THE TOP 3 NUTRIENTS TO IMPROVE PERFORMANCE & RECOVERY FOR ENDURANCE ATHLETES



For endurance athletes such as runners and cyclists, nutrition plan is as important as the training regimen. You need to have a consistent source of energy to perform your best for such long times and delay the onset of fatigue for as long as possible.

As you train, the workouts get more intense as the weekly mileage gets longer. You also have the challenge to build strength without gaining weight and have that balance of lightness and power.

Leading up to the day of the race, you need to taper properly to make sure that you’re well-rested and not lose the strength you’ve gained over the last several weeks.

With all the conditioning requirements of runners and cyclists, it can be easy to get lost on which nutrients you need and the ones you don’t. To help you out, here are 3 essential nutrients that you can add to your diet once you enter training season.

L-Carnitine

L-Carnitine is an amino acid derivative that plays an important role in transporting fatty acids into the mitochondria, producing energy as a result. Carnitine has two forms, L-Carnitine and D-Carnitine. The body can naturally produce L-Carnitine from lysine and methionine in the liver and kidneys. The supplements you see today are made from L-Carnitine. D-Carnitine, on the other hand, is not produced biologically and isn’t sold as a supplement.

Carnitine has several other types, including Propionyl-L-Carnitine and L-Carnitine L-Tartrate. Propionyl-L-Carnitine is known to decrease lipid peroxidation or the process wherein lipid membranes are attacked by free radicals, causing cellular damage. [1] [2] For endurance athletes, cellular damage could mean longer recovery times and be more prone to muscular injuries in training sessions. Propionyl-L-Carnitine also helps increase the production of nitric oxide, which promotes blood circulation and regulates blood pressure. [3]

L-Carnitine L-Tartate supplements are found to decrease muscle damage during recovery from resistance exercises. [4] As endurance athletes, this poses a lot of benefit during cross training.

Apart from the two forms of Carnitine mentioned above, possibly the most effective one is Acetyl-L-Carnitine or ALCAR, which plays a vital role in the central and peripheral nervous systems. It can also function as a precursor of acetylcholine, a neurotransmitter that activates muscles. [5]

Recommended Usage

It’s recommended to take 2-3 grams of L-Carnitine daily to aid in recovery during intensive training. To maximize its effect, research suggests taking L-Carnitine with carbs. [6] Some studies show that insulin levels need to be quite high for L-Carnitine to enter muscle cells and do its work. L-Carnitine also enhances insulin activity in muscle cells, bringing more glucose that in turn increases energy during training and workouts.

ALCAR, on the other hand, is more easily absorbed in the intestines, muscle cells, and the brain in the absence of food. Thus it’s best to take to take ALCAR on an empty stomach early in the morning or early afternoon in between meals. You can also stack it with other foods that enhance fat burning such as caffeine and green tea. This is best taken as a pre-workout meal, at least 30 minutes before doing any intensive exercise.

Caffeine

Caffeine is a widely researched and extremely popular stimulant. It’s most commonly used to give us a jolt in the morning before we go out and do what we need for the day. But for endurance athletes, it’s more than that. For endurance athletes, caffeine helps delay the onset of fatigue by reducing the perception of effort. It also increases the concentration of ß-endorphins during exercise, a hormone that affects mood state and promotes a sense of wellbeing.

A recent study suggested that caffeine has ergogenic effects for endurance athletes such as cyclists, runners, and swimmers. [7] In this study, it was shown that cyclists improved their average speed by almost as 1% after taking 3mg/kg of caffeine 60 minutes before their workout. The same study also revealed runners increasing their average speed by 1.5% after taking 150-200mg of caffeine, 60 minutes before running. [8] In intense Olympic endurance events, a 1% change in average speed is enough to affect medal rankings.

It is also well established that caffeine aids in weight loss. One study revealed that overweight subjects (average BMI of 27.5) lost 5.9kg or 7.1% of their body weight after taking a 270mg green-tea caffeine mixture for over 3 months. [9] Similar results were also seen in low caffeine consumers.

Aside from its stimulating properties, caffeine is also known to aid in post-workout recovery by delaying the onset of muscle soreness. [10] It has been demonstrated that ingesting caffeine sustainable days after the exercise reduces the perception of soreness, which may allow athletes to increase the number of their workout sessions.

Recommended Usage

Caffeine can help improve athletic performance when consumed in low-to-moderate dosages (3 to 6 mg per kilogram of body weight), one hour before workouts. Do not take caffeine in higher dosages as this doesn’t enhance your performance. [11] Taking more than the recommended dose may lead to troubling side effects such as gastrointestinal upset, nervousness, inability to focus, and disturbed sleeping patterns. For competitive athletes, caffeine is limited to a urine level below 12 micrograms per milliliter (or 6 to 8 cups).

Branched Chain Amino Acids (BCAAs)

BCAAs include the amino acids leucine, isoleucine, and valine, which help enhance performance for endurance events lasting longer than 3 hours. BCAAs are used during endurance exercises, and when they decrease, it may lead to an accelerated breakdown of glycogen in skeletal muscles. [12] Because skeletal muscles require glycogen for energy, this faster breakdown leads to premature muscle fatigue. In endurance athletes, this is called “the wall.”

Apart from influencing the muscular system, BCAAs also have an effect on the Central Nervous System (CNS). BCAAs contribute to improving athletic performance by lowering the concentration of serotonin, a central fatigue substance. It also reduces concentration of Creatinine Kinase (CK) and Lactate Dehydrogenase (LDH), substances that contribute to muscle damage.

One study showed that the combined supplementation of BCAA, arginine, and citrulline could enhance performance in competitive endurance athletes in 2 consecutive days. [13] Supplemented BCAA is also known to alleviate central fatigue -- a common CNS problem for endurance athletes -- allowing for better performance at the same level of perceived exertion.

Similar to Propionyl-L-Carnitine BCAA supplementation has also been shown to increase resistance to lipid oxidation, which aids in faster recovery after workouts. [14]

Recommended Usage

BCAAs are essential amino acids, which means that the body cannot produce them alone and must be sourced through diet or supplementation. It’s recommended to take the moderate amount of BCAAs before (2 - 6 grams per hour of exercise). If your training includes long and exhaustive workouts, make sure to supplement with 45 - 80 grams of carbohydrate per hour of exercise as pre-workout. You may also consider supplementing BCAAs after workouts remain physically and mentally strong during hard training days.

How to Get These Nutrients

To get these nutrients that are vital to your performance as endurance athletes, you can check this page. Remember to adjust dosages to know what’s right for your body and have a proper diet and resting schedule.

Resources

  1. Bloomer RJ, Tschume LC, Smith WA. Glycine propionyl-L-carnitine modulates lipid peroxidation and nitric oxide in human subjects.Int J Vitam Nutr Res. 2009 May;79(3):131-41. doi: 10.1024/0300-9831.79.3.131. PubMed PMID: 20209464.

  2. Mylonas C, Kouretas D. Lipid peroxidation and tissue damage. In Vivo. 1999 May-Jun;13(3):295-309. Review. PubMed PMID: 10459507.

  3. Bloomer RJ, Smith WA, Fisher-Wellman KH. Glycine propionyl-L-carnitine increases plasma nitrate/nitrite in resistance trained men. J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2007 Dec 3;4:22. PubMed PMID: 18053183; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC2211291.

  4. Kraemer WJ, Volek JS, French DN, Rubin MR, Sharman MJ, Gómez AL, Ratamess NA, Newton RU, Jemiolo B, Craig BW, Häkkinen K. The effects of L-carnitine L-tartrate supplementation on hormonal responses to resistance exercise and recovery. J Strength Cond Res. 2003 Aug;17(3):455-62. PubMed PMID: 12930169.

  5. Ferreira GC, McKenna MC. L-Carnitine and Acetyl-L-carnitine Roles and Neuroprotection in Developing Brain. Neurochem Res. 2017 Jun;42(6):1661-1675. doi: 10.1007/s11064-017-2288-7. Epub 2017 May 16. PubMed PMID: 28508995; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC5621476.

  6. Stephens FB, Constantin-Teodosiu D, Laithwaite D, Simpson EJ, Greenhaff PL. Insulin stimulates L-carnitine accumulation in human skeletal muscle. FASEB J. 2006 Feb;20(2):377-9. Epub 2005 Dec 20. PubMed PMID: 16368715.

  7. Christensen PM, Shirai Y, Ritz C, Nordsborg NB. Caffeine and Bicarbonate for Speed. A Meta-Analysis of Legal Supplements Potential for Improving Intense Endurance Exercise Performance. Front Physiol. 2017 May 9;8:240. doi: 10.3389/fphys.2017.00240. eCollection 2017. Review. PubMed PMID: 28536531; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC5422435.

  8. Image: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/core/lw/2.0/html/tileshop_pmc/tileshop_pmc_inline.html?title=Click%20on%20image%20to%20zoom&p=PMC3&id=5422435_fphys-08-00240-g0005.jpg

  9. Westerterp-Plantenga MS, Lejeune MP, Kovacs EM. Body weight loss and weight maintenance in relation to habitual caffeine intake and green tea supplementation. Obes Res. 2005 Jul;13(7):1195-204. PubMed PMID: 16076989.

  10. Hurley CF, Hatfield DL, Riebe DA. The effect of caffeine ingestion on delayed onset muscle soreness. J Strength Cond Res. 2013 Nov;27(11):3101-9. doi: 10.1519/JSC.0b013e3182a99477. PubMed PMID: 24164961.

  11. Goldstein ER, Ziegenfuss T, Kalman D, Kreider R, Campbell B, Wilborn C, Taylor L, Willoughby D, Stout J, Graves BS, Wildman R, Ivy JL, Spano M, Smith AE, Antonio J. International society of sports nutrition position stand: caffeine and performance. J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2010 Jan 27;7(1):5. doi: 10.1186/1550-2783-7-5. PubMed PMID: 20205813; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC2824625.

  12. Kim D-H, Kim S-H, Jeong W-S, Lee H-Y. Effect of BCAA intake during endurance exercises on fatigue substances, muscle damage substances, and energy metabolism substances. Journal of Exercise Nutrition & Biochemistry. 2013;17(4):169-180. doi:10.5717/jenb.2013.17.4.169.

  13. Cheng I-S, Wang Y-W, Chen I-F, Hsu G-S, Hsueh C-F, Chang C-K. The Supplementation of Branched-Chain Amino Acids, Arginine, and Citrulline Improves Endurance Exercise Performance in Two Consecutive Days. Journal of Sports Science & Medicine. 2016;15(3):509-515.

  14. Gualano AB, Bozza T, Lopes De Campos P, Roschel H, Dos Santos Costa A, Luiz Marquezi M, Benatti F, Herbert Lancha Junior A. Branched-chain amino acids supplementation enhances exercise capacity and lipid oxidation during endurance exercise after muscle glycogen depletion. J Sports Med Phys Fitness. 2011 Mar;51(1):82-8. PubMed PMID: 21297567.

 

Take your training and performance to the next level today. Your first purchase is on us.

Use the coupon 'PERFORM20' to get the discount!