Nutrient Timing and Supplementation for Maximum Performance
By Jennifer Cwikla, LMSN. Jeni is our first Honorary NASN Licensed Master Sports Nutritionist. She is an avid, accomplished strength athlete and coach. She loves training her online clients and training at CrossFit.
Big Mistake (no carbs)- let’s face it, people come into CrossFit because they either want to push their bodies past their limits as athletes or because they want to lose weight and look a certain way. In either situation, you’re probably not eating enough of the #1 energy source that’s going to solve both of those goals.
Energy Systems the body uses when you’re training
ATP-CP : up to 10 seconds
- 100 meter sprint
- 3 rep max
Anaerobic (aka glycolic): up to 2 min
- Is the breakdown of carbohydrates in the form of sugar (glycogen) into lactic acid and pyruvate to create more ATP
- 400 meter sprint
- 30-40 box jumps
Aerobic: anything over 2 minutes
- Oxygen is used as main energy supply to create more ATP along with carbohydrates, protein and fatty acids using the Krebs cycle (which takes a long time to run through the cycle and produce ATP)
The carbohydrates (sugar) used to create energy in these systems are stored in what I like to call our “gas tanks”. Gas tank A is in our muscles and gas tank B is in our liver. When gas tank A gets low, the body dumps the sugar out of gas tank B into the blood stream which then gets pulled into gas tank A and refills the muscles.
All of these systems are working together to make you perform better but if your gas tanks are empty, you’re making your body rely on the systems that take longer to produce energy and help you burn calories leaving you with minimal strength and muscle gains, if not catabolism and burnout. And that’s obviously not going to help you gain strength. And if you’re losing muscle because your body has to depend on the breakdown of protein to create sugar then you lean body mass goes down while your fat mass goes up. If you can get your nutrient timing down properly, then you’ll be training your body to be a carb burning machine both in workouts and out.
So what’s the Solution?
We gotta fill up those gas tanks and start training the body to get more efficient and faster at using the gas. So how do we do that? We’ll start by planning to have your biggest carb meals at 4 hours before and 1 hour before your workout.
The ladies can hold in upwards of 150-200 grams of carbohydrates between both gas tanks. Men can hold in upwards of 350 grams all depending on their level of conditioning. I am going to give you an example of what I would do for a female and a male that is fairly new to the sport.
Female 140lbs = 63.6kg
63.6kg x 2g carbs/kg = 127g of carbohydrates 4 hours before you hit the gym.
63.6kg x 1g carbs/kg = 63.6g of carbohydrates 1 hour before you hit the gym.
Male 200lbs = 90.9kg
90.9kg x 2g carbs/kg = 181 grams of carbohydrates 4 hours before you hit the gym
90.9kg x 1g carbs/kg = 90.9 grams of carbohydrates 1 hour before you hit the gym
Why do we do it like this? Because #1 it takes at least 90 minutes for your stomach to empty and for everything to get broken down and start entering the blood stream and put into your gas tanks. #2 it takes energy to break down all the food so we have to make sure everything is replenished and topped off at that 1 hour mark before you hit the gym.
Recommended carb sources for the 4 hour before meal: sweet potatoes, yams, white or brown rice, hashbrowns, Ezekiel bread, mashed white potatoes, any type of oats, cream of wheat is a really good source because its super high in carbs, you could even use granola (although I would recommend sources low in sugar to prevent storage in fat).
Recommended carb sources for the 1 hour before white rice, cream of wheat, Carb powders for drinks like Karbolyn, or Carbolic, any RTD’s (ready to drink) preworkout carb drinks, Iso pure makes a carb drink. You don’t need a whole lot of protein in this meal so just a scoop or scoop and a half of protein or 4 ounces of lean meat as fatty meat will slow the digestion of the carbs and the whole point is to get them in and break down fast.
Afraid you’re going to get fat? You can actually burn through all of these carbs in a 90-120 minute workout. That’s why bodybuilders do so much cardio, because they want to burn through all the carbs in their gas tanks but without risking burning off their muscle. So they’ll go for even up to 3 hours of slow steady cardio.
If you were more of a veteran of the sport, I would even consider multiplying your weight in kg by 3 or 4 at max to get your 4 hour meal amount of carbs and keep the 1 hour before at just your weight in kg.
If you workout at 4 am and don’t want to wake up at 12 to eat your carbs 4 hours before, you can have them right before bed. And then just make sure you wake up an hour before your workout and have that 1 hour pre workout meal.
Pre Workout Supplement options: Creatine, BCAA’s, Caffeine
Post workout regiment
I usually won’t go overboard on the post workout carbs unless the client isn’t recovering well as if you haven’t used all of your gas tanks in your workout, then the rest will get used in your recovery stages after your workout and in your sleep.
I recommend a 3:1 Carb to Protein ratio for post workout shakes/meals. For example if I recommend 100 grams of carbs for a male, then the 3:1 ratio would mean about 33 grams of protein. For a woman I’d usually recommend about 50 grams of carbs, and the 3:1 ratio would mean about 16.5 grams of protein. At this critical time period (within 30 minutes of finishing your workout) your body is going to sponge up any nutrients you give it and put it directly in the muscles. Your hormones are not in alignment at this time to be storing anything as fat. Your body will use and burn up those carbs while repairing and building bigger muscle fibers. Make sense? So you want your carb options again, to be those that are low in fiber and quickly digestible. White rice, mashed potatoes, cream of wheat/rice, Karbolyn, Carbolic, post workout recovery RTD’s.
Post workout supplement options:
Glutamine- increases repair
BCAA’s- increases repair and protects muscle mass from being burned off and used as energy
L-Leucine- increases protein synthesis which helps you put on muscle faster
Baking Soda- highly alkaline, will greatly reduce the level of acidity in the blood, reducing inflammation, reducing catabolism, increasing recovery time and lowering cortisol (the belly fat hormone)
And there you have it! Your blueprint for Nutrient timing and supplementation for Maximum performance!
If you have any questions, feel free to reach me thru any of the options below.
Jennie Cwikla, LMSN
Licensed Master Sports Nutritionist
Valkyrie Athletics, Inc.
Text- (858) 997-3323