The Mystery of Supplements

Solving the supplement mystery.

When it comes to members and supplements, Affiliate, you are in fact Sherlock Holmes.

One day, a member will come to you with a case. He or she will arrive at 221B Box Street, step into your office and say: “I want to do this and achieve this. What supplements should I take?”

Isn’t that the question.

“The first thing we look at is what the person wants to get out of it,” said Alex Black, MPH-RD, a registered dietitian and licensed nutritionist who works at CrossFit Boston. “What problem are they trying to solve by taking the supplement, or what gain are they trying to make? Is it to gain more muscle mass? Is it to get stronger? Is it to have more energy? Or is it more of a lifelong health goal?”

Just like in an investigative case, there is often a telling motive or objective of those involved. Black illustrates this by first asking why the member who has approached her about supplements wants to take them.

With that first mystery solved, Black said her next step is to analyze the member’s current lifestyle. “We look at what the person wants, what they’re currently doing with their diet and any supplements or vitamins they might be taking now, and then we look at what’s missing,” she explained. “So, what’s the gap between what they want to get and what they’re currently doing?”

Judah Boulet, the co-owner of No Risk CrossFit in Smithfield, Rhode Island, summed up why these observations are key: You can’t out supplement a bad diet and poor sleep habits.

At his Box, Boulet works hard to educate his members on the facts of supplement use. Between writing articles on the supplements he uses to digging into the scientific research behind products, Boulet noted how essential it is to have data backing up the claims of various products.

Educating yourself in nutrition is beneficial when it comes to deducing the shrouded realm of supplements. Boulet has his master’s in pharmacology and his International Society of Sports Nutritionists certification. He recommends Coaches pursue the certification. He also suggests sticking to quality Internet resources — and were two he name-dropped — for research on supplements.

Another way to solve the supplement conundrum is to simply try the products yourself. That’s what Adam Kress, co-owner of River North CrossFit in Chicago, Illinois, does. “We don’t sell anything that one of the owners doesn’t take himself,” he said, noting he currently has Progenex, SFH, Genetic Code and UR on his shelves. It helps to have the company’s reps come out to give samples and answer questions members may have, he said.

No Risk CrossFit does it a bit differently. Boulet said he recommends multiple brands for a variety of different supplements. To be a wholesaler of all of them would be difficult, so he tends to use his blogs to direct his members to other sellers.

However, all three CrossFitters came together on one piece of evidence: Sell what you believe in. If you preach quality supplements, you need to sell quality supplements, said Black. She explained that CrossFit Boston carries items like SFH fish oil and protein powder.

It’s also key to make sure members are taking the right kinds of supplements. Black explained this in the case of the two types of Vitamin Ds found in supplements: D2 and D3. While D2 is received from plants, D3 is derived from sunlight and fish. Taking either one will increase a member’s Vitamin D levels, but Black noted D3 is often recommended over D2 and is “thought to be more optimal,” despite the fact that both supplements cost the same.

That’s why Black said it is best to try to get everything you need from food first. “I had a doctor that used to tell me, ‘American’s have the most expensive pee because we just take all these vitamins and we absorb 10 percent of them,’” she said. “So, of course my advice is to always try to get it from food first, because you’re going to get more bang for your buck that way. But there are cases when a supplement is necessary.”

The worst thing one can do is walk into a store to stare at the rows of shelves full to the brim of supplements, said Black. That is why educating members on what they need and what they should get is so essential.

Perhaps it’s time to follow Black’s advice and start taking the steps to solve the supplement mystery in your Box.

Then when your clients exclaim, “This supplement regimen is excellent!” you can simply reply, “Elementary, my dear member.”

Heather is the editor for Box Pro Magazine. Contact her at