The research was published recently in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition. It was the work of a team from the University of South Carolina and the University of Colorado, Colorado Springs as well as an employee of International Vitamin Corporation, which did not provide funding for the research.
Broad cross section of participants
The research team surveyed 2,576 CrossFit participants on their training frequency, dietary practices and supplement use. Slightly more than half of the respondents were female, and slightly more than a quarter of them said they were CrossFit trainers.
A bit more than half of the respondents said they were training for CrossFit competitions. Most of the responses came from the United States with a smattering from Canada, the UK and Australia. The mean age was about 39, and the average BMI was about 27, in the high range of what’s considered healthy but in line with a fitness regimen aimed at building muscle mass.
The researchers validated their survey with a test run of nine male and six female CrossFit gym goers, who each completed the survey twice, two weeks apart. Those test run respondents did not participate in the full survey.
CrossFit, a form of high intensity functional training that features lifting moderate to heavy weights quickly along with plyometric movements, has become extremely popular in recent years with more than 11,000 gyms registered nationwide. And its adherents are highly motivated, if the results of the survey are indicative. Respondents reported working out at a CrossFit gym an average of 4.5 times a week.
Careful eaters, dedicated supplement users
As a group they also tend to be careful about what they eat. About 60% of the respondents reported following a specific diet. Macro counting, mentioned by 18.6% of respondents, was the most popular, followed by intermittent fasting (7.7%) and paleo (6.1%). The reasons given for following the diets included improving overall health (45.6%), cutting body fat (29.2%) and boosting CrossFit performance (25.2%).
Almost half of the respondents went to the Internet for their dietary information (47.5%). That was followed by a coach or trainer (28.7%) or a nutritionist or dietitian (26.2%).
In line with a survey population that is highly motivated and has access to a wealth of health information, the CrossFit crew as a whole were shown to be heavy supplement users. More than 80% of the survey respondents who said they adhered to a specific diet also said they used at least one supplement. They also appeared well informed about and dedicated to teh supplements they were using, as 93% said the pandemic had not affected their supplement use.
Protein and creatine most popular ingredients
The study noted that the rate of supplement use among CrossFit athletes was similar to athletes in other disciplines. The top supplements that CrossFitters reported using were he top sources of dietary information were protein (51.2%), creatine (22.9%), and pre-workout/energy (20.7%).
Whether supplementation helps boost performance, and whether some sports performance specific ingredients could help CrossFit adherents get better results is a matter for future research, the authors said.
“To the authors’ knowledge, no studies have been conducted on the effects of creatine for CrossFit performance. Beta alanine supplementation may also improve performance in high-intensity, short-duration exercise, but it has not been extensively studied for CrossFit. With the high prevalence of supplement use among CrossFit participants, further research on the effects of supplements on CrossFit performance is warranted,” they wrote.
Source: Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition
Dietary practices and supplement use among CrossFit® participants
Authors: Briesbois M, et al.