Endurance & Energy Boosters

Posted in: Strength And Endurance  on Friday, August 15, 2008
By Jose Antonio, Ph.D., CSCS
Supplement your diet with these ingredients to help boost your energy and endurance.

To increase endurance, you have to have a tried and true strategy, a new strategy and a more obscure strategy. So buckle up your chinstraps and get ready for an energy-filled endurance ride! Below we will look at how you can supplement your diet to support your energy levels and endurance abilities.

Caffeine: the quintessential pick-me-up
Caffeine not only jacks up your metabolism, but also gives you the energy to exercise better1.  Funny, though, caffeine used to be banned by the International Olympic Committee (for Olympic athletes to use), but it has currently been removed from the banned list. And that’s despite the fact that we know caffeine is a honest-to-god ergogenic aid!2,3

For instance, one of the earliest studies on caffeine showed that time to exhaustion was over 19 percent greater in the caffeine trial compared to the decaffeinated trial. Also, caffeine supplementation prior to exercise reduced muscle glycogen utilization by 30 percent.4  Another study5 reported a 55 percent decrease in muscle glycogenolysis in just the first 15 minutes of exercise during the caffeine trail. This would suggest that caffeine can help spare muscle glycogen during exercise. Not bad. But there’s more.

Late-breaking work by Bell and co-workers have further substantiated the ergogenic effects of caffeine as well as how this effect can be maintained throughout the day.6

So how much do you need to take to give you an energy boost and help you run on that treadmill just a little bit longer or pump iron with just a bit more intensity? A dose of 5 mg caffeine per kg of body weight is needed to see performance effect. This positive effect can be seen with endurance exercise as well as sprint performance.7

Myth Busters: We do know that caffeine consumption stimulates a mild diuresis similar to water; meaning you urinate just a wee bit more. However, there is no evidence of a fluid-electrolyte imbalance that hurts exercise performance or health. Thus, the notion that caffeine might have a detrimental effect because of its mild diuretic effect not supported by science.8

Though not usually mentioned in the same breath as energy or endurance, you may want to revisit this interesting supplement. In a recent study, rats were randomly assigned to one of three groups: a sedentary control group (SC), an exercise-trained control group (EC) and an exercise-trained, octacosanol-supplemented group (EO). They were raised on either control or octacosanol (0.75 percent)-supplemented diet with (or without for SC rats) exercise-training for 4 weeks. EC rats ran 184 percent longer until exhaustion than SC rats! But even better than that, the octacosanol-supplemented trained rats ran 46 percent longer than EC rats. Scientists think that octacosanol works by sparing muscle glycogen stores and improving the aerobic or oxidative capacity in the muscle of exercise-trained rats.9

Protein Power
What happens when you take a sports drink and add some protein?  Well, it improves the drink. Here’s the proof: A recent study compared endurance cycling performance and post-exercise muscle damage when consuming a carbohydrate and protein beverage (CHO+P; 7.3 percent and 1.8 percent concentrations) versus a carbohydrate-only (CHO; 7.3 percent) beverage. Fifteen cyclists road to exhaustion followed by another ride to exhaustion 12 to 15 hours later. They drank about 1.8 mL x kg BW of randomly assigned CHO or CHO+P beverage every 15 min of exercise, and 10 mL x kg BW immediately after exercise. That translates into about 5 ounces every 15 minutes and then 27 ounces of fluid post-exercise (for a 175 lb individual). So you’re drinking reasonable quantities. Beverages had the same carbohydrate content, resulting in 20 percent lower total caloric content per administration of CHO beverage. So what did they find?

In the first ride subjects rode 29 percent longer when consuming the CHO+P beverage. The CHO=P group lasted 106 minutes versus 82 minutes for the CHO only group. Even better, during the second ride, the CHO+P group lasted 40 percent longer!

Another interesting finding was that muscle damage, as measured by peak post-exercise plasma CPK levels was 83 percent lower after the CHO+P trial than the CHO only trial.10

So given the choice, should you consume the quintessential sports drink, or perhaps spike it with some protein. Come on, that’s a no-brainer!

Training to increase your endurance may help you make some gains, but fueling your body to meet those challenges will get you there a lot faster!