Everyone is looking to stay within the WADA and USADA legal framework. Here are top 10 supplements that may be useful for endurance athletes:
Protein: Protein is essential for muscle repair and recovery after endurance exercise. It can also help with appetite control and weight management. During endurance exercise, the body breaks down muscle protein for energy, which can lead to muscle damage. Supplementing with protein can help repair and rebuild damaged muscle tissue, promoting recovery and adaptation to endurance training.
Beta-Alanine: Beta-alanine is an amino acid that can help improve exercise performance by increasing muscle carnosine levels. Carnosine is a compound found in muscles that helps buffer acid build-up, which can improve endurance and delay fatigue. Beta-alanine supplementation has been shown to improve endurance performance in activities lasting one to four minutes, such as sprinting and high-intensity interval training.
Creatine: Creatine is a compound found in the body that helps improve muscle strength, and promote lean muscle. It works by increasing the availability of ATP (adenosine triphosphate), the primary source of energy for muscle contractions. Creatine may also help improve endurance by reducing muscle fatigue. Studies have shown that creatine supplementation can improve endurance performance in activities lasting longer than 30 seconds, such as cycling and running.
Iron: Iron is an essential mineral that helps transport oxygen to the muscles. Iron deficiency, also known as anemia, can cause fatigue and decreased endurance. Endurance athletes, particularly female athletes and vegetarians, may be at risk for iron deficiency due to increased blood loss during exercise and decreased iron intake from the diet.
Branched-Chain Amino Acids (BCAAs): BCAAs are a group of essential amino acids that can help reduce muscle damage and soreness during endurance exercise. They may also help improve recovery and endurance performance. BCAAs (for runners) are involved in muscle protein synthesis and may help reduce muscle breakdown during exercise. They may also help reduce fatigue and improve mental focus during endurance exercise.
Nitrate: Nitrate is a compound found in some vegetables, such as beets, that may improve endurance by increasing blood flow and oxygen delivery to the muscles. Nitrate supplementation has been shown to improve endurance performance.
Electrolytes:Electrolytes, such as sodium, potassium, and magnesium, are important for maintaining hydration and electrolyte balance during endurance exercise. Electrolyte imbalances can cause muscle cramps, fatigue, and decreased performance. Supplementing with electrolytes, particularly sodium and potassium, may help improve endurance performance and prevent electrolyte imbalances.
Antioxidants: Antioxidants, such as vitamins C and E, can help reduce oxidative stress caused by endurance exercise. Oxidative stress is the result of an imbalance between the production of reactive oxygen species (ROS) and the body's ability to neutralize them. ROS can cause muscle damage and inflammation, leading to decreased performance and recovery. Supplementing with antioxidants may help improve recovery and prevent muscle damage.
Caffeine: Caffeine is a stimulant that can improve endurance performance by increasing alertness, focus, and endurance. Caffeine has been shown to be among the best supplements to improve endurance performance in activities lasting longer than four minutes, such as cycling and running.
Glutamine: Glutamine is an amino acid that can help improve recovery after endurance exercise by reducing muscle soreness and inflammation.
What ergogenic aid may help an endurance athlete?
PubMed: The most popular supplements or ergogenic aids for the endurance athlete are caffeine, antioxidants, erythropoietin, and the dietary practice of carbohydrate loading. Caffeine and carbohydrate loading have the most evidence-based support of being both ergogenic and safe. Erythropoietin is ergogenic but unsafe, and is banned by all major sport-sanctioning bodies, and antioxidants have potential but warrant further study. Pyruvate is not ergogenic.
The best endurance supplements are readily available through various products. Some are crucial for basic physical functions and others have a strong correlation with sports performance. It's important to note that supplements should not be used as a replacement for a healthy and balanced diet.
Always consult with a healthcare professional before starting any supplement regimen.
FDA disclaimer: These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product and website content is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.
Protein: Tarnopolsky, M. A. (2004). Protein and endurance exercise. Journal of Sports Sciences, 22(1), 65-70.
Beta-Alanine: Derave, W., Everaert, I., Beeckman, S., Baguet, A., & Achten, E. (2010). Beta-alanine supplementation improves sprint performance in endurance cycling. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, 42(6), 1162-1168.
Creatine: Rawson, E. S., Volek, J. S., & Craig, S. A. (2003). Performance and muscle fiber adaptations to creatine supplementation and heavy resistance training. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, 35(3), 456-463.
Iron: Burke, L. M., & Deakin, V. (2015). Clinical sports nutrition (5th ed.). Sydney: McGraw-Hill Education.
Branched-Chain Amino Acids (BCAAs): Shimomura, Y., Yamamoto, Y., Bajotto, G., Sato, J., Murakami, T., Shimomura, N., & Kobayashi, H. (2006). Nutritional and physiological aspects of branched-chain amino acid supplementation for athletes. Journal of Nutrition, 136(1), 274S-278S.
Nitrate: Larsen, F. J., Weitzberg, E., Lundberg, J. O., & Ekblom, B. (2010). Effects of dietary nitrate on blood pressure in healthy volunteers. The New England Journal of Medicine, 363(19), 2027-2034.
Electrolytes: Armstrong, L. E., & Casa, D. J. (2005). American College of Sports Medicine position stand: Exercise and fluid replacement. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, 37(2), e3-e7.
Antioxidants: Powers, S. K., Jackson, M. J., & Dodd, S. L. (2007). Exercise-induced oxidative stress: Cellular mechanisms and impact on muscle force production. Physiological Reviews, 87(4), 1243-1276.
Caffeine: Doherty, M., & Smith, P. M. (2004). Effects of caffeine ingestion on exercise testing: A meta-analysis. International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism, 14(6), 626-646.
Glutamine: Varnier, M., Leese, G., Thompson, J., & Rennie, M. J. (1995). Stimulatory effect of glutamine on glycogen accumulation in human skeletal muscle. American Journal of Physiology-Endocrinology And Metabolism, 269(6), E309-E315.
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