If you want to become good at something, it is in your best interest to do it often, but more importantly, do it with proper preparation. There is something special to be said about taking the time to prepare your body to the best of its capabilities before heading into a competition, a training session or heck, even just “a day at the office”; they all are platforms to generate opportunities for success.
As noble as it is to “grind it out“, “grin and bear it“, or “activate beast mode“, after miles and miles of running, the mind becomes exhausted trying to tune out a pounding heartbeat, burning lungs, and jelly legs. If it’s a long run, it is always a good option to bring portable energy (gels, bars, nuts, hydration, etc.), but what can be overlooked is what you put into your body before headed out on your journey in the first place.
The method of loading up on carbohydrates like bread, pasta, and fruit is outdated, and research shows that carbohydrates are not as complete and necessary as you might hear or think. Are they the worst for you to use as a fuel? No, they pose benefits your body can use, but it is more of a low-quality gasoline to put into your human fuel tank. Do you want to perform better? If yes, what if there was a way for you to;
a) Fuel your body without having to digest food, meaning more energy for your legs
b) Improve performance without drugs (or superpowers)
c) Enjoy the run 10x more because you can smile and breathe easily instead of scouring and sucking wind through a straw
I have been experimenting with pre-running meals for the past few years, and as I’ve learned more about what the body needs to thrive, I have felt a huge jump in my own performance. These 5 Super Supplements have fueled training, recovery, and competition runs, helping me and my training partners maintain power late in the race and through the finish line instead of stumbling across it (most recently my Spartan Super, placing in the top 25% in the Elite Men’s division, 5k Road Race coming in 3rd overall, and in a 10k Road Race placing 28th/833).
If you are someone interested in entering a competition with more confidence, prestige, and unlocking untapped energy, than this article is for you hands down. But if you are more interested in improving your workouts, feeling more comfortable on long hikes, activities, or even generate more energy throughout the day, then I highly recommend what these supplements can offer you as well.
Branched Chain Amino Acids (BCAAs)
These guys have a reputation for being the “building blocks of proteins” that are being pumped into sports fuel, energy snacks, workout beverages, and recovery shakes. But what makes these so special now?
“The role of amino acids goes beyond building blocks – they are essential for the synthesis of proteins, enzymes, hormones, neurotransmitters, metabolic pathways, mental stabilization, and just about every function that takes place within the human body.” –Ben Greenfield
BCAA’s are metabolized in your muscle rather than your liver, which is odd in itself because the liver is the head honcho to synthesize substances entering the body, convert them into usable energy sources, and distribute them to balance energy in the body. In bypassing the liver, these Branched Chain Amino Acids can be used right away as an energy source during exercise to prevent premature muscle breakdown.
For those of you wanting some science to back it up, studies have shown BCAA’s to…
- Increase Red Blood Cell Count= Less inflammation in muscles, tissues, and joints during and after exercise
- Increase Hemoglobin = Improved transportation of oxygen from your lungs to muscles; meaning your tissues are able to “fight the burn” more easily
- Lower Fasting Blood Glucose = Better storage of carbohydrates in the muscle, rather than burning them early on. This helps you retain your energy as time goes on
Supplementing with BCAA’s has been scientifically shown to improve recovery of muscle strength, and more impressively, slow the breakdown of muscle during intense training. So rather than keeling over on that big ass mountain to climb late in your journey, now your rate of exertion can be legitimately decreased, allowing you to fight through that yuck with more power and prestige.
I have bounced back and forth between brands of collagen peptides protein. Vital Proteins, Ancient Nutrition, and most recently, Great Lakes Gelatin have all given my body tangible benefits (both on and off of the course).
In a previous article highlighting Essential Travel Tools to aid your body on-the-go, this special type of protein has unique properties that Whey, Casein, Hemp, and other types you normally buy cannot provide for your body; here is what I mean.
“Collagen is the main structural protein found in our connective tissue and skin, which means including it in your nutritional regime can have an impact on improving skin health, hormone balance, thyroid function, digestion, bone and joint health; especially post-exercise when your body is like a sponge to replenish itself.”
Another aspect that makes it special is hydrolyzed collagen is a unique combination of amino acids at a low weight (easy on the stomach to digest) allowing quick utilization by the body. By combining this with the BCAA’s at the same time, your body will feel a resurgence of abilities unlike most other supplements out there; a perfect one-two combination.
Collagen Protein is not just an endurance enhancement, but a lifestyle enhancement! It aids your metabolic response by supporting the repair of bone, tendons, ligaments, cartilage, and skin (you can read about that article below). It is the same collagen type found in those areas of the body, so it is easily adapted to fill in any spots of injury, breakdown, or recovery.
Beet Root Powder
Even my main man Dr. Dre is all about the beets. Unfortunately, this superfood does not get nearly enough attention as it should…maybe this could be a real business venture? I won’t hold my breath on this one.
Back to business; you can either consume the vegetable in itself (by cooking, pickling, or making chips from them) or you can survey the internet for beetroot power. What makes this red vegetable so special is that its main bio-active substance is Inorganic Nitrate (NO3-). Inorganic Nitrate has been scientifically studied and proven to positively influence cardiovascular and endurance exercise performance.
“In healthy trained adults, ingestion of 0.1mmol/kg nitrate is associated with a reduced oxygen cost of exercise by 5.4% (assessed via VO2) during submaximal performance and increased energy efficiency by 7.1%; these were independent of changes in heart rate, respiratory exchange ratio, and blood lactate.” (source)
What the segment from that study shows is by consuming NO3- (the most prominent component that is in Beet Root) you can breathe more comfortably and move more efficiently without sacrificing speed, intensity, or overall distance traveled. So if the body is able to perform just as well while using less energy, less oxygen, and less feeling of that ‘muscle burn’, you can spend more time focusing on technique and clearing your mind.
If you are able to get your hands on the BCAA’s in tandem with Beet Roots, that is an epic one-two combination for sustainability of energy and helping the body forge on through long activities.
Cordyceps Mushrooms are a natural fungus that has anti-fatiguing properties to aid endurance-conditioned athletes. It has a long history to treat respiratory illness and lung disease, and by making tea with it, has allowed Tibetan Sherpas to climb Mount Everest without additional oxygen. This is because Cordyceps mushrooms are grown exclusively at high altitudes, and is theorized to have special properties to promote more oxygen into your blood (meaning better full/deep breaths)
The 1994 Chinese Women’s track team used Cordyceps in their training regime, helping them break 3 world records in those games. That was its first breakthrough into the athletic competition world, and from that point on has been a hot topic for improving endurance performance.
A study in 1999 tested the VO2max (the maximal amount of oxygen the body can utilize) with and without Cordyceps present. The VO2max for the group taking the mushrooms significantly increased (6%+) indicating a legitimate support for lung capacity and resistance to fatigue.
Creatine has a reputation for being a strength and size building supplement. In the past, I found it to help me retain muscle mass, strength, and power without beating my body up in training all of the time. But as I shifted towards endurance, I wondered if it would have just as positive of an effect…and it has!
Your body produces its own supply of creatine known as PCr, or phosphocreatine). Through the energy recruitment process (which I’m assuming you don’t give a shit about reading today, so I’ll save it) without this PCr, it has enough for about 3 to 5 seconds of all-out effort, but with it, now you have the ability for 15 to 20 second of that same all-out intensity.
But since endurance training is much longer than 20 seconds, how does this relate?
“Creatine supplementation has been proven to improve the quality of high intensity running. It has been shown to decrease the recovery time needed and increase the number of interval repetitions that you can perform. It is the gains in speed, speed endurance, power and running economy that you obtain during training that improves your performance on race day.”
It is about laying a solid foundation with external creatine during training that brings substantial benefits onto the trails or long activities. By giving your body a greater opportunity to utilize ‘reserved energy’, you have unlocked greater speed and strength in your training that will translate to stronger competition bouts.
Don’t let this article fool you, I did not have this information all racked up in my brain. Said best by Sir Issac Newton;
“If I have seen further it is by standing on ye shoulders of Giants.”
I am grateful for the ability to learn, implement, and then share from those who have put in countless hours of dedication to their craft. Here are references I used to share with you this compilation of great knowledge:
- Hemoglobin Blood Test: Why High Levels are Both Good and Bad (+ Normal Ranges)
- Cordyceps and Endurance Performance
- Creatine and Distance Running
- Examine Supplement & Nutrition Information – Beet Root