Let’s talk Crossfit Open. Game Day is about having energy to perform. Today we are diving into timing, as it relates to the time of day you perform, what to do the night before, hydration, and all that good stuff to help you be your best.
Does nutrition timing matter? To most, not really. I mean it does, but there are so many more important factors to nail down before you need to worry about this. However, when it comes to eating for performance, game day, and maximizing your performance, it’s a different story.
So yes, timing matters to athletes. Because the situation and intensity is heightened in a competition, the small things can have a big impact.
Things to consider:
- Hydration. During the days prior to an event you want to pay special attention your hydration. Ideally, this is something you do daily, but the night prior you need to make sure you don’t go to bed thirsty. I like to make a plan for how much water I am going to drink and by what time so that I am not downing a bunch of water in the evening. I recommend stopping 2 hours before bed so you are not waking up in the middle of the night for a trip to the bathroom. The day of, continue to hydrate well; you may also consider adding in electrolytes like Nuun, coconut water or even adding a pinch of pink Himalayan salt to your water to ensure you are replenishing minerals too and actually hydrating yourself properly.
- Timing + meal size. A big meal might require 2-3 hours to be fully digested, while a small snack might require under 1 hour. Know the difference. Plan your day and your meals/snacks accordingly.
- Individuality matters. Don’t just take my word for it or copy what you see athletes doing on Instagram. If your favourite athlete eats PB&J sandwiches before competing, it doesn’t mean it will work for you. Everyone has different digestion rates and tolerance. I like to practice my nutrition in training so that come game day, there are no surprises, and I recommend this practice to all my athletes.
- On that note, don’t order and try new supplements right now!
- Simple sugar vs more complex carbs. How quickly you digest a food matters. Simple sugars like sugary breakfast cereals, gatorade or sour patch candies are nice if you need something quick, like half an hour before go time, but you have to be mindful of foods that can quickly raise your blood sugar as a drop will follow too.
- Some foods are easier to digest than others. See our previous blog on pre-workout nutrition for more specific suggestions: https://powerupnutrition.ca/pre-workout-nutrition/ Close to go time, like 2 hours or less, stick to lower fibre and lower fat options as both can slow down digestion and no one likes a rumbly stomach while out on a run or doing burpees.
The day prior:
- Focus on hydration.
- Increase carbs. Carbs are your friend for performance and we fill our glycogen tank the day prior. How many extra carbs you should consume depends on many factors and should be discussed with your coach. It could be anywhere from adding 25g to adding 100g, depending on your specific goals and what you are currently eating.
- Increase carbs specifically at dinner time. This could be done with a re-feed or by replacing some of your daily protein/fat for extra carbs to keep the calorie balance. Again, this will be athlete specific.
- Don’t go to bed hungry or thirsty. A bed time snack 1.5 to 2hrs before works for most; I like to have my go-to bed time oats every night before bed.
Game Day & Adjusting your nutrition depending on time of day:
- For my early risers: If you aim to perform at 5-6 or 7am class, you are likely going to compete fasted or close to fasted, which is not ideal. However, if you carb-load well at dinner and you often train early in the morning it will likely be something that you are comfortable doing. Plan a smaller snack in the hour before the workout, something you have rehearsed before and know you can tolerate well. For example, a banana, baby food pouches or even one of those small oat packets that you simply add hot water too.
- Mid-morning. Same as early risers, you want to hydrate well the night before and eat a nice dinner. But you will have the advantage of being able to have a full breakfast before. Again, stick to what you know works for you. Ideally, this is something you’ve rehearsed and you know will keep you energized. Just make sure it is balanced with plenty of carbs, good protein and moderate to low fat. You know I will be eating “proats”, I will just go easier on my nut butter.
- After-noon. This is my personal favourite time to perform and train, reason being that by now, you have had a chance to hydrate well, have a couple of full meals and your body feels more limber from having been awake longer. Depending on when you are going to perform, if lunch was more than 2-3 hours prior, I would add a small snack 60 minutes prior.
- Night. Friday Night Lights use to be a big thing (prior to Covid) but if you do live somewhere where this is possible it can be quite fun to participate and do the workouts in a big group like that. For me, it’s a tough time of day to perform, mainly because the anticipation all day is quite stressful. I recommend a little quiet time in the after-noon if you can to calm down your nerves. But you also have the advantage of eating a few good meals prior, and I suggest having a small dinner or good size snack around 2hrs prior.
Post Workout & how to ensure you are ready to go again:
Post workout nutrition is truly all about speeding up recovery. With the Open, it is doubly important as some of you may choose to perform the workouts more than once and you will also have to perform weekly for 3 weeks in a row.
Normally my advice is to grab a full meal 90 minutes to 2 hours post workout in order to replenish. However, in this case, we want to also add something right away. Post workout nutrition helps kick start your recovery, and carbs will help you switch from the “fight or flight” stage to “rest and digest” by lowering cortisol levels. As soon as you finish working out- think under a half hour, even before you judge your buddy in his attempt- grab a simple shake with some protein + carbs together. Real food can work, but I find a shake is ideal because it is just easier to digest at that time, when really most of us couldn’t stomach food right away. Aim for 20-30g of protein with twice as much carbs.
Keep an eye on timing to go home and have a full sized, nutrient dense meal somewhere in that 90 to 120 minute window. Grab a good night’s sleep, re-hydrate and get ready to repeat it all the next week!
Timing your re-feed around the Open:
Lastly if you are an athlete who currently has re-feed in your prescription, it can be used to your advantage here too. Again, I would recommend speaking to your coach, but I personally advise taking one either the day you perform or the day after to push more carbs and have a better recovery.
Early Riser + Mid-morning: Refeed the day of since you will be done in the morning and you’ll have all day to eat + recover.
After-noon + Evening: Plan to re-feed the next day. Even if you do rest that day. Eat + restore.
Feel free to connect with me personally to help make a plan for yourself.