Life Extension Magazine®

Issue: Jan 1996

Nutrients That Increase Endurance

Practical information on supplemental nutrients that can help you achieve greater stamina and endurance.

Scientifically reviewed by: Dr. Gary Gonzalez, MD, on January 2021.

Also See:
By John Abdo Fitness Trainer

We would all like to have more energy. Energy helps us get through the day easier. It makes life more enjoyable and more productive. In addition to proper eating, which is the foundation for health and longevity, there are many dietary supplements available to increase stamina and endurance. Before I discuss the benefits of supplemental nutrients, let's take a look at what it means to eat properly.

Eating The Wrong Foods

Improper-eating habits burden the body in many ways. Digestion is sluggish. Assimilation even worse. And bowel movements are irregular. Why? Because eating the wrong foods puts enormous stress on the body. When your digestive system is subjected to overload from fatty, sugary foods, extra energy is needed for their breakdown, assimilation, and excretion. Energy that would otherwise be available for daily chores, exercise, and enjoying the pleasures of life.

After foods are broken down, they journey throughout the body for use in building new body tissues, repairing damaged cells, and providing us with energy.

In the intervascular spaces, food particles are transported to the various sites in the body to carry out their respective roles in growth, maintenance, and cellular repair

Eating right means avoiding unhealthy foods, while consuming an adequate supply of energy-building, disease-fighting fruits and vegetables, high quality protein from low-fat sources, whole-grain breads, cereals, and pastas, and essential fatty acids from sources such as fish and olive oil. It also means drinking pure, mineral-rich water, fruit and vegetable juices, and other wholesome liquids.

Nutrients That Enhance The Benefits Of Exercise

Many people think that eating the right foods and taking supplemental nutrients have nothing to do with exercising for fitness and longevity. The truth, however, is that eating well, taking supplements, and replenishing liquids are critically important in obtaining health and conditioning benefits from both aerobic and anaerobic exercise, and in building the stamina and endurance we need for optimal performance and enjoyment in life. Nutritional support for fitness training, in turn, helps us improve our eating habits by enabling us to control our appetite and turn the foods we eat into lean, healthy tissue.

Fueling Your Muscles For Optimal Performance

Contrary to what many people believe, the so-called pre-workout drink or meal is not the most effective way of fueling your muscles for optimal performance. Sure energy can be generated from foods (or drinks) eaten before a workout, but this energy is in the form of glucose, which is a faster burning fuel than the fuel you can obtain when you time your meals properly. You can use the so-called sports drinks to fuel your workouts, as long as these drinks are consumed during regular intervals throughout the workout to enable your blood sugar levels to remain consistent, and to avoid crashes in energy and performance.

Your body burns the fuel it has initial access to, which is, most often, glucose from meals or drinks consumed shortly before engaging in an activity. When glucose is not used as fuel immediately, your body has the ability to convert it into a longer-acting fuel source called glycogen, which is shuttled out of the bloodstream and stored in your muscles and liver where it waits to be used for energy production.

Most often, nonconverted glucose turns to fat. This is why high carbohydrate diets don't make us any leaner. But when glucose is consumed immediately after a workout, after your fuel sources have been depleted, your body shifts to "repletion mode" and converts a much higher percentage of the carbohydrates (or sugars) consumed into glycogen -- the more powerful and longer acting fuel source.

During intense, lengthy exercise periods, your muscles and liver often become glycogen depleted. Glycogen is comprised of carbon (C), oxygen (0), and hydrogen (H) extracted from the carbohydrates we eat. When carbohydrates are eaten, these components are broken off from these foods and reassembled in the muscles to form glycogen. Glycogen is used for short bursts of energy. The more glycogen you have the more short bursts you can perform in weight workouts, tennis matches, playing basketball, and other such activities. The more short bursts you utilize in your training regimen, the more glycogen you deplete. When you become fatigued from exercising, you can be sure that you're low in glycogen.

When To Replenish Glycogen

The best time to replenish depleted glycogen is immediately after a workout, and I do mean immediately! This is the time when your muscles are drained of their energy in the form of glycogen. The first metabolic objective Mother Nature has is the replenishment of lost energy. Once your energy is replenished (in the form of glycogen), your body shifts to a tissue repairing mode of metabolism known as anabolism, which utilizes protein. This is why protein meals should follow carbohydrate meals.

This refueling method will lead to improved energy and performance during upcoming workouts. You need to "fill up your car with gas" right away, even when you're not necessarily going to drive it again for some time. If you do so properly, the next time you get into your car you'll have a full tank of gas and be able to travel farther by reducing the number of pit stops you need to refuel.

Waiting to consume a carbohydrate meal or drink only 15-30 minutes after exercise can dramatically narrow this glycogen repletion window of opportunity. Those who fail to eat or drink a carbohydrate meal immediately after a workout are missing their best opportunity to refuel themselves efficiently.

Consuming Simple Carbohydrates

The best ways of restoring glycogen after exercise is by consuming simple carbohydrates as your exercise session is closing and, again, immediately afterwards. If you're involved in any type of marathon training, sip on a carbohydrate drink frequently throughout your training session, and then again right after the session.

Carbohydrate drinks have become popular due to their convenience and taste. These products are high in good simple carbs and are assimilated very rapidly within the body. With their high glycemic response, simple sugars taken at the opportune time combine with insulin and are then shuttled into the muscles and liver. However, if these carbs are taken outside of training or exercise periods, excess body fat may develop as your muscles may already have filled their glycogen needs and the excess glycogen may accumulate as adiPose (fat) tissue.

Following Up With Complex Carhohydrates

Although there are plenty of good carbohydrate drinks available on the market, the best ones contain long-chain glucose polymers (sugars with a special configuration and high glycemic rating). After simple carbs are consumed, complex carbohydrates should be eaten for the first two meals after each workout. Some great food sources of complex carbohydrates are rice, potatoes, grains, bread, pasta, and beans.

Your protein window of opportunity begins 00-90 minutes after your exercise session ends and lasts for many hours thereafter, depending upon the intensity of the workout. You need to consume protein when your body is switching from its fuel replenishing phase into its tissue rebuilding phase (anabolism). Never consume a protein food or drink close to the time of a workout. At this point, protein will not act as a fuel source for your workout and may hinder your performance.

Improving Insulin Performance With Chromium Picolinate

As mentioned before, when sugar enters your muscle cells it is converted into glycogen where it is retained and used as fuel. Insulin plays a major role in regulating sugar metabolism, however many people have muscles that are insensitive to insulin for various reasons. This is why so many people get or stay fat, even while eating healthy meals consisting of fruits, vegetables, and other complex carbohydrate foods. Insulin transports sugar to the appropriate tissues, but sometimes the tissues reject the delivery and send the sugar back into the bloodstream where it can turn into fat.

Tissue sensitivity for insulin is enhanced when sufficient amounts of chromium are present in the body. In its picolinate form, chromium is a key micronutrient that helps insulin shuttle more sugar into your muscles and liver for conversion into glycogen.

The best time to use chromium picolinate is when you consume high carbohydrate meals. As noted, your body prefers to replenish depleted glycogen right after exercise. Supplementing a carbohydrate meal (drink or food) with chromium ensures more glycogen replenishment and less accumulation of body fat. Additionally, those who use chromium picolinate regularly develop better shape and tone in their muscles.

L-Carnitine To Improve Energy Metabolism

Like chromium, L-carnitine has similar action. Rut instead of shuttling sugar into tissues, L-carnitine shuttles fat. Cells contain organelles called mitochondria, which are factories where fat is burned as fuel. Mitochondria are like the fireplace in your home, with logs representing fat. As long as you shovel the logs into the fireplace, they will be burned to generate heat and energy, but if the logs aren't tossed into the fireplace, there s nothing to burn. L-carnitine grabs the logs and tosses them into your fireplace by attaching itself to fat and transporting this fat into the mitochondria within your cells.

Fat is our longest-acting source of energy, a source that's almost impossible to run out of. Sugar, on the other hand, can be depleted in just a few seconds or minutes of activity -- try running 100 yards as fast as you can and see how much energy you have left. When sufficient L-carnitine is in the bloodstream, fat will consistently be delivered into the mitochondria and used as fuel.

The best time to take L-carnitine is one hour before exercising and immediately thereafter. Once inside your body, L-carnitine will start to recruit fat and begin transporting it into your mitochondria. When exercise ceases, and energy requirements subside, L-carnitine will continue to shuttle fat into your mitochondria where it can be stored for future use.

Velvet Deer Antler

Soviet sports scientists began experimenting with velvet deer antler extracts on athletes as a natural [and safe] anabolic steroid alternative. Their findings indicated an increase in work capacity, decreased skeletal muscular fatigue, improved mental functions, and an improvement in muscle recovery after training.

One controlled study found that antler extracts improved performance in athletes on an exercise cycle from 15 kg/m dynamic work to 74 kg/m, which is a considerable increase. Based upon his work with athletes, Arkady Koltun, M.D., Ph.D., a former Soviet sports scientist stated that:

"INFOrmation gathered from Siberian scientific research institutions demonstrated that using antler extracts on athletes produced neurotropic (nerve growth) benefits as well as myotropic (muscle tissue growth) effects. Using this substance enhances innervation for skeletal tissues, important for maximal athletic output. Soviet research also shows that nervous system depression after exhaustion is restored much quicker."

As a proven booster of the immune, cardiovascular, and endocrine systems, antler extracts have been contributing to health for centuries. Recently, antler use has penetrated Western health and medical practice. Its use in athletes has established a reputation for it as a natural, safe perforrnance-enhancing supplement.

Antler use is beneficial for both strength and endurance athletes, and for both anaerobic and aerobic systems. Antler contains the bioactive constituents that exhibit myotropic and neurotropic properties while at the same time, benefiting the central nervous and circulatory systems. In fact, Oriental doctors use antler extracts to increase hemoglobin and blood volume. With an increase in blood circulation, more efficient oxygen utilization results and endurance is improved.

These are a few of the dietary supplements that help you achieve optimal aerobic nutrition. We'll be discussing other such nutrients in future issues of Fitness For Longevity.

John Abdo is an Olympic strength coach, Certified Fitness Trainer, Certified Strength & Conditioning Specialist, and co-executive producer and host of Training & Nutrition 2000 (TN 2000), a syndicated television series seen weekly on the Prime Sports Channel Network. If you'd like more INFOrmation about John Abdo or TN 2000, or wish to submit your comments or questions to him, please write to: John Ahdo, Fitness For Longevity, P,O. Box 229120, Ft. Lauderdale, FL, 33022.