Enhance Your Exercise Endurance with These (Legal) Edible AidsPosted: September 5, 2014
Whether you’re training for an Ironman or are simply hoping to make it past a 5-min. run without huffing and puffing, your endurance level is your ticket to a smoother, sustained workout. Build it up, and working out becomes less of an unbearable chore and instead more of a habit that’ll help you gain back some of that energy from your youth (without all the angst, awkward growth spurts, and bad haircuts that were originally paired with it).
The primary key to boosting your fitness endurance and exercise ease is simply to lace up your sneaks and make workouts part of your weekly routine. That means exercising preferably at least 3 times/week – no skipping weeks, no ifs, buts, or excuses.
With repetition, you’ll begin to increase your VO2 max, i.e, the maximum rate at which your body can consume oxygen during exercise. (Research shows adding High Intensity Interval Training to your routine will help you do this even faster.) Increased VO2 max = increased endurance = a better feeling you.
Straight-up training, along with a healthy diet and sleep schedule, will be essential to your endurance efforts, but there are other added tricks too, all of which can fit into your grocery basket. Below, find our research-backed roundup of legal* – and tasty! – fitness performance enhancers.
*By legal, we mean no Lance Armstrong style funny business!
Beet juice: One study found that beet juice could help increase stamina by up to 16%. The nitrates in beets were shown to reduce oxygen uptake in athletes, making exercise less tiring. Consider drinking down a glass before your next workout, a cup that will also bear an array of vitamins, particularly vitamin C. Just keep in mind, beets are high in sugar, so use in moderation.
Coffee: Research has proven that caffeine increases the number of fatty acids circulating in the bloodstream, which allows your muscles to absorb and burn that fat for fuel, and save your body’s storage of carbs for later in your workout. This enables individuals to run or cycle a bit longer, and is particularly conducive for endurance athletes, shown to improve performance by as much as 25%. As an added bonus, the caffeine might help with your aches and pains that you may find creeping up mid-workout, too. Researchers at the University of Illinois found that subjects who consumed coffee prior to exercise experienced less muscle pain, which could mean the difference between pushing through one more rep at your weight training sessions or calling it quits. So next time you wake up to a cup of java, put it to good use with a pre-work workout. Just be sure to stick to a single cup, and keep it a low-cal, sugar-crash-free, beautiful shade of black!
Bananas: Long known as an athlete’s best, portable and peelable friend, bananas are a rich source of potassium, an essential electrolyte that your body loses during exercise. A study at Appalachian State University found the fruit to be just as helpful in fueling cyclists during intense exercise as sports drinks, often gulped as a source of carbs. The takeaway? Steer clear of sugar-loaded drinks and reach for a more natural form a sweetness, the bananas, who’s potassium will also help to prevent muscle fatigue.
Chia seeds: If you’ve read the book Born to Run by Chris McDougall, you can recall chia being a dietary mainstay of the hidden Tarahumara tribe in Mexico. What’s so special about the Tarahumara tribe? They run ultra-marathons (meaning 100+ miles), regularly, and largely for pure enjoyment. Here at LifeVest, we’re not a fan of joining the “superfood” trend and placing that title on any one ingredient. You’ll find it’s one that often labels chia, but unfortunately doesn’t mean that making the seeds a staple part of your diet will automatically turn you into a Tarahumara running machine. However, it can be said without a doubt, chia is an excellent addition to an athlete’s diet. It serves as a complete protein, which means it contains all of the amino acids essential to humans and is comparable in protein quality to beef. It’s also rich in B vitamins, calcium, iron, zinc, fiber, and antioxidants. You’ll get all of this in a small, flavorless package you can easily spoon into your smoothie or drink, so why not add a few of the nutrient-packed seeds to your next pre-workout snack?
Nada: What’s nada? Unfortunately, it’s not a magically-invented pill that’ll enable you to run for hours. Instead, what it is is exactly what it says – nothing. Nada, nil, zip, zero. In some cases, the best solution for endurance is not ingesting anything at all. You see, the process of digestion necessitated when you consume food takes up energy that you could instead be using to push a little further. By keeping your stomach relatively empty, you allow your body to focus on the exercise at hand, vs. the natural exercise of digestion. Just make sure you eat something earlier in the day, since running on completely empty means you’ll have no energy left in your tank. Studies suggest that athletes see peak performance about two hours after eating, so time your meals accordingly.