The dietary supplement industry is closely tied to physique and strength sports, most notably bodybuilding and powerlifting. What’s more, most supplements are marketed toward changing your physique rather than boosting your performance. Bodybuilding competitions are a hot spot for supplement brand advertising since such an audience is highly likely to try these products.
However, many consumers use dietary supplements to achieve goals, from professional athletes to average joes. At this point, thousands of supplements are on the market to choose from, and new ones are being released daily. Unfortunately, according to the literature, most of them aren’t worth the money. Moreover, the best supplements for you depend on what type of exercise you perform, your goals, your individual needs, and your budget.
To narrow things down a bit, we will focus specifically on CrossFit and functional athletes for this article. Below, you will find the 7 best supplements for CrossFit Athletes and which have the strongest evidence to support their use. Keep reading to find out more!
Table of Contents
- 1 The 7 Best Supplements for Crossfit Athletes
- 2 Protein Powder
- 3 Carbohydrate Powders
- 4 Creatine
- 5 Caffeine
- 6 Electrolytes
- 7 Beta-Alanine
- 8 Peak-O2®
- 9 Final Thoughts
The 7 Best Supplements for Crossfit Athletes
- Protein Powder
- Carbohydrate Powders
Why is protein powder beneficial for CrossFit athletes?
Protein powder, especially whey protein isolate, has strong evidence supporting its benefits for CrossFit athletes, and here’s why! It’s important to note that protein powders are not strictly necessary to gain strength or build muscle. With that said, consuming enough protein throughout the day is crucial for optimal health, muscle recovery, gaining lean muscle mass, and athletic performance.
Furthermore, it’s advantageous to consume protein multiple times throughout the day rather than all at once because your body does not have a storage mechanism for protein. For active individuals who are relatively lean, it’s recommended to consume ~1 gram of protein per pound of body weight. So if you weigh 200lbs, you should consume 200 grams of protein daily. To take things a step further, eating protein 4-6 times per day is ideal, which works out to 33-50 grams of protein per meal.
It’s best to consume most of your protein as whole foods, but having a protein powder on hand makes it easier, tastier, and more convenient to hit your daily protein target! With so many options on today’s market, there is a suitable product for everyone.
Since CrossFit athletes normally train multiple times per day, it’s important to kickstart the recovery process as fast as possible, which is best achieved by consuming a fast-digesting protein, such as whey protein isolate.
Tips for buying protein powder
Since protein powder is one of the most popular supplements on the market, there are thousands to choose from. However, not all protein powders are created equal, so it’s important to identify a high-quality option.
Before choosing which protein to buy, ask yourself the following questions:
- Are you lactose intolerant?
- If so, a whey protein isolate may work, but you are likely better off using a vegan protein or egg-based protein powder.
- Do you have a dairy allergy?
- Any milk-based protein (whey & casein) is out of the question. Select a dairy-free protein powder.
- When do you plan on using the protein powder?
- A whey protein isolate is best if you use protein powder post-workout because it’s fast-digesting and rich in essential amino acids and branched-chain amino acids.
- If you want something that sustains you for longer, choose a blend with whey, casein, or a plant-based protein powder.
- Do you prefer natural or artificial sweeteners?
- Artificial sweeteners taste better, but they may cause gastrointestinal distress. If they upset your stomach, search for a naturally flavored and sweetened protein powder.
- Is the protein third-party tested?
- Ensure your protein powder is tested for heavy metals, microbial, and label claims. If you compete, it’s also important to look for one that’s informed-sport certified.
- Are you allergic to soy?
- Some protein powders use soy lecithin because it’s cheaper than sunflower lecithin, so be on the lookout if you’re allergic to soy!
- How many grams of protein are in each serving, and how big is the scoop size?
- A high-quality protein should contain at least 70% protein. For example, if you have a protein powder with a scoop size of 40 grams, but it only contains 20 grams of protein, you’re only getting 50% protein. The higher the protein yield, the fewer fillers you’re wasting your money on.
- Are there any free-form amino acids added?
- If you see free-form amino acids, especially glycine or taurine, do not purchase the product. It’s most likely amino spiked, which means you’re not getting the actual amount of protein listed on the label.
- Does it have good reviews?
- The last thing you can check is the product’s reviews either on the brand’s website or Amazon to see if people actually like the product or not.
Those are just a few things to consider before buying a protein powder! If your primary goal is muscle growth and maximizing athlete performance, whey protein is one of best supplements for CrossFit athletes.
Why are carbohydrate powders beneficial for CrossFit athletes?
Carbohydrate powders are another supplement with strong evidence supporting their benefits for CrossFit athletes, and here’s why! High-intensity activities, such as sprinting, weight lifting, and jumping, are glycolytic. This means that they primarily rely on glucose as fuel.
Consuming a carbohydrate powder before, during, and/or after training ensures your muscle’s glycogen levels remain at a good level to perform and recover. It’s common for competitive athletes to drink sports drinks during training and competitions because they provide them with a quick energy source and support hydration levels.
CrossFit workouts can range from less than a minute to over an hour, so having a carbohydrate powder on hand is a convenient way to ensure you stay fueled. Not to mention, consuming carbs directly after training and protein powder is a great way to accelerate recovery.
Tips for buying carbohydrate powders
There are various forms of carbohydrate powders on the market. Some use a combination of fast and slow digesting carb sources, whereas others simply use straight sugar (i.e., dextrose, maltodextrin, sucrose, fructose).
Although everyone responds differently to carbohydrate powders, most people should opt for one that doesn’t drastically spike their blood sugar levels.
Here are the top two carbohydrate powders that we recommend:
- Carb10™ – a low-glycemic carb that’s derived from peas.
- Cluster Dextrin™ – a low-glycemic carb that’s derived from corn
Both carbohydrate sources pass through the stomach quickly but slow down once they reach the small intestine. They give your body a sustained release of energy without the drastic spikes and crashes in blood sugar and insulin levels.
The last thing to consider when buying carbohydrate powders is their flavor sources. As we mentioned in the protein powder section, some people’s bodies don’t respond well to artificial sweeteners, flavors, or dyes, so if that’s you, look for an unflavored carb powder.
Why is creatine beneficial for CrossFit athletes?
Creatine, especially creatine monohydrate, also has strong evidence supporting its benefits for CrossFit athletes! Next to caffeine, creatine is one of the most studied supplements in the sports nutrition space. Studies repeatedly show that supplementing with creatine helps increase power, strength, and endurance. Recent evidence shows that creatine even provides cognitive performance benefits. Although creatine is naturally produced in the body and present in various foods, it’s difficult to consume enough through diet alone.
Therefore, creatine supplements are a good option. Supplementing with creatine increases your body’s creatine phosphate stores. Creatine phosphate helps replenish energy levels, especially in the first 10-15 seconds of high-intensity activity. Since CrossFit involves a lot of explosive movements, creatine is a very beneficial supplement to take.
Tips for buying creatine
There are a few different forms of creatine supplements on the market, but the two most popular are creatine HCL and creatine monohydrate. Creatine monohydrate is the most studied form, so that’s what we recommend. In terms of creatine monohydrate, the highest quality form you can get is Creapure®.
Furthermore, micronized creatine tends to dissolve better in water, so that’s another thing to consider. Creatine HCL may be a better option for those with a sensitive stomach. However, most people will be just fine taking 3-5 grams of creatine monohydrate at a time.
Regardless of what form you use, it’s important to take it daily to get the most benefits from creatine. A loading phase is not required unless you haven’t been taking it and have a competition that’s less than a month away. When you take creatine isn’t very important, but some evidence suggests that post-workout consumption is best.
Why is caffeine beneficial for CrossFit athletes?
Caffeine, especially caffeine anhydrous, has strong evidence supporting its benefits for CrossFit athletes. Caffeine is a powerful ergogenic aid that boasts numerous physical and mental benefits. Several studies have shown that caffeine increases exercise performance by increasing energy levels, focus, time to exhaustion, and alertness.
Caffeine primarily expresses its effects by stimulating the central nervous system, which is highly advantageous when performing explosive lifts, sprinting, jumping, and other movements. Caffeine also increases lipolysis, so if you’re trying to lose some fat, it may be a useful tool.
Overall, caffeine has countless studies showing its effectiveness and safety. As long as you monitor your daily caffeine intake and don’t take it too close to the bed, you’re almost guaranteed to see a boost in performance. Furthermore, if you have a competition coming up, it’s wise to go off caffeine to resensitize your receptors. This approach will result in an even more profound effect.
Tips for buying caffeine
Caffeine anhydrous is the most common form used in pre-workouts, energy drinks, and other beverages. Caffeine anhydrous is fast-acting, so most people feel its effects within 20-30 minutes after consumption. Another form that’s becoming more popular is natural caffeine, which some users prefer because it supplies you with a more sustained release of energy.
Other forms of caffeine normally found in pre-workouts include ZumXR® and Infinergy™, two extended-release sources of caffeine. Although you can get caffeine from energy drinks, coffee, and pre-workouts, having caffeine pills on hand is a good idea, so you can just take caffeine on its own. Some pre-workouts contain other ingredients that may cause gastrointestinal upset and negatively affect your performance.
Regardless of what form of caffeine you use, monitor your daily caffeine intake because it’s the one supplement your body can tolerate. In other words, after a while, you stop feeling the caffeine’s effects, so you have to take more.
Why are electrolytes beneficial for CrossFit athletes?
Electrolytes, specifically sodium, magnesium, calcium, and potassium, have some evidence supporting their benefits for CrossFit athletes. When you’re training intensely, you sweat a lot and lose a lot of water and key electrolytes. It’s no surprise that dehydration can negatively affect your performance. When performing high-level training, consuming water alone may not be enough to re-hydrate.
That’s where a lot of people go wrong with hydration – they drink a ton of water and end up depleting their electrolytes even more. This leads to cramps, fatigue, headaches, nausea, reduced performance, and impared recovery. Using electrolytes before, during, and/or after training sessions ensures your body is getting what it needs to refuel.
Tips for buying electrolytes
The electrolyte category is growing rapidly, but many of the electrolyte powders available are underdosed. All they are really doing is making your water taste better. When buying an electrolyte powder, look for one that has an adequate amount of all 6 electrolytes, including magnesium, sodium, potassium, chloride, calcium, and phosphorus. Also, be wary of what flavors, sweeteners, and colors are used.
The flavoring additives may upset your stomach or cause heartburn depending on your body. It’s best to try out a few different ones to see what you like. Furthermore, if you want to individualize exactly how much electrolytes you need to consume, look into getting a sweat test. A sweat test measures how much sodium you lose while sweating.
Why is beta-alanine beneficial for CrossFit athletes?
Beta-alanine has some evidence supporting its benefits for CrossFit athletes. Beta-alanine is a naturally occurring amino acid that serves as a building block for carnosine. Carnosine is a di-peptide molecule that’s stored in skeletal muscle. Carnosine acts as a lactic acid buffer, so it allows you to exercise harder for longer.
That’s why beta-alanine is touted for its ability to increase muscular endurance. Since most CrossFit workouts involve high reps and numerous sets with little to no rest, it may be a good idea to supplement with beta-alanine. Beta-alanine may give you the extra edge over your competition. Beta-alanine supplementation is actually more advantageous for CrossFit athletes than bodybuilders because their sets normally last under 60 seconds.
Tips for buying beta-alanine
Beta-alanine can be purchased as a stand alone supplement, but it’s mostly found in pre-workouts. The only branded form on the market is CarnoSyn® beta-alanine, so if you want a higher quality form, look for that on the label! It’s important to note that beta-alanine should be taken daily to see the most benefits.
Similar to creatine, it takes a few weeks to notice its effects. It’s a good idea to have a stand alone beta-alanine supplement so you can take it daily rather than having to take pre-workout every day.
A common side effect of beta alanine supplementation is paresthesia, which is often described as a pins and needles sensation in the hands and face. Over time this side effect should diminish, and if it really bothers you but you still want to take something to boost your muscular endurance, check out the next supplement!
Why is Peak-O2® beneficial for CrossFit athletes?
Peak-O2®, a patented ingredient from Compound Solutions, has some evidence supporting its benefits for CrossFit athletes. Peak-O2® is a combination of six organic mushrooms that helps users adapt to and overcome physical and mental stress. Peak-O2® has increased oxygen utilization, resulting in better power output, stamina, and muscular endurance.
Best of all, Peak-O2® doesn’t cause paresthesia like beta-alanine, but you get all of the same benefits! Like beta-alanine, Peak-O2® does take 14-21 days to notice its effects, so having a stand alone supplement is ideal. Furthermore, Peak-O2® is informed-sport certified already, which means it’s third-party tested for banned substances. So if you’re a competitive athlete, you don’t have to worry about failing a drug test.
Tips for buying Peak-O2®
As we mentioned, Peak-O2® should be taken daily so getting a stand-alone supplement is your best bet. Furthermore, Peak-O2® is pretty hard to flavor, so when it’s included in a pre-workout, it’s normally underdosed.
You should look for a supplement that contains at least 2 grams of Peak-O2®. Since it has a strong earthy flavor, you may be better off using capsules as opposed to powders. If you only have the powder, mix it with something that’s flavored!
Even though there are thousands of supplements available, only a handful have good evidence supporting their use for boosting performance. Many of these supplements are also beneficial for other athletes, such as bodybuilders, powerlifters, strongmen, and more. However, we’ve selected the ones that we believe are best for CrossFit and functional athletes.
It’s important to note that supplements are not magic and they aren’t even necessary. Plus, the best supplements for CrossFit athletes we’ve covered are mainly for athletic performance benefits. There are other health supplements for crossfit athletes that you may also want to consider, such as fish oil, multi-vitamin, vitamin d, and more.
But, if you want to optimize your performance, these supplements are something that you want to consider. Make sure you’re buying from a reputable company, always look at the supplement facts before purchasing, and if you’re drug tested, look for the informed-sport logo. Try some of these supplements out to see how they can enhance your training!