Three decades. That’s how long I’ve worked in the strength and conditioning field. I have worked at every level of coaching-from high school and college athletics to strength and conditioning in the NBA. Over the last 33 years, I thought I had seen it all. Then along came CrossFit.

Today’s explosion in growth by the CrossFit community reminds me of the bodybuilding movement that swept the 70’s and 80’s. When bodybuilding came along, Olympic lifting (consisting of the snatch, clean and jerk) faded to some degree. Now, because of CrossFit, Olympic lifting has made it’s way back to the forefront.

The functional movements, which CrossFit exemplifies, are explosive and intense. Not everyone can be a Rich Froning or Annie Thorisdottir (Champions of CrossFit), but the determination to get to that level can be aided by the right kind of nutritional supplementation.

As intense as the Work-Out-of-the-Day (WOD) is designed to be, if anyone needs supplementation, it is the CrossFit athlete. Listed here in no particular order, I believe these to be the Top 7 Nutritional Supplements for CrossFit athletes to aid in training, competition, and recovery.

How Did I Select the Top 7 ­Supplements?


    The ability to exert force


    The amount of time it takes to do work


    The capacity for vigorous activity and the amount of available power


    Healthy joints free of pain or pain that is manageable

All of the above are critical for the elements of CrossFit. Let’s take a look at a few of the supplements that will help provide these increases. The following supplements are not ranked in order of importance, so select what fits your needs:

Research shows that beta-alanine improves power output by buffering the accumulation of acids in the body-especially lactic acid.

What does this mean for CrossFit athletes?

It means having the stamina to train longer and harder at each WOD session.

Dr. Hector Lopez, Chief Medical Officer for Applied Health Sciences spoke at the 10th annual ISSN conference in Colorado Springs and stated that fish oil:

  • Aids in improving insulin function
  • Lowers triglyceride levels by 30%
  • Lowers blood pressure
  • Ups the good cholesterol HDL’s
  • Helps improve blood flow
  • Promotes fat loss
  • Supports healthy joints

What does this mean for CrossFit athletes?

Namely, joint support. Fish oil is also a supplement that will help control inflammation after a long, grueling WOD. Plus, it will aid in keeping your body in an anabolic state throughout the day.

Speaking at the ISSN Europa University conference in Hartford, Connecticut this past June, Dr. Lem Taylor stated that the body constantly fluctuates between a catabolic state (muscular breakdown) and an anabolic state (muscular tissue building and repair). Believe it or not, the body favors catabolism. That’s why high-volume training combined with high-intense training equals the need for more protein to help start the anabolic process.

What does this mean for CrossFit athletes?

Greater protein synthesis slows and blocks breakdown (catabolism) after your WOD. Protein enhances lean body mass, increases strength, and speeds up recovery and repair.

The three branched chain amino acids (BCAA’s) are leucine, isoleucine, and valine. They are unique among the essential amino acids (EAA’s) for their roles in stimulating protein metabolism and synthesis, and regulating blood glucose and insulin levels. In addition, research indicates that BCAA’s (mainly leucine) could turn a negative balance into a positive protein balance after intense exercise.

Ball State University researchers found that combining weight training with BCAA’s can reduce cortisol levels. What happens when cortisol levels are high?

  • Appetite increases
  • Body fat storage increases
  • Protein in the muscle is broken down
  • Insulin becomes more resistant
  • The body uses glucose (sugar) less efficiently

What does this mean for CrossFit athletes?

BCAA supplementation combined with resistance training has demonstrated increases in lean body mass and strength while also decreasing body fat.

During the 8th Annual ISSN Conference, Dr. Darren Candow, associate professor at the University of Regina, spoke on the effects of creatine application strategies. He reinforced how creatine improves strength, power, and muscle mass, plus delays the onset of neuromuscular fatigue. New research indicates creatine may even have some anti-inflammation properties.

What does this mean for CrossFit athletes?

Improved strength, power, endurance, and protein synthesis. Recent evidence also suggests creatine may lessen heat stress.

I believe in a synergistic approach to a daily supplementation program. The benefit of taking this supplement far outweighs the risk or non-benefit by at least 1% and that’s reason enough to take it.

What does this mean for CrossFit athletes?

There are many antioxidant properties and benefits of a multi-vitamin that can reduce muscle soreness, provide immune support, contribute to bone health, improve iron levels, and play a key role in muscle contractions.

Low glutamine levels can easily contribute to immune suppression in over-trained athletes. In other words, continually low levels of glutamine can make it more difficult for the body to respond to attacks on the immune system thereby hindering health and performance.

What does this mean for CrossFit athletes?

Glutamine can help provide a better recovery from one workout to the next and even help with fighting off illness.

Nutritional Supplements are Fit for CrossFit

When it comes to the many benefits of sports supplementation, it’s an educational process. For CrossFit nation, it’s only a matter of time before sports supplementation becomes the norm. Once the documented research and industry articles enter the CrossFit community, the number of athletes who seek supplements will create a demand much larger than bodybuilding ever has-or any other sport for that matter.

Chip Sigmon

pic_Chip_Sigmon Europa Sports Products Fitness/Wellness Coordinator

Head Strength & Conditioning Coach Appalachian State University 1984-1990

 Strength & Conditioning Coach Charlotte Hornets NBA team 1990-2001

 Certified NSCA