The Crossfitter’s guide to supplements

If you walk into your local GNC (never go to GNC. I’ll explain later) or nutrition/supplement shop you can quickly become overwhelmed with the amount of products on the shelves. Some are cheap, some are expensive, some have flashy labels, some are plain Jane, some make wild claims, and others have no description at all as to what they are supposed to do. Wait for it…..and here is the sales clerk to “help” you out. He knows what all this does and more specifically why YOU NEED ALL OF IT! Let’s clear the smoke out of the room shall we?

First my disclaimer: Why are supplements called supplements? They are intended to SUPPLEMENT a solid whole food diet. If this isn’t in order first then take a step back and fix that s**t pronto! It only means everything as far as reaping the maximum benefits from all of your hard training. Do some google searches. Ask your coach some questions. Look into food prep companies. Pick a plan, make a change, and stick to it. It doesn’t have to be complicated. Just find something (Paleo, Zone, Weight watchers, Keto, IIFYM, Low carb…whatever) that you think will fit your food preferences and implement it PROPERLY.

Okay so now that we have that out of the way let’s talk about some supplements worth adding to your arsenal.

1: Protein.

A high quality protein and a shaker bottle should always be in your gym bag. Simply put, if you are training intensely with weights your protein needs are higher than the average person. There are tons of debates over how much protein is needed daily. Everyone has an opinion. Here is mine. I like 1 gram per lb of bodyweight on a daily basis. If your body fat is too high and it is your goal to get leaner then choose 1 gram per lb of your desired bodyweight. There. Simple. It’s not up for discussion. If you don’t agree because you read an article by John Jacoby Schmackowicz (That’s not a real person. I don’t think. If he is I totally want to hang out with him! I’ll call him Schmacky!) claiming you only need 50 grams daily, I don’t care. This is just my opinion and my anecdotal experience. You do you! Just add some protein if you aren’t getting enough from whole foods.

What protein? Again let’s keep it simple. Whey right after a workout. Casein at night. If you only buy one type of protein then get a 75/25% mix of whey to casein. Keep it simple. “But what if I’m a vegan?” Then you have bigger problems and need to reexamine your life! I’m kidding….ish. Don’t drive your Honda Leaf off the road in a fit of rage. There are good Vegan options out there. Try Google. Read some reviews. It’s out there.

What’s a good brand? Well there are lots of them. I like Truenutrition. Tons of Crossfitters like Progenex (a bit expensive for me thanks) Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard is pretty good. It all depends on how you feel about sweetners, extra ingredients, etc. etc. Here is a quick test. Look at the grams of protein per serving. Now look at the scoop size. If these numbers are way off then it’s probably a crap or inferior product. Truenutrition averages 27-29 g protein per 30g scoop. That’s damn good. The Walmart brand is probably more like 20-22g per 40-45 g scoop. So there is 15-20 grams of ?????? Your guess is as good a mine.

GNC. Don’t go there. (Again…just my opinion) They will try to sell you crap you don’t need at very inflated prices. Are they pushing inferior GNC brand products? I wonder why? Higher profit? Hmmmm…..  Ask the sales guy if he works on commission too. See if he/she stammers. I’d stay away. Buy online. EBay and Amazon offer fine deals. Truenutrition has it’s own site. (You can build your own protein blends and oatmeals. How cool is that?) Shop around. Plenty of good locally owned shops too.

2: Fish oil.

Get a good quality one. They are NOT all created equal. Make sure it isn’t actually just vitamin E. Look for high amounts of EPA/DHA and 500-1000 mg of fish oil per serving.  Fish oil is loaded with healthy omega-3 fats, it lubricates joints, is an anti-inflamitory, helps with healthier skin. the benefits go on. Good stuff.  Again, do a bit of research. Honestly if you eat a balanced diet and a wide variety of foods (salmon and Mackerel are great for this) then you probably don’t need fish oil.

3: Creatine (monohydrate)

I buy Optimum Nutrition creatine on Amazon. About $40 for 2000g. That lasts me about 8-10 months. Not expensive. You don’t need to buy the more expensive versions of creatine. (Ethel ester etc) They make claims as to why they are better. They aren’t really.

Why creatine? Well the quickest answer is this. ATP. ATP is what fires in your system to energize short bursts of energy and strength. So pretty much weightlifting and all out sprints. It runs out quickly. Creatine helps you generate more ATP and faster. More ATP=more muscular endurance=more reps=equals higher quality workouts= more strength and muscle gains. This is the ultra dumbed down version of how it works. (no offense dummies) If you want a deeper explanation have I mentioned Google yet? Creatine is one of the most studied and safest supplements you can buy and it is virtually indisputable that it helps athletes get stronger. If someone tells you it will cause kidney damage or bloat you excessively then you just smack their dirty mouth! (Please don’t smack anyone.) It can cause a little bit of stomach discomfort for some people for a few days. That’s fairly normal. It goes away. You also don’t need a “loading period” as some would suggest. You DO need to use it every day. It’s not just for training days. I have heard a small layoff every 3-4 months is a good idea. I have not seen compelling evidence to explain why. Google.

Those are the 3. Not a long list. Are there other worthy supplements? Yes. Do you need them? No probably not. Unless you are 100% certain that your whole food nutrition and training are optimized then why bother looking anywhere else other than to improve those factors?

Perhaps worth a look:

Beta alanine. (Increases recovery and means better workout endurance. Causes most people’s lips and scalp to get itchy for a bit right after taking.)

Glutamine (An amino acid crucial for protein synthesis and aids in the recovery process)

BCAA’s (building blocks of the cell. Found in protein. If your protein intake is sufficient you probably don’t need any extra)

Pre-workout. Not the Bodybuilding kind! If it’s named something like “Snake Venom” , “Max aggression,” or “Ox balls” then you probably don’t want it. Tons of ingredients and tons of stimulants. Will they help you get a “pump?” Yes. They will also help your heart rate go through the roof when it’s WOD time. I’d stay away. Want a pre-workout? Try a nice cup of black coffee about 30-40 mins before your workout. You just saved money. You’re welcome. Use it to buy a membership at my box 

There it is. 2 or 3 things that will help you perform and recover. Keep things simple. Eat well. Train hard. Rest well. Repeat this consistently. The end.

Go forth and lift all the heavy things! by Kyle Hopkins.

Brad Preslar