Although some of the exercises that make up a CrossFit WOD are similar to what a weightlifter/bodybuilder might do in a gym routine, for the most part CrossFit is an entirely different beast.  And while athletes from both worlds can benefit from many of the same supplements, products designed for bodybuilders might not necessarily be the best supplements for CrossFit.  In this article, we’ll take a look at some products that offer real benefits to those trying to make serious gains in their WOD’s.\

Number 1 – Creatine

If you’ve been working out for any amount of time, you’ve probably heard of creatine.  It is one of the few supplements that has shown through a multitude of tests to be highly effective in both strength and endurance training.  I won’t go too deep into how it works, as we covered this in a previous article.  But essentially creatine supplies your body with a source of reserve energy that allows you to go further during sets, and recover more quickly in between sets.

The fact that it has been shown to improve both anaerobic and aerobic performance makes it an ideal supplement for CrossFit. While there are any number of creatine products on the market, it’s important to know that most formulas are essentially the same.

There are several different types of creatine, covered here, but it’s usually best to go with the one that gives you the most bang for your buck. The most effective time to take creatine is before and after a workout.  Back in the day it was recommended to go through a loading phase, but this has proven to be unnecessary in several studies.  This is especially true of the more easily digestible forms of creatine such as micronized.

A great way to increase creatine absorption is to take it with something like gatorade after a workout.  Creatine attaches to the glycogen and is drawn into the muscles as they are starved for glycogen after an intense workout.  It’s also a good idea to cycle on and off creatine for a few months at a time.

 Number 2 – Fish Oil (Omega-3)

Most Americans get nowhere near enough Omega-3 fatty acids from their diet.  Ideally our bodies should have a balanced intake of Omega-6 and Omega-3 fatty acids.  But because of the use of massive amounts of Omega-6’s in our world of processed foods most people end up eating many times more 6’s than 3’s.

This can lead to a number of health issues including inflammatory diseases such as diabetes and heart disease.  (Check out this article for more info)  This is where fish oil supplements come in.  They are high in naturally occurring Omega-3 fatty acids. EPA and DHA, the two essential Omega-3 fatty acids, have been shown to have very beneficial affects for those that perform intense exercise.  They help to reduce inflammation, improve muscle nutrient uptake, support muscle protein synthesis, and reduce muscle protein degradation.

On top of all that, it’s good for your long-term health as well. When it comes to CrossFit, recovery is key.  A balanced intake of Omega-6 and Omega-3 fatty acids helps to insure that your body is operating at peak efficiency, utilizing all the nutrients you’re feeding it.  When it comes to selecting a fish oil, be sure that it is high in both EPA and DHA. Here are Our Top 3 Fish Oil Supplements

ImageBrandEPA/DHAPrice
ImageBrandEPA/DHAPrice
[easyazon_image add_to_cart="no" align="center" asin="B000SE5SY6" cloaking="yes" height="110" localization="yes" locale="US" nofollow="yes" new_window="yes" src="http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/41TdoJajZcL._SL110_.jpg" tag="efficientgains-20" width="60"]Now Foods Ultra Omega 3, Fish Oil Soft-gels, 180-Count[/easyazon_image][easyazon_link asin="B000SE5SY6" locale="US" new_window="yes" tag="efficientgains-20" add_to_cart="no" cloaking="yes" localization="yes" nofollow="yes" popups="default"]Now Foods Ultra Omega 3[/easyazon_link]500mg/250mg$$
[easyazon_image add_to_cart="no" align="center" asin="B002CQU564" cloaking="yes" height="110" localization="yes" locale="US" nofollow="yes" new_window="yes" src="http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/41wvtqUHYcL._SL110_.jpg" tag="efficientgains-20" width="60"]Nordic Naturals Ultimate Omega, 1,000 mg Fish Oil, 180 Soft Gels[/easyazon_image][easyazon_link asin="B002CQU564" locale="US" new_window="yes" tag="efficientgains-20" add_to_cart="no" cloaking="yes" localization="yes" nofollow="yes" popups="default"]Nordic Naturals Ultimate Omega[/easyazon_link]650mg/450mg$$$
[easyazon_image add_to_cart="no" align="center" asin="B0026RHHEW" cloaking="yes" height="110" localization="yes" locale="US" nofollow="yes" new_window="yes" src="http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/41jN2L54SUL._SL110_.jpg" tag="efficientgains-20" width="54"]Nature Made Fish Oil Omega-3[/easyazon_image][easyazon_link asin="B0026RHHEW" locale="US" new_window="yes" tag="efficientgains-20" add_to_cart="no" cloaking="yes" localization="yes" nofollow="yes" popups="no"]Nature Made Fish Oil Omega-3[/easyazon_link]360mg/240mg$

Number 3 – Protein

Protein is the primary building block of muscle.  While not everyone that participates in CrossFit is looking to pack on pounds of muscle, there’s more to protein that bulking up.  It is a major part of the recovery process. I would typically advocate eating meat, fish, or poultry as your primary sources of protein.  The main reason for this is that it discourages overeating. Protein powders and shakes tend to be less filling.

But from the standpoint of convenience, they’re tough to beat. There are literally thousands of protein supplements on the market now days.  One of the most popular is whey.  The reason is simple.  Whey is quickly digested by the body.  It is the perfect supplement to take after a difficult WOD to help your muscles begin repairing and preparing for your next workout.

For those that are sensitive to dairy, there are plenty of alternative protein powders available. Regardless of whether or not you’re trying to add significant amounts of muscle, anyone active in CrossFit should incorporate adequate amounts of protein into their diet.

Of course this is only a tiny list of all the supplements available out there.  But we’ve tried to focus on the ones that will give you the biggest bang for the buck.

Number 4 – Proper Diet & Sleep

Ok, I know you don’t want to be beat about the head about eating right, so I’ll keep this short.  Starting with a baseline of proper nutrition can make all the difference in the world to your overall performance.  It can also cut down on the amount of money you have to spend on supplements.

It’s pretty basic, lot’s of leafy greens, lot’s of good protein (meat, poultry, fish etc), reasonable amounts of carbs from nutritious sources (sweet potatoes, yams, fruits etc), and good quality fats (coconut oil, grass-fed butter or ghee, animal fats).

The skinny on getting lean has always been to avoid fats, but recent research and results from lifestyles like the Paleo diet have shown that increasing fat intake actually helps your body burn fat.  The reason behind it is fairly straightforward.

Our bodies have been built to intuitively understand that fat is the most efficient source of energy available.  In a diet where fat is restricted, our bodies hang onto it in case a need arises for it in the future.  While this situation is rarely an issue in modern times, our bodies have not adapted to a world of food whenever and in whatever quantities we desire.

If you supply your body with plenty of healthy fats, it will begin mobilizing stored fat for energy because it knows that you’re getting a regular supply. About the only time you’ll want to avoid eating fats is shortly after a workout.  This is simply because fats digest mores slowly and you want to get carbohydrates and protein to your muscles as quickly as possible after a workout to maximize nutrient uptake.

The short of it is, the better you can do in your daily nutrition, the less you’ll have to supplement elsewhere.  Not only will you feel better and more energized, but you will actually BE healthier.  Okay, done with nutrition.

Now let’s talk about sleep.  If you want big gains get enough sleep.  If you’re training heavily get a minimum of 8 hours.  Your body WILL NOT recover without ample sleep!  This is when muscle and strength is built.  HGH (human growth hormone) is naturally released by our bodies when we sleep.  People pay big money for this stuff, but there’s no need.  Get enough sleep and you can get it for free.

That’s all I’ve got to say about sleep other than neglect it at your peril.

Two of the best supplements for Crossfit and the key to consistent gains are proper nutrition and ample sleep.  Once you’ve got these first two items in order, you’ll start seeing enhanced results from supplementation.  You can also check out our article on the best pre workout supplements.