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Is supplementation important for endurance sports performance? It is interesting to compare science-based recommendations with the supplement habits of endurance athletes. Which supplements are necessary and which are optional? By Andrea du Plessis

For some athletes, supplementation is a necessity during every endurance race. Others only consider it when the “wheels come off”, such as when they “hit the wall”, get debilitating muscle cramps or end up with a drip in the medical tent due to dehydration.

Fuel, water and electrolytes are vital to support the body during endurance sports. One can load the body before training with adequate amounts of these dietary elements for endurance events under 60-90 minutes.

For sports events longer than 90 minutes, it is important to refuel and rehydrate during the event. Nutritional science shows us that for certain need states, supplements can be beneficial for endurance events that last longer than 2 hours.



  • Fluid: 250 – 500 ml per hour after the first hour
    Fluid in the form of water, sports drinks or rehydration drinks can be taken during an endurance event.
    One should not need more than 500 ml of fluid per hour, depending on body size and actual fluid requirements.
    On warmer days, or for athletes that perspire a lot, additional fluid replacement is required.
  • Electrolytes:
    The electrolytes sodium and potassium should also be replenished during endurance events, as they are critical to energy metabolism and muscle contraction. Sports drinks or rehydration formulas are enriched with electrolytes.


If you did not fuel up before a race with a high energy breakfast or a substantial meal the night before, it is important to eat during an endurance event.

  • Fuel: For an energy boost after the first 60-90 minutes, 1-2 energy gels, or 1 energy bar can supply 20-40 g carbohydrates
    Carbohydrates are the most effective in replenishing fuel during endurance training. Protein and fats play a supportive role and can also be incorporated.
    Snacks offered on the route at races include boiled salted potatoes, chips, jelly sweets and fruit.


Vitamins and Minerals: 1 multivitamin / vitamin B Complex before an endurance event

  • B-Vitamins: Conversion of energy from the foods you have eaten into muscle power, requires B-vitamins. Multivitamins or Vitamin B Complex supplements will provide adequate amounts, required for energy metabolism in your muscles.

Muscle Pain and Cramps: 150 mg magnesium before or during an endurance event

  • Magnesium: take a supplement of 100-150mg magnesium before or during an endurance event. Your muscles require sufficient levels of this mineral for the increased energy turnover and muscle contraction.
  • Arnica: Homeopathic tablets that contain arnica (Traumeel from Heel) area ideal to take before, during and after an endurance event to reduce muscle soreness.

For more information, www.fedhealth.co.za
For any nutrition related questions, visit: www.facebook.com/andreaduplessis.nutrition.expert

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