The Best CrossFit Supplements To Fuel Your Training
You've made a great decision in researching the best CrossFit supplements, before buying. Proper supplementation will help performance and contribute to better overall health.
This post is huge, use the quick navigation below to find what you're looking for.
The Best Protein Supplements For CrossFit Athletes
Take a look at some of the best CrossFit protein powders (and most reviewed) available on the market. Some advice, keep flavours simple.
What Is Whey Protein?
Whey protein begins life as a by-product of the cheese making process. Cheesemakers (now very wealthy) used to discard this before they realised its commercial value.
Whey protein is a mixture of proteins that are isolated from whey. Whey is the liquid part of milk that separates during cheese production. This often ends up on the kitchen floor after precarious lid removal.
After a couple of processing rounds, the by-product becomes the powder form you are familiar with.
Add a little flavour and some packaging and you now have one of the best CrossFit supplements fit for any athlete.
What Do Protein Supplements Do?
For CrossFit athletes, a protein supplement is there to ensure you are consuming enough protein throughout the day.
There are many studies that conclude that adding protein supplements to your diet will assist with strength and muscle gain as well as burning body fat.
As well as this, whey protein contains an array of highly beneficial essential amino acids which are quickly absorbed by your digestive system.
If you're not sold already on whey protein being one of the best CrossFit supplements... Whey protein has also been found to offer benefits for blood pressure/sugar, depression and has also been trialled as an aid to helping treat HIV & cancer.
The Benefits Of Supplementing Protein For CrossFit Athletes
- Recovery - Improve your bodies ability to recover from intense WOD's and the breakdown of muscle tissue.
- Retention - During times of a calorie deficit, your body will look for an easily accessible energy source, often your muscle mass if your diet is lacking. Protein supplementation will help to retain muscle mass whilst your body is in a fasted state.
- Muscle Gain - Protein supplementation will assist with muscle gain when you combine it with regular resistance exercises (bicep curls).
- Reduce - The supplementation of protein can help reduce muscle soreness when combined with sufficient hydration and some mobility work.
- Cost - Protein supplements are a cost effective way of hitting your macronutrient targets. If you order larger tubs, the price per serving is even less!
Protein Supplement Timing & Dosage
Many of the guidelines you'll find for protein consumption will suggest that the timing of your supplementation is key in allowing your body to recover properly, grow and maintain your lean muscle mass.
You'll see many athletes reaching for their shaker post work out. The perfect time for a protein shake would appear to be moments after your barbell hits the floor for the day but, when else could you make use of a protein shake?
It is recognised that post-WOD our bodies require more dietary protein to stimulate repair of the muscles.
Image Courtesy Of: @Xwerks
Whey protein is ideal in the post workout window due to its high quality, ease of absorption and its essential amino acid content.
Check the label of your chosen protein supplement for recommended servings. I aim for a 25 gram serving within a couple of hours of my workout to re-balance the scales of protein degradation and synthesis.
The Best Creatine Supplements For CrossFit Athletes
It's unlikely you know about your ATP-CP energy system but, you will use it in 99% of your CrossFit workouts.
Responsible for powering short, high-intensity movements your ATP-CP gets you lifting, sprinting and jumping.
Creatine is an essential part of this system and with supplementation, you can expect improved body composition, increases in strength and quicker sprint times. Check out some of the leading suppliers from the table above.
What Is Creatine?
Creatine is the product of your liver, kidneys and pancreas breaking down the amino acids glycine and arginine.
We also consume foods that contain creatine. There are around 4.5 grams in one pound of salmon. Red meat is also high in creatine.
The amount of creatine we are able to produce naturally and obtained through food is quite low. This is why the correct use of supplementation can be highly effective for performance.
The creatine currently in your system can be found throughout your body. 95% of creatine is found in your skeletal muscle and the remaining 5% in the heart, brain and testes.
As a supplement, it comes in the powder form and for CrossFit athletes the most commonly used form is creatine monohydrate (due to its bioavailability).
As you look to buy creatine you will notice the term "micronized" being used here and there. Micronized creatine has been prepared in a way that reduces the size of the creatine particles.
For you, micronised creatine means you will benefit from the product being easier to mix and when consumed, your body will absorb it quickly into the bloodstream.
The Benefits Of Supplementing Creatine For CrossFit Athletes
So whats all the hype about?
Scientists have tested creatine since the 1920's and have concluded that in some cases, short-term creatine supplementation can:
- Increase maximum power and performance in high-intensity anaerobic repetitive work by 5 - 15%
- Increases in single effort work (think snatch, clean + jerk, sprints) of 1 - 5%
Aside from performance, creatine is popular with fitness enthusiasts and body builders due to assisting with "aesthetics". Creatine can help build muscle mass and also assist with burning body fat.
Doesn't sound too bad, right? For me, the cost of supplementing creatine is money well spent.
Creatine Supplement Timing & Dosage
I find that supplementation has worked well for me when consumed first in the morning and postwork out in a shake.
It is recommended that, for maximal insulin release and creatine retention, creatine should be consumed with:
- High glycemic index carbohydrates
- A combination of 50% carbohydrate and 50% protein mixture
For the high GI carbs, I'll combine a 5g serving of creatine with orange juice. This tastes good, is fresh in the morning and mixes well.
If I'm out of juice I'll mix in the creatine with a protein shake and have that with a banana, aiming for that 50/50 ratio of carbs/protein.
I cannot make recommendations on personal dosages as everyone is different. However, recommended dosages will be based on an "average" male/female so adjust your servings accordingly.
Creatine Loading & Creatine Cycling For CrossFit Athletes
The research into creatine has been extensive when looking into the amount of supplementation required, when to consume and how often.
The majority of research concludes that servings from 3 - 5 grams a day show positive performance increases with little to no negative side effects which in my mind makes creatine one of the best CrossFit supplements.
Some experts in the field recommend a "loading phase" of 7 - 10 days followed by "maintenance" supplementation of 3 - 5 grams a day.
One study found that after 10 weeks of resistance training, the group of males supplementing creatine had an increase of 22% in resting testosterone levels over the group that were consuming a placebo. You can read more about this study here.
CrossFit Creatine FAQ
1. Will creatine make me gain weight?
Creatine will cause greater water retention inside the muscle cells and therefore body weight.
If you are training towards a weight conscious competition then cycle off creatine in the weeks leading up to your competition.
2. What is the best form of creatine to supplement?
Creatine monohydrate is currently the best on the market for performance gains as well as affordability.
Micronized forms of creatine are easier to mix, consume and digest so if your budget allows, aim for that. Check out Optimum Nutrition's creatine supplement here.
3. Is Creatine safe?
The most recent of studies into creatine supplementation indicate that short-term use in healthy athletes is safe.
To put your mind at ease even further, the European Food Safety Authority published a record (2004) that stated the long-term use of creatine (3g of pure creatine daily) is "unlikely to pose any risk".
4. Can girls use creatine?
Creatine affects both male and female athletes in the same way. If as a female you desire some of the benefits of creatine then I see no harm in supplementation.
5. Is creatine a steroid?
Creatine is not classed as a performance-enhancing drug or an anabolic steroid.
6. Will creatine cause muscle cramps?
A study on a 15 item panel found no evidence to suggest creatine can cause cramping.
Another study of footballers found that users supplementing creatine "had significantly less cramping; heat illness or dehydration; muscle tightness; muscle strains; and total injuries than non-users".
The Best Vitamin Supplements For CrossFit Athletes
"Research has shown that a vitamin deficiency impairs physical performance. If this deficiency is corrected, performance usually improves."
Vitamin supplements take care of your micronutrient intake. As CrossFit athletes who eat a balanced diet, the majority of these should be taken care of by our food intake.
However, on occasion, a little help from supplements can only improve performance and health. Check out the subheadings below and use the links to navigate to your area of interest.
I use my multivitamin supplement as a precautionary measure during times of intense training cycles. An insurance policy if you like that ensures that I hit my RDA's for all the micronutrients my body requires.
If like me, your diet is well balanced with plenty of fresh greens, fish and various meats then it is likely you are already getting plenty of the micronutrients you need.
The information on timing for taking a multivitamin is varied, some recommend the morning, some periodically throughout the day and others in the evening.
My preference is to take my vitamin with a meal as this aids with digestion and absorption.
3.8k+ Reviews (USA)
Prices accurate at time of writing
Why do we need Vitamin D as a CrossFit supplement? It helps with a lot of good stuff:
- Strength: Vitamin D supplementation has been found to improve physical strength in both the upper and lower body.
- Depression: Vitamin D studies have shown mild reductions in depression for those that are clinically depressed.
- Overall Health: Some studies have found Vitamin D can help prevent cancer, reduce the risk of type 1 diabetes in children and it may even help you live longer.
Vitamin D, the sunshine vitamin! Although by name it may sound the same, it is completely different from most other vitamins.
Vitamin D is, in fact, a hormone, produced when your skin is exposed to sunshine out of cholesterol. This is where its nickname stems from.
If you're lucky enough to live in a place where the sun is a rarity (like me ??), then you may be vitamin D deficient.
There are only a handful of foods that contain significant amounts of vitamin D so deficiency is quite common.
You will find vitamin D in two forms in your diet:
- Vitamin D2: Found in a handful of mushrooms.
- Vitamin D3: Found in foods such as fatty fish and egg yolks.
As CrossFit athletes, we are only interested the D3 form as it is twice as effective in increasing levels of vitamin D in the blood.
1.9k+ Reviews (USA)
Prices accurate at time of writing
If you find yourself struggling through sessions and training with very low intensity then you may be magnesium deficient.
Intense exercise that requires upwards of 80% of your maximum effort (the majority of CrossFit programming) will call for an increase in magnesium of anywhere between 10 - 20%.
For our muscles function of oxygen uptake, energy production and electrolyte balance, magnesium plays an essential role. Our ability to handle stress can also be affected by magnesium deficiency.
For CrossFit athletes, magnesium will also assist with:
- Allows muscles to contract and relax
- Regulate heart rhythm
- Reduces blood pressure
- Necessary to produce ATP
If you prefer to eat more foods with magnesium then spinach, bananas, brown rice, almonds, hazelnuts and peanuts are a good choice and easily available.
Research into the effects of beta-alanine on high-intensity exercise showed that athletes had improved exercise to a greater extent than those that were supplementing a placebo.
In the 1 - 4 minute range of high-intensity exercise, the supplementation of beta-alanine has aided in improved performance and capacity in variations of cycling, running and "repeated-bout" upper/lower body movements.
Many CrossFit workouts fall within this timescale making beta-alanine a great supplement to add to your already balanced and sufficient diet.
Currently, the only side effect known of beta-alanine is called paraesthesia, for you and I it's known as a prickly sensation on the skin. This is due to over-supplementation so don't get carried away.
If your goals are to increase your athletic ability, boost your metabolism, recovery and build muscle then consider the use of glutamine in your supplementation regime.
Why? Well during CrossFit workouts (which are very intense), your body, muscles and tendons are stressed thus requiring more glutamine. More glutamine than your diet is able to supply.
Glutamine can help prevent your body using your muscle for energy over carbohydrates. After an intense WOD, levels of glutamine can drop by up to 50%.
The supplementation of glutamine will allow you to push further, which will help increase strength gains whilst assisting in the repair of your skeletal muscles.
As a bonus, a study has reported that glutamine assists with the secretion of HGH (human growth hormone). As a result, your body will metabolise fat as well as supporting new muscle growth.
ZMA is a supplement made up of two minerals – zinc and magnesium – and vitamin B6. A combination specifically designed to aid in sleep efficiency.
Why is so important?
Studies show that increased sleep can lead to improved athletic performance. A good night of sleep can benefit us all both physically and mentally, allowing our bodies to recuperate from training and for our muscles to rest.
Those supplementing with ZMA may benefit from quicker muscle recovery, an increase in power and strength and of course, a better night's sleep.
Zinc plays a role in a number of essential functions of our bodies. These include healing, upholding our immune system, creating new cells, processing macronutrients such as protein, carbs and fats and also normal growth development.
For us as CrossFit athletes, we may need a little extra zinc. This is because zinc stimulates enzymes in the body & its critical for protein synthesis which leads to muscle recovery/growth.
Magnesium plays a role in over 300 chemical reactions that happen around our body. Our body uses magnesium for proper growth and development of the bones, nerves and muscles.
More information on magnesium supplements can be found here.
You may wonder why vitamin b6 is included in most ZMA supplements. Vitamin b6 helps our bodies to absorb zinc and magnesium in an efficient manner. It is for this reason that these are combined making one of the best CrossFit supplements.
As well as helping with absorption, vitamin b6 helps maintain all of our important systems for essential for survival. Such as our muscular, cardiovascular, immune and nervous systems.
The Best Fish Oil Supplements For CrossFit Athletes
Iron Ore Health
Prices accurate at time of writing
"Take your fish oil, but a lot of it. Omega 3 fatty acids found in fish oil, if used in high enough concentrations, have profound anti-inflammatory effects."
Before we jump into the why's of supplementation. I've done some reading and I found out I had been supplementing fish oil for CrossFit... ALL WRONG.
I had always thought that the more fish oil I consumed, the better. But, that's not quite true.
What's most important are the amount of EPA and DHA consumed. Not the volume of soft gels/oil taken.
I'll explain the importance of EPA and DHA later but before buying, check the ingredients label for the amount EPA and DHA per serving.
The reason I choose Iron Ore Health's fish oil is that I get 660mg of EPA and 440mg of per serving (2 soft gels). With my previous supplement, I was lucky to get half of that!
The Benefits Of Supplementing Fish Oil For CrossFit Athletes
Now we understand how to supplement properly, let's take a look at understanding exactly why we supplement omega 3.
For long-term health and well-being, it is important to balance the ratio of omega 6 and omega 3. Research indicates the best ratio is between 2:1 & 4:1, however, the typical modern day diet can give ratio's of between 10:1 & 30:1. (Source)
This imbalance causes inflammation which can lead to many unfavourable health defects. To prevent this, we use omega 3 supplements rich in EPA and DHA!
EPA and DHA are specific types of polyunsaturated omega-3 fatty acids. Our bodies cannot produce these fatty acids naturally. Therefore we must either get sufficient amounts from our diet (rarely achieved, think of foods such as salmon or mackerel) or via supplementation.
What's so special about EPA and DHA?
Well, they're what's known as "natural anti-inflammatory agents".
These natural anti-inflammatory agents offer a huge list of desirable health benefits. This list includes:
- Reduced inflammation
- Better immune system function
- Improved cholesterol balance
- Improved blood flow
- Reduced rates of heart disease
- Improved brain function
Whilst all the listed health benefits are fantastic, reduced inflammation and improved blood flow are both highly desirable for high performing CrossFit athletes.
Fish Oil Supplement Timing & Dosage
In my experience, I like to take fish oils with a meal. For my recommended dosage using my chosen supplement, I take a total of 8 soft gels spaced evenly throughout the day. Taking fish oil with a meal helps prevent "fish burps" (not the best).
I always conduct my own research on recommended dosages due to the supplier's inability to provide personalised recommendations. Whilst doing said research, I found Robb Wolf who had created a formula to provide a dosage based on MY body and current physical condition.
Robb's calculation for fish oil dosage also takes into account your current physical state:
- Maintenance: 0.25 grams of omega 3 per 10 pounds of bodyweight (3 months + Omega 3 supplementation)
- Healthy: 0.5 grams of omega 3 per 10 pounds of bodyweight
- Recovering From Injury/Stress/Poor Diet: 0.75 grams of omega 3 per 10 pounds of bodyweight
- Injured/Sick/Obese: 1 gram of omega 3 per 10 pounds of bodyweight
I'll quickly run you through how I work out the amount of soft gels/servings I would require based on my physical state AND choice of supplement.
Step 1: My bodyweight in pounds (180) divided by 10 = 18
Step 2: I have been supplementing for 3+ months so would require 0.25 grams per 10 pounds of bodyweight. This falls under the "maintenance" category listed above.
18 multiplied by 0.25 = 4.5 grams of supplemented omega 3 per day
Step 3: You MUST consider your supplement dosage of EPA & DHA to hit the correct amount of supplementation. Here's the back of Iron Ore Health's fish oil packaging.
2 soft gels give me 1100mg of EPA + DHA so I would require 8 soft gels in total, per day to hit my recommended fish oil intake of 4.5 grams.
I hope that helps!
The Best Pre-Workout Supplements For CrossFit Athletes
Transparent Labs are my go to CrossFit pre-workout (PrWO) for a couple of reasons. Firstly, their stimulant free PrWO does not contain caffeine. I find myself quite sensitive to caffeine and therefore wish to prime my system for a workout without it.
Secondly, creatine HCL also features in their PrWO. This allows me to keep things simple and take one supplement as opposed to a handful of pills and powders if I were to gather the ingredients myself (not to mention flavour).
The popularity of CrossFit pre-workouts is vast and I believe this is due to PrWO being one of the few CrossFit supplements which have noticeable physical effects.
When using PrWO I'll feel positive feelings including a burst of energy whilst remaining focused and the ability to push through workouts thanks to the delay of fatigue due to particular ingredients. With these physical benefits comes a mental kick as well, a change in mindset as you see yourself surpass previous efforts.
Whilst all of these positive effects would seem desirable for EVERY session, I use my CrossFit pre-workout sparingly.
This is because I want my body to remain sensitive to the active ingredients in the PrWO. I only use PrWO when I am tired and feel it is necessary to maximise the benefits of the session I am partaking in (perks of working shifts).
What's In The Best CrossFit Pre-Workout?
Let's take a look at all the ingredients listed in the Transparent Labs Stimulant-Free Pre-Workout and what effects they will have during supplementation.
- Citrulline Malate: An amino acid that is found in almost all pre-workouts thanks to its ability to delay the onset of fatigue during intense workouts. An excess of citrulline in your body will increase arginine levels, creating more nitric oxide. More nitric oxide means increased blood flow to muscles during exercise, allowing them to last longer under duress.
- BCAA 2:1:1: Branch Chain Amino Acids are three amino acids known as leucine, isoleucine and valine. BCAA's help promote muscle protein synthesis and increase muscle growth over time.
- Beta-Alanine: I've covered this in detail in the best vitamins for CrossFit section.
- Creatine HCl: I've covered this in detail in the best creatine For CrossFit section.
- Betaine Anhydrous: May support positive mood, promote liver health and aid with joint recovery.
- Taurine: Has antioxidant properties which counter oxidative stress, a contributor to post-exercise muscle damage, soreness and injury.
- N-Acetyl L-Tyrosine: A bioavailable form of Tyrosine which increases adrenaline production.
- Choline Bitartrate: Helps enhance your mental acuity which can help improve physical performance.
- Mucuna Pruriens: Works in tandem with L-dopa to promote brain health, regulate mood and increase cognition.
- L-Norvaline: Inhibits arginase production allowing you to produce more nitric oxide, more NO, bigger pump.
- Black Pepper Extract: Research shows it may enable stimulants to last longer, which helps you take less, with no crash and reduced side effects.
The Benefits Of Supplementing Pre-Workout For CrossFit Athletes
- Increased Energy: An increase in energy will come from the active ingredients in your CrossFit pre-workout. Caffeine is often found in higher dosages that will provide you with a new lease of life as you head to the gym.
- Increased Strength: Research has shown that strength increases have come as a result of particular ingredients in your pre-workout. Creatine often features as a pre-workout ingredient giving a boost of energy and strength.
- Increased Focus: Mental clarity and sharpness are heightened with the help of your pre-workout.
- Fat Burning: Thanks to increased output, pre-workouts combined with a good diet may assist in the metabolisation of your fat stores.
- Combines Ingredients: A CrossFit pre-workout will have all of the necessary ingredients for a solid session in one convenient serving.
CrossFit Pre-Workout - A Few Considerations
- Potential Drug Test Failure
Choose your supplement supplier carefully. It has been known for supplements to contain ingredients that are not listed when you buy the product (and athletes have then tested positive for banned substances).
The best CrossFit supplement suppliers will make it known that their products are of the highest quality, are tested and are fit for those in competition. Take a read on Transparent Labs "about us" page and how their formulas are "100% transparent".
You can find more information on CrossFit HQ's stance on the use of illegal substances on the link below.
- Increased Blood Pressure
Some CrossFit pre-workout ingredients will increase your heart rate and blood pressure. For this reason, I keep the use of my pre-workout to strength training only. I avoid metabolic training whilst supplementing as my heart rate is already elevated. In the past, I have felt very unwell post WOD due to the caffeine in my pre-workout.
- Adrenal Fatigue
Pre-workouts with high levels of caffeine can cause hypertension and will place unnecessary stress on your adrenal glands. This can lead to adrenal fatigue.
About The Best CrossFit Supplement Brands I Chose
The brands that I have chosen to supplement my CrossFit training with stood out from the rest during my research and then yielded the best progress/gains during testing.
I have summarised some of the reasons why I choose them on a regular basis and when asked, would rate them as some of the best CrossFit supplement companies I have experienced.
Thanks to a solid diet & nutrition plan with optimal supplementation, I am able to continue training, injury free and in good health.
I was introduced to the Blonyx range by my head coach who had been using Blonyx supplements with great results.
I quickly ordered their HMB+ Creatine and was very surprised at the difference I felt within about 2 weeks of supplementation.
Blonyx will only use ingredients that have 10+ published studies showing that they are SAFE and WORK.
Combine their elite products with prompt delivery and customer service and you have one of the leading suppliers for CrossFit supplements fuelling athletes all over the world.
You can read a lot more information in full by checking their about us page.
I have recommended some of the products from the Optimum Nutrition products as I have used their products since I started paying attention to nutrition.
For years I have enjoyed their protein supplements throughout the day, adding it to various meals and seeing/feeling positive physical gains.
The brand itself scores in the top 1% of brands on Supplement Reviews which in an industry under more scrutiny than ever, is worthy of a recommendation in my opinion.
Transparent Labs, much like Blonyx have a simple outlook on the supply of supplements.
Using ingredients of the highest quality in a formula back by science.
Their products have all of the attributes of a product that I would be happy to consume myself; all natural, no dyes, fillers or harmful additives.
You get a feel for their utter dismay of the dishonesty within the supplement industry and as a brand, I hope they can continue their good work and the supply of honest, working products.