Wolford Wellness – Energy Systems and Sports Nutrition


With the CrossFit Open coming up you need to be performing at your very best. Perhaps the biggest limiting factor in performance is the rate by which your body uses energy compared to the rate by which your body produces energy.  When you consume food, this food fuels 3 different energy systems to produce usable energy: Phosphogen (ATP-PC), Anaerobic and Aerobic systems.  

Your goal as an athlete is to be as well conditioned (and skilled specific to movements required) as humanly possible, which simply means, you need to meet the energy demands of your sport.  In almost all sports, when an athlete gets tired, or even immediately following a burst of movement, that athlete is subbed for a fresh player, such as in basketball and especially football.  A running-back for example may only run a few yards (5-10) per carry, with a maximum of a 100 yard sprint, which is followed by a period of rest to get ready for the next play.  

In CrossFit, you have no one to sub in for you, and the demands of the sport are both high intense (snatch, box jump, muscle up), and moderate (wallballs, air squats, 400/800m or longer run), therefore this sport is one of the highest demanding sports of all 3 of the energy pathways known to man.  

So the level of your conditioning depends on how efficient the energy systems of your body are at creating energy.  This energy is called ATP – Adenosine Triphosphate.  Now that we know what to do, lets get busy and create some ATP!

ENTER The Energy Pathways of the Body

ATP-PC Anaerobic Energy Pathway

The ATP-PC energy pathway (sometimes called the phosphate system) supplies roughly 10 seconds worth of energy and is dominant during any maximum high intensity burst of movement such as any heavy Olympic Lift (Snatch), 3 rep max Squat or a 100 meter sprint. This pathway doesn’t require any oxygen to create ATP, which is why its part of the “Anaerobic” system.  The initial 2-3 seconds is created from the ATP stored in our muscles, and the rest of the ATP is created from Creatine-Phosphate. Increasing the stored Creatine-Phosphate through supplementation increases the duration of this system.  

Anaerobic Metabolism – Glycolysis

Glycolysis simply means the breakdown of glucose, so this system creates ATP exclusively from carbohydrates with lactate being a by-product (b/c of the absence of oxygen).  The glycolytic pathway provides much more energy then the ATP-PC, however in combination still only burns for a maximum of 2min. and reaches a peak at about 90sec.

Aerobic Metabolism

Aerobic metabolism with the presence of oxygen fuels most of the energy needed for long duration activity.  Its primary fuel source is fat, which is virtually limitless in supply, this is excellent for lower intensity exercise, however is a much slower process so it cannot supply nearly as much power as the previous two systems.  This is the dominant pathway for any sustained exercise over 3min.


As your WOD begins, ATP is being produced through a combination of all 3 energy systems, the factors that determine which system are most dominant depend on the amount of power needed for the movement (intensity), the amount of time required to produce the power, and the total duration of the exercise.  It is important to briefly mention that it is a complete misunderstanding of the term “Aerobics” to refer exclusively to very long duration, low intensity movements.  After only 2-3minutes, the aerobics system is the dominant system, so although crossfitters may not want to admit it, CrossFit is predominately an aerobic sport. ** Insert scary music


The ATP created from each of the energy pathways first originates from the food we consume.  Below I have provided very concise and general recommendations of the nutritional needs of the athlete. 


Consume at least 3-5 liters per day, depending on the humidity, exercise volume and food intake, the amount may be more or less.  Do not wait to be thirsty to start drinking water. 

Average Sweat loss rate is .5-2L/hr, which then needs to be replenished post exercise. This means you need to consume .5-2L of water following the bout.  This can also be determined based on before and after scale weight by drinking roughly 3 cups of water (24oz) for every lb lost.  


Consume at least 1.5-2g/kg or .7-1g/lb per day.  There is not a single study to date that shows consuming high levels of protein is harmful if you already have a healthy liver and kidneys, therefore I suggest consuming on the higher limit, especially if you are trying to shed bodyfat as protein is the most satiating macronutrient. 


For a 200lb male athlete, trying to get 200g of protein would be:

  • 2lbs or more of meat per day (plus or minus protein shakes)

–          5 eggs

–          8oz Grassfed ground beef

–          2, 4oz chicken breasts

–          2 Protein Shakes (45g each)


Carbohydrate intake based on Intensity and Volume:

  • Minimal Physical Activity: 1-3g/kg
  • Light Activity: (3-5hr/wk) 4-5g/kg
  • Medium Activity: (10hr/wk) 6-7g/kg
  • Elite Athletes: (20hr/wk) >7g/kg
  • Elite Endurance/Ultra: 7-12g
    ** Evidence also shows effectiveness at very low carbohydrate intake for endurance athletes which requires a fat intake of 65-85% of total calories.

** Specific amount depends on insulin sensitivity, number of hours or bouts of exercise, and intensity of exercise.  
** If your goal is fat loss, I provide tailored recommendations for specific needs, so please contact me for more information.

Post Workout Nutrition

–          Phase 1: Consume 1g/kg of carbohydrate plus .5g/kg of protein, w/ .5-1liter of water and a pinch of salt immediately following exercise (30-60min.).

–          Phase 2: Consume another meal with equivalent macros within 2hrs. following bout or roughly 1hr after your first PWO meal/shake


–          PWO Shake for a 200lb athlete: 45g Whey Protein, 90g dextrose, .5-1L water, plus 1/8tsp salt (340mg) or simply a “pinch”.

–          PWO Meal for a 200lb athlete: Two 3-4oz Chicken Breasts, 2 cups cooked white rice, .5-1L water, salt food.

** The salt is based on research that an athlete will lose on average 300-600mg of salt every hr. of exercise.  

This is quite possibly the most ergogenic aid next to plain ol’ water that you can do to benefit your fitness.  If your diet is perfect and your sleep is crappy, then say goodbye to performance. 

–          8/9hrs per night

–          Pitch Black Room: Take this seriously

–          Decrease/eliminate screen time roughly 2-4 hrs before sleep

  • Install f.lux on your computer http://justgetflux.com
  • Purchase blue-light blocking glasses – http://goo.gl/bnCENA

–          Take magnesium glycinate 30-60min. before bed

–          Consume caffeinated beverages no later then 12-2pm

Meal Timing:
“It takes about 4 hours for carbohydrate to be digested and begin being stored as muscle and liver glycogen. Consequently, pre-exercise meals should be consumed about 4 to 6 h before exercise.  This means that if an athlete trains in the afternoon, breakfast is the most important meal to top off muscle and liver glycogen levels. Research has also indicated that ingesting a light carbohydrate and protein snack 30 to 60 min prior to exercise (e.g., 50 g of carbohydrate and 5 to 10 g of protein) serves to increase carbohydrate availability toward the end of an intense exercise bout.” (http://www.jissn.com/content/7/1/7)


  • Creatine Monohydrate: (Creatine Phosphate System)
    – Loading Phase: Consume 15-25g/day for 5 days, broken into 2-3 increments

– Maintenance Phase: Consume 5g/day, optimally pwo

  • Beta-Alanine: (Glycolytic System)

– Consume 2-5g/day

** Start with small 1g doses for 2wks, then increase, as larger doses can cause tingling sensation.

  • Vitamin D3: Get your D levels checked to optimize specific dose.

– Consume 2-4,000IUs per day, optimally w/ meal in the morning.

  • Magnesium Glycinate or chelated amino blend:
    – Consume 200-600mg, 30-60min before bed

– Brands: Doctors Best & Source Naturals

  • Fish Oil: Brand I recommend is “NutriGold” and “GreenPastures”

– 1-2g/day

– Balance your supplemental intake with real food fish intake

  • BCAAs

– 5-10g, 15min. pre workout

Examples of Recommended Carbohydrate Sources:         

–          Dextrose 1tbsp (non-rounded)  = 10 grams

–          1 Cup Cooked White Rice (158g) – 45g

–          Medium Banana (118) – 27g carbs

–          Plantain (154g) – 48g carbs

–          Potato, Sweet Potato, Yam – 25/35g per medium

–          Cassava (100g) – 40g carbs, 1 entire root can be over 150g of carbohydrate

–          Apple – 25g

–          Date – 18

–          Peach – 15

–          Pear – 28

–          Mango – 35

–          Pineapple – 22g (1cup), over 100g for a whole fruit

–          1 Cup Packed Golden Raisin: 131g, 98g sugar

** All Dried fruit is going to be higher in sugar

Previous Post:


Next Post: