Fueling Fitness Boot Camp and CrossFit Workouts

By Karen Stoychoff Inman
Fitness Boot Camp & CrossFit Performance Coach, Nutrition Specialist & Group Centergy Instructor

Public sentiment about sugar has certainly soured over the years, and the recent New York Times Magazine article by Gary Taubes, “Is Sugar Toxic”, has crystallized conversation on the topic. But is it possible to eat too little sugar for the body to properly function? It depends on your lifestyle, according to Jessica Kuzma, registered dietitian and Paleo Nutritionist.

“If you are sedentary, or participate in low-intensity, aerobic exercises like walking, you are capable of burning fat for fuel,” said Kuzma.

That’s not the case when it comes to participating in high-intensity, explosive, metabolic conditioning-style workouts like CrossFit and Elite Athletic Development’s Fitness Boot Camp, or endurance events like cycling and fast-paced, long-distance running. These workouts rely on muscle glycogen, which is a quickly-accessible – yet limited-reserve – glucose supply.

Glucose is made when the body digests the sugar and starch in carbohydrates into a functional form of energy, which is then absorbed through the small intestine and into the bloodstream. How much glucose-generating food to take on board each day depends on your sport and goals, but should support exercise intensity, according to Kuzma.

The honeypot ant, its mid-section filled with glucose, recognizes the importance of proper fueling for MetCon-style workouts like Elite Athletic Development Fitness Boot Camp and CrossFit. Photo courtesey of NHPA/Extreme Insects/HarperCollins

“The demand for glucose during high-intensity workouts is considerably higher and must be supplied by glucose from the diet,” said Kuzma. “A good rule of thumb for the average MetCon-style athlete who would like to perform well, yet remain lean, is somewhere around 80 – 100 grams of starchy carbs per day. The majority of carb consumption should immediately follow exercise,” said Kuzma. 

Food sources of favorable post-workout carbohydrates include sweet potatoes, yams, spaghetti or acorn squash, bananas, berries or other fruits. Home-brewed or pre-packaged recovery drinks are also an option.

It’s also important to properly fuel before an intense training session. Future columns will offer insight on pre-workout fueling.

Editor’s Note:

If you haven’t read Gary Taube’s article, chase the link:  

If you’d like to see Dr. Robert Lustig’s thoughts on “Sugar, the Bitter Truth” chase the links. Dr. Lustig is Professor of Clinical Pediatrics, in the Division of Endocrinology Director of the Weight Assessment for Teen and Child Health (WATCH) Program at UCSF:
     http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dBnniua6-oM (full video)
     http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tdMjKEncojQ (abridged video)

Posted in Coach's Column.