too much work…just too hard to do. I suspect James however had a Paleo/Zone diet mastered before he was out of diapers! He has very detailed records of performance, food, body fat distribution and he uses this information to track his progress and make decisions about his training and nutrition. He also uses the help of alternative healthcare providers such as naturopaths to monitor cortisol/testosterone ratios (a slick way to track potential overtraining ) and even blood work to determine if he is prone to a food allergy (allergens can produce a cortisol response which keeps the body in a constant state of stress, blunting recovery). There is a reason for everything James does and it taps the full complement of techniques and therapeutics I have used and am familiar with. In truth I have never worked with an athlete who was disciplined enough to warrant DOING the additional work James does…like I said, most people struggle with simply keeping the crap out of their diet combined with weighing & measuring. James wanted to make sure he was doing everything he could to optimize recovery and be ready for his next training session. Here is a snapshot of some of his nutrition:
1 1/3 cup oats + 3 tbsp macadamia cashew nut butter, 6 oz chicken sausage
1 apple, 12 macadamias, 2 oz chicken
6 oz salmon, 1 cup apple sauce, 1 orange, 1 apple, 20 cashews
1 pear, 12 cashews, 2 oz ground beef
1 cocochia bar – chocolate
4 oz chicken, 3 cups brussel sprouts, oil dressing
This was a fairly typical day for James and if you notice he includes a few items like oats that some folks with gluten intolerance may or may not do will with. I cannot eat oats, James on the other hand feels good with them and performs well. As I mentioned before his concern was largely optimizing recovery. How does one most effectively repair the muscular damage, replenish glycogen, normalize the stress hormones and quiet the immune response of a hard training session? James, like other top competitors who push the envelope of performance, is acutely aware of mood, sleep and general sense of well being. A constant challenge is replenishing glycogen without overdoing insulin release which can lead to foggy-headedness, lethargy and fat gain. I suggested that James try repartitioning a significant portion of his carb blocks to the post WO meal. Here is what that looked like, how James felt and an idea of why he likes to visit California*:
4:30 Am – 1 cup oats and mac nut butter + 4 bl turk sausage
8:00 am – 1 apple, 1 chic saus, 12 cashews
Noon – WOD – heavy Cindy – pb
Post WOD – 7 bl carbs, 6 bl prot
2 hrs later – 2 bl pr, 8-10 bl fat
Supper – 4 bl prot, 4-6 bl fat, 3 bl C
16 carb, 17 prot feels good
Felt good afternoon, better recovery, sore as shit today, but insulin
management was better, much better in afternoon, will see how recovery
goes this way, find I need that fat/prot after met cons big time
Was going to do some snow angels for that hot cold idea yesterday but
Seeing it was *- 50 deg Celsius*, thought otherwise. That is not a mis-spelling.
James reported gaining 2-3 lbs of muscle just by shifting to increased post WO carbs. James is so wired into his performance he notices the change in output he achieves for various
WOD’s based on his relative body weight. A little heavier and certain WOD’s are easier due to increased horsepower while other WOD’s are tougher due to carrying more mass. That considered he was not sure how the increase in mass would play out overall.
Initially James reported better blood sugar control, however this tended to vary more than he liked so we upped the fat a bit in the PWO meal to slow gastric emptying. This seemed to be the sweet spot which allowed for good recovery AND long term insulin control. James and I share the same birthday and although I can only aspire to performance like his we do share a few of the same issues with regards to training and nutrition. A constant need to balance a digestion that is best wired for fat and protein with the needs of a sport which is heavily glycogen dependant. For some athletes’ insulin management, food allergies and overtraining are not as significant issues as for others. Or those robust folks might be missing out on even better performance with a more scientific, information heavy approach to managing training and eating. I first became aware of concepts like paleo eating, food allergies and gluten intolerance while working through a fairly serious illnesses. Many people relegate issues like these to the old, infirm and those prone to hypochondriosis. This is an unfortunate consequence of ignorance and lack of knowledge in advanced therapeutics and diagnostic measures. Although fitness is rife with gimmicks and voodoo, James is not using these measures as a means of circumventing hard work, quite the contrary, he has built a stunning level of work capacity across broad time and modal domains…and he pays the price in a 3-on, 1-off schedule. So a question might be: “Should I do all that stuff?” Maybe, maybe not. How optimized is YOUR performance?
Gittit Shwartz says
Great stuff! I love case studies, especially with the reasoning explained simply but clearly as you did here.
“allergens can produce a cortisol response which keeps the body in a constant state of stress, blunting recovery” – just gave me an “a-ha!” moment. I’ve been puzzling for a long time on “what’s the deal with food sensitivities?”
Keep ’em coming!
Will do! When are you coming to Chico to hang out and train!?
Wow, a peak into the approach of the legend. Good stuff again Robb.
I like the carb heavy PWO approach. Notice any change in terms of total carbs needed with this approach? I’ve noticed that I can get by on much fewer carbs (50-75% of the day’s allotment) if I load up post workout (up to 8 out of 16 recommended blocks), and still stay strong and improve on metcons. I’m thinking increased insulin sensitivity equals an increased rate of glycogen repletion as opposed to spreading carbs out through the day?
ABSOLUTELY this decreases total carb need. When carbs are tritrated throughout the day we use a greater percentage as fuel. If we partition this PWO and squirrel the sugar away as glycogen we tend to use fat as a primary fuel source. It’s a smart way to go and very effective.
Just like a lot of top crossfitters I am noticing a very low intake of vegetables for the sake of correct ratios of P:C:F. I feel that is very good for short term performance and insulin management but not a good grounding for long term health and performance. Maybe I am wrong, but this is my gut instinct.
It does get tough to shovel down all the veggies necessary to cover ones carb allotments! Shifting a chunk of carbs to post WO can help this as other meals need not be so carb heavy and it’s easier to get a few blocks of veggies down. I’ve found that on average, I get in more veggies this way.
If I always workout at night (end b/t 6pm to 8pm), should I still save the majority of my carbs for post workout?
That’s a common problem. I’d still give it a go. Just keep an eye out for abdominal fat gain. If this happens titrate the PWO carbs down and add those early in the day. Best you can do with a difficult schedule.
Craig A says
Hello Robb, Amazing article and a stark contrast to the images invoked in the Yo-Yo article. One can only imagine the fracked up looks James gets from those in his social (or worse, work) circles that are not on the same page. I imagine his body composition somewhat justifies it though. At 5’9”, 165#s eating 17-19 Blocks, he must have low BF% and look fairly thick. For those of us with physiques that are somewhat hidden by our clothes, we can get away with less of the “bizarre” food behavior. To most I just look like a skinny guy eating rabbit food.
As an 8 mos. Strict Zoner recently converting to a zone/paleo (sweetertaters PWO at supper) plus 15 hour IF on weekdays guy, I am still under the spell of the wizard Sears. So some of his mantra that I assumed was based on solid science has been troubling me of late as I try to adopt a more Wolf-like approach. So I am going a bit crazy here.
In one way, it is all starting to come together: You, Dr. Sears, Cordain, Ori and even the shameless bodybuilding supplement shill Dr. Berardi all have the same solid food choices. With you and Berardi suggesting moving more carbs and high GI carbs to PWO. Ori, you and others in the IF movement suggest an extended fast. You and the wizard Sears (and the golden Glassman) agree with a specific block Rx for food portioning and daily caloric intake. Excellent.
But in another way there are also contradictions among all these seemingly compatible, highly knowledgeable and individually successful gurus. A couple are: Berardi and Sears are in different universes as far as what constitutes a healthy amount of daily calories (as a Zoner I am almost over this one, but Berardi makes a strong argument for metabolic rate being proportional to the amount of food consumed). Ori, you and the IFers are at odds with Sears’ being in “the Zone” by eating from waking till sleeping (as a Zoner I’m having a hard time with this difference, I know you and MOD and others would contend that it is silly to think our BMR could slow after a 15 hour fast, but I am so damn trained to think that my body goes into fat storage mode after not eating for a while, frack!).
My point in all this is that I am super happy to have found your site because you seem to successfully cull all that is good from the protocols I’ve tried and looked into. As a non-super-scientist with serviceable analytical skills I am also unfortunately noticing some contradictions in the protocols that seem to invalidate the approach of the others and making heads or tails of it is difficult. Thankfully your writing has made it a bit easier in some areas but some confusion remains.
Thanks again Robb.
Thank you for the kind words. I think there ARE contradictions a plenty here but that’s because of different goals and situations. Sears has a pretty good bead on life extension and figuring out how to get by on the least number of calories possible. Ori was one of the first people to present a potential therapeutic use of fasting for an athletic oriented person (in recent times anyway, this concept has popped up over the years). Berardi really does like a truck load of food…and his supplements! I know Poliquin absolutely HATES the concept of fasting. He is so concerned with controlling cortisol he just cannot accept the potential of cortisol screwing up metabolism…I think all the points are valid in various situations and for different people. It’s just tough to beat empiricism…give it a shot, see what happens.
Keep me posted on your progress!
Anthony Bainbridge - CrossFit Fredericton says
James is the man!
I am in the military and workout pretty early, I still try to get a 2 block of something light on the stomach before my workout. I notice a recommendation for a lot of these guys to partition carbs to post WOD, is this applicable in my situation with only a 2 block so early in the morning? I am already dropping blocks from carbs and adding to fat during my 5 block meals as per the DIHTEAT archetype from “42 ways to sking the zone”. during my 2 blocks i tend to stick with fruit which isn’t hard for me to chock down, not the case during 5 block meals with veggies. feeding the animal segment is pretty awesome, i always like to see what these guys are doing.
That 2 block meal is fine, no worries.
Sorry to hear about your loss. I must tell you that these are some of my favorite posts as I am eternally curious about how some of these guys eat. One question comes to mind though: I have heard you tell a number of people who train particularly hard on certain days (espescially met-con days) to push some of their carb intake to post work out. Can you explain this a little bit more and give me an idea of what a good meal idea is for post met con work out? Should I be eating less carbs the morning of, and then fill my carb blocks at the end of the day directly after the WOD? What is the thinking here.
Update on my previous post regarding sugar cravings and eating all those greens on the Zone/Paleo diet: They are gone! And it is much easier to get carbs by combioning more carb dense vegetables as you suggested. Thanks! Oh, and my WOD times are dropping drastically now that I am getting my diet dialed-(4 min Fran- 425# dead lift)
Still having a bit of trouble getting my bf% to where I want it though- trying to cut down to 18 or 19 blocks/ day (I am 6’2″ and 193#).
Thanks for all the help- you won’t happen to be at the level 2 in Golden CO in October will you…?
Post workout we have a period of time when glucose gets transported into the cells without insulin. This tends to shift insulin sensitivity in favor of the worked muscles and this is a sneaky way of both accelerating recovery and getting soem glycogen built back in the muscles. This is the why…the how is much as you describe it. Skinny on the carbs for most of the day, much more in the post WO period.
I’ll not be at the Level 2. I miss doing those certs but the nutrition certs are keeping me hoping!
Scott Hanson says
Nice post. It sounds like OPT is a zoner? based on blocks reported in his food journal. Is this a recent change or has he been a long-time zoner? Based on Dave Castro’s post-CF games article in the CFJ last year, I had inferred that he was not Zoning, but ate “organic foods”.
Also, I’m wondering how long you consider the PWO window to last for optimal glycogen replacement.
I think OPT tinkered with the Zone as a way of tightening up the nutrition and easy tracking. If I remember correctly, prior to CrossFit James ate a more cyclic low carb diet. That window is best utilized within 30 min of training. Things are back down to baseline within about an hour soe timing is critical!
This was a great read, that guy is a machine! I have a question about the PWO insulin sensitivity. How long does it last? How soon after the workout should I be downing those carbs? Are the quality of the carbs less important at this time? For example is the new fad of the PWO chocolate milk an acceptable bandwagon to jump on? I’m having a hard time kicking the sweets and breads, but if I were able to eat them to some extent guilt-free PWO I’d be a much happier camper. Thanks!
within 30 min seems to work best but I’m not sure about the lower quality foods. tinker with it and see but I’ve not liked the effects of shakes in the past. that said, I have liked a quart of goats milk PWO…definitely see an improvement in recovery. Play with the choco-milk and let me know how/if you like it!
Love your blog. Quick question, a few more will probably follow:
1) How much fat is james on? It doesn’t look like much…it looks like 17 blocks and 2x fat…that can’t be right, can it?
2) If we don’t have james’s recovery or intensity for CF and operate on a 2on1off schedule with more of a strength emphasis, how does this change? Something like 3 days a week of ME and 2 short metcons (less than 20 minutes) either as day 4 and 5 or tacked on to the end of the ME days. I imagine you would have us consuming less total carbs but still the majority post workout?
2) This rarely comes up since everyone is in the training mindset, but when life interferes and you find yourself going anywhere from 2 weeks to 2 months with minimal training or only 1 day a week, How does one’s diet change in regards to this post? No need for recovery because there is no stimulus. I suppose you would suggest a Paleo/Zone approach with a majority of the carbs from greens, or maybe even 1/2 the carbs up the fat/protien?…If your just trying to maintain your lbm and keep the fat off?
You hit it on all counts. James was only running at 2-3x fat. I thought that might be a little skinny but it appears to be enough for James. Jeff Tincture of Crossfit Fairfax (5th place Games finisher if I recall) is 178lbs and runs on 16 blocks and 3x fat!!! That guy is a fucking monster and that seems a ridiculously small amount of food to run on…but he does great on it. I know there is some thermodynamic efficiency with a paleo/zone approach but it amazes me sometimes.
As to the sedentary question, here is a line from Coach Glassman: “Atkins is the Zone for sedentary people”. So, if activity level winds down, just cut your carbs significantly and you should be set.
Chad Gardner says
Let me first say I love reading your blog and the insight you give on the Zone/Paleo diets! They’re awesome! Keep up the good work! I have a bit of a question that brothers me about counting fat blocks….And I apologize in advance if you’ve answered it before.
I love to grill, that being said, I marinade alot. Typically, it consists of extra virgin olive oil and some lemon juice. When i grill, i assume about a 1 block transfer to what I digest. Is that correct? I always assumed when i grilled nearly all the excess marinade did not get in the meat so i shouldn’t have to count it. I”m assuming when i cook with pan, all the oil i put in is absorbed by the meat and that all the blocks are accounted for there.
One last thing. After a typical 4 block lunch (4 oz chicken breast, apple medium gala, 1/3 banana, 1 plum, 21 almonds) i’m hungry again by hour 2/3. And i typically eat 6 to 7 blocks of fat in nuts. (almost exclusively almonds) I”m assuming that i add more blocks of fat? Or do I add another carb block? Or both? Sears says to add both…but i have my doubts.
The reason i asked these questions is because after reading your posts on James and “dutch” I’ve been really really try to hone in on optimizing whats going on in my body. Any insight you can give would be very very very appreciated! (I know you do alot of this through the good gracious of your heart)
Hmmm…I don’t know how much to count that marinade. I’m an absolute whore when it comes to fat so I’m inclined to not count any and then add fat once things are done. With the hunger, try cutting the banana and swap in some fat blocks for that…should fix that hunger issue immediately!
When James shifted the carb load, did he still eat the same type of carbs? I ask because I’m eating paleo and cannot eat oats, and I want to know what a good carb source for the PWO meal is. I always eat a salad + protein source, but I don’t get much carbs from the salad fixings. Is fruit the best bet, or should I be reaching for something more substantial like a sweet potato?
I like the yam or sweet potato for PWO in general but I’d roll with what is handy. For example, melons and berries and so cheap and plentiful in Chico right now I’m eating a boat-load of that stuff. It’s easy and adds some great variety. You will certainly need something more dense than salad fix’ns to get the most from that meal…but again, this is all dependant upon YOUR goals.
Nick Hanson says
So I have got a question for me. My WO’s tend to be split between morning (3 days a week) and evening (2 days a week). I have always had my highest allotment of carbs PWO when I workout in the morning (somewhere around 4 blocks, mostly apples and frozen blueberries), but this stays the same even if I don’t workout in the morning. In the evening, I tend to do what I can depending on my dinner plans. Question is, should I recalibrate this to a full 8 blocks of carbs in the morning (if its a morning wo) and same with dinner (if its evening)?
BTW let me know when the pics go up! Its all jerks and snatches in the canyon!!
That whack of carbs post WO seems to be so good for recovery I’d be inclined to try to keep it there, even in the evening. I’d just modify accordingly for smaller WOD’s etc. If you start noticing fat gain just emphasize those AM feedings.
I’ll get those photos up this weekend!
if you have a post then please direct me to it, otherwise could you briefly answer what the approximate post WOD window would be? I don’t actually eat until about 1.5 to 2 hours (avg.) after my WOD. Should I still be shovelling in CHO at that point? also, for morning people, I take it that the “breakfast” should be heavy carbo, and then maybe a decent carbo snack, and take it easy the rest of the day (mucho protein and fat, some low carb)?
p.s. your blog rocks
The post WO window seems to be most potent within 1/2 hour of training with diminishing effects at about 60-90 minutes. If you are fasting after training I suspect you will still get some enhanced nutrient partitioning, just not as potent as if you are eating those carbs immediately PWO. If recovery and or muscle mass are your primary concerns I’d eat sooner.
Folks DO tend to tolerate carbs a bit better early in the day but here is an interesting thing:I use carbs early in the day as an appetite STIMULANT. I’m trying to gain some muscle mass and in addition to a post WO carb feeding I’ve been adding in a little more carbs at my early meals. The net result has been more hunger, and thus eating more food.
Thanks for the kind words! I wish i could devote more time to this thing…someday!
I’ve been following your advice for a while with the no liquids around meal time and the chewing my food til its smoothie-ish. I have also been adding a couple blocks of fat every week or so and seeing how my body reacts, and its working pretty well, no extreme steatorhea, which has been pleasant. Is this a good way to go about it? And if not can you suggest anything better? I’m hoping in a month or two ill be up to close to the Athletes Zone and seeing some improvements in mass and size.
I would also like to ask a couple questions about fish oil. Do Dutch, OPT, or any of the other crossfit all stars use it, and what kind of effects would it have, if any at all, on mass gain.
sorry for all the questions, but thanks in advance
This looks perfect, just slowly letting the system get used tot that higher fat level. Have you added digestive enzymes as well? All of the top athletes I know use fish oil…varying amounts but it helps everything from recovery to mass gain. Good stuff indeed.
Thanks for all the great info you share! Can’t wait for the book.
My big question, what about rest days? I can really feel how using the PWO window to get in those carbs seems to really lessen my hunger throughout the day. But what about the rest days?
I tend to stick with protein, veggies and fat on days off. It’s worked well for me, i’d recommend tinkering with that. Let me know how it goes!
Like the rest of the crowd here, I really enjoy your articles and insigt into the world of nutrition and IF.
I pratice IF 3-5 days a week when it fits my schedule and the fasts are usually from 7-8 pm till 1-2 pm the following day. Now, my question is: would it be ok to take my BCAA and L-glutamine supplements before bedtime and when I wake up (as perscribed on the labels), or would that somehow lessen the effect of the fast? I also take them PWO just before my meal.
Any advice is appreciated. Keep up the awesome work!
I’m honestly not sure. I could see the BCAA’s and glutamine preventing any type of catabolism…but it does register as “food” so I’m not sure how it might affect stress adaptation pathways…me sense it that it would be fine but I honestly do not know. I’d try a period of time with both methods and see if you notice any significant difference.
Robb, my friend:
I have an update for you. Weigh 126, 5’6″, I have scaled back from 15B to 12B, now more Paleo then Zone, regularly coming in under 12B carbs everyday, because I can! I am at 2x fat. WOD’s 5d/week, leaving it there for now, have recently ixnayed daily runs PWO-accepting the fact that I am not ‘elite athlete’! I have seen improvements in my wod’s: just finished the filthy fifty at 29:10, and a new PB this am on deadlifts 1-1-1-1-1-1-1 at 205lbs. I also have just gotten bloodwork done, and I’d like your opinion on a few things learned there: cholesterol is 174 (small victory for me because I eat a lot of eggs per you); C-reactive protein is less than .10 which I get as being favorable, but alkaline phosphatase was low @ 32, platelet count was low @ 125. Can you share your thoughts on these numbers? Blood was drawn in am directly PWO, with fasting, of course. I go in for a follow up with doc friday this week, but your thoughts are as greatly valued here, if not more. And remember, Crossfit Ft. Myers is ready for you when you can manage a trip to FL!
all those numbers are great! Another one you want to be “low” is triglycerides. I suspect it is quite low which means you are insulin sensitive, all good stuff. I can’t wait to get out to your neck-o-the-woods! Florida will kick ass! I will have a complete section on my FAQ discussing in detail what all the numbers mean in a typical blood panel AND what you shuld ask for in addition to the standard tests.
Love the blog and am looking forward to meeting you at the Ft. Worth cert. in Oct.
My question is about endurance events. when competing in long events like tri’s, should your fuel during the race still follow zone/paleo guidelines? Drinks and gels are nothing but sugar, do you have any suggestions on fueling strategies?
Thanks for the help!
for events ranging from sprint distance to olympic distance, simply using a dilute cytomax is likely fine. Just enough to keep blood sugar up and support glycogen stores. Longer efforts require some kind of protein and or BCAA to keep circulating amino acid pool adequate…this become ever more important as the race duration extends into the hours (or days). On race day Brian Mckenzie likes cheese cake and pizza for 100 mile runs! I think one needs to keep gastric emptying in mind and simply run with enough carb protein and fat to prevent a drop off in glucose or amino acids and if the event is long enough, keep enough fat in the food to encourage the body to use it as a fuel. In general I’d say strict zone ratios are out the window on game day, but severe insulin spiking can really mess with concentration and alertness. The next feeding the machine looks at Brians food, this will be interesting AND I’m thinking about an article on feeding you pesky endurance athletes!
I love this post! Being able to see what the crossfit superstars eat is awesome.
After a summer of crossfit and zoning I am starting my rowing season. The workouts will be longer and some of them will be harder. How do I modify my typical zone eating to help optimize my performance? I am almost satisfied with my body fat percentage, but I could be a little leaner.
I presently eat a diet very similar to James with little to no carbs at all of my meals and then a huge chuck of carbs and protein in the post WOD. It has been working very well and I feel great, but do I need to make any adjustments entering a more demanding training schedule?
You did not give specifics, but let’s say you have been running on 16 blocks and 5x fat with most of your carbs coming post WO. With an increase in activity like you are describing you would likely bump things up to ~18 blocks at 5x fat. If you notice fat gain it might be a bit too much but a small jump up should do it! Let me know how this goes and good luck on the season.
It’s funny I used to train with James a few years ago out of his basement in his house, he wasn’t training people in crossfit at the time but was tinkering with it himself, but he was always pushing when you got below 10% bf to ramp up the carbs after a workout, which were always heavy duty pretty much if you had a cardio day and it was hill sprints you almost looked forward to it, it was almost a day off. So my question in terms carb loading after working outs, for want of a better description, is there a magical number in terms of body fat? Or is it based on what type of workout you do? Incidentally James was always around 5-6% bf year round at the time.
I’d kill to have James as a coach or training partner. On second thought, I’d likely die if James WERE my coach…but you get what I’m saying!
To answer your question, I’ve found good success for folks to put ~ 50% of their days carbs into the post WO meal IF the session is a very glycogen intensive WO. I’ve tried to quantify this and it just gets messy…the power output calculator Greg Everett made might be of help at some point but in general, if you do a big, burly WOD you should use at least 50% of your carbs (8 blocks for a 16 blocker). That might drop by a good bit if your session is 8×3 DL. In this case you are just not getting in a whole bunch of carbs that day. This si how I;ve tinkered the zone and found it to be VERY useful.
Just wondering if you recommend IF for any of your crossfit athletes that adhere to doing 1 workout a day. Is there any advantage of prescribing the 6 meal a day approach over the fast then feast approach associated with IF.
I just suggest tinkering. Get a solid paleo/zone diet hammered out so you know how much food you need, make the quality solid THEN look at compressed feeding windows and see if you like it…if your performance increases or tanks. People have reported both, I think sleep and basal stress are major players here.
yesterday’s food profile, things change as we do:
1 cup yams, 1 cup apple sauce with cinammon, 5 oz chicken, 30 cashews
2 blocks dried blueberries, 20 cashews, 2 oz chicken
post workout – 2 cups yams, 1/2 cup berries, 5 oz turkey
1 hour later
2-3 bl ostrich jerky, 15 macadamias
1 apple, 20 cashews, 2 oz chicken
6 oz ground bison, tomatoe sauce, roasted veggies (2 cups), 1/2 avocadoe
workout was as many reps of 135# power clean and push jerk in 10 minutes plus 100 double unders and 100 chest to bar chin ups practice after
worked 7-11 am, then 2-5 pm
bwt at 170 now, still 7% BF, power much higher, little heavy feeling though in longer metcons, gotta give some to get some i guess…will see over time
ryan, i did go a while there with only 2 cups veggies per day only at supper, and within that time my life scores (test, cortisol, antioxidants from piss/urine, ASI stress index) and training (PB’s on Angie, Linda, Diane, Murph..)were all best they’ve ever been, so makes one question the whole adage of “a certain # of veggies” per day is needed…interesting…bottom line is that everyone is different
thanks again Robb, my life is better knowing you, cause if my performance is better due to nutrition, everyone around me is happy
Thank you both for the update and the kind words. I suspect I’ve learned far more from you but I’m glad to be a sounding board and offer any help I can. I’ll draw on your expertise as I prep for this years games…the pool has gotten deeper and meaner. I’m worried aobut even making it past he regional qualifiers this year!
Jim Ryan says
I LOVE the site. one of the best out there. We talked about backloading blocks to post workout. I know you prefer real food, sweet potatoes, salmon, etc. but I can’t always do that. Endurox 4:1 is a compromise that I live with given my hectic schedule. My question is, as a triahtlete, or in crossfit, does the nature of the workout , i.e. tabatas, or time trial, verus 5 sets of 3 deadlifts, matter? is the nature and proportion of the 4:1 the same?
The best precision I can offer with this is big WOD’s require at least 50% of the days carb allotment in that PWO meal…possibly more. Smaller WOD’s and strength work require less. You need to gauge relative work output and refuel accordingly. I’ve got mine pretty wired in and it has made a difference in both recovery but also maintaining body-comp while trying to add some muscle, all without carb comma from too much carb, too often. Let me know if this helps…I need to tackle this in the FAQ, it comes up…frequently!
Robb, i’ve seen that lately as well with early carbs..i’ve been grain free for a few weeks now and find suppressed appetite in day, no relation to training/overtraining either, cause those measures are fine…interesting…
There is some data on grains, gluten in particular, messing with insulin signaling. This might be some of what you are seeing. The Kitava studies are interesting in this regard…relatively high carb, yet perfect health and insulin sensitivity. Similar macros in other cultures, but of grain origin, tend to show signs of metabolic syndrome. VERY interesting.
Sorry that I didn’t specific my blocks and fat intake. I am eating about 17-18 blocks of protein a day, somewhere betweeen 5x to 9x fat, and around 12 blocks of carbs 8-10 blocks in the post WOD.
My body fat is dropping drastically and I feel pretty good, but will this low carb intake hurt my endurance on long rows. For example rows that last longer than 30 minutes?
It’s tough to tell if the current carb level will tank longer efforts. If they are both long in duration AND at relative high intensity you may need to bump total blocks up. This is where the multiplier comes in and is specific to athletes at high work-output. Then you will partition most of your carbs post WO, whether that is rowing or crossfit. One way to tackle this is a flow chart:
Is my performance good? If yes, not worries, if no fix it. Is my body comp good…both for easthetic and performance reasons? Same answers.
Let me know if this helps!
Sam Edwards says
I’m currently on zone of about 17-18 blocks and x2-3fat, just recently I have incorporated the paleo into my diet. It seems that ever since I cut the grains and dairy out completely my crossfit performance has gone downhill. I was wondering if its necessary to up my blocks, to make up for this.
If you are taking in the SAME block number this may just be a shift in your metabolism to a lower glycemic load…give things a few days and see if energy levels improve. Keep me posted!
Mike M says
Love the site and all the information. Reading about CrossFit’s top dogs’ nutrition and performance is both inspiring and informative.
A few questions about my own diet/situation:
I need help in getting dialed in. 23M, 5’8″, 161, 10%BF, and having some problems being a AHCCZ. I am training for BUD/S, so in addition to my WOD, I usually incorporate at least 2 hours of specific training for that which is anything from distance running and swimming to a whole lot of pushups, as well as maybe an hour of skills-and-drills type work (fortunately for me, my schedule allows for all this).
Questions: where should my block prescription be? At what point should I ramp up the fat blocks? If I’m looking at having such a high volume of work spread throughout the day, when should I eat my carbs? I eat a lot more fruits than veggies: how bad is this? The fat and carb questions to some degree will be answered by performance stats, which I monitor, but are there any other warning signs I should be looking for? Finally, I am trying to ramp up my daily output even more: will this affect my carb and protein counts, or just fat blocks?
I guess it would be easiest to say that given where I’m at and that I want to move to a WOD + 4-5 hours a day of activity geared towards BUD/S prep, what should my block count be? After reading 42 Ways to Skin the Zone and Issue 2 as well as these blog posts, I would estimate that I’ll end up at 16P15C and XF determined by performance, but you tell me. And how do I effectively get there?
Thank you for all the information, and I would really appreciate any help you could give me.
If you are really running at that volume of work, you need to be closer to 17-18 blocks and 5x fat. You are doing a BOAT LOAD of work. You also DO NOT want to go into BUDS with 4% body fat…you have no where down to go and you will want some insulation when you are rolling around in the waves for hours on end. Give the 18 blocks, 5xfat a shot, partition carbs to post WO and let me know how this treats you.
Nick Hanson says
FYI I shifted 8 blox to pwo and in two weeks have seen significant improvements in body comp and recovery. I have been stronger and have had no carb bonks. Thanks for the help.
Right on Nick! It’s almost like this stuff works!
I’ve always like to workout first thing in the morning, so for me that means straight to the gym on caffeine and no food. What would you recommend, getting up really early like OPT to get in some carbs for my glycogen or should my stores be up enough from the day before? Or would it differ from workout to workout like do the 5k runs and typical WOD’s fasted vs eating before and 1rm Squat day? Let me know what your thoughts are.
I tend to feel great on an empty stomach/first thing in the morning WO but people vary on this. If you have any inkling towards muscle gain I’d take in a small snack, keeping in mind too much food may make things hypo-caloric if you yack the snack back up! Bottom line: Tinker and see what you like.
Ryan Evans says
Util your book is available could you point me in the direction of some resources that will help get me started with and provide good background on the paleo eating lifestyle? Thanks!
Protein Power: Lifeplan
Everything available from http://www.thepaleodiet.com. That should keep you out of trouble for a few months!
I was curious to know what you would recommend for a two a day athlete. In the morning we have squad p.t. devoted to, you guessed it, cardio-endurance and then in the evening after work it’s off to the gym for the w.o.d. With the idea of devoting the mass of the day’s carbs to PWO should I divide my carbs in half and ingest each portion after each workout?
Prior to finding CrossFit and the Zone and the Paleo Diet I’d been following the traditional BB diet PWO and every three hours following with carbs only before noon. On a given day I was taking in between 1600 and 1800 k/cal rationed out at 40-45p, 20-30c(cyclic dependent on the day’s training load), and 25-35f(this too was based on the day’s training).
I really want to try Intermittent Fasting on the weekdays to see how fueling for a few hours in the evening instead of across the whole day impacts PT overall. Do you know any resources related to this question? I’m pretty neurotic with logging what I’m ingesting and what I’m physically doing so I thought this would be a great place to post my questions. Uhm, please help… I’ve been fishing in the dark and now I can see a light somewhere off in the distance.
Yep, divide up those carbs for each training session. That will be critical to avoid over training.
Make the IF super easy: make your last meal around 5pm, make the next one around 9am. then slowly extend that period over a few weeks. If you see retrograde performance, STOP! If you gain fat in the midsection, STOP!
Let me know if this gets things going!
After a week of keeping my eating within a certain window of time I’ve got to say that my performance at morning P.T. has shown a marked improvement. Why the heck is improved performance a result of fasting? I also must say that tinkered with the window and moved back the 5pm suggestion to 4pm so I’d be able to take in PWO nutrition after squad pt. Is it more beneficial to wait until 9 like you recommended to further increase insulin-sensitivity? 6:30 p.t. begins and between 7:30 and 8:00 is when we usually stop… making 9am 90minutes to an hour post workout- any insight? But yeah, otherwise, AIRBORNE!
The enhanced performance comes (I think) from increased adrenal action, the switching on of some stress response genes, and improved insulin sensitivity…this stuff is still all guesswork and it does not work well for all people. Occasionally it is just too much in an already stressfull schedule. Regarding the refeeding: So long as you are recovering adequately it sounds good to go. The improved insulin sensitivity of the post exercise time is a nice thing to take advantage of BUT we do get an enhanced effect from the fasting…it may equal out when it’s all said and done, but if someone had a desire for mass gain for example I’d put that meal immediately post WO.
I definitely don’t have any intentions in mind for any sort of mass gain; my goal is to drop from my current 175 to 160 so I’m definitely going after your advice of 9-5 only. My question to this is that when I break the fast at 9am will I still be incorporating hg i(index)/l(load) at the first meal? Or should I break into the day with vegetables to reserve fruits (i.e. raisins, bananas and apples) for PWO for the afternoon workout session (does this reservation still fall into the mass gain ideal you’ve mentioned?) Best Squad Comp. is coming up and I’m trying to peake.
I’d stick with the carbs post fast…see if it sedates you though.
Robb, excellent post. Thinking about a major shift of carbs to PWO window and am wondering if you can comment on this layout. I’m not a zoner, but do measure and tolerate dairy and grain fine.
Breakfast: 7 egg whites, 1 navel orange, handful of mixed nuts (almonds, pumpkin seeds)
Lunch: 4oz chicken, 3 cups spinach, 1 tbsp EVOO, 1 medium Gala apple
Pre workout: 1 scoop whey in water, 1 cup mixed berries (blueberries, strawberries)
PWO – Shake with: 1 scoop whey, 1 cup whole milk, 1 banana, 1 cup oats
Dinner: 6oz meat (beef, fish, pork, chicken) 3 cups green beans, sprinkle of EVOO.
I understand you have issues with fat gain when incorporating shakes into you diet, but I have not seen similar problems over the years. However, I’ve never attempted to strategically place carbs in the PWO window, instead I ate them every meal. I’m not carb sensitive, but I’m intrigued by your approach to enhance recovery and to promote using fat as fuel throughout the day.
Anything you recommend changing? Thanks a lot Robb.
I’ve not seen too many folks NOT benefit from shifting some carb to PWO…just have to tinker and see how you feel, perform etc. Looks solid and it sounds like you generally have good carb tolerance…bastard!
Let me know how it goes.