The first step to success in anything is having a plan. When talking about success in outdoor sports and endurance training, this is especially true. For example, every successful athlete follows a training plan and nutrition plan. This includes everything from recovery with Truly Grass-Fed Protein, Transcend Creatine and getting through your workouts with Stammpede and Revival. However, these are broad terms when truthfully every tiny detail actually makes a world of a difference. This includes factors such as a hydration plan, amino acids and a solid source of energy to get you through training. This leads up to our main topics: hydration, BCAAs and cluster dextrin.
Anyone can benefit from these three factors, but they play important roles in active individuals and outdoor sports for continued training and proper recovery. So what exactly are they responsible for? Let’s start with the biggest factor (which tends to be the one we forget about the most). Hydration.
What is hydration and why does it matter to outdoor athletes?
Many individuals today would probably agree that they don’t drink as much water as they should. But the downfall of even minimum hydration can possibly cause impaired memory, impaired reasoning, fatigue and make you feel downright lousy in general. The first thing you think of when you hear the word “hydration” is water, right? Not only that but you question whether or not you’re getting enough of it. But what are the benefits of maintaining proper levels of hydration?
Some benefits of being hydrated include:
- Optimizes physical performance
- Improves brain function
- Promotes cardiovascular health
Optimizing Physical Performance
When it comes to hydration, it's no secret that maintaining proper levels of fluid in your body during training or competition will enhance performance, avoid the aftereffects of thermal stress, delay fatigue and help prevent injuries otherwise caused by dehydration or sweat loss.
Most individuals can be dehydrated without even realizing it. In fact, dehydration can have an effect on performance with as little as losing 2% of your body’s water content. Athlete’s need to be aware of maintaining adequate hydration levels as they can typically lose anywhere from 6 to 10 % of their water weight from sweat. (1) This loss of fluids can make exercise feel much more difficult, from reducing motivation to increasing overall fatigue. (2) This is especially true for outdoor athletes spending their days in the sun which can add a much more draining effect.
Improves Brain Function
Just as hydration improves physical performance, it improves cognitive function as well. This is especially true with the loss of fluids athlete's can experience post-workout. One study showed that even a loss of less than 2 % of fluids after exercise impaired mood and concentration while increasing headaches. (3) There is no shortage of studies (ranging from young children to elderly) that show even milk hydration can impair cognitive performance, memory and mood. (4, 5, 6, 7, 8).
Promotes Cardiovascular Health
When dehydrated, your blood volume decreases. This means your heart has to work extra hard in order to pump the reduced amount of blood and get oxygen to the cells. This can impact even the simplest movement like playing with your children or walking up the stairs.
Drinking water isn’t the only way to stay hydrated. A lot of endurance athletes and outdoor enthusiasts alike find that electrolytes are extremely beneficial to their training, and they're not wrong. Electrolytes are key to good hydration because they maintain fluid balance. Electrolytes (magnesium, potassium and sodium) can be found in foods and popular sports drinks today. While some individuals try to stay away from sodium (salt), it can actually be very beneficial for maintaining proper bodily functions as well as helping stay hydrated.
One of the more popular outdoor sport-related supplements you see today are branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs). BCAAs are a group of three essential amino acids: leucine, isoleucine and valine. They’re considered essential because your body can’t make them on its own, so obtaining them through your diet is key.
While other amino acids are broken down and processed by the liver, BCAAs head into the bloodstream and are mostly broken down in the muscles. This is why they are thought to play such a large role in energy production. (9)
What other roles do BCAAs play in your body?
- Used as building blocks for protein and muscle
- Help reduce fatigue during exercise
- Reduce muscle soreness
BCAAs Are Used as Building Blocks for Protein and Muscle
While there’s no question that building muscle takes years of hard work, supplementing with BCAAs may help those muscles recover and grow from hard training sessions.
Athletes have been using BCAAs for years to help increase protein synthesis, increase hypertrophy, improve recovery, improve muscle endurance, improve glucose disposal, increase energy and even increase gluconeogenesis (formation of glucose within the body from precursors other than carbohydrates).
BCAAs are important to muscle tissue because they help maintain blood sugar levels. Creating an insulin response during training is key in helping move BCAAs into cells. You can do this by ensuring you have a carbohydrate, protein and amino acid (in liquid form ideally) during and after training. Although, the availability of leucine (a key BCAA) is more important than insulin in this regard. You see, the muscle cells contain a pathway for protein synthesis. While yes it is stimulated by insulin, it’s dependent on leucine. (10)
When looking at the value of each BCAA in regards to protein synthesis, leucine comes in at the top. Leucine is broken down and absorbed faster than any other amino acid.
Some of its other benefits include:
- Builds muscle
- Improves muscle recovery
- Prevents loss of muscle
- Manages blood sugar
- Improves overall performance
BCAAs May Reduce Fatigue During Exercise
During a long hike or bike ride, avoiding fatigue is key. Not only are BCAAs important for muscle growth, but they’re key in fighting off both mental and physical fatigue. One study demonstrated this by giving one group BCAAs and another group a placebo. As it turns out, the BCAA group reported up to 15% less fatigue. (11)
Another study showed that supplementing with BCAAs actually enhanced exercise capacity and lipid oxidation during endurance exercise after muscle glycogen depletion. The BCAA group in this study was able to exercise for 17% longer before reaching exhaustion. (12)
BCAAs May Help Reduce Muscle Soreness
It’s possible that BCAAs can help you feel less sore after a hard workout. They can do this by lowering blood levels of the enzymes creatine kinase and dehydrogenase. These enzymes are involved in muscle damage. This could help protect against muscle damage. (13)
Perhaps a lesser-known but just as important ingredient in our intra-sport supplement, Revival, is cluster dextrin.
As mentioned on the Revival label, cluster dextrin provides a longer, sustained release of carbohydrate energy. While carbohydrate-based sports drinks have been around for quite some time, cluster dextrin becoming more popular as people realize its benefits. When compared to other high GI carbohydrates like dextrose or maltodextrin, cluster dextrin passes through your stomach much faster, making it more readily available for your body to burn as energy. It also provides a sustained release of energy as opposed to a sudden spike in blood sugar and large insulin response.
Cluster dextrin is one of the key ingredients in our intra-sport due to its ability to provide energy during prolonged endurance workouts. One study, in particular, took a look at the differences between cluster dextrin and maltodextrin. Subjects were tested on an endurance test based on a rating of perceived exertion (RPE). The RPE was significantly less for the group that ingested cluster dextrin vs. the maltodextrin group. (14)
Being mindful of proper hydration during your outdoor activities as well as both BCAA and cluster dextrin supplementation can be game-changers when it comes to optimizing your training plan. Luckily our Revival intra-sport has all three ingredients.