Rich Froning was CrossFit’s earliest breakout star—you might say he’s the Michael Jordan of the sport (with Mat Fraser being the LeBron, naturally). The four-time “Fittest Man on Earth” transitioned from individual to team competition in 2015, and since then has taken home the team title four times.
Despite the fame and deals with companies like Reebok and Rogue Fitness, the 33-year-old lives out on a farm with his family in Cookeville, Tennessee, where he raises bison and maintains 3 miles of dirt trails for mountain biking. Of course, that spread includes a state-of-the-art gym inside a large barn, with endless racks of iron, air bikes, and rowers. At least according to the official CrossFit numbers, the father of three has a 570-pound deadlift, can back squat 475 pounds, and can do 75 pull-ups unbroken. Most days, he works out three times.
So how do you fuel of that? GQ recently caught up with the legend, to learn more about how he hits his macros, what’s in his smoothies, and go-to coffee program.
For Real-Life Diet, GQ talks to high-performing people about their diet, exercise routines, and pursuit of wellness. Keep in mind that what works for them might not necessarily be healthy for you.
GQ: You’re an intermittent fasting guy, right? So, what do your mornings look like?
Rich Froning: I’m up around 7 a.m.—that’s when my first kid alarm clock goes off, as I call it. Some days are different than others, but I don’t even set an actual alarm anymore because they’ll come and wake me up. I get up, I make coffee. If I’m being honest I’m kind of a coffee snob now. I only drink black coffee because of the fasting, which I’ve been doing for about three years now.
For me, it’s a 1-to-15 pour-over while I hang out with the kids for about an hour. I love Guatemalan coffee, and really like light roasts that have some real flavor in it. If I’m not gonna be eating for a while in the morning, then I want to have something that I really enjoy when I’m sitting down with my kids and they eat breakfast.
So when’s your first meal, then?
It’s at about noon—after we do our 8:30 a.m. live workout on the Mayhem Athlete YouTube and I get in a workout, too. The meal starts off with a shake, which I make with Advocare lean body protein. In there, I add 400 to 500 grams of berries, like raspberries or blackberries, as well as some almond milk and a little bit of a PB2 powdered peanut butter.
Lunch is usually something pre-made, we have a girl that goes to the gym who makes ready-to-eat stuff that’s delicious and includes all of the macros and calories I need—I follow an RP diet template. My favorites are a meatloaf she makes with sweet potatoes, a grilled barbecue chicken, and a buffalo chicken mac.
And then you train after that?
Yeah. At around 2:30 after working on some podcasts and stuff, I usually take in some more calories, like 40 or 50 grams of carbs and then anywhere from 20 to 30 grams of protein. Then we train from 2:30 to 3, then again from 3:30 to 4:30 or 5:00. I head home and spend time with my kids for dinner. Both Hillary and I cook, but she’s more toward the carbs like spaghetti and that type of stuff. So if that’s what’s in the cards, then I’ll grill up some chicken or something to go with that or something else from the farm.
Talk to me about the farm.
I didn’t want my kids to grow up to be brats. When I was growing up, we didn’t have a working farm but we had chores. I wanted my kids to have the same. I began talking with one of my best friends about the idea of having a farm on the property, and it took off from there. Now, we’re producing meat sticks like bison and biltong, which I think is incredible. It’s a lot more tender than jerky. A lot of people want to eat beef, but want to kind of be heart-healthy. That’s where the bison comes in, and we’re trying to figure out a way for people to actually buy actual bison from us.
Would you say the kids are actually chipping in?
Definitely. I remember in January or February, it was kind of late in the evening. It was dark and spitting snow and I realized I had to put some hay out for the bison. My daughter Lakelyn—she’s 7 now—asked if she could come, and I was like “you’re not going to want to, it’s dark and cold,” but she did. And I had this moment where I thought: Hey, this is why we’re doing this. It was really a full circle moment that I realized how cool is it that I can build this and share it with my kids. The farm’s literally in our front yard. You look out and you see them grazing, which is awesome.
So you eat dinner and then is that it for the day? Or are there more macros to be had?
Right before my window closes at 8:00 PM, I take in about 40 or 50 grams of carbs and 40 grams of protein as well. I’ve been on a big Honey Nut Cheerios kick with throwing in some blueberries in there. If we’ve got some leftover protein, like chicken or something like that, I’ll have that too. We’ll have different proteins around the house, whether it’s a New York strip or a bison ribeye, ground bison meat is really good. But really, it’s whatever is readily available. Sometimes that’s a protein bar.
Why do you like intermittent fasting?
It makes me eat. Which may sound silly, but I used to eat in the morning, then get super busy, maybe take a shake or two, and then not eat again until the night when I’m done training for the day. So this actually makes me eat after that first training session and I notice a big difference in how recovered I feel. I feel like it’s helped with inflammation, and my blood work looks good — we do InsideTracker every three or four months.
You mentioned you train three times a day. What are you doing during all that time?
I do one really long session in the morning, which is essentially a metabolic conditioning session—think classic CrossFit with box jumps and burpees and thrusters. This morning we did a pull-up finisher. In the afternoon, I’ll do some heavy Olympic-style lifting. And then, probably one more metabolic conditioning type session that will have a little more of an endurance focus. This time of year, ramping up for the CrossFit semi-final, it’s usually a little more volume.
I would assume when someone is training for two to three hours a day, recovery becomes really important. What do you do for yours?
I know when I’m working out hard based on one how my body feels, but I use a tool like my Whoop to look at the numbers. I want to see what I’m doing that helps me recover better, so whether that be an ice bath or massage or sleep—I can log those things in the Whoop journal to see which one has the most positive impact on me. Then, I’ll adjust volume or intensity accordingly. If my recovery isn’t so good, then I’ll just have some fun doing some work and not be so stressed about what my time is or anything like that.
Any other recovery techniques you love?
Something I’ve started in the last probably four months is getting into an ice cold shower first thing when I get up, and it’s miserable. I take five deep breaths with the water on my front side and then five deep breaths with it on my back side. It makes me feel pretty good, and if I miss it I notice that I’ve felt like trash for the whole day. I don’t know if that’s completely in my head, but it works for me. We have a cold plunge coming to the house soon which I’m excited about.
Do you ever take rest days?
I try to move every day somehow. I feel better when I move every day. Thursdays are a little less intense, Sundays as well. Oh, and I’m playing in a flag football league on Sundays, which is a blast.