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9 Reasons Pro CrossFitters Have Amazing Abs & You Don’t (And What to Do About It)

 Written by 

Julien Raby

 Last updated on 

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Achieving your CrossFit goals requires more than just dedication to your workouts. Nutrition plays a crucial role in helping you lose body fat, build muscle, and crush your WODs (workouts of the day).

Justin, the WAD Nutritionist from CBG, shares the top nine nutrition lessons he’s learned over the past decade to help you look and feel like the athlete you aspire to be.

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These lessons are designed to integrate seamlessly with your fitness routine, providing a comprehensive approach to reaching your goals without the need for complex macro tracking. Let’s dive into the first essential lesson: the importance of protein.

Protein: The Most Important Macronutrient

Protein is essential for CrossFitters. It’s the primary building block of muscle tissue, which is crucial for recovery and growth. When you work out, especially during strength training and high-intensity Metcons (metabolic conditioning workouts), you create tiny tears in your muscle fibers. Protein helps repair these tears, making your muscles stronger and larger over time.

Why is protein so important?

  • Muscle Repair and Growth: Protein provides the amino acids necessary for muscle repair and hypertrophy.
  • Satiety: Protein helps you feel full longer, reducing unnecessary snacking and aiding in weight management.
  • Performance: Adequate protein intake ensures that your muscles recover quickly, allowing you to maintain high performance in your next workout.

Daily Protein Recommendations:
To maximize muscle recovery and growth, aim for 0.8 to 1 gram of protein per pound of body weight daily. For instance, if you weigh 150 pounds, you should consume between 120 and 150 grams of protein each day.

Simplifying Protein Intake:
Instead of tracking macros, divide your daily protein goal by the number of meals, snacks, and protein shakes you consume. For example, if you need 150 grams of protein and eat five times a day, each meal should contain around 30 grams of protein. A palm-sized portion of lean meat or a protein shake can help you easily meet this target.

Consistency is Key:
Ensure you hit your protein goals every day, including weekends. Consistency in protein intake supports continuous muscle recovery and growth, helping you get stronger and more defined.

By prioritizing protein, you’ll notice significant improvements in your performance and body composition. Up next, we’ll explore the benefits of another crucial supplement: creatine.

Creatine: A Must-Have Supplement

Creatine is one of the most researched and effective supplements available. It has been shown to significantly enhance performance, making it a staple for CrossFit athletes. If you’re aiming to increase strength and power, creatine should be a key component of your nutrition plan.

Why take creatine?

  • Increased Strength and Power: Creatine helps your muscles produce more energy during high-intensity exercise. It is especially beneficial for short bursts of energy, such as heavy lifts and sprints.
  • Enhanced Performance: By increasing the availability of ATP (adenosine triphosphate), creatine allows you to push harder and recover faster, leading to better performance in your WODs.
  • Muscle Recovery: Creatine aids in quicker muscle recovery, reducing soreness and preparing you for your next workout.

Addressing Common Myths:

  • Bloating and Weight Gain: Many people fear bloating or weight gain with creatine, but these side effects are often misunderstood. Creatine increases water content in muscle cells, which is beneficial for muscle growth and recovery.
  • Timing and Consistency: You need to take creatine consistently. While the timing isn’t critical, daily intake is essential for maintaining its levels in your muscles.

How to Use Creatine:

  • Dosage: The recommended dosage is 5 grams of creatine monohydrate per day.
  • Loading Phase: Some protocols suggest a loading phase (20 grams per day for 5-7 days) to saturate muscle stores quickly, but this isn’t necessary for everyone.
  • Maintenance: After the loading phase, a daily dose of 5 grams is sufficient to maintain creatine levels.

Best Practices:
For convenience, mix creatine into your pre-workout or post-workout shake. A product like Creatine JB from Xendurance is highly recommended for its quality and effectiveness.

By incorporating creatine into your routine, you can maximize your strength gains and improve overall workout performance. Next, we’ll discuss the practicality of nutrition without the need for macro tracking.

Sustainable Eating: No Need to Track Macros

Tracking macros can be overwhelming and unsustainable. While counting calories and macros can be scientifically sound, it often turns into a part-time job that many find difficult to maintain long-term. At CBG, we advocate for a more practical approach to understanding and managing your intake without the need for meticulous tracking.

Why Avoid Tracking Macros?

  • Time-Consuming: Weighing every gram of food and logging each meal can be tedious and time-consuming.
  • Inconsistency: It’s hard to stay consistent. One week you might track everything, and the next week you might not. Inconsistency leads to unreliable results.
  • Stressful: The pressure of tracking every bite can lead to stress and anxiety, which is counterproductive to your health and fitness goals.

Alternative Methods:

  • Focus on Protein: As discussed earlier, ensuring adequate protein intake is crucial. Use the simple method of dividing your daily protein goal by the number of meals.
  • Portion Control: Instead of tracking every macro, focus on portion sizes. For instance, a palm-sized portion of protein, a fist-sized portion of carbs, and a thumb-sized portion of fats per meal.
  • Healthy Habits: Develop habits that promote balanced nutrition, such as including vegetables in every meal and choosing whole, unprocessed foods.

Consistency Over Perfection:
The key to sustainable eating is consistency. Find a routine that you can stick to every day, including weekends. Consistency in your eating habits leads to more reliable and lasting results.

Understand Your Intake:
Even without tracking, you can still have a good understanding of your intake. Pay attention to how different foods make you feel and perform. Adjust your portions based on your hunger levels, energy, and workout performance.

By adopting a sustainable approach to eating, you can achieve your fitness goals without the stress and hassle of macro tracking. Up next, we’ll explore why adding more WODs is not the best strategy for fat loss and why you should focus on nutrition instead.

Exercise and Fat Loss: Focus on Nutrition

Adding more WODs is not the key to fat loss. Many people believe that increasing their workout frequency will lead to faster fat loss, but this approach can often backfire. Instead, focusing on nutrition is a more effective and sustainable way to achieve your fat loss goals.

Why Not More WODs?

  • Burnout and Overtraining: Adding more workouts can lead to burnout and overtraining, increasing the risk of injury and fatigue.
  • Diminishing Returns: After a certain point, more exercise does not equate to more calories burned or fat lost. Your body can adapt, making additional workouts less effective.

Focus on Nutrition:

  • Caloric Deficit: Fat loss primarily occurs when you consume fewer calories than you burn. This is best achieved through a balanced diet rather than excessive exercise.
  • Nutrient Density: Eating nutrient-dense foods ensures you get the vitamins and minerals your body needs to function optimally while in a caloric deficit.
  • Proper Fueling: Proper nutrition provides the energy needed to perform well in your workouts, recover effectively, and maintain muscle mass.

Sustainable Fat Loss Strategies:

  • Balanced Meals: Focus on balanced meals that include lean proteins, complex carbohydrates, and healthy fats.
  • Portion Control: Pay attention to portion sizes to avoid overeating. Using visual cues, like the palm, fist, and thumb method, can be helpful.
  • Consistency: Maintain consistent eating habits, even on weekends. Avoid drastic changes in your diet, which can lead to yo-yo dieting.

Practical Tips:

  • Meal Planning: Plan your meals ahead of time to ensure they are balanced and portion-controlled.
  • Mindful Eating: Practice mindful eating by paying attention to your hunger and fullness cues. Avoid eating out of boredom or stress.
  • Hydration: Stay hydrated, as sometimes thirst can be mistaken for hunger.

Focusing on nutrition rather than increasing workout volume will help you achieve more sustainable fat loss and better overall health. Up next, we’ll discuss the importance of accountability and how it can support your fitness journey.

Accountability: Key to Success

Accountability is crucial for achieving your fitness and nutrition goals. Whether you’re aiming to lose fat, build muscle, or enhance your performance, having support can make all the difference. There are two main ways to incorporate accountability into your routine: through supportive friends or by hiring a coach.

Why Accountability Matters:

  • Consistency: Regular check-ins help you stay consistent with your nutrition and workout routines.
  • Motivation: Having someone to share your progress with can keep you motivated and focused on your goals.
  • Guidance: Accountability partners or coaches can provide valuable feedback and help you adjust your plan as needed.

Finding Supportive Friends:

  • Like-Minded Goals: Surround yourself with friends who have similar fitness and nutrition goals. They can provide encouragement and hold you accountable.
  • Workout Buddies: Find a workout buddy who will join you for your WODs and keep you committed to your fitness routine.
  • Social Accountability: Share your goals and progress on social media or with a fitness community. This can add an extra layer of accountability.

Hiring a Coach:

  • Professional Guidance: A coach can offer personalized advice and create a tailored plan to help you reach your goals.
  • Regular Check-Ins: Scheduled check-ins with your coach ensure you stay on track and make necessary adjustments to your plan.
  • Expertise: Coaches have the knowledge and experience to help you overcome challenges and avoid common pitfalls.

When to Hire a Coach:

  • Lack of Progress: If you’ve tried to achieve your goals on your own for 3 to 6 months without seeing results, it might be time to seek professional help.
  • Need for Structure: If you struggle with creating and sticking to a structured plan, a coach can provide the framework you need.
  • Accountability: If you find it hard to stay accountable on your own, a coach can offer the support and accountability necessary for success.

Invest in Yourself:
Hiring a coach or finding supportive friends is an investment in your health and fitness journey. It can make a significant difference in achieving and maintaining your goals.

By incorporating accountability into your routine, you increase your chances of success and stay motivated throughout your fitness journey. Next, we’ll discuss the benefits of cutting fat instead of carbs when aiming for fat loss.

Fat vs. Carbs: Cut Fat for Fat Loss

When aiming for fat loss, cutting dietary fat is more effective than cutting carbohydrates. While many diets suggest reducing carb intake, especially for short-term weight loss, focusing on reducing fat intake can provide better long-term results and maintain your energy levels for high-intensity workouts.

Why Cut Fat Instead of Carbs?

  • Caloric Density: Fat has 9 calories per gram, compared to 4 calories per gram for protein and carbohydrates. Cutting fat can significantly reduce your caloric intake without affecting the volume of food you eat.
  • Energy for Workouts: Carbs are essential for providing the energy needed for CrossFit workouts. They fuel your performance and help maintain intensity and endurance.
  • Satiety and Satisfaction: Carbs, particularly complex carbohydrates, can help you feel full and satisfied, reducing the likelihood of overeating.

How to Cut Fat Effectively:

  • Healthy Fats Only: Prioritize healthy fats like those from avocados, nuts, seeds, and olive oil. These fats are beneficial in moderate amounts but should still be monitored.
  • Lean Proteins: Opt for lean protein sources such as chicken, turkey, fish, and plant-based proteins. Avoid high-fat cuts of meat and processed meats.
  • Low-Fat Cooking Methods: Use grilling, baking, steaming, or sautéing with minimal oil instead of frying. This reduces the overall fat content of your meals.
  • Dairy Choices: Choose low-fat or fat-free dairy options instead of full-fat versions. For example, use skim milk or low-fat yogurt.

Practical Tips:

  • Read Labels: Pay attention to nutrition labels to monitor the fat content in packaged foods. Look for items labeled as low-fat or fat-free.
  • Portion Control: Be mindful of portion sizes, especially with high-fat foods like nuts and oils. Even healthy fats can add up quickly in calories.
  • Cook at Home: Preparing meals at home gives you control over the ingredients and cooking methods, making it easier to reduce fat intake.

Balancing Your Diet:
Ensure that while you’re reducing fat intake, you’re still consuming enough for essential bodily functions. Fat is necessary for hormone production, brain health, and nutrient absorption, so aim for about 15% of your total caloric intake to come from fat.

By cutting fat instead of carbs, you can reduce your calorie intake more efficiently while maintaining the energy and nutrition needed for your workouts. Up next, we’ll discuss the role of hydration and recovery drinks, and how you can save money while staying properly hydrated.

Hydration and Recovery Drinks: Cost-Effective Solutions

Hydration and recovery are crucial for CrossFit performance. While many athletes turn to expensive hydration and recovery drinks, you can achieve the same benefits with more cost-effective and straightforward solutions.

Why Hydration is Important:

  • Performance: Proper hydration ensures that your muscles and joints work efficiently, reducing the risk of cramps and injuries.
  • Recovery: Staying hydrated aids in muscle recovery and reduces soreness after intense workouts.
  • Overall Health: Hydration supports overall bodily functions, including digestion, circulation, and temperature regulation.

Expensive Hydration Drinks:
Many commercial hydration and recovery drinks, such as sports drinks and specialized recovery beverages, are marketed as essential for athletes. However, these products often come with a high price tag and may not contain the optimal ratios of electrolytes needed for effective hydration.

Cost-Effective Alternatives:

  • DIY Electrolyte Drinks: Create your own electrolyte drink by adding a pinch of salt and a squeeze of lemon to your water. This provides sodium and potassium, which are essential for hydration.
  • Post-Workout Shake: Add a pinch of salt to your post-workout protein shake. This simple addition can help replenish lost electrolytes and support recovery.
  • Hydrating Foods: Incorporate hydrating foods like watermelon, cucumber, oranges, and strawberries into your diet. These foods have high water content and provide essential vitamins and minerals.

Practical Tips for Hydration:

  • Daily Water Intake: Aim to drink at least half your body weight in ounces of water each day. For example, if you weigh 150 pounds, aim for 75 ounces of water.
  • Pre- and Post-Workout Hydration: Drink water before, during, and after your workouts to maintain optimal hydration levels.
  • Monitor Your Hydration: Pay attention to the color of your urine. A light yellow color typically indicates good hydration, while dark yellow suggests you need more fluids.

Saving Money:

  • Avoid Gimmicks: Skip the expensive branded hydration and recovery drinks unless you truly enjoy them or want to support the brand.
  • Invest in Quality: Focus on investing in high-quality protein powders and basic supplements like creatine, which provide significant benefits without breaking the bank.

By using cost-effective hydration solutions, you can stay properly hydrated and support your recovery without spending a fortune. Next, we’ll discuss why following named diets like Paleo or Keto might not be the best approach for long-term success.

Named Diets: Avoid the Easy Way Out

Popular diets like Paleo, Keto, and intermittent fasting often promise quick results, but they may not be sustainable long-term. These diets have gained popularity because they offer simple rules to follow, but they can be overly restrictive and difficult to maintain. Instead of relying on named diets, focus on balanced and personalized nutrition plans that support your CrossFit goals.

Why Named Diets Aren’t the Best Approach:

  • Restrictive Nature: Many named diets restrict entire food groups or impose strict eating windows, which can be hard to adhere to over time.
  • Short-Term Results: While these diets might offer quick initial results, they often fail to provide sustainable long-term benefits.
  • Nutritional Deficiencies: Restrictive diets can lead to nutrient deficiencies, affecting your overall health and performance.

The Problem with Restrictive Diets:

  • Paleo Diet: This diet eliminates all grains, legumes, and dairy, which can result in missing out on important nutrients and fiber.
  • Keto Diet: The high-fat, low-carb nature of this diet can be challenging to maintain and may not provide sufficient energy for high-intensity workouts.
  • Intermittent Fasting: Restricting eating to specific windows can lead to overeating during allowed periods and might not provide consistent energy throughout the day.

Balanced Nutrition for CrossFitters:

  • Incorporate All Food Groups: Ensure your diet includes a variety of proteins, carbohydrates, and fats to meet your nutritional needs.
  • Focus on Whole Foods: Choose whole, unprocessed foods that provide essential nutrients and support overall health.
  • Personalization: Tailor your diet to your individual needs, preferences, and goals. What works for one person might not work for another.

Practical Tips for a Sustainable Diet:

  • Listen to Your Body: Pay attention to hunger and fullness cues. Eat when you’re hungry and stop when you’re satisfied.
  • Moderation: Enjoy your favorite foods in moderation. There’s no need to completely eliminate certain foods unless you have specific dietary restrictions or allergies.
  • Flexibility: Allow for flexibility in your diet. Life happens, and it’s important to adapt without feeling guilty or stressed about food choices.

Long-Term Success:
Sustainable, balanced eating habits are key to achieving long-term success in your fitness and health goals. Rather than following fad diets, focus on creating a nutrition plan that you can maintain for life.

By avoiding named diets and embracing a balanced, personalized approach to nutrition, you can achieve lasting results and better support your CrossFit performance. Up next, we’ll discuss how focusing on performance can be the greatest hack for improving body composition.

Performance-Focused Fueling: The Ultimate Body Composition Hack

Focusing on performance rather than appearance is the key to achieving your desired body composition. Elite athletes like Danielle Brandon and Chandler Smith prioritize fueling their bodies to perform at their best. By adopting this mindset, you can improve your CrossFit performance and naturally enhance your body composition as a result.

Why Focus on Performance?

  • Improved Results: When you fuel your body for performance, you ensure that you have the energy and nutrients needed to maximize your workouts.
  • Sustainable Habits: Focusing on performance helps develop sustainable eating habits that support long-term health and fitness.
  • Body Composition: As you train harder and more effectively, your body composition improves naturally. Muscle mass increases, and body fat decreases.

Fueling for Performance:

  • Carbohydrates: Carbs are your body’s primary energy source, especially for high-intensity workouts. Include complex carbs like sweet potatoes, quinoa, and whole grains in your diet.
  • Protein: Adequate protein intake supports muscle repair and growth. Aim for lean sources such as chicken, fish, eggs, and plant-based proteins.
  • Fats: Healthy fats are essential for hormone production and overall health. Incorporate sources like avocados, nuts, seeds, and olive oil.

Practical Tips:

  • Pre-Workout Nutrition: Eat a balanced meal with carbs, protein, and a small amount of fat 2-3 hours before your workout. If you’re short on time, a small snack like a banana with almond butter can provide a quick energy boost.
  • Post-Workout Nutrition: Consume a meal or shake with protein and carbs within 30-60 minutes after your workout to aid recovery and replenish glycogen stores. A protein shake with a banana or a chicken and rice bowl are excellent options.
  • Hydration: Stay hydrated throughout the day. Water is essential for optimal performance and recovery. Consider adding a pinch of salt to your water if you sweat heavily during workouts.

Set Performance Goals:

  • Competition Prep: Sign up for a local CrossFit competition or set personal benchmarks to aim for. Having a performance goal helps you stay motivated and focused on fueling your body appropriately.
  • Training Cycles: Plan your training in cycles, focusing on different aspects such as strength, endurance, and skill development. Tailor your nutrition to support these cycles.

Mindset Shift:
Shift your focus from the scale to what your body can achieve. Celebrate performance milestones such as lifting heavier weights, completing workouts faster, or mastering new skills. This positive reinforcement helps maintain motivation and encourages healthy eating habits.

Long-Term Benefits:
Focusing on performance not only enhances your athletic abilities but also promotes a healthier relationship with food and body image. As you fuel your body for success, you’ll notice improvements in both your fitness and overall well-being.

By prioritizing performance-focused fueling, you can achieve better results in your CrossFit workouts and see significant improvements in your body composition. Embrace this approach and watch as your body transforms to meet the demands of your training.

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About

Julien Raby is the owner of BoxLife. He owns a bachelor in literature and a certificate in marketing from Concordia. He's Crossfit Level 1 certified and has been involved in Crossfit since 2010. In 2023 he finally made it to Crossfit Open Quarterfinals for the first time. LinkedIn Instagram Facebook

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