Endurance is another aspect of physical activity that anyone would love to increase. After all, it’s fabulous to exercise more without feeling like a total wreck—both during your workout and when you wake up the next day. So how can you boost your endurance?
To answer this question, let’s take a look at the two main factors that determine endurance.
Factor 1: Available energy resources.
Any kind of active process in your body, like moving muscles, requires energy. The body’s universal energy currency is ATP (adenosine triphosphate), and the most effective way of producing ATP is through aerobic glycolysis. Without going into too much detail, this process is all about burning glucose through a series of complex chemical reactions in the presence of oxygen.
When there isn’t enough oxygen to fuel aerobic glycolysis, the body switches to anaerobic glycolysis, which is the process of turning glucose into ATP without oxygen. This happens, for example, during intense exercise. Aerobic glycolysis is MUCH less effective, yielding just 2 ATP molecules for each glucose molecule—contrary to 38 molecules of ATP during aerobic glycolysis.
To summarize, optimal endurance requires enough glucose and oxygen supply to the muscles.
Your muscles store glucose in the form of glycogen, which takes time to synthesize and accumulate. That’s why it’s so important to get yourself some quality rest between workouts, with a proper diet and plenty of carbs that would refuel your glycogen stores.
P.S. A side note for the keto-folks out there. Yes, ketone bodies are another fairly good source of energy, yielding 22 ATP for a single molecule of acetoacetate. Still, that’s somewhat less effective than glucose metabolism. Besides, exercising on keto is a whole different subject that deserves undivided attention, so let’s leave that for another time.
Factor 2: Accumulation of waste products.
Remember the point on anaerobic glycolysis during intense exercise? The byproduct of this process is lactic acid, which gets build up in the muscles. This leads to an increase in acidity (a drop in pH), fatigue, and eventually–delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS).
So, now that you know the basics of how physical endurance works, let’s get to the tasty details.
What endurance enhancers are most often included in pre-workout blends (PWBs)?
- Beta-alanine is an amino acid that increases the concentration of carnosine in the muscles. Carnosine is a powerful antioxidant and pH buffer, meaning it fights off the acidity caused by lactic acid during intense exercise. Aim for a dosage of 4-6 g per day, or a critical minimum of 2 g. Anything lower than that isn’t very effective.
- Creatine phosphate provides a short boost in energy by donating a phosphate group to ADP (adenosine diphosphate) and turning it into ATP, which is the body’s main energy fuel.
- L-ornithine is a non-essential amino acid that helps to eliminate waste products, improve energy metabolism, and thus delay fatigue onset. It’s hard to get a good dose of ornithine through diet alone, so taking it as a supplement could be a wise idea.
- All nitric oxide boosters are indirect endurance enhancers. The logic is simple: more NO and enhanced blood supply to the muscles means improved oxygen supply and less anaerobic glycolysis, resulting in less lactic acid being build up. This should delay the onset of fatigue and possibly alleviate delayed onset muscle soreness.
Do you need endurance enhancers in you pre-workout?
Yes, this is generally a good idea. Although the lion’s share of your endurance is based on previous training (this defines how much glycogen your muscles store, how effectively they use up oxygen, how well your muscle pH buffers work), you can somewhat boost this through supplementation. Beta-alanine, in this case, is arguably your best option.
To Be Continued…
The Cost Plus Nutrition Team