What Does an Athlete Eat?

An analysis of the Meal Plans and Eating Habits of CrossFit Games Veterans

Written by OPEX Head Coach Sam Smith...

While program design is often touted as the defining factor of a great athlete, smart nutrition prescription is the backbone that allows athletes to train at the highest level.

Consuming food is a task for the body and one that requires an internal system that is prepared for this influx of energy. If we don't have the foundation laid for this energy, we will have a hard time absorbing and using the energy we are consuming.

This brings us back to our previous blog where we discussed "Basic Lifestyle Guidelines" and compared those to the "Athlete Basic Lifestyle Guidelines". As you may recall, we must cultivate an internal environment that is ready for that fuel via great food hygiene, chewing our food well, consistent sleep, daily time in the sun, going to bed and waking up at the same time every day. And you may also recall that there is a difference in this prescription when comparing individuals geared towards fitness and long term health versus athletes determined to reach their maximal physical potential.

To gain a better understanding of this separation, we at OPEX have been collecting data on our highest-level athletes looking at the nutritional prescriptions provided to them by their coaches. No one else in the fitness market is collecting data to find patterns within a subset group of athletes to give credence to the prescriptions they are providing. At best, coaches are guessing with their macronutrient prescriptions.

After our initial data collection, we acquired 50 data points looking at athletes who fell into one or more of the following categories: competed at the CrossFit Regionals, the CrossFit Games, or are planning on contending at the CrossFit Games next year. Thus, these athletes are part of the 1% of all CrossFit athletes.

We came up with averages for both Males and Females and provided food log examples for both from current Games Athletes we are coaching:

Average Male CrossFit Competitor:

27 Years Old
192 pounds
5’9’’

Calories per day:
3,433

Carbohydrates per day:
395 grams

Protein per day:
227 grams

Fat per day:
105 grams

Food Log Example from Games Athlete Marcus Filly:

Training Day Nutrition

5am 
Coffee 20oz
15g Coconut oil
15g Grass Fed Butter

6am
2 Eggs
2 Bacon Slices
150g Steel Cut Oats
1 Cup Cooked Collard Greens
*cooked in bacon fat

9:30am - Intra Workout
5gram BCAA
1.5gram Beta Alanine
5grams Creatine

10:30am
1 Apple
10 Macadamia Nuts
1.5 Servings Revive-Rx Rebuild

12:30pm - Intra Workout

5gram BCAA
1.5gram Beta Alanine
5grams Creatine

2:15pm - Post Workout
3 Servings Revive-Rx Recover

3:00pm
150grams White Rice
5oz Chicken Thighs
1.5 Cups Roasted Collard Greens

4:30pm
300grams White Rice
5oz Flank Steak
1.5 Cups Roasted Green Beans

5:30pm
8oz Full Fat Yogurt
2tbps Peanut Butter

7:00pm
4 Slices Gluten Free Toast with Butter

Average Female CrossFit Competitor:

28 Years Old
147 pounds
5’5’’

Calories per day:
2,400

Carbohydrates per day:
245 grams

Protein per day:
160 grams

Fat per day:
90 grams

Food Log Example from Games Athlete Tennil Reed-Beuerlein:

Training Day Nutrition

7am
Natures Purpose Meal-
1 cup of Potatoes
½ cup of red peppers
5 slices of Turkey Bacon
+
½ cup of Blueberries
+
Amazing Grass, Green Superfood Cacao Chocolate Infusion, 1 scoop
+
Munk Pack – Maple Pear Quinoa Oatmeal Fruit Squeeze, 2 pouches

11am
Post Workout Shake-
6 Scoops Revive Rx Recovery

1pm
Natures Purpose Meal-
1 cup of Brown Rice
½ cup of Potatoes
6 oz Ground Turkey

3pm
Natures Purpose Meal
1 cup of Brown Rice
½ cup of Potatoes
6 oz Chicken

5pm
Natures Purpose Meal
1 cup of Brown Rice
½ cup of Potatoes
5 Beef Meatballs
+
Trader Joe’s – Honey wheat Pretzel Sticks, 10 sticks

7pm
Rx Bar – Protein Bar Chocolate Coconut, 1 bar

These data points and actual examples give us an idea of where an athlete at that caliber should be with regards to their macronutrient prescriptions and what a day of eating would look like. A key element to success when it comes to consuming this much food will ALWAYS come back to our Athlete Lifestyle Guidelines: food quality, food hygiene, sleep quality, sleep hygiene, stress management, and daily recovery to list a few.

In closing, to perform at the highest level in the Sport of Fitness, you must fuel your body with an adequate supply of food. If your body is at all underfed, other areas of your life will suffer, mainly performance and recovery. As recovery diminishes, we will increase the likely hood of injury inside the gym due to our tissues not regenerating to their fullest capacity. While eating enough is important, food hygiene is arguably as important. If we can’t digest and assimilate our food, there’s no point in consuming over 300 grams of carbohydrates per day. Food hygiene must be a continued area of growth and refinement for all athletes. The main pieces we want athletes to focus on: Sitting down to eat, chewing at least 30 times per bite, no electronic stimulation during the meal, no water during the meal, putting your fork down between bites.

While these key points might seem basic or rudimentary, they are one of the cornerstones behind digesting your food and utilizing it to its fullest capacity. NEVER forget the basics!

Be realistic with yourself and your coach about where you sit and where you want to go. Your goals and training regimen will dictate the fuel you need to support that journey. Always remember where you are and live a larger life.

Proper and competent nutrition programming is the gateway to success for the coach. Learn more about the fundamentals of coaching nutrition by downloading our “Nutrition Handbook” now.