For any endurance athlete or fitness enthusiast, we know you always strive to go farther and do just a little bit better. Endurance exercise is physically draining and requires a lot of physical stamina and strength. But it's not only physical exertion, endurance training also demands mental focus and energy.
As a result, nutritional support needs to be properly tailored to the individual and not neglected. The more active you are, the higher your nutritional needs!
Today we are sharing our list of top 7 nutritional supplements for endurance athletes to enhance your athletic performance, support your endurance training, and reach a faster recovery time.
The Top 7 Endurance Supplements
1. Creatine Monohydrate
Creatine is most often referred to for its ergogenic benefits, improving muscular strength, power output, and reducing body fat mass.
It is typically used for shorter duration and high-intensity exercise (1). But what about endurance performance?
Creatine can increase the production of ATP (adenosine triphosphate), the body's basic form of energy, required in higher amounts during higher intensity exercise. This is vital for sustained energy, strength, and peak power and can help to prevent fatigue.
Studies demonstrate creatine's potential in improving time to exhaustion and enhancing recovery from intense exercise by reducing the post-exercise inflammatory response (2).
Creatine monohydrate may even provide cardioprotective properties, helping to protect the heart which may be in part due to its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties among other effects (3)(4).
A study on elite rowers showed that creatine increased the individual lactate threshold improving cardiovascular endurance and enabling them to sustain longer sustained performance (5).
Creatine supplementation can support endurance athletes in a variety of ways though more research is needed to confirm creatine's impact on endurance-based activities.
Caffeine is well known for its positive effects on energy levels, but what about endurance performance? This compound is found in many supplements for endurance athletes to improve focus, increase energy, and delay fatigue.
Studies suggest that caffeine may also provide ergogenic effects and improve muscular performance by sparing muscle glycogen and modifying the central nervous system response (6). The dosing does matter though as 3-6 mg per kg of body mass has been shown to benefit exercise performance whilst higher doses are associated with adverse effects (7). More is certainly not better!
It doesn't stop there, caffeine supplementation can also benefit weight management by increasing fat oxidation and promoting fat reduction (8).
An amino acid produced naturally in the body, beta-alanine plays an important role in carnosine synthesis which is associated with improved athletic performance. Carnosine is found in high amounts in muscle tissue and can help to reduce lactic acid levels, oxidative stress, and muscle acidity, delaying muscle fatigue (9).
Carnosine may also contribute to increased nitric oxide production, associated with improving cardiovascular health, increasing blood flow through the blood vessels, enhancing cognitive function, lowering blood pressure, and improving aerobic and anaerobic exercise (10).
Increases in muscle carnosine levels from beta-alanine supplementation may contribute to improved muscular endurance, and enhanced high-intensity interval training and endurance performance (11).
Beta alanine is said to be most effective in higher intensity and shorter duration exercise.
A study following beta-alanine supplementation in endurance cyclists showed a significant increase in sprint performance at the end of an exhaustive endurance exercise bout (14).
The ergogenic effects from beta-alanine supplements are said to be associated with delayed muscle fatigue, increased intramuscular carnosine content, and improved recovery during repetitive high-intensity exercise (12).
Its endurance enhancing effects have been associated with certain factors such as an increased anaerobic threshold and time to exhaustion (13).
4. Sodium Phosphate
Sodium phosphate refers to combinations of sodium and phosphate, an inorganic, salt-forming chemical. Food grade sodium phosphate is recognized as safe by the U.S Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
This supplement is taken to benefit intense exercise such as weightlifting, sports activities, and endurance training. It may assist in benefitting overall fitness and performance by enhancing endurance, increasing muscle mass, and increasing ATP production.
Research suggests that sodium phosphate can be considered as an ergogenic support for endurance sport as it has been shown to improve cardiorespiratory and myocardial systems as well as increase time to exhaustion (15)(16)(17).
It may be particularly effective for ultra-race competitors and during prolonged endurance exercise at higher altitudes such as ultra-distance cycling, triathlon, running, and cross country skiing races (18).
5. Branched-Chain Amino Acids (BCAAs)
BCAA's comprise of three specific amino acids: isoleucine, leucine, and valine. These amino acids are used as an energy source by the body and most commonly used during strength training to increase muscle growth. But they can do much more than that!
BCAA supplementation can help to decrease muscle fatigue and muscle soreness post exercise, improving recovery time (19)(20).
Research suggests that BCAA's may help to reduce muscle damage associated with aerobic endurance exercise while also alleviating central fatigue and enhancing endurance performance (21)(22).
BCAA's help you to perform for longer by reducing serotonin levels and tryptophan uptake, chemicals that can make you feel more fatigued (23).
When combined with an exercise program, BCAA's have been shown to increase lean body mass and reduce body fat in active adults (24).
Though BCAA's can provide additional benefits on physical performance, all amino acids should be consumed for optimal health and performance.
We all know that protein is essential for muscle growth, but what about physical endurance?
Protein has been found to make a difference in exercise performance, including endurance. Protein intake is associated with increased peak power output, improved time, and delayed fatigue during exercise (25).
Protein consumption is also important to decrease muscle soreness and help athletes recover from their training.
More elite athletes will require a more significant amount of protein compared to those without a less active lifestyle (26). Protein dosing of 1.2–2.0 g per kg per day is recommended to optimally benefit endurance athletes (27).
As it can be tricky to reach these protein requirements through diet alone, high quality protein supplements can help to boost protein consumption and meet higher demands for protein.
For best results it is recommended to consume protein post exercise to support recovery and muscle synthesis (28).
The most abundant amino acid, glutamine is used by every cell in the body and can provide a wide range of health benefits. Well known for its gut healing properties it can also provide benefits on exercise performance.
Clinical trials show that glutamine can improve certain markers of fatigue and improve recovery (29).
Glutamine may benefit those practicing exercises that are intense or prolonged, by reducing muscle damage, increasing muscle glycogen synthesis and reducing ammonia accumulation (30).
Research suggests that combining carbohydrates with glutamine supplementation provides more benefits in increasing performance than glutamine alone (31).
Though glutamine may be included as part of an exercise regimen, more research is needed to confirm its specific benefits on exercise performance.
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