Most of the supplements you hear about tend to be skewed in favour of muscle training, mass gaining, and bodybuilding. That makes for fantastic resources, but it doesn't cover all bases, including that of endurance sports.
Endurance sports demand stamina, because most of the people that subscribe to it, whether pro-athletes or not, are in it for the long haul. Marathons, triathlons, and the like all require physical and mental energy, which can be improved through incorporating certain supplements in your regime.
This is not to say that an endurance sportsman should avoid general supplements like protein and creatine because of its associations with bodybuilding. Those are incredibly necessary too, so don't skimp on them.
Here are five of the best supplements for endurance training.
Beta-alanine supplements are known for helping to keep exhaustion at bay, especially with high intensity training. Even though endurance is mostly about performing at a slow, constant tempo and not the kind of energy you'd expend on a HIIT workout, beta-alanine still works. Beta-alanine basically helps to increase the carnosine content of your muscles. Carnosine is a defence against fatigue, which is one major downer when you're running a 42km marathon. As you run, hydrogen ions accumulate in your muscles as waste products, and these lower the pH level of your muscles. This makes you tired, but beta-alanine helps aid both the reality and your perception of fatigue. If anyone gets tired a lot, take beta-alanine.
Glutamine is the most abundant amino acid in your body, and depletes severely after each bout of exercise. Your body also cannot replenish it fast enough to keep up, resulting in your body breaking down muscle to attain energy. Catabolism is the last thing you want when trying to maintain muscle mass, which even endurance sports requires, to some extent. Also, glutamine is highly beneficial in improving recovery, reducing muscle inflammations while bettering your immune system so you can avoid falling ill. See all our glutamine supplements here.
Arginine is an amino acid that has the capacity to improve blood flow as it dilates your blood vessels. This means, with arginine, your body is getting far more oxygen, and oxygen is of course essential for your body to create energy. With arginine comes improved speed, better blood circulation, and more stamina. Though the improvements you get with arginine may not be extreme, it makes all the difference, especially if you're concerned with your personal timing down to the very seconds.
It's not just the pre- and post-workout supplementation that matters, but what you take during the race too. Hydration is essential to any athlete, and electrolytes are a cornerstone to hydrating yourself during a race. Electrolytes are essential minerals that you need to consume in order to maintain your immune system. For endurance athletes, electrolytes help to maintain or even improve your performance, while keeping pesky intrusions like stitches, fatigue and cramps at bay. It also allays other symptoms that might affect you during your workout, such as nausea, stiff muscles and joint pains. Don't use sports drinks as a crutch though, as those have more sugar than necessary. Instead, opt for electrolyte sachets to replenish yourself. See all our electrolytes here.
Back to the obvious: no matter what school of athlete you are, you need protein. Yes, endurance athletes tend to rely more on carbs in their diet, including carb loading before a race, but protein is extremely important for a number of processes, including repairing, building and keeping your muscles in check. Protein also doubles up as an additional source of energy. Maximise your protein intake by consuming it after your training with a serving of fast carbs, which will improve the uptake of both protein and glycogen in your body. See all our protein supplements here.
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