Eating for performance and fat loss. How to eat like an athlete and look like one, too.

Imagine the following scenario: a terrible fire in an office building. Everyone runs out to safety. Who is the last person out? The Bodybuilder.

The beautiful physiques we see gracing the covers of fitness magazines, walking the stage in bodybuilding and bikini competitions, and promoting our favorite supplements are bodies many strive to attain. However, despite these individuals spending copious amounts of time in the gym, their level of fitness is certainly questionable. A leaned out physique requires an extremely strict diet, loads of cardio and towards a photo shoot or show epic carb depletion and dehydration. In the last couple weeks of contest preparation, competitors are eating nothing but tilapia and broccoli and cutting their water intake to ‘peak’ or reach optimum leanness.

So here is the question: “Can you get a great looking body and tackle your demanding crossfit workouts, while still eating healthy and well rounded meals?”. Yes. You definitely can.

Now let’s talk about burning that excess body fat so we can see that hard earned muscle underneath. The cardiovascular training in Crossfit is constantly varied. There are elements of H.I.I.T, Tabata, long distance endurance, and sustained effort cardio. Shocking your body like this will encourage it to drop fat but your diet and rest days will decide how much.

Carb cycling on training and utilizing non training days can keep you burning fat all week long. Carb cycling is the method of changing up the amount of carbohydrates you consume on workout days, days prior to workouts, and rest days. Let’s break it down.

On days with heavy weights and cardio, men should consume 200-300 grams of carbohydrates centered around their workouts. For women, it's 150-200 grams (I currently shoot for 160-180). If you are really looking to drop fat consume your carbs before your workout and after within 3 hours.

A low fat diet may help you lose pounds on the scale but it certainly won’t help you get your strength numbers up or truly alter your body composition. Fat consumption is essential for maintaining and building muscle. On training days, males should aim to consume between 125-150g of fat with females aiming for 75-100g. I tend to default to the higher number for those lifting 4 times a week or more. It sounds high but we’re trying to use body fat for fuel – less carbohydrate macros can guarantee this.

We’ve already touched on how important protein consumption is to building muscle but it’s also your number one weapon against fat. Simply put, eating 1g of protein per pound of body weight is enough to sustain muscle. Eating more than that (1.25-2g/lb) is going to aid in growth. Women notoriously under-eat protein. Making the jump to 1g/lb is success in it’s own right. Consuming whey protein shakes pre and post workout will make this easier to achieve. And ladies: it’s been proven whey protein aids in fat loss!

So what about your rest days? Logic tells us less output should equal less input right? However, simply reducing your calories won’t necessarily translate to a lower body fat percentage. The body primarily uses carbohydrates for fuel. If our overall energy expenditure is less on a rest day, then our carbohydrate consumption should mirror that. You can slightly decrease your calories but increase your fat and protein while reducing those carbs. Here’s a sample rest day:

Subjects: 125lb female/ 190lb male

Carbs: 75-100g /120-150g

Protein: 1.25g per lb of body weight/ 1.25-2g per lb of body weight

Fat: 25-50g MORE fat than normal training days for both.

If you’re really looking to accelerate your fat loss you can plan a low carb day on a training day – although it will suck. Suggestions to combat fatigue would be to drop your weight 20-30%. For athletes looking to make gains in the gym, this should be done sparingly as it will slow your athletic progression.

Lastly WHEN you eat your carbs will greatly improve both your fat loss and your workouts. I also highly recommend you avoid fat completely in your pre-workouts for digestive speed. Let’s look at a typical 3-1 training split and carb loading. Here’s a rough example:

Sunday: REST. Eat fewer carbs but have some in the evening for tomorrow’s session

Monday: Train. Carbs pre and post workout. Some in the evening.

Tuesday: Train. Carbs pre and post workout. Some in the evening.

Wednesday: Train. Carbs pre and post. No carbs in the evening.

Thursday: REST. Eat fewer carbs. Have some in the evening for tomorrow’s session

It’s important to realize carbs aren’t evil. Fats aren’t evil. It’s all about the right balance for the activity you’re doing. Hopefully now you can rock it harder in the gym…..and look a little better naked too.