The Super 7 Supplements

The Suburban Strength Coaches’ Super 7…

Can you guys talk a little bit about what supplements I should be using while training with a combination of CrossFit and Barbell Club cycle (like protein, BCAAs, fish oil, etc) and the timing of when to use/take the supplements each day? I plan on training 5 days of CrossFit and 2 days of Barbell Club.

This is a question I get all the time, so before I dive in and start recommending all kinds of magic pills and potions, I would like to preface this conversation with this statement: YOU CANNOT OUT SUPPLEMENT A POOR DIET!

With that being said, nutritional supplements will only enhance a sound dietary plan.

I should forewarn you, the details below are long and get a bit technical, but I think you need all of the details in order to really understand what we’re talking about here.  Plus, I’m a technical dude.  So break out your blender bottle, shake up some BCAA’s and take it all in…

The Suburban Strength Coaches’ Super 7.


A vitamin is an organic substance that cannot be synthesized by the body, so we must ge these from food and/or supplements. Both vitamins and minerals are responsible for a wide array of metabolic functions and other things such as oxygen carrying capacity,fluid and electrolyte balance, and bone health. I assume most of us reading this blog are “Paleo” and eat, what we think, is a good amount of vitamin and mineral containing fruits and vegetables.  Realty check: you don’t come close…trust me. 

So take a multi-vitamin/mineral as a baseline supplement. What kind? To this day, I’m not convinced as to which one is the best, pill, liquid, powder, etc.  Just make sure you take them with a meal so you properly absorb all of the fat soluble ones.Fish Oil
Fish oil serves as a great source of Omega-3 fats, specifically docosahexaenoic acid (DHA)and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA).  It is a natural anti-inflammatory and has been shown to improve cognitive function as well as a host of other benefits. As far as I’m concerned this is another baseline supplement and should be part of your daily routine. If you participate in high-intensity activities such as CrossFit or any type of Olympic lifting/power lifting, your joints will experience a little discomfort.  It just comes with the territory and taking fish-oil will help with that.  I suggest taking anywhere from 5-10 grams per day, specifically the EPA and DHA.  But remember, you get what you pay for. If you pay for a cheap fish oil there will be very little EPA/DHA.  If you spend a few bucks, you will have a very potent source of exactly what you need. I personally take a liquid fish oil that is very potent and I have had great results with it.

Vitamin D
Vitamin D has been shown to improve mood and bone health (by increasing calciumabsorption), regulate hormone levels, and increase immune function as well as a hostof other things.  Vitamin D can be found in very few foods and we get most of it whenultraviolet rays from the sun hit our skin.

Most people say they get enough sun and drink milk, so they do not need to supplement with vitamin D. There are two  problems with this: 1) If you live north of Georgia, which I am assuming most of you do, you will never get enough sunlight for appropriate levels of Vitamin D. 2) Most species stop drinking milk after infancy, so why do you find it necessary to drink milk from another species into adulthood.  Weird….just saying.

Hormone function for both men and women is so important, especially when dealing with folks that participate in high-intensity activity.  I strongly recommend taking some Vitamin D3 (liquid form), about 3,000-5,000 IU in the morning to start, with a fat containing meal.  Go crazy, as this stuff doesn’t get toxic till the 50,000 IU level.  I take about 10,000-20,000 IU daily, and will titrate down in the summer months when I’m walking through downtown Jamison, PA with no shirt on.

Branched Chain Amino Acids (BCAA)

BCAA’s contain the amino acids leucine, valine, and isoleucine. But, why do we need these? Our body is always trying to find a balance between protein syntheses (helps us get jacked) and protein degradation (helps us stay fat). There is much more to it than that, but for our purposes, let’s keep it right there.

When we exercise at high intensity, especially with weights, we increase protein synthesis, but at the same time, we also increase protein degradation to a greater degree. To look good and perform well, we must keep our bodies in a positive state of protein synthesis to offset the amount of degradation. Very simple. One way to do this is the ingestion of BCAA’s. Leucine, specifically, is most renowned for its ability to increase protein synthesis and has also been shown to reduce muscle protein breakdown.

Currently, supplement companies have not found a tolerated method of isolating leucine for consumption without combining it with the other amino acids that make up BCAAs.  So, if these things interest you…get your self some BCAAs and take them 30-45 minutes before you workout, sip on them during your workout when you can, and take them after you workout with your protein shake.  I have seen supplement recommendations of about
12-18 grams around the specified workout times I stated, basically 6 grams pre, peri, and post. I have also read things about people taking up to 25 to 40 grams with great success, so give it try and see what works for you.

Whey Protein
We are made of proteins and they play a role in virtually every process within our cells,as well as providing us with the 9 essential Amino Acids that we cannot make ourselves(we can synthesize the non-essential amino acids).  Basically, if you don’t get enough of this stuff you can say goodbye to any body composition or performance goals. If this was a perfect world, you would sit down to a nice meal (one containing a nice hunk of protein) immediately after a workout, but we all know this is almost impossible. Can you imagine picking yourself up off the floor after the filthy 50 and eating a slab of flank steak?  No…nasty.

This is where whey protein comes in.  Its quick, convenient, and your body can more immediately tolerate it following a workout. Take about 30-40 grams within 30 minutes of finishing a workout and that should do the trick. There are a million varieties of protein out on the market.

When we exercise at high intensity, especially with weights, we increase protein synthesis, but at the same time, we also increase protein degradation to a greater degree. To look good and perform well, we must keep our bodies in a positive state of protein synthesis to offset the amount of degradation.

Very simple.


The word itself has a negative connotation and harkens back to the days of Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa.  But, don’t be fooled…first ask yourself…how does this stuff work?

Well, when one participates in high intensity activity they use Adenosine Tri Phosphate (ATP) as an energy substrate.  As we workout, ATP is taken away and turns into Adenosine Di Phosphate (ADP). In order to continue to create energy, the body must turn ADP must back into ATP. To make this happen the body uses a phosphate from the “phosphocreatine” stored in the muscle.  Unfortunately, the body only stores so much and stores are deleted quickly, so supplementing with Creatine, is a must for anyone interested in sustaining high power out-put activity, like CrossFit.
95 % of Creatine is found in our muscle cells and can be synthesized by our liver and in small amounts by our kidney and pancreas.  We can also get a little bit through our diet from fish and red meat.  I suggest supplementing with 3-5 grams per day of Creatine Monohydrate post workout. I know I said that you could get it from red meat and fish, but a half pound of raw red meat only supplies 1 gram of Creatine. Good luck getting your 3-5 grams that way.  Just supplement.

There has been plenty of talk of the negative side effects of Creatine, but it’s bogus!!!! There has not been one scientific research study demonstrating that Creatine causes any negative long term serious side effects. There have been some reports of digestive “issues” and stomach bloating, however I would assume that eating 1.5 to 2.5 pounds of red meat per day (3-5 grams of Creatine) would probably have similar digestive “issues” and stomach bloat, no?

During high intensity activity like CrossFit, the body produces a large amount of Lactic Acid. During times when Lactic Acid concentrations in the blood are high and/or ATP is broken down in our short term energy system (weight training), Hydrogen ions are released in our muscles. This brings the muscle PH way down (acidic) and exercise performance will start to decrease as a result.

Your muscle fibers, specifically Type 2 muscle fibers, contain the di-peptide called Carnosine. Carnosine solely serves to soak up all the excess Hydrogen ions to return the muscles to a normal PH.  However, we only have so much Carnosine and eventually, during high intensity activity, the body will not be able to keep up and performance will  be compromised. This is exactly why we need Beta-Alanine.

We can obtain trace amounts of Beta-Alanine through eating most animal based proteins. Research studies have demonstrated that supplementing with 3-6 grams of Beta-Alanine split between pre and post workout doses can increase muscle Carnosine levels by as much as 80%. The more Carnosine you have the more exercise performance degrading Hydrogen ions you can soak up. Makes perfect sense.

So why not just take Carnosine? Unfortunately, most of the Carnosine you ingest in broken down and eliminated through the digestive process. You would have to take substantially more Carnosine, compared to Beta-Alanine just to have a small effect on its levels in the muscle. You want your Fran time better? Take some Beta-Alanine.

That’s it.  The Super 7.  Remember, you cannot out supplement a bad diet, but if your diet is dialed in and you add these gems, you will be on your way to awesomeness.  Maybe even super-awesomeness.

Good luck and train hard!

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