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February 01, 2023 6 min read

What Limits the Stamina of Endurance Athletes?

  • Endurance athletics require both physical and mental strength
  • Stamina is cardiovascular endurance (ability of heart and lungs to fuel body with oxygen) and muscular endurance (ability of muscles to work without getting tired)
  • Physical factors that limit stamina include:
    • Cardiovascular system (heart rate, blood circulation, oxygen delivery)
    • Respiratory system (lung capacity, efficient breathing exercises)
    • Muscles and energy metabolism (lactic acid build-up, digestive tract's ability to break down food)
  • Psychological factors that limit stamina include:
    • Mental fatigue
    • Lack of motivation
    • Poor sports psychology
  • Lifestyle factors that can limit stamina include:
    • Diet and nutrition
    • Hydration and nutrient balance
    • Sleep habits
    • Stress management
  • Training and preparation techniques to improve stamina include:
    • Interval training (HIIT)
    • Cross-training
    • Strength training
    • Mental training

Endurance sports are demanding and requires a combination of physical and mental strength. Whether it’s running a marathon, cycling a hundred miles, or swimming across a lake, endurance athletes push their limits every time they compete. It’s made up of two components: cardiovascular endurance and muscular endurance.Cardiovascular endurance Trusted Source is the ability of your heart and lungs to fuel your body with oxygen. Muscular endurance is the ability of your muscles to work continuously without getting tired.

Physical Factors that Limit Stamina

Workout routines matter

The human body is an amazing machine. There are several physical factors that can limit an athlete’s stamina, starting with the cardiovascular system.

Your heart rate, blood circulation, and oxygen delivery to the muscles all play a critical role in endurance performance. If your heart rate is too high, you’ll run out of steam quickly. If your blood circulation is poor, you’ll struggle to get enough oxygen to your muscles.

BBC News: "You can do really intense stuff for a couple of days, but if you want to last longer then you have to dial it back," Dr Herman Pontzer, from Duke University

VO2 Max Limitations

Another key physical factor that limits stamina is the respiratory system. Endurance athletes need a lot of oxygen to power their muscles, and the lungs play a crucial role in delivering it. If you don’t have a high lung capacity or efficient breathing patterns, you’ll quickly run out of steam.


Lactic Acid and Metabolism

National Library of Medicine (NLM) Study: The main physiological determinant of a high lactate threshold is probably the ability of the mitochondria in the trained skeletal muscles to increase in volume in response to training

Finally, the muscles and energy metabolism also play a role in limiting stamina. Endurance athletes need their muscles to be able to perform for long periods, and they need a steady supply of energy to fuel their efforts. Lactic acid build-up can quickly sap an athlete’s energy and limit their stamina.

Duke University: One explanation for this limit may be the digestive tract’s ability to break down food, said team leaders Pontzer andJohn Speakman of Scotland’s University of Aberdeen

“There’s just a limit to how many calories our guts can effectively absorb per day,” Pontzer said.

Livescience: During a single marathon, for example, runners can burn calories at an average of 15.6 times their resting metabolic rate, according to the study. 

In the 23 days of the Tour de France, cyclists burned calories 4.9 times their resting metabolic rate, and in a 95-day trek across the Antarctic, hikers burned calories at 3.5 times the resting metabolic rate.

Environmental Effects Endurance

Heat (and heat exhaustion) can negatively impact endurance athletes by increasing their core body temperature and causing dehydration, which can lead to decreased performance and increased risk of heat-related illnesses

TrainRight: Human beings are inherently inefficient. Only a fraction of the work athletes do propels them down the road, up the mountain or through the water. The rest just generates heat, which has to go somewhere. 

In cold conditions, the body's core temperature can drop, leading to decreased muscle flexibility and increased risk of injury.

Psychological Factors that Limit Stamina

WikipediaIncreasing endurance has been proven to release endorphins resulting in a positive mind. The act of gaining endurance through physical activity has been shown to decrease anxietydepression, and stress, or any chronic disease in total.

Endurance athletics isn’t just a aerobic exercise, it’s a mental one too. Mental fatigue, lack of motivation, and poor sports psychology can all limit an endurance athlete’s stamina. 

Frontiers in Psychology: When mentally fatigued, athletes have been found to perceive endurance exercise as more effortful despite a similar objective power output

If you’re mentally exhausted, you won’t be able to push through the pain and keep going.

If you’re not motivated, you won’t be able to find the energy and drive to keep moving.

And if your sports psychology is poor, you’ll struggle to overcome obstacles and reach your full potential.

Frontiers in Psychology: While mental fatigue increases adenosine concentration in the brain (which decreases dopamine levels), caffeine and other substances can inverse the neurotransmitter balance and thus counteract the effects of mental fatigue

BBC News: "The process of training expands the capabilities of the muscles and heart, sure, but it also recalibrates the brain's horizons," Hutchinson writes. Alongside working out, he points to data and anecdotes from elite athletes that indicate learning to embrace physical pain also improves performance. 

Visualization, positive self-talk, and mental preparation can all help improve an athlete’s mental toughness and increase their stamina.

Business Insider: Runners burn less energy when they're told they feel relaxed.

Lifestyle Factors that Limit Stamina

Finally, lifestyle factors can also play a role in limiting an endurance athlete’s stamina. Diet and nutrition are critical components of endurance performance, and proper hydration and nutrient balance are essential for maintaining stamina. Sleep habits and stress management are also important considerations, as fatigue and stress can quickly sap an athlete’s energy and limit their performance.

Duke University: Interestingly, the maximum sustainable energy expenditure found among endurance athletes was only slightly higher than the metabolic rates women sustain during pregnancy. 

Training and Preparation Techniques to Improve Stamina

Masterclass Training: Take a rest day after your first training day. Endurance training is a long-term training program, and you can’t increase your endurance instantly. You’ll need recovery time to help your body recharge from strenuous physical activity.

The good news is that there are several training and preparation techniques that endurance athletes can use to improve their stamina. Interval training, cross-training, strength training, and mental training can all help build endurance and increase stamina.

Intervals (HIIT)

Interval training is a high-intensity workout that alternates periods of intense workout with periods of rest. It’s a great way to build endurance and improve stamina, as it trains the body to work at a high intensity for longer periods.


Cross-training involves incorporating other activities into your training regimen, such as swimming, cycling, or weightlifting. This type of training can help build overall strength and improve endurance, as it works different muscle groups and energy systems.

Strength Training

Strength training is also an important part of endurance training, as it helps build muscle endurance and improve overall strength. This type of training can help you push through the pain and keep going, even when your muscles are tired.

Endurance athletics is a demanding sport that requires a combination of physical and mental strength.

Lifestyle factors like diet and nutrition, sleep habits, and stress management can also play a role.

However, there are several training and preparation techniques that endurance athletes can use to improve their stamina, including interval training, cross-training, strength training, and mental training.

By focusing on these areas, endurance athletes can push through the limits of their stamina and reach their full potential.

Beetroot Pro® is a beetroot extract designed for performance. The formula does not contain any beet fiber, however it includes BCAA, Magnesium, Potassium and Vitamin B12.


FDA Disclosure: These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product or website is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.

It is recommended to consult with a healthcare professional before taking any dietary supplement especially if you have any medical condition, pregnancy, breastfeeding or are on any medication.

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