The Importance of Carbs in CrossFit

The Importance of Carbs in CrossFit

Are Carbs the Enemy? Well, the media likes to tell us so. Ask any reputable sports nutritionist, however, and they’ll tell you the opposite – in fact, carbs are a serious athlete’s friend!

Let’s discuss the importance of carbohydrates for high-intensity athletes and ways you can boost your intake of quality carbs.

Are carbs beneficial for CrossFitters?

YES! Carbs are great for overall health and provide necessary energy for accomplishing tough protocols. Carbs are important for a balanced diet, which is necessary for reaching our fullest potential.

Carbs aren’t just important for pre-workout fuel, however. We recently discussed the importance of carbohydrates as a key player in your post-workout nutrition plan in a  Driven blog. It’s safe to say that carbs should be an essential part of a CrossFitter’s holistic nutrition plan.

Is it possible to “overdo it”? How many carbs are ideal?

Carbs are key in keeping the body’s energy levels stable. There is a fine line between “too many”, “too little”, and the “just right” amount of daily carb intake. Consuming excessive carbohydrates without adequate calorie expenditure could potentially result in unintentional weight gain.

On the other hand, consuming an insufficient amount of carbohydrates can hinder performance and recovery, and potentially lead to injury. Athletes involved in high-intensity workouts – such as Crossfit - should only follow a low-carb (restricted) diet under a medical professional’s direction.

So…how many carbs do I need?

It depends on what level of intensity your workout is for the day. Some general guidance for CrossFit athletes is to take in 1.5-2 grams per pound of body weight for a moderate to hard day. Recovery days don’t equal a lack of carbs, either – try to get .75 or so grams per pound of body weight on these days to help promote quick and helpful recovery. 

Timing your carb intake before and after your workout can help improve your performance. Eating a quick digesting carb, such as bananas, prior to a workout can help give you a natural boost of energy. After a workout, finding a source of carbohydrates to replenish what you just burned off is key – try to find around 50-75 grams of carbs to take in after your workout.

How Do I Get Enough Carbs?

While tasty, refined carbs (such as white bread & flour) found in many processed foods are not the carbs we’re looking to max out on. To improve sports performance, aim to eat less processed food and choose whole foods like whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and legumes for carbohydrates. These foods with complex carbs are good for your health and will give you more energy for your workouts.

Supplements may also be a way in which you could help boost carb intake. Sports supplements, such as Driven’s PostWOD, can boost your carb intake post-workout – helping to replenish glycogen stores and achieve target intake numbers without compromising quality. 

The bottom line: Carbs are NOT the enemy!

For serious, competitive CrossFitters like yourself – carbs are NOT the enemy. Including carbs in your diet will give you natural energy during workouts, help prevent hitting a plateau, and help with quality recovery.

Before you begin a new diet, always consider your overall goals. Think about how the diet can either help you reach those goals or potentially hinder your progress.