Supplements For Endurance Performance

If you are an endurance athlete, you may be interested in dietary supplements that are proven to have benefits in enhancing oxygen efficiency, improving blood flow, balancing hormone profile, and enhancing stress adaptation.

The Magnificent Seven

Endurance athletes have evaluated seven dietary supplements in research studies.

  • Rhodiola – helps improve oxygen transfer from lungs to red blood cells
  • Cordyceps – helps speed the transfer of oxygen from red blood cells to mitochondria
  • Eurycoma – balances hormones (lower cortisol and higher testosterone)
  • Quercetin – improves blood flow by dilating blood vessels
  • Arginine – improves blood flow by dilating blood vessels
  • Eleuthero – provides resistance to physical stress and increases energy levels
  • Ashwagandha – provides resistance to mental stress and induces relaxation

The Sherpa people in the Himalayas use Rhodiola, a root, to help them adapt to the stress of living and working at high altitudes. To this day, Sherpa climbers still chew on rhodiola for an energy and endurance boost while assisting mountaineers in scaling Mt. Everest. One of how Rhodiola reduces fatigue is by improving the efficiency of oxygen in the body. When individuals living at high altitudes (5,380 meters) supplemented with rhodiola, they experienced positive effects on blood oxygen levels, time to exhaustion, VO2peak, and pulmonary ventilation during endurance exercise.

Cordyceps, a Tibetan mushroom commonly used in traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), is known for its ability to provide “lung protection” and restore balance to the vital life energy known as “Qi.” In clinical trials, consuming cordyceps has proven to greatly enhance fatigue levels, oxygen intake, and performance during endurance exercises.

Eurycoma is a root known as Malaysian ginseng, utilized as a traditional remedy in Southeast Asia (Malaysia, Thailand, Vietnam). It helps individuals cope with reduced energy and depressed mood caused by chronic stress and overtraining. Eurycoma consists of small peptides that can restore the equilibrium between the cortisol catabolic hormone and the testosterone anabolic hormone.

The effectiveness of quercetin and arginine in improving blood flow in patients with high blood pressure and heart disease has been demonstrated. These substances have gained popularity in some endurance supplements. However, it is uncertain whether the lower dosages commonly found in these supplements can effectively enhance endurance performance.

In traditional medicine, Eleuthero (also known as Siberian ginseng) and ashwagandha (also known as Indian ginseng) are employed as “adaptogens” to aid the body in adapting to stressful circumstances. Eleuthero is typically associated with providing more energy, whereas Ashwagandha is perceived as having a more relaxing influence.

How to Use Them

The dosage ranges to consider are listed below and are based on the delivery of effective levels of the active compounds, rather than the overall quantity of the herb. It is important to refer to the product labels, as they are obligated to disclose the percentage of active compounds present in each herbal extract. For instance, one product may contain 1,000mg of cordyceps with low potency and a low amount of active adenosine compounds, whereas another product may have a lower overall amount of cordyceps but higher potency with a greater level of active adenosine.

  • Rhodiola = 150-300mg (standardized to 5-6% rosavins)
  • Cordyceps = 100-500mg (standardized to 5-10% adenosine)
  • Eurycoma = 25-50mg (standardized to 20-25% eurypeptides)
  • Quercetin = 100-300mg (pure)
  • Arginine = 2,000-3,000mg (pure)
  • Eleuthero = 100-200mg (standardized to 0.5-1% eleutherosides)
  • Ashwagandha = 10-30mg (standardized to 5-10% withanolides)

The Best Supplements For Endurance

Caffeine is a widely consumed stimulant that can have significant effects on triathlon training and performance. It is known for its ability to improve alertness, focus, and endurance, making it a popular choice for many athletes.

Caffeine acts as a central nervous system stimulant by blocking adenosine receptors, which helps increase energy levels and reduce fatigue. This can be particularly beneficial during long training sessions or races where mental and physical stamina is crucial. It has been shown to enhance endurance by increasing time to exhaustion and boosting overall performance.

Studies have also suggested that caffeine may enhance fat oxidation during exercise, sparing glycogen stores and potentially improving endurance capacity. Additionally, it may enhance muscle contractility and coordination, leading to improved athletic performance.

However, it’s important to note that individual responses to caffeine can vary, and excessive consumption can lead to side effects such as jitteriness, increased heart rate, and disrupted sleep patterns. Athletes should experiment with caffeine intake during training sessions to determine their personal tolerance and optimize its benefits.

The timing of caffeine consumption also plays a role. Consuming caffeine 60 minutes prior to exercise is found to be most effective in enhancing performance. However, it’s essential to consider potential hydration effects, as caffeine can act as a diuretic and contribute to fluid loss.

Athletes should be mindful of the caffeine content in different sources such as coffee, tea, energy drinks, gels, and supplements. It’s recommended to consult with a healthcare professional or registered dietitian experienced in sports nutrition to determine appropriate caffeine intake strategies based on individual needs and goals.

While caffeine can provide a performance boost, it should not replace other important aspects of triathlon training like proper training volume, intensity, recovery, nutrition, and hydration. It should be integrated into a well-rounded training program with care and moderation.

Beta-alanine is an amino acid that combines with histidine to form carnosine, a compound found in muscles. Increased carnosine levels can help buffer the build-up of lactic acid during intense exercise, delaying fatigue and improving endurance capacity. Research suggests that beta-alanine supplementation can enhance time to exhaustion, reduce perceived exertion, and improve high-intensity exercise performance. Athletes typically take beta-alanine as part of their training regimen for several weeks to increase muscle carnosine levels. However, individual responses may vary, and some individuals may experience tingling or flushing sensations as side effects. It’s important to consult with a healthcare professional before starting beta-alanine supplementation to determine the appropriate dosage and any potential interactions.

The recommended daily dose ranges between 3.2 to 6 grams, and it is not necessary to consider the timing.

The fact that carnosine is found in high levels in animals known for their running abilities, such as horses and racing dogs, is not coincidental.

Carnosine supplementation does not boost carnosine levels in the body, yet it still acts as a buffer for lactic acid, enabling longer periods of high-speed activity.

What actions can we take? The composition of carnosine consists of histidine and beta-alanine, with beta-alanine being the component that limits the rate of synthesis.

The levels of carnosine and cardiovascular performance can be enhanced by taking beta-alanine as a supplement.

Nitrates, particularly those found in beetroot, have gained popularity among triathletes as a potential performance-enhancing supplement. Beetroot is rich in natural nitrates that can be converted into nitric oxide in the body. Nitric oxide is known for its vasodilatory properties, which may improve blood flow and oxygen delivery to muscles during exercise.

Studies have suggested that beetroot juice supplementation can enhance exercise performance by improving time trial performance, lowering the oxygen cost of exercise, and increasing time to exhaustion. These effects can be particularly beneficial for endurance athletes participating in triathlon events.

Consuming beetroot juice or beetroot powder around 2-3 hours before exercise has been found to be most effective in enhancing performance. The nitrate content varies among different beetroot products, so it’s important to carefully read labels and choose reputable sources.

It’s worth noting that individual responses to beetroot supplementation may vary, and some athletes may not experience a significant performance improvement. It’s recommended to experiment with beetroot supplementation during training sessions to determine its effectiveness for each individual.

As with any supplement, it is advisable to consult with a healthcare professional or registered dietitian experienced in sports nutrition to ensure proper usage and dosage based on individual needs and training goals.

Dosage & Timing: 1600 – 10,000mg sixty minutes before exercise.

As we are all aware, exercise necessitates significant amounts of energy since every physical activity demands energy.

The consumption of nitrates or beetroot powder decreases the energy needed for each muscle contraction, resulting in a decreased demand for oxygen during exercise of the same intensity when nitrate supplementation is used.

The athlete’s performance is obviously improved as they can maintain a slightly faster pace throughout the entire race.

Ginseng, a popular adaptogenic herb, has long been used in traditional medicine and is gaining attention in the world of athletic performance, including triathlon training. Ginseng is known for its potential benefits in enhancing physical endurance, reducing fatigue, and improving concentration and focus.

One type of ginseng commonly used in sports performance is Panax ginseng, also known as Asian ginseng. It is believed to have adaptogenic properties, meaning it may help the body adapt to physical and mental stressors. This can be particularly useful in triathlon training, which involves prolonged, intense exercise and requires mental fortitude.

Research suggests that ginseng may support exercise performance by increasing energy utilization, improving oxygen uptake, and reducing muscle damage and inflammation. It may also aid in post-exercise recovery by reducing oxidative stress and promoting faster muscle repair.

However, it’s important to note that the effects of ginseng on athletic performance are still being investigated, and individual responses may vary. Additionally, ginseng may interact with certain medications or have side effects such as digestive issues or insomnia.

Before considering ginseng supplementation, it’s recommended to consult with a healthcare professional or registered dietitian knowledgeable about sports nutrition. They can provide guidance on appropriate dosage, timing, and potential interactions.

It’s worth noting that while ginseng supplementation may be an option for some athletes, a well-rounded approach to triathlon training that includes proper nutrition, hydration, rest, and training program customization should remain the foundation for optimal performance.


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