7 Nutrition Mistakes Made in the Box

How to fix those nutrition mistakes.

We’ve all heard it: Fitness is 70 to 80 percent dependent on nutrition. But, being human we are all bound to make mistakes. Box Pro asked CrossFit Boston’s Alex Black, MPH-RD/a registered dietitian and licensed nutritionist, what top nutrition mistakes she sees in her Box and how to fix them before they become a big problem:

1. The Morning WOD Bonk

The Problem: You attend the 6 a.m. or 7 a.m. class and don’t eat any breakfast (probably because you pulled yourself out of bed 15 minutes beforehand). Halfway through your 15 minute AMRAP you hit a wall.

The Fix: This is happening because you body depletes stored glycogen — as much as 50 percent — during sleep. It’s a good idea to put something in your body, even if it’s just 15-20 grams of carbohydrates. An apple, half a banana, four dried apple rings or one to two medjool dates will do the trick. Half a Lara or Perfect bar can also make a great pre-WOD snack.

Note: If this is happening to you in the afternoon class, try eating a similar snack 30-60 minutes before the workout.

2. The Meat Lover’s Diet

The Problem: You’re on a Paleo diet and your daily menu looks something like eggs and bacon for breakfast, chicken and sweet potato for lunch, and slow cooker pulled beef for dinner with beef jerky snacks mixed in. You’re hitting it out of the ballpark on protein, but missing a lot of other key nutrients.

The Fix: Eat a balanced diet. The debate rages on about whether or not more meat — specifically red meat — will kill you faster. But regardless of the virtue of red meat, a balanced diet is still important. Fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds provide many of the important micronutrients that your body needs. Different sources of animal protein also provide different nutrients. Make sure you’re eating a variety of different plant and animal foods each week, but more plants than animals.

3. Diving Into The Deep End

The Problem: You haven’t been eating so well lately, but your gym just kicked off a 6-week Paleo/lifestlye challenge and you jumped right in. But, by the end of the first week you feel like maybe the WODs are killing you.

The Fix: The issue here is likely that you have drastically reduced your carbohydrate intake and increased your activity in a very short time period. Eating fewer carbohydrates isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but if you don’t make sure your body is fueled and recovered properly, you could run into issues. I have a Coach who likes to say “there is no such thing as overtraining, just under recovering.” Try eating a good portion of your daily carbs around your workout.

4. Spending Too Much Time In The Lab

The Problem: You like to experiment with your diet. A lot. While using trial and error to figure out what works for you is a good thing, bopping around from diet to diet is usually counterproductive.

The Fix: Set clear goals and learn to assess your failures. Ask yourself why it didn’t work. Maybe you were going overboard on the nuts, or eating too many Paleo “treats.” Or maybe you weren’t eating enough and your metabolism slowed down. Either way, asking yourself why it didn’t help you achieve your goal will help you understand which direction to go next, as opposed to jumping into the latest fad. If you’re stumped, make an appointment with a dietitian/nutritionist. Just be sure to shop around a little bit as not every one of them will be a good fit for you.

5. Primal Pancakes As Routine

The Problem: You’ve given up processed grains and refined sugar, but you’ve replaced them with the Paleo-fied versions. While giving up refined grains is awesome, replacing them with “diet” versions can really derail your healthy plans.

The Fix: Incorporate a cheat day or a few well-placed cheat meals. Often times the “diet” version of what you really want doesn’t satisfy the craving all that much. If you’re eating a lot of “cheat meals” because you just don’t know what to eat or you’re bored with what you’re eating, try looking on Pinterest or ask around your Box for new recipes to try. Sometimes just getting creative can break up the boredom and boost motivation.

6. Trying To Out Train A Poor Diet

The Problem: You’ve been coming to the gym regularly for a while now. You drank the CrossFit kool-aid, but haven’t really bought into the diet stuff yet for various reasons.

The Fix: As the old adage goes “you can’t out train a bad diet.” Start small and try simple fixes: swap in whole wheat grains for white ones, add a vegetable or fruit to every meal, cut out dessert, and give up the sodas and sugary drinks for water.

7. Taking Too Many (Unnecessary) Supplements

The Problem: You love your supplements so much the guys at GNC know you by name. Protein drink after every workout, fish oil supplement at breakfast, and anything else you’ve been told will turn you into the bionic man or woman.

The Fix: Supplement use should be based on achieving your goals and/or bolstering your diet. For example, if you can’t eat a lot of salmon because it’s too expensive, fish oil can be a good solution. If you’re eating a balanced diet, you shouldn’t need most supplements. If you do choose to use a supplement, make sure you are getting a high quality product from a good source, which means doing some homework to see where the supplements are made, if any third party testing is done and how rigorous the testing is.


By Alex Black

Contributing Author


  1. Avatar

    anthony almada

    March 14, 2015 at 6:00 pm

    Alex offers some insightful comments. I offer the following. 1) Sleep, equal to a short term fast, results in reduced LIVER glycogen only, NOT muscle glycogen (glycogen being a stored polymer of glucose in muscle, liver, and the brain). Because of the high intensity nature of most CF training, much of the fuel used is carbohydrate, and fat WITHIN muscle (the “marbling” seen in a steak). We have worked with a number of CF elites/Games competitors and see chronic under-carbing, which can lead to what we, TOO, say: under-recovery.

    To date, no muscle glycogen testing has been done in CF athletes so we are guessing but we do know from several studies done in athletes a) that are keto-adapted (≤ 50 g carbs/day, for several weeks), b) low carb training (≈ 150 g/day), or c) acutely low muscle glycogen, that high intensity performance is notably REDUCED.

    As Alex suggests, a concentrated carb source that is easily and rapidly digested, taken 15-60 minutes pre-WOD, even on a Paleo or other low carb diet, can have a significant influence on WOD power and work output, and endurance. NOTE: glycemic index does NOT reveal the SPEED of a carb… By raising blood sugar pre-WOD, and therefore increasing the delivery of glucose to the brain, mood and focus can be enhanced, as can glucose delivery to working muscles. This can TRANSFORM a WOD.

    From our work in CF athletes (using heart rate monitors and work duration), we estimate that a 20 minute WOD that includes an AMRAP can burn about 100-125 grams of carbohydrate. For a number of CF athletes this amount is close to their daily carbohydrate INTAKE.

    The ultra high protein intake that is common in CF athletes (> 1.0 g/lb body weight) helps to replace muscle glycogen, as some of the aminos from the protein can be converted into glucose and then glycogen. We know from several studies done in, resistance trained males (up to ≈ 190 lb), that single doses of protein more than 20-25 grams (taken post-workout) are “wasted”—burned for energy, or metabolized and excreted in the urine. Thus, a high protein, low carb diet, similar to the Paleo diets that some CF athletes follow, can replace SOME of the muscle glycogen that is burned from training, but nowhere near that as seen from higher carb intakes.

    As for supplements, I echo Alex’s comments regarding “third party” testing, and the rigor of testing. A recent article in Forbes magazine highlights this: http://www.forbes.com/sites/alexmorrell/2015/03/12/lawsuits-say-protein-powders-lack-protein-ripping-off-athletes/ Additionally, the performance of expert lab testing for banned substances, on EACH, is critical to Games level athletes (although the rigor of testing of Games-level athletes remains very soft…). The three labs to look for at BSCG, NSF, and Informed Choice. Lastly, lab testing can affirm that a product is what the label says but it bears NO relevance to the product actually being effective (and safe). That requires independent studies conducted in humans, with the ACTUAL product…

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