- Katrin Davidsdottir is a CrossFit athlete and the second fittest woman on Earth.
- A former gymnast, she said she used to have a ‘bad’ relationship with food and cut out carbs for years.
- Davidsdottir started eating carbs again and has reaped performance rewards as a result.
- Visit Insider’s homepage for more stories.
Icelandic CrossFit athlete Katrin Davidsdottir is one of the fittest women on Earth. She held the title in 2015 and 2016 and took second place behind Tia-Clair Toomey in 2020.
Despite being a professional athlete with formidable skills across all disciplines — strength, endurance, gymnastics and more — Davidsdottir, 27, isn’t immune to diet culture. She believed the myth that carbs are “bad” and didn’t eat bread for around a decade, she told Insider. When she started working with a nutritionist in her early 20s, she learned that carbs are an essential fuel source.
Davidsdottir used to think she needed to eat paleo
Davidsdottir first qualified for the CrossFit Games in 2012, but when she started the sport, she thought she had to follow a paleo diet, which meant cutting out grains.
“I thought I shouldn’t eat bread, and I definitely used to be afraid of carbs too,” Davidsdottir said. So she cut out carbs altogether.
The former gymnast admitted she developed a “bad” relationship with food from a young age.
“Growing up being a gymnast, my mindset was like, a successful day was the less I ate, which is absolutely ridiculous,” she said. “And then starting CrossFit, I just didn’t know about nutrition. I didn’t know about how the body works and what it needs.”
Davidsdottir says she got caught up in the nutrition myths she’d heard, including that wheat wasn’t good for her, she should be gluten-free, and she should avoid certain foods.
“I had just decided that carbs would make me gain weight,” she said. “I had gotten caught up in food being the enemy, instead of seeing it as fueling my body, helping me through the workout, helping me recover for the next one.”
A nutritionist helped Davidsdottir develop a healthier relationship with food
When Davidsdottir started working with a nutritionist, she started to change her mindset around food and carbs, in particular.
The nutritionist told Davidsdottir that we need carbs to fuel our bodies, especially if you’re performing a high intensity sport, top CrossFit nutrition coach Mike Molloy previously explained to Insider.
“She said that when your heart rate goes above, say, 135, all your body is using is glycogen — you are not using fat anymore,” Davidsdottir said.
Glycogen is made from the glucose in carbs and provides the body with energy.
“And if you don’t have any glycogen, you’re just going to bonk and have no energy to give the workout,” she said.
This was “really eye-opening” for the CrossFit athlete and helped her move passed the idea that carbs would make her gain fat.
“Now knowing that [carbs] are actually OK, they do work well for my body, and I feel so well fueled,” Davidsdottir said.
‘Holy crap, this is so delicious’
About a year ago, Davidsdottir started eating cinnamon and raisin bagels for breakfast, and it’s been a game-changer.
“That was something new for me,” she said. “I hadn’t eaten bread since I was a kid, and about a year ago, I got into bagels again — I was just upping my carbs — and I was like, ‘Holy crap, this is so delicious.'”
Topped with butter, cream cheese, honey, and a fried egg, a bagel is now Davidsdottir’s “morning staple,” alongside a green protein smoothie and an oat milk latte.
Even though she loves her bagels, Davidsdottir still sometimes has to remind herself not to fear carbs.
“I’m still getting there. I still need to remind myself of all of these things, but since properly introducing carbs and being more diligent about it, I just have so much more energy. I know what my body needs and how it reacts and how it recovers,” she said.
Davidsdottir doesn’t track her food religiously
Davidsdottir’s diet is designed to fuel her performance, and it includes all food groups — including sugar when her body needs instant energy for high intensity performance.
She believes there’s “a time and a space” for every food, and we need to avoid having set rules around meals.
Katrin Davidsdottir in October 2019.
Meg Oliphant/Getty Images
While she used to track her macros (AKA macronutrients: carbs, protein, and fat) religiously, Davidsdottir has relaxed her approach.
Davidsdottir listens to her body and minfully approaches eating to enhance her athletic performance — but said she leaves room for flexibility, too. She sometimes weighs and measures foods to fuel her training and overall health but is now able to enjoy her meals more.
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