What do you eat when you can deadlift 540 pounds and back-squat 480 pounds? If you’re CrossFit competitor Ben Smith, who can also clean-and-jerk 335 pounds, the answer is: a ton of milk, eggs, bacon, sweet potatoes, and the occasional Supreme pizza. “If I don’t eat enough, it ruins my next three or four days of training,” says the 24-year old, who has placed third twice at the annual CrossFit Games, held this year on July 25 through July 27 in Carson, Calif. “That’s the hard part—trying to constantly get in enough food without eating too much bad stuff.”
Most of the time, Smith, who owns a CrossFit gym in Chesapeake, Vir., says he eats “clean,” meaning no refined foods or sugar. “In CrossFit, a lot of people eat paleo,” says Smith, referring to the diet that mandates consuming only what Paleolithic man did, or mainly meat, fruit, nuts, and vegetables. “But I don’t eat a certain way, I don’t eat paleo. I just try to eat good whole foods—good carbs and good proteins.” For more on what fuels the 5-foot-11, 190-pounder to do 76 pull-ups in a row, keep reading.
Progenex: The official protein powder of CrossFit, Progenex sponsors the Games and only CrossFit athletes, including Smith. “It really helps me post-workout get something in my body quickly, so I’m not starving the rest of the day, especially if I’m doing multiple workouts.” Smith, who does indeed work out at least twice a day, says he drinks the company’s whey protein mixed with ice water after each session and often before going to bed. “I love the product, and I think it’s a clean product,” he says. “When you look at the ingredient list, it’s very short. A lot of other powders, you look at the ingredient list, and you don’t know half the stuff in it.”
Bacon: Smith feels this addition to his diet needs no further explanation. “It’s bacon,” he says. “It’s awesome.” Bacon takes a tour through Smith’s day not only for breakfast and dinner, but sometimes as a late-night snack if there’s nothing else in the fridge. “I always, always have bacon,” he explains. Does he ever fear the meat’s effect on his heart? “I’m not too worried about saturated fat or cholesterol—I’ve had them checked multiple times and I’m normal,” he says. “Everything in moderation is good. That’s my rule of thumb.” Everything, we suppose, except for lifting extreme amounts of weight.
Sweet potatoes: A typical weekend for Smith includes working out at his gym, CrossFit Krypton, and cooking up to 10 big sweet potatoes at a time, wrapping them in aluminum foil and stashing them in his fridge to eat during the rest of the week. “They’re great for a snack with almond butter and some cinnamon on top,” says Smith, who’s preparing to compete in his sixth consecutive CrossFit Games this July. “I’ll probably have about two a day, for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.”
Eggs: If Smith’s breakfast suffers from any flaws, it’s that it’s poultry-product-centric. At least several mornings a week, Smith starts his day with a handful of eggs, refrigerated egg whites, and shredded chicken, all of which he mixes into a big breakfast scramble and serves with a side of sweet potatoes. Does he like the meal for its high protein content? “I don’t count macronutrients,” says Smith, who started CrossFit in 2006. “It’s something quick that you can do in the morning that only takes five minutes.” Does Smith also eat hardboiled eggs as a quick snack, like he does with sweet potatoes? “No, I’m not that crazy,” he says. It’s just a matter of mindset.
Supreme pizza: Picture a big doughy pie topped with Italian sausage, mushrooms, onion, ham, and green peppers. Smith often does, and when the image becomes overwhelming on the weekends, the burly athlete makes a run to the pizza place around the corner from his Virginia home. “That’s my biggest temptation, and I eat it because I need the calories on the weekend,” Smith says. “I can hold myself back during the week, but it’s like a cheat night.” Also making regular appearances on Smith’s cheat nights are ice cream and burritos.
Perfect Foods Bar: Somebody handed Smith a Perfect Foods bar at the CrossFit Games last year, and he loved them so much that he contacted the California-based company immediately after he got home. “They sent me a ton, and now I eat like two a day,” he says. “I love them.” Unlike other nutrition bars, Perfect Foods requires its products to be refrigerated because they contain only whole foods without preservatives or artificial ingredients. “They’re all-organic stuff—peanut butter, honey, raisins, whole egg powder, and a bunch of vegetables, fruits, and other stuff,” explains Smith, whose favorite flavor is peanut butter.