Food for Thought: What Kari Pearce Eats Before, After, and During Competition

Food for Thought: What Kari Pearce Eats Before, After, and During Competition

Reading Food for Thought: What Kari Pearce Eats Before, After, and During Competition 4 minutes

Food for Thought: What Kari Pearce Eats Before, After, and During Competition

Kari Pearce has used TRX training tools for years, first as a gymnast, and now as one of the world’s top CrossFit athletes. This summer, TRX is chronicling Kari’s journey to the CrossFit Games with a weekly series about her training program.

“It makes me feel better to eat right and train properly,” elite CrossFitter Kari Pearce says. “I notice a difference in how my body feels.” For Pearce, that means consuming clean, whole foods, and the occasional Lucky Charms. But more on those later.

Pearce has been an athlete her entire life—from gymnast to bodybuilder to CrossFitter—but she became more thoughtful about her diet after she finished college. “When I was gymnast, I tried to eat healthy, but I also ate a lot of other junk. I didn’t pay as much attention to my nutrition or think about how it would affect my performance,” she recalls. One obstacle was that certain foods—like yogurt or granola—sound healthy, but frequently hide unnecessary sugar and additives. “Now that I’m older, I enjoy learning about it, changing things and seeing how my body reacts,” she says.

With the CrossFit Games approaching, and her workouts ramping up, Pearce is extra-careful about her food choices. She works with Renaissance Periodization, (a company that uses science and research to create food programs for athletes), and Kettlebell Kitchen, (a Brooklyn-based meal service), to ensure she’s getting exactly what her body needs to perform.

Pearce eats as many as five small meals and a protein shake during a day. It’s not just a matter of eating frequently, but choosing the right balance of food categories. On a typical day, she has a combination of chicken, eggs, veggies, peanut butter, and lots of oatmeal. (“It’s easy. You can carry it anywhere. You just need hot water to cook it. It’s one of the things I carry most with me when I travel,” she says.)

Portion sizes vary according to the time of day—and what time she’s working out—but Pearce consumes as much as 75 grams of carbs, 3 ounces of protein, 1–2 servings of fat, and vegetables in a single meal. “My favorite meal is chicken with grilled peppers and onions, black bean salsa, and avocado. I think I could eat that for the rest of my life if someone would cook it for me everyday,” she says. Her vitamins and nutrients come from food—the only supplement she takes regularly is fish oil—and she doesn’t drink alcohol. “I don’t really enjoy it,” she says. “If I’m going to get extra calories, I want ice cream, not alcohol.”

Even when she travels, Pearce sticks to her meal plan by packing a cooler with prepared meals, or finding a hotel room with a kitchen so she can do her own meal prep. In a bind, she eats oatmeal or canned tuna. “I’ll go out some,” she says, “but I try to eat as much of my food as I can. If I eat out and I eat junk, I can really feel the difference in my energy levels.”

Traveling for CrossFit Regionals or the CrossFit Games requires a little extra meal packing...and a “magically delicious” snack. For her last Regional competition, Pearce’s consultant at Renaissance Periodization wrote her a nutritional program, and recommended a simple sugar between events. Yes, he actually told her to eat Lucky Charms. The cereal has been her favorite for years; Pearce says her dad even discovered chocolate Lucky Charms when she was in college, and would bring her boxes when he visited. “So I eat Lucky Charms with some lean chicken or protein [during competition],” she admits. “I just bring a big bag of Lucky Charms with me.”

After competition, Pearce goes out for Mexican food—she loves fish tacos, guacamole, and fajitas—and ice cream. Then it’s back to the meal plan. Because even if she tops the podium at this year’s Games, there’s always another goal to train for.