Introduction - Food as Fuel
CF Hierarchy of Development

Nutritional science is a complex field, and there are countless (and often contradictory) views and expert opinions on what constitutes an ideal or healthy diet. However, the purpose of many of these "diets" -- to lose weight -- is both misguided and insular in scope. The CrossFit approach to nutrition is to view food as fuel for athletic performance. Properly address nutrition in your pursuit of overall fitness and the rest will fall in line.  

As the figure to the right depicts, nutrition provides the basis for fitness and health in the CrossFit MethodFitness happens at the cellular and hormonal level, and the way that you fuel your body greatly affects the way it performs. Deficiencies at this foundational level will limit your capacity and growth at other levels of the pyramid. Or, in other words, "you can't out-PT a crappy diet."  

So if - like a lot of folks at the gym - you exercise to mitigate the effects of your diet, you've got to reassess your priorities. The idea is to adopt a diet that makes exercise enjoyable and supports your fitness goals. There are no magic answers...refining the role of nutrition in your lifestyle requires some dedication and experimentation with your body. However, there are some general principles to follow that will get you started in the right direction.  Read on!

The Basics

What Should I Eat?
In plain language, base your diet on garden vegetables (especially greens), lean meats, nuts and seeds, little starch, and no sugar. Keep intake to levels that will support exercise but not body fat.

That's about as simple as it can get. Another rule to live by: "eat real food."  If it's got a food label on it, it's probably not real food. You shouldn't need a list of hard-to pronounce ingredients to identify what you're ingesting. Many have observed that keeping your grocery cart to the perimeter of the grocery store while avoiding the interior aisles is a great way to protect your health. Food is perishable. The stuff with long shelf life is all suspect.

What Foods Should I Avoid?
Excessive consumption of high-glycemic carbohydrates is the primary culprit in nutritionally caused health problems. High-glycemic carbohydrates are those that raise blood sugar too rapidly. They include rice, bread, candy, potato, sweets, sodas, and most processed carbohydrates. Processing can include bleaching, baking, grinding, and refining. Processing of carbohydrates greatly increases their glycemic index, a measure of their propensity to elevate blood sugar.

The problem with high-glycemic carbohydrates is that they induce a strong insulin response. Insulin is an essential hormone for life, yet acute, chronic elevation of insulin leads to hyperinsulinism, which has been positively linked to obesity, elevated cholesterol levels, blood pressure, mood name it. Research "hyperinsulinism" on the Internet. There's a gold mine of information pertinent to your health available there. The CrossFit prescription is a low-glycemic diet that greatly reduces the insulin response.

Beyond the Basics

If you follow the simple guidelines above you will benefit from much of what can be achieved through nutrition. Correcting a few major flaws in your nutrition plan can produce rapid and substantial improvements in athletic performance, physical and mental health, body composition...and many more indicators of fitness.

However, if you are seeking elite performance you must be even more precise about your intake. You can go a long way on the workouts alone, but you will not reach your true potential without getting particular about your fuel. There's a direct relationship between elite CrossFit performance and accuracy and precision in your consumption.

There are many approaches you can take to fine-tuning your diet and optimizing your performance-based nutritional plan. The two most widely adapted in the CrossFit community are the Zone Diet and the Paleo (or Caveman) Diet.
  • The Zone Diet. Created by Dr. Barry Sears, this approach advocates a balanced intake of protein, fats, and carbohydrates that optimizes the body's hormonal response and yields anti-inflammatory benefits as a result. Many elite athletes also swear by the Zone as the best way to fuel athletic performance. CrossFit Journal #21 provides a concise intro to the Zone method; additional info and resources are available at
  • The Paleolithic Diet. The basic premise of the Paleo approach is that the typical modern diet is poorly aligned with our nutritional needs, developed through millions of years of evolution...our bodies are not adapted to eat dairy, grains, and processed foods. It promotes a return to our hunter-gatherer roots: if you can't pluck it, catch it, or kill probably aren't designed to eat it. Perhaps the best websites for learning more on the Paleo diet are from Dr. Loren Cordain and another by Robb Wolf.
Interested in learning more?  Do some independent research, or ask an IMCF trainer for more info.

      Additional Resources

      Online Resources.
      There are countless nutrition-oriented websites out there for your perusal, some good...others not so good. In addition to those already mentioned, here are a select few that we have found informative and in line with the CrossFit approach to nutrition.
      • Eat Well Guide - dedicated to providing access to local, sustainable, organic food.
      • Local Harvest - another resource for finding locally grown food.
      • Eat Wild - guide to the benefits of grass-fed livestock, and links to sources.
      • Mark's Daily Apple - popular health/nutrition/fitness topics with a strong Paleo influence. Contains links to many additional resources.
      • Whole9 - a holistic, healthy lifestyle site with a strong Paleo-based nutritional component; also the proponent for the Whole30 challenge...more info on that here.
      • CrossFit Impulse: Nutrition - a thorough overview from a fellow CrossFit affiliate...lots of great info.
      • Paleo Recipes and Resources - a collection of useful websites compiled by one of our athletes.
      • Nutrition for Kids - a collection of articles focused on helping to instill better food habits in your kids.   Start them off on the right foot...

      Recommended Reading.
      The following books are well worth your time. Both describe the body's biochemical response to the stimulus caused by modern day diets, and in doing so strengthen the argument in favor of a new approach to nutrition.
      • "In Defense of Food" by Michael Pollan.
      • "Why We Get Fat" by Gary Taubes.

        The majority of the information presented here is collated from the CrossFit main site and its many nutritional forums and archived resources.


        Russ Ames said...

        Great crockpot recipe here

        Russ Ames said...

        Post WOD shake

        AGman said...

        I really think that crossfit is best coupled with the Paleo diet. It really helped me get better results
        Crossfit Diet Paleo