Want to boost your athletic performance without training more?
This is a question I get all the time, so I've put together a three-part series for you on the top 3 time-tested performance boosters you can add to your daily routine.
If you are already spending a lot of time and money on training, why not add these three simple and affordable options to your daily routine to optimize your return on investment (aka. hard work)?
Part One: Creatine
Most endurance athletes think Creatine is something that just gym rat guys should take. Spoiler alert, that's a mistake. Creatine is safe and inexpensive and has clinically proven performance benefits for faster peak power during high-intensity efforts (think of it as more snap in your legs). As a bonus, it also has some beneficial cognitive and mood benefits.
Why don't more endurance athletes take Creatine?
A few years ago, Creatine was shunned by many endurance athletes as it increased water retention. Most athletes (and many coaches) didn't dig deeper that this effect was both temporary and easily avoided. The water retention resulted from what many recommended as a "loading" phase for Creatine, where you take a higher dosage for the first two weeks.
The answer is simple, skip the loading period. While it will take a week or two to get to peak Creatine levels, you will get to the same place as if you did the loading without the increased water retention.
Top three benefits you will see with Creatine
Go Faster: Improvement in anaerobic performance
Several studies using women taking Creatine showed excellent overall anaerobic performance (think high-intensity training). When you increase creatine levels, you get an extra "supply of power" on-demand during your exercise.
Get Stronger: Build muscular strength
Both recreational and more highly trained female athletes using Creatine showed enhanced muscle strength, the same reason it works for the gym-rat guys, it will work for you. Don't worry. It won't make you bulk up.
Brighten your Mood.
A study in South Korea showed women had similar benefits using Creatine daily and Lexapro. The women who also had Creatine had a 68% improvement in depression at four weeks. As athletes, we have lots of mood swings. Think of those days you aren't training and how you feel. More and more athletes use Creatine daily as a safe and easy way to stay happy and even-keeled.
How to take Creatine?
You want to take 3g (under 120lbs) to 5g (121 to 200lbs) per day. It is a powder, not a pill. I find it is best to scoop it into a shake I have each day. Either a breakfast shakes like
Kyoku, or I find I'm more consistent taking it daily by always putting it into my post-workout recovery shake. You can also mix it with water or some juice, stir and drink it.
It is just important to take it daily so you build up and then maintain high creatine levels, you should start to see noticeable performance benefits towards the end of the first four weeks of daily usage.
What kind of Creatine do I want?
Almost all the Creatine is from a brand called Creapure, so even though we have five different brands selling Creatine, they are all the same thing. The only difference is the cost and how many months of supply they have in the package and range from $14.95 for one month to only $35 for a 3 month supply. As I mentioned, Creatine is not expensive, especially compared to the benefits it provides.
Momentous, Klean, Onnit, and Thorne offer great options for this...and we provide them all!
Part 2: Nitric Oxide Boosters
I'll admit that I'm a regular user of Nitric Oxide boosting products. It is the simplest sports-legal way to immediately boost your performance.
Basically, I can ride at higher watts or run at a higher pace (which I enjoy more) while staying in my comfort zone, just under my anaerobic threshold.
Sur Alt Red and SwissRX Nitric Oxide are the two most popular Nitric Oxide boosters.
Some of the data from Sur AltRed's research is impressive:
- 15% reduction in perceived exertion
- 14% less lactate production
- 3.5% more watts on the bike.
While I'm not questioning their research, 15% lowered perceived exertion seems high to me. My personal experience is that it feels more like a 5% lower effort. In my books, 5% is a huge advantage and more than enough for me to use it!
Aside from helping make strenuous efforts feel easier, boosting Nitric Oxide is great for helping you break through performance plateaus and recover faster between strenuous efforts, like after a hard climb.
The simple science is that these contain precursors that encourage your body to produce more Nitric Oxide. When Nitric Oxide in your blood increases, your arteries dilate (open up), so more oxygen-rich red blood flow can flow to your working muscles.
While Nitric Oxide boosters can be taken on an ad hoc basis before a workout, it is more effective when taken daily. I spoke with Dr. Kevin Sprouse of the EF Pro Cycling team on his recommended protocol for SwissRX Nitric Oxide.
Take two capsules every morning. Take 4 to 6 capsules 45 minutes before a high-intensity training session. If you wake up and go straight to your workout, then take six capsules in the morning. This protocol helps build up Nitric Oxide reserves for your training and has other daily health benefits of more blood flow.
What is the difference between SurAltRed and SwissRX Nitric Oxide?
Sur AltRed is an excellent product that our runners love. Its advantage is that it is just one tiny red pill that is easy to take. It is a highly concentrated source of betalains (from beets). The only disadvantage is that the effect tends to fade faster and thus is ideal for workouts 2 hours or less.
SwissRX Nitric Oxide is the most popular booster at The Feed. Its advantage is that it lasts longer, usually 4 to 5 hours. The disadvantage is that it is many more pills (up to 6 for some people).
In the studies I have reviewed, both products reach the same peak levels of Nitric Oxide, which means that both are equally effective in that two hours or less window.
My daily protocol
For a long time, I would only take a Nitric Oxide booster before my more challenging workouts. Now, I'm following Dr. Sprouse's advice and taking two capsules every morning, and I can attest that it works better. The easiest way to do this is to add a Nitric Oxide booster to your Feed Formula, where you get a daily pouch of supplements to take each morning.
Part 3: Beta-Alanine
Do you know that familiar "burn" when training hard or in an event? Many believe this is the lactic acid that causes the burn. That's not true. It is the change in pH in your muscle tissue caused by the hydrogen ions produced when you have higher levels of lactic acid.
So what does all that mean? Beta-Alanine enables the body to increase its ability to buffer hydrogen ion build-up. This helps ease the burning feeling, which allows you to push harder and get more from training.
The 1-2 Punch
When you combine a Nitric Oxide booster and Beta Alanine, you are now improving your performance from two angles with the same performance impact: the ability to push harder for longer with less burning pain.
To recap, increased Nitric Oxide increases blood flow, so you delay the production of lactic acid. But, of course, this doesn't last forever. As you keep pushing harder, lactic acid will build up.
Enter Beta-Alanine. As Lactic Acid increases and that burning feeling is telling you to slow down, you can now buffer the burning sensation and keep pushing hard.
How to use it
Beta-Alanine must be used consistently for a few weeks to see the full benefit. The ideal protocol would be 3g in the morning and 3g at night. I find it hard always to remember the nighttime dosage, but I'm consistent with it in the
morning, 3 weeks before a big event, I move to taking it twice a day. I prefer to use Beta Alanine powder from Blonyx and drop it into a shake at Breakfast along with a scoop of Creatine. But there are other ways to take it (see below)
What about the tingling?
Some athletes notice a tingling effect called paraesthesia in lips, toes, and fingers, it is a harmless side-effect, but if it bothers you, then you drop your dosage under 2g at a time and ideally take it 3x per day.
Does the timing matter?
Many athletes are confused as they see pre-workout drinks containing Beta-Alanine. The timing doesn't matter. The benefits result from consistent daily usage.
How to take it?
These are the two best ways I have found to add Beta-Alanine to your daily routine and stay with it consistently.
1. Add it to your Breakfast and/or Recovery Shake
- 1 Scoop of Blonyx Beta-Alanine powder
- 1 Scoop of Creatine
Combine with the Kyoku Breakfast shake in the AM or the SwissRX Total Recovery shake post-workout. If you have an upcoming competition or event, I would be sure to do both the morning shake and post-workout shake with one scoop in each. Start this 3 to 4 weeks before your event, and you will be at the total 6g daily dosage. (You can thank me later for the tingling!)
2. Get Pete Stetina's Feed Formula that includes Klean Athlete Beta-Alanine.
Pete Stetina is an athlete for our High-Performance Team and is now one of the world's top gravel racers after racing for a decade or more in the World Tour. Pete shared his Feed Formula, which includes two tablets of Klean Athlete® BetaAlanine, which is 1.6g. I recommend you increase this to 4 tablets (just hit customize)
To recap? These simple, surefire supplements can drastically impact your experience training, recovering, and improving day-in and day-out.
These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. These products do not intend to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any diseases.