Throwdowns are an exciting time for any CrossFit athlete. In preparation for these Throwdowns and the CrossFit Open, how you fuel your body is just as important as how you train. With Throwdowns occurring every week, I’ll take you through a weekly schedule that you can aim to incorporate into your preparation regimen. The five main times during the week we’ll focus on are the day before, the day of, during the competition, right after the competition, and nutrition throughout the rest of the week.
The Day Before:
You’ll want to make sure that the night before, you are getting a good night’s sleep and your stress levels are down so that you can be in the right headspace for the Throwdown. With regards to your food, having healthy, balanced meals the day before will fuel your body so that it can compete at its best. You can use the balanced plate method to guide your meals, which divides your plate into three categories: vegetables and fruit, carbohydrates, and protein. Aim for vegetables and fruit to make up 50% of your plate, and carbohydrates and protein should each take up one-quarter of the plate. Drink lots of water to stay hydrated throughout the day. The easiest way to tell if your adequately hydrated is by the colour of your urine. You’re aiming for a light yellow colour. If it’s darker in colour, then you’re not drinking enough water. If your urine is clear, then you may be drinking too much water and over-hydrating.
The Day Of: Pre-Competition Nutrition
The day is here; it’s time for your weekly Throwdown. Your pre-competition meals and snacks will help ensure that your body is ready to go. A rule you can follow on the day of the competition is the 3-2-1 Rule. This guideline shows you what macronutrients to be eating within 3 hours, 2 hours, and 1 hour before the competition to ensure that you have enough energy for such a high-intensity workout.
3 hours before the competition, have a balanced meal with lots of complex carbohydrates, protein, and fat. You’ll want your plate to have at least 50% carbohydrates, as your brain and muscles use carbohydrates as their number one source of fuel during exercise. Fill the remainder of your plate with fruits and vegetables and high-protein foods like chicken or tofu. You can add a source of fat by topping your salad with salad dressing or cooked vegetables with butter or olive oil. Foods that contain protein and fat will keep you full and provide you with essential nutrients, further ensuring that you are ready for the Throwdown.
If you are eating 2 hours before the competition, removing fat from your meal will provide your body with the energy it needs without feeling weighed down during the Throwdown. Fat takes the longest time for our bodies to digest, and eating a meal with a high-fat content too close to a workout can make us feel sluggish. Aim for your plate to contain at least 50% carbohydrate and fill the remainder of the plate with veggies and protein.
If you find that you are hungry within 1 hour of the competition, removing the protein and eating easy-to-digest carbohydrates will give you the fuel you need. Similar to fat, protein can take a long time for our bodies to digest. As well, food sources with a high-fibre content can make you feel weighed down. Having foods with starches or sugars can provide your muscles with the carbohydrates you need to get through the Throwdown. My favourite high-carb snack options for before a workout include pretzel crisps, Gatorade, squeezable apple sauce packets, or popcorn chips.
Just as important as your food intake is your fluid intake. Drinking water throughout the day will help maintain good hydration, which is important before a high-intensity workout where you will be losing water through sweat. Aim to have at least 1 glass of water with each meal and snack to stay hydrated on competition day.
The Big Moment: During the Throwdown
It’s time to compete! You have prepped your body and given it the proper fuel it needs. Now you need to stay hydrated and maintain your electrolyte levels. When we exercise at such a high intensity, our body sweats out more than just water. We lose electrolytes like sodium, chloride, potassium, magnesium, and calcium. In addition to regulating the fluids in our bodies, electrolytes ensure that our neurons carry messages from our brains to our muscles and help our muscles contract. While we exercise, we must replace the electrolytes we lose from sweat since this is the time we need our neurons and muscles to function at their best.
Drinking a sports drink like Gatorade can help replace both the fluid and electrolytes. Sports drinks are made to provide a balance of water, electrolytes, and carbohydrates so that we can rehydrate, refuel, and replace our losses from sweat. Drinking plain water during a high-intensity competition like a Throwdown can be dangerous because it can further dilute the electrolytes in our blood. This reduction can lead to reduced blood pressure, increased heart rate, and painful muscle cramps. By drinking half a bottle of sports drink, you can refuel, rehydrate, and replace so that you are competing at your best.
After the Storm: Post-Competition Nutrition
You did it! You made it through the Throwdown, and you worked as hard as you could! Now it’s time to start the process of recovery that will carry over into the next Throwdown. Most importantly, you need a source of protein and carbohydrates shortly after the competition is over. When you exercise, the individual fibres in your muscles break down. Protein is necessary to rebuild your muscles after working them so hard during the Throwdown. Our muscles also store carbohydrates to use while we exercise. Having a carbohydrates source replenishes our muscles’ stores to get us ready to go for the next competition. The sooner we have carbohydrates and protein, the better. Having 20-30 grams of protein plus a carbohydrate source within 0-2 hours after exercise will optimize the early recovery stages. Just like before and during the competition, it’s important to rehydrate after the competition to replace fluid losses from sweat, so drink lots of water once the competition is done.
Some of my favourite post-workout meals or snacks include:
- 1 cup of Greek yogurt with some granola and fruit
- Nut butter and jelly sandwich on whole-grain bread with a glass of milk (can be any type, but the greatest amount of protein per cup is in cow’s milk)
- A smoothie with ¾ cup Greek yogurt, 1 tablespoon chia seeds, 2 tablespoons hemp hearts, ½ cup of milk, and 1 cup of your favourite fruits or veggies
- A protein shake and a nut-based granola bar (i.e. Nature Valley)
- Oatmeal with 1/3 cup of salted mixed nuts
Rest and Recovery Throughout the Week
As you recover from your workout and prepare for next week’s Throwdown, try to focus on a few key nutrients. Calcium, vitamin D, and phosphorus work together to strengthen your bones to reduce the risk of injury. Cow’s milk is an excellent source of calcium and vitamin D. Having a diet with a variety of fruits and vegetables will ensure you’re getting the phosphorus you need. If you do not want to drink cow’s milk, look for alternatives fortified with calcium and vitamin D. Additionally, Vitamin C and zinc can help heal tendons. Vitamin C can be found in citrus fruits, strawberries, potatoes, and broccoli. Zinc in foods like meats, whole-grains, nuts and seeds, legumes, and dairy. Omega 3s can help reduce inflammation and can be found in fatty fish like salmon. Having healthy, balanced meals as described before and stay hydrated throughout the week can ensure you’re getting the nutrition you need to recover and be ready for the next competition.