spinach shrimp and avocado salad
Creative Commons License photo credit: AmySelleck

CrossFit is associated with many diets, most notably the Paleo diet, Zone diet and even the Atkins diet. There are also many hybrids such as Paleo plus dairy, Paleo plus post workout “non-paleo” foods, and so on. So what’s the deal? What is the CrossFit Diet and what is CrossFit Nutrition? Which one is best?

None of the above!

As with most things in CrossFit, there is no be-all when it comes to diet. Everyone works at different levels and has different goals. Some respond differently to different foods. CrossFit Nutrition simply refers to what specific diet plan works for your body type and goals.

That is where the real magic comes to play! If you follow a traditional “good” diet such as paleo, there is no doubt you will see fat loss, performance gains and blood test improvements. However, that is only a fraction of the potential you have in terms of nutrition.

If you can match your performance goals (or other goals such as fat loss, muscle gain, etc…) to match a specific well-planned and sharply tuned diet it will dramatically expedite gains. This is exactly how I put 30 pounds on all of my lifts, lost fat and gained muscle in 5 weeks.

This requires testing and some decent knowledge on how the body works and how you work compared to certain foods.

(Note: I have began to accept clients who want a program for just this. If you are interested check out the details: CrossFit Programs).

Otherwise, here are some basics that remain true no matter what your goals but are highly important for CrossFit Nutrition or the CrossFit Diet:

1. BCAAs

Branch-Chain amino acids (valine, leucine, and isoleucine) are vital protein stimulants for building and repairing muscle. BCAAs are most useful in the post-workout window. The highest quality sources are found in animal proteins. Consuming a diet with a high percentage of these proteins will rapidly reverse the natural effect of muscle breakdown post-workout which means quicker recovery and more intensity at the next session.

2. Blood Acidity Vs. Alkalinity

Maintaining a net metabolic alkalosis is vital to maintaining muscle growth and bone development. Metabolic alkalosis simply refers to a net “base” rather than net “acidic” diet. The most acidic foods are grains, cheese’s and salty processed foods. If your body uses these as your primary carb intake it may rip down your muscle tissue to reach the desired net-base level. Workouts also increase acidity in your muscles, which, coupled with a net basic diet is a recipe for disaster. Instead, eating fruits and vegetables (net-base foods) will prevent this shit-show from happening.

3. Trace Nutrients

These are the vitamins, minerals and antioxidants that help our bodies with their natural functions, as well as performance goals. Fruits and vegetables are huge in these categories and together with lean meats (high in zinc and B vitamins) promote optional immune function. Less time being sick means more time hitting intense workouts, which means you can perform better quicker.

4. Glycogen Stores

For any CrossFitter, the replacement of glycogen or muscle energy is vital. When ATP stores are used up and exercise continues, muscle glycogen is next to the plate to keep you moving. (You can read about ATP in my CrossFit Creatine post). Our bodies synthesize glycogen most effectively in the narrow post workout window, similar to the BCAAs. In this time frame your muscles can build all the glycogen they need with starch and sugars. This is where recovery type drinks and foods come into play (this, by the way, is the ONLY time starchy, sugary foods should be taken in). Specifically, net-alkaline-producing starches such as bananas, sweet potatoes and yams are most effective.

Keeping these 4 rules in mind, you can effectively layout your own nutrition program tuned to your specific goals. But how do you make mircales happen? Well thats the fun part.

CrossFit Nutrition: Getting Creative


Here are a couple ways things can get interesting. What if we took supplements for the BCAAs and trace nutrients? What if we also ate the most alkaline effecting food post-workout (raisins- nothing comes close to its alkaline effect) to off set the acid level? This could, in theory, open our diets up to eating more acid-based foods to target our goals. In the weight-gaining sense this can allow you to drink a gallon of milk a day, or some complex carbs for mass gain, all while still maintaining the above 4 principles. This is where things get creative.

Know your body, test what works, program and re-test.

If you would like online coaching in this area be sure to check out my CrossFit Programs and Coaching.

Be sure to also check out my post Building your own CrossFit Program for additional information.



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  • R.Morales

    Hello, I bought a machine that produces alkaline antioxidant rich water about a year ago. Can this help with the diet?

    • http://www.EliteFitBlog.com Devin Ford

      Yes! That would absolutely benefit. The primary way to shift to an alkaline based diet would start with primarily consuming veggies and fruits but the addition of that water could only help!

      • R.Morales


  • Johncoffeyphoto

    Do you believe supplementation is necessary? Be it with Protein powders, BCAA supplements, or other? I am a 9 month old Crossfitter and I am definitely improving… just very slowly, and I know there is room for improvement in my diet. I eat LOTS of veggies, meat with every meal, and good portions of fruit. I shy away from most carbs, with only the occasional pasta meal or bread-based meal (sandwiches). I weigh 140lbs and am 26 years old. I have lots of energyand make it a point to NEVER consume simple sugars…. I feel my diet is very good, but can be better. A lot of research shows that supplementation for someone, like myself, that does crossfit every day is essential.I would love to hear your opinion on this! Thanks for the info!

    • http://www.EliteFitBlog.com Devin Ford

      GREAT question!! I would first say that supplements are only to “fill” the nutrition voids that are a product of an incomplete nutrition program. BUT being an athlete is different, because the needs are different.

      For me personally, being an athlete requires much more of a demand for energy use and recovery. So for this reason, YES I would say that supplements like BCAAS or even greens+ are essential. However your diet looks pretty solid, maybe less fruit but thats all I can see. If however your goals are all performance and athletic based, then I would argue adding BCAAs before and after your sessions is a great start. Hope this helps!?

  • Cami

    The second point where you are talking about blood pH and it says “which, coupled with a net basic diet is a recipe for disaster” –> should that say “coupled with a net acidic diet is a recipe for disaster” ? – Just want to clarify. Thanks!

    • http://www.EliteFitBlog.com Devin Ford

      Hey Cami! This just means if your eating processed foods (Acidic), cheese and other acid foods you already are netting an acid based diet. This in turn, would only make NOT balancing the ph out post workout to be even more of a bad response.