How Crossfit Athletes Should Do a Calorie Deficit

17 Mar

Elisabeth Akinwale

(Click here to jump to a summary of this article)

The “Science Lab” is a service I offer to active individuals that are looking to reach their body composition goals.  The classes work in a similar fashion to the way WOD’s work, they are scheduled and our coaches walk you through what you need to do to achieve your optimal physique.  We have two pricing options, $19.95 (4 payments with cancellation option) or $49.95 for the year.  For info check out this post.

Also this is an example of one of our women’s class.  We offer both men’s and women’s at the moment as well as an “Extreme Fat Loss” class for people with a bit more fat to lose.

In a previous article, I offered you the “Eat To Perform” calculator that basically takes your height, weight, age, and bodyfat percentage (if you know it) to determine the calories that you need to supply basic function to your organs and nervous system.  It then applies a multiplier related to your activity levels to determine your TDEE (total daily energy expenditure).  Getting an accurate guess at your BMR and TDEE can be extremely useful as a jumping-off point for figuring out how to achieve an optimal, balanced nutrition plan but there’s a ton of conjecture and misinformation surrounding the subject.  A big part of what I teach in the seminars is a deficit strategy that emphasizes sleeping more, eating better and maintaining a healthy metabolism through non-restrictive eating.  This leads to better work capacity, improved recovery and increased fat mobilization.  Understanding the difference between a healthy deficit and a potentially disastrous reduction in calories can be difficult, and that’s what I want to talk about in this post.

This is how the calculator works in a nutshell:  you input the variables, and it spits out both your BMR, and then your TDEE.  There are three options, all of which serve to describe some level of CrossFit activity.  The first selection is “moderately active” (WOD 2-3x a week), the second is “very active” (for folks who WOD 4-5x a week), and then finally “extra active” (for the “two-a-day” folks and people with active jobs that also CrossFit).  There are three standard formulas used to calculate BMR displayed, as well as an average.  The final TDEE calculation cannot factor in little things like walking up stairs or standing in line at the movies, but for most people it’s an extremely useful guide.

What We Teach

The basis of what we teach is that first and foremost, as an athlete, you “Eat to Perform”.  What does that mean in real-life terms, and can it help you lose fat?  While many people think that the be-all, end-all, “works 100% of the time” fat loss solution is extreme calorie deprivation, that line of reasoning does not apply to anyone with a career, a family and athletic aspirations on the side (this goes double if you are a competitive athlete!)  In the real world, a human being with a real life needs real food and they need enough of it to recover from the stress of their daily lives, so if you are looking to take the information you gleam from a calculator, and eat at your BMR (the number without the activity calculated in) until you reach your body fat goals, you will be sorely disappointed with the results.  Once you have used your low carb/low calorie “Ace card” and beaten it into the ground, you don’t get another one for a while (if you ever do again).  If you started from a place of calorie restriction, and then started low carbing as well, you probably got really confused.  It wasn’t the panacea that everyone had made it out to be.  I’ll tell it to you straight: when all is said and done, for 99% of the people I work with, deprivation is not the answer.

Every day, you have a few dietary “goals” you need to achieve to maintain your body and keep getting stronger.  At the top of the list should be to eat enough total calories, and then depending upon where you’re going and how you feel, possibly a little more.  That’s what “Eat to Perform” means; it means realizing that active populations need to prioritize supplying their bodies with enough quality nutrients to support athletic achievement, no matter how great or small these achievements are, we are all athletes.  It doesn’t however mean that you need to be obsessive about your diet, or even count calories.  Rather, you need to be aware of times when you’re just not eating enough; don’t fret about the over-consumption you always assumed was the real problem.  By putting how you perform in the gym and in your sport first and eating enough, you put cravings (both physiological and mental) to bed and set yourself up to achieve an optimal body composition without all the neurotic behavior we commonly associate with looking good naked.

Getting There

People that haven’t been engaging in an overly-restrictive diet method can start eating close to (or more than) their TDEE with extremely good results.  Everything under the hood is usually in working order and the added energy (specifically from carbohydrates) fires up their metabolism.  They start hitting personal records and sleep becomes more restorative; they become a less-cranky and less-fatigued athlete ready to pound the living daylights out of any challenge that presents itself.  For others, it will take a while to get the machine fired up and tuned correctly but in time everything will kick into gear.  For those folks I recommend caution.  But what does caution look like?

This is an example, so take it as such.  Using the information and tools we’re making available to you throughout this blog, you should be able to reverse engineer it to apply to your life:

Let’s say you plug all your numbers into the calculator and you get a TDEE calculation of 2440 calories.

I would suggest starting slowly with a 10% reduction in calories, trying to work up to your TDEE number (if you are a CrossFitter and you are cutting more than -10% off of this number, you are probably causing serious damage hormonally.  It’s unnecessary and it’s not conducive to your goals.)

We subtract 10% from 2440, bringing us to roughly 2200 calories as our goal.

If you counted your calories and figured out that the “healthy” broccoli and chicken diet you’ve been eating every day for the past six months only adds up to about 1200 calories a day, proceed with caution.  Start by upping mostly your fats initially, and strategically add in carbs around workouts and in the evening.  I will attempt to show you how you can do this, but for the future we are designing a more advanced calculator and this will serve as the template for how that will work (it actually exists now).

Solving for Fats

A nice safe spot I recommend as a starting point for carbs is 100g for women and 150g for men (for someone already lean and trying to polish off that last bit of fat you would actually up the “safe spot number in carbs to body weight in grams as a starting point).  The ultimate goal, however, is to continue adding carbs to fuel your performance in the manner we teach.  Each gram of carbohydrate yields 4 calories, so for women that is 400 calories derived from carbohydrates, and 600 calories for men.  I am going to use the example above and apply it to a woman (though technically gender is irrelevant).  Our gal weighs approximately 150 pounds, so that gives her two options: to solve the energy deficit with fats, we need to factor her protein requirements, but protein is easy.  The two best ways to estimate protein needs are simple.  You can eat 1 gram of protein per pound of bodyweight in (for example, 150 g of protein).  The alternative, and what I recommend when people have a good approximation of their body fat (even if you are wrong it probably doesn’t matter all that much, knowing this puts you way ahead of the curve) is to eat 1 gram of protein per pound of lean body mass (LBM).  Our example is sitting at 25% bodyfat.  (All of this by the way is conveniently done for you by using the calculator, we are only offering this up to show you the “what’s and why’s”)

The easiest way to do this is to multiply her bodyweight (150) by 75%.  150×0.75=112.50.  This would be the minimum amount of protein in grams that I would recommend for a 150 pound woman, and I can assure you that many 150 pound women aren’t getting this much.  That scenario is not favorable as it relates to maintaining the amount of muscle mass we’re churning over in our workouts.  This negatively affects body composition, leading to a lower BMR and ultimately body fat retention.

If you are struggling reaching your protein goals we recommend Progenex products and when you use our banners and links you receive 10% off.  If you are interested here is a post on why the hydrolyzed whey that Progenex uses is better than standard whey products.

As far as rest days and training days go, there are a few strategies you can employ to determine how much protein you need.  On higher fat days, I like to see people eat more protein; the amount should be closer to your body weight in grams.  For our example, we would have her at 150g.  This actually serves as additional protection related to protein turnover when carbs are low by providing adequate amino acids to fuel gluconeogenesis as well as protein synthesis.

Now we’ll get down to some final calculations.  This will be a low carb, high fat example using our example’s bodyweight as a protein goal.  We have her carbs at 100g, therefore 400 calories of her daily intake will come from carbohydrate.  Remember, this is not a fixed number or “standard recommendation”; this is a starting point.  You will often do better on more carbs.  Protein also is factored at 4 calories per gram, so 150g (1g/lb. of bodyweight) would put her at 600 calories coming from protein.

We derive 9 calories per gram of fat.  To solve for fats we simply subtract the 2200 calorie goal she’s using as a cautious strategy (you’ll recall that we’re going off of a TDEE of 2440-10% which equals 2200 calories), trying to work towards eventually eating to the level her body demands.  We take the calorie sum of carbs and add that to the sum of the protein (400 calories from carbs + 600 calories from protein) and then subtract those two numbers from her calorie estimate of 2200 which puts us at 1200 calories left to come from fat.  We then divide by 9 (1200 divided by 9 equals 133.3 grams of fat).  This may seem like a lot of fat but when you cut the carbs, the energy has to come from somewhere.  In a perfect world, you’d derive your fat calories from endogenous body fat, but that just doesn’t happen.  Exogenous dietary fat is a requirement and most low carb dieters are not eating even close to these amounts.  That is yet another reason they are struggling to reach their body composition goals.  Anyway, drum roll please!

Final total:

Carbohydrates 400 calories (100g)

Protein 600 calories (150g)

Fats 1200 calories (133.3g)

Solving for Carbs

Now let’s look at a day where our hypothetical woman is taking a slightly more aggressive approach to her carbohydrate consumption, to really get that metabolism functioning optimally.  For this example I am going to set protein at LBM levels.

Carbohydrates 800 calories (200g)

Protein 450 calories (112.5g)

Fats 950 calories (105.5g)

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If you are looking at a way to add some more carbs into your pre and post workout regimen obviously whole foods work but the best and quickest absorbing carb is Vitargo.  It’s also a great way to take advantage of some favorable body conditions when your cells are most receptive to taking in carbohydrate (similar to what we wrote in our book on Metabolic Flexibility specific to people that Crossfit and lift weights intensely).  The goal of carbohydrate consumption is to get what you need and to get back into “fat burning” mode.  There is no carb source on the market that does this better than Vitargo and if there were we would sell you that.  Click here for more details and to buy Vitargo directly with free shipping.

“But a Calorie Isn’t a Calorie”

This is a popular argument and it might surprise people to know that I mostly agree.  The problem is that it’s one of the only quantitative measurements we have available to go on.  Besides, what I am suggesting isn’t a standard recommendation; it’s merely a starting point.  I will write more on why calories might equate to the values I mention above, but this is the hand grenade approach (not the horseshoes approach).  Right now, I am trying to get you to take a thousand-foot look at your diet and determine whether or not you’re really eating enough, or if you’re putting a damper on your progress simply because you’re not eating enough.  In practice, I don’t count calories; I have a basic understanding of how this all works, and as I add pieces (food) to the puzzle (my body), I simply check how they fit in and I know not to force things if they’re just not budging.  Until you’ve developed a similar approach and learned how your body reacts to certain foods and energy balances, some level of gross management may be necessary.


  • Prolonged periods of low carb dieting can equate to underfeeding, and this can lead to all kinds of metabolic derangement.
  • Eating to perform means eating enough food to sustain and improve your work capacity, strength, agility, and sport specific skills.
  • Form follows function; by putting performance first, you can achieve an optimal body composition.  That may not mean you walk around at 5% body fat, but you’ll be lean and muscular without eating in a restrictive fashion.
  • Start by getting a ballpark figure of how many calories you need to eat every day (TDEE).  Although it may seem like a lot of food at first, most of the time you will create a calorie deficit through your training and eating more (not less) will promote positive body composition changes.
  • If fat loss is your primary goal or you’re coming from a period of calorie restriction, subtract 10% from your TDEE calculation to give yourself some room to eat a little bit less.
  • Men should start at 150g of carbs on training days and dial it in as they go.  Women should start at 100g of carbs. (lean people need to start at their weight in grams to maintain conditions favorable to maintaining the muscle they have earned)
  • Eat 1g of protein for every lb. of bodyweight.  If you know your body fat percentage, you can eat 1g for every lb. of lean body mass.
  • Counting calories may be necessary for a short period of time while you get a handle on how much you need to eat, but you should ultimately try to eat more by how you feel, look, and perform than any number.

60 Responses to “How Crossfit Athletes Should Do a Calorie Deficit”

  1. Chris March 17, 2013 at 4:31 pm #

    This really resonates with me as feeling true to my experiences with my own body. Thank you for the validation to continue on this path, and also making me realize that my aspirations of making my living in the health and fitness world are an actual possibility.

    • Paul Nobles March 18, 2013 at 9:01 am #

      that really makes me feel good to hear things like that. I know both James and myself really try to put this info out there in a concise manner. It’s just difficult to avoid sounding “sciency” oftentimes but we try.

  2. goodwince March 18, 2013 at 5:36 pm #

    I’m not CFer. I’m strength focused so I assumed 2x per week (sedentary job) although I train for strength 4-5x per week.

    The calculator says that I should be taking in 2900 TDEE (190 lbs, 18% bf). Currently I average about 2200 calories using LC. 180-200 Protein, 130 fat. Sounds like I really need to up my fat.

    Thanks for writing. If I buy the book do you think you could help even a non-crossfit guy?

    • Paul Nobles March 18, 2013 at 5:39 pm #

      for sure but your calories sound low even at the high number. I weigh 160 pounds and I eat 3000-3500. I am 12%. I don’t even Crossfit all that often at the moment, maybe 3 times a week with two strength training days. Sometimes less than that.

  3. Terri March 22, 2013 at 5:17 pm #

    I just purchased CBL & CNS and now I’m more confused than ever about which I should do…maybe CNS with 2 carb nites? Looking for your help. Here’s a little about me:
    5’5″ 160 lbs 33% body fat according to scale. I’ve been CrossFitting almost a year and love it! I do CF 5-6 times a week @ 6:30 am. I am currently fairl strong, but because I’m trying to get stronger, I do a strength program (Wendler’s) on Tue/Thu @ 5:45 am. My other goals include losing fat (goal around 15% body fat) and increasing my performance in CrossFit.

    Suggestions on which program to follow and how to tweak it to work for me?

    • Paul Nobles March 23, 2013 at 11:09 am #

      If you are a Crossfitter CNS will mess you up. Period, end of story. Could you do it right eating enough? You probably could but you wouldn’t be getting the benefits of the carbs. I did give an example in this article of how you could do CBL a bit like CNS but go to the dangerously hardcore page and scroll down and look out for all of the gals screaming about how CNS isn’t working for them. It’s good information to know but exercising with high intensity adds a whole new element to dietary intake.

      For men the sticking point is about 17-20% and for women it’s about where you are at. The answer to your problem is protein turnover and adequate food intake to support your level of activity. You need to know the info in the calculator as well. Not to count calories but to have some idea what adequate intake looks like.

      Still confused or did this help (check the links out before you answer)?

  4. Tracy March 23, 2013 at 8:45 pm #

    I’m a bit confused and maybe you can help me out! I had a baby about 5 months ago and had just recently started back crossfitting (4-5 time a week) and pretty much eat paleo, but thought I’d put in my information into the calculator and it says I need 3,500 calories. I’m 5’6 at 142lbs and 25% body fat. So that would be like 107g protein, and if I did 100g carbs, I’d have to eat like 2,500 calories in fat a day. This just sounds crazy. Haha. Am I doing something wrong?

    • Paul Nobles March 24, 2013 at 11:03 am #

      No you aren’t. Just remember that you can play with those numbers a lot. If you are getting that number that means you put in “extra active” so up your carbs and probably your protein. That will bring fat down to a more reasonable number. That’s what’s cool about the calculator, it shows you various options and let’s you do the adjustments.

  5. Melissa March 23, 2013 at 9:14 pm #

    If I crossfit and cbl while eating at my TDEE (around 2500 cal according to your calculator), do I even have to worry about a caloric deficit or will my body pretty much just auto-regulate itself and the change in body composition will just occur on its own? I’m a 5’2 female who crossfits 5-6 times per week along with other heavy activity, with some extra fat to lose. I backload every night before a WOD, following roughly the guidelines you set in you “CBL for CrossFitting Women” article and my performance has been through the roof since I started. Should I start a caloric deficit, or let CBL and auto-regulation do its thing?

    • Paul Nobles March 24, 2013 at 11:00 am #

      let your added work capacity and additional healing powers do the work.

  6. Jane March 24, 2013 at 8:22 pm #

    If you have been undereating by 400-600 calories + >70g carbs a day for several years, on top of heavy lifting, I’m assuming it is a normal (but necessary) phenomena to put on belly fat eating at established TDEE? I am going from chronically consuming 1,500 to a more “healthy” 2,000 calories and it is really messing with me psychologically, not to mention I feel like it is contributing to the extra belly fat I have accumulated due to cortisol issues. Thoughts? When do you think this will self-regulate? I am at 19% BF right now, which I know is a healthy range (although it is the heaviest I’ve ever been,) but the extra chub right under my belly button certainly does not “normal”. It is hard for me to exercise more than 2x a week due to some adrenal issues, so wondering if I should even be eating the 100g per day, or perhaps a bit less. Thanks for any help.

    • Paul Nobles March 25, 2013 at 2:51 pm #

      Why would you assume that? I am actually saying that is the problem. You should be eating more. The reason you can’t mobilize that last bit of fat is because you are overly cautious about carbs. If you add something like the sweet potato recovery fuel post workout that probably gets you pretty close to where you need to be for added calories and protein turnover. You just aren’t keeping that last bit of muscle you are earning and that is the key to the last bit of fat loss. If you don’t want to use that drink make your own 2/1 carbs to protein possibly with a small amount of fat to help absorption. 50g/25g should do you fine.

      It won’t happen immediately but you should notice a big difference within 30 days as long as you don’t lower your calories as a result. At your level of lean you should be at TDEE. The fact that you aren’t is why you are holding on to that last bit of fat. Also you should know that Crossfit won’t get you shredded, your body naturally holds a bit of fat to protect your muscle. Shouldn’t be like you are describing though.

  7. kateschumacher March 25, 2013 at 3:46 am #

    I am a 5′ 5″ female who recently started Crossfit and averages one WOD per day, five times a week. I have been introduced to intermittent fasting through leangains as well and see how both are mutually beneficial in my goals of gaining muscle and strength while still leaning out. My question remains, what is the proper marriage of these two ideas and do you have any tips?

    • Paul Nobles March 25, 2013 at 2:35 pm #

      the biggest part, by far, is to dial in your calories without an extreme deficit, in my opinion -10 is very aggressive for a Crossfitter, anything more than that really starts to impair metabolism. Have you seen this

  8. liberatedfromfear March 25, 2013 at 3:51 am #

    Hi Paul,

    do you do nutrition consultations?

    • Paul Nobles March 25, 2013 at 2:31 pm #

      Only through the seminars that we give away free when you purchase things from our site. Hard to scale one on one sessions but after each seminar I make time for people that might have a private question. Does that help?

  9. Steve March 25, 2013 at 4:21 pm #

    This is a great article and I am truly thankful for the feedback you are giving through all the comments. This whole nutrition/# of calories thing has be totally confused. I used the TDEE calculator link you put in another article and came to about 3,500 calories. I am 5’10 260lbs and have been doing Crossfit for about 15 months now. I WOD 3 times per week and do running 2 more days. When I started CrossFit I weight about 270, and now hover between 255 and 260. I can’t seem to get below that. I will be the first to admit my choice of foods is not always the best so I am willing to accept part of that responsibility.

    Just to make sure I am understanding this entire concept (with the help of my CrossFit coach). Up till now I would say that on average I have been eating 1,600 – 2,000 calories/day. Some days less, some days more but if I were to average it would fall in that range. Everything I have read on here says that is no where near enough. If I were to try and implement this program, the best thing for me would be to add calories a little bit at a time until I hit that sweet spot and not jump right into 3,500 calories, correct? Would you still recommend that same 150g of carbs you have mentioned before backing into fats?

    I am probably going to order the CBL book as well. This has me totally intrigued as eating more to lose weight it counter intuitive but what I am doing obviously isn’t working. LOL

    Thanks for these great articles and the responses you give to everyone. Today is day 1 of this new process (slightly more calories) so we’ll see how it goes.

    • Paul Nobles March 27, 2013 at 12:56 pm #

      buy the book, stay around 150g of carbs for a while. Consider dropping the running and adding a strength day instead. Trust me on this one. The running isn’t helping and you get enough cardio from Crossfit. If you have a few calories drink some protein post workout.

  10. Butch March 26, 2013 at 2:39 am #

    This is eye-opening, I am 44, 5’5″ and a very active person. I Crossfit 4-6 times a week and add in 2-3 strength and/or cardio workouts as well. I have been counting and restricting calories for years and eat 6 meals a day with 1-1.4 grams protein per lb bodyweight. 3 years ago I was at 148 lbs with approx 10% bf with no issues of maintaining that weight, but now have a hard time getting above 137 lb, bf is 8.5% +/-. It is hard to break the mindset of calorie counting and proportioning, my fat content is about 40 grams per day with the occasional binge of cheese or nuts and a daily caloric intake of 2200 calories. My BMR is calculated out at 1495 and TDEE is 2841, I know it sounds like I am complaining about being where most people want to be, but I want and need that 10 lbs back but don’t want to add back the BF. I am a firefighter and body weight this low is almost dangerous for my job, without the strength I have from Crossfit, I couldn’t do my job. How can I put the muscle back on?

    • Paul Nobles March 27, 2013 at 12:00 am #

      Straight up man when you are lean it is like a gift. You should really be able to push the boundaries, lose the fear, eat carbs and use them to fuel your workouts. I think you will be surprised how easily you can add it. Your muscles are probably depleted to be honest. You will just be filling them back up.

  11. tif March 26, 2013 at 4:17 pm #

    I have been an athlete since I can remember and I ate like one. Back 2 years ago I was over training (which I see now very clearly) but I had a very healthy diet (I ate what I want when I wanted and didnt concern myself with calorie counting-I just ate good whole foods.) I was 5’6″ and 108lbs max…very lean with muscle. I was happy. I ended up drastically changing my diet thanks to the advice from a nutritionist who was treating me for bloating. She put me on a crazy elimination diet that cut gluten,dairy,soy,eggs,protein shakes, and all my supplements. My body freaked out and as I result I ballooned gaining 25lbs in a month, having crazy leg pains, night sweats, acne etc. After 4 weeks I went back to my -eat whatever diet but it seemed the damage of too little food being soooo active. I lost my menses for 14 months and gained a total of 40lbs in 1.5 years. It has now been 2 years and I have been able to lose 15lbs but it has been super slow process. I dont know how many calories to eat anymore as I now am trying to cut the fat without scaring my body back into starvation mode. Any help with diet would be greatly appreciated. I am now weighing in at 135lbs (not healthy weight I have a lot of excess fat) and am eating 1700-2000 calories.

    • Paul Nobles March 26, 2013 at 11:43 pm #

      Is that close to what the calculator says you should eat? Also you didn’t say you Crossfit, do you?

  12. catiecook March 26, 2013 at 6:02 pm #

    hi! Loved this article, it really helped. I just have a quick question for ya:

    I used to crossfit about 5 days a week, but recently had a knee surgery that is going to make it so I can’t xfit as hard for about a year. I can modify of course, but my activity load is just naturally way lower now. I know for a fact that I haven’t been eating enough protein and fats since surgery, so I am trying to get a more stable eating plan figured out.
    SO- I want to start building a ‘meal plan’ for myself to accomplish a couple things:
    1) feel more energized
    2) recover faster and keep as much strength as possible while I’m recovering
    3) Possibly loose a little bit of body fat (I am 125lbs, about 25% body fat and 5’3- normally extremely athletic and eat pretty much entirely paleo)

    To sum up what I am asking, is this eating routine a good way to accomplish these things?


    • Paul Nobles March 26, 2013 at 11:34 pm #

      It certainly would, since you will be focusing more on strength training (that’s what rehab is) it’s actually more ideal not less. Kiefer talks about this in the book. Good time to work on upper body and abs.

      • catiecook888 April 4, 2013 at 3:50 am #

        Hey Paul,
        I am sure you get people asking you this all the time, but I was wondering if you could help me understand this a little more. I have been reading a lot of your posts about nutrition, and like I said, I am recovering from a surgery, and suspect I have been eating at a very high calorie deficit, which I think has stalled my metabolism pretty bad. Since reading more of your blog, I’ve been changing up my routine slowly. Here is what I’m working with:

        Bfast: 2 Eggs, 1 cup of spinach (estimated) sliced tomato, sweet potato (baked) red bell peppers.

        Snack: Raw veggies (carrots, celery, peppers etc)

        Lunch: Ground turkey or chicken, spinach or beet chard, turnips or white beet, tomato and brocoli (it varies day to day but that is generally the make of my salad)

        Between lunch and dinner I snack on some sort of sugar (dark chocolate, some almonds, or something of that nature

        Dinner: Sometimes eggs, or chicken, with more veggies. I try to stick to heartier veggies like squashes, yams, asparagus and brussels sprouts

        Snack before bed: Fage or Greek Gods plain greek yogurt with a chopped fig or just cinnamon. If its before a work out that I expect to be difficult, I’ll have some sort of gluten free snack (muffin, crackers etc)

        Just wondering if I am on the right track, or what type of meal adjustments you might suggest for fat loss and muscle gain?

        Thanks again,

      • Paul Nobles April 4, 2013 at 11:16 am #

        I can’t imagine this is enough food to support even basic metabolic function.

  13. Jane March 26, 2013 at 11:49 pm #

    Paul, thanks for your response! I assumed you’d put on a bit of weight (initially) because the body is finally being fed, and therefore wants to hold on to as many calories as possible until it realizes “oh, she won’t be starving herself for awhile again.” This is only assumption, of course. I eat all of my (starchy) carbs post-workout, so lately I’ve been trying to eat about 4 small sweet potatoes after my workout (~100g carbs, 400 calories.)

    So, even if you are trying to lean out more, you should eat at TDEE? I also don’t do much Crossfit persay, I like to focus more on lifting heavy weights. I might do 25-35 heavy, low-rep sets total per week, in two to three sessions a week. Occasionally I will sprinkle in some circuits, sprinting, or a 20min run depending on how I feel, but lately I’ve felt like I’ve been hit by a train post-workout (although eating makes me feel MUCH better after).

    • Paul Nobles March 27, 2013 at 12:47 pm #

      I am not suggesting that the added work capacity, better rest and better hormonal profile as well as metabolism doesn’t add up to a deficit and maybe you should try out -10 before you dive into the deep end of the pool but I am in fact saying that extreme deficits will in fact be detrimental to your fat loss and body comp goals.

  14. Tracy Demmings April 3, 2013 at 8:43 pm #

    What does 133g of fat look like in real food ?

    • Paul Nobles April 4, 2013 at 11:38 am #

      8 ounce grass fed ribeye 54g
      8 ounce grass fed ground beef 30g
      half of a can of coconut milk light 20g
      two tsp of ghee for your eggs 10g
      two tbsp’s of MCT oil to bake your sweet potatoes on 28g

  15. Tanci April 3, 2013 at 8:51 pm #

    This is a very good blog, time to sit down and figure my own info out. I am new to cross fit and just do it here and there, but I am a long distance runner and triathlete, so it might seem that I am not getting enough calories all around into my diet. Thanks for the post

  16. tancifoster April 3, 2013 at 8:54 pm #

    This is a very good post, so thankful for it. I am new to crossfit and only go here and there, I am strength focused and run long distances and triathlons, though I am getting bored with my gym workout (reasons for trying crossfit). I need to sit down and figure my information out to make sure that I am eating properly to help me perform at my best. One thing though I can not figure out is that I eat very healthy, exercise daily sometimes twice a day and I am always, always tired, sluggish during the day. Maybe the diet is the cause, not enough or too much. One way to find out

    • Paul Nobles April 4, 2013 at 11:28 am #

      yes, eat more, probably a lot more. What is the calculator saying?

  17. Renee Hoffman April 3, 2013 at 9:00 pm #

    Hi Paul,

    I am a competitive CrossFitter, training 5-6/week mixed with 2 a days(skills or strength plus wod), I have read some of your articles and the CBL book. Seemingly, I am at a massive caloric deficit and have been eating only half the calories I really require to fuel performance( previously I had been put on a paleo version of 13 blocks for the day). Just to clarify can i still eat green or fibrous veggies during the day or do I wait until after training/dinner to start eating carbs? Also is there an optimal time for fasting until first meal of the day? I really want to dial in and lose that last bit of body fat,increase lean muscle mass and maximize my performance. Any help would be appreciated.

    • Paul Nobles April 4, 2013 at 11:27 am #

      Yes, you actually WANT to eat your fibrous veggies at that time and possibly avoid them in the evening as a result. Yes, 13 blocks seems ridiculously low. In terms of fasting it’s person dependent but for an athlete that probably needs a lot of calories I would just delay for a bit and start your meals. Are you a science lab member?

      • Renee Hoffman April 4, 2013 at 7:17 pm #

        Thanks Paul! Yes i am now I just received the link yesterday to set up my profile.. Any help to optimize my performance and lean mass will be great!

      • Brandi April 5, 2013 at 12:43 am #

        I thought veggies were considered “good carbs”. If you are supposed to fast carbs during that day, then why have that veggies during the day and not at night ?

      • Paul Nobles April 5, 2013 at 11:10 am #

        because fibrous carbs basically net out to being irrelevant, so you eat them during the day. In the evening they interfere with the upload of the starches you are eating. You certainly can do it your way, it’s not like I always avoid a salad at dinner.

      • renee hoffman April 5, 2013 at 3:49 am #

        Paul, another question according to the ETP calculator my TDEE is 2317 cal based on 140lb (151g fats(1357 cal), 100g carbs(400 cal), 140g Protein(560 cal). My previous intake on an average day looked like: Protein: 92g, 949 cal.. Fats: 83g,358 cal.. Carbs: 96g, 325 cal. Does it matter if the calorie intake from protein is higher than the est off the ETP calculator despite the grams being less than my required intake? Obvioulsy i have a big deficit in fats and need to look at more calorie dense options, is that correct to level it out? How would i back load my carbs if i am training 6 days(sometimes with 2 sessions)???

      • Paul Nobles April 5, 2013 at 10:56 am #

        that’s seems really low for calories which multiplier are using? You should probably be using extra active. Calorie intake from protein can be higher, that is not a problem. On two a days I wouldn’t worry about back loading, I would just worry about loading and eat enough, did you see my “intraday” article I wrote for two a days?

  18. Nick April 3, 2013 at 10:15 pm #


    You are the man. This is the exact type of work I have employed to lose 80 lbs and go from 38 to 12.9% body fat today over the last 1.5 years. All your info validates exactly what I preach! Keep it up!!!

  19. Helly April 3, 2013 at 10:34 pm #

    If we don’t know our body fat is there a way to follow “diet” based on height and weight? I am 128 pounds and 5’7 and crossfit 4-5 times a week. I seem to be losing body fat… just really slowly (I am guessing that’s the point right?). I eat pretty strict paleo with some home made nut bars thrown in for additional calories throughout the day (they contain some honey). I don’t take down protein powders and prefer to get all most of my calories from vegetables, fruit and meat (and of course nuts and seeds). I would like to get body fat down to see more muscle definition… I don’t really have that far to go… just wondering if I should be doing something additional to aid in this process?

    • Paul Nobles April 4, 2013 at 11:24 am #

      yes, you need carbs to add additional muscle. Without carbs you are artificially repressing your hormonal signals and hurting protein turnover in a big way. Have you considered joining the Science Lab?

  20. Sheri April 3, 2013 at 11:14 pm #

    I’m confused. Having a real tough time wrapping my head around the idea that I should eat more. I’m 5’7″, 143lbs, 16% bf. I want to lean down and not lose muscle. My goal is a solid 14%bf. I work out 3-5 times a week and have felt stagnant with my body composition changes. Everything else I have learned has me believing I need to reduce my total caloric intake by cutting carbs. I just can’t find the right balance to move in the direction I want. And math makes me stumble… 🙂

    • Paul Nobles April 4, 2013 at 11:23 am #

      honestly everything else is using simplistic logic. You need to retain your muscle and aid protein turnover to do that, that doesn’t happen easily with no carbs. Also you should consider creatine. Are you a science lab member?

      This is what we talk about in virtually every class and it’s not expensive to become one.

  21. Heather April 5, 2013 at 1:06 am #

    I need major help. I have tried everything imaginable and am stuck. Background: I use to be very athletic (lifitng, sports etc). 30 yrs old 187lbs. (Heaviest was 215lbs) 5’4. I recently started crossfit about 3 days per week but workout 4-5 days total. I started Paleo In Jan. I’ve had a very small appetite lately. My weight does not move, my measurements barely, bmi/fat% nope. I started tracking calories and wearing a heart rate monitor. I’ve been told I have been putting my body in ketosis so I try to eat more and my weight goes up. I don’t get it. Even my partner is a personal trainer and she’s at a loss. I feel like giving up. I work SO HARD. I have the drive, dedication, discipline but I feel like a total failure. I kill myself day after day. I have tried cheat meals you name it! I’m told all the time I look great that I look thinner, well all my pants fit the same too. And my bmi I don’t get it. I have plenty of fat too loose. Please help!

    • Paul Nobles April 5, 2013 at 11:25 am #

      your taking the “bang the hammer harder approach” and you are turning yourself into a metabolic disaster as a result. You gain weight because you are hurting your cells adaptability. You will probably gain weight in your situation because I imagine your workouts aren’t that great. You really need to join the science lab and go to one of the science lab classes for extreme fat loss. If what I say to you doesn’t make sense then cancel but your current path is leaving you very confused listening to too many voices that don’t know what they are talking about.

      • Heather April 5, 2013 at 2:49 pm #

        So to join I need to buy something from Rogue through one of your links? That is a bummer. I literally just bought over $700 worth of stuff from Rogue.

      • Paul Nobles April 6, 2013 at 12:50 pm #

        They aren’t a sponsor of mine. The cost for the science lab is $4.95 a month and if you find you don’t like it you can cancel. Nothing against Rogue because I love their stuff and use it but I suspect that $60 a year (less than 1/10th of what you paid for the equipment) will make a bigger difference for your body comp goals.

  22. Tara April 5, 2013 at 3:26 am #

    Hi Paul,
    So do you offer a service or classes to help with eating? I am really looking for some help as I cant seem to burn much fat and I know it is all with my eating, not enough, HELP! What does this mean….
    The “Science Lab” is a service I offer Crossfitters that are looking to reach their body composition goals. The classes work in a similar fashion to the way Crossfit WOD’s work, they are scheduled and our coaches walk you through what you need to do to achieve your optimal physique. It is free for most people buy simply purchasing items through our links on this site. For a list of our free options click here.

    • Paul Nobles April 5, 2013 at 10:59 am #

      This is where everything starts and what I suspect you are going to see is that (assuming you use the calculator correctly) you are not eating enough and that is artificially repressing your metabolism. That is a big part of the discussion we have, how to reverse that, get metabolism rolling and get you to reach your goals. Long story short what other site where someone who actually knows what they are talking about do you get to talk to regularly. It’s a great deal.

      • Tara April 5, 2013 at 2:28 pm #

        Do I sign up somewhere? I need help like yesterday! ha Here is what the calculator said. I go to crossfit anywhere from 2-5 days so I am really off and just put the lowest for that section. I am eating maybe 14–1500 calories a day now. What do I go off of for this calculator? I think I used it right?
        Mifflin-St Jeor Formula: 2,972 calories
        Katch-McCardle Formula: 1,435 calories
        Harris-Benedict Formula: 1,924 calories
        Average BMR: 2,110 calories

        Total Daily Energy Expenditure (TDEE): 2,944 calories

        219 grams of fats

  23. Rosalinda April 5, 2013 at 3:10 pm #

    Hello, I don’t crossfit but I lift 3x a wk and hiit 3x a wk. I’m 5’4, 130lbs and I eat 1800 cal. A day. I’m trying to lose body fat and trying really hard to not go down to the typical 1500cal. Diet. I am also a stay at home mom and pretty much just do my workout and that’s it so I used the just active one which is TDEE a little over 2000calories. Should I be eating at 2000 or stay at 1800? Also should I be having these calories even on rest days? And one more thing, is 100g of carbs good enough and should I just eat those pre and post workout on training days and do I eat the same amount on non training days spreading them out. Thank you, I’m looking into starting crossfit.

    • Paul Nobles April 6, 2013 at 12:47 pm #

      your calories are way too low and it’s probably hurting your goals.

      • Rosalinda April 6, 2013 at 3:59 pm #

        Wow, even too low to lose fat? I’ve noticed in the last couple of months that I’m really tired and have no energy. I also just don’t feel like working out or do anything. I feel like I’m going through depression but don’t know why. Now I’m starting to think maybe I’m not eating enough but even 2000 seems like a lot for weight loss. Another thing I was thinking was maybe not enough carbs but every time I eat complex carbs I get extremely sleepy so idk.

  24. espfit April 5, 2013 at 11:44 pm #

    Thank you for all the great articles! This is the type of resource I have been looking for, for a long time. I am a 5’9 female who sits at 190 lbs with about 26% bodyfat. I am very active as a fitness instructor and am also a Crossfitter. At this moment I CrossFit about twice per week in which I do double of WODs and Oly specific class but do my own workouts 5-6 times per week plus teach upwards of 30-35 hours of classes per week. In the past two years I have competed in figure competitions and maintained an almost maniacally clean diet with little to no carbs (when competing I cut them out completely to drop weight. Competition weight was 135). I believe I completely screwed up my metabolism and for the past couple of years have had insomnia, depression, multiple injuries, extreme weight gain etc. I have had my BMR tested and know that I burn 1800 calories at rest, but couldn’t get it into my mind that since competing I have gained almost 25 pounds of muscle and need to eat more to perform to my best ability. I usually eat about 1500-1600 calories and have not understood why I can not drop to that weight where I am more efficient. Thank you for opening my eyes finally! Its like I knew it but needed that validation and push to up my calories significantly. I just found your site three days ago and decided to give it a whirl since what I am doing is not working and I already feel better and have more energy! I think with the addition of carb back loading I will be able to reach my goal of a 175# snatch by the end of the year or even sooner!!!!

    • Paul Nobles April 6, 2013 at 12:31 pm #

      Make sure to get your info to Maggie so you get access to the private forum so you can ask me questions as you progress.

  25. Teresa April 6, 2013 at 4:10 am #

    Hi Paul, I have a question regarding the TDEE calculation, would it make sense at all to use two calculations, one for active days and one for inactive? If you only do crossfit two days a week, wouldn’t the TDEE be more accurate if you ate according to a non active calculation on the 5 sedentary days…along side of changing the carb/fat ratio?

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