The first words in Carissa Mueller’s journal are an emblem of transformation-the day she defined the image of the athlete she’s working to embody.
Day one was over 200 days ago, but Carissa continues to diligently track her daily progress. The number one factor she’s monitoring? Her mentality.
That’s because to repeatedly train and compete at the level Carissa does, it takes a special kind of fuel to support her pursuits.
While Carissa has been training in CrossFit for over 6 years, day one is where her journey to the Brazil CrossFit Championship this May truly begins, a journey for which UCAN is proud to be one of her sponsors.
Nutrition is the tangible fuel, the true energy stoking the fire of Carissa’s superhuman prowess- and we will hear all about that. Mentality is the magma, Carissa’s core reactor of will, desire, perseverance, and purpose: the elemental force continuously challenging her to push her own boundaries. To fuel a CrossFit Games hopeful, you’re going to need both.
Q: Generally speaking, what does your weekly training program look like?
A: A normal week I workout 5 days per week, 4 hours a day- roughly 20 hours. The majority of my workouts are done in the gym- at EVF and CrossFit Greenpoint. I also swim a few times a week; on those days I work out in the early afternoon then swim in the evening.
Q: Do you have a nutrition philosophy that you subscribe to?
A: The most basic and fundamental piece for me is to eat whole, unprocessed foods, and to not eat junk. When I say ‘junk’ I’m not really talking about cake and cookies, I am referring more to low-quality food options like processed meats, and I carefully read labels. It’s about ensuring the quality of my protein, fat, and carbohydrates are excellent.
Q: Can you break down your daily intake?
A: My biggest focus is to make sure I get the right amount of calories and the right amount of macronutrients (proteins, fats, and carbohydrates) to support my training. I take in between 2,500- 2,670 calories per day, and get that in by adhering to my macro ranges:
- 140g Protein
- 350-370g Carbohydrate
- 60-70g Fat
Q: What methods do you use to measure these macronutrients?
A: I used MyFitnessPal when I first got serious about tracking food, to get an understanding of the value of the calories I was eating. It helped me create a relationship with food that made sense- I learned roughly how many grams of protein/fat/carbohydrate were in a serving of meat, cereal, etc. Now, I eat similarly each day to stay consistent, and I don’t need to track online anymore. I do use my food scale still to measure some food, like white rice.
Q: Talk about your pre and post workout nutrition strategy
A: I take a total of 2-3 servings of UCAN on training days, and 1/2-1.5 servings of Ascent Protein. I take 1 serving of UCAN as I’m warming up, so it’s kicked in before the heavy lifting piece of my workout. That lasts me a few hours, then I take another serving of UCAN before the metcon (metabolic conditioning) piece of my workout, so I have steady energy for that huge effort. On days where I will train again- like if I am swimming later- I’ll take an additional UCAN serving before that session. After training, I eat two servings of white rice, 4oz of ground turkey, and some vegetables.
Q: You didn’t discover UCAN until August 2018. How were you fueling your 4+ hour workouts prior to UCAN?
A: (Laughing) I was using a lot of sugar, in the form of sports drinks. I was constantly chasing the fast carbs every 45 minutes, taking 50g of sugar at a time. By the end of the workout, I would have consumed about 150g of sugar.
Q: How did that affect you?
A: I’m not exaggerating when I say I would throw up after at least 50% of my workouts. At the time, I had no idea that it was related to my nutrition, I thought I was just going really hard. I also felt fluctuations of energy when I got close to that 45-minute mark after taking in a sports drink. I’d crash really hard and could feel my energy about to plummet. I’d race to drink another 50g of sugar so I would have enough energy for my next piece, then hurry up and start my next workout before I crashed again. It was frankly exhausting, not to mention unhealthy.
Q: The SuperStarch® carbohydrate in UCAN products is a unique energy source. How has fueling with SuperStarch® changed your training?
A: It’s rare that I throw up after a workout! I didn’t realize how sick to my stomach I felt using lots of fast carbs over the course of my workout until I started using SuperStarch. One thing that really impressed me is that I could go into a workout not feeling full- even feeling a little hungry- but never lack energy or feel gassed. From a gastric distress perspective, it’s better to have less food in your stomach as long as you have the right fuel. And of course, my energy never wavers during the workout anymore.
Q: To compare, you used to consume 150g of carbohydrates in the form of sugar for your training, and now you perform the same efforts on 50g-75g of SuperStarch carbohydrates. Where do those extra carbs go?
A: (Laughing) Ice cream! In all seriousness, I did increase my carbohydrate intake outside of my workouts a little to meet my caloric needs once I switched over to SuperStarch. But for training, the more efficient the fuel, the better.
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Q: You had a daunting experience with an injury about two years ago- what happened?
A: After 4 years of consistent training and progress, I was convinced 2017 was going to be my year. It started great- I placed 3rd in the Northeast region in the first workout of the Open. The very next week, with only 3 minutes left in another Open workout, I tore my left lat doing a muscle up. I jumped onto the bar and heard “rip rip rip rip rip”. I came down immediately and knew that I was done. I think I actually started muttering “I’m done I’m done I’m done”.
Q: What was your immediate reaction when you learned the severity of your injury?
A: It was so shocking to go from such a high to such a low in one week. I just sat on the ground, I teared up immediately. Eric, the owner of EVF, came over and gave me a little pep talk. He told me, “How you handle this moment is really defining and important. The whole community will be looking at you and how you handle this adversity. Have this moment: process it, and feel what you are feeling. But once it’s over, get up and do what you need to do.” That stuck with me.
Q: The months-long rehabilitation process put you into a big funk.
A: It’s the most vulnerable I’ve ever been as an athlete. I worked really hard to rehabilitate my lat and every day I showed up and did what I needed to do, but somewhere along the process I started questioning myself: “Can I actually keep going this hard? I don’t know if I can.” I put way too much pressure on myself to excel in the 2018 Open, just 4 months after I had been officially cleared of my injury. That whole Open was fraught with weird hiccups, and it was terrifying mentally for me. I noticed other things change too. I have never in my life been a complainer, and these whiny thoughts started to creep in. Even my body language was terrible, especially during my workouts- slouched over, head hung low. It was embarrassing.
Q: What was the turning point for you- when you said enough was enough?
A: One day I woke up and was fed up with feeling scared. It’s a choice to hold your head high, a choice to believe in yourself. I wasn’t making those choices, and in that moment I decided that if I was going to be making choices, it had to be the right ones. I pulled out two whiteboards, on one I wrote a bunch of little choices to make every day – “never complain,” “be flexible,” “stop looking for luck,” etc- and on the other, I wrote, “If it’s meant to be, it can’t be stopped.” From then on, I’ve been totally focused on putting these things into practice every day. I journal daily, and at the top of every page I write what day I’m on – “Day 1”, “Day 2”, etc – as a reminder of my purpose and that every day is just another day. I’m much more relaxed, more confident. I know why I do what I do, I represent myself, and I strive to be an example to my EVF community and everyone who supports me.
Q: The morning you wrote on the whiteboards- that was ‘Day 1”?
A: Day 1.