As of today, we are less than 3 weeks out from the CrossFit Open – time to freak out!!

Freak out with excitement? Perhaps!

But freak out and do really stupid things…PLEASE, NO!

Unfortunately, history has taught me that the latter becomes true….EVERY…SINGLE….YEAR!

Hopefully this blog will help you prevent the aforementioned stupidity, and will help you have your best year ever 🙂

In fact, no one should be subjected to a year of stupidity, so you should probably just share this with everyone you know 😉 (see what I did there….sneaky, sneaky)

Let’s get moving…

Mistake #1 – “Cleaning up your diet

This might seem like the most counter-intuitive place to start, but it is absolutely the biggest flaw I see this time of year.

While paleo is ALMOST a thing a past, there is still a fair amount of individuals that will adopt paleo type principles this time of year.

The prevailing thought is that by eliminating “bad food” (yes I strategically chose those two words, because that is exactly how such items are described), you will somehow immediately increase performance.

My ASSumption here is that the micronutrient content of “healthy foods” are believed to provide superior fuel relative to their “bad” counterparts.

Do I believe this? For the most part…yes.

HOWEVER, there is a HUGE caveat this is massively overlooked – QUANTITY.

Recall (from virtually every blog I have ever written) that quantity is always number 1. This is not in any way to say that quality does not matter – but HIGH QUALITY foods when eaten IN A DEFICIT will not provide any sort of sustained performance – FACT!

With that said, let’s examine what is happening when you are “cleaning up” your diet.

Let’s start by removing a “cheat meal” or better stated, dietary deviation.

Typically such a meal will yield a calorie surplus of approx 1k cals.

While this may seem negligible, the timing may also be critical. The carbohydrate overfeed that comes with “cheat meals” may also help blunt an excessively sympathetic nervous system response from an intense training effort – i.e. – an open workout.

Either way, simply removing this meal will yield a 5k calorie recovery debt relative to your NORMAL INTAKE, which is what you are used to training and recovering on….in absence of a competition stimulus, but now you are throwing that in too.

Ummmm – OH SHIT, that doesn’t sound so good.

What about switching starches to veggies – well, because paleo bro…

1 cup rice contains approximately 250 calories. Conversely, 1 cup of broccoli contains approximately 30 calories.

If we apply this twice daily, that is a caloric drop of 440 calories.

I am willing to freely acknowledge that this exact exchange, twice daily, is unlikely to happen.

For the benefit of the doubt, let’s arbitrarily say that a shift from starch to vegetable yields a caloric drop of only 300 calories daily.

Once again, this doesn’t seem awful, but contextually speaking you are now decreasing the ability to recovery while SIMULTANEOUSLY increasing the need for recovery due to an increase in intensity and a shift from training to competition.

Hmmm…..doesn’t seem like such a good idea, does it?

The fix

Listen, the quality of food you consume this time of year is somewhat indifferent to me. I will address this more in mistake #2.

However, what you need to learn from mistake #1 is QUANTITY CONTROL.

If you prefer to begin consuming more nutrient dense foods, that is 100% ok. However, understand the QUANTITY of food you are consuming going into the open, and be sure that you are not DECREASING that throughout the most intensive five weeks of the year!

Document….understand….move forward accordingly = SUCCESS!

Mistake #2

The second major mistake I see this time of year is very similar to #1, but it has to do with the actual food, not the quantity.

For some crazy reason, society seems to assign magical powers to individual foods.

We have all heard that asparagus is a natural diuretic….

Grapefruit is supposedly going to make you burn fat….

And every year, we hear of a new “super food” that is guaranteed to boost performance – LOL.

Even if these foods somehow deliver on their outrageous claims, there is one MASSIVE thing that is being overlooked…


Just because a food is supposedly “good for you,” does not automatically mean that it will agree with your individual physiology.

As an example, because of my overconsumption of sweet potatoes back in my physique days, I now have a mild sensitivity to them. Even though they are “paleo,” and always considered to be a “healthy food”, if I consume one I’m almost instantly bloated and tired.

Now imagine that I was UNAWARE of this, and simply consumed them because someone told me they had magical performance benefits…

Instead of PRing I would either be on the toilet or in my bed – neither would be an ideal place to maximize position on the leaderboard :-/

The Fix

At this point you should be done experimenting.

You have had a full calendar year to try these “performance enhancing foods”, now is not the time to try them just because a friend “said they were awesome.”

From here on out, stick with the foods that you are comfortable with.

If you absolutely MUST implement something new, I highly recommend this happen on a non-training day, or on a day that is not part of your “open week” (thurs-mon).

Remember that within nutritional periodization, you are now “in season.” Season is characterized by the need for FUEL and RECOVERY.

Food quality is far inferior to food quantity, and I would even go so far as to say that being familiar and comfortable with foods you consume trumps actual “quality” as well.

Mistake #3

Let’s quickly make sure we are on the same page – placing in the open is defined by your performance metrics, not the visibility of your abs – right?

It is also not defined by the number on the scale – right?

Unless that has changed, your goal this time of year is to PERFORM PHYSICALLY, not AESTHETICALLY.

While conceptually this is not hard to understand, it can be very hard to implement.

Lots of things will happen physically in the open….

We have already discussed the need for adequate (and potentially more) food…this can cause weight gain.

We have discussed the increased intensity of the open. This will lead to increased inflammation, which manifests itself as a weight increase on the scale…

An increase in inflammation can also lead to a less aesthetic look in the mirror….

This is simply part of the five weeks known as the open – and if you want your best performance, you will overlook these things.

Unfortunately, most of us are neurotic and have a very hard time with this.

Instead, we see the scale go up a pound, freak out, and subsequently reduce calories.

As mentioned in number 1, this will only create a larger recovery debt, and subsequently WORSE performance over the course of five weeks.

The Fix

The real fix here is not so much in application, but in mindset.

You MUST understand the physical endeavor that you are undertaking, and the potential results.

You must ALSO understand the season you are in, and more importantly, which season(s) you are NOT in.

If you feel like this may be a struggle for you, perhaps you need an accountability partner…or even a NUTRITION COACH to help you through?

In complete transparency, this is my largest struggle. In the past it led to me under fueling, under-recovering, and developing HPA Axis dysfunction.

DO NOT follow in my footsteps there 🙂

Your best year yet.

You have been training your butt off and getting excited about the open, so PLEASE don’t screw up with things that are so simple.

The nutritional protocols you have been adhering to thus far have successfully helped you create the desired adaptations from training – awesome – do NOT abandon them

There are no “hacks” for instant improvement…

There are no “magical foods”…

And your abs are not going to send you to regionals…

So let’s keep it simple, let’s prioritize recovery, and let’s CRUSH THE OPEN!