This is part of Athlete Daily’s series highlighting high-level athletes across the world of strength training and functional fitness, and how they approach diet and nutrition.
Learn what some of the best athletes in the world eat, how they fuel themselves and lessons learned along the way. This week we sat down with multi-sport athlete Marco Coppola.
Weightlifting, CrossFit, GRID. Marco Coppola is the definition of a jack of all trades. After playing four years of college football, he started doing CrossFit as a means to train for the Arena Football League. It was while watching the 2011 CrossFit Regionals that a fire to compete was lit and he decided to focus his efforts solely on CrossFit. Coppola put up big numbers early on (290 lb. snatch, 360 lb. clean and jerk in 2013) and began paying more attention to weightlifting, qualifying for his first American Open two years later and every year since.
Over the last three years, Coppola has been a National level qualified weightlifter (he placed 5th in the 105kg class in 2015, a CrossFit Games competitor (as a member of Team Density) and athlete for the National Pro GRID League’s Miami Surge—winning Best Barbell Mover in 2015. We caught up with the Doughnuts and Deadlifts athlete and owner of CrossFit Overtake to talk all things food.
Athlete Daily: What’s your general approach to nutrition—macros, Paleo, Zone?
Coppola: I have a set of macronutrient numbers that I track for my daily intake. My daily maintenance macros are 230 grams of protein, 101 grams of fat and 304 grams of carbs which is roughly 3,050 calories a day.
Athlete Daily: How long have you followed macros for?
Coppola: Macros got popular about 2-3 years ago in the CrossFit community, but in other fitness communities it had been popular for a long time. I came from football (Coppola played 4 years at the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor in Texas) and right when I got into college I was keeping track of everything I ate—started to really dial things in around my sophomore year. When I was training [for football] I was eating 300g of protein a day, up to 600g carbs and 150g of fat. Yeah, I ate a lot more food back then. People think CrossFit’s hard—training all day and practicing for 4 hours in football camp is a lot more strenuous.
Athlete Daily: Did you get into Paleo at all when you first got into CrossFit?
Coppola: I’ve done a lot of different stuff; I did Paleo for about three years. [Paleo] isn’t as popular anymore as it was back in the day, mainly I think because people go about it the wrong way. The way I did Paleo back in the day was basically I ate a lot of carbohydrates still. I ate mostly sweet potatoes as my carbs and a lot of fruit—Paleo for athletes is a lot different so I was able to get away with that.
When I was eating Paleo it was strict Paleo. I would tell people bread is poison. I was hardcore—not the 80/20 or 90/10 guy, I was that annoying guy [laughs]. I’d say you can’t eat that, you shouldn’t eat that…and I stopped that in 2014.
Athlete Daily: So you went from following macros to eating strict Paleo and then back to following macros. What made you go back to following macros the second time?
Coppola: I decided to start adding some stuff back in and see how I feel. We were out at GRID [at the time] and it was a lot harder to eat Paleo, so I said you know what, I’m just going to enjoy things a little bit and kick back, and then I just took things overboard when I got home. My wife was happy as hell, because she was eating strict Paleo with me, and she loves cereal and pop tarts, so she was really happy to see stuff like that back in the house. I really enjoy cake and cupcakes—and donuts. I said ‘I’m just going to eat a couple and see how this works out’.
When I stopped eating strict Paleo I started crushing other stuff. I really like sweets, I have a really bad sweet tooth, so I would indulge a little bit more often. I didn’t go too overboard—I eat a little bit of cereal which I really missed when I was eating Paleo. I eat a lot more rice, I don’t eat a lot of pasta even though I’m a fat Italian kid. I try to stick to white and brown rice, usually I’ll mix the two or have them separate depending on the timing of my workouts.
Athlete Daily: Let’s talk about those different sports for a second. Do you adjust your macros based on what your training toward?
Coppola: Without making it too complex, it depends on the time of year and what I’m training for. I train for CrossFit, I train for weightlifting, I do GRID, so I adjust [my macros] off of that. The smallest adjustment [I’ll make to my macros] is for weightlifting, because I never just train for weightlifting—I’m always doing CrossFit with it. The last time I was training solely to compete for weightlifting, I felt really deconditioned, so I don’t do that anymore. So my macros will kind of stay where they’re at, but I do make adjustments.
If I’m trying to cut a little bit to a lower bodyweight I’ll cut down the protein too—that’ll actually be my first adjustment. Protein will drop to about 210-215g at the lowest. Carbs will just depend on what I’m doing. The more times I work out a day, the more longer sessions I have—if I’m working out 2-3 times a day I’m going to bring my carbs up higher and then that will depend on how much I drop my fat intake to even out my calories. So my carbs will go up close to 400g a day and my fat intake will drop to 75-80g. Fat isn’t a readily used energy source, so it’s a lot harder for me to consume it if I’m working out multiple times a day.
Athlete Daily: Any foods you particularly avoid?
Coppola: Bread. It’s not a staple in my diet and we don’t keep it in the house. I don’t drink alcohol at all—I think maybe I had one drink a few years ago when one of the members at my gym was leaving. I also don’t drink coffee.
Athlete Daily: You don’t drink coffee?!?!
Typical Day of Meals and Training for Marco Coppola
Wake up at 8:30-9:00am
Breakfast— 3 eggs, 3-4 egg whites, 1 strip thick cut bacon, 100g broccoli slaw, 1 cup spinach, ¾-1 cup rice (half brown half white), and either some strawberries, blueberries, or a banana for an extra 20g of carbs. (Total macros: 55-70g carbs, 50g protein, 25g fat) I pretty much eat this every single day.
Training Session #1—11:00-1:30-2pm
Post workout— Whey protein mixed with water and something sugary substance like Gatorade or Pedialyte. I’ll have a few sips during my workouts and then the rest of it after I’m done. Carbs will usually be something sugary like Pedialyte freezer pops, Gatorade powder or coconut water.
Lunch (within an hour)— Chicken breast with some white rice and some type of fruit or a little bit of cereal. Every once in a while I’ll have something like Kodiak cakes. This is usually 35-40g protein and anywhere between 60-120g carbs depending on if I’m working out again. Mostly just carbs and protein here, very little fat.
Training Session #2 —3:00-3:30-4:00pm
Post workout: I’ll eat a little bit of carbs and a little bit of protein after this short session, I won’t drink another shake. If I had to work out again I’d eat a little bit more here—either a bar or a Fuel for Fire.
Coach classes 4:30pm—7:30pm
Dinner— I’ll have a fattier protein like salmon or steak here, or another type of fish or turkey, lots of veggies, and a whole avocado. I try to get most of my fats here, around 50-60g
Dessert— One of the following desserts. These are my go-to’s:
1) 1.5-2 servings of Artic Zero or Halo Top ice cream, with an Eat Me Guilt Free protein brownie crumbled up on top, and some brown rice cacao crisps cereal (One Degree Organic Foods Veganic Sprouted Brown Rice Cacao Crisps)). Mash up the ice cream, cereal, and the brownie and top with 2 tablespoons of either peanut butter or almond butter. Sometimes I’ll change it up and have Bluebell Ice Cream instead.
Athlete Daily Nutrition Series
Week 1 — CrossFit Games athlete Emily Bridgers
Week 2 — CrossFit athlete Christian Lucero
Week 3 — CrossFit Games Masters athlete Cheryl Brost
Week 4 — U.S. Olympic Team Weightlifter Morgan King
Week 5 — Human Improvement Project’s Gabe Subry
Week 6 — Weightlifter, GRID CrossFit athlete Marco Coppola
Week 7 — CrossFit Games athlete Lindy Barber
Week 8 — GRID and CrossFit athlete Jamie Hagiya
Week 9 — GRID athlete Andrew Rape
Week 10 — Olympic lifter Anthony Pomponio
Week 11 —CrossFit athlete Andrea Ager
Week 12 —Powerlifter Ewa Januszkiewicz
Week 13 — Weightlifter and Powerlifter Kris Pope
Week 14 — Weightlifter Travis Cooper
Week 15 — Weightlifter Cortney Batchelor
Photos courtesy of Marco Coppola