A reader asked me how he could increase his endurance to be stronger and less gassed near the end of a pickup basketball game.
We've all been in a similar situation. Maybe an old friend calls you up to sub for a weekend warrior sports team, or you're doing some game for charity, or you procrastinated in training for that charity 5k race.
You need a boost, but not of the Lance Armstrong variety.
I got you covered with a three-pronged approach.
Make sure you've got enough glucose to get you through a grueling event.
That means having a meal with simple carbohydrates as a pregame meal. I find my energy is more stable if I treat myself to a candy bar before my own games, and drink Gatorade during breaks.
This is the reason extreme athletes use "gel" products like THIS ONE. They are almost all simple carbohydrates.
Electrolytes are also important, but maybe you only have access to water or don't like the taste of sports drinks. Easy fix! No matter what you're drinking, Drop a NUUN tablet in there.
Second, have 3-5g of beta alanine. This supplement creates a buffer against the lactic acid burn that you feel when muscles are fatigued. Its primary function is to delay fatigue as long as possible and let you go harder, longer.
A word of caution: this is a supplement you KNOW is working because it creates heat and a pin-prickly feeling on the skin of some users. If that creeps you out, skip it.
Caffeine heightens your mood, increases your endurance, and is clinically proven to boost your workouts. If you don't want to drink a strong cup of coffee before a basketball game, now is a good time to shell out some dough for those overpriced energy shots.
Caffeine takes about 25 minutes to kick in, so you want to take it about a half-hour before activity.
How to Stack
Most pre-workout supplements have some dosage of caffeine and beta-alanine for all the reasons I mentioned here.
If you want a boost before a workout, a run, or a big game, preworkout supps are a fast, efficient way to boost your performance.
However, a lot of preworkouts hide their actual dosages behind "proprietary blends."
I don't use preworkouts much anymore, but when I did, the one I recommended was from Legion athletics. This company was started by Mike Matthews, and it's built on transparency, so you can actually see what's in the supplement.
There are 4.8g of beta-alanine and a whopping 350mg of caffeine in a single serving.
You can easily cut this serving in half to start small or survey your tolerance. As a 200 pound male, I find that 3.2g daily of beta-alanine is perfectly fine to get the desired effect.
If you're on a budget or just want to save money and get more bang for your buck, you can easily mix your own endurance or preworkout stack using bulk supplements.
Here is 500g of beta alanine for 17 bucks.
Here is a theanine/caffeine stack with 100mg caffeine for 19 bucks.
If you can stack caffeine with theanine, do so. There is a synergistic effect that reduces any shakes or anxiety and gives you smoother energy and more focus.
(Interpolation: if you are trying to QUIT or REDUCE caffeine consumption, use theanine and tyrosine as a stack to get past withdrawal and provide steady energy and focus).
With the bulk supplements, you can make 90+ servings of this endurance stack for far less than a jar of Legion.
Just mix in a teaspoon of beta-alanine in a glass of Gatorade, and down the caffeine tablet as you chug the drink about 30 mins before physical activity. Boom, you're Superman.
Now, go fly and let me know if these strategies worked for you!