CrossFit is a sport of fine margins. The separation between first and last may only be a few extra seconds, pounds lifted or reps completed.
Each CrossFit workout is unique and stresses the utmost capacity of a Crossfitter's athletic performance and muscle capacity. A workout can push the individual's ability to perform and recover to their absolute max.
With such fine margins often being the key determinant of success within the sport, Crossfitters need to pay all the more attention to their diet, sleep, stress management and workout programming.
Over the next few weeks we'll be providing a comprehensive guide of Crossfit supplementation covering;
Sleep quality and quantity
The best Crossfit supplements for performance
Every athlete wants to know "what supplementation do I need to take to improve my performance?"
Well, we're here to make that very simple for you by giving you our top four supplements for improving your WOD scores and times.
The granddaddy of athletic performance enhancing supplementation, caffeine is simply awesome. Caffeine is typically found within a pre workout supplement. Caffeine offers a whole multitude of benefits, ranging from increased calorie expenditure to improved performance. A strong black coffee or sugar free energy drink would be a good choice! Alternatively, you could try a pre-workout option (visit Myprotein for their range and use our discount code JAMIEW for up to 50% off).
Mostly everyone into their health and fitness has heard of good ol' creatine. Creatine is like an energy “recycler”, helping to replenish what our body uses to produce energy on a virtually continual basis (especially during athletic performance).
Creatine supplementation has been shown to significantly improve athletic performance when supplemented over time.
Creatine supplementation is typically taken in two ways; either “loading” with it or taking it more consistently. The difference is that a “loading” phase will lead to the benefits of supplementation occurring faster (however can upset some peoples gut).
In practice, the two protocols look like this;
Loading protocol (for quicker results) -
20g per day split into two 10g servings for 10 days
4 – 6g per day in one serving (post workout preferably but not essential) for three weeks
Repeat this cycle and no need to ever stop taking it
Consistent intake protocol -
4 – 6g per day on a consistent, day by day basis
One misconception constantly held is the need to "cycle on and off" creatine. The truth is there is never a need to stop taking it. Creatine doesn’t lose its effectiveness over time nor does our body stop producing it naturally. It’s also completely safe to take (as has been validated by countless studies) for any period of time.
Another misconception is that it would not be beneficial for female exercisers / athletes. This is completely not the case and, instead, you could argue they would find even more benefit than male exercisers / athletes!
We'd also recommend going with creatine monohydrate; other forms of available creatine supplements on the market have been shown to be no better and are typically more expensive than creatine monohydrate (visit Myprotein for their range and use our discount code JAMIEW for up to 50% off).
Beta alanine is like the batman to creatine's ... batman; they're both pretty awesome for boosting athletic performance.
Beta-alanine acts as a buffering agent of the by-products of lactic acid breakdown. Buffering these by-products may lead to more repetitions / an increased time to failure. Improving upon these would be highly beneficial in a CrossFit setting (especially when we consider the amount of volume-based weight training and even just AMRAP workouts).
The best way to take beta-alanine would be; 3g before training and 3g post training (start with 1.5g either side of training as it will give you a tingly feeling. If you’re new to it this tingly feeling may be uncomfortable and a possible distraction in training)
(visit Myprotein for their range and use our discount code JAMIEW for up to 50% off).
Citrulline malate is another potentially potent performance tool in the toolkit of a CrossFit athlete.
It acts as a vasodilator; simply meaning it increases blood flow to and from our muscles during exercise.
An increase in blood flow helps to transport nutrients, oxygen and other necessities to the muscle to fuel athletic performance whilst also helping to transport away waste products which can have a negative impact on muscular performance if they build up.
Data shows citrulline malate supplementation to not only benefit performance and recovery, but also body composition outcomes as well. We'd suggest shooting for a 6g dose as this appears to be most optimal for performance outcomes (visit Myprotein for their range and use our discount code JAMIEW for up to 50% off).
Fuelling on the go
Whilst we all love the short, sharp workouts there are times when we find ourselves in one of those "building our engine" sessions and we're struggling to keep up the pace.
These training sessions, meant to tax our cardiovascular system and force it to take that next step, are critically important to CrossFit; not only are they a part of the literal event structure itself but having improved cardiovascular function can accelerate recovery and assist all levels of performance.
Whilst it is certainly possible to fuel exercise performance with dietary and stored fat (such as when training fasted, using exogenous ketones or if you'd adapted to a ketogenic dietary approach) the majority of evidence around fuelling mid-workout is based on carbohydrate consumption.
Intra-workout carbohydrate powders and gels
During training the goal should be to provide yourself with readily available carbohydrate (especially if you plan to train for longer than one hour). You should also be endearing to keep up your fluid intake during training too so as to avoid the nasty effects of dehydration. This becomes even more important in the heat and humid environments.
Sipping on a carbohydrate mix and or bringing along one or more carbohydrate gels would be advisable for this form of training (and cause the least amount of disruption with your session).
We have the capacity to absorb roughly 60g of carbohydrate per hour; going beyond this may lead to some digestive issues. There is the possibility to consume more carbohydrate and avoid digestive issues if we mix sources.
There are specific carbohydrate protein transporters (Glucose transporters or GLUTs) responsible for enabling circulating carbohydrate to cross over cell membranes into the cell. These become saturated at that roughly 60g of carbohydrate per hour mark. There are different forms of GLUTs however and so having multiple sources of carbohydrate (for instance, glucose and fructose) can avoid this saturation issue and allow for greater fuel intake without the digestive issues.
This may be useful information for those competing in cardiovascular focused events within CrossFit and or training / competing multiple times in a single day (visit Myprotein for their range and use our discount code JAMIEW for up to 50% off).
To aid with hydration, CrossFit athletes should also consider electrolyte supplementation (or a diet higher in electrolyte sources e.g., bananas, watermelon, nuts and seeds etc.). Electrolytes form part of the complex process of signal transmission; our brain telling our body what to do and our body giving the brain feedback on the environment.
We lose electrolytes through sweat and so any activity that would make us sweat, particularly for an extended period of time, should be done so alongside adequate fluid intake and the use of electrolytes. It may also be worth sipping on electrolyte rich fluids between events if training / competing multiple times a day.
Ideally an athlete should remain in a state of adequate hydration throughout the day. A simple way of doing so is simply to gauge how hydrated you are by your pee colour; adequately hydrated athletes should aim to keep their pee straw yellow to clear.
Branched Chain Amino Acids (BCAAs)
One final addition worth considering would be incorporating branched chain amino acids (BCAAs) into your intra-workout routine. They may be able to delay time to fatigue (even when glycogen depleted) and reduce some of the muscle damage caused by extensive endurance exercise (visit Myprotein for their range and use our discount code JAMIEW for up to 50% off).
Crossfit is a demanding sport that takes a lot out of you both physically and mentally. If you want to be at your best, you need to make sure that you’re taking the right supplements alongside your nutritious diet to perform at your best.
We’ve highlighted some of the best performance supplements for Crossfit, but if you have any questions about what would work best for you, reach out to speak to our team. They can recommend products based on your individual needs and goals.
And don’t forget to visit Myprotein – use our discount code JAMIEW at checkout for up to 50% off all orders!
Balance is Northern Ireland's leading nutritionist and dietician coaching team. We work with everyone from Olympians to office workers to help them achieve their nutrition and diet related goals.
Get in touch with us today to discuss how we can help you;
- Beat binge eating
- Lose weight and keep it off
- Take your sports performance to the next level and reach your full potential