CrossFit Macros for CrossFit Athletes – Art or Science?

Last update:

I think we’ve all heard the term, “you are what you eat.”? This might be the most common advice that you get from nutrition experts, regardless of your fitness journey.

(don’t shoot the messenger!)

This term simply means that you are the sole contributor of what you allow your body to take in…meaning you largely control the factors that ultimately affect your health, your nutrition, and your overall well-being.

Now, how does this relate to CrossFit? Understanding how much to eat and what to eat is very important to get the best results for your CrossFit training.

Today, we’ll delve into the basics of CrossFit macros. This will include the process of tracking macros, how to count them, the recommended foods you need to eat to “hit” your macros, and everything else you need to customize your meals!

What Are Macros and Why is Counting Macros Important for CrossFit Athletes?

Macronutrients or “macros” are the building blocks of our diet and provide us with the energy necessary to survive CrossFit WODs and metcons. Each macronutrient has a specific role and importance in supporting our overall performance.

Carbohydrates (“carb”) serve as the primary source of fuel for high-intensity exercise. Carbs provide the energy needed to power through intense CrossFit training sessions and support optimal performance.

Proteins are essential for muscle growth and repair. They help in building and maintaining lean muscle mass (and making muscle gains), which is crucial for actually building strength and endurance from your CrossFit training.

crossfit macros

Lastly, we have fats. Fats play a vital role in providing sustained energy during workouts. This macronutrient also supports hormone function, which is essential for overall health and performance.

The Ultimate “Macros for CrossFit” Guidelines

As I’m sure you’re well aware, CrossFit workouts are a combination of high intensity, fast-paced, strenuous exercises  which and heavy lifting sessions. The grueling nature of these sessions is why you need to properly fuel and prepare your body through food! 

As a general rule, the CrossFit dietary needs focus on lean protein, healthy fats, and moderately low carbohydrate consumption. A good macronutrient ratio starting point is: 40% carbohydrates, 30% protein, 30% fat. However, you will likely find that you’ll need to make tweaks and adjustments over time.

Calculating Your Custom CrossFit Macros

Calculating your custom CrossFit macros is an essential step in optimizing your diet to meet your specific needs and goals. By determining your ideal macro breakdown of proteins, carbs, and fats, you can fuel your performance and support your CrossFit journey.

To calculate your custom CrossFit macros, several factors should be taken into consideration like your body composition, activity level, and performance goals. By understanding your unique requirements, you can develop a personalized macro ratio that aligns with your needs.

But how would you get the recommended numbers of macros for your body? The easiest way is to check for free online macronutrient calculators like calculator.net where you can easily fill out all necessary information about your body, and get the results in just a few clicks.

Once you have filled out the information about yourself, you have the option to choose what your goals would be. After that, you will be provided with results specific to your age, body weight and height like this:

It’s important to remember that your nutritional needs are different from everyone else. The best tip is consulting with a nutritionist or dietitian who specializes in sports performance and CrossFit can provide further guidance, ensure accurate calculations, and even give you a detailed plan for your meals. Precision Nutrition coaches are oftentimes not nutritionists or registered dieticians, but have received training specifically in calculating macronutrients for sports performance. 

I Got My Macros! What’s Next?

Now that you have the recommended amounts of macronutrients for your body, the next step is to prepare your meals and track how many of each macronutrient are consumed each day. The easiest way to do this is via food tracking applications like  myfitnesspal or Macrostax.

It would take you less than 5 minutes to record and input the meals you have consumed, and through these innovative applications, you can directly see if you’re hitting your daily goals!

Effective Ways To Adjust Your CrossFit Macros 

You might be doing CrossFit to build muscle, lose weight, or to simply tone your body. You have to remember that your macronutrient intake should be adjusted depending on the type of goal you want to achieve.

Here are ways that you can optimize your diet:

Losing Fat While Maintaining Energy

If your goal is to trim fat while maintaining energy levels for your CrossFit metcons, it’s important to create a moderate caloric intake deficit while still providing your body with the necessary nutrients to sustain performance.

@elliebecturner

The key to achieving this balance is by adopting a balanced macro ratio that enables sustainable fat loss without compromising energy and muscle mass. This approach typically involves:

  • Reducing overall calorie intake by approximately 10-20% to create a modest caloric deficit
  • Keeping protein intake at an adequate level to support muscle maintenance and recovery
  • Adjusting carbohydrate and fat intake to maintain energy levels and optimize nutrient partitioning

Bulking Up: When to Increase Your Intake

If you’re aiming to bulk up and increase muscle mass, adjusting CrossFit macros involves increasing overall calorie intake to support muscle growth and performance. This can be achieved by:

  • Increasing calorie intake by approximately 5-10% to meet the heightened calorie needs
  • Boosting protein consumption to support muscle protein synthesis and recovery
  • Incorporating additional carbs to provide energy for intense workouts and promote muscle glycogen replenishment

Maintaining Muscle Mass with Strategic Macro Balancing

When it comes to maintaining muscle mass during weight loss or any other phase, strategic macro balancing is crucial. This approach focuses on optimizing your macronutrient ratios to prioritize muscle preservation while still achieving (possible) body composition goals.

@nohlsen

Key strategies for maintaining muscle mass include:

  • Keeping protein intake high to prevent muscle breakdown and support muscle repair
  • Incorporating strength training exercises to stimulate muscle growth and maintenance
  • Adjusting carbohydrate and fat intake to support energy levels and overall nutrient balance

Maximizing Your Pre and Post Workout Macronutrients

Now, let’s get back to the “you are what you eat.” mantra. By fueling your body with the right nutrients at the right times, you can enhance your CrossFit performance and promote faster recovery.

  • Pre-workout nutrition: Before each CrossFit session focus on consuming easily digestible carbohydrates like pasta, rice, white bread, or banana, that can provide immediate energy. Additionally, include a moderate amount of protein to support muscle synthesis during your workout. This combination of carbs and protein will help fuel your muscles and optimize your energy levels.
  • Post-workout nutrition: After a challenging CrossFit session, your body needs proper nutrition to replenish glycogen stores, support muscle recovery, and maximize the benefits of your training. Aim to consume a mix of fast-digesting carbohydrates and protein to promote glycogen replenishment, muscle repair, and adaptation to training. This combination will aid in muscle recovery and help your body recover more quickly for your next workout.

Shopping List Essentials for CrossFitters

Remember, you have to give your body the best nutrition support since CrossFit workouts are high-intensity. Keeping a shopping list with nutrient-dense whole foods will fuel your workouts and aid in your recovery. 

Here are some shopping list essentials for a CrossFit diet:

  • Lean proteins such as chicken breast, turkey, fish, and lean cuts of beef
  • Complex carbohydrates like quinoa, brown rice, sweet potatoes, and whole wheat bread
  • Fruits and vegetables for vitamins, minerals, and fiber
  • Healthy fats such as avocados, nuts, and olive oil
  • Greek yogurt and cottage cheese for a protein-packed snack
  • Eggs for a versatile and protein-rich option
  • Protein bars and shakes for convenient post-workout fuel

Frequently Asked Questions

When it comes to fine-tuning nutrition in CrossFit, especially a topic as complex (but not really!) as macros, there are sure to be additional questions. Let’s look at a few of the most common here.

Yes, there are variations in macro recommendations for women who participate in CrossFit, typically tailored to account for different factors such as body size, composition, and hormonal balance. Women may require a different calorie intake and macronutrient split to support their training, recovery, and overall health. Of course, each person is different so it is difficult to provide specific numbers and ratios that are applicable to all women.

The CrossFit Zone Diet breaks down macros into a specific ratio to balance protein, carbohydrates, and fats, aiming to stabilize blood sugar and optimize hormonal responses. They advocate a macronutrient distribution of 40% carbohydrates, 30% protein, and 30% fat (doesn't this ratio look familiar??!!) The diet encourages dividing these macros into meals composed of blocks, where one block equals 7 grams of protein, 9 grams of carbohydrates, and 1.5 grams of fat. You can read much more about the Zone Diet in the CrossFit Level 1 Training Guide.

Top CrossFit athletes often personalize their macronutrient ratios to meet their performance and recovery needs, which can differ significantly based on their training volume and intensity. However, one common approach is a higher intake of carbohydrates to sustain energy levels for demanding workouts, ranging anywhere from 250 to 1,200 grams(!!!) daily, along with sufficient protein to aid in muscle repair and healthy fats for overall wellness. The precise balance will depend on where the athlete is in the season, upcoming competitions, and other specific goals.

Achieve Your Goals Through Proper Macros Consumption

By understanding the basics of CrossFit nutrition, calculating custom macros, and implementing pre and post-workout nutrition strategies, you can optimize your performance, recovery, and overall results!

At first, it might seem complicated to track the recommended amount of macronutrients suitable for your CrossFit training, but you’ll easily get the hang of it through the simple tools that we have recommended. 

It’s also highly recommended to focus on consuming well-balanced and healthy meals to support your overall health and nutrition throughout your CrossFit journey. 

Lastly, you have to remember that CrossFit macros are not a one-size-fits-all approach, and it’s important to personalize your nutrition plan based on your unique needs and goals. Are you ready to hit your goals? You can start today!

Photo of author

AUTHOR

Nicole is a dedicated Registered Nutritionist-Dietitian who has years of experience in writing health and fitness content aiming to inspire and educate others on the transformative power of healthy living. She has worked in various public health settings, collaborating with diverse communities to implement nutrition programs that promote healthy lifestyles while addressing prevalent concerns such as food insecurity, malnutrition, and chronic disease prevention.