Nutrients for everyday endurance: part I

Trying to maintain an active and healthy lifestyle in the face of the many demands and uncertainties of everyday life can be a fatiguing experience for many of us, says Fortitech's Cathy Arnold

Whether it’s battling the winter blues or recovering from the common cold, little by little, life can sometimes wear us down. But, we must endure!

Endurance nutrition is geared towards the active consumer that needs the staying power and fortitude to persevere against any potential struggle and hardship that each day brings. Endurance nutrition focuses on the ability to provide strength when needed, stamina to fight fatigue, stress and other adverse conditions.

Targeting endurance nutrition products

Whether it’s a single young adult trying to maintain that physical and mental edge while building a successful profession, more seasoned performers with a household of two working professionals and kids trying to balance the needs of work and family, or an active senior starting to feel the drag of getting older, they all feel embattled in some way and need an energy boost.

Whether you’re the competitive athlete that has reached an unwelcome performance plateau, an everyday professional getting up at daybreak for another day on the job, someone trying to maintain that grueling daily workout schedule at the gym or a busy on-the-go parent trying to keep up with their kids’ schedule, we’re all looking for a bit more energy to take that next step and endure.

Market drivers

The growing number of dual-parent working households has created a situation in which there is less time to do things. The increased pace of life in the 21st century has helped to create a demand for new products that will help provide the needed endurance to keep up with our hectic schedules. The current economic woes and higher rates of unemployment are also forcing people to be at the top of their game, and maintaining energy and endurance is an important part of the total package.

A greater individual focus on fitness and personal health has driven gym memberships upward. For example, there are more than 30,000 health clubs in the United States that cater to the needs of more than 45,000,000 members and generate annual revenues of $19 billion. Moreover, health clubs are not only for the young; one in four health club members is 55 years old and over. Additionally, multiple layers of stress, from battling the winter cold or summer heat to the stress created by financial and family issues impacts our endurance and energy levels.

Nutrients for optimal endurance and performance

Key to achieving optimal endurance and performance in your everyday life is maintaining a healthy nutrient-rich diet, accompanied with regular daily exercise to help control body weight and the development of chronic diseases, along with getting enough sleep.

Beyond these general health guidelines, here are a number of important nutrients and ingredients that may help to maximise endurance and performance: carbohydrate, creatine, antioxidants, electrolytes, caffeine, potassium, beta-alanine, gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), echinacea, guarana, ginseng, green tea (catechins), flavonoids, B vitamins, trace elements (Se, Cr, Zn, Fe, Cu), branched chain amino acids, L-carnitine, D ribose, CoQ10, magnesium and N-acetyl-cysteine (NCA).

Carbohydrate

Carbohydrates are an important component of an active lifestyle and are critical for optimal sports performance. High intensity exercise demands available carbohydrates in the form of glucose.

The glucose in your body is derived from the simple and complex carbohydrates found in your diet. Dietary starch is broken down in your intestine to glucose, which is absorbed. Simple dietary sugars such as sucrose (table sugar) and lactose (milk sugar) are broken down by the intestine into glucose and simple monosaccharides (fructose and galactose), which are subsequently absorbed.

Exercise results in the production of reactive oxygen species (free radicals) that can potentially have damaging effects on muscle

The liver then metabolises the fructose and galactose into glucose, and then stores some of the glucose as glycogen, while providing glucose to the blood to meet the energy needs of the body. Some of this blood glucose is converted by the muscle into glycogen for local storage, which can be called on later as needed to meet a quick energy need during vigorous exercise.

With prolonged exercise at moderate intensity, muscle glycogen is depleted and leads to fatigue and reduced work capacity. The prevention of carbohydrate depletion during exercise is associated with superior physical performance.

Products such as sports drinks that provide water, available carbohydrates and electrolytes to replace sweat-derived electrolyte loss can enhance performance during bouts of competitive endurance exercise. Glycogen loading, achieved by consuming high carbohydrate meals prior to serious exercise, may also be of some benefit to maximize muscle and liver glycogen stores.

Creatine

Creatine is the most researched of all the potential ergogenic aids. Oral supplementation can increase creatine content in muscle and has been shown to have positive benefits on muscle performance.

This compound is made naturally in the body, and is also consumed in diets containing muscle tissue (meat or fish). In the body, creatine is chemically modified by a process called phosphorylation to store energy and is found almost exclusively in muscle, where it serves as a quick source of ATP energy (an energy rich compound called adenosine triphosphate) for muscle cells when needed.

Antioxidants

Exercise results in the production of reactive oxygen species (free radicals) that can potentially have damaging effects on muscle. This has led to scientific investigations into the potential benefits of antioxidants on physical performance.

These studies have shown some benefit of antioxidant administration in the form of N-acetylcysteine (NAC) on reducing exercise-induced muscle fatigue during sub-maximal exercise. NAC provides the amino acid cysteine to the body that can be used to synthesise an important intracellular antioxidant molecule called glutathione.

Dietary antioxidants, such as the essential micronutrients vitamin C and vitamin E, are also of general benefit to the body, and consuming healthy diets rich in fruits and vegetables or fortified products can help to supply these important nutrients.

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