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Endurance Athletes are a rare breed. Likewise, endurance training and supplementation differ drastically from bodybuilding and fitness programs; requiring more calorie-dense foods, and less emphasis on physique-enhancement. Endurance sports expend massive amounts of calories and call for specific nutrition and supplementation programs. Some staples of bodybuilding supplementation can actually hinder performance during endurance events. Some stimulant-based fat burners for example can cause hypertension, rapid heart rate, or muscle cramps. Other supplements that have little use for bodybuilders can be a tremendous aid for endurance athletes. Take for example, Citrulline Malate (CM). CM has been shown to increase ATP production by as much as 34% during exercise, thus increasing aerobic capacity (1) at a dose of six grams per day. 

CM truly is the creatine of endurance supplements. CM is also added to many Nitric-Oxide (NO) boosting formulas.  While CM has shown some cell-volumizing properties, arginine is the body's primary NO precursor, and is available in different preparations (i.e: AAKG, AEE, AM). NO acts as a vasodilator, allowing an increased volume of blood to flow to the muscles while lowering blood pressure: delivering key electrolytes, amino acids, and most importantly: oxygen. While many NO products make great additions to endurance stacks, others may not. When creatine was first introduced to consumers in 1993, some athletes complained of cramping from creatine use. The supplement industry was quick to disprove this: dehydration while on creatine causes cramps; stay properly hydrated, no cramps. However dehydration during endurance events is inevitable. Dehydration and cramping, on top of the fact that creatine serves no real purpose during aerobic activity leaves little argument for its use in endurance training.

More important even then proper nutrition, is proper hydration. Many elite athletes become malnourishedduring intense training. However they all make damn sure they stay properly hydrated. Hydration is about more than just getting enough water. The proper balance of electrolytes such as sodium, potassium, and magnesium is just as important to prevent cramping and ensure optimal performance. Sodium and potassium are the two electrolytes excreted in sweat, hence their inclusion in almost every sports drink. Magnesium is important for proper cardiovascular function and preventing muscle cramping. Studies show that consuming a combination of water plus carbohydrate during exercise is more effective at preventing fluid loss and lowering body temperature (2). Sports drinks have come a long way since the inception of the 'Ade' type drinks. New, super-carbs such as Pure Vitagro, have recently been made available to consumers. Vitagro is a patented extract of waxy maze starch, with one hundred times the molecular weight of dextrose and causes no G.I. distress. It is absorbed immediately in the gut, carrying with it any electrolytes, amino acids, or other ergogenic aids mixed with it.  During endurance events, a dilute solution of Vitagro, mixed with CM, Essential Amino Acids (EAAs) and other amino acids, anti-oxidants, electrolytes, or energy drinks such as A.E.N.'s Steel Edge makes for a great home-brewedendurance cocktail.

Another important aspect of endurance supplementation is recovery. Within one hour post-training, consuming a combination of carbohydrates and protein in a ratio of at least 2:1 to 3:1, depending on specific dietary considerations, helps speed muscle recovery. Digestive enzymes assist the body in processing the extra calories, while insulin-mimicking supplements such as Designer Supplements Glucophase-XRand Scivation's Cinnulin-PF will help shuttle the extra calories and nutrients where they belong. However endurance sports stress more than just muscles. Healthy joints and bones are just as important. Joint support products such as Glucosamine, Chondroitin, and MSM help repair joints and tendons, while adequate calcium intake protects against bone conditions like shin splints, common in endurance athletes.

The Central Nervous System (CNS) is also stressed during prolonged aerobic exercise.  In addition to getting enough sleep, supplements such as adaptogenic herbs, nootropic compounds like Sulbutiamine, or formulations like S.N.S's Focus-XT, and sleep aids like Melatonin, Phenibut, GABA, ALRI's Venom Lean Dreams, and USP Labs REM-R3G are also good ideas if your budget allows it.

1. Bendehan, D. et. al. Citrulline/malate promotes aerobic energy production in human exercising muscle. British Journal of Sports Medicine. 2002 Aug;36(4):282-9.
2. Bergeron, M.F. et. al. Voluntary fluid intake and core temperature responses in adolescent tennis players: sports beverage versus water. British Journal of Sports Medicine. 2006 May;40(5):406-10.

Endurance Athletes Nutritional Supplements