Carbs for CrossFit: What You Need to Know

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In the world of CrossFit, strength, endurance, and coordination work together. This forces athletes to optimize their programs and nutrition.

Whether you’re a seasoned athlete hoping to qualify for a high-level competition or a beginner eager to publicize your first workout. Carbohydrates are a key component of a CrossFit nutrition plan and can help you take your performance to the next level.

Today, we’re taking a deep dive into why carbs are important for CrossFit and how to calculate your carb needs. Source of carbohydrates and carbohydrate timing to optimize performance and recovery.

Why are carbohydrates important for CrossFit?

Carbohydrates are your body’s main source of energy for CrossFit workouts. While protein and fat help keep your muscles strong and maintain sustained energy levels (in that order), carbs are the fuel that keeps you on fire. 3, 2, 1 go

How do carbohydrates become energy?

When you eat carbohydrates Carbohydrates are broken down into glucose and enter the bloodstream. If the cells in your body need immediate energy That glucose is then used to create ATP through a process called cellular respiration. Unused glucose is stored as glycogen in the muscles and liver.

In this case, liver glycogen can be used to stimulate various processes. in the body and maintain stable blood sugar levels But stored muscle glycogen can only be used within the muscle to power your movement and recovery. It is a key component of energy for high-intensity exercise.

Although the ability to store glycogen in muscles varies slightly from person to person, But there is approximately 5 times more glycogen stored in the muscles than in the liver. [1].

What happens if you don’t eat enough carbohydrates?

When you eat foods that contain protein, carbohydrates, and fat, your body prefers to use carbohydrates for energy before fat and protein. [2].

If you don’t eat enough carbohydrates to replenish your glycogen stores, Muscles may be broken down into their amino acid components. converted to glucose and use it as energy This method is not suitable when you want to keep your muscles as strong and full as possible. Therefore, eating enough carbohydrates is important when performance is one of your main goals.

What happens if you eat too many carbohydrates?

If the glycogen stores in your muscles and liver are full and your cells don’t need immediate energy, Excess carbohydrates may be converted to triglycerides and stored as fat in the body.

How many carbs do you need for CrossFit?

The exact amount of carbohydrates you need for exercise depends on a few factors.

  1. Your goal: If you want to lose weight or have a slimmer body proportion. You may need fewer carbohydrates if you want to maintain your current weight or gain muscle. In this case, meal timing can help you maximize your performance.
  2. Exercise intensity and frequency: The more you exercise and the harder you exercise, The more carbohydrates you need.
  3. Genetics: Some people process and use carbohydrates more efficiently than others. To determine if this works for you, do some experimentation.
  4. Food preferences: If you like high-fat foods You may be able to consume fewer carbohydrates if you time your carbohydrate intake for exercise.

But what about the exact carbohydrate requirements for CrossFit? Working with a free macro calculator, Gravity will help you determine your daily calorie and macro numbers accordingly. yours Goals If you need professional support Consider hiring a one-on-one nutrition coach.

Where to get carbohydrates

Most carbohydrates are found in fruits, starchy vegetables, whole grains, and legumes. Sugary Foods and Sweets The infographic below will give you more specific carbohydrate inspiration.

Types of carbohydrates

As you can see in the infographic above. Carbohydrates can be categorized according to them. Density. refers to the amount of carbohydrates per gram of each food. Higher density carbohydrates have more carbohydrates per gram than lower density carbohydrates.

Carbohydrates can also be classified as simple or complex.

simple carbohydrates It breaks down quickly and should be eaten as close to exercise as possible. They usually have a lower fiber content and cause blood sugar to spike more quickly. In addition to exercise time Do your best to pair simple carbohydrates with protein or healthy fats. Simple carbohydrates include:

  • White rice, pasta, and bread
  • sugar
  • honey
  • maple syrup
  • Refined grains and snacks
  • candy

complex carbohydrates It is higher in fiber and breaks down more slowly. For optimal health and performance Complex carbohydrates should make up the majority of your daily carbohydrate intake. Complex carbohydrates include:

  • fruit
  • Starchy vegetables
  • Grains
  • legumes

Carbohydrate Timing for CrossFit

Once you have determined your exact carbohydrate needs with a calculator or coach, You can start to consider meal timing around your exercise schedule. The percentages below are a good starting point. But it can be adjusted based on feedback from your body, training sessions and recovery.

If you exercise before breakfast

  • 40% carbohydrates after exercise
  • 30% carbohydrates at lunch
  • 30% carbohydrates distributed evenly throughout the day

If you practice in the morning (after breakfast)

  • 35% carbohydrates before exercise
  • Eat 35% carbs after exercise.
  • 30% carbohydrates distributed evenly throughout the day

If you train in the afternoon/night

  • 15% carbohydrates in breakfast
  • 30% carbohydrates before exercise
  • 30% carbohydrates after exercise
  • 25% carbohydrates distributed evenly throughout the day

Additional notes and considerations:

  1. This is a general guideline. It’s not an exact percentage.
  2. You don’t need to eat a certain percentage of pre-workout or post-workout carbohydrates in a single meal. For example, 30% pre-workout carbs when you exercise in the afternoon or night might look like 20% at lunch and 10% immediately before exercise.
  3. Keep fat low in meals or snacks around you. exercise
  4. Maintain protein throughout the day
  5. Limit high-fiber foods before exercise to limit gastrointestinal distress.
  6. Eating as soon as possible after exercise (aka the 40 minute extra window) is useful but not 100% necessary. Unless you are practicing fasting. If you are practicing without fuel in the tank Prioritize fast-digesting sources of carbohydrates and lean protein as soon as possible after exercise.
  7. Important Note: Meal time is More advanced macro tracking strategies. Consistent daily intake is more important than timing. If you’re new to tracking macros, Start with regular calls before getting into the eating rhythm.

TLDR on Carbs for CrossFit

Carbohydrates play an important role in fueling your CrossFit performance and recovery. It’s important to decide how much carbs you need. There are various variables. There are many things that need to be taken into account, starting with goals. Your personal dietary preferences, genetics, and specific training schedule

This article is a great starting point as you dial in your macros and make sure you’re eating enough carbs to fuel your workout. If you still have questions or want to relieve the stress of wondering what to eat and how much, Consider hiring a one-on-one coach.

WAG coaches support athletes at all levels, from new CrossFiters to Games Champions, with their nutrition. And we’d love to help you achieve your performance and body composition goals. Learn more about our membership options here.


  1. Jensen, J., Rustad, P., Kolnes, A., & Lai, Y. (2011) The role of skeletal muscle glycogenolysis in the regulation of insulin sensitivity by exercise. Front Physical, 2112. doi: 10.3389/fphys.2011.00112
  2. Elia, M., Folmer, P., Schlatmann, A., Goren, A., & Austin S. (1988) Metabolism of carbohydrates, fats, and proteins in muscle and in vivo following a mixed diet. Metabolism 37(6), 542-51. doi: 10.1016/0026-0495(88)90169-2.

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