There was once a CrossFit guy named Jim. Jim started CrossFit 8 months ago and was starting to see great results. He was leaning up, getting stronger, feeling amazing and could finally see some abs.
But then around the 6-month mark Jim's results started to plateau a little. Jim was not about to let all his progress slip away from he so he decided to add more training sessions in.
He added 2-a-day training sessions on Mondays and Thursdays and decided to clean up his diet. He had been hearing about the ketogenic diet from a few of his mates and it sounded promising so he decided to give it a shot by cutting most all his carbs. He would still have a bit of fruit, but got rid of all the potatoes, sweet potato, rice, bread, pasta, oats etc.
While he felt proud of himself for having such a "squeaky clean" diet, the problem was, his performance started to decline. He also started to lose a bit of definition, was a bit more soft looking overall, and seemed to be putting the weight back on that he had initially lost.
***Queue suspenseful cliffhanger music***
Jim had travelled to the dreaded metabolic wasteland...
Metabolic Wasteland is the place where high intensity athletes go when they go too low on carbs (so they feel like crap) but they aren’t going low enough to put them into a consistent ketogenic state where their body can use ketones for fuel (which isn't advisable for high intensity athletes).
This is a confusing state for your body to be in. You’ll feel weak and tired all the time and wonder why you don’t have any speed or power and aren’t able to perform using the anaerobic energy system efficiently.
Rather than having more endurance when it comes to metcons you just feel slower and sluggish.
While I am all for being metabolically flexible and using both fats and carbs for fuel you need to make sure you are using them at the right time.
Carbs are the best fuel source for strength and power. They're anti-catabolic, and they bump up the most potent vasodilator in your body – insulin! Fat is great to power you through your day-to-day life and for endurance exercise, but it can't compete with carbs for performance in the gym.
Many are too afraid of carbs for fear that they will get fat from the insulin fairy, which isn't true for a high intensity exerciser.
Most hard training athletes will need a minimum of 200g men/170g women grams of carbs on training days, and much more on hard training days. And I don’t usually let them drop below 120/80g on non-training days.
I like going a bit higher in fat/lower in carbs on rest days but when you go too low on rest days your body will not have any stored glycogen for your future training session and your performance will suffer.
There’s nothing worse than half-assing a low carb diet as a high-intensity athlete. .
Don’t be like Jim!
Here's what I usually recommend for athletes and CrossFitters:
Weight training day: Minimum of 200/170 carbs to start. (The highest I’ve recommended for an athlete was 400g per day)
Off day or endurance cardio day: Minimum 120/80g carbs to start.
Every two weeks, bump up your carbs on your training days by 50/30 grams and make note of your body composition (side by side photo test works well) and your gym performance. Try to hit that sweet spot of great gym performance and body comp. Once you find it, ride that sweet train for as long as you can.
**Please bear in mind these numbers are averages and would be dependant on a lot of different things. I can only give exact numbers to my online clients after they fill out an extensive questionnaire.
**One thing I wanted to note is that if you train in the early morning you should generally always make the last meal from the day before high carb.
For more info on working with me to get your diet perfect so it can support your training while giving you physique results too click here: Personalised Nutrition Plans for CrossFitters and Athletes
Alternatively if you just have questions or want to ask me something about your diet and training, send me a note at firstname.lastname@example.org
And don't forget to eat yo carbs to fuel your training ;)
Join the other 10,000+ who get my best fitness, diet & mindset tips.