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Supplements – Not Just For Meat Heads

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You don’t have to be a bodybuilder or headed to the CrossFit Games to benefit from daily supplementation. Once considered the purview of professional athletes, supplements are being recognized as potentially useful for the everyday athlete as well. I’m not talking about some crazy glow-in-the dark pre-workout stuff that comes in dubious “fruit” flavors and is full of caffeine and other artificial junk. I’m talking about real things that occur in nature – often manufactured in your own body – that when taken in concentrated form can do wonders for your overall health, athletic performance, and recovery.

Supplements should be just that, they should supplement an already balanced and wholesome diet.  They shouldn’t replace meals or whole foods you should already be eating.

As many people know, the world of supplementation is unregulated, so it’s crucial that you purchase supplements that are third-party tested (when applicable) and/or have a known reputation for quality.  Additionally, a quality supplement shouldn’t be filled with artificial chemicals and synthetic ingredients.  Yuck!

For those of you looking to maximize your efforts in the gym and in life, here are 5 supplements I encourage nearly every athlete to consider:

1.  Creatine
Creatine is a nutrient found deep within muscle fiber that fights to extend high intensity muscle function as long as it can. In other words, when you’re fighting for that extra rep, or trying to sprint just a little bit faster, creatine can be the workhorse your body is looking for to make that happen.

It is created from three amino acids – arginine, glycine and methionine – and is produced naturally by the body. Small amounts can be obtained by eating meat, poultry and fish, but supplementation is required to maximize your muscle’s capacity to store this powerful agent. Creatine has also been proven to improve cognitive function and decision-making, and is one of the cheapest  and most studied supplements you can buy, making this one a no-brainer.

For most people I’d suggest 5g at any point in the day, though morning or pre/post workout is probably the best.

I buy mine from Vitacost here


2.  Glutamine
Glutamine is a naturally occurring amino acid found in animal proteins. Research has shown it provides a variety of health benefits, such as improving immune function and curbing your cravings for sweets and alcohol. The most common reason athletes turn to this supplement is to improve muscle repair and growth, but I might argue that even more importantly, glutamine has been proven to help nourish a healthy gut by promoting the healing and repair of the gastrointestinal lining. Not a fan of “leaky gut syndrome?” Add glutamine to your arsenal to keep things running smoothly.

For most people I’d suggest 10g-20g at night for best results.

I buy mine from Vitacost here


3.  Probiotics
“All disease begins in the gut.”  -Hippocrates

Yep, it’s another supplement aimed at your bowels. Did you know that your gastrointestinal health is directly linked to your overall health, so much so that the gut is considered a “second brain?”  In conjunction with a healthy diet, probiotics help bring balance back to your gut. These good bacteria help to keep harmful microorganisms in check, aid digestion and nutrient absorption, fight inflammation and contribute to immune function. Fermented foods, like yogurt and kimchee are a great source of probiotics, but taking a probiotic supplement is a terrific insurance policy.

I take these at night with my glutamine.


4.  Fish Oil
If you CrossFit, you probably already take fish oil. But are you getting enough?

Fish oil contains two essential fatty acids: EPA (Eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (Docosahexaenoic acid). We know them as Omega-3s. Our bodies can’t produce these on its own, yet they are necessary to keep us functioning properly. Reducing inflammation and improving circulation are some of the most appealing benefits of fish oil for CrossFitters as it enables you to train harder and recover faster from your daily workouts. The truth is that omega 3s offer a wide variety of healthful benefits that range from improved brain function to the prevention of certain cancers.

Take them in the morning, evening, or both. CrossFit Dark Horse carries the Original Nutritionals brand, which I highly recommend. It contains nearly 1400mg of EPA/DHA per serving, which is a lot more than typical brands. As a comparison, both Whole Foods and Costco brands only provide 300mg per serving. Original Nutritionals Functional o3 costs $45 for 100 servings, making it more cost-effective as well.


5.  Protein
If you read my blog regularly, you’ve already heard me preach about the benefits of getting in a post-workout protein shake. Quick digesting, high quality whey is essential to building muscle and promoting protein synthesis after a tough workout. While protein powder isn’t exactly difficult to come by, I recommend the Stronger Faster Healthier brand (aka, SFH), which we carry at the gym.

Why SFH above other brands? It comes from free range grass fed cows that aren’t treated with growth hormones or antibiotics, it’s clinically tested to ensure that it’s free from banned substances, and it only has 4 ingredients!  Many protein powders come with a label of 20+ ingredients (and likely carrying another 30 they don’t list), making it hard to know what’s really in there. As I mentioned earlier, in a world completely void of any regulation, having a product you trust is key.

Oh, and by the way, it’s delicious! We carry it in vanilla or chocolate, in bags of 30 servings.  Just ask a coach if you’d like a sample or to learn more!

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