The Benefits of Supplements for Athletic Performance

athletes runningDisclaimer: This article contains my thoughts and opinions and I highly recommend that you seek your medical physician prior to implementing any of these supplements or vitamins.

I’ve been asked a lot lately on supplementation for CrossFit performance.  

We’ve all seen the CrossFit Games on ESPN right?? The CrossFit Games feature the best CrossFit athletes in the world. Names like, Rich Froning, Annie Thorsdottir have become household names.

I had a lot of non-CrossFit sheeple, I mean people;) come up to me in awe of the shredded physiques that the female and male competitors were sporting. Besides their crazy physiques, the amount of volume they could handle in 3 days was impressive. I would have died. How do they recover so fast? Or how does their glycogen storage not deplete?

The question that boggles my mind the most is, how do they train so hard in the off season and not over train?? The answer is pretty simple. They are bad ass, recover faster, stronger, better athletes, and are super freaking human. I know, it’s a hard pill to swallow;( but it’s the truth. On top of their super human abilities they eat clean, have great genetics, and have coaches.

They essentially train like professional athletes. Not to mention that their jobs are to workout must be nice! Many also rely on pre-workout, post-workout supplements and vitamins to improve recovery, delayed onset of muscle soreness (DOMS), energy, muscle development, and performance. Add that all up and you can see how they are CrossFit beasts.

I myself am a regular Joe and don’t possess freakish genetics, nor do I have the time to train all day. I’ve tried to train like games athletes and it doesn’t last very long. I break down and get nagging injuries and probably over train. I’ve realized that if I ever plan on getting to that next level that I would have to adopt a supplementation and vitamin regiment to combat all those negatives. There are a million different supplements in the billion dollar industry. Most are not FDA approved and there is a ton of horrible products out there. Please be careful and do your homework before you choose supplements because they can get spendy and lead to certain side effects.

Supplementation and the use of vitamins really go hand in hand with proper nutrition. Please keep in mind the importance of post workout nutrition. A majority of athletes really focus on this area because it is crucial for recovery and it fuels those muscles for optimal results. I’ve always been told that you have a 45 minute window of opportunity to refuel your body. Do they work??

It’s really hard to say but I’ve noticed things like increased energy, faster recovery, and higher output to some extent. The most benefit I’ve seen that’s very apparent is the reduced effect of DOMS. I can honestly say that you won’t turn in to Rich Froning overnight but it may improve your performance.

Here is my list of the supplements that I’ve tried or currently take:

Protein powder- The use of protein powder is all about convenience. Animal protein is ideal but some people, myself include can’t eat right after a tough WOD. Ingesting protein powder post workout is extremely important because your body may be in a net negative nitrogen balance after an intense WOD. More protein is being broke down than is being created (or synthesized). Intense training stimulates protein synthesis and the net negative balance is a product of degradation that outstrips synthesis.

A quick protein shake reverses this catabolic state and your body won’t muscle waste. Muscle wasting is depressing because you just spent an hour getting your as kicked for that well-earned muscle. Be careful with protein ladies. Too much can get stored as fat, so ladies you may want to use ½ of the recommended dose.

The other issue with some protein powders is the amount of unnecessary junk in it. The less ingredients, the better! My wife and I really have seen positive results from Isagenix’s protein powder.

Creatine- Is the most studied ergogenic supplement. Creatine promotes anaerobic strength and lean muscle mass.

If you decide to use Creatine, it’s recommended to start two months out before competition. Many athletes use it year round and is found to be a safe practice. Make sure to follow the dosage from the manufacturer. I’ve had good results from MRI CE2 HI-DEF. You also need to be cognizant of you H2O intake. Drink lots of water to avoid cramping.

Beta-Alanine- An amino acid, beta-alanine is produced in the body but can also be consumed by eating protein rich foods containing the dipeptides carnosine, anserine or balenine(most meats).

Essentially it helps the muscle in total work capacity, power output, at lactate threshold, delayed onset of muscle fatigue during high intensity exercise and improves sub-maximal endurance performance. It has also shown to improve lean muscle mass. I use Muscle Pharm “Assault”, which is pre-workout that contains beta-alanine. It’s good stuff! I also use a post- workout supplement (Muscle Pharm) “Recon” which aids in recovery. I highly recommend this product.

Men’s one a day- Just a multi vitamin.

Vitamin D3– An essential vitamin for calcium absorption and for maintaining adequate calcium and phosphate levels in the blood. Vitamin D also is important for neuromuscular function, cancer prevention, immune system, inflammation, and the cardio vascular system. I get a majority of my vitamins from Costco.

Fish Oil- Fish oil is touted as a brain booster, but thats not the only beneficial side effect of this naturally occurring substance. Packed with good fats called omega-3 fatty acids, fish oil shows the most promise in reducing the risk of heart disease.

Fish Oil also helps build muscle, impacts cholesterol levels, increase blood flow, and reduce inflammation and muscle soreness. There is a ton of crappy fish oil so make sure to research the different brands. I use Costco’s fish oil.

Vitamin C- Every one of the bodys cells uses vitamin C, also called ascorbic acid. It is found naturally in a broad variety of fruits and vegetables, functions as an antioxidant in all aqueous environments.

It also strengthens capillaries, boosts immune function and can help lower the release of cortisol from the adrenal glands. It can also help with muscle soreness. Recommendations for the nutrient sit at 60 mg per day, the Linus Pauling Institute suggest that optimal intake may actually be quite a bit higher around several thousand milligrams, depending on individual circumstances. I took 5,000 mg per day during regionals to help reduce DOMS and had zero side effects. That was a recommendation from a physician.

Pro Biotics- Probiotics are live microorganisms that may be found in fermented foods such as yogurt, sauerkraut, kefir and buttermilk. Probiotics means for life. The most familiar probiotic-containing food in the U.S. is yogurt.

According to the Council for Agricultural Science and Technology (CAST), the potential gastrointestinal health benefits of probiotics include helping to alleviate diarrhea, constipation, inflammatory bowel disease, ulcers, allergies and lactose intolerance. Probiotics may also enhance immune function and protect against colon and bladder cancer. I don’t do yogurt but I get my share of pro biotics through raw milk (I know it’s not paleo). You can get a pro biotic in pill form, as well as consuming Kombucha. Russ Carter and I destroy it!!!

I really hope that this helps any of you at all. If you have any questions, feel free to ask anytime. Train hard and remember to have fun.

Check out our crossfit footwear guide at:

NIH: Vitamin D Fact Sheet, 2002 Osteoporosis International Review, Linus Pauling Institute: Vitamin D, University of Maryland Medical Center; Omega-3 Fatty Acids; •Steven D. Ehrlich, NMD; June 25, 2009, Clinical Cardiology; Omega-3 Dietary Supplements and the Risk of Cardiovascular Events: A Systematic Review; P.E. Marik, et al.; July 2009, Journal of Pharmacy Practice; Fish Oil: What Is the Role in Cardiovascular Health?; Betsy E. Brinson, et al.; June 6, 2011, The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition; Dietary Omega-3 Fatty Acid Supplementation Increases the Rate of Muscle Protein Synthesis in Older Adults: A Randomized Controlled Trial; Gordon I. Smith;, Cancer; Nutritional Intervention with Fish Oil Provides a Benefit over Standard of Care for Weight and Skeletal Muscle Mass in Patients with Nonsmall Cell Lung Cancer Receiving Chemotherapy; R.A. Murphy, et al.; April 15, 2011, European Journal of Applied Physiology; Omega-3 Fatty Acid Supplementation Enhances Stroke Volume and Cardiac Output During Dynamic Exercise; B. Walser et al.; October 2008, Linus Pauling Institute: Vitamin C, David Robson The Implications of Cortisol Release, The British Journal of Nutrition; The Acute Effects of Four Protein Meals on Insulin, Glucose, Appetite and Energy Intake in Lean Men; S. Pal, V. Ellis; October 2010, Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise; Timing Protein Intake Increases Energy Expenditure 24 H After Resistance Training; K.J. Hackney, A.J. Bruenger, J.T. Lemmer; May 2010, Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research; Post exercise Carbohydrate-Protein Supplementation Improves Subsequent Exercise Performance and Intracellular Signaling for Protein Synthesis; L. Ferguson-Stegall et al.; May 2011, Nutrition & Metabolism; Effect of Protein/Essential Amino Acids and Resistance Training on Skeletal Muscle Hypertrophy: A Case for Whey Protein; J.J. Hulmi, C.M. Lockwood, J.R. Stout; June 2010


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s