Supplements used to be marketed to the weight loss clients, physique competitors and bodybuilders out there who love pumping iron. But, they’re not the only ones who stand to benefit from incorporating supplements into their diet and exercise program.
Individuals who love endurance training and cardio can also benefit greatly from utilizing the right supplements in their training to help them last longer, push harder, and avoid fatigue during their challenging workouts.
Here are five of our favorite supplements to boost cardio and endurance training.
5 Supplements to Boost Cardio & Endurance Training
Many of us choose to start our day with the most widely consumed psychostimulant across the globe -- caffeine.
Be it in the form of coffee, tea, energy drinks, or pre-workout, caffeine is as ubiquitous as breathing in modern society.
As a stimulant, caffeine heightens alertness, sharpens focus, and boosts metabolism, but that’s not all it can do. Numerous studies have shown that caffeine is a valuable performance enhancer, especially when it comes to endurance training.[1,2]
In addition to increasing energy, caffeine also helps reduce perceived exertion -- basically how “hard” you feel you are pushing during a workout.
By lowering perceived exertion, caffeine helps athletes push harder and last longer during training, allowing them to accomplish more total work and get better results. Lastly, caffeine also helps delay the onset of fatigue by acting as an adenosine receptor antagonist.
Adenosine is a neurotransmitter in the body and when it binds to the adenosine receptors it slows down electrical conduction in the body and induces feelings of fatigue.
Muscles are made of protein, and that protein is composed of 20 amino acids held together by peptide bonds.
Nine of those 20 amino acids are dubbed “essential” as the human body cannot synthesize them, which means they must be obtained through diet.
Within this class of essential amino acids is a special subcategory of three amino acids collectively known as the branched-chain amino acids, or BCAAs for short.
The reason BCAAs get so much attention in the world of sports nutrition is that the three amino acids account for over ⅓ of your body's muscle protein. Furthermore, the “leader” of the amino acids, leucine, is a proven stimulator of the mTOR pathway -- the biological pathway that drives muscle protein synthesis.
Research has shown that BCAA supplementation can help decrease protein breakdown and reduce muscle damage induced by exercise, which may help decrease the severity of DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness).
Furthermore, supplementing with BCAA may also help delay the onset of fatigue.
You see, when you exercise, blood levels of BCAA decreases and levels of tryptophan increase. Tryptophan is subsequently converted to serotonin in the brain, which induces fatigue during exercise.
Since leucine and tryptophan use the same carriers in the body, supplementing with leucine (in the form of a BCAA supplement) helps block tryptophan uptake into the brain, thereby limiting serotonin production and the resulting onset of fatigue.
Cardiovascular and endurance exercise primarily relies on your aerobic energy system, which means it involves and relies on the presence of oxygen. If your aerobic conditioning isn’t up to snuff (e.g. huffing and puffing), your performance, stamina, and resistance to fatigue drops off very quickly.
PeakO2 is a patented blend of six organic adaptogenic mushrooms scientifically proven to enhance oxygen utilization, VO2 Max, and aerobic power (as much as 17.6%!) in as little as seven days of use![7,8]
The six mushrooms contained in PeakO2 are:
- Turkey tail
- King trumpet
- Lion's mane
These mushrooms act as adaptogens in the body, meaning they improve our ability to interact and recover from stress -- be it mental, physical or emotional. And, as we all know, exercise can be a very big stressor on the body.
Research has also shown that PeakO2 can improve time to exhaustion, workout capacity, and ventilatory threshold. Basically, if you want to perform better in your cardio workouts and endurance training, PeakO2 is something worth checking out!
When we exercise intensely for prolonged periods of time we lose a lot of fluids through sweat. But, water isn’t the only thing lost when we sweat. We also lose a considerable amount of electrolytes, and if we do not replace the lost fluids and electrolytes we experience declines in performance, stamina, and focus along with an increase in fatigue and the likelihood for injury
Even as little as a 2% drop in hydration can significantly impair performance.
This is why sports drinks and intra workout supplements include a healthy dose of electrolytes along with fluids.
If you’re going to be exercising for prolonged periods of time (especially outdoors) make sure to consume adequate amounts of fluids (water) and electrolytes before, during, and after training.
HICA stands for Alpha-Hydroxy-Isocaproic Acid and is a metabolite of the BCAA leucine -- the “anabolic trigger” of protein synthesis in the body. You’ll also see HICA referred to at times as leucic acid.
As a metabolite of leucine, HICA helps protect against muscle breakdown due to its anti-catabolic properties. The reason this is important is that prolonged bouts of exercise put muscles at risk for increased breakdown.
Supplementing with HICA may help protect against excessive muscle damage and protein breakdown, thereby decreasing the duration and severity of muscle soreness and allowing you to train more frequently.
Fuel Your Workouts with Sport Amino!
1Up Nutrition has created the ultimate endurance-boosting supplement in Sport Amino.
Each serving of Sport Amino delivers 5 grams of BCAA, including an impressive 3g of leucine to help stimulate protein synthesis and resist muscle breakdown. Also included are hydration-promoting electrolytes alongside PeakO2 and HICA to boost performance and strength.
And, to ensure you have ample energy from start to finish, Sport Amino utilizes a synergistic trifecta of fast and slow-acting caffeines.
Sport Amino is ideal to use before fasted cardio, endurance training or field sports. It can even be used whenever you need a smooth pick-me-up during the day that avoids the jitters and crash of coffee and energy drinks.
- Goldstein, E. R., Ziegenfuss, T., Kalman, D., Kreider, R., Campbell, B., Wilborn, C., … Antonio, J. (2010). International society of sports nutrition position stand: caffeine and performance. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, 7(1), 5. https://doi.org/10.1186/1550-2783-7-5
- Southward, K., Rutherfurd-Markwick, K. J., & Ali, A. (2018). The Effect of Acute Caffeine Ingestion on Endurance Performance: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Sports Medicine (Auckland, N.Z.), 48(8), 1913–1928. https://doi.org/10.1007/s40279-018-0939-8
- National Research Council (US) Subcommittee on the Tenth Edition of the Recommended Dietary Allowances. Recommended Dietary Allowances: 10th Edition. Washington (DC): National Academies Press (US); 1989. 6, Protein and Amino Acids.
- Blomstrand, E., Eliasson, J., Karlsson, H. K. R., & Kohnke, R. (2006). Branched-chain amino acids activate key enzymes in protein synthesis after physical exercise. J Nutr, 136.
- MacLean, D. A., Graham, T. E., & Saltin, B. (1994). Branched-chain amino acids augment ammonia metabolism while attenuating protein breakdown during exercise. The American Journal of Physiology, 267(6 Pt 1), E1010-22. https://doi.org/10.1152/ajpendo.1994.267.6.E1010
- Shimomura, Y., Murakami, T., Nakai, N., Nagasaki, M., & Harris, R. A. (2004). Exercise Promotes BCAA Catabolism: Effects of BCAA Supplementation on Skeletal Muscle during Exercise. J. Nutr., 134(6), 1583S – 1587. Retrieved from http://jn.nutrition.org/cgi/content/long/134/6/1583S
- Hirsch, K. R., Mock, M. G., Roelofs, E. J., Trexler, E. T., & Smith-Ryan, A. E. (2015). Chronic supplementation of a mushroom blend on oxygen kinetics, peak power, and time to exhaustion. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, 12(1), P45. https://doi.org/10.1186/1550-2783-12-S1-P45
- Wesley DD et al., “The effects of high and low-dose Cordyceps militaris-containing mushroom blend supplementation after seven and twenty-eight days,” American Journal of Sports Science, vol. 6, no. 1 (2018): 1-7
- Riebl SK, Davy BM. The Hydration Equation: Update on Water Balance and Cognitive Performance. ACSMs Health Fit J. 2013;17(6):21–28. doi:10.1249/FIT.0b013e3182a9570f
- Mero, A., Ojala, T., Hulmi, J., Puurtinen, R., Karila, T., & Seppälä, T. (2010). Effects of alfa-hydroxy-isocaproic acid on body composition, DOMS and performance in athletes. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, 7, 1. https://doi.org/10.1186/1550-2783-7-1