Super 7: Supplements That Improve Endurance

Herbs such as cordyceps can provide many benefits to runners and other endurance athletes. Photo: www.shutterstock.com


These daily supplements can enhance the effects of your training.

As an endurance athlete, you might be interested in dietary supplements that have proven benefits to enhance oxygen efficiency, improve blood flow, balance hormone profile, and improve stress adaptation.

No amount of any herb is going to take you from the couch to the podium without your dedication to proper training and nutrition. However, if you’re already doing what you can in terms of diet and exercise, then adding a daily supplement to enhance the effects of your training might serve as a “biochemical tune-up” for your body and help you reach the next level of performance.

There are seven dietary supplements that have been evaluated in research studies of endurance athletes.

Rhodiola

Rhodiola helps improve oxygen transfer from lungs to red blood cells. It is a Himalayan root used by the Sherpa people to “adapt” to the stress of living and working at high altitudes. Even today, Sherpa climbers chew on rhodiola for an energy and endurance boost when helping mountaineers scale Mt. Everest.

One mechanism for rhodiola’s anti-fatigue effects is an enhancement of oxygen efficiency — with subjects living at high altitude (5,380 meters) showing a beneficial effect of rhodiola supplementation on blood oxygen levels, time to exhaustion, VO2 peak, and pulmonary ventilation during endurance exercise.

Dosage: 50-300mg (standardized to 5-6% rosavins)

RELATED: How To Choose And Use Supplements

Cordyceps

Cordyceps helps speed transfer of oxygen from red blood cells to mitochondria. It is a Tibetan mushroom used in traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) for “lung protection” and to balance the “Qi” — the fundamental “energy of life.” In clinical studies, cordyceps feeding results in significant improvements in fatigue, oxygen uptake, and endurance exercise performance.

Dosage: 100-500mg (standardized to 5-10% adenosine)

Eurycoma

Eurycoma balances two important hormones in the body —cortisol and testosterone. It is a root, often called Malaysian ginseng, that is used as a traditional remedy in Southeast Asia (Malaysia, Thailand, Vietnam) to help individuals “adapt” to the reduced energy and depressed mood that often come with chronic stress and overtraining.

Eurycoma contains a group of small peptides that are effective in restoring the balance between the cortisol and testosterone.

Dosage: 25-50mg (standardized to 20-25% eurypepides)

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Quercetin And Arginine

Quercetin (an antioxidant) and arginine (an amino acid) both improve blood flow by dilating blood vessels. They have been used effectively to improve blood flow in patients with high blood pressure and heart disease. They’ve also become popular in some endurance supplements, but it is unknown whether or not the small levels typically contained in some supplements would be effective in improving endurance performance.

Dosage: Quercetin, 100-300mg (pure); Arginine, 2,000-3,000mg (pure)

Eleuthero And Ashwagandha

Eleuthero (Siberian ginseng) and ashwagandha (Indian ginseng) provide resistance to physical stress and increase energy levels. They are used in traditional medicine as “adaptogens” to help the body adapt to stressful situations. Eleuthero tends to be more “energizing,” while Ashwagandha is regarded as more “relaxing” in its effects.

Dosage: Eleuthero, 100-200mg (standardized to 0.5-1% eleutherosides); Ashwagandha, 10-30mg (standardized to 5-10% withanolides)

RELATED: 7 Supplements That Aren’t A Total Waste Of Money

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About The Author:

Shawn Talbott holds a MS in exercise science (UMass) and a PhD in nutritional biochemistry (Rutgers) and competes in iron-distance triathlons and ultramarathons.

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