Friday May 23rd

Part 2 from last week.  What are you eating for?

Fueling for Competition | Part 1

05/14/2014, 1:45pm CDT
By Paul Nobles

While a leaner body may be a great long term goal, in the short term it could be a disaster.


The absolute biggest mistake I see from most athletes training for competitions is that they often take the wrong approach to their goals and get sidelined.

Let me give you an example:

A female athlete that weighs 150 pounds finds out that she is 19%.  The competition she is training for has a qualifier in a month and the event itself is three months after that.  After finding out that she is 19% body fat, she starts eating less to decrease her body fat to 15% because she believes she’ll perform better at that body fat percentage.

Why is this wrong?  Well, it’s not that the goal of decreasing body fat is wrong…It’s the way the athlete is going about it.  For our example to be properly prepared for the main event, a tremendous amount of work needs to be done.  Performance is very rarely affected positively when food is restricted and frankly, for most people it’s unnecessary to reach their goal of a lower body fat percentage.

When we think about fat loss, most people tend to focus on deficit dieting when the EXACT opposite is often the more correct path.  It’s difficult to say for sure without more specifics but more often than not, if an athlete is planning to increase their work capacity in a very short time, the best approach for that person is to put on some lean mass without weight gain and end up at an overall lower body fat percentage.

This process is called body recomposition and it’s a very different approach with a different outcome in comparison to the results of a deficit diet where body weight is reduced through undereating.

My overall point is that it’s all a bit distracting to worry about losing body fat when the goal is to peak for a competition.  It’s basically a lose/lose scenario.  The goal should be to build lean mass and that requires an individualized approach!  This doesn’t mean there is never an instance where some form of deficit dieting might be part of the equation, but I will address that later in the article.


Similar to deficit dieting that results in weight loss, adding body weight is of little value (in the short term) for most high intensity competitions; bodyweight movements become more difficult and conditioning may decrease, making everything a little bit harder.

I’ll say it again – body recomposition is the best way for a competitive athlete to approach fat loss because it results in long-term performance increases across the board.  That points us in a very clear direction:  The goal during training for a competition is to be weight stable as a general rule.  What this means is you need to be specific, so I ask clients to log their food for a week to figure out how much they are eating now.  This gives us insight into the adjustments that we need to make to improve performance without adding unnecessary body weight.

Initially I don’t need them to make a lot of changes and it can actually slow down the process a bit if they do.  This initial part is to simply understand how much food they regularly take in and get a handle on the macronutrient composition of their current diet.  That’s it.  While I’m on the subject of macros, be clear that there are no magic ratios.  When I first started Eat To Perform it was just a blog with me writing about various research I was doing with athletes; when it turned into a more evolved business there was one element that needed to be put in place.

That crucial element was support from a team of individuals.  The reason is simple:  I can give people a pretty good place to start with some simple math but it’s the tweaking that often makes the most difference.  For example, knowing that a client has been very strict Paleo and under eating for the last two years is just as important as knowing that someone is coming from a mostly processed foods way of over eating.  That background of information can’t be accounted for with a simple formula.  Each of those scenarios requires an individual approach.  So to wrap this part up with a bow, we like to get athletes eating proper amounts protein to maintain and build lean tissue, fats for sufficient hormonal activity and for energy density and carbohydrates for readily accessible energy.


“But I am sure I would be a better athlete with less fat!”

As you can imagine this is something I hear a lot and it surprises people when I agree with them.  The problem isn’t that you can’t lose fat – it’s that you don’t have enough time, energy, and recovery ability to rapidly lose fat AND train properly.  The two goals are mutually exclusive.

What if I were to ask you this question:  “What would benefit you more?  Better training and significantly improved performance, or losing fat?”  Based upon previous responses I can tell you that answer would be split about 50/50 – mostly because losing fat has a couple of side benefits that more intense training might not.

But what if I asked a different question?  What if you had to put up $10,000 against a competitor in similar shape and condition?  Would that change your mind?  Would you still want to lose the fat if there was money on the line?  The reality is that it’s not logical to compromise the intensity of your training WHILE preparing for a competition because you want to peak around the time of the event.  That requires energy and stamina, all of which you gain from increasing your work capacity.  The only way you can accomplish that is by adding energy to the system – aka your body!

So that begs the question: when DO you focus on losing excess fat and put peak performance to the side for a bit?  The simple answer is to aggressively pursue fat loss in the off season (whenever that is for you).  For people that compete often, the answer might be to pick a competition or two that isn’t as important from the standpoint of winning or losing – call them “B” events if you will.

The good news is that when you do it this way, you’ll often see a much better result with a lot less work.  Remember: you ramped up training in preparation for the event so your work capacity and baseline calorie intake should be high.  That lends itself to easier fat loss.

I’ll leave you with some common sense advice regarding calorie restriction:  People often get WAY too extreme, way too fast when they do this and that sets them up for failure.  Sure, you see results quickly but your training and mental wellbeing suffer greatly.  If you’re already relatively lean, this puts you at risk for losing lean mass.  Your best bet is to keep your deficit small; only take away the smallest amount of calories that gets the scale moving in the correct way for as long as possible.  When you stop losing fat, you can further but gradually reduce calories.  However, if you care about your performance and overall health, you should always bring things back up after you make some noticeable progress.

When all is said and done, Eat To Perform is exactly what it sounds like:  a philosophy that emphasizes eating appropriately based upon your athletic goals.  When those goals involve competition and setting new PRs, the way you eat and approach fat loss must align or you won’t do your best – you won’t reach your potential.  When you’re not chasing new records or testing your mettle against other competitors, your focus has shifted and you can more aggressively pursue fat loss but you should never lose sight of becoming the most capable person you can be.

All Levels

“NPFL combines”

Chest-to-Bar Pull-ups
-Max reps in 90 seconds
Handstand Push-ups
-Max reps in 90 seconds
-Max reps in 90 seconds
Box Jumps (30/24″)
-Max reps in 60 seconds
-Max reps in 45 seconds each leg
Double unders
-Max reps in 90 seconds
Rope Climbs –
Max reps in 90 seconds
Handstand Walk
-Max distance in 60 seconds
Farmer Carry (140/70lbs)
-Max feet distance in 60 seconds
Shuttle Run
-Max 25m distances in 60 seconds


WODrunners Comp Training

A.  Front Squat 3 x 2 reps

Rest as needed

B. “Sage at 20″

20 Min Amrap

20 Thrusters (135/95 lb)

20 Pull-Ups




Mobility WOD