Health Supplements for Increased Athletic Endurance and Recovery
Very active individuals such as athletes do not only need to increase their strength and speed – they also want to improve their endurance and recovery. To achieve these goals, they are often advised to eat a healthy diet that includes enough carbohydrates and lean proteins, and to spend more time doing intensive workouts to build up their muscles and improve their skills. Aside from these, many athletes also use ergogenic aids, or substances that can boost their strength and endurance, thus giving them a greater advantage, especially during competitions.
Since the most effective ergogenic aids (steroids, stimulants and hormones) are not only illegal, but dangerous, too, many turn to using natural alternatives to improve their sports performance. Therefore, taking health supplements that support muscle repair and recovery has become an essential part of training. Nutritional supplements that contain natural ingredients like alphalipoic acid and l-carnitine have been shown to enhance metabolism and healthy cell function, which complement their natural fitness plans. Another component of overall fitness is getting enough rest and sleep, which promotes fast healing and repair. Supplements such as melatonin can help active people relax naturally and give their bodies time to recover after intense physical activity.
Supplements that Promote Endurance and Recovery
This is one of the most popular and well-studied supplements that is believed to enhance athletic performance. Creatine is a naturally-occurring substance in the body that plays a crucial role in energy production. It is converted to phosphocreatine, which is stored as energy to be used by the muscles. It is believed that taking creatine supplements will help build up a reserve of energy in the muscles, which will be used on demand, especially during intense activity. Research shows that creatine can help improve performance in athletes who do repeated short bursts of high-intensity activity followed by rest periods of sufficient length.
Branched-chain Amino Acids
Amino acids are substances that form proteins. Three of these are called branched-chain amino acids or BCAAs (isoleucine, leucine, and valine) because of the shape of their molecules. Since muscles have a high BCAA content, some experts think that greater amounts of BCAAs are needed for strength training and endurance exercises than for normal daily activities. This is why many athletes take BCAA supplements – to build muscles, improve their performance, delay fatigue, and promote recovery.
Whey protein is often used as a bodybuilding aid because it is rich in BCAAs. Furthermore, other supplements such as casein and soy protein supplements have similar ergogenic benefits.
Hydroxymethyl Butyrate (HMB)
HMB is a natural-occurring chemical that that results from the breakdown of leucine, an amino acid that is found in high concentrations in the muscles. Heavy athletic training may lead to damage to the muscles, which results in breakdown of leucine and increased HMB levels. Research suggests that taking HMB supplements may signal the body to reduce muscle destruction, which can help enhance muscle mass and strength. Some studies also suggest that HMB may help improve muscle-growth during weight training.
Colostrum is known as first milk, the fluid that is produced in the new mothers’ breasts after the birth of their baby. Supplemental colostrum from bovines such as cows is known to contain growth factors that can enhance muscle development, increase lean mass, improve performance and improve immune resistance.
These are fats that have unusual molecular structures that allow the body to digest them easily, absorb them intact and use them directly for energy. Therefore, they are processed like carbohydrates, and are believed to work as an alternative to “carbo-loading” during intense physical activity. Supplements can provide concentrated sources of easily utilized energy.
Other Amino Acids
Athletes also use other amino acids individually or in combination. These include glutamine, ornithine, and arginine. Arginine is a powerful amino acid that helps increase blood flow to your muscles during intense physical activity, thus aiding in shuttling important nutrients and ergogenic supplements to be used for improved performance. However, more studies are needed to support the use of amino acids as ergogenic aids.
This naturally-occurring substance is closely related to amino acids and is used to convert fat into energy. It is believed that carnitine supplementation may improve the ability of tissues to produce energy and enhance sports performance.
Vitamin C supplements may play a role in aiding recovery from the negative effects of intense exercise. It has been found that muscle soreness and lowered resistance to respiratory infections are associated with high-intensity endurance exercises. Some studies suggest that vitamin C may help prevent this, as shown by some studies.
Other Natural Treatments
Other health supplements that can help improve athletic endurance and recovery include:
- Glutamine, which has been found to help prevent infections after intense exercise.
- Probiotics, or good bacteria, which not only help prevent intestinal infections, but help prevent colds, too.
- Antioxidants that are believed to help prevent muscle soreness and muscle damage after heavy exercise include astaxanthin with lycopene, beta-carotene, coenzyme Q 10, selenium, and vitamins C and E.
- Vitamin B Complex, which help sustain and regulate energy levels and promote metabolism.
- Fish oil, which contains healthy fats that are essential for supporting athletes during an intense training program.
In general, health experts recommend eating a healthy, balanced diet that includes a variety of foods to support the body’s nutritional needs. Consult your doctor about taking health supplements, especially if you have medical condition that may be affected by taking supplemental nutrients.
This information should not take the place of medical advice. We encourage you to talk to your health care providers (doctor, registered dietitian, pharmacist, etc.) about your interest in, questions about, or use of dietary supplements and what may be best for your overall health.
NYU Langone. Sports and Fitness Support: Enhancing Performance. http://www.med.nyu.edu/content?ChunkIID=38221
Muscle&Strength. Best Supplements For MMA: Increase Your Fighting Performance And Recovery.http://www.muscleandstrength.com/articles/supplements-mma-increase-performance
Beat Healthy Runners. Nutrition Supplements that Increase Strength and Endurance. http://besthealthyrunners.com/wp/healthy-runner/2011/06/nutrition-supplements-that-increase-strength-and-endurance-by-michael-marrs/