You’ve come to the best place to learn about the best supplements for CrossFit.

Why?

Because we are supplement minimalists, and will only recommend the effective dose of effective supplements.

No unnecessary supplementation, and no “just in case” supplementation is included in this article. This article will ONLY break down the most well researched supplements for CrossFit performance.  

These are the supplements we recommend:

  1. Protein
  2. Carbs
  3. Creatine
  4. Beta Alanine
  5. Caffeine

Protein Supplements for CrossFit

Consuming enough protein from your diet alone can be difficult. The number one reason you would supplement with protein for CrossFit is if you aren’t able to eat at least 0.82g of protein per pound of bodyweight (1.8g per kg), per day.

The second reason you would supplement with protein for CrossFit performance is that it allows you to consume protein closer to your workout. Research by Alan Aragon & Brad Schoenfeld back in 2017 showed that consuming 40g of protein powder either pre OR post-workout led to more muscle protein synthesis than 20g.

To consume 40g of protein from food would require you to eat 5oz or 140g chicken breast immediately before or after a workout. Not fun at all.

If you do try eating 5oz. of chicken before or after Fran, let me know how that goes!

Our recommendations for Protein Powders are:

  1. Whey Protein
    1. It is a well researched supplement and has a high protein quality score.
    2. It is not tolerated by all people, especially at higher doses.
    3. Concentrate, Isolate, and Hydrolyslate are the 3 most common forms
  2. 50% Pea, 50% Rice Protein
    1. With plant proteins, it is important to match complementary proteins to improve the protein quality score.
    2. Rice contains more of the Amino Acid methionine, which Pea protein lacks. Pea contains more of the amino acid Lysine, which Rice Protein lacks.
  3. Egg White Protein
    1. A good animal-based and high quality whey alternative for those with a dairy sensitivity.
    2. Consider ‘cycling’ on an off egg white protein to avoid creating an albumin sensitivity.

There are other protein powder options, like beef protein, which tend to have poor taste or mixability. Perhaps in the future we will see better food science technology to improve these factors!

Our preferred Protein Powders

  1. For whey, the two best quality with the lowest price on Amazon are TrueNutrition Whey Isolate (5lbs),  Levels Grass Fed Whey (5lbs) or  Amazon Elements Grass Fed Whey (2lbs)
    1.  We like True Protein for our Australian clients!
  2. For plant based protein we like Orgain Peanut Butter because it has the best flavor! For those allergic to Peanuts, the Chocolate flavor is also nice.
    1. We like PranaON for our Australian clients
  3. For Egg White Protein, the best deals on Amazon are either Source Nutrition Egg White Protein and Less Naked Protein (3lb)

Orgain Peanut Butter Protein Shake Powder

Carb Supplements for CrossFit

It is definitely quite easy to consume enough carbohydrate from diet for the average person.

However, carbohydrate supplements do have utility for CrossFit performance.

This is because with the intensity level of most CrossFit workouts and classes, your performance and recovery will depend on carbohydrates availability to your muscles.

If your training sessions last 90-minutes or more, a carbohydrate supplement before or during training can help you sustain energy later into the session and recover better.

Early nutrient timing research showed that high glycemic carbohydrates consumed immediately before, during, and/or after training leads to faster rates of replenishing carbohydrates in the muscle.

However, further research shows that past the 24-hour mark even low glycemic carbohydrates do as well (or better) at replenishing muscle carbohydrate stores!

For the vast majority of people, carb supplements are unnecessary. However, they can help if:

  • You train in 2+ sessions per day and want to recover for the second session.
  • You train 90+ minutes per day and want to maintain energy levels through the end of the session.
  • You have a competition with multiple events in a single day.

The types of carbohydrate supplements we recommend are:

  • No sugar added Fruit Juice
  • Sweet Potato Powder
  • 50% Maltodextrin & 50% Dextrose Blend
  • Branched Cyclic Dextrin

The first two, fruit juice and sweet potato powder will actually have micronutrient content whereas maltodextrin, dextrose, and branched cyclic dextrin will be devoid of nutrients.

Blending Maltodextrin and Dextrose helps minimize gastrointestinal issues. You can also blend the latter two carb powders with fruit juice for better transit time out of the intestines and into the blood stream.

Carbohydrate supplement for crossfit performance

Our preferred Carb Powders

  1. For Sweet Potato Powder, the best deal around is TrueNutrition Sweet Potato Powder
  2. For Maltodextrin, the cleanest and best deal on Amazon is Mike’s Tapioca Maltodextrin. For Dextrose, the cheapest and cleanest I could find on Amazon is Now Foods Dextrose.
  3. Cheapest & Best quality Highly Branched Cyclic Dextrin is Driven Nutrition. However, this is an unnecessarily fast and expensive carb for anything except competition days!

Creatine Supplementation for CrossFit

Creatine is “the most effective non-hormonal sports supplement available” and I believe everybody should take creatine for CrossFit.

Why?

Creatine isn’t just a performance supplement. It also helps with cognitive function, especially for vegetarians, people who are sleep deprived, and stressed.

From a performance perspective, creatine can have a 10% increase in high power output performance, such as CrossFit. Creatine can also improve performance during repeated sprint efforts. Again, something we see in CrossFit.

Creatine also has benefits for improving lean muscle mass.

For performance and muscle benefits creatine should be loaded at 0.3g/kg of bodyweight for 5-7 days followed by a maintenance dose of 5g per day.

Long term (5+ year) studies have shown creatine to be safe, as well as effective at these doses. I usually encourage vegetarians & vegans to consume 7g of creatine per day because they are not getting much (if any) creatine from diet.

The form of creatine I recommend looking for is Creapure or any German Creatine. German Creatine seems to be slightly higher quality in the research, and creapure is a german creatine product that many manufacturers put their label on.

Our Preferred Creatine Supplements:

  1. TrueNutrition Creapure (powder)
  2. Optimum Nutrition Creapure (powder)
  3. Optimum Nutrition Creapure (capsules)

Optimum Nutrition Creatine Monohydrate Capsules

Protein, Carbs, and Creatine Supplement Stack for CrossFit

The Cribb & Hayes study gave males who were following an 8-week lifting program TWO shakes consisting of about 40g carbs, 40g protein, and 7g creatine BOTH before and after training. One group consumed it immediately pre/post and another at the beginning and end of the day.

The immediate pre/post group saw improvements in their 1RM strength for some of their lifts and a significant increase in lean mass and decrease in fat mass over the 8-weeks.

I’ve used something close to this protocol with a number of our muscle gain and performance-oriented athletes with great results.

We usually recommend 0.5g protein/kg bodyweight, 0.5g carbs/kg bodyweight and to split up your daily creatine dose between the two shakes.

Beta Alanine Supplementation for CrossFit

Beta Alanine is an effective supplement for improving sprint performance and reducing time to fatigue for efforts between 1-4 minutes. With many CrossFit workouts falling into this intensity and time domain. Beta alanine can be a very effective performance enhancing supplement.

The protocol for beta alanine involves a 4-6 week oading period og 6g Beta Alanine per day. Beta Alanine can cause parasthesia, or a feeling like your skin is crawling. For this reason we recommend breaking the 6g into 3 doses spread throughout the day and/or taking a slow release Beta Alanine supplement.

Our Preferred Beta Alanine Supplements:

  1. The lowest price, clean slow release capsules on Amazon is CarnosynSR
  2. The lowest price, clean slow release powder on Amazon is CarnosynSR

Carnosyn SR Beta Alanine for CrossFit Performance by Inner Armour

Caffeine Supplementation for CrossFit

Caffeine’s effects seem to be dependent upon whether you are sleep deprived. The more sleep deprived you are, the more effective caffeine seems to be at improving performance.

It should be noted that caffeine has a potential ergolytic effect, meaning it might HURT performance in some situations. Situations where this might be the case include high skill movements like Olympic Lifting.

Where caffeine can have a positive effect is open end point tests (ex. For Time workouts, to exhaustion workouts) and powerlifting-type movements that require you to be hyped!

The effective dose for caffeine is about 6mg/kg but some research suggests that for aerobic performance up to 9mg/kg has incremental benefits.

Practically, this comes out to about 510mg of caffeine for a man my size which is insane. It’d be really hard to consume that via coffee. We’re talking something like 10 espressos or 4.5 regular cups of brewed coffee.

caffeine for crossfit performance coffee for crossfit

And this needs to be consumed about an hour before. In this case, if you want to use caffeine to boost performance by following the research’s recommendations it makes sense to use an anhydrous caffeine powder or pills. But be very careful if using a powder to avoid taking a lethal dose!

Although the research shows benefits at these very high doses, I personally find, and research has shown that substances like coffee can improve performance just by smelling them. I can get a performance boost with a single coffee providing roughly 150mg or less of caffeine- or under ⅓ the recommended effective dose.

Placebo is one of the best supplements on the market!

Important Note About Supplements for CrossFit

And a final note on supplementation is that is is NOT the low hanging fruit for performance. Improving your approach to training, nutrition, sleep and recovery will all have a larger effect. The real effort and energy should be put into those areas.

Set your supplement plan, and forget it. Once it’s established stop researching, stop tweaking. Just buy the powders/pills and take the powders and pills.

Improving your timing by a bit, or taking a different form of the supplement is not going to have incremental benefits ANYWHERE near the effect of getting 10 extra minutes of sleep per night, or making sure you’ve eaten enough food throughout the course of the day!

 

Disclaimer: I looked for the least expensive, but still high quality supplements available. We put some affiliate links on this page and by using them it does not change the price you pay. What it does is support our ability to put out this free, unbiased information.