The Performance-Enhancing Drug of CrossFit

The Performance-Enhancing Drug of CrossFit
Presented by Spartan Training®

Ask any CrossFit athlete about the benefits of their sport, and I guarantee they will mention this: you get to eat . . . a lot

Check out any CrossFit WOD schedule, and you’ll quickly see why getting in enough food throughout the day is important for performance and recovery. But eating a lot does not mean it’s a free-for-all. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. CrossFit athletes take their nutrition very seriously. 

(Editor's Note: As CrossFit founder Greg Glassman has said, a combination of accuracy and quality in your approach to nutrition is what can elevate you into the "jetstream of elite performance." Weighing and measuring turns nutrition into a performance-enhancing drug. See video.)

Healthy fats, adequate protein, and plants are all essential parts of their day. Added sugar and processed foods take a back seat to the importance of performance and recovery.

CrossFit and Spartan athletes can benefit from understanding the right approaches to their nutrition, because sometimes that is the competitive edge that wins out an event.

Where to start? Drop the confusion. Here are 10 misconceptions to clear up right now. Can it be as simple as cutting out unhealthy foods and eating more vegetables? As much as I wish this were true, it isn’t. Can the average person, and even an athlete for that matter, see results with simple changes to their diet? Absolutely. But we’re not talking about an average person; we’re talking CrossFit athletes. And to be as successful as the Fittest Woman on Earth, Katrin Davidsdottir, you’ll need to do more than eat your veggies.

As a dietitian, I see the look of disappointment on the faces of my clients when I tell them that they should be weighing and tracking their food. The truth is that if you aren’t taking these steps, at least for a couple of weeks as you learn food portions, I guarantee you are doing one of two things: eating too much, or not enough. But if you’re not ready to track your food intake yet, here are some quick and very basic calculations and guidelines to get you started.

Step 1

Calculate your resting energy expenditure (REE). This is the number of calories your body needs to function day to day without accounting for physical activity.


REE = 10 × weight (kg) + 6.25 × height (cm) − 5 × age (years) + 5


REE = 10 × weight (kg) + 6.25 × height (cm) 5 × age (years) 161

Now let’s consider your energy expenditure. This is the amount of energy (in calories) your body expends to support your training.

Step 2

Use your REE from step 1 and multiply it by the activity factor below to estimate your energy needs on training days.

Light (20–30 minutes of training): 1.3   

Moderate (30–60 minutes of training): 1.5   

Heavy (60+ minutes of training): 1.7

For example: REE of 1,500 × 1.5 = 2,250 calories.

This is where the work comes in. You wouldn’t go through a CrossFit WOD without seeing what weight of kettlebell you’re using. And you probably don’t train to increase your run PR without checking the distance of the run or monitoring your heart rate. So if numbers are important for physical training, shouldn’t numbers matter with your nutrition too? The typical CrossFit nutrition plan follows a 40:30:30 rule: 40 percent of your calories should come from carbohydrates, 30 percent from protein, and 30 percent from healthy fats. In order to do this, you guessed it, you’ll have to weigh and track your food for at least a couple of weeks. But with effort comes reward. The precision you take with your nutrition will yield results that will make you wonder why you waited so long.

Still Not Sure Where to Start?

Spartan has created a seven-day meal plan that can serve as a foundation for understanding how to lay out your week and what foods to choose. Use the plan as a base and add in additional healthy fats, proteins, and plant sources to fuel and recover from your workouts. Need help? Check out the Spartan 7 Day Meal Plan or sign up for the food of the week to get weekly meal ideas sent right to your inbox.