Sammy Moniz has a tough task. Thankfully, she loves her work.
She cooks for her fiancé and three-time CrossFit Fittest Man on Earth, Mat Fraser, keeping the champion fuelled up for his demanding training regimen. Moniz estimates that she spends as much time preparing food as Mat does training, and when she’s not cooking, she’s reading cookbooks and food blogs for fun.
She catalogues all of her culinary exploits on her Instagram, Feeding the Frasers, to show fans a different side of the life of a world class athlete. We caught up with Moniz to learn more about her tips for nutrition, where she finds inspiration, and to see a few dishes she whipped up.
Fraser publicised his nightly pint of ice cream habit for many years. He’s since cleaned up his diet — but he’s still not as meticulous as some of the other elite CrossFit athletes. He doesn’t use a meal-delivery service or track his calories or macros, which Moniz says is more of a challenge than it might sound. “It’s really a chore to eat as much as he has to eat,” she noted.
EC Synkowski, a nutritionist and level-four CrossFit coach, told Men’s Health that an athlete at Mat’s level has to eat between 20 to 25 calories per pound of body weight, which comes out to about 4,750 calories a day. If he were an average person who worked out once a day, that number would drop to about 3,000. If he were sedentary, it’d be as low as 2,280.
“There’s going to be a certain baseline of quality food that’s important for athletes like Mat to hit because there are important recovery aspects of eating whole, unprocessed food,” Synkowski said. “And then, after a certain point, they really do just need the calories to keep their volume up to train.”
Moniz recommends that anyone trying to pack on quality calories should have fruit in the house. “I’ll cut up an apple and put it in front of Mat on a cutting board, and if he sits there long enough, he’ll start to snack, and then all of sudden the whole apple’s gone,” she said.]
Go to the market, not the grocery store
To get that baseline of whole, unprocessed, and nutritious food, Moniz goes shopping two or three times a week. She’ll buy some staples in bulk (she and Fraser go through a five-pound bag of rice every other week), but, because most of what she buys will spoil quickly, she typically gets only what she needs for the next 48 hours.
Shopping that frequently also helps reduce food waste, though Moniz has to be creative with how she approaches leftovers. When she’s cooking steak, for instance, she’ll always make two for Mat. “Depending on the day, he’ll have another half or another whole, or it becomes leftovers that we cook up into a steak hash in the morning,” she said.
For anyone trying to eat more unprocessed foods without easy access to farmer’s markets, Synkowski has a simple recommendation: the 800-Gram Challenge. Every day, eat 800 grams of fruit and/or vegetables — it doesn’t matter if they’re cooked, canned, frozen, or fresh, as long as they aren’t part of a processed food, like potato chips.
Learn along the way
Whether you want to follow a culinary-themed Instagram account, browse a food blog, or read a cookbook cover-to-cover, a little study and planning will teach you to be efficient and creative in the kitchen.
“There’s learning in the cooking,” Moniz said. “I’ve learned a lot about flavour combinations and why certain ingredients pair well together just from the repetition of seeing them in various recipes.”
But, theory will only get you so far. The best way to get better is to practice, even if that means flopping.
One night, Moniz decided to make sloppy joes. “I was so excited,” she said. “It reminded me of childhood — like, sloppy joes!” But, she cooked the meat down too much, and it was too sweet to eat. Even though Moniz knew exactly what went wrong, the meal didn’t meet her standards (“Mat tested and Sammy approved”), so she didn’t post it on the Instagram.
If you’re able to work from home, Moniz recommends adding some food-prep into your day. “On a conference call, I can stir a pot of stew on the stove. It definitely takes some multi-tasking, but I can continue doing my job while also prepping for my family.”