How to Fuel Elite Performance in CrossFit – A Primer on Pre-WOD Nutrition

Jeff Baldelli
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Early Morning Gym Warriors

If you’re one of those people who likes to get up early in the morning to hit the gym before heading off to work, then you know how hard it can be to drag your butt out of bed.

Part of your morning routine is the fueling of your body, usually with some type of breakfast. If you eat well and prepare the right breakfast foods, you are delivering the right nutrients to your body.

If you eat poorly, your body is going to perform poorly. It will also decrease your results because it is not being fueled efficiently.

The most successful pre-workout breakfast is going to have a balance of macronutrients: the carbohydrates, proteins, and fats.

This is by no means a comprehensive list of foods that you can eat. It merely gives you a place to start.

Pre-Workout Carbohydrates

  • Rice
  • Oatmeal
  • French toast
  • Bagels
  • Yogurt
  • Peanut butter and banana sandwich, whole wheat bread
  • Meat
  • Yogurt and whole grain cereal
  • Pancakes with syrup
  • Baked potato
  • Pasta
  • Apple slices or apple juice
  • Whole grain, lean meat sandwich
  • Baked potato or sweet potato

What Should We Eat?

While there’s a whole other chapter dedicated to the subject of nutrition, a quick thought on the topic of pre-workout nutrition.

Outside of pre-workout nutrition, nutrition is a crucial part of improving your performance. It’s easy to neglect your nutrition during a meet, or any other competitive scenario, but if you want to improve your performance, then you have to give some thought to the quality and quantity of the foods you eat.

Even for non-competitive CrossFitters, putting extra effort into eating right can only help your performance. You will feel better, sleep better, and feel more focused once you start eating a cleaner diet.

There are two general schools of thought with regard to pre-workout nutrition – a pre-workout meal or “fasted training”. We’ll discuss the pluses and minuses of both.

Pre-Workout Meal

Some people say that pre-workout is a good time to get calories in your body before training, especially if you don’t want to eat immediately after you train. However, they say that pre-workout always leads to stomach upset, especially when it’s time to take a big squat.

What About Our Afternoon Warriors?

Many of the benefits of interval training also apply to anyone looking to become stronger, more flexible, and develop muscle mass. A lot of strength training workouts work on the interval training principle .

You may be an avid cyclist or hiker, but you still want to build strength, endurance, flexibility, and agility. Well, guess what? interval training will help you with all of these things!

The benefits of interval training apply to anyone looking to become more athletic, and they can help you improve your performance in any sport you play.

Finally, interval training is a good way to make sure you have a healthy balance between your work and your personal life.

If you’re at the office all day and have a family at home, interval training lets you squeeze in a quick workout between meetings or during your commute. This makes it easier to stay on top of your fitness goals, regardless of your schedule.

Best Workout Music

The type of music you listen to during your workout can have a significant effect on your workout.

Most studies into workout music cite the importance of beat as a factor in interval training. Beat is especially important for people who do vigorous exercises like lifting heavy weights.

For example, one study by the University of Hertfordshire found that participants who listened to faster music demonstrated greater movement variability during an interval training session, which makes them more efficient.

Power Foods

One of the best things you can do to set the stage for effective workouts on a regular basis is to engage in a caloric surplus. This gives your body the energy you’ll need to become as functional and fast as possible.

While it may seem obvious, one of the easiest ways to do this is by consuming the right types of foods. Just as we identified the power of a caloric surplus earlier, we can also identify certain foods as power foods.

What makes these power foods? First and foremost, they are foods that are easily digestible. The whole point behind eating power foods is to get the proper fuel into your body as soon as possible to kick-start muscle recovery. You don’t want to eat foods that will just sit in your stomach and not get digested, so you’ll want to avoid heavy foods like steak and potatoes.

Instead, stick to foods that are good sources of complex carbohydrates, as they digest quickly and will provide a nice level of energy. Rice of all kinds, potatoes, and pasta are all great options for a pre-workout meal, as are whole wheat burritos. Soy foods, such as tofu and soy milk, are also a great option.

Should I Take a Pre-Workout Drink?

If you want to make each and every workout count, science suggests you start with pre-workout nutrition. After all, studies have shown that the right food and drink can fuel elite workouts by increasing power and strength. (1)

The Basics of Pre-Workout Snacks

Of course, it’s not enough to simply eat before you train. The right foods can increase your workout effectiveness, and the wrong ones could leave you exhausted, fatigued and, in some cases, ready to throw up.

If you’re just getting started, we recommend eating a fruit or two, or downing a protein shake, at least an hour before you hit the gym. If you’re looking for something more complex, or to up your game, we used the insights from top sports nutritionists to put together a list of the pre-workout snacks that can fire you up for every type of workout.

Pre-Workout Snacks for the Rapidly-Developing Athlete

Athletes following the Rapidly-Developing Athlete diet are those who have experienced dramatic increases in fitness and performance over the past year. According the the USDA, these individuals have a higher-than-average caloric requirement. They need approximately 20 percent more calories than their moderately active counterparts. (2)


CrossFit is a type of strength training performed in a variety of high intensity intervals that include lift-lifting weights and sprinting on very short timeframe followed by longer rest periods for the body as well as the mind. A lot of the trainings also involve metabolic conditioning as well.

In a study published in 2014 in the journal Metabolism titled “Pre-exercise Nutrition in Exercise and Sports Nutrition,” researchers found that carbohydrate intake before exercise can help better prepare the muscles for physical activity. Specifically, the researchers found that muscle glycogen supplies will be left more intact in the presence of intake carbs before getting moving. Hence, what fuels elite performance in CrossFit is proper pre-workout nutrition. This will ensure that the training muscles will not be depleted of glycogen and will be able to maintain better endurance levels throughout the workout.

This was also supported by a study published in the Applied Physiology, Nutrition, and Metabolism Journal in 2009. It suggested that pre-workout carbs can help with the utilization of fat as an energy source for training workouts. This is because the ingestion of carbohydrates increases the available amount of glycogen in the bloodstream.

Bottom line, to achieve your best performance in CrossFit, you need proper pre-workout nutrition. This will give you the energy and endurance you need to achieve your personal goals for that day.