Fuel Up: The Best Supplements for CrossFitters
Fuel Up: The Best Supplements For CrossFitters
By: Evan Whitemyer
As coaches we are constantly asked questions by athletes and friends such as “what do I eat?” or “how can I make sure I’m putting the right fuel in my body?” One of the biggest parts of maintaining a healthy lifestyle is solid nutrition. Eating well while filling the gaps in our diets can be a big factor in improving our sleep schedule, increasing productivity during the workday, gaining muscle, and losing weight. Supplements, which “complete or enhance something else when added to it,” are intended to improve how we eat and fill gaps in our diet. Here are my top five supplements that every CrossFitter should be taking!
The value and effectiveness of creatine has been debated by the fitness community over the past several years, I believe that creatine is one of the best supplements you can take. Similar to amino acids, creatine can be found in some natural foods, but the best way to take it is as a supplement. During a workout our body uses Adenosine Triphosphate (ATP), meaning that the more ATP we have, the better we can perform. When you take creatine, the body stores it in cells that produce ATP needed to sustain a high level of performance while exercising.
Along with increasing capacity for performance a study published by the US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health (Source 5) in 1993 proves that creatine keeps cells well-hydrated and reduces muscle breakdown, which can lead to larger muscle mass. Less water in our cells decreases our ability to produce muscle and recover. Taking a creatine supplement will help our bodies recover from an increased workload by staying well hydrated.
Omega-3 fatty acids are rarely included in most multivitamin products but are still essential if you want improved brain activity, joint health, blood flow, and reduced joint pain. Most Omega-3 fatty acids can be found in fish oil pills, flax seeds, and especially fish. Many doctors point to findings that prove how beneficial Omega-3s can be for hair, skin, and overall heart health. (Source 3)
Omega-3s have been proven to lessen joint pain for those with arthritis, and to reduce inflammation. Many athletes experience more inflammation than the average person and being able to control that inflammation or joint pain can have positive impacts on recovery and movement after hard training sessions.
Many people are unaware of the great benefits magnesium offers such as better sleep, stronger bones, lower blood pressure, and improved digestion. A good intake of magnesium will help relax muscles, meaning that the body will be under less tension when you are ready to go to bed. Relaxed cardiac muscle tissue is also important in lowering blood pressure, and magnesium is responsible for relaxing heart muscles in order to open up paths for blood to flow more efficiently through arteries and veins.
Along with improved blood pressure and better sleep, magnesium is great at improving bone mineral density. Magnesium works well with calcium to maintain bone density. Maintaining high bone density throughout adult life is key to avoiding chronic diseases such as osteoporosis.
Many of us are not eating as many greens as we should be. Under the “plate method” a typical plate should include 50% non-starchy vegetables, 25% lean protein, and 25% grain foods. Whether you are following specific macros or just trying to eat as well as possible, a super greens supplement can ensure that you will be putting enough greens into your body. Greens are a great source of fiber, as well as a good source of vitamin A, vitamin C, potassium, and folic acid.
Having a well-balanced diet has been linked to reduced risks of many diseases, including osteoporosis, eye disease, diabetes, and high cholesterol. Although some greens supplements can get a little pricey, they are definitely worth it and can be integrated into your diet through smoothies, pancake batter, and even pesto.
Amino Acids and (Branched-Chain Amino Acids) BCAAs are strikingly similar, and can be used to maintain consistent strength gains while at a protein or caloric deficit. BCAAs can be found in foods such as rice, nuts, and red meat. Best used as a supplement when training fasted, BCAAs help the body continue to build proteins and recover faster. The essential amino acids that cannot be found in natural foods must come from a supplement, and the amino acids of leucine, isoleucine, and valine help reduce fatigue while exercising.
In an article on the Cellucor blog (Source 6), author Chris Lockwood mentions the amino acid that makes us fatigue: tryptophan. Taking a BCAA supplement before training will help block the tryptophan from entering the brain, allowing us to fatigue much slower and recover much better.
While adding supplements can be an awesome way to fill gaps in your diet, you cannot get by on just protein powders and multivitamins. Having a healthy, well-rounded diet is the most important thing to focus on whether you are losing weight, gaining muscle, or just trying to avoid chronic disease. One of my favorite articles of all time, “What Is Fitness?” (Source 4) introduced the CrossFit Pyramid, the building blocks for avoiding chronic and metabolic disease. The base of the pyramid is nutrition, and everything else stacks on top of it. Without mindful nutrition at home, it is much harder to perform well in conditioning, weightlifting, and gymnastics in the gym. Although it can be fun to cheat on your diet a little and eat way too much of your favorite junk food, be mindful of how you are treating your body and consider using supplements to increase your fitness! Luckily, CrossFit South Shore coaches are certified and skilled professionals who can help keep you accountable with your diet and structure plans around you in order to help meet your nutritional goals!
- “BCAA vs Amino Acids.” MaxiNutrition, Healthy Nutrition Company (HNC), www.maxinutrition.com/nutrition/ingredients/branched-chain-amino-acids/BCAA-vs-Amino-Acids/.
- “Creatine 101 – What Is It and What Does It Do?” Healthline, Healthline Media, www.healthline.com/nutrition/what-is-creatine#muscle-gain.
- English, Nick. “Why Omega-3s Are Extra Helpful for Strength Athletes.” BarBend Nutrition, BarBend, 13 Dec. 2018, barbend.com/omega-3-fatty-acids-athletes/.
- Glassman, Greg. “What Is Fitness?” CrossFit Journal, CrossFit Inc., Oct. 2002, library.crossfit.com/free/pdf/CFJ-trial.pdf.
- Häussinger, D, et al. “Cellular Hydration State: an Important Determinant of Protein Catabolism in Health and Disease.” PubMed.gov, US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health, 22 May 1993, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8098459.
- Lockwood, Chris. “Best Time To Take BCAAs: Branched-Chain Amino Acids.” Cellucor Blog, Cellucor, 9 June 2017, cellucor.com/blogs/nutrition/best-time-to-take-bcaas-branched-chain-amino-acids
- “Magnesium: Fact Sheet For Health Professionals.” NIH Office of Dietary Supplements, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Magnesium-HealthProfessional/.
“The Top 7 Health Benefits of Magnesium.” AlgaeCal, AlgaeCal, www.algaecal.com/algaecal-ingredients/magnesium/magnesium-benefits/.