CrossFit is one of the better known recent fitness trends to have gathered sufficient momentem to develop into its own fully fledged exercise discipline. Like most fitness trends that gain any significant traction, its inevitable that products will be developed that cater to the particular niche market segment(s) created by the new trend/fad. CrossFit is no exception in this regard, with a number of specialist brands, gyms and equipment developed for the mass of CrossFit advocates. CrossFit supplements is another key marrket segment to have opened up, with a limited number of companies seizing the chance to develop a specialist range. This article will review these in detail as well as look at the most important nutritional requirements for the average CrossFit athlete.
CrossFit Supplements & Brands
NutriForce Sports is oldest (albeit only a few years) and arguably the most recognised nutrition brand in the world of CrossFit. 'Developed for the fitess athletes in the world'; NutriForce supplements are designed and branded with the CrossFit athlete in mind. Their market specialisation even extends to sponsorship of major CrossFit competitions, championships and athletes; with Annie Thorisdottir ("worlds fitess women") arguably the most recognisable sponsored athlete. The NutriForce range of supplements is by no means extensive, but instead focuses on a few key products that cover the major demands of the average CrossFit athlete. Examples include a blended whey protein, beta-alanine, pre-workout and a BCAA supplement. In reality, these supplements are no different from equivalent supplements marketed to the mass of gym junkies. Its just their branding and marketing that has been specifically tailored to the CrossFit athlete.
Most likely owing to its vast array of functional exercises, CrossFit has developed an affinity for being a more 'natural' form of exercise. As such, its common for CrossFit-specific supplements to be naturally flavoured as well as being free from artificial colours and additives. This is evidenced in the NutriForce range of supplements as well as a new line of CrossFit-specific supplements called Pursuit RX.
Developed by parent company Dymatize Nutrition, Pursuit RX are another botique range of supplements developed specifically for the fitness or CrossFit athlete. Similar to NutriForce, Pursuit RX has a limited range that includes staples such as whey protein, pre workout, recovery (with 2:1 carb:protein ratio) and fish oil. While not currently available in Australia, the Pursuit RX range is expected to arrive early in 2014 and is also 'natural'; being free of artificial flavours and colours.
Progenex is yet another CrossFit-specific brand that is available in Australia, New Zealand, Europe and USA. Progenex is a more of a premium nutrition CrossFit brand with ingredients such as whey protein hydrolysate and whey peptides a regular feature across the range.
Nutritional Needs of CrossFit Athletes
By its nature, CrossFit has both high-intensity and endurance components. Multiple sets of various weight bearing exercises are typically completed within a set time limit, requiring CrossFit athletes to display both strength and stamina. As such, nutritional requirements must account for the turnover of muscle protein and replenishment of energy. On the contrary, CrossFit does not typically involve any exercises that require maximal strength such as 1RM, meaning that absolute development of strength is not an utmost requirement.
With this in mind, CrossFit athletes typically benefit from supplements that support high-intensity exercise, muscle repair/recovery as well as glycogen replenishment. For this reason, supplements such as beta-alanine, whey protein and BCAAs. Because many CrossFit exercises are functional and invariably have weight bearing and balance components, its common for joint support supplements in the form of fish oil and glucosamine to also be marketed to CrossFit athletes. Fish oil has the added benefit that its anti-inflammatory and so can help with residual pain resulting from the vigorous demands of CrossFit.
CrossFit Supplement Alternatives
The emergence of a number of CrossFit-specific supplement brands is evidence of its growing popularity, however, the harsh reality is that most of the products represented by these brands already exist in one form or another. However, consumer behaviour dictates that they will be drawn to products that are marketed and positioned in a way that appeals to their specific needs. So even though endurance athletes such as cyclists and runners can benefit from your average bodybuilding-branded whey protein, the average endurance athlete will invariably be drawn to products and brands that are perceived to be better suited to their needs. The same is true for CrossFit athletes; we can expect to see more CrossFit specific products and brands being developed even though very similar products already exist in the marketplace; albeit in different packaging.
Prioritising Supplements for the CrossFit Athlete
If your a CrossFit athlete that's on a tight bugdet, you can easily get buy with a 'no frills' whey protein, pre-workout and proven ergogenic like beta-alanine. There's no real need to go after the CrossFit-specific brands/products. For a number of active individuals, it's often a question of prioritising supplements, as many can't afford the full works. If this is the case, a recovery supplement probably tops the list in terms of importance for the average CrossFit enthusiast. A good quality whey protein or even whey protein hydrolysate serves to promote both muscle growth and recovery. But if a whey protein itself is out of the question (in terms of cost), the next best option is a BCAA supplement. These are very effective for preventing muscle breakdown and decreasing muscle soreness.
Where money is not an issue, supplements that include both carbohydrate and whey protein are most ideal for recovery. Carbohydrates serve to replenish glycogen which gets depleted due to the intensity of the average CrossFit workout, but it also makes your whey protein more anabolic. Combining carbohydrates with whey results in a greater insulin release than whey alone, which serves to improve amino acid uptake and therefore muscle growth and recovery.
The last supplement worth mentioning is creatine monohydrate. Creatine can help improve both 1RM as well as very high-intensity exercise capacity. While success in competitive CrossFit is not generally decided by differences in 1RM, there are numerous instances where high-intensity exercise capacity is pushed to the limit. Supplementating with creatine therefore is likely to improve perfromance in CrossFit for the average athlete.
CrossFit supplements are set to remain a rapidly evolving range of products with the growing popularity of CrossFit across the globe. But prudence is advised when weighing up supplement options as typcial CrossFit supplement needs can be met with a number of existing products.