Get Rock Hard Abs
Article by: Matt Spaid
So, you want to have abs? Just find any fitness magazine, and you’ll find an article covering it. Unfortunately, it takes more than one movement for 10 minutes a day. As the phrase goes, abs are made in the kitchen. Here at CrossFit West Houston, we aren’t going to just stand on a box and yell out, “get your rock hard abs here!”. Instead, we are going to focus on nutrition for CrossFit. Although, this could end up getting you rock hard abs in the long run.
Let’s start off talking about Macronutrients, and how much of them you should have. Some of you may be wondering what a Macro is. They are the nutrients that provide calories, or energy, and there are three of them.
When it comes to fitness, Protein is probably the most important Macro. You need it for growth, tissue repair, immune function, energy, and preserving lean muscle mass. While supplements are very helpful for getting your protein, it should not be your main source. You need to eat real meat, poultry, and fish (these are a great source for amino acids, the building blocks of protein). If you’re a vegetarian, it will be a bit more difficult for you, but there are plenty of meat substitutes out there. If you are looking to gain strength, you need to try to have at least 1 gram per pound of bodyweight, probably closer to 1.5 grams per pound would be more beneficial.
Next, Carbohydrates are extremely important. For some reason, poor ol’ carbs get a lot of flak for being evil. For CrossFitters and any sort of strength athlete, carbs are your friend! Your body will respond best to carbs as an energy source. Sure, there are some methods out there for gaining strength and cutting carbs (the “keto” diet); but, it is MUCH easier to simply include good quality carbs in your diet. Carbs are also needed for the central nervous system, kidneys, the muscles, and even your heart in order to function properly. They are mainly found in starchy foods, but they are also in fruit, veggies, beans, nuts, and seeds. Squash is one of my favorite sources. Try to utilize a slow digesting carbs a couple hours before your workouts, and see how you feel. Some slow digesting carbs include artichokes, broccoli, cabbage, squash, quinoa, brown rice, and peanut butter. You may find that you have much more energy. A good rule to follow for Carbs is to have about 1-1.5 grams per pound of body weight on days that are light/moderate, and on heavy days 2 grams per pound. If you want to lose weight, cut it to about .5 – 1 gram per pound.
Finally, Fats are also a very important part of the diet. Another great energy source, this is another macro that for some reason people like to rally against. Fat doesn’t make you fat. Well, good quality fat, specifically unsaturated. A good source of fats can come from olive or coconut oil, avocados, nuts, and seeds. Fat is vital for absorbing certain vitamins (which is why I will often have a handful of almonds when I take my vitamins, otherwise it often doesn’t get absorbed properly by the body). A guide for your fat intake should be about 10%, at a minimum, of your body weight. For instance, I weigh about 225 lbs, so I need to make sure I at least get 22.5 grams of fat in the day.
Also, don’t forget about Micronutrients (vitamins and minerals). You definitely need these in order to be healthy. Eat plenty of leafy greens and veggies and you should be good. Supplements are helpful, but your food needs to be a main source. I recommend that every athlete should take fish oil, ZMA’s (zinc monomethionine aspartate, magnesium aspartate, and Vitamin B6), Vitamin D, and creatine. Yes, creatine is not just for bodybuilders. It is actually very essential for crossfitters. It plays a large role in the ATP-CP energy system, or the system that is responsible for short, high intensity movements often seen in crossfit. Multiple studies have shown that adding creatine can help improve body composition, increase strength, and perform faster sprints. One more thing: Drink WATER. Not everything needs to have electrolytes.
As far as calories are concerned, if you want to lose weight you need to consume less than what you burn. A good guideline to go by is take your bodyweight and multiply it by 10-13, and that is about how many calories you should have. If you want to maintain, more like 14-16. So, I weigh 225 and I’ll say I want to be somewhere in the middle so multiply by 15, and I need to have at least about 3375 calories per day. I don’t like to have people count calories. I think it becomes too stressful and often that stress can jack up your hormones and will actually make it harder for you to lose weight. It shouldn’t be too difficult to just estimate how many calories you have. Take a few meals that you regularly eat, and add up those calories to help you figure out how many you are probably getting for a good estimation.
I like to keep nutrition simple. Most of the time, you know if you are eating something that is good for you if you are honest with yourself. Just because something is a “Paleo” or gluten-free cookie doesn’t mean it’s healthy. Just like workout programs, they can get very complex with ratios, percentages, timing, etc. Or, you can keep it simple. It also varies on the individual. Some people respond differently to certain foods, so it’s important to find the right nutrition that works for you, not for your friend.
Here is a very simple equation I like to use for nutrition:
Protein + Carbs = Strength Gain
Protein + Fat = Maintain
Protein + Veggies = Fat Loss
Also, a short example of how the Macros that a 200 lb athlete should have:
Protein= 200-300 grams
Carbs= Light Moderate Day- 200-300 grams, Heavy Day 400 grams
Fat= 20 grams
Total Calories: 200 x 15 = 3000 calories
*Note: on non-training days, add a little bit more fat, and less carbs in order to feel more full.
Ta-da! Nutrition made simple. However, like I said earlier, people respond differently to certain foods. What works for one person may not work for you. If you have struggled with your diet for a while, you can always talk with a coach and we can develop a better plan for you and give you some guidance on what you should and should not be eating.