Phil Sims is a Holistic Health Coach, Master Personal Trainer and Health and Fitness Journalist from Leamington Spa.
Endurance sports require a great deal of stamina, rather than brief periods of physical exertion you’d typically experience in the weights area of a gym. Stamina is referred to as the ability to sustain prolonged physical or mental effort. There is no clear rule of what an endurance activity is, but there is a clear distinctive line. A 100-meter sprint, for example, would not be classed as an endurance activity, whereas a long-distance run or cycling event would be.
Long-distance running and cycling, swimming, mountain-biking, skiing, mountain climbing, and mud-runs (a popular addition of late) are among just some activities which could be grouped within the ‘endurance bracket’. Marathon running and cycling are probably the two most common endurance activities, being part of the Olympics. Although they are included at a high performance level of competition, these two activities are very popular in the amateur ranks at a club level, to those simply taking part recreationally as a weekend hobby. Anyone can get involved with endurance sport, with the right determination and mindset.
Training for endurance
These activities, though time consuming, can become some of the most rewarding events to take part in. Training takes a lot of external motivation and willpower, being highly demanding both physically and mentally. When training for endurance, there are four main areas which contribute to your overall level of fitness. Despite them all being important for your body's strength and condition, it is likely that you will focus more on building on one area more than the others, dependent on the type of activity or event you are training for.
This relates to the ability of the heart and lungs to pump oxygen and blood into your tissues, to facilitate and support moderate exercise so you can work for a long period of time without tiring. Keeping an eye on your heart rate will allow you to stay in your optimum aerobic level.
Anaerobic endurance is classed as exercise with the absence of oxygen present. This allows you to sustain a specific intensity level for only a short period of time due to the lactate build up. It typically promotes strength, speed, and power from short bursts of hill running or climbing on the bike.
An aerobic athlete will not want to spend too long in this zone, as this can cause a quick burnout and pain from the lactic acid build up.
This comes from exercise that involves working against resistance to develop the strength and endurance of muscle groups. Resistance may come from your own body or from equipment such as weight machines, free weights or barbells, a body bar, resistance bands, stability ball, or water. Exercise involving higher rep ranges will ensure you hit an endurance strength level of fatigue.
This is the ability to prolong the amount of time where a near maximal speed can be maintained over time. You can associate this with the longer race 200-400 metre sprinters, who need to maintain a fast pace but over a longer distance.
Managing your energy levels
Endurance athletes typically spend hours on end doing continuous activity: recording 50-60 miles per week of running, for example, or cycling 200 miles a week. This high volume of training, with the inclusion of a couple of resistance-training based sessions a week, means that endurance athletes should be paying close attention to their diet and supplementation.
Endurance training puts extreme demands on the body from a physical, mental, and energy retention standpoint. It’s tough enough training with these intensities over long periods of time, but you must also carefully plan and prepare nutrient-dense foods to replenish your energy stores. With all of this playing on your mind, it can seem like a never ending relentless process.
Luckily, endurance sport enthusiasts now have access to very good supplements which can meet their body's needs. Supplements are not strictly necessary, but if you are committed to your sport and being the best you can be, then supplementation can be advisable. Supplementation can make the difference between average and outstanding performance, so here are three great supplements that could help you achieve your goals.
If you're heading out for a long run or bike ride, don't leave behind your BCAAs. Substantial evidence suggests BCAAs can reduce skeletal muscle protein breakdown, and promote recovery and immune response following exercise. BCAA metabolism has also been shown to decrease lactate production, which will potentially increase your stamina capacity.
One mechanism of fatigue in exercise is tryptophan crossing the blood-brain barrier. Tryptophan aids the release of the neurotransmitter serotonin. The hormone is responsible for sleep, mood, and ultimately fatigue. Since BCAAs and tryptophan compete for the same protein carrier, increasing BCAA concentrations can reduce the amount of tryptophan crossing the brain blood barrier, potentially delaying fatigue onset. The recommended dose for optimum absorption is 3-6 grams before or during exercise.
Caffeine has long been used by endurance athletes to boost performance. Not only does it provide a quick pick-me-up for training sessions, but caffeine also reduces your perception of effort and can help delay fatigue — making those longer runs all the more bearable. Studies highlight the positive benefits of caffeine consumption on endurance performance. What’s more caffeine also increases your fat burning capacity, which can help with weight management. Taking a dose of caffeine about 45 minutes before your activity, in the form of a coffee, or other caffeine supplement, can help you power through a 5K or 10K, a long bike ride, or even a marathon. When choosing a supplement, look at the caffeine dosage, ensuring that it does not exceed 1.3-2.7 milligrams per pound of body weight (200-400 milligrams for a 150-pound individual).
Beta-alanine supplementation has been shown to improve performance and delay fatigue during high-intensity activity. Although most endurance activities are typically performed at a lower intensity, training methods are often used with higher intensities to improve performance.
Training methods such as race pace, tempo runs, and even weight training to improve running efficiency are all aspects of your training programme that'll benefit from this supplement.
During highly intense training sessions, your body will create a build-up of hydrogen ions which ultimately results in fatigue. Beta-alanine can increase the body's ability to buffer these hydrogen ions. This can potentially delay fatigue and improve exercise performance, training volume, and reduce perceptions of fatigue. To get the best results, take 3-6 grams per day, in 800 milligram doses throughout the day to reduce the effects of tingling in the skin.
There are plenty of ways you can boost your sports performance, with supplements giving you a helping hand to achieve your endurance training goals. If you want to know more about endurance training, nutrition, or supplementation visit our Elite hub which is full of information from experts.