It is widely recognized that CrossFitters are not huge proponents of supplementation. After all, most of us follow a Paleo diet, and there was no such thing as a multi-vitamin in paleolithic times. So how could we as a community support incorporating these man-made nutrients into our pre-historic diets? Theoretically, if you eat lots of meat and vegetables, some fruit, nuts, and seeds, and avoid all simple sugars, then you will see significant improvements in exercise performance as well as quality of life.
No matter how well we eat, one could argue that there is likely something missing. Whether we are simply looking to recover from the rigors of training or we are striving for optimal WOD performances, we should at least give consideration to which nutritional supplement might benefit us.
If there is one supplement CrossFit HQ advocates, it is fish oil, specifically Omega-3 fats. This particular supplement is so important that a portion of the Level 1 Certification is devoted to its role and recommended dosage. Omega-3 fats have been positively correlated with brain health, exercise recovery, muscle protein synthesis and possible fat loss. Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) is the principal fat in the membranes of neurons located within the brain. Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) plays a key role in regulating inflammation which peaks during and immediately after heavy training. It is recommended that individuals performing strenuous training should consume a minimum of 1-2 grams combined of EPA and DHA. CrossFit HQ recommends 4-6 grams combined.
Creatine serves as a resource to generate ATP (adenosine triphosphate), the principal energy source molecule, rapidly and without oxygen. Such energy is crucial in short duration high-intensity training. Creatine is a naturally occurring amino acid in our bodies but usually only in trace quantities. While additional stores can be acquired through the consumption of meat, this often yields no more then 1-2 additional grams. Research suggests that as much as 5 grams or more of creatine are necessary to support improvements in strength, power and the development of lean body mass.
Intense training stimulates muscles to synthesize additional proteins in an effort to adapt and overcome a prior stressor. However, intense training can also cause damage and inflammation in muscles as weaker proteins are destroyed and soreness is left behind. Protein powder and / or branched chain amino acids (BCAAs) taken immediately prior to or immediately after a WOD can promote maximal muscle protein synthesis, prolong performance and reduce potential soreness.
While amino acids are most often associated with their role as the building block for protein, beta-alanine is regarded more for its role in making carnosine, a powerful buffer in muscles. While diet may provide a gram or so of this amino acid research has suggested that at least 3 grams daily can enhance power production and sustain higher intensity WODs.
In the end, it is up to each individual to decide whether they want to and need to utilize supplementation. If a decision to use them has been rendered then it is important to know which ones are right for you!