Crossfit is arguably one of the toughest metabolically demanding sports in both the professional and the amateur arena, so it is no surprise that they label the winner of the Crossfit Games each year the fittest man/woman on earth. It truly is a gruelling sport.
Utilising a combination of strength, power, Olympic lifting, gymnastics and high cardiorespiratory output, Crossfit is the complete athletes sport, requiring an extreme level of skill acquisition combined with supreme athletic ability.
So let's breakdown CrossFit into its categories of events alongside the dominant energy system it utilises.
Remember -> The body utilises 3 major energy systems for exercise performance, with those being:
- ATP-CP: Anaerobic (without oxygen)
- Glycolytic Lactic Acid: Anaerobic (without oxygen)
Events relying on the ATP-CP system are solely relying on Phosphocreatine for fuel, whereas glycolytic events rely on carbohydrate or glucose metabolism and finally the aerobic system can utilise both carbohydrates and stored triglycerides (fats within the muscle) for energy production.
In 2015 the CrossFit games included the following events:
- Wednesday - Pier Paddle, Sandbag
- Friday - Murph, Snatch Speed Ladder, Heavy DT
- Saturday - Sprint Course 1 & 2, Soccer Chipper, Clean and Jerk, Triangle Couplet
- Sunday - Midline Madness, Pedal to the Metal 1, Pedal to the Metal 2
Detailed event timetables can be viewed at Reebok Crossfit Games
- Wednesday – Highly Glycolytic
- Friday – Dual Anaerobic system with aerobic components
- Saturday – Dual Anaerobic system with aerobic components
- Sunday – Dual Anaerobic system with aerobic components
As you can see, a Crossfitter needs to have peak strength for Olympic lifts, maximal power output, a high lactate threshold for repetitive glycolytic work and they also have to have a tremendous aerobic fitness base to ensure they can withstand the repetitiveness of the exercise and their expected output levels over multiple events and multiple days.
Knowing this, we can prepare with appropriate dietary measures utilising a diet that is most efficient for this style of exercise but also supplementation to ensure peak performance is achievable and recovery is optimal.
So here are my top 5 products for the Crossfit athlete and why:
- Whey Protein – Support muscle repair and recovery
- Beta Alanine – Increase endurance
- Creatine – Increase power output
- Fish Oil – Essential fatty acid consumption
- Curcumin – Natural anti-inflammatory and pain relief
Whey protein is a high-quality protein source that can be utilised to fortify your diet to ensure optimal muscle recovery is being achieved by ensuring daily protein intake is optimal. Taking a look at the current research from Eric Helms et al (2014) on protein requirements for bodybuilders during a contest preparation phase (getting to extremely low body fat levels) we can draw a parallel comparison to CrossFit athletes due to the extreme nature of their sport, their generally low body fat levels and also their expected weight training output.
Taking all things into consideration, the following recommendations are suggested:
- Total Daily Protein Intake Requirements:
- 1.8-2.2g of protein per kilogram of lean mass for Females
- 2.2-2.7g of protein per kilogram of lean mass for Males
By ensuring your daily protein intake is matching these thresholds, a Crossfit athlete will be able to maximise muscle repair, regenerate amino acid-dependent cells and ensure they prevent any potential risk for muscle loss as well.
Beta Alanine is the rate limiting amino acid that is solely responsible for the increase of the intramuscular dipeptide Carnosine, which is responsible for improving the efficiency of removal of toxic Hydrogen ions that accumulate during exercise as a result of lactic acid.
By increasing intramuscular Carnosine, Beta Alanine improves the bodies ability to work at a higher intensity than normal without causing complete glycolytic fatigue.
Take 4g of Beta Alanine daily for a minimum of 2 weeks prior to an event, preferably with a food source to enhance bioavailability.
Beta-Alanine supplementation has been shown to increase the individuals lactic threshold, essentially providing them with the platform to work harder for longer.
Creatine is a naturally synthesised nitrogenic acid responsible for the storage of phosphocreatine in the muscle, resulting in an increase in strength and power output during maximum intensity events lasting less than 10 seconds.
By utilising a Creatine supplement, once the muscle becomes saturated with phosphocreatine (>2 weeks of daily consumption) an individual can expect to have more strength on a lift per lift basis and may generate more power.
Consume 5g daily with a protein or carbohydrate source to reap the benefits of creatine, which has been shown to be effective in >90% of users for improving strength and power output within 2 weeks of consumption.
100% Pure Creatine by Genetix
Curcumin is the active ingredient of Tumeric, however, this does not mean you can get your active dose of Curcumin through dietary turmeric consumption, as both its purity and bioavailability are very low when consumed orally.
In dosages of 500-1000mg daily, Curcumin, when taken as an enhanced version such as Meriva, has been shown to decrease the inflammatory response in disease states but more importantly has also been shown to show a significant reduction in pain response to joint inflammation in populations suffering from arthritis and other joint inflammatory diseases (Pierro et al, Belcaro et al).
Given the extreme joint loading nature of Crossfit, Curcumin offers the athlete the ability to recover faster due to a reduction in inflammation and a faster return to performance due to pain relief. Be sure to take your curcumin with food as it can be stressful on your digestive system.
Fish oil is the generic reference used when discussing the Essential Fatty Acids DHA (docosahexaenoic) and EPA (eicosapentaenoic), which are found naturally occurring within high-quality fish sources, as well as seeds such as Flaxseed. Fish oil stacks extremely well with Curcumin, which is why I recommend taking them together and has been shown to improve mood, cognitive performance and may decrease systemic inflammation as well as improving blood lipid profiles (Fontani et al, 2005).
Aim for greater than 1g of active EPA/DHA combined, taken daily with meals split into even doses, which will mean a minimum of 5 standardised 1000mg capsules daily.
Fish Oil Omega 3 by Nutra Life
Using a fish oil supplement as a crossfit athlete may help with mindset, improve the benefits of Curcumin, reduce systemic inflammation and will also help maintain a healthy blood lipid profile to ensure immunity remains strong.
Whether you are a recreational Crossfit competitor or a professional athlete, understanding the amount of nutrients your body requires for optimal performance is critical in ensuring you can get the best out of your training.
Maximising your training through nutrition is paramount, however by utilising the right supplementation protocol designed to fortify your nutrition like the 5 products above, will help optimise performance, recovery and well-being.
Fontani, G. et al. "Cognitive And Physiological Effects Of Omega-3 Polyunsaturated Fatty Acid Supplementation In Healthy Subjects". Eur J Clin Invest 35.11 (2005): 691-699. Web.
Belcaro, G. et al. “Product-evaluation registry of Meriva, a curcumin-phosphatidylcholine complex, for the complementary management of osteoarthritis. Panminerva Medicine 52.2 (2010): 55-62.
Helms, Eric R, Alan A Aragon, and Peter J Fitschen. "Evidence-Based Recommendations For Natural Bodybuilding Contest Preparation: Nutrition And Supplementation". J Int Soc Sports Nutr 11.1 (2014): 20. Web.
Togni, et al. "Comparative Evaluation Of The Pain-Relieving Properties Of A Lecithinized Formulation Of Curcumin (Meriva&Reg;), Nimesulide, And Acetaminophen". JPR (2013): 201. Web.