Here are 5 tips from the world of elite sport that improve performance and recovery to help you through the Open season and beyond.
1) Carb up, but not excessively
CrossFit workouts are several minutes or more of high power output, meaning they chew through your body’s carbohydrate stores.
Maximising the body muscle glycogen stores via ‘carb-loading’ has been used for years in other carb dependant sports, but consuming too much carbohydrate can lead to bloating and excess weight.
Athletes load carbs with their specific event in mind; don’t make the all too common mistake of using a template designed around a marathon for a WOD lasting ten or twenty minutes.
What to do: On the three non training (or recovery) days leading up to the WOD add in one more serving of starchy carbs per day.
2) Go easy on caffeine
Caffeine is an amazing tool for improving physical performance, but it has its downsides.
Caffeine exerts effects on many different tissues and organs. It improves muscular and nervous system performance, but it also jacks up heart rate and blood pressure. When you’re hammering through a WOD then your heart rate will be sky high and exacerbating this isn’t useful.
The second issue is that regular consumption of caffeine causes the body to adapt. This ‘caffeine tolerance’ means you don’t get the same benefits without increasing the dose, which in turn increases the adaptation further. As the intake creeps up you experience less benefits and more drawbacks like gastric ‘disturbance’, jitters, galloping heart, anxiety and dizziness.
What to do:
- Minimise the dose: Older studies on caffeine used doses around 9mg per kilo of body weights, more recent ones show that lower doses are effective around 3 to 5 mg/kg. (1)
That works out at around
80kg person 240 to 400mg or about two to three cups of coffee, or one ‘Grande’ Starbucks
60kg person 180 to 300mg or about one to two cups of coffee, or one ‘Tall’ Starbucks
- Use it in a best bang for buck manner: Athletes are encouraged to reserve caffeine for when it will be most useful, in other words before training and competition only.
3) Hydrate …
For the athlete hydration starts at least five hours out from competition. Being properly hydrated for performance means two things: getting the water into the body and then keeping it there, and electrolytes can help you with both of these.
It’s well understood that electrolytes – salts like sodium and potassium salts – help speed hydration during competition, what less people realise is that they can maximise hydration before the work starts, and keep you hydrated for longer by minimising loss through urine.
4) … But don’t over hydrate.
This seems counter intuitive, we all know hydration is vital for performance, but overhydration can be bad for health and mean carrying useless extra weight. In a WOD lasting typically between ten minutes to a half hour most don’t need a lot of extra hydration. Add to this that the environment at CFL is going to be cool with still air and the rate of fluid loss slow then the need is even less critical.
What to do:
Consume 500ml water in the two hours preceding the WOD in conjunction with one serving of a product like SaltStick chews (http://saltstick.com/product/saltstick-fastchews/).
If at any time you do need to stop and have a dry mouth using a trick of mouth washing with a sweet drink has been shown to improve performance in a number of different disciplines. (2, 3)
5) Post Match Breakfast
Whilst most of us diligently consume a post training recovery meal, and maybe even a recovery shake as well, few think about the bigger picture of the ‘post workout window’. Athletes are encouraged to beef up their breakfast the day after competition as this is another opportunity to fully reset muscle glycogen levels at a time when the body may be most receptive to it, meaning you can safeguard against stores slowly running down, and get back to normal training sooner.
What to do: Think of this meal in terms of ‘post workout’. Add more in the way of starchy carbs. A rule of thumb is 50% or more carbohydrate for longer tougher sessions, and less for lower workout sessions like technical days
Last but not least: Test the things out BEFORE the event
No list like this would be complete without the following words: no matter what sport you play or what tips and tricks you’re looking at, the day of competition (i.e an Open workout) is the wrong time to be testing new strategies out.
These techniques like the ones above should be tested in more routine sessions to gauge how you respond to them.
Drew Price BSc MSc
Registered Nutritionist / Author of The DODO Diet
REFERENCES & FURTHER READING
1) Goldstein, Erica R., et al. “International society of sports nutrition position stand: caffeine and performance.” Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition 7.1 (2010): 5.
2) Jeukendrup, Asker E. “Oral carbohydrate rinse: placebo or beneficial?.” Current sports medicine reports 12.4 (2013): 222-227.
3) Sinclair, Jonathan, et al. “The effect of different durations of carbohydrate mouth rinse on cycling performance.” European Journal of Sport Science 14.3 (2014): 259-264.>>
Beck, Kathryn L., et al. “Role of nutrition in performance enhancement and postexercise recovery.” Open access journal of sports medicine 6 (2015): 259.
Selecting and Effectively Using Hydration for Fitness ACSM