Supplements for CrossFitters

Into fitness for sport? Use these proven ingredients to boost performance on your next WOD.

By Dwayne N. Jackson, PhD | May 15, 2016

Most CrossFitters follow the diet mantra “If you can’t get it from a well-balanced diet, then you don’t need it.” As such, using the words CrossFit and supplements together represents an oxymoron to most CrossFit purists.

We agree that a perfectly laid out diet will meet your body’s protein needs and is the first step to athletic success. Along similar lines, there’s no debate that elite CrossFit participants represent some of the most conditioned strength athletes in the fitness industry. But what if taking a few safe and effective supplements could enable even greater performance in the box or on competition day?

Here, we highlight three key WOD-boosting supps that you can’t get in ergogenic dosing from a Paleo diet (or any eating plan, for that matter).

Beta-Alanine

Beta-alanine is an amino acid that isn’t involved in synthesizing proteins but does play a rate-limiting role in carnosine production by interacting with histidine. In as few as four weeks, beta-alanine supplementation can increase muscle carnosine levels by more than 60 percent, leading to increased muscle endurance and workout intensity.

High muscle carnosine improves muscle performance by buffering skeletal muscle pH (acidity) during high-intensity/fatiguing exercise. Since one of the primary causes of fatigue during intense exercise — like a hero CrossFit workout — is metabolically mediated decreases in pH (or acidosis), it’s obvious why beta-alanine supplementation and increased muscle carnosine support can boost workout volume as well as intensity.

Dosing: Take 3 to 6 grams per day. Make sure you take a preworkout dose of 1 to 3 grams 30 minutes before your first rep.

Caffeine

Caffeine increases time to exhaustion, boosts strength, mobilizes fats, increases focus and decreases perceived exertion. One main mechanism for caffeine’s actions is that it blocks adenosine receptors in the central nervous system. These receptors normally inhibit stimulatory neurotransmitter release, but when caffeine is present the inhibition is lost and neurotransmitters (like adrenaline) are released in large amounts. This stimulatory effect is likely responsible for most of caffeine’s performance benefits.

Dosing: Take 100 to 300 milligrams caffeine 30 to 45 minutes preworkout.

Creatine Monohydrate

Creatine is one of the most popular and widely researched supplements ever. Yet there remains a sect within the CrossFit community that refuses to compromise its strict “no supps” policy.

During exercise, creatine plays a fundamental role in energy production by aiding in the formation of adenosine triphosphate needed for muscle contractions. Boosting creatine levels in muscle provides a surplus of energy substrates to increase strength and promote anabolism.

In terms of anabolic signaling, creatine first increases the amount of water taken up by muscle cells, which swells the muscle, signals for increased repair and makes your muscles look bigger. Second, it increases the release of the anabolic hormone insulinlike growth factor-1 and decreases myostatin levels (the anabolic “brakes”) postworkout.

Notably, research shows that beta-alanine stacked with creatine produces synergistic increases in strength and muscle mass, and decreased fat mass.

Dosing: Although creatine monohydrate dosing is bodyweight- and tolerance-dependent, a good starting point is to first complete a loading phase of 5 grams, four to six times per day for a week. After that, take 5 grams both 30 minutes before and immediately after training. On rest days, take 5 grams with breakfast and 5 grams again later in the day.



About the Author

Dwayne N. Jackson, PhD

Dwayne N. Jackson, PhD, is a professor and scientist in medical biophysics at one of Canada’s top medical schools, the University of Western Ontario. He has over 12 years of university education in physiology and has attended the University of Ottawa, the University of Western Ontario and the Yale School of Medicine. He also has over 20 years of competitive and recreational bodybuilding experience and is an expert in the areas of performance nutrition and supplementation.