PERFORMANCE NUTRITION FOR THE CROSSFIT ATHLETE

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By Dr. Kevin D. Jardine

Five goals for optimizing recovery for Crossfit:

  • Minimize exercise induced cellular damage, protein breakdown and inflammation
  • Increase protein synthesis and provide the necessary substrate for building stronger, healthier and leaner muscle
  • Replenish depleted fuel reserves through Glycogen replenishment
  • Improve the stress response to intense exercise, control exercise induced damage and strengthen immune function
  • Restore hydration and micronutrition levels to optimal levels.

DIGGING DEEPER INTO THE CROSSFIT TREND

CrossFit has taken the fitness industry by storm with more people joining the CrossFit community every day. This growth hasn’t been without controversy. Injuries are the most notable.

Having been in the fitness and health industry for decades, I can tell you that CrossFit is truly amazing. It helps to transform your body and make it stronger, leaner and more powerful than ever before. Unfortunately, there are risks and those risks increase when you commercialize it for the masses.

ADAPTING TO CROSSFIT

It has been my experience that people often don’t have realistic expectations. They have to build a strong foundation of basic movement and strength ability before pushing themselves to the limit everyday. The number one reason for injuries in CrossFit is that people are not adequately recovering. They do not want to wait for results therefore, they aren’t adapting to the demands they are placing on their bodies.

CrossFit achieves amazing results in improving a person’s fitness because it places unique demands on the body. When you do Crossfit you place a significant physical, mental and metabolic stress to the body. It must adapt to in order to avoid breaking down. That ability to adapt is the key to maximizing your results while minimizing your risk of injury. There is a limit to the capacity to adapt to intense exercise. which is largely influenced by nutritional status. Power, strength, speed, agility, mobility and endurance are all demanded of the CrossFit athlete. This places a huge demand on the adaptive capacity of the body.

PERFORMANCE NUTRITION IS KEY

Most people believe it is what they are doing in the workout that determines how fit they are. When in fact, it’s your ability to adapt to the demands imposed that determines your pace of performance improvement. Nutrition and more specifically, performance nutrition plays a huge role in determining that adaptive capacity. To improve your adaptive capacity and recovery proper nutrition should be practiced consistently.

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A foundation of whole foods forms the basis of human performance and for helping your body recovery from intense exercise. That is what we typically take performance-enhancing supplements for, to help you improve your work and adaptive capacity. Repair and recovery forms a subgroup of performance nutrition. Energy supply and damage control make up the two additional categories in which performance nutrition helps you enhance your workout. But, I want to focus on the repair and recovery portion in this article.

CATABOLIC VS. ANABOLIC

Although most people realize the importance in recovery, they often miss key steps in optimizing the recovery process.

When you do a CrossFit WOD (workout of the day), your body enters a catabolic state. This means energy stores are depleting, protein is being broken down and dehydration can occur. The sooner you turn from catabolic to anabolic state, one of repair and regeneration, after your WOD the better. To do this you need to supply your body with key nutritional ingredients. The three most important would be water, carbohydrates and protein.

WATER, CARBS AND SOME PROTEIN FOR THE CROSSFIT ATHLETE

We all know water is crucial for performance and you need to replace it. You need to increase the consumption of your water to make sure you are not getting chronically dehydrated.

Carbs. Many people fear them and for good reason but it doesn’t mean you should throw them out altogether. Carbs are needed to support good health and are crucial for optimizing your performance and recovery.

Why you need carbs post workout…

Carbs protect against muscle breakdown while replenishing your energy stores. They decrease exercise induced cortisol and other stress hormones that occur as a result of intense training.

Why you need protein post workout…

Protein is the key macronutrient for anabolic pathway regulation. Combined with resistance exercise you have very potent stimulation of protein synthesis, which is needed if you are going to repair and build a stronger, leaner and more resilient body.

Research has shown that when you combine carb and protein after a workout you can significantly enhance your recovery. I use a 1:1 ratio of carb to protein for recovery. Around 20-25g of each is ideal due to how well the body can utilize them. The reason I do this is specifically for the unique demands of CrossFit versus strictly endurance athletes. Understanding the scientific basis of performance nutrition allows for better planning of what to take after training and competition.

RECOVERY FOR ANY ATHLETE

The carbs I recommend are specifically selected to help restore glycogen (the body’s energy store in the muscles) while protecting your long-term health. I don’t recommend simple table sugar or sucralose be used. These could possibly result in long-term negative effects on your health. Use natural ingredients and nothing artificial and for enhanced recovery I also recommend using Astaxanthin and tart cherry. These are two natural ingredients that can help your body withstand the intense physical stress you are subjecting it to. They reduce muscle soreness to get you back in your game.

More specifically…

To get the most out of your recovery plan you should be taking your recovery formula right after training. This is the time in which your body is most receptive to the benefits of taking a recovery drink. I do recommend using a drink for a couple of reasons. Using solid food causes our bodies to engage in a more complex digestive mechanism. This can delay getting the much-needed nutrition into your body where you need it the most. If you are looking for food alternatives, look for protein in the 20-25g levels. You may want to add some additional fruit to add the carbs.

Nutritional recovery is a must for CrossFitters because of the variables of intensity. The exhaustive and intense nature of CrossFit can significantly deplete energy stores and stress the body. Protein alone will not fulfill the much needed recovery. You need the carb and protein combination in order to maximize your results.

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Remember there is a limit to your capacity to endure and adapt to intense training that is specific to you. But, proper performance nutrition can help increase your limits so you can push harder and last longer

About the author…

Dr. Kevin Jardine is the Chief medical Officer for Nucap Medical Inc. As well as being a medical acupuncture practitioner he also specializes in rehabilitation, therapeutic nutrition and supplementation. Besides speaking and writing on these subjects he also is an avid ironman competitor, enjoys trail running and mountain biking.

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