CrossFitters are getting fitter, faster, and stronger—and I’m not just talking about the top athletes. As CrossFit’s popularity soars, more and more 9-5 pen pushers (like me) are starting to compete on the Regional and National level circuits. Around 0.01% of all people who do CrossFit are ‘full-time Athletes’ and most likely receive professional support for their supplement intake. But where does that leave the regular Tom, Dick and Harrys like us? What are the best supplements for the everyday athlete? I wish someone had told me this when I started out in CrossFit, so I thought I would share my knowledge and experience of what has worked for me over the last five years…
What supplements I take before a workout depends on the time of day that I train. For example, if it is earlier in the day I may take a pre-workout with increased caffeine. Sometimes, taking supplements (like pre-workout) after a long day at work is the only way I get myself up for a long and/or intense training session post 6pm – there’s no harm in that too. Just make sure you know your caffeine limit with sleep.
For me, what’s important when training is remaining focused. Being focused on the task, whether it’s gymnastic skills, Olympic lifts or endurance workouts- focus is essential in CrossFit. Without concentration, you’ll forget the workout, miss a lift or worse… injure yourself.
The hardest thing in CrossFit is resisting fatigue for as long as possible whilst also remaining focused.
Here’s what I’ll take on a daily basis:
In preparation for training
Pre- workout shake:
It’s what it says on the tin. It prepares you for the best possible training session you can have on that day. With this, it’s important to know what ingredients to look for in a pre-workout. Find my recommendations below.
Is the workhorse that provides the greatest impact. For stimulatory effects alone, you could just take caffeine and save yourself some cash. However, other supplements e.g. CNP Ignition are piggybacked with caffeine and can also have positive impacts on your training sessions.
If your goal is performance enhancement in a workout and you’re going to take caffeine before the session, I find it is useful to regulate my daily intake, as caffeine develops quickly. It’s also a good idea to taper caffeine intake down towards the end of the day to avoid sleep disruption.
A solid pre-workout amount of caffeine to look for is between 250-300mg of caffeine per serving. To self regulate this, you would just half or quarter the portion you give yourself based on the time of day and session programmed.
Creatine monohydrate is probably the most effective and researched performance supplement on the market. When you start an intense session, your body relies on phosphocreatine to produce energy. Supplementing creatine helps to increase the amount of phosphocreatine your muscles store to make sure your body has the fast energy source it needs to explode into high-intensity explosive exercise, which applies to most CrossFit sessions. Creatine has consistently proved itself to be a safe way to boost high-intensity work capacity, increase muscle mass, enhance strength levels and improve body composition. I find that it takes a couple weeks of supplementing 3-5g of CNP Creatine each day to reach optimum creatine levels. But then after that, you can just maintain this level by continuing that dose, just like topping off your gas tank.
- Beta- Alanine:
I think of beta-alanine as the muscular endurance version of creatine. If you think of creatine for power, strength, and hypertrophy, think of beta-alanine for longer anaerobic workouts. Believe it or not, it’s not lactic acid that causes the “burning” sensation in your muscles: it’s the build-up of hydrogen ions that can interfere with muscle contraction and lead to fatigue. Beta-alanine helps to increase your bodies stores of carnosine, which can get rid of these extra hydrogen ions and improve your exercise. With this it’s certainly worth considering adding this to your stack if it’s not already in there. I notice a difference and get the best results from taking as little as 3g of CNP Pro Beta-Alanine a day.
Nootropics are scientifically formulated to improve brain function and support the nervous system in both physical and mentally demanding situations in the gym and in day to day life. Clinically studied ingredients in the form of Astragin® , Sustamine and Cognizin work together to enhance your ability to process and react to information and offset tiredness and fatigue. The CNP Cognition contains these ingredients in your nootropics – they have been a gamechanger for my concentration levels before a training session or even a big meeting at work!
Supplements while you workout:
It is also important to supplement during training in order to optimise performance. Due to the intense nature of CrossFit, it is important to supplement while working out to prevent muscle breakdown and provide additional fuel when necessary on those longer sessions.
Electrolytes are the minerals in our bodies that help to regulate and control the balance of fluids. The Pro Napalm contains certain minerals which can help regulate blood pressure and muscle contraction. The main electrolytes are sodium, potassium and magnesium. For optimal performance in the gym the right amount of electrolytes are required. If you lose a significant amount of either of the minerals through exercise you may experience: muscle cramps, muscle spasms or even dehydration.
If your session it going to be over 60 minutes, then an electrolyte drink may be a good idea – especially if you sweat a lot like me. You can even get zero calorie options now, so there’s the excuse that ‘you can’t supplement these as they’re full of sugar’ does not exist anymore.
To aid recovery between sessions:
After training is an important time, ideally you need to consume sources of protein and carbohydrate within 20-30mins of finishing your training/competition in order to stimulate optimal recovery. It is important to consume protein to help repair damaged muscle fibres and stimulate growth and recovery.
When any person or athlete thinks of supplements, whey protein is often the first that comes to mind. It’s become a permanent resident in most people’s gym bags and is perfect for those of us who have a busy ever changing schedule to ensure we get sufficient protein intake.
But believe it or not, you can meet your protein needs through whole foods alone and I advise trying this before turning to the easy option. This could save you cash and also wasting calorie intake on extra protein you don’t need.
That said, nothing beats a cold, nice tasting protein shake to jump-start the process of muscle building and repair. Designed to digest quickly and aid muscle recovery, whey protein reduces the amount of stress hormones and cortisol that is released. Match your whey protein intake to your requirements. Try the Whey Isolate, I find that approximately 20-30g of protein helps repair my tissues and reduces muscle soreness post-workout which works a treat. What is almost as important as it’s functionality is the taste of the whey. I mix mine with milk or food like oats and pancakes – so make sure it tastes nice!
To conclude: remember, when it comes to your overall performance, supplements are the least important part of your success as a CrossFit athlete. If you’ve taken care of everything else, then following this supplement guide may help you increase your performance in the gym, or even the competition floor.
Author: Joe Taylor