The Best Supplements and Food for a Cardiovascular Workout
By Dr. KwaZ
When done right, cardiovascular workouts provide you with numerous benefits. Cardio increases blood circulation and metabolism, strengthens your lungs and heart, improves your overall fitness level, and more. As it turns out, cardio is good all-around!
Regardless of why you wake up before sunrise to train on the stairmill, a supplement is available to help you reach your goal, whether it’s fat burning, increased energy or endurance. Having the right supplements for your specific goals can help you feel stronger, run one more mile, or increase your focus for the day ahead.
Goal 1: Increased Endurance and Energy
The efficiency of your circulatory, heart and respiratory system is key to your body’s ability to withstand cardio sessions. Cardiovascular exercise helps to increase oxygen and blood to working muscles, boosting your energy and overall stamina.
Consider these endurance supplements and foods:
Red Beet Juice
Red beets are high in nitrates, which may improve athletic performance. Nitrates rapidly bring oxygen to muscles, boosting endurance. Furthermore, beetroot supplements may reduce the cost of oxygen in exercise, allowing high-intensity exercises to be withstood longer.
An amino acid, beta-alanine promotes muscle energy. Carnosine—a protein building-block—in the muscles is increased when supplementing with beta-alanine. During high-intensity exercise, physical performance is enhanced and the onset of neuromuscular fatigue is delayed.
To optimize energy and maintain proper fluid balance so you can function well, electrolytes are required. Your heart, nerve and muscles use electrolytes to carry electrical impulses to other cells and to retain voltages across cell membranes. Electrolytes are lost in your sweat when you exercise heavily and must be replaced to maintain the constant levels.
Goal 2: Burn Fat
To meet energy needs while exercising, skeletal muscles rely on fat oxidation and carbohydrates. Carbohydrates are used faster when the intensity of exercise is increased. Glycogen (stored energy) is depleted as carbohydrates are used; meaning you’ll be unable to maintain increased intensity and speed for very long. Utilizing fatty acid oxidation as an energy source while exercising can improve endurance. So, during your cardio workout, take supplements that increase the metabolism of fatty acid.
Consider these fat-burning aids:
Caffeine can reduce fatigue, improve aerobic performance, induce lipolysis, stimulate mental activity, and help to prioritize fat as an energy supplier.
Raspberry ketones have been shown to increase norepinephrine-induced lipolysis (the release of stored fat) that can be helpful in supporting body fat reduction. This means your body’s ability to release stored fat for the purpose of energy may be increased.
The vegetable, brassica campestris (turnip), has been shown to have weight loss-promoting effects in studies where animals were fed a high-fat diet with a brassica campestris extract supplement.
L-taurine is an amino acid that plays a role in many metabolic processes such as antioxidant activity and heart contractions. L-taurine is needed for cardiovascular development and function as well as skeletal muscle function. Supplementation enhances the amount of exercise and protects against exercise DNA damage. It has also been shown to have fat-burning properties.
Goal 3: Improved Motivation and Focus
Your brain requires numerous vitamins, hormones, fuel and chemicals to properly function. Your cardio performance will be difficult to improve if your brain is unable to work at its best level.
Consider these brain-boosting supplements:
A water-soluble B vitamin, choline bitartrate is a precursor to acetylcholine. Acetylcholine is a crucial brain chemical that determines brain speed and controls muscle contraction. It is suggested that supplementing choline before exercise can reduce post-workout fatigue and enhance pre-workout vigor.
Dopamine, also referred to as the “feel-good hormone,” is an L-tyrosine precursor. Supplementation with L-tyrosine is connected with the ability to withstand prolonged, constant-load exercise in hotter climates.
Goal 4: Protect Lean Muscle
If you are engaging in cardio training and are on a restricted diet, it is possible you’re losing some lean muscle mass. When your body does not get enough fuel (food), protein breakdown is increased to release amino acids for energy. The amount of protein synthesis that occurs in your body may also be decreased from dieting. Thankfully, supplements are available to help in the protection of lean muscle during the time you’re dieting.
Studies of ursolic acid show the potential of making a significant impact on the sports nutrition and weight management industry. Ursolic acid has shown promise in preventing the accumulation of abdominal fat.
What Is the Best Source of Carbs Post-Workout?
There are three things we look for in a post-workout carbohydrate:
- High on the glycemic index
- High on insulin index
- Low in fructose
You need to spike insulin post-workout if you want to replenish your glycogen stores. Foods that are generally considered healthy but aren’t so great for post-workout consumption include grapes, mango, banana, which could have up to 4.9% fructose content. Also, avocados would be a poor choice because they have a high-fat content. You should be looking for fruits like apricots, kiwis, pineapples and figs, along with white rice and rice cakes. You also must have fast-acting protein like whey or iso whey which will increase the amount of glycogen stored by approximately 32%. Having said that, the anabolic window has recently been studied to be a lot larger than originally thought. So don't worry too much about trying to get the carbs in before the 30-minute mark—you actually have closer to two hours.