The Reebok CrossFit Open simultaneously brings out the best and worst in me. I enjoy the physiological onslaught of pain and fatigue a few minutes into the workout coupled with the post-workout euphoria. I also enjoy the friendly competition in the gym or seeing one member of the community achieve a new goal, like a double-under or muscle-up. However, I also become physiologically (and psychologically) stressed over the anticipation of each week’s workout, and become obsessed with planning the perfect workout in my head even if I have already attempted it once and got a decent score. You’d think that I would have adapted by now being a five-year veteran to the CrossFit Open. Nope. However, being a veteran also means that I have been better able to manage my recovery better, especially now that I am in a new decade.
I may sound like a whiner, but CrossFit at the age of 26 is different than the age of 31. I used to be able to have some alcohol and marginal sleep across a weekend and be able to train and perform fine the following week. This is no longer the case. I remember having celebratory beers with other gym members after each open workout, especially if I had done better. Nope, my body can no longer adapt to that.
In addition to these "growing pains," here are some foods and drinks that I have found helpful to recover during the Open and heavy waves of training. I have adopted most of these over the year, and I will say that my rationale for eating and drinking these things are backed by my research areas; I study skeletal muscle physiology and what impact it has on sleep.
1. Get your niacin:
Because the Open workouts completely exhaust glucose (sugar) loads in the muscles and are coupled with many transitions from anaerobic to aerobic respiration, you need to replace a major component of glucose-burning pathways; nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide (NAD+). Niacin is a constituent of NAD+. Here is the Krebs cycle? Remember this. Look at how many times NAD+ picks up a hydrogen–gets reduced, for biochemical nerds–and is then shuttled to the mitochondria to produce more energy in the form of ATP--the "powerhouse of the cell." Obviously, the availability of ATP is a rate-limiting factor between excelling and burning out.
Which foods are rich in niacin? Peanuts, peas, beef, chicken, and fish. If you are like me, head to Five Guys for a bunless burger after each Open workout. You can get two beef patties plus lots of peanuts to snack on.
2. Tart cherry juice and coconut water:
Any competitive athlete needs simple sugar to stay fueled. CrossFit training taxes metabolic reserves of the muscle, particularly that of glucose. For athletes like me who do multiple workouts in a day, you need to replenish your glycogen reserves quickly. Sure, fats and protein are great for you too, but nothing gives you a quick boost prior to one of many wods in a day than some simple sugar. I like juices because they replenish glucose reserves quickly and particularly for coconut water, you get replenishment of electrolytes: sodium, potassium, calcium, magnesium. Another great juice to consume at night is tart cherry juice. Tart cherry juice is pretty high in sugar–a single 8 oz serving has 150 calories all derived from sugar–but it is also high in melatonin and antioxidants. This is only if you get 100% tart cherry juice and not some diluted version. Not everyone is sensitive to over-the-counter melatonin but if anything, the extra sugar in tart cherry juice will help you recover quicker.
Along the lines of tart cherry juice and coconut water, bananas will also do the trick. They are high in electrolytes and they have a high glycemic index, raising your blood sugar quickly.
3. Fish oil:
Seafood provides an excellent source of omega-3’s which are nature’s own anti-inflammatories. Obviously, Open workouts are designed to wreak havoc on the ligaments, tendons, muscles, nerves, etc. A little extra anti-inflammatory protection can go a long way.
Well, I’m not a nutritionist for a living. I’m just passing along recs based on what I know about the human body and its ability to adapt to high intensity training. Good luck!
Professional: Academic Researcher with a focus on neurobiology @ Morehouse School of Medicine and professor at Morehouse College
PHD Info: Kent State with a focus on neurobiology (PHD from Department of Biological Sciences)
CrossFit Games Experience: 2015 Regionals - Team, 2014 Regionals Athlete, 2013 CrossFit Games - Team, 2012 Regionals Athlete
Collegiate Athletic Background: Brown University Track & Field, 4 year varsity letterman, specialist in pole vault and hurdles
Facebook: Meathead: Unraveling The Athletic Brain
Allison's Blog: www.dormivigilia.com
Instagram and Twitter: @beastlyvaulter
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