Supplements For CrossFit®: What To Use For Maximum Workout Performance

CrossFit training leaves your body feeling battered and beaten. A good supplement plan can support your journey and help take it to that next level.

CrossFitIt’s hard to find someone who hasn’t heard of the CrossFit® phenomenon. Any conversation about fitness, competition or general training isn’t without a mention of this highly popular, nationally recognized mode of exercise.

And it is of no surprise – CrossFit® is comprised of numerous styles, calling upon several energy systems that are pushed to the limit appealing to a wide audience.

Many of the workouts require maximum effort leaving their participants drained, beaten and battered. Because of this supplementation is a must if you are to take your performance and recovery seriously.

The faster and more effectively you recuperate and recover from these brutal sessions, the better chance you have of taking your training to the next level. Of course nothing beats a proper diet regarding your goals, but certain supplements can give you that slight edge.

Below is a list of some of the most effective supplements to support your journey to that next level.

Recommended Supplements For the CrossFit® Athlete

Creatine

Creatine: As with many athletes, creatine is arguably not only the most popular supplement ever released on the market but also the most acutely effective. Exhaustive research has documented its effect on muscular strength, recovery between bouts of exercise and cross sectional area of a muscle tissue (size). Recent research has also found it to aid in cardiovascular endurance as well as muscular endurance. This is a CrossFit athlete’s dream.

When you need it: Take 3 to 5 grams pre and post workout on training days and 3 to 5 grams with your first meal on non-training days.

Beta-Alanine

Beta-alanine: This amino acid acts as a supercharger for muscle tissue enabling you to apply more energy towards your workout. It also may help blunt the rise in lactic acid in the muscle to delay soreness and prolong training. There is evidence that it may have a synergistic effect when combined with creatine for almost every benefit to fitness in the book!

When you need it: Take 2 to 3 grams with your pre-workout shake preferably with creatine.

Whey Protein

Whey protein: This fast acting protein supplement is a staple in any serious fitness enthusiast’s list of must-haves. Designed to digest quickly to help muscle recover, whey also includes a complete amino acid profile making it a perfect pre and post-training support supplement. Recent research also suggests that it may slightly blunt hunger for those looking to use it as a weight loss aid.

When you need it: Mainly used as a pre (20 to 30 grams) and post-workout (30 to 40 grams) supplement to support training recovery, you can easily insert whey anywhere into the diet. It is great for those rushing out the door in the morning (20 to 30 grams) not only for convenience but also to blunt cortisol levels after waking.

Carnitine

Carnitine: Carnitine (also L-carnitine) can also be a CrossFitter’s best friend. This amino acid helps convert fatty acids into energy so you can train longer and harder. Found in beef, lamb, dairy and avocado among other foods, carnitine can be a vital aid in your quest for the next level.

When you need it: Most will do well with 1 to 2 grams twice per day around training time.

CrossFit

Magnesium and Zinc

Magnesium and Zinc: These two minerals have numerous benefits including zinc aiding in tissue repair and regeneration and magnesium helping the nervous system calm down for better rest and subsequently restful sleep. Both add up to faster recovery after heavy bouts of training and improved, quality rest.

When you need it: For best absorption and to avoid other vitamin/mineral interaction, take these two together before bed on an empty stomach and follow the recommended dose by the manufacturer.

Multivitamin/Mineral

Multivitamin/mineral: Of course as a precautionary measure getting in a good multi-vitamin/mineral can give you that “insurance” you may need during particularly intense phases of training. With these extreme training conditions a multivitamin/mineral is essential in replenishing your body of vital micronutrients so it can function properly and increase performance on a daily basis and correct any deficiencies from skipped meals, stress and other abnormal occurrences that take you away from your regular schedule of meals.

When you need it: Take a quality multivitamin/mineral at the end of the day with your last meal. This way while you sleep your body has the right building material to help repair, grow and be ready for the next bout ahead.

CrossFit® Style Training Supplement Plan
Recommendations
Supplement When and How Much?
Creatine 3-5 grams pre and post workout and 3-5 grams with your first meal on non training days.
Beta-Alanine 2-3 grams pre workout.
Whey Protein 20-30 grams pre workout, 30-40 grams post workout and any other time you cannot get in a solid meal.
Carnitine 1-2 grams pre and post workout.
Magnesium 450mg at night.
Zinc 30mg at night.
Multivitamin/Mineral Find a product with 100% of most of the vital micronutrients taken at night.

FAQs​

I have read that you have to do a “loading” phase when using creatine. Is this true and if so, how much?​​

Initially it was recommended that you load up to 20 grams per day on creatine for a week and then continue on a “maintenance” dose for weeks thereafter. However, research uncovered that simply starting with a maintenance dose of 3-5 grams pre and post workout elicited the same gains at the end of numerous studies. This will not only save money in the long run but also will give your digestive system a sigh of relief!

I sometimes get a tingling feeling over my skin a few minutes after I take ​beta-alanine. What causes this?

One cause may be beta-alanine binding to nerve receptors causing them to fire randomly giving you that itchy/tingling feeling. Another possible cause (maybe in addition to the nerve reaction) is that it increases blood flow to surface capillaries resulting in a flush effect. These are completely safe reactions which may or may not subside with prolonged use.

I eat a pretty balanced diet. Does someone like me need a multivitamin/mineral supplement?​

In a word: yes. Even some of the most balanced diets will require a little “insurance” in the form of a multivitamin/mineral supplement when undergoing intense bouts of training most days of the week. Also, your balanced diet may not always be balanced due to changes in schedules, high stress periods at work and/or life changes resulting in burdens on diet regularity.

As a CrossFit athlete my goal isn’t to put on too much muscle. Why would I need extra protein in the form of whey?

Protein not only aids in the building of muscle, it also serves many functions including energy production and regulation, replenishing other vital tissues depleted during training and will aid in the overall recovery process between workouts. Additionally, whey is a fast-digesting protein enabling the body to start the repair process quickly.

Is taking a ZMA supplement the same as taking magnesium and zinc separately?

Yes. However most, if not all ZMA products contain around 10mg of vitamin B6. B6 will help with relaxation and facilitate an ideal environment for zinc and magnesium to do their work. But yes, purchasing the products separately will do just as well. Be sure to buy a reputable product as potency from sub-par manufacturers can be questionable.