Earlier this year, Zack George placed 1st in the UK and 26th worldwide in the CrossFit Open®. Emerging as the fittest man in the UK, he earned his spot at the 2020 CrossFit Games®, the most prestigious event in the sport.
Unfortunately, the field of athletes was ultimately reduced to only 5 men and 5 women due to COVID, and Zack was unable to attend, but after 6 years of graft to reach this level, he is now looking ahead with intelligence, maturity and focus to defend his crown in 2021.
Learn more from Zack himself about how a champion eats, lives and trains in order to operate and perform at the highest levels.
Use Zack’s tips to improve your own nutrition and performances.
Training and Lifestyle
1. Hey Zack, do you have any daily habits or rituals?
I actually don’t, apart from my regular structure around nutrition, training, mobility and recovery, I don’t really have any little interesting habits or rituals!
2. What does a typical day look like for you?
Wake up around 9am – it’s really important for me to get at least 8+ hours sleep. The amount of training and volume I do makes this bit really vital to recovery and performance. I go to sleep at around 12am and wake up at 9am so I get approx. 9 hours sleep a night.
Have breakfast right away and then it’s get ready to leave for the gym around 10am.
I’ll spend about 30 minutes warming up and working through mobility drills, ready to then start session one for the day at 11am.
Session one is always fitness/cardio based and takes around 1.5 hours.
After that I’ll head home for lunch and get any work I need doing done, I also do individual programming for 14 people so this is the time I’ll also spend working on their plans and programming for the week.
I’ll then head back to the gym at around 5pm for Session 2, which is always weightlifting and gymnastics based.
After that it’s home for my evening routine which is dinner and then recovery time – I’ll do more mobility work and get the Hyperice Hypervolt out, this is my go to, it’s amazing at releasing tension built up throughout the day.
3. Do you do your own programming, or do you have a coach that handles that side of things?
I do all of my own programming. I know that’s something really unique in the CrossFit® world now, but it works for me. I do have someone who programmes swimming and running for me, which I do every Wednesday afternoon (well, I was when the pools were open…), this is with Loughborough University.
4. Do you program specific strength cycles within the larger framework of your CrossFit® training? If so, what do these look like?
Strength has never been one of my weaknesses, I’m a larger athlete weighing 100kg, so strength is something I’ve never struggled with, so personally I don’t programme specific strength cycles, instead I have to attack my weaknesses, like gymnastics movements.
5. Can you give us an example of a CrossFit® workout you enjoy that will test and improve strength?
A typical strength session that I like to do is mixed up with a cardio element:
5 rounds for time of:
- 20 cal bike
- 5 squat snatches
Weights on the bar = 70/80/90/100/110kg
6. Bench, Deadlift or Squat, which is your favourite of these three lifts?
Squat has to be my favourite exercise out of the three.
7. How do you make sure to keep all the different parts of CrossFit® and your fitness (strength, endurance, specific skills, cycling, swimming, running etc) in balance within your training?
Making sure you cover all the elements of training for CrossFit® comes down to good programming and knowing what sort of athlete you are and your weaknesses.
For me strength has always been something I don’t need to work on as much but fitness and gymnastics are elements I’ve had to focus a lot of time to, along with swimming and running.
So, ultimately it’s really personal and dependent upon the individual, but my advice is don’t ignore weaknesses and don’t just programme the things you enjoy, if you want to keep getting better, you have to address the things you don’t like.
1. Are you methodical in the way that you track your daily Macros or do you go more by feel?
Yep, I always track my food and I like to use My Fitness pal to do this.
Tracking food is a key variable which I can control that makes an enormous impact to my performance so I always make sure to do this, especially when preparing for competitions, that’s when I’ll really dial it in – no cheat meals allowed then!
2. What are your daily amounts (grams) of proteins, carbs and fats?
I always have the same breakfast which is — 150g porridge, 50 g raisins and about 20-30 g honey.
For lunch and dinner, I have pre prepped meals from Balance Foods, they’ve been amazing. So convenient to just have all my food for the week delivered in one go all aligned perfectly with my macros.
Typically, I eat around 3,500 cals a day split:
- 446g carbs
- 178g protein
- 119g fat
3. Does this change depending on how you are training?
My diet stays pretty much the same during the week but when I’m in off season I’ll allow myself cheat days on Saturday and Sunday where I can eat whatever I fancy on that weekend. This differs to when I’m gearing towards a competition as I’ll have no cheat meals 3 months leading up to a competition, so I naturally cut weight ready for the comp – I try to be around 96kg to be comp ready.
4. Why is eating high levels of carbs so important for CrossFit® Athletes?
Given the nature of typical CrossFit® workouts where we use powerful, explosive quick movements, these short, high-intensity workouts need lots of energy to fuel them and to be able to perform well and avoid fatigue.
Carbs are the bodies’s primary fuel source and the most readily available source, providing energy quickly, vs for example fats, which provide energy at a slower rate.
5. How does Myprotein help you in regards to your recovery, nutrition and ambitions?
Myprotein helps me massively to aim with my training and goals. They provide the best supplements and training gear to allow me to push myself to my limits and help me recover inbetween sessions.
6. Which Myprotein products would you recommend to other athletes (favourites, top3)?
My top 3 best supplements would be:
- The whey pro protein salted caramel flavour
- creatine monohydrate elite
- daily multi vitamin tablets
7. Now especially during lock down and in between home workouts, how much do you snack and what is your favourite high protein snack?
The MyProtein baked cookies are my absolute favourite, I have to really limit myself to one a day, they just taste so good!
8. What’s the one supplement every ambitious CrossFit® Athlete (Beginner/Advanced) should use to boost their fitness and to take the next step?
Creatine would be my best recommendation for anyone wanting to take CrossFit® to the next level. If you aren’t already using it and you want to compete, you should be!
Advice and Tips for Athletes
1. If you could start CrossFit® again from the beginning, what would you do differently? What advice would you give yourself?
The advice I would give to anyone wanting to start CrossFit®, or advice to myself when I was just starting CrossFit®, would be to find a good box and start joining in with the classes and getting coached by their coaches.
I would then say to be patient and learn the basics first and learn them well. It can be very easy to want to learn the complex movements because they look cool and not focusing on the basics, but they really are so fundamental and as the basis for all other movements, having these nailed will make the complex ones come easier
2. What advice would you offer for athletes that want/need to improve their strength for CrossFit®? What advice would you give to athletes that are experienced when it comes to strength work and the gym, but want to crossover into a more functional based, CrossFit® context?
My advice for anyone wanting to increase strength is to follow a good strength cycle and to be consistent with the training — this bit is KEY. Focusing on the major compound exercises of squat back/front, deadlifts, bench press, shoulder press, and pull ups.
1. We know you have your new book coming out: What inspired you to write your story/ this story?
Yes, I am so excited for my book “Start Where Others Stop” to come out in April next year.
I really just wanted to be able to share everything I’ve learnt from my journey and show others that it’s never too late to start what it is you want to do, it doesn’t even need to apply to fitness, it can apply to anything in life — in work, family life or something else completely. I hope people enjoy it!
2. 2021 is almost here, what’s your game plan for next year?
Well, hopefully things run a little bit smoother than 2020 did. I’ve got some really exciting things lined up, I’m going to be launching a brand new platform for Silverback Training, I’m also working on a new clothing release with Myprotein.
Competitively, the CrossFit® Open has been set in February 2021 and so now I’ll be gearing up to work towards that and defend my UK champion title and nail a spot to The Games® 2021!
3. What’s your tip to make the lock down more enjoyable, while staying on top of your fitness?
My tip to everyone during lockdown trying to keep their fitness up is maintaining your regular routine. I train at 10-30 and 5pm everyday so when we went into lockdown, I said to myself that I would still train at those times and keep my routine with my training and nutrition.
This made the transition into lockdown training much easier and makes it less tempting to miss sessions or make excuses. It also provides a sense of normality and having a schedule not only helps keep you accountable but while couped up at home, gives your mind something to focus on as well.
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