Endurance athletics requires a fine balance of strength and endurance, which can only be achieved by years of strategic training and dieting. Endurance supplements can and should be an integral part of this balance. Yet what is marketed to runners, swimmers and cyclists is a variety of sports drinks, power bars and gels that are easy to reach for on the go. All of these things fuel the body during grueling training sessions or intense competitions, but most of them only ensure that the body is able to make it through the competition, and nothing more.
Supplements have a place in endurance sports. In fact, some of the most important endurance supplements are often overlooked by athletes.
Here are five of the most potent endurance supplements to boost performance.
Protein is often associated with bodybuilding and weightlifting. But protein is critical to performance during long periods of exercise. After the two-hour mark, the human body starts to use protein to help meet its energy needs. If the fuel taken during competition or training includes only glucose and no protein, the body must get the protein from somewhere else. Since there is nowhere left to go, it goes straight for muscle.
This process is called muscle cannibalization, or lean muscle tissue catabolism. It tears through your performance because it causes deterioration of the lean muscle required for performance. It also causes an increase in ammonia accumulation, which leads to fatigue and negatively affects recovery time.
2. Beta Alanine
The amino acid beta alanine is a great supplement to take to boost athletic performance. Some research shows that it helps keep fatigue at bay, which keeps you running strong for longer. Research also suggests that it can be used to promote lean body mass and improve overall aerobic activity.
Creatine is another supplement typically assumed to be a bodybuilder's weapon of choice. However, creatine's potency does not simply create mass. Its properties as an amino acid are important for endurance athletes, too.
Creatine is famous for boosting muscle recovery, and endurance athletes often need more help in this area than they realize. Supplementing with creatine can help the body deal with the damage it incurs during training, like cell damage and muscular inflammation.
Creatine can also possibly be used to help the body use its oxygen in a more efficient manner during exercise by improving heart rate, sweat rate and how the body distributes water. By making the body more efficient, creatine might lead to a reduction in submaximal VO2 levels, which boost performance.
Some evidence suggests that endurance athletes are more likely to suffer from anemia than the general population. This is possibly because of the amount of iron athletes lose when they sweat for several hours at a time.
Most athletes avoid anemia by consuming an iron-rich diet. However, that's not always enough for some athletes.
Iron supplements are best taken under a doctor's supervision, because too much iron can be poisonous. However, if you've been feeling tired or sluggish despite your diet, it may be due to anemia resulting from an iron deficiency. Iron supplements can boost your performance and keep you from facing setbacks like anemia.
The body produces amino acids naturally, and glutamine is the most common amino acid in the pool. However, some research suggests that the body is not always able to produce enough of it, particularly when experiences stress.
Endurance athletes put a lot of stress on their bodies, and when their glutamine levels dip into the low end of the spectrum, they might suffer reduced performance because of muscle tissue breakdown and decreased immune function.
Adding glutamine to your supplement plan can prevent damage done to muscles due to a loss of glutamine. By supporting your muscles, you are able to endure more and boost your performance overall.
Supplements can never make up for hard work and talent. But, these five supplements can help endurance athletes reach the finish line with more energy and fewer injuries.
Photo Credit: Getty Images // Thinkstock