CrossFit and Carbohydrates: Why Should You Consume Carbohydrates If You’re Doing CrossFit?

For many years Carbohydrates have been demonise in CrossFit. Are Carbohydrates good for CrossFit?

Want to know if carbohydrates are any good for CrossFit or not? Then read this post till the end to make an informed decision!

The performance of a CrossFit athlete depends upon many factors, such as sufficient energy intake. Nowadays, the role of carbohydrates for CrossFit is a hot topic, and everyone wants to know if optimal carbohydrates intake is beneficial for CrossFit or not. If you're also looking for the answer, keep reading to find out everything about CrossFit and carbohydrates.

Role of Carbohydrates in High Intensity Sports

In recent times, low-carb exercises have gained popularity in many scenarios. But, in sports, no nutrient can be better than carbohydrates when high intensity is replaced with consistent and low-intensity efforts. Except for few people during high-intensity sports, when the intensities become higher than 70 to 80 percent of VO2 max, most of the energy is obtained from carbohydrate oxidation, which applies to trained athletes.

But this is true for high-intensity CrossFit exercises, which can't be applied to all the exercises. CrossFit has been stepping out of the boundaries of short duration and high intensity in recent years. With the changes in the intensity, you also have to modify the intake of carbohydrates. For this, you need to understand the maximum requirement of carbohydrates, the type of carbohydrates, and the best time to use them.

How Many Carbohydrates are Required for CrossFit?

The amount of carbohydrates you need directly depends upon the intensity level and training volume (1). To calculate the requirement of carbohydrates, CrossFit can be classified into three categories, even that is 100% accurate athlete level - athlete skills, it works for our comparison in terms of training hours:

Scaled

People who just started CrossFit have a lot to improve in their physical condition. If an athlete trains not more than 3-5 hours a week, he is placed in this category. For such people, the amount of carbohydrates required is not more than an active person’s requirement who does some physical exercise, not CrossFit specifically. With this intensity, 3-5 g/kg/day of carbohydrates and 0.8-1.5 g/kg of protein is sufficient to get the desired calories.

It is very safe to recommend, that carbs should be taken around your activity, before or after of your physical activity and reduce to close to zero at other times.

Rx

You train almost every day and you have passed the phase where you are learning technical skills and you are able to load weight and increase the intensity of your work outs. You should consume 6-9 g/kg/day of carbohydrates if you exercise for 6 to 12 hours a week. If you're 100kg, you need to consume 500-800 grams of carbs per day to train better.

Elite

The athletes in this group do harder training, up to 20 hours per week, and thus need more carbohydrates. Their bodies need more energy than other athletes, so they are recommended to take at least 8-12 g/kg/day of carbohydrates.  

Does the Type of Carbohydrates Matter in CrossFit?

Like the amount, the type of carbohydrates also matters in CrossFit. If you take most of your required carbohydrates from processed and refined sources, they won't help you like natural sources. Carbohydrates from unprocessed and natural sources are recommended because they can be consumed more easily to provide instant energy. Processed carbohydrates aren't easily digested and take more time to provide the energy required for CrossFit.

To get carbohydrates from natural sources, include the following in your diet:

  • Vegetables - they have too much fiber and are difficult to digest
  • Fruits - great source, specially the ones with high fructose, like dry fruits, grapes and bananas.
  • Legumes - sometimes difficult to digest and very inflammatory to some people.
  • Roots - would be our prefered source.
  • Grains - some people might be intolerant to some type of grains, some are also very inflammatory.

If you find it hard to get the required amount of carbohydrates from these foods, as it's easy to eat only this kind of food, you can consider using supplements. Many supplements can fulfill your carbohydrate needs without causing any side effects. You can ask your trainer for a recommendation if you haven't used supplements before and choosing becomes hard for you.

GoPrimal Carbs & Electrolytes is a superior carbohydrates formula created with complex carbohydrates(Cluster Dextrin®) and electrolytes to help fuel, hydrate, and boost your performance during training sessions. Either endurance or long workouts.

The combination of electrolytes and complex carbs provide a slow release of energy without spiking your glycemic index and replenishing your salts and minerals lost while sweating.

Immediate thirst relief & Fuel for your training session

When Should You Use Processed Carbohydrates?

You can use processed carbohydrates when your body needs to quickly replenish liver and muscle glycogen (2). If you consume processed carbohydrates in such cases, your body will use them as secondary fuel because of their slow digestion and oxidize glycogen for energy. In the following situations, you can use processed carbohydrates (3):

  • Between two training sessions
  • Between two sessions during the same training session
  • Between two WODs in a competition
  • Between one day of competition and the next - during competition time, there is no reason to cut carbs, better to have more than less.

Do You Need Carbohydrates During other Physical Activity?

 

Carbs consumption is optimal along training, either before or after is when your body will need this macronutrient.

It's also important to consider the quality of Carbs, as some of them can be difficult to digest or very inflammatory(sugar, refined grains and similar).

In general is very safe to consume 20-40grams of high quality carbs before , during or after training, ideally with low fiber, so your body can digest and absorb them faster.

Bottom Line

Carbohydrates are the instant sources of energy that should be included in your diet when you're doing CrossFit. In this detailed post, we have explained everything that you need to know for taking carbohydrates during CrossFit, from the amount to the type of carbohydrates.

References

  1. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/23846824/
  2. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/28919844/
  3. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/18202575/
  4. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/27408608/