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My Top 5 Supplements for Endurance Athletes

I have been involved in endurance sports for over two years now. I fell in love with it for many reasons, some being the cardio-respiratory health, lean muscle and reduced body fat percentage, love for the outdoors, and mental challenge each workout brings. I have made endurance sports,specifically triathlon a major part of my life over the past year, turning everything into a science. From time spent in different heart rate zones, to recovering with ice baths and yoga, to what I put into my body - the journey has lead me to learning what the best athletes in this sport do, and backing it up with scientific proof from scholarly sources. What I am about to tell you are the supplements that I personally use and found to have the biggest impact throughout my journey. Through trial and error as well as deep monitoring of my heart rate, resting heart rate, heart rate variability, and sleep cycles I will tell you with a non bias opinion with no sponsorships of the products that have worked for me, and I will also provide you with references to back it up.

  1. Cordyceps millitaris

    1. I first learned about cordyceps through a buddy of mine who wrestled for Cornell University. He informed me about the benefits, but I was skeptical at first. The more research I did on cordyceps and mushroom supplements the more I became fascinated. Come to find out, many other professional triathletes also take these daily. The benefits are amazing, scientifically proven through randomized control trials, cordyceps increase the body's adenosine triphosphate (ATP). If you have ever taken nutrition 101 or anatomy and physiology, you know that ATP is what powers the mitochondria, therefore powering the cell. In Layman’s terms, it increases the body’s ability to use oxygen, thought to then increase the VO2 max or maximum oxygen uptake of the body during endurance exercise. From my own personal experience, since adding cordyceps to my daily morning supplements I have found myself to surpass my goal exercise expectations. By that I mean, if I am scheduled for a 10 mile run at a zone 2 pace which varies day to day, but normally would be about an 8 minute mile, I am able to maintain my heart rate in zone two at about a 7:30 or 7 minute pace. This obviously does not happen overnight, but my numbers made a drastic jump over the first month since taking cordyceps consistently, than before when I felt like I was plateauing. As far as amount, the daily recommended amount of intake per day is 3 grams. Many companies advertise this magical mushroom, some being four sigmatic, sun alchemy, etc. I have tried all of them, regardless of taste, I want to know that I am getting what I pay for. So I recommend real mushroom cordyceps. They explained the exact amount of the extract in each tablet, they describe their process for getting the extract, and the cost is very fair.



  2. Magnesium and melatonin (sleep/recovery)

    1. Next up is a magnesium and melatonin combo, taken at night for sleep. The misconception of melatonin is that it helps you go to sleep faster, false. Melatonin does not get you to fall asleep faster, what it does is help provide a better circadian rhythm to allow your brain to increase the amount of time spent in slow wave (deep) sleep and REM (rapid eye movement) sleep. Why is this important for endurance athletes, because 95% of growth hormone is released during deep sleep, which is the time your body uses to repair itself. When putting in hours and miles on your body day in and day out, recovery becomes just as important if not more than the workout itself. The mental toughness aspect of triathlon and endurance sports is not all about pushing your body to the max everytime you lace up. This is also where resting heart rate (RHR) and heart rate variability (HRV) play a major role. HRV in short is the time between each beat (Link below explaining HRV in depth). The greater the variability, the more primed your body is to take on a greater strain - therefore progress as an athlete.


  3. Green blend powder shake

    1. Using a green blend has been apart of my morning routine for a while now. All green blends are not equal, it’s very important to get that straight. I believe that I found one of the better ones (because there is not a singular best one). I use cytogreens by nova forme, I have tried about a dozen different green blends and as far as taste goes, this is the one. I chose it specifically because of its bioavailability and digestive enzymes meaning, any whole foods that I ingest throughout the day, my body will be able to break the nutrients down for my body to better absorb them. There is no fillers such as lecithin in this, so every penny is well spent. But the best part is that this the ingredients mixtures. I can only speak for nova forme’s but these greens have a pH balance blend, digestive enzymes, energy regenerator blend, free radical defense blend (aka antioxidants), omega 3’s and immune defense. In an endurance athlete, pH levels are important to monitor. The goal is to increase blood pH, therefor increase alkaline levels. This will help the body recover better and be able to perform at a high level each day. The energy blend consists of cordyceps, Reishi and ginseng - previously mentioned above - how mushrooms have improved endurance athletes should be taking cordyceps and mushroom products. Lastly the antioxidants and immune system boosters are important for energy expenditure because putting a high strain on the body, forces us to use our immune system as an energy source and depletes it, potentially leading to opportunistic infections. To conclude the hype about cytogreens, the chocolate flavor is money - comparatively to other brands I’ve tried.


  4. Omega 3 oil

    1. Next up on the daily supplement must have’s is omega 3 oils. At first I listed this as fish oils, but decided not to limit it, especially because I am currently testing out a plant based diet (I’ll give you more info on this in the future). So I started incorporating flaxseed oils, also high in omega threes and does not come from animals. Ultimately, the purpose of omega 3’s are all the same no matter the source right? The purpose of this fatty pill is to increase the HDL’s or high density lipoproteins in the blood. What do HDL’s do, you might ask. They carry the bad fats, the plaque, that stick to your arteries and veins and siffen them up, to the liver to be processed and excreted. Having strong blood vessels I have found is probably one of the easiest ways to improve cardiovascular performance. The stronger the vessel the better it can dilate to supply oxygen to the muscle. More oxygen equals longer lasting. There are, many other ways to improve your blood vessel strength, such as hot yoga, eating plant based, decreasing saturated and trans fats in diet, and increasing mono and polyunsaturated fats like avocados in your diet!

  5. Collagen protein

    1. The last supplement on the list is collagen protein. Not just regular whey or pea protein, collagen is derived from bones and skin of animals and is found in our tendons, bones, joints, skin, and blood vessels. It can be found in bone broths, the skin of fish or chicken, or in powder form! Endurance athletes put on the miles, just as shoes with cushion protect us from joint damage, collagen does the same as well as recover from joint damage. A big problem I had when I first started running long distance was shin splints and runner's knee. The runner's knee was relieved from rolling out, but that did not help my shin splint issue. So I added collagen protein into the mix. This plus cold therapy was amazing on the time of recovery, what is normally an ongoing issue for most people once shin splints start, I felt better than ever after a couple weeks with appropriate rest and low impact exercise.

I want to finish by saying, what works best for me may not make a difference for you. It is important to trial and error different supplements, recovery strategies, workouts, etc. to find what suits you and your needs the best. It is also incredibly important to do research before trying anything. There is no magic pill that will turn you into a sub 3 marathoner or an ironman, it takes time and energy to get there. But it is crucial to recover hard, optimize your body to perform at its best as frequently as possible, and set yourself up to achieve your goals.

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