The Top 12 Tips & Supplements for Endurance Athletes

Endurance athlete cycling in the early morning along a scenic landscape to enhance his peak human performance


You can’t hack your way to an endurance record using the right combination of supplements for endurance athletes. You know it takes time, effort, and patience to succeed, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t ways to help yourself improve.  

Supplements tend to get bad press, especially when people try to use them to bypass months or years of training. But even for established, dedicated endurance athletes, supplements can offer something effort alone can’t. And changing a few habits can give you an edge that simple repetition can’t. 

So what are the tried-and-true ways you can reach peak performance?

12 training secrets & supplements for endurance athletes  

Endurance athletes are most successful with a personalized training plan. Reaching peak performance isn’t one-size-fits-all. Your age, fitness, lifestyle, and sport all play a role in developing the right plan to push your limits. And although your routine will be unique to you, there are a few things that everyone can benefit from. 

Overall wellness boosters – like rest and nutrition – are one of those things. You might decide to set a specific schedule for off-days or buy liquid protein shots to include in your pre-workout routine. 

And supplements for endurance athletes can span a wide range of options – from short-term performance enhancers to long-term wellness boosters. 

Making the right choice for your workout or competition starts with a lot of research, so let’s dive into a few of the best tips and supplements for endurance athletes.

1. Cross-training  

You can get stuck in a groove and plateau if you do the same type of training over and over again. Only performing your targeted activity during training can lead to injury or burnout. To prevent both, cross-training is highly recommended for all athletes, not just endurance athletes. 

The goal is to help strengthen opposing muscles and prevent overworking certain areas of your body.  

Cross-training reduces the amount of stress you put on your joints and bones in one area of your body, and can have just as many mental benefits as physical benefits. You don’t necessarily need to endurance-train in every type of workout, and you can take supplements for endurance athletes even while you’re cross-training.

2. Being mindful 

All endurance sports require an amount of mental rigor and stamina that goes far beyond discipline and grit. Having the mental fortitude to push past hard days or hard moments, especially during a race, is a practice that only comes with time and application. 

You may have heard many ultra runners say “The first half of the race is your legs and the second half is your mind.” Even when you’ve trained, cross-trained, and kept up with the best supplements for endurance athletes, your body is only the first piece of the puzzle. 

To successfully push boundaries as an endurance athlete, you need to make sure you’re mentally prepared, too. Mindfulness meditation, including visualizing yourself succeeding, can take you to new heights – especially when you’ve been sticking to your physical training!

3. Taking a break

Taking a break can seem counterintuitive, but to reach peak performance, you need to let your body heal and recover. It can be tempting to push harder and harder, but if you don’t give yourself the necessary rest and recovery days, you can push your body beyond its limits.

The good news is, that rest days do not need to mean no activity at all. They can simply be lower-impact, more relaxing activities. For instance, you can choose to do some restorative yoga and go on a walk. 

Implementing regular rest days helps your muscles recover, prevents fatigue, and can improve your overall performance as an athlete. Taking supplements for endurance athletes that support healing and reduce inflammation can help your rest days be even more effective.  

Good nutrition speeds post-workout recovery, especially when you take time to rest. Not only are you giving your body the rest it needs to heal, you’re giving it the materials it needs, too!  

And remember, you should never “push through” an injury. Even if you have regularly scheduled rest days, be sure to listen to your body and adjust as needed to prevent injuries from occurring or worsening.

4. Sleep hygiene 

Sleep helps keep your mind and body in a condition for optimal performance no matter the activity, but it’s especially important for endurance athletes. The mental and physical toll endurance workouts have on you can be significant, especially when you’re approaching a competition. 

Good sleep hygiene helps ensure you’re still getting rest, even when you’re overtired or stressed. Sleep hygiene refers to your bedtime and morning routines to support healthy and restful sleep. This will look different for everyone, but routines and habits surrounding sleep will help you regulate your circadian rhythm

You can also incorporate supplements for endurance athletes that help regulate your body’s natural production of melatonin, the hormone responsible for helping you fall asleep and stay asleep.

5. Targeted nutrition

Along with integrating supplements for endurance athletes, general nutrition is extremely important for performance and overall health.  

Everyone’s body has different needs. For instance, nutrition tips for runners may look different than nutrition for swimmers. Deciding what to drink during workouts will depend on your workout for that day, your hydration and nutrition goals, and your personal physiology. 

You’ll want to follow up with a healthcare professional about what your particular nutrition needs are, but there are some general guidelines. No matter what, your body needs protein, carbohydrates, fat, and hydration. 

Endurance athletes need more carbohydrates than other athletes or even the general population, so they can improve their muscle glycogen stores. These glycogen stores are what your body pulls from when you’re hours into a workout or competition and need fuel.  

But while carbohydrates tend to be a focus for endurance athletes, protein is just as important. Adequate protein helps build lean muscle, repair muscle, and act as an energy source when you’re calorie deficient, although it’s not as good at providing energy as carbohydrates. 

Fat is an essential macronutrient for endurance athletes, but not all fat is created equal. Endurance athletes should limit their saturated fats and choose monounsaturated fatty acids or healthy fats instead. 

Endurance athletes also lose an exceptional amount of fluids and electrolytes while training. Make sure you’re hydrating to replenish the fluids lost. Electrolytes are one of the most critical supplements for endurance athletes, but make sure you avoid electrolyte beverages that are high in sugars, especially added sugars. 

You’ll also want to consider the timing of your meals, snacks, and supplements. When endurance athletes eat is almost as important as what they eat. Timing nutritional needs before, during, and after physical activity should also be a consideration for peak performance.

6. Caffeine 

Caffeine is more than your morning cup of coffee. It’s been used by endurance athletes for years to help stave off exhaustion, lower perceived effort, and keep going for longer.  

Overall, caffeine can improve endurance performance by as much as 7%... but be careful. Too much caffeine and you open yourself up to heart problems from the strain, and negative effects on your brain from the way caffeine impacts different hormones. 

Incorporating protein alongside your caffeine can stave off that jittery feeling, and caffeine can accelerate the absorption of protein, as well. 

Collagen protein is one of the most common supplements for endurance athletes, and you can take caffeine and collagen together. If you do, make sure your collagen is hydrolyzed or nano-hydrolyzed so it still gets digested, even with caffeine accelerating the digestive process. (We’ll come back to this in a minute.)

7. Beta-Alanine 

Beta-alanine is a non-essential amino acid – one of the building blocks of protein. “Non-essential” in this case just means that your body can produce it, not that you don’t need it! For athletes, especially, beta-alanine can be your best friend.

The benefits of beta-alanine extend to both short, high-intensity exercise and endurance exercise. For endurance athletes in particular, beta-alanine can improve your overall performance and reduce the amount of lactate your muscles produce. Lactate is responsible for that sore, tired feeling in your muscles after a workout. Since beta-alanine reduces lactate, it can be one of the best supplements for endurance athletes.

8. Creatine 

Creatine is formed from 3 amino acids, and it’s one of the energy sources your body uses to contract muscles during your workout. And as far as supplements for endurance athletes go, creatine gets a mixed reaction. 

Creatine impacts your body’s ventilation and oxygen transfer capabilities, but studies have found that it might not be the best choice for straight endurance. 

Interestingly, creatine has the best impact on sports that require endurance and short, high-intensity bursts. This makes creatine a great choice for triathletes, or competition days where you’ll be picking up the pace and then slowing down repeatedly.

9. Vitamin D

About 1 in 4 US adults have vitamin D levels that are too low to be considered healthy, and athletes tend to have lower levels of vitamin D than non-athletes. For endurance athletes, that’s a real problem. 

Low vitamin D levels have a negative impact on bone and muscle strength, making you more susceptible to injury. Beyond that, weaker muscles and bones will tire more quickly and take longer to recover.  

Spending time in the sun is one of the most effective ways to get vitamin D, but you can also find vitamin D supplements for endurance athletes. 

10. Iron

Iron is a mineral that is absolutely crucial to your body’s ability to form healthy red blood cells. And since red blood cells are what your body uses to transport oxygen, low iron levels can take an enormous toll on your performance as an endurance athlete. 

Much like with vitamin D, endurance athletes are particularly susceptible to low iron levels, due to the loss of iron caused by sweating for an extended period of time. 

If you menstruate, your iron levels will likely take a hit around the time that you’re menstruating due to the loss of blood, making iron supplementation even more necessary. Electrolyte beverages will typically have a small amount of iron present in them, but incorporating supplements for endurance athletes that include iron, an iron supplement, or foods high in iron is better for preventing deficiencies. 

11. Fish oil 

Omega-3 fatty acids are what make fish oil a popular supplement. These fatty acids work alongside amino acids and help your body absorb nutrients that need a fat to bind to. As supplements for endurance athletes, omega-3s can improve endurance performance, particularly in athletes who are new to endurance workouts. 

The reason omega-3s are more beneficial to amateur athletes is unclear, but the impact of fatty acids on overall wellness isn’t. Most Americans don’t get enough omega-3 fatty acids in their diet, making this a safe supplement choice even for professionals. 

12. Collagen supplements for endurance athletes 

Finally, the most common supplement of all: protein supplements. The problem is, not all protein supplements for endurance athletes are created equal. Many supplements for endurance athletes contain fillers or large protein molecules that are difficult to digest and cause stomach upset. 

When looking for a protein supplement for endurance athletes, we recommend a hydrolyzed collagen protein supplement. What is hydrolyzed collagen? Hydrolyzed collagen refers to collagen molecules that have been broken down for easier digestion. 

Most hydrolyzed collagen supplements come in liquid or powder forms. Liquid collagen benefits for full-body health have been studied more carefully in recent years. 

Collagen is the most abundant protein in the human body, and collagen supplements can help build muscle, strengthen joints, and speed healing in athletes. And hydrolyzed collagen is quickly absorbed and processed, allowing you to receive all the benefits in as little as 15 minutes.

Hydrolyzed collagen supplements are the perfect supplements for endurance athletes because they are easy to integrate before, during, or after a workout. Liquid collagen supplements in particular are easy to transport, and you don’t need to mix them with anything, making them perfect for endurance athletes. 

Reach peak performance as an endurance athlete

Creating a training plan that incorporates your body and mind is key to reaching peak performance, but you have to make sure your body has all the nutrients it needs. Supplements for endurance athletes can provide that nutrition and give you an extra boost when you need it most.

The key to successfully improving your performance with supplements is looking for high-quality supplements. Ideally, your supplements should be medical-grade supplements without filler ingredients. And no one wants to be taking pills all day, so look for supplements that include multiple nutrients, not just one.  

And while you’re training, be sure to include liquid protein shots to build muscle that can endure through the toughest workouts. Reaching your peak performance won’t be a one-size-fits-all process, but your nutrition is key to setting a PR when it matters most. 

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