Ever wondered what kind of supplements CrossFit athletes take? Maybe you’d like to know so you can try them for yourself.
This article breaks down the most popular supplements they take, what they do, and where you can get the best ones out there in 2022.
1. Protein Powder
This is one of the most widely known and used supplements. Coming in powder form, it is mixed with water or milk and ingested.
Most athletes drink round 1-2 hours before or after a session. It provides a quick burst of protein which is needed to help build muscle mass, but also is a form of energy in liquid form when in a hurry.
Whey protein is broken down quicker so often is taken after a WOD. This helps you recover quicker. Essentially the shake provides your muscles the thing it’s craving.
Milk, egg or casein act slightly different in that it aids your muscles with growth.
Some athletes take the ever-growing plant based protein too. These contain ingredients or base material from soya, seeds, hemp, lentils, beans, green peas, among others. It’s agreed that plant based is less effective for muscle growth.
CrossFit athletes and those just doing it everyday can benefit greatly from taking additional protein with their diet.
Coupled with the convenience and ease of use, it a popular choice supplement.
Top reasons for using protein powder
- High-protein burst intake (around 20-50g per serving)
- Muscle growth and repair
- Useful as a meal addition
- Provides quick energy
- Good for recovery
Best CrossFit Protein Powders
There are a number out there. We can see that some are endorsed by Elite level athletes which is comforting.
Having experimented with a number over the last 12 years, I always go back to Syntha-6.
It was endorsed by Rich Froning Jr a long time ago. This is why I first went with it in 2012. This is still my go-to, just switching up the flavours at every order to alleviate flavour-boredom.
Protein powders CrossFit athletes use
Here’s a list of the widely used ones out there for CrossFit
- Progenex – More Muscle
- Icon Nutrition
Syntha-6 – Top Choice
There are many more that could be noted, but those are the best 5.
The best of this bunch is Syntha-6, however. Why?
The flavours are great, not sickly like many others out there. It mixes well with or without a whisk ball.
As noted, this is a great choice. Made by BSN, it’s been around a while and endorsed by the man and 4x CrossFit Games champ Rich Froning Jr.
Facts about Syntha-6
- 22g whey protein per serving
- Flavours: Chocolate Milkshake, Strawberries, Cookies and Cream, Chocolate Peanut Butter, Vanilla Ice Cream
- 200 calories per serving
- Added amino acids
- 48 servings per 1.87kg tub
- Low sugar content but great taste
Be careful not to Google it when purchasing and be lured into buying the fake stuff. I’ve been the victim of that once before.
You can get it from Amazon, from this known vendor right here:
Avoid added shipping costs
It’s available from a number of places, but they often incur additional shipping costs.
Getting from a known Amazon vendor is fine, and you’ll have a chance to read some of the several thousand reviews on the product too.
2. Creatine Monohydrate (AKA Creatine)
This is a highly popular supplement used by CrossFitters, gym bunnies, football players and athletes of all walks.
It’s been used widely since the 1970s as a legal supplement to better perform.
Interested in reading a whole article on Creatine and CrossFit? Check out this Best Gym Hacks article here.
Creatine is known to help recovery, increase strength and increase muscle size. In short, it helps you get stronger.
No, it is not a PED (performance-enhancing drug) and many CrossFit athletes do use it. As do many everyday CrossFitters.
It’s widely used because it works, and is known to be safe and effective. Empirical studies have shown this to be so.
It may help you improve faster. Check out this Best Gym Hacks article on what that normally looks like.
What Creatine looks like?
It comes in powder form, usually in a tub with a small scoop.
Sometimes you’ll see them in pill form. That is less preferred as they pills are fairly significant in size, so not the easiest to ingest.
The powder form is oftentimes mixed with protein shakes or taken with water, juice or other liquid. This is ingested 1-2 hour before your workout.
Some people take it after, but personally, I prefer it before so I know it’s on hand for when my muscle demand it.
Flavoured vs unflavoured
There are choices of flavoured and unflavoured creatine.
The problem of going flavoured is you end up having to consume it on it’s own. You wouldn’t want to mix ‘Blueberry Blast’ with a chocolate protein shake, for instance.
For that reason, unflavoured is better. You can mix it with your shake, or other supplements and bang it back.
Some people even dry-mouth it! Then wash it back with a neck of water (not for me, thanks).
Best Gym Hack: If you’re mixing say creatine, glutamine and beta-alanine, chuck it all into a glass. Then swirl up with a mouthful of juice or water, and neck it like a shot. Wash back with another swig of juice. Job done.
Best Creatine choices for CrossFit
Again, the market is awash. Just go with the tried, tested and known. That’s what I’ve done having tried a number over the years.
To be honest, Not much difference was noticed when switching it up and trying other brands. MyProtein is a well-trusted brand in the market.
Their creatine is hugely popular and also great value for money.
Save money on shipping costs on Amazon too.
Unflavoured Creatine Monohydrate
3. Glutamine (AKA L-Glutamine)
Not as widely used but still pretty popular is glutamine.
This is an amino acid and found naturally in the body and the foods we eat.
The quantity of glutamine is diminished when it reaches our body from the foods, normally from cooking breaking it down.
It’s an important amino acid that aids the body in making proteins.
Other functions include helping our immune system and gut-health.
Why take glutamine for CrossFit?
Some studies have shown that it aids muscle recovery and performance. It also has been shown to reduce muscle soreness.
The studies sometimes conflict, as there are others out there which suggest high-dosing glutamine did nothing for performance gain.
By supplementing your body with something that is naturally found in the body, which is shown to improve recovery and performance, it’s clear why many CrossFitters use glutamine.
Should I bother taking it?
Despite the conflict, perhaps placebo has its place here?
On the contrary, given scientific studies have shown athletes to benefit from taking it, there is empirical data showing it’s an effective supplement for CrossFit.
Furthermore, it is good for the body anyway.
So yes, it is a viable supplement for CrossFitters.
Best Glutamine choice for CrossFit
Back with the trusted brand again – BSN, the same manufacturer as Syntha-6.
Noted when trying various brands, it’s difficult to tell the difference between them.
Unflavoured is the first choice, for the same reasons as creatine.
BSN Glutamine – 60 Servings
4. Beta-Alanine (AKA Beta)
This is becoming more and more popular in CrossFit, as 5x CrossFit Games champ Mat Fraser notably talks about his semi-addiction to the stuff in Vlogs.
When this happens it enhances the muscles, allowing for greater endurance at high-intensity exercise for around 1-10 minutes.
Examples would be medium distance running like 400m-1500m.
For that reason, it makes this a great supplement for CrossFit, being:
- Requiring endurance
- Appropriate time domains
Downside to Beta
One downside to Beta is it causes tingling or itchiness of the skin. This is known as paresthesia.
Normally this can be felt in the hands, but also the arms and legs. It feels akin to warm ‘pins and needles’, or cramp (which are not painful).
Side effects – case study
I am a real-life case study from someone who’s stupidly overdosed on Beta! The first time I’d ever tried it was the worst.
What happens when you take too much?
The back of the bag had instructions. But it was badly printed, extremely small and actually faded too – even though a brand new bag.
It looked like the dosage said should 3 scoops; in fact it said 1/3 of a scoop.
When putting 3 levelled scoops to my normal Syntha-6 shake, it went down fairly easy. For the next 3-4 hours, however, my body went into hot sweat mode. My inner plumbing lost normal function and I vomited several times.
This was clearly my body rejecting the quantity of the foreign body.
Don’t do what I did!
Beta-alanine is to be used in small quantities. Make sure to check the label. If the label is as damaged as mine was, then send it back.
Best Beta-Alanine (or Beta) choices for CrossFit
The good news is there are plenty of other choices out there than the brand with a dodgy label.
This is often consumed as a pre-workout solely on its own; or as a powder, mixed the same way as creatine or glutamine.
You may also see them sold as pills or capsules.
NOTE: pre-workout often contains other additives, as well as beta, So be sure to check the ingredients before you purchase.
Top choices for both are as follows:
BETA – PREWORKOUT
A trusted and well-liked brand. Straight down the middle and effective for consumption before your CrossFit class.
Best Gym Hack: This product contains caffeine. Make sure if you are conscious of your caffeine intake, this aligns with when you want to take it.
Optimum Nutrition – Melon Flavoured PreWorkout
BETA – PURE POWDER
Nice and simple. No frills. Pure beta from Body Building Warehouse. Mix it in your shake before your CrossFit sesh.
Or swig it with some liquid. It needs to be consumed before, not after, your WODs.
BBW – Pure Beta-Alanine
BETA – CAPSULES
Vegan-friendly bovine gelatine capsules. Nice and easy to take. 180 caps per bag.
The bag is small enough to keep in your work or gym bag, should you need to cart it around with you.
Beta-Alanine – Capsules
5. Branched Chain Amino Acids (BCAAs)
This sounds complicated (and in some ways it is), but a simple way of describing this is they’re the building blocks for protein.
There are 20 BCAA’s in total.
Some of made in the body, and others come from food sources. Therefore, it figures we can supplement our dietary intake of natural BCAAs with manual intervention.
Ones that are not made (synthesised) within our bodies are:
Leucine is the most effective when it comes to muscle growth. The other 2 are also important components.
Some CrossFitters choose to supplement their diet with this. Given the volume of training, coupled with the height of its intensity, any helping hand for the body’s recovery is welcomed.
BCAAs are great for that reason.
What BCAA supplements look like?
These drinks are sold at CrossFit gyms. They’re now in mainstream supermarkets, petrol stations and corner shops too. This is due to them being enjoyable to drink.
These drinks typically contain a total of 3000mg BCAA as follows:
- Leucine (2000mg)
- Valine (500mg)
They also contain caffeine and vitamins such as:
- Vitamin D
- Vitamin B6
- Vitamin B12
- Folic Acid
BCAA supplement powder and capsules
It’s not just pretty drinks you can get your BCAA supplements. Same as the rest, you can get them in powder or capsule form.
Get them in a mixable drink, akin to pre-workout. The flavours are normally sweet.
If you’d prefer to mix with your shake, unflavoured powder of course is a good option too.
Best All-in-one BCAA for CrossFit
The best picks for BCCAs in the follow formats are below:
- Canned drink
- Powder (unflavoured)
- Ready to mix (flavoured)
This has to be NOCCO. The choice of flavours normally finds something for everyone.
Apple is great, as it is caffeine free and is my go-to. As I mostly train in the evening, I need to limit my caffeine intake after 4pm.
NOCCO – Various Flavours Selection
READY TO MIX – FLAVOURED
X-Tend Knockout Fruit Punch is the best tasting out there. Some of their competitors are too zingy.
Even the better-known brands such as C4 I was most unimpressed with, as it goes hard and lumpy rather quickly.
I wrote to C4 customer services about a poor product once. Even when providing photographs of congealed a supplement in its container, they were not willing to refund me. Highly annoying as it’s not cheap stuff.
X-Tend 7g BCAA – Ready to Mix
- Black Currant
- Blue Raspberry Ice
- Italian Blood Orange
- Knockout Fruit Punch
- Lemon Lime Squeeze
- Mango Madness
- Raspberry Pineapple
- Smash Apple
- Strawberry Kiwi Splash
- Watermelon Explosion
Optimum Nutrition takes the win for smart and simple unflavoured powder.
Mix it with your shakes or liquids, then off you go.
Optimum Nutrition – BCAA Powder (60 servings)
These supplements are not exclusively for CrossFit. Nope. They are used by many athletes and everyday gym-goers the world over.
To read about CrossFit vs a “normal gym” check out this article here.
6. Oils (Krill and Fish)
Most people have heard of fish oils. Many of us have taken them or have seen them on the shelves of Holland an Barrat or Walmart.
Not everybody has heard of krill oil, though. So what’s better?
What is krill oil?
It’s a rich in Omega-3 fatty acid and is derived from minuscule marine animals, similar to shrimp. Some argue it is more concentrated than fish oils, so therefore a superior supplement. It is also though to be anti-inflammatory, too.
According to Superbackrill, it is good for:
…having higher omega-3 levels were associated with less illness during training and better performance during the Norseman Triathlon race.Superbakrill
What is fish oil?
Similar to krill oil, fish oils (such as cod liver oil) is also rich in Omega-3 fatty acids.
Due to its anti-inflammatory properties, it is popular among CrossFitters, weightlifters and bodybuilders. Check out this article about CrossFit vs Bodybuilding.
Which should I take for CrossFit?
There is not much by way of study which is better than the other. It comes down to concentration within the product. The type you take is situational, too.
Krill and fish oils are predominantly taken for joints (as well as eye health and blood pressure).
So having healthy joints is only a good thing in any sport, especially CrossFit where a good range of motion is important.
Best Oils supplements for CrossFit
Here is 1 example of each type you could try.
Given there is so much controversy around irresponsible fishing, the top choice for this goes to Superba.
They actively promote and engage sustainable fishing, so make for an ethical choice.
Superba – Krill Oil Capsule (30 servings)
Cod liver oil is what everyone thinks of when talking fish oils. This is a great value tub, with 360 capsules.
You may need to take one at a time, being 1000mg capsules.
ZipVit – 1000mg Cod Liver With Vitamins
Last on the list of CrossFit supplements is glucosamine. This is great for joint health.
Glycosaminoglycans and glycoproteins are formed which are integral to good joints, ligaments, tendons, Cartlidge and the other associated mechanics.
Glucosamine is important in the formation of these.
As noted in fish and krill oils, having good joints is important in CrossFit. We carry out exercise at high-itensity, so its good to be lubed up.
Exercises that are ‘joint-heavy’ in CrossFit include things like:
- Kipping Pull Ups
- Isometric holds
- Clean & Jerk
When to take glucosamine for CrossFit?
Unlike some of the other supplements that are required before or after, this supplement can just be consumed with your meal. It doesn’t matter what meal – breakfast, lunch or dinner is fine.
It’s not advised they’re taken on an empty stomach, as you can get stomach ache if you do.
Found in tablet or capsule form, this is not sold as a powered product at retail. To that end, you need to be comfortable consuming fairly large capsules or tablets.
Best Glucosamine supplements for CrossFit
Nutravita wins this.
The reason being, at 0.11p a unit, they are packed with Vitamin C, Ginger, Tumeric and Rosehip too, making them great value for money. The supply is approximately 3-months worth.
Nutravita – Glucosamine Complex (180 capsules)
Conclusion on CrossFit Supplements
I hope you found this overview of supplements helpful.
Your CrossFit journey is specific to you. This means you’ll find that some of these supplements suit you, and some don’t.
Be sure to try some out. Remember, though – everything in moderation.