Endurance exercise taxes the body, and nutrition is crucial in order for the body to handle the physical stress. Here we look at how endurance training affects the body, and then discuss six supplements which can effectively support bodily health for this kind of exercise.
The Demands of Endurance Exercise on the Body
Endurance exercise such as running, cycling, and swimming place multiple demands on the body. Nutrition is crucial for the body to be able to perform endurance exercise, as well as recover from it. The right nutritional supplements can aid in both performance and recovery.
Before discussing helpful supplements for endurance athletes, let’s see what bodily changes occur due to endurance exercise. Endurance in this context is characterized by the body’s ability to tolerate endurance exercise and diminish fatigue. Both the cardiovascular and musculo-skeletal systems are taxed by endurance exercise, and forced to adapt as a result.
Cardiovascular changes take place that increase aerobic power and exercise performance. These include increased cardiac dimension, and improved structure and number of arteries and capillaries – these improve oxygen delivery. Skeletal muscle adapts as mitochondrial biogenesis increases, as does capillary density. These increase the body's ability to transport oxygen, produce energy, and delay muscular fatigue during exercise.
Supplements for Endurance Athletes
Nutrition is crucial for fueling and recovering from endurance exercise. A full and varied diet is integral. The right supplements provide extra nutrition and are sought out by athletes for the marginal benefits they can provide. Here are six effective supplements for endurance athletes:
Magnesium is a critically necessary mineral. It works as an electrolyte in the body, helping to transport calcium and potassium ions across cell membranes, which is necessary to maintain heartbeat, deliver nerve signals, and perform muscle contractions. Endurance athletes can be prone to magnesium deficiency because magnesium is lost in sweat. Supplementing with magnesium supports athletic performance, prevents muscle cramps, and supports the structural integrity of bones.
Creatine monohydrate has a reputation for supporting athletes doing strength training, but it can also support the bodies of those engaged in endurance exercise. Creatine supports energy expenditure in muscles, especially at points in an endurance race of increased intensity, such as going uphill or at the end of a race.
Vitamin B12 is necessary for the cells to produce energy. Deficiency in vitamin B12 is a common cause of excessive fatigue in runners. Endurance athletes on a plant-based diet are especially vulnerable to B12 deficiency.
Calcium is the most abundant mineral in the body. It’s crucial for bone health, muscle contraction, heart health, nerve functioning, and the secretion of certain hormones. Calcium works best in the body alongside magnesium.
Cordyceps is a mushroom, and its use originates in traditional Eastern medicine. It has been traditionally used for lung health, and scientific studies suggest that taking cordyceps can result in reduced fatigue and improved performance in endurance exercise.
Zinc supports recovery from exercise in a few ways. Firstly, zinc helps maintain healthy cell membranes and repair, and also prevents oxidative damage to cells. Zinc also improves the quality and quantity of sleep, which is absolutely crucial for recovery.
Endurance athletes should rightly pay attention to their nutrition and nutrient intake. In addition to a healthy diet, one or more of these supplements can make for an excellent nutritional tool to support endurance exercise performance, recovery, or both. Talk to your healthcare provider before taking one of these supplements.