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5 Crucial Supplements for Every CrossFit Athlete
Let’s be real, there is a ton of BS in the supplement industry. Supplement companies make ridiculous claims about their “miracle” products, use substandard ingredients, and use the FDA’s lack of regulation to put products to market that are unsafe and have no clinical data to back up their use as a supplement for most athletes.
However, there are a few supplements that do, in fact, work. They will help any CrossFit athlete to feel better and perform better. These are supplements that have mountains of clinical studies that back up their use, use high-quality ingredients to provide true nutritional value, and put offering the benefiting the health of their customers above simple profit.
Below, you’ll find a list of the 5 crucial supplements that every CrossFitter should take and why, including a brief overview of the systems the supplements impact and clinical evidence for their efficacy and use. You’ll also find our Lab recommended brands for each supplement based on quality and value.
*Clinical evidence for use courtesy of Mayo Clinic. Supplement Brand Lab and Value Analysis by Labdoor.
The word “protein” comes from the Greek “Proto” which means “of primary importance”. This nutrient was named when it was realized how important it was for a properly functioning body. 2014 Fittest Woman on Earth Camille LeBlanc Bazinet credited a high protein diet for her stellar performance during the 2014 season. Her actual quote: “The biggest thing that was holding me back was not getting enough protein”. The fact of the matter is that protein is what your body needs in order to build muscle tissue, and building muscle tissue is the most important function that will make you faster, fitter, and stronger. Clinical grades for uses below.
Nutrition (protein source)
Protein supplementation has been studied for maintaining skeletal muscle mass. Studies suggest that protein may benefit older people and women after exercise. In healthy young men, whey protein increased blood levels of essential amino acids and the creation of muscle protein. Whey protein is considered by medical experts to be an excellent source of protein.
Protein may reduce short-term food intake and may also reduce risk factors for heart disease associated with obesity. These factors include high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and blood sugar and insulin levels. Most studies suggest that whey protein increases feelings of fullness and reduces food intake.
Many protein sources have been studied for their possible impact on blood sugar and insulin. Whey protein has been found to reduce blood sugar in both healthy people and those with type 2 diabetes. Further research is needed to determine potential interactions with medications and long-term effects of whey protein.
Protein has been studied for promoting muscle growth and improving athletic performance. Taking whey protein after exercise may have benefits in both men and women, in terms of improving protein oxidation and blood levels of essential amino acids. Overall, short-term studies have suggested that protein supplementation increases muscle mass and strength.
Whey protein has been studied for weight loss and the regulation of appetite. Studies have shown whey protein to be an inexpensive source of high-quality protein and that it may reduce short-term food intake. Overall results suggest that whey protein may promote better weight loss when compared to lower-protein diets, but results are unclear when whey protein is compared to other protein sources. Research is still needed to make firm conclusions in this area.
As a CrossFitter, you know how much your performance level depends on your cardiovascular health. A strong and healthy heart is one of the greatest physical tools that any athlete can possess. Scientific evidence suggests that Omega 3 Fatty Acids are extremely beneficial to the cardiovascular system. Clinical grades for uses below.
Coronary heart disease
Clinical trials suggest that omega-3 fatty acids may have benefits in terms of reducing total and heart disease mortality (death). It is believed that omega-3 fatty acids may help lower triglycerides and inflammation. Daily intake has been linked to a reduced risk of sudden heart failure.
High blood pressure
A ton of studies report that omega-3 fatty acids may help reduce blood pressure. These claims have been refuted in a small number of other studies, but the preponderance of scientific evidence shows that EPA and DHA do lower blood pressure. Effects may be greater in people who have higher blood pressure and may depend on the dose. DHA may have greater benefits than EPA.
Hyperlipidemia (triglyceride lowering)
There is strong scientific evidence that omega-3 fatty acids from fish or fish oil supplements can significantly reduce triglyceride levels. Higher doses have been found to have greater effects, and a dose of four grams daily may lower triglyceride levels by up to 40%.
Many studies report improvements in morning stiffness and joint tenderness with regular intake of fish oil supplements for up to three months. Benefits may increase with use of anti-inflammatory medications such as ibuprofen or aspirin. These studies are encouraging for any athlete dealing with joint or back pain. Fish oil has been found to have effects on the immune system and on fats in the blood in people with rheumatoid arthritis.
Secondary cardiovascular disease prevention (fish oil / EPA plus DHA)
Fish oil has been studied for use in protecting people who have had past heart problems from new ones, such as heart attack or sudden death.Many studies report that regularly eating oily fish or taking fish oil supplements may help reduce the risk of nonfatal and fatal heart attack, sudden death, and mortality in people with a history of heart attack.
A healthy immune system is crucial for any athlete. The physcial stress that a CrossFitter goes through on a day to day basis can beat down the immune system and cause in an increased risk for infection and illness. Vitamin C has been clinically shown to support the immune system, making it crucial for any athlete. Clinical grades for uses below.
Vitamin C deficiency (scurvy)
Scurvy is caused by a lack of vitamin C in the diet. Although scurvy is uncommon, it may occur in malnourished individuals, those that need more vitamin C (such as pregnant or breastfeeding women), or infants.
Common cold prevention (extreme environments)
Vitamin C reduced the risk of developing colds, by roughly 50% in people under physical stress or in extreme conditions, such as soldiers in the subarctic, skiers, and marathon runners. This area merits more research and may be of particular interest to elite athletes or military personnel.
Iron absorption enhancement
Based on scientific research, vitamin C appears to improve absorption of iron or iron supplements taken by mouth. Further research is needed to reach a firm conclusion.
Vitamin C may decrease the risk of developing infections during pregnancy, in the elderly, and those under extreme physical conditions.
Vitamin D is an interesting nutrient because of where we get most of it from. Our body actually makes it when we are exposed to natural sunlight. While this is a handy mechanism, people that live in areas that don’t get as much daylight, or people that spend a lot of time inside can be unknowingly deficient of this nutrient. Deficiency results in bone softening, skin problems, muscle weakness, lethargy, and low-metabolism. These are all huge problems for any athlete. Clinical grades for uses below.
Osteomalacia (bone softening in adults)
Adults who have severe vitamin D deficiency may experience bone pain and softness, as well as muscle weakness. Osteomalacia may be found among the following people: those who are elderly and have diets low in vitamin D; those with problems absorbing vitamin D; those without enough sun exposure; those who undergo stomach or intestine surgery; those with chronic liver disease; or those with bone disease associated with kidney problems. Treatment for osteomalacia depends on the cause of the disease and often includes pain control and surgery, as well as vitamin D and phosphate-binding agents.
Psoriasis (disorder causing skin redness and irritation)
Many different approaches are used to treat psoriasis, including light therapy, stress reduction, moisturizers, or salicylic acid. For more severe cases, calcipotriene (Dovonex®), a man-made substance similar to vitamin D3, may help control skin cell growth. This agent is a first-line treatment for mild-to-moderate psoriasis.
Rickets (bone weakening in children)
Rickets may develop in children who have vitamin D deficiency caused by a diet low in vitamin D, a lack of sunlight, or both. Babies fed only breast milk (without supplemental vitamin D) may also develop rickets. Ergocalciferol or cholecalciferol is effective for treating rickets caused by vitamin D deficiency. Calcitriol should be used in those with kidney failure. Treatment should be under medical supervision.
Thyroid conditions (due to low vitamin D levels)
Some people may have overactive parathyroid glands due to low levels of vitamin D, and vitamin D is the first treatment for this disorder. For people who have overactive parathyroid glands due to other causes, surgery to remove the glands is often recommended. Studies suggest that vitamin D may help reduce the risk of further thyroid problems after undergoing partial or total removal of the parathyroid glands.
Vitamin D deficiency
Vitamin D deficiency is associated with many conditions, including bone loss, kidney disease, lung disorders, diabetes, stomach and intestine problems, and heart disease. Vitamin D supplementation has been found to help prevent or treat vitamin D deficiency.
Much evidence has shown that vitamin D helps prevent cavities; however, more high-quality research is needed to further support this finding.
Vitamin D deficiency has been linked to muscle weakness and pain. Evidence supports the use of vitamin D supplementation for muscle weakness and pain, although more research is needed.
We all want to be stronger. Creatine is one of only a few supplements that can truly claim to help you make gains in strength and endurance. Creatine sometimes gets a bad rap, with people confusing it for a steroid or illegal PED, but in fact it is just an amino acid, one that many people lack do to an incomplete diet. One study showed a 36% strength increase in trained subjects over a 16 week period supplementing with creatine. Clinical grades for uses below.
Enhanced muscle mass / strength
Many high-quality studies have shown an increase in muscle mass and strength with creatine use. However, some weaker studies have reported mixed results. Overall, the available evidence suggests that creatine does increase lean body mass, strength, and total work capacity.
Congestive heart failure (chronic)
Research supports the use of creatine supplementation in people with chronic heart failure. Several studies have reported a positive outcome of improved muscle strength and endurance.