Dwayne N. Jackson, PhD
Most CrossFitter’s follow the diet mantra, “if you can’t get it from a well balanced diet, then you don’t need it”. As such, using the words CrossFit and supplements together represents an oxymoron to most CrossFit purists. We do agree that a perfectly laid out diet will handle your body’s protein needs and is a key first step to athletic success. Along similar lines, it’s no debate that CrossFit participants represent some of the most conditioned strength athletes in the fitness industry. But, what if taking a few safe and effective supplements could enable even greater performance in the box or on competition day?
In this brief article we highlight 3 key supplements that you cannot get in ergogenic dosing from a Paleo Diet (or any diet for that matter).
This is an amino acid that it is not involved in synthesizing proteins but plays a rate-limiting role in carnosine production by interacting with histidine. In as little as 4 weeks, beta-alanine supplementation can increase muscle carnosine levels by more than 60%, leading to increased muscle endurance and workout intensity. High muscle carnosine improves muscle performance by buffering skeletal muscle pH (acidity) during high intensity/fatiguing exercise. Since one of the primary causes of fatigue during intense exercise is metabolically mediated decreases in pH (or acidosis), it is obvious why beta-alanine supplementation and increased muscle carnosine support increased workout volume and intensity.
DOSING: Take 3 to 6 grams per day. Make sure you take a pre-workout dose of 1-3 grams, 30 minutes prior to training.
Caffeine increases time to exhaustion, boosts strength, mobilizes fats, increases focus, and decreases perceived exertion. One main mechanism for caffeine’s actions is that it blocks adenosine receptors in the central nervous system. These adenosine receptors normally inhibit stimulatory neurotransmitter release, however when caffeine is present the inhibition is lost and neurotransmitters (like adrenaline) are released in large amounts. This stimulatory effect of caffeine is likely responsible for most of its performance benefits.
DOSING: Take 100-300 mg of caffeine 30-45 minutes before training.
During exercise, creatine plays a fundamental role in energy production by aiding in the formation of adenosine triphosphate (ATP) needed for muscle contractions. Boosting creatine levels in muscle provides a surplus of energy substrates to increase strength and promote anabolism. In terms of anabolic signaling, creatine increases the amount of water taken up by muscle cells—which swells the muscle and signals for increased repair (it also makes your muscles look bigger). Second, it increases the release of the anabolic hormone, insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF-1) and decreases myostatin levels (the ‘anabolic brakes’) postworkout. Notably, research has shown that beta-alanine stacked with creatine produces synergistic increases in strength and muscle mass, with decreases in fat mass.
DOSING: Although creatine monohydrate dosing is body weight and tolerance dependent, a good starting point is to first complete a loading phase of 5g, 4 to 6 times per day for a week. After a week take 5 g 30 minutes before and immediately after training. On rest days take 5 grams with breakfast and 5 grams later in the day.