Whether you prefer at-home workouts or go to the gym regularly, you’ve probably heard about pre-workout supplements that provide performance benefits that help you achieve you maintain peak power throughout your workouts. In this guide, RAVE explores the science of which pre-workout ingredients increase endurance.
Since all physical performance derives from the body’s endurance, fitness enthusiasts will be eager to know whether pre-workout supplements can really improve it. Or is it all marketing hype?
While endurance performance often relies on genes and mental state, research suggests that taking the right dietary supplements can really help individuals to achieve optimal endurance in their workouts.
Continue reading to learn how each ingredient specifically boosts endurance during your workouts!
Key Takeaways: If you’re looking for the pre-workout ingredients to increase endurance, Beta-Alanine, Taurine, and L-Citrulline are three of the most effective options.
Table of Contents
- How does good endurance improve your workout routine?
- Carnosine and Muscle Endurance
- Are These Ingredients Safe?
How does good endurance improve your workout routine?
Endurance is crucial for any extensive workout regimen.
But it is particularly important for fitness enthusiasts who want to continue to improve their physical performance throughout their workout plan (see our guide on an optimal weekly workout routine).
Why is endurance a crucial aspect of an optimal workout?
- Better endurance comes with an increased the rate and depth of breathing, meaning your body is able to use more oxygen (often measured as VO2), which boosts the effectiveness of workouts.
- Building good endurance also lowers your resting heart rate. And when you have achieved optimal levels of endurance, you’ll have better blood flow during exercise . Specifically, you’ll absorb more oxygen and eliminate more carbon dioxide leading to improved muscular endurance, meaning they can tolerate exercise for longer.
- Increasing endurance also works to improve the body’s circulatory system. This means that you’ll have a healthier heart and lungs to power a top-tier athletic performance. Furthermore, you’ll also have a lower risk of diabetes and cardiovascular diseases.
- Good endurance performance means a high anaerobic running capacity. This means you can run for longer without fatiguing or experiencing build up of lactic acid.
- Endurance is key for weight training and muscle building. A high level of endurance will allow your muscle cells to exert force over long periods of time without experiencing soreness or intense exhaustion.
Key Points: Building endurance is a vital part of simultaneously making your workouts more effective, while also decreasing the rate at which you tire out.
Beta-Alanine is a famous ingredient included in many pre-workout supplements.
Beta-Alanine is particularly popular in pre workouts used by those seeking intense resistance training sessions who want to improve performance. This ingredient is best paired with branched-chain amino acids BCAAs (learn about the difference between BCAAs and EEAs).
Beta-Alanine is what’s known as a non-essential amino acid. A non-essential amino acid refers to an amino acid, which our bodies can produce naturally even if we do not get it from our diets.
Despite being able to produce it naturally in our bodies, experts believe beta-alanine supplements may play a crucial role in performance nutrition and building muscle mass post workout (learn more about how muscles grow after a workout).
According to one study, beta-alanine enhances carnosine levels in skeletal muscle, which helps to increase muscle endurance and optimal exercise performance for high-intensity training sessions. Another study demonstrated that taking beta alanine to increase carnosine improved performance for runners in a 10k race.
Key Takeaway: Beta Alanine has been shown to boost athletic performance by increasing levels of carnosine in contained in muscle.
Carnosine and Muscle Endurance
So if carnosine boosts endurance, how does it work? First we need to know what happens to muscles during a workout.
This is how your muscles behave during a workout:
- Working out increases lactate.
Your muscles convert glucose to lactic acid while you work out. Lactate is formed from this, which produces hydrogen ions (H+).
- Lactate makes muscles more acidic.
The hydrogen ions lower the pH of your muscles, causing them to become more acidic.
- Acidic muscles lead to exhaustion and muscle fatigue.
Muscle acidity inhibits glucose breakdown and limits the ability of your muscles to contract. This induces exhaustion.
So how does carnosine intervene in this process to increase endurance? Carnosine offers two key functions that are directly tied to increased endurance during a workout.
- Carnosine breaks down glucose.
Carnosine induces the breakdown of glucose, the primary fuel source during high-intensity exercise, by a process known as glycolysis. Increased levels of carnosine may improve the efficiency of this process, ensuring that energy is released evenly and consistently to fuel exercise.
- Carnosine acts as acid buffer.
By acting as an acid buffer, Carnosine lowers acidity in muscles during high-intensity exercises.
While your body can produce beta-alanine in three different ways, administering pre-workout supplements will ensure that you have optimal levels in your body.
Key Point: The best beta-alanine pre-workout supplements aid your muscles in reducing acid levels after exercise by increasing carnosine levels. Overall weariness is reduced, and endurance performance is improved.
Taurine, a sulfur-containing amino acid found in nature, is concentrated mainly in your brain, eyes, heart, and skeletal muscle.
Despite being classified as a “building block of protein,” taurine is not used to produce any high-quality protein in your body. Instead, it’s classified as a conditionally necessary amino acid, which means it’s only needed when you’re sick or when your body is under stress, as it is during a workout.
Research shows that this amino acid pre-workout supplement can help to boost athletic performance in a variety of ways. Specifically it does the following:
- Helps diminish cramps
- Lowers muscle soreness and fatigue
- Prevents exercise-induced muscle damage
- Improves mental focus when taking in combination with caffeine
In addition to increasing endurance, taurine-regulated pre-workout supplements can also boost calcium-binding proteins during muscular contraction, leading to increased muscle growth, fat oxidation, and strength.
One interesting study showed that to prevent muscle damage, individuals needed a much higher dose of taurine, while benefitting from increased endurance occurred at a lower dose. So before you decide how much to take, first decide what you want to get from it.
Key Point: Taurine is released to help the body deal with physical stress, and as a result helps to boost endurance, prevents muscle damage, and lowers fatigue during workouts.
L-Citrulline is a non-essential amino acid that promotes fluid and thermal homeostasis. It is naturally found in nuts, legumes, and watermelons.
This ingredient found in many types of pre-workout supplement offers functions vital to your muscles, heart, and blood vessels. L-citrulline helps your body increase blood flow and improve skeletal muscle weight.
How does L-Citrulline boost endurance? Much like beta alanine, the benefits of L-Citrulline can be traced to what it breaks down to in the body. It follows this process in the human body:
- L-Citrulline is absorbed into the kidneys where its converted.
Once arriving at the kidneys, L-Citrulline is converted into two things, another amino acid called L-Arginine and a chemical compound called Nitric Oxide.
- Nitric Oxide improves health of arteries and blood vessels.
Nitric Oxide causes arteries to relax, easing blood pressure and allowing blood to flow more freely. Researchers suggest that this might be key to preventing certain illness and disease.
- L-Arginine boosts arterial health and improves the immune system.
L-Arginine is the most notable derivative of L-Citrulline as it provides a number of awesome benefits. Among which are the following:
- Increased wound healing
- Helps kidneys to remove waste
- Improves immune system
- Balances hormone functions
- Relaxes and dilates the body’s arteries
- L-Arginine and Nitric Oxide combine to boost blood flow.
Because both L-Arginine and Nitric Oxide boost blood flow, it is believed that when they both work together the benefits increase even further. Good blood flow is crucial for muscle tissue to work efficiently throughout a workout without injury or fatigue, and increases aerobic and anaerobic running capacity during extensive workout routines.
Studies of L-Citrulline however, have not been able to show a distinct benefit to the same extent as the other ingredients explored on this list. So at least when when comparing the research behind L-Citrulline, Beta Alanine, and Taurine, L-Citrulline is backed by the least amount of data.
Key Point: While the least studied of the three ingredients, L-Citrulline can boost blood flow and provide a variety of benefits related to endurance–if not directly increasing it.
Are These Ingredients Safe?
Beta-alanine, taurine, and L-citrulline are dietary supplements that are proven safe as long as taken with the proper dosage.
Of course, taking excessive amounts of these amino acids can cause different health problems. Additionally, it’s always prudent to buy pre workout supplements from only trusted brands. Because some manufacturers are well-known for selling inconsistent formulas that could contain more (or less) than advertised.
Here are some side effects you should consider before taking any of the mentioned pre-workout supplements. Click the question for a drop-down answer explaining the side-effects of each.
What are the side effects of Beta Alanine?
What are the side effects of Taurine?
What are the side effects of L-Citrulline?
Can Pre-Workout Ingredients Increase Endurance?
Yes! The research is very clear, and at least in the cases of Taurine and Beta Alanine, scientists have been able to clearly demonstrate a boost to endurance. While the data backing L-Citrulline is less definitive, it offers a range of health benefits that are sure to directly or indirectly boost your workout performance.
Check out our guide on free workout tools and resources to get started on your fitness routine.