Top Supplements for Endurance Athletes

If you’re an athlete, a weekend warrior, or want to enhance your workouts, there are various supplements available to improve your exercise performance and recovery. These supplements, known as ergogenic aids, can provide mental or physical benefits during exercise or competition, without involving anabolic steroids or their precursors.

Before delving into it, it is important to note that numerous supplements are available, all claiming to enhance performance or aid in recovery. However, in this discussion, we will exclusively focus on those that possess substantial scientific evidence to genuinely yield positive outcomes. Before attempting any new supplement, particularly if you are currently using prescription drugs, it is always advisable to consult with your physician for guidance.

  1. Beetroot juice

Beets contain antioxidants and high levels of nitrates, which are converted to nitric oxide in the body to dilate blood vessels and enhance blood pressure and flow in various areas including muscles, the brain, and the heart. When consumed before exercise, beetroot juice has been proven to reduce muscular fatigue linked to intense exercises.

  1. Green tea extract

We enjoy consuming green tea, particularly before exercising. A research study conducted for 10 weeks revealed that the utilization of green tea extract is advantageous in enhancing endurance capacity by increasing the burning of body fat for energy. The quantity of green tea extract administered in the study is equivalent to consuming approximately four cups of green tea per day.

  1. Medium chain triglycerides (MCTs)

Athletes who want to boost their energy levels and enhance their endurance during intense workouts have shown interest in MCTs. These MCTs can also be a substitute energy source, particularly for athletes following high-protein, low-carb diets, using nutritional ketosis. Furthermore, MCTs are rapidly deployed in the recovery phase after exercise to rebuild muscles and prevent muscle breakdown. The recommended amount of MCT (specifically C8 MCT oil, which is pure caprylic acid) is approximately 1/4 teaspoon multiple times per day. It is essential to start with a small dose of MCTs due to the potential for nausea and gastric discomfort, and only increase the dosage if it is well tolerated.

  1. Watermelon juice

Watermelon contains l-citrulline, an amino acid that can be converted into l-arginine, which is used in the production of nitric oxide, a vasodilator. Consumption of watermelon or watermelon juice before exercising aids in reducing recovery time and enhancing performance.

  1. Branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs)

BCAAs, also known as essential amino acids, can decrease muscle damage and discomfort that can occur while engaging in endurance exercise. Additionally, these amino acids may aid in enhancing recovery and boosting endurance performance. For runners, BCAAs play a crucial role in muscle protein synthesis, potentially minimizing muscle breakdown during physical activity. Moreover, they might contribute to diminishing fatigue and increasing mental concentration during endurance exercise.

  1. Whey protein

Consuming protein after exercising can aid in muscle repair and recovery by supplying necessary amino acids that optimize protein synthesis. Research indicates that whey protein supplementation results in greater muscle mass gains, larger reductions in fat mass, and superior strength enhancements compared to casein or soy protein. For individuals without liver or kidney disease, whey protein is considered safe. However, exceeding 2.5g/kg of body weight can elevate the likelihood of dehydration.

  1. Tart cherry juice

According to research, it has been found that tart cherry juice can enhance the recovery process for both strength training and cardio exercises by reducing muscle damage, soreness, and inflammation. It has also been proven to aid endurance exercise when consumed before the workout. Furthermore, studies have indicated that tart cherry juice can effectively alleviate post-workout pain, offering a potentially safer alternative to non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs.

  1. Caffeine

The presence of caffeine in coffee, espresso, tea, and energy drinks has been demonstrated to enhance physical performance by decreasing the feeling of tiredness, as well as being associated with the stimulation of adrenaline, mobilization of fat, and muscle contractions. Although caffeine does have a slight diuretic impact, ensuring sufficient intake of water and electrolytes will counteract any such effect. The tolerance to caffeine varies greatly from person to person, with consuming excessive amounts likely resulting in elevated heart rate and restlessness. It is advisable to begin with a smaller dosage and opt for coffee or tea over energy drinks.

  1. Creatine

Creatine is a substance present in the body that enhances muscle strength and stimulates the growth of lean muscle. Its mechanism of action involves boosting the levels of ATP (adenosine triphosphate), which serves as the main energy source for muscle contractions. Additionally, creatine is believed to decrease muscle fatigue, thereby potentially enhancing endurance. Research has indicated that incorporating creatine supplements can enhance performance in endurance activities lasting more than 30 seconds, including cycling and running.

  1. Beta-Alanine

Beta-alanine, an amino acid, can enhance exercise performance by elevating levels of muscle carnosine. Carnosine, a compound present in muscles, aids in buffering the accumulation of acid, thereby enhancing endurance and postponing fatigue. The addition of beta-alanine has proven effective in enhancing endurance performance in activities lasting between one to four minutes, including sprinting and high-intensity interval training.

  1. Iron

Iron is a necessary mineral that aids in the transportation of oxygen to the muscles. Fatigue and reduced endurance can result from iron deficiency, also referred to as anaemia. Athletes who require high endurance, particularly females and vegetarians, may be susceptible to iron deficiency due to the increased loss of blood during physical activity and reduced iron consumption from their diet.

  1. Nitrate

Nitrate, which is present in certain vegetables like beets, can enhance endurance by boosting blood flow and the supply of oxygen to the muscles. Studies have demonstrated that taking nitrate supplements can enhance endurance performance.

  1. Electrolytes

Electrolytes are a crucial component of triathlon training, as they play a significant role in maintaining proper hydration, muscle function, and overall performance. Electrolytes are minerals that are dissolved in bodily fluids and help facilitate electrical impulses necessary for nerve and muscle function.

During intense exercise, triathletes sweat profusely, leading to the loss of electrolytes such as sodium, potassium, calcium, and magnesium. These electrolytes are essential for fluid balance, muscle contraction, and nerve transmission. Imbalances or deficiencies in electrolytes can lead to muscle cramps, fatigue, and reduced performance.

Hydration is key in replacing lost electrolytes during training and competition. Consuming beverages that contain electrolytes can help replenish these minerals and maintain optimal performance. Sports drinks, electrolyte-enhanced water, or homemade electrolyte solutions are popular options. It’s important to note that not all electrolyte drinks are the same; some may contain excessive sugar or may not have sufficient electrolyte content. Reading labels and choosing a product that aligns with individual needs is recommended.

Additionally, incorporating electrolyte-rich foods into the diet can provide an additional source of these vital minerals. Foods such as bananas, avocados, oranges, yoghurt, spinach, and nuts are good sources of electrolytes.

It’s crucial to remember that individual requirements for electrolytes may vary based on factors such as heat, humidity, duration, and intensity of workouts, as well as personal sweat rates. Monitoring hydration levels and paying attention to signs of dehydration or electrolyte imbalances during training is essential.

Consulting with a registered dietitian or sports nutritionist can help determine specific electrolyte needs and develop a personalized hydration plan for optimal triathlon performance.

  1. Antioxidants

Antioxidants are also essential in the context of triathlon training as they play a vital role in combating the oxidative stress that occurs during intense exercise. Oxidative stress is a result of the increased production of free radicals, which are highly reactive molecules that can cause cellular damage and contribute to inflammation, muscle fatigue, and impaired recovery.

Triathletes put their bodies through rigorous training, leading to an increase in oxygen consumption and free radical production. Antioxidants help neutralize these free radicals, protecting cells from damage and supporting a healthy immune system.

There are various antioxidants, including vitamins C and E, beta-carotene, selenium, and polyphenols. Including antioxidant-rich foods in the diet, such as colourful fruits and vegetables (berries, citrus fruits, leafy greens), nuts and seeds, whole grains, and green tea, can provide a range of antioxidants. Additionally, consuming foods high in omega-3 fatty acids (salmon, chia seeds) can also support antioxidant activity.

In some cases, athletes may consider antioxidant supplementation to enhance their intake. However, it is recommended to consult with a healthcare professional or registered dietitian before starting any supplements, as excessive antioxidant intake can have negative effects.

While antioxidants are essential for overall health and recovery, it’s important to note that they cannot entirely prevent or eliminate all oxidative stress. Triathletes should also focus on other aspects of recovery, such as proper rest, nutrition, hydration, and adequate sleep, to support optimal performance and minimize the impact of oxidative stress on the body.


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