A Beginner’s Guide to Supplements

By CrossFit Black Bear | July 8, 2016

One of the most fun, yet controversial topics in the fitness world. Maybe you’ve heard that all supplements are a waste of money; or maybe you’ve read some testimonial proclaiming that they can completely transform your workout routines. What’s the real story? Well, the truth is that both of those mindsets are partially right, and when used correctly, some supplements can be powerful tools for helping you reach your fitness goals.

The topic of supplements is VAST, but in this week’s blog we will break down (a little bit of) what you need to know about supplements. This article might seem dense – but it’s packed full of some really important information that all gym go-ers, newbies and veterans alike, should know.

Disclaimer: At CrossFit Black Bear when we talk about supplements we are talking about the chemically active ingredient. This means we don’t endorse “supplements” like Triple X Hardcore Fat Shredder Extreme, or any product chock full of excess garbage. Who knows what you’re actually putting into your body with those products? They’re not worth your hard earned greenbacks.


As you can see, different supplements support different goals! So, when you hear someone say things like “BCAA’s are unnecessary”… and after digging into that topic a little deeper, you will find that for some folks, they are! If your main goal is fat loss, then supplementing with BCAA’s will largely be a waste of money. However, if you are looking to improve athletic performance, or gain muscle, this is one of the supplements you should be using.

Understanding that certain supplements support different fitness goals is the first step towards utilizing them successfully. Now let’s delve a little deeper and explore the proven benefits of each.

Supplement Basics

FISH OIL: Fish oil consists of Omega 3 Fatty Acids. Omega 3’s are a healthy fat that most of us don’t consume enough of in our diet. It has numerous health benefits including reducing inflammation, reducing joint pain, and aiding heart health!

PROTEIN: Protein is a necessary macronutrient that serves to help build and maintain muscle. Being active individuals, the typical American diet does not provide enough of this essential nutrient, so we often choose to supplement protein with protein shakes. A protein shake is a convenient way to make sure your body is getting the necessary nutrients to start the recovery process immediately post workout. A good goal is to get a protein shake in within 30 minutes of your workout…if you won’t be able to fit in a whole meal.

B-VITAMINS: B-Vitamins as a whole play key roles in the metabolism processes of the body. Benefits of B-Vitamins can include increased energy, fat burning, and mood support. B-Vitamins, like many other vitamins should be taken with a full meal.

CREATINE: Creatine may be one of the most widely researched athletic supplements on the market. Its merits are extensively supported and when used properly can help promote explosive strength as well as lean muscle mass. Most research shows that there is no key timing involved when taking a creatine supplement.

BCAA’s: Branch Chain Amino Acids, commonly known as BCAA’s, are a group of amino acids that help promote muscle building in the body. BCAA’s can be taken pre-workout, intra-workout or between meals to help facilitate muscle building when you aren’t consuming whole foods. Amino Acids are the building blocks of protein and therefore muscle.

BETA ALANINE: Beta Alanine is an amino acid that can help increase muscle contractions as well as regulate pH within the muscle. Most research shows that there is no specific time in which you need to take Beta Alanine. However, many people like to take it pre-workout as it is a vasodilator (opens blood vessels) to increase blood flow and therefore oxygen while training. If you have taken pre-packaged pre-workouts before, this is the supplement that gives you that tingling feeling.

CAFFEINE: As we all know caffeine is likely the world’s favorite stimulant. The energy and mood boosting effects are utilized extensively in many pre-workout formulas to aid in performance enhancement. Additionally, the natural caffeine found in drinks such as green tea and coffee has been shown to increase thermogenesis (heat production) in the body leading to fat loss.

So now that you’ve gotten your feet wet learning about a few key supplements, you’re well on your way to making these tools work for you, to propel you forwards to achieving your fitness goals. But, knowing what they are is only half the battle. The next piece of the puzzle is supplement timing – knowing when it is appropriate to take each supplement – and how much of each supplement will benefit you and your goals the most. Just a reminder, the supplements you take should reflect your fitness goals, not everybody should be taking every one of these. Align your supplement use with your specific goals.

Supplement Timing

With Breakfast: Fish Oil, B-Vitamins

Vitamins and Fish Oil should be taken with food. Starting your day with these key supplements will ensure your body is primed for the day. In reality, you can take these with any meal but we find that supplementing in the morning is the best way to remember to take them, as well as help spread the various supplements throughout the day.

Pre-Workout: Beta Alanine, Caffeine, BCAA’s

Beta-Alanine, Caffeine, and BCAA’s should be taken pre-workout for a number of reasons. The Beta-Alanine and Caffeine will give you the energy to boost performance and make the most of your workout, while the BCAA’s will provide enough free-floating Amino Acids in your body to keep catabolism to a minimum during hard workouts.

Post-Workout: Protein, Creatine

Protein and Creatine can be supplemented at any time throughout the day however, supplementing with these key nutrients within 30 minutes of your workout will reduce fatigue for future workouts and ensure your body gets the necessary fuel for progress.

With or After Dinner: Fish Oil, Protein

Again, Fish Oil and Protein are two of the supplements you can take anytime throughout the day but finding a time that you can keep consistent is the key.

How Much Should You Take?

Fish Oil: 3-4 grams of EPA/DHA per day.
Protein: Depending on your goals supplement to hit 0.8g-1.5g per pound of bodyweight.
Creatine: 5 grams/day
BCAA’s: 5 grams/day
Beta-Alanine: 3 grams/day
Caffeine: Depends on your goal, but don’t overdo it! Getting the jitters isn’t fun.

Navigating the waters of the supplement industry can be tricky…

Don’t go it alone! CrossFit Black Bear has been working hard to build partnerships with trusted supplement companies to bring you high quality products to help you reach your fitness goals faster! We will work with every one of our members to help them build the correct supplement package that is appropriate to their individual needs.

If you are unsure of something, ask us! We love to talk supplements and goals, so send us a message anytime: info@crossfitblackbear.com.


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At CrossFit Black Bear we provide you with the tools, and knowledge needed to live a healthy lifestyle, both inside and outside the gym. Serving Orono, Old Town, Bangor and Brewer Maine! 5 minutes from the University of Maine (UMaine).

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