Fun runs, half-marathons and marathons happen almost every week, and ultra-races are no exception.
This trend is not surprising as long-distance races represent an ultimate challenge of the sport and attract those who are ready to test their abilities.
It is important to stress that an appropriate training program can produce good results. With training alone, a runner can expect a 10% to 30% improvement in performance.
However, the challenge of the longer distances is fundamentally metabolic in nature, and supplements can be an essential part of the athlete’s nutrition. Lack of vitamins and minerals is the most overlooked cause of the disappointing long-distance race results, not to mention the trickiest to manage as well.
It is a normal constituent of human muscle, where it functions as an essential component of the phosphocreatine (PCr) molecule. PCr in turn serves as an energy source for the resynthesis of adenosine triphosphate (ATP), the ultimate energy source for muscle contraction.
Your body can produce enough energy using this phosphocreatine system for 15 to 20 seconds of intense activity such as sprinting or weight lifting. After about 20 seconds, your supply of PCr is depleted. Your body can rebuild its supply of PCr using creatine stores, but this requires a brief recovery time of 45 to 60 seconds. That is why you must rest for a brief period after an all-out sprint.
Creatine can be very helpful during the training period as it improves performance during the interval sessions. It helps enhances muscle strength, which means more mass. However, take into account that loading on creatine before the race will not be useful and can actually worsen your performance due to water retention which is a side effect of this supplement.
To increase muscle PCr concentration, you need to ingest either high doses (20 to 25g per day) of creatine for five days or lower doses (3 to 5g per day) for up to 28 days. A maintenance dose of 2 to 3g per day is then recommended. When creatine is ingested in these high doses, the body terminates its usual creatine production.
Caffeine stimulates the release of a variety of neurotransmitters in the central nervous system, including catecholamines, dopamine, noradrenaline, adrenaline, and serotonin.
These transmitters increase vigilance, alertness, motivation, clarity of thinking, mental concentration, feelings of well-being, and a sense of energy that all contribute to your overall running performance. They also improve mental performance when you are fatigued or bored.
Caffeine might not be an essential supplement for an endurance runner. Probably, caffeine has the greatest potential to alleviate boredom and increase alertness during prolonged events. If you are a coffee lover, this can come as a bonus.
Have you ever struggled with recovery from long runs? Have you not been able to maintain your normal training pace, or felt lethargic during your training? Maybe, it is time to check your Vitamin D body stock.
Vitamin D enhances endurance performance. Receptors in our muscles and heart absorb the nutrient, which may, in turn, stimulate muscle function. Vitamin D also plays an essential role in reducing inflammation after exercise, thereby speeding up the recovery process between hard workouts.
To get sufficient vitamin D, you need to spend 10-20 minutes exposed to direct sunlight every day. As most of us avoid the hottest time of the day, hiding in air-conditioned offices and gyms, there is a high possibility to become Vitamin D deficient. Besides that, melanin affects the production of Vitamin D. So, those with more melanin, or darker skin, produce less Vitamin D.
To know whether you are Vitamin D deficient or not, have a 25(OH)D blood test that will tell you the Vitamin D amount that you get from different sources – food, supplements, and UV energy. It is easier to get Vitamin D from supplements. Follow the dosage stated on the package or the one that is recommended by your doctor.
There is almost nothing that fish oil cannot do as the number one source of Omega-3 fatty acids that are not produced by our bodies.
Omega-3 fatty acids reduce exercise-induced muscle damage and delayed-onset muscle soreness, thus speeding up the recovery between hard training sessions.
Supplementation with 3 grams of EPA and DHA (omega-3 fats found in cold water fish) daily contributes to better energy use and improved fat metabolism while improving the transport of red blood cells for enhanced oxygen delivery to the muscles.
For endurance athletes who are constantly under physical and environmental stress, fish oil is a must-take supplement.
Although protein has a reputation for being a staple in a bodybuilder’s diet, it is vital for healthy running. An adequate protein consumption improves athletic performance.
While carbohydrates are your body’s main fuel source, especially during runs, protein is the main source for healthy muscle growth and recovery, as it helps to rebuild stressed muscle fibers. This makes protein an essential element for injury prevention.
Endurance runners need more protein each day than short-distance runners. If you engage in light to moderate cardiovascular training, you need 0.55 to 0.8 grams of protein per pound of body weight, and if you regularly participate in heavy endurance training at high intensities, you require 0.7 to 0.9 grams of protein per pound of body weight each day.