Notes on Nutrition

courtesy CrossFit Brisbane

Why worry about Nutrition?

  • Nutrition is the foundation of CrossFit development … why? We need energy to perform, leanness associated with health
  • Exercise makes you strong/fit, Nutrition makes you lean/healthy
  • Everyone initially looses bodyfat if they hit the CrossFit schedule, at some point performance starts to plateau and fat loss stagnates.  Diet is the progression.
  • Carb/Sugar is the enemy
  • We need glucose for fuel but the amount that we can store is limited and the impact of excess glucose is hugely negative -> body fat, poor energy/mood, ill health
  • We are the only animals that will eat excessive sugar
  • We need to avoid hyperinsulinemia -> chronic and acute elevation of insulin as a result of habitual consumption of excess carbohydrate “get fat while you sleep”
  • We see two body composition problems resulting from hyperinsulinemia  … FAT and SKINNY FAT  … both have bad long term health outcomes
  • To avoid health (and weight) problems we need to understand the insulin response and how it affects our bodies
  • Life is not fair, different people/different sensitivity, get over it and do what is right for you
  • Eating high carb results in the daily roller coaster ride -  7am slow start, 10am hunger, 2pm sleepiness, 6pm crankiness, 10pm chocolate
  • “Zero sugar/Zero calories” is a myth if the product produces an insulin response
  • Fat does not make you fat, Carb makes you fat.  Dietary fat does not equal body fat.  Fat affects your metabolism and is necessary for survival.  Fat is hormonally neutral, Carb results in Insulin secretion, Protein in Glucagon secretion (simplistic explanation).  However, bad fat can make you unhealthy.
  • Insulin allows the cells to accept glucose with excess converted to bodyfat, Glucagon allows the cells to release fat.  A balance of hormones is optimal.  See definitions at the end of document
  • Google Taubes eg … Cows starving fat with artificially maintained high insulin
  • Genetics play a role, but you make the choices that allow the gene to be expressed or repressed, eg alcoholism
  • We are one meal away from managing insulin.  Our next meal matters.
  • Treat food like a drug

So what should we do?

  • Eat for performance/energy balance -> health/leaness will follow
  • Eat enough protein for your lean body mass but not more … “feed the muscle not the fat”
  • Eat a balanced meal, meaning 40%C / 30%P / 30%F at each meal to control hormone (insulin) response
  • Eat within 30 mins of waking up, must eat breakfast
  • Eat within 30 mins of going to sleep
  • Eat every 3-4 hours
  • Typically three big meals and 2 snacks (adjust snacks to get balance)
  • Avoid High GI foods - Low GI foods have a limited shelf life and are typically found on the outer perimeter of the supermarket (if you can catch it or grow it you probably are ok to eat it”
  • We have a concept of favourable and unfavourable foods.  Unfavourable have typically negative factors associated, either bad fats (saturated/trans) or are high GI (high insulin response)
  • Eat good Fat
  • Increase water consumption
  • Learn & understand what you are putting into your body.  You are in control of your health.  You are not a victim.  The victims are only ever the people that care for you that have to tolerate your poor health.

The crossfit prescription

“Eat Meat & Veg, Nuts & Seeds, some fruit, little starch, no sugar, Keep intake to levels that will support exercise but not body fat.”

The Zone – understanding the CrossFit Nutrition plan

  • Simply a practical way to achieve hormonal balance
  • 40/30/30 at each meal in correct quantities
  • We use a concept of “blocks” to work out how much food you need to eat
  • One block PRO = 7 grams, CHO (carb) = 9 grams, FAT = 1.5 grams
  • One block of each means a balanced meal (minimal hormonal change) of size “1 block”
  • The block is the amount of that macronutrient (CHO, PRO, FAT) that we derive from the food that we intake.  The amount that we need to intake is higher. Eg, ~ 30grams of tuna eaten = 1 block,  7grams of derived pro
  • It is a bit confusing at the start but you will quickly work it out
  • Once I know what a block looks like for the foods I want to eat it is simple to “build” a healthy meal
  • There is an amount of protein that is right for your body composition (lean muscle mass) and activity level
  • LBM(lbs) * .7 / 7 = number of blocks per day for the typical CrossFitter. Another way … Medium Female = 11 blocks, Medium Male = 17 blocks … start with that!
  • Break it up over the day sensibly

What everyone says …

  • “I eat pretty well”
  • “I think my diet is ok”
  • “I don’t eat much sugar”
  • “What will I eat?”
  • “I will get hungry”

The reality …

  • if you are overweight or skinny fat, your diet sucks
  • You can eat well (ie good food choices) but in the wrong quantities and balance and have poor nutrition
  • Energy levels & body fat are the best indicators of sugar in your diet
  • You need to take time to learn to eat different stuff in different proportions at different times
  • You will have trouble eating all of the food!!

The “No” list
Remove the following things from your diet (this is your NO list):-

  • NO Bread
  • NO Potatoes or Starchy vegetables
  • NO Softdrink (includes anything that is low/no sugar, eg Coke Zero etc, if it comes in a can do not drink it)
  • NO High GI or sports drinks (eg fruit juice, powerade, cordial)
  • NO Alcohol
  • NO Fried Food
  • NO Sugar
  • NO Pasta or noodles
  • NO White rice
  • NO Saturated fat
  • NO Icecream
  • NO rice cakes, crackers or biscuits
  • NO energy drinks

If you choose to eat No list foods, be very careful with quantity and balance with FAT/PRO

What do I eat?

FATS ( a dash)
Good Fats

  • Olive oil
  • Avocado
  • Nuts
  • Fish oil

Unfavorable Fats

  • Fatty red meat
  • Egg yolks
  • Organ meats
  • Processed foods rich in trans fats

CARBS (2/3 a plate, 2 fists)


  • Most vegetables (except corn)
  • Most Fruits (except raisins and bananas)
  • Oatmeal, barley

Unfavorable Carbohydrates

  • Pasta, breads, cereals, bagels and potatoes
  • Bananas and raisins
  • Corn

PROTEIN (1/3 Plate, 1 fist)

  • Skinless Chicken
  • Turkey
  • Fish
  • Very lean cut of meat
  • Egg Whites
  • Low fat Dairy
  • Tofu
  • Soy meat substitutes


  • Equal portions of Fat/Carb/Protein
  • Milk
  • Yogurt (choose unsweetened natural)

Let’s get practical, how to start

  1. Small effective changes … no big bang!
  2. Buy a scale with Oz/Gram, $15 from the supermarket
  3. For one-two weeks record what and how much and when you eat.  Be honest.  Don’t try to adjust.  This is for you, not me
  4. Start eating regularly 5-7 times a day, eg 6am snack, 8am breakfast, 10am snack, 12pm lunch, 3pm snack, 7pm dinner, 9pm snack (crossfitters usually need 1 extra morning snack)
  5. Add fat and protein to every meal
  6. Eyeball method 2/3 carb, 1/3 pro + dash fat
  7. Good fats
  8. Lean protein (cottage cheese, cheese, ham good for breakkie)
  9. Standardise some meals … breakfast, snacks & lunch are low hanging fruit.  You don’t need variety. Change these to quick, balanced and consistent zone meals
  10. Dinner is tricky … attack it last once the rest of your diet is sorted
  11. Map the number of blocks that you should be eating against your daily schedule .. do the math.  Don’t eat more than 5 blocks in one sitting
  12. Spend two weeks weighing and measuring, using the getzoned block chart, and start eating the right amount for your body.  Once you have done this for two weeks you will know how to estimate
  13. Talk to your coach in 2 weeks, we are here to help.  It is a gradual staged process that requires coaching.  After two weeks of experimenting, work out a meal plan with your coach.

Listen to your body and adjust as necessary.  It takes practice to get it right, just like the movements that we teach

  • Feeling shakey/sad/emotional -> not enough carb/blocks, too long between meals
  • Can’t get through the food, change the way you put together your blocks
  • Dropping too much weight, add fat 2x, 3x at each meal

Use the block charts to build a meal (
Eg 4 block lunch
PRO – 90g ham, 30g low fat mozzorella
FAT – ¼ avacado + 2 macadamias
CHO – apple, 1/3 bananna, coffee
Very quick, feel full

Personalise to things you want to eat!  The above meal works for me, but you might hate it.

What is the payback?

  • Lots of energy
  • Better training performance
  • Clearer thinking
  • Lean body
  • Improved health
  • Reduced food bill


  • CrossFit journal 15
  • CrossFit Journal 21
  • Both available for about $5 from CrossFit Store on
  • Bock chart from
  • “Enter the Zone” by Dr Barry Sears

Definitions from Wikipedia …

Insulin is a hormone with intensive effects on both metabolism and several other body systems (eg, vascular compliance). Insulin causes most of the body's cells to take up glucose from the blood (including liver, muscle, and fat tissue cells), storing it as glycogen in the liver and muscle, and stops use of fat as an energy source. When insulin is absent (or low), glucose is not taken up by most body cells and the body begins to use fat as an energy source (ie, transfer of lipids from adipose tissue to the liver for mobilization as an energy source).

Glucagon is an important hormone involved in carbohydrate metabolism. Produced by the pancreas, it is released when the glucose level in the blood is low (hypoglycemia), causing the liver to convert stored glycogen into glucose and release it into the bloodstream. The action of glucagon is thus opposite to that of insulin, which instructs the body's cells to take in glucose from the blood in times of satiation.

NutritionLisa Ray1 Comment