Nutrition (and Recovery) - The hardest, but biggest, part of the CrossFit Pyramid


If you’ve never seen this, then we apologize! This is the CrossFit pyramid, and it’s part of the recipe we use to try and develop the healthiest and most functional humans that we can. If you’re a member at CFP, then you are already dedicating a lot of time each week to pursuing a healthier version of yourself.

Creating the truly healthiest you, however, requires a lot more effort than ‘just’ your 60 minutes in the gym - and this post is meant to guide you in those other 23 hours! But first, some recovery guidelines that everyone should strive to follow that will do wonders for how you feel, and help aid the process of lifelong health!

4 Basic Rules to a healthier you:

1) Try and get minimum 7 hours of sleep per night, ideally 8

2) Drink more water today than you did yesterday, and follow this rule for every day for the rest of your life

3) Eat a diet centered around whole foods, avoiding processed foods and sugar when possible (see our other blog post by nutritionist Phillipa Matusiak for more information on this piece!)

4) Eat every 3 hours

Doing these 4 things, in addition to your 60m CrossFit class 3-5 times a week, will lay an incredible foundation upon which we can start to apply more complex principles of nutrition. These 4 things will help keep your organs and hormones functioning at levels that will aid your ability to lose weight, lose body fat, or just be healthier!

Some Important Principles:

Nutrition is a very sensitive subject to many, and let me start by saying it is definitely going to vary person to person. In this post we are trying to focus only on the big picture that can be applied to 95%+ of individuals.

First and foremost - avoid fads, crash diets, and anything that looks like a quick fix. Just like how you need to workout consistently, for the rest of your life, to maintain health and wellness; nutrition has to be a looked at the same way. A patient, consistent, daily journey that will lead to lasting changes over time.

Under eating is not a sustainable way to lose weight or drop body fat! Eating an appropriate amount of the right nutrients, at the right times, is the healthiest way to create sustainable change in your body.

We’re about to get specific, how do I approach this…

We’re going to be talking about a lot of information that can be overwhelming in the coming paragraphs. If you are just getting started with nutrition, here is a 3 step process to make this easier to approach!

1) Start with eating whole foods (see our blog on ‘what are whole foods’ for details)

2) Start tracking your macros, and don’t worry about nutrient timing

3) Once you’ve been tracking your macros and eating whole foods for a couple weeks, start to play with timing!

Now, let’s talk macros and nutrient timing…

What is a Macro? And how many should I eat?

A ‘macro’ is short for a macronutrient - which are carbohydrates, fats, and proteins. There are countless calculators available online to help you find a daily macronutrient breakdown that you can follow; again, My Fitness Pal has one of these available. To help make these calculators more accurate, we encourage you to use the InBody scale at CFP, which will give you important data like your Basal Metabolic Rate and Body Fat Percentage - which is great to track over time.

A reasonable starting point for an active individual on an exercise day (someone who does CrossFit classes 3-5 days a week) is 50% carbs, 20% fats, and 30% protein. This means that, of your total daily caloric intake, 50% of those calories should come from carbs, etc. Rest day macros will favor fats more, and a breakdown of 30% C/40% F/30% P would be more appropriate.

As an example, for an athlete who’s training full time like myself, I eat 60% carbs, 25% protein, and 15% fat on training days - more exercise means more carbs! Don’t be scared of carbs as an active human!

How the heck do I know if I’m eating the right macros?

Track your food! My Fitness Pal is the most common food tracking app on the market, and is very user friendly. Other options include Macrostax (which has the added benefit of creating meals for you based on the macros you need at each sitting, so you don’t get bored!)

Should my macros change based on whether I’m exercising or not?

Yes! How you eat on a rest day should be different than how you eat on a day you exercise. See below for why...

How can I find the macros for a certain food?

The best answer is to look at the nutrition label for what you are eating or cooking. Apps like My Fitness Pal have a huge database of foods that you can search, when you these labels are not available.

Should I weigh my food?

To start, absolutely! Eyeballing measurements is a great way to under or over eat, at the beginning. Eventually you will develop an eye for it and you can start to trust yourself more to make realistic judgments on this. I am 4 years in to working with a nutritionist, and I still weigh and measure my food most of the time.

When should I eat certain macros?

Carbs - are fuel for when your body is being active!

Proteins - are fuel for your body to repair tissues!

Fats - are fuel for when your body is resting!

Consume a large percentage of your carbs in the 90 minutes before and 90m after you exercise - roughly 50% of your intake for the day! So if your daily carb intake goal is 250g, then you should be aiming to eat 125g of those in the aforementioned window. If you are a morning workout person, your carb intake will then decrease as the day goes on. If you workout at night, you will eat light carbs in the morning and ramp up your intake as you approach your evening workout!

Consume protein evenly throughout a day. For instance, if your macro goal is 150g of protein for a day, and you eat 5 meals, you should try and eat 30g of protein per meal!

Consume more fats during the time your body is at rest. Your fat intake will be inversely related to your carb intake. If you are a morning workout person, you will eat very little fat in the morning, and increase your intake as the day goes on. If you workout in the evening, you will eat more of your fat in the morning, and decrease your intake as the day goes on.

Wowzers, that’s a lot of information…

Yup. Nutrition is hard, especially at first - but it is SUCH a crucial part of turning you into a healthy human being. We promise that it gets easier over time, so stick with it through those first few weeks of learning!

Follow a 90/10 rule - apply the principles of this blog 90% of the time, and 10% of the time, allow yourself to stress less and eat freely within reason. Create a healthy relationship with food and nutrition that enhances, not restricts, your life. Nutrition only works if you do, and that means holding yourself accountable on a regular basis. Having a food buddy can absolutely help with this part!

If you have specific questions about anything, please feel free to reach out to!

Please note, I am not a nutritionist, and these are guidelines and recommendations based off of working with experts in the field and my personal journey with food. If you would like to talk to an expert, please reach out to me at the email above and we can put you in touch with someone!

Tim Paulson