Liam Hallam is a sports science graduate. He is also a keen cyclist and a lover of the Derbyshire Dales and Peak District.
Which sports supplements should you be taking for endurance performance?
Sports Nutrition to increase Endurance, Stamina and Energy Levels
Sports supplements are nutritional products with concentrated levels of nutrients in supplementation of the normal diet and are designed to have a positive effect on sporting performance levels. The effect can either be nutritional or physiological.
Sports Supplements are marketed towards sportspeople with the purpose of improving their sporting performance and it is possible to split them down into three distinct categories
- Energy and Endurance
- Muscle Mass, Strength and Power
- Recovery Post Exercise.
This article will concentrate on sports supplements and nutrition which targets category 1- Energy and Endurance sports supplements.
Isotonic Sports Drinks for Improved Endurance Performance
Isotonic sports drinks help to replace fluid during and after exercise and provide carbohydrate to fuel working muscles.
The presence of electrolytes in these drinks help the body to better retain this fluid and are also considered vital in preventing muscle cramps.
Examples of these products are Gatorade, Powerade, Lucozade Sport, Science in Sport Go Electrolyte, Hammer Nutrition Perpetual and Hammer Nutrition Heed. All of which are Isotonic nutritional products.
Simple Isotonic sports drinks are relative easy to make yourself. You could easily make your own Isotonic sports drinks for during exercise.
Hypotonic Energy Drinks
Hypotonic sports drinks provide higher levels of carbohydrate than the regular- isotonic type sports drinks. These drinks help to maintain blood sugar levels and slow down rates of glycogen depletion.
Examples of these drinks are Science in Sport PSP22, Lucozade Energy and even Coca-Cola can also be used as a Hypertonic energy drink and has been drunk for many years by cyclists on the Tour De France.
Energy Bars, Gels and Other Energy Products
Energy bars provide a convenient source of carbohydrate for athletes before during and after intense exercise.
Energy gels are designed to provide a high concentration of carbohydrate to help delay fatigue and improve performance. Usually they need to be taken with a sufficient amount of fluid however a number of companies are now producing Isotonic Energy Gels which negate the need to consume extra water.
Jelly Belly- Sports Jelly Beans
Performance endurance sports nutrition. Jelly Belly Sport Beans
Jelly Belly (pictured right) produce jelly beans as traditional sweets and have over the last few years pioneered Sportbeans which include
- Carbohydrates to fuel your body during endurance exercise.
- Electrolytes which are vital for maintaining fluid balance.
- Vitamin B1, B2, & B3 to help burn carbohydrates and fat to create energy.
- Vitamin C to protect muscles and cells against oxidative damage.
Coffee. The endurance athlete's favourite drink
Caffeine to improve endurance performance
The general effect of caffeine is to cause arousal of the central nervous system, mobilisation of free fatty acids and other metabolites leading decreased reliance on glycogen stores for energy.
Caffeine is classed as a pharmaceutical compound (drug) as it has no nutritional value for the body.
Caffeine has been shown to significantly improve time to exhaustion in cyclists although amount ingested must be above 200 mg of caffeine to make a significant difference on performance.
The below shows levels of caffeine in various drinks
How much caffeine is in my coffee?
Average cup[i] of instant coffee 75mg caffeine
Average mug of instant coffee 100mg caffeine
Average cup of brewed coffee 100mg caffeine
Average mug of tea 75mg caffeine
Regular Cola drink up to 40mg caffeine
Regular energy drink up to 80mg caffeine (Example Red Bull)
Milk Chocolate Bar up to 25mg caffeine
i. An average cup contains 150-175 ml of liquid.
ii. An average mug contains between 250-300 ml of liquid
Tall (16oz) Starbucks Bold Pick of the Day 260 mg caffeine (See above right)
Too much caffeine can actually diminish performance levels and this drug is not on the WADA banned substances list
Ephedrine / Ma Huang and Endurance performance
Ma Huang, a Chinese herb is a powerful central nervous system stimulant which is often known as herbal ephedrine. It's active compounds include ephedra. Ephedrine is marketed towards endurance sports athletes for increasing endurance capacity however it is banned by the 2011 prohibited list by WADA International Standards. .
The Effect of Ginseng on endurance performance
Despite being taken by many endurance athletes Ginseng has not been proven to have an effect on endurance performance therefore it is not recommended as a sports supplement for endurance athletes. It has not been proven to have an effect on running or cycling performance.
Sports Nutrition and Endurance Performance
Thermogenics for Endurance Sport Performance
Thermogenics (fat burners or diet pills) claim to speed up the body metabolism and therefore help an endurance performance by helping the athlete achieve a lower body mass. This is particularly important in sports where body weight and equipment weight can have an adverse effect on performance such as cycling, particularly when the athlete is racing on hilly and mountainous routes as a reduced bodyweight in relation to strength allows the cyclist to help fight the effects of gravity while climbing. Bicycling nutrition and maintenance of a healthy weight is paramount to achieving optimum performance levels.
Boxers may also resort to using thermogenic fat burning products to help them make a weight for an upcoming fight.
Typical constituents of Fat Burners
The most potent thermogenics utilise ephedrine (or ephedra), a powerful stimulant which increases thermogenesis and metabolic rate to increase calories burnt daily by the athlete. However as described above ephedrine is on the WADA banned substances list and therefore could lead to a failed drug test and therefore should not be recommended.
Green Tea and weight loss for endurance athletes
Ephedrine free fat burners
Regularly found in Ephedrine Free Fat Burners are
Green Tea Extract.
The active compunds in Green tea are polyphenols (catechins) and flavanols. The main catechins include EC- epicatechin, ECG- epicatechin gallate, EGC- epigallocatechin and EGCG- epigallocatechin gallate. These are potent antioxidants and also have been shown to have a mild increase in thermogenesis. Do not expect miracles however as this has only be shown to be less than 100 calories per day. (Although it all adds up!)
Green tea also contains caffeine which can lead to improved endurance performance.
Citrus aurantium is a weak stimulant which is chemically similar to ephedrine. It contains a compund called synephrine. A synthetic ephedrine which has been claimed to raise metabolic rate and suppress appetite.
Coleus forskohlii (Plectranthus barbatus)
Coleus forskohlii (Plectranthus barbatus) produces forskolin which it has been considered stimulates adenyl cyclase (cAMP) activity. Coleus may, theoretically, be a weight loss agent, especially for those with reduced Cyclic AMP production. However it's effectiveness is yet to be proven and previous studies have shown no significant effect on weight loss in short term trials. Therefore Coleus forskohlii has no effect on endurance performance.
Sports Nutrition Reading
Boost Your Endurance- Great links to help you improve stamina and energy
- Sport Beans - Energizing Jelly Beans
Sport Beans by Jelly Belly - Official Site. Scientifically Formulated to Maximize Sports Performance
- Endurance Supplements | Performance Supplements | Training Supplements
EPO BOOST is an endurance supplement designed to promote superior physical performance & endurance, and significantly increase strength and speed.
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2. Lieberman HR, Tharion WJ, Shukitt-Hale B, Speckman KL, Tulley R. Effects of caffeine, sleep loss, and stress on cognitive performance and mood during u. S Navy seal training Psychopharmacology. 2002;164:250–61.
5. Ping F, Keong C, Bandyopadyay A. Effects of acute supplementation of Panax ginseng on endurance running in a hot & humid environment. Indian J Med Res. 2011 January; 133(1): 96–102.
6. Bean A, Sports supplements: which supplements really work. London. A & C Black 2007.
7. Henderson S, et al. Effects of Coleus Forskohlii Supplementation on Body Composition and Hematological Profiles in Mildly Overweight Women. J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2005; 2(2): 54–62.
Liam Hallam (author) from Nottingham UK on May 10, 2013:
Thanks dobo, please head back and let me know how you get on- Nutrition is vital in cycling performance and endurance.
dobo700 from Australia on May 09, 2013:
Very helpful, thanks. I will give it a try on my local group ride this weekend