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Endurance

Increasing your endurance can have big pay-offs in terms of sports performance and health. If you want to break your personal endurance records, improve your time in sporting events, and outlast your competition, let us show you how!

If you're interested in endurance sports events – be them 5K -10K “fun runs”, Century rides, marathons or full-blown “ironman” competitions; or just want to go longer and harder before you "hit the wall" when playing your favorite sport – then look into your nutrition and supplement program.

The serious endurance athlete requires a nutrition and supplement program tailored to his/her demanding exercise regimen. Labrada can help you to recover from endurance training faster and more completely, and improve your performance, enabling you to reach PERSONAL BEST RECORDS.

If you're serious about improving your endurance, take that important first step NOW – start by reading below!

"The Endurance" Stack

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Intro

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In 1968, Dr. Kenneth Cooper published his seminal book, “Aerobics,” which inspired a fitness revolution! Thanks to Dr. Cooper, millions of people were inspired to take up jogging/running, cycling, triathlons and other forms of endurance exercise. The enthusiasm has yet to wane: these days, practically every community in America has its own local endurance sports events – be they 5K – 10K “fun runs,” century rides, marathons or full-blown “ironman” competitions. Each year, thousands of people compete in elite competitions like the U.S.A. Cycling National Championships, the Boston Marathon or the Ironman 70.3 series.

If you’re doing shorter-distance/moderate-intensity cardio for fun, cardiovascular health or weight control, you don’t need any sport-specific dietary advice. If you’re eating according to my Lean Body® principles (see The Lean Body Promise or my 12-week Lean Body Challenge for details), then carry on – you’re not pushing your body hard enough/long enough to need any additional measures to enhance your performance or improve your recovery. It’s another story, however, if you’re training for long-distance events. As sports dietician Suzanne Girard Eberle wrote:

“Endurance athletes… have unique and often challenging daily nutritional needs. In fact, the intense and exhaustive endeavors that endurance athletes undertake daily are impossible unless the right foods are eaten in optimal amounts at the correct time.”1

This Endurance Nutrition Program summarizes key concepts you need to know – and put into practice – NOW.

Let’s start from the beginning, with calories and macronutrients.

Diet & Meal Plans

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Nutrition Basics: Calories & Macronutrients

This part is pretty simple, really. Food – all food – provides you with energy (calories) and macronutrients. The latter are divided into three basic macronutrient categories: protein, fat and carbohydrates.

Calories

A calorie (actually a kilocalorie or “kcal”) is a unit of energy. Scientifically speaking, it's the amount of energy needed to raise the temperature of 1 kilogram of water 1°C. Since your body maintains a core temperature of roughly 37°C, 24/7, it’s obvious that you need a certain number of calories just to exist. The number of calories needed to perform basic life functions (like breathing and thinking) is known as your resting energy expenditure (REE).

Activities such as walking, talking, eating and – yes – exercise require additional energy. So, your total daily energy expenditure (TDEE) is your REE, plus the energy used for physical activity and digestion (aka the “thermic effect of food”).

To put it another way…

Your TDEE is the total number of calories you can eat without gaining or losing weight.

Not surprisingly, this is the starting point for any sport-specific nutrition plan. Too many calories – even from healthy foods – will result in fat gains. Too few will flatline your training progress, impair your ability to recover from your workouts, and increase your risk of developing overtraining syndrome (OTS). Even if need to gain or lose some weight, you never want to go too high above; or drop too far below your TDEE for an extended period of time.

The best way to determine your TDEE is to accurately track your intake and body composition statistics (weight, body fat percentage, girth measurements). It takes time to accumulate enough data to analyze, however. If you don’t have it and don’t know where to start, a standardized equation can provide you with a reasonable estimate.

Click here to visit an online TDEE calculator.

For optimal athletic performance, construct your diet to meet your TDEE.

Note: It’s important to remember that your TDEE will vary with your training volume/intensity. You will need to increase your intake to support intense training; and decrease it to maintain an optimal weight during stretches of lighter training and/or rest.

See the section on carbohydrates for additional details on how to adapt your diet to your training schedule.

For good health and well-being, the majority of your calories should come from quality sources of the three macronutrients: protein, fat and carbohydrates.

Protein

Endurance athletes need to consume high-quality, lean protein to rebuild and maintain muscle tissue. Your protein sources should be low in fat, as fat is a highly concentrated source of calories! The “hidden” calories in fatty meats can easily tip the scales in favor of body fat gains. Unless you’re planning to swim the English Channel, and need the additional buoyancy and insulation, this is something to be avoided!

Optimal Protein Sources Sub-Optimal Protein Sources
lean beef (flank steak, beef tenderloin, 96% lean ground beef) deli meats
skinless chicken breast hard cheeses/processed cheese
turkey breast lunch meats/hot dogs
egg whites bacon/sausage/salami/pepperoni
fish/shellfish whole milk/milk drinks/milk substitutes
pork tenderloin fried chicken/fish
low fat/non-fat cottage cheese ground beef with >4% fat (by weight)
low fat/nonfat Greek yogurt (plain) ccuts meat with visible fat/marbling
water-packed tuna buffalo wings, bbq ribs

Note: don’t be fooled by front-of-package labeling! This may come as a surprise, but more than half of the calories in 15% “lean” ground beef come from fat! This is because the label is based on the percentage of fat by weight. Since fat is a concentrated source of calories, even small amounts of fat can add a lot of unwanted calories.

As you can see from the table, an optimal source of protein is…

  • Low in fat, carbohydrates and excess sodium;
  • Derived from animals rather than plants.

Meat, fish, poultry, egg and dairy proteins are not only concentrated sources of protein; they’re also rich in the essential amino acids (EAAs) that our bodies cannot make. One of these, leucine, is especially important for muscle protein synthesis.2 By contrast, plant foods contain less protein (and leucine!) overall; and may be deficient in one or more EAAs.

What About Vegetarians?

Meat and fish are concentrated sources of protein and essential amino acids, so it’s not hard for omnivores to eat the recommended amount of protein. Vegetarians, however, may have a tougher time. If you're a lacto-ovo vegetarian, the void left by meat can be partially filled with eggs/whites, lower fat dairy foods like cottage cheese and Greek yogurt and - of course – high-quality protein supplements like Lean Pro8 ® or Lean Body®.

But vegans can also manage, if they choose their foods and supplements wisely. Vegans should focus on plant foods that contain the highest amount of protein, such as lentils, soybeans, split peas and other legumes; peanuts/peanut butter, spinach, oatmeal and whole grains (including products like whole wheat pasta and bread). Certain specialty products (like “Quorn” or "Gardenburgers") and plant-based protein supplements (brown rice, pea, soy and hemp protein powders) can also be used, although whole/minimally processed foods should form the core of your diet.

Vegans/vegetarians may also come up short in certain food elements that omnivores take for granted: vitamin B12, zinc, calcium, creatine, vitamin D (assuming lack of daily sun exposure),3 EPA/DHA4 and carnosine.5 Certain supplements in my line are perfect for vegans, such as my BA-Endurance, EFA Lean Gold, CreaLean, Kre-Alkalyn, BCAA Power and HICA-Max, as they restore the carnosine, EFAs, creatine and certain essential amino acids that may be lacking in a vegan diet.

How much to eat? Although research has shown that endurance athletes don’t need quite as much protein as strength athletes6, trying to stick within the recommended amounts can be tough in a practical sense. Endurance athletes need a lot of food while they’re training, and even the smaller amounts of protein in – say – bread or pasta can add up. So rather than restricting your protein foods, relax: feel free to enjoy reasonable amounts, according to your appetite and tastes. You won’t go wrong shooting for about 20% of your total calories. The International Society of Sports Nutrition recommends ~1.0 – 1.6g/kg/day (0.45 – 0.72g/pound/day). 6 Personally, I favor the higher end of this range (1.4 – 1.6g/kg/day).

Fats

As noted above, fat can contribute a lot of extra calories to your diet, so it’s important to keep your fat intake controlled. Nonetheless, some dietary fat is important for good health and optimal anabolic hormone levels. A little goes a long way, though, since fat contains 9 calories/g vs. 4 calories/g for protein & carbs. Because of this, limit your fat intake to approx. 30% of your total calories. Make sure most of it comes from natural, whole food sources and unrefined/supplemental oils, such as the ones listed below.

Optimal Fat Sources Sub-Optimal Fat Sources
almonds/walnuts/pistachiosskinless chicken breast commercial cooking oils
ground flax seed margarine/butter
hemp/sunflower/sesame seeds commercial salad dressings/mayonnaise
wild-caught salmon bacon/sausage/salami/pepperoni
avocadoes whole milk/half & half/cream
extra-virgin olive oil shortening/lard
fish oil ground beef with >4% fat (by weight)
EFA Lean Gold cuts of meat with visible fat/marbling

Note: be especially wary of foods containing “partially-hydrogenated vegetable oil.” Partially-hydrogenated oils contain harmful trans-fats, which are linked to heart disease and strokes.7

What makes the fat sources on the left better choices than the ones on the right? The ones on the left provide heart-healthy monounsaturated and/or omega-3 essential fatty acids. Foods like nuts, seeds, avocadoes and salmon also supply valuable nutrients in addition to the fat. On the other hand, the fat sources on the right contain excessive amounts of saturated fat, trans-fats and/or pro-inflammatory omega-6 fatty acids.8

Carbohydrates

Carbs are not the enemy, despite what low-carb advocates claim. Complex carb sources like fruit, fibrous/starchy vegetables, whole grains and legumes provide energy, vitamins/minerals, disease-fighting phytochemicals and fiber - which are important for both athletic performance and long-term health. And for the endurance athlete, simple and/or rapidly-digested complex carbs are important sources of fuel: they can make the difference between peak performance and “bonking” (aka “hitting the wall”).9

Optimal Carb Sources Sub-Optimal Carb Sources
sweet potatoes/yams; white potatoes french fries/potato chips
brown/wild rice, barley, quinoa “Rice-a-Roni” and other packaged, pre-seasoned grain “side dishes”
old-fashioned/steel-cut oatmeal packaged, ready-to-eat cereals
Whole grain bread/pasta pizza; fettucine alfredo; other grain-based dishes with fatty toppings
legumes (beans and dried, split peas) baked beans; canned bean/pea soups
fresh and frozen (unseasoned) vegetables sauced/buttered frozen vegetables
fresh and frozen (unsweetened) fruit “fruit snacks”/juice drinks
Rye Crispbreads commercial crackers and tortilla chips
corn tortillas; air-popped popcorn jams/jellies/honey/agave syrup/sugar/maple syrup
Power-Carb; carb gels/sports drinks (before/during/after workouts only!) sweetened coffee drinks, energy drinks, sodas, “Vitamin Water”
candy bars, cookies, snack cakes

It should be easy to see the differences between the optimal and sub-optimal carb sources in the table above. An optimal carb source…

  • Is either unprocessed; or minimally-processed so that the original nutrients are retained;
  • Is high in natural fiber;
  • Does not contain excessive amounts of added fat or sugar.

When you’re training heavily, certain “gray area” carb sources can also be added to the menu, such as white rice/pasta/bagels/bread, baked potatoes, dried fruit, low fat cereal bars and fruit juices. While these foods are nutritionally inferior to their less processed counterparts, it’s also true that it can be tough to consume sufficient carb calories from optimal sources alone (nor is it desirable – excess fiber intake can cause bloating, gas and other unfortunate symptoms that can interfere with your training).

Optimal carb sources, however, should be prioritized in your diet: use “gray area” sources selectively for additional workout fuel; during the post-training carbohydrate “window” for glycogen replenishment9; or for carbohydrate loading.

To start, try setting carbs at approx. 50% of your total calories.

How Many Meals Should You Eat?

It goes without saying that you should strive to eat more than 3 meals a day! For most endurance athletes, 5 – 6 meals a day is ideal. Eating frequent, smaller meals helps trainees feel more energetic, rather than stuffed and sluggish. This system helps prevent overeating, keeps insulin under control10, and provides a steady supply of fuel and nutrients to your body throughout the day.

Note: you don’t have to be a slave to the kitchen to manage 5 – 6 daily meals! While eating frequent, balanced meals is important, you can use specially-formulated products – like my Lean Body® meal replacement shakes or bars – to help fill in when whole food in not practical.

Putting it all together...

Use the spreadsheet below to calculate your (starting) calorie and macronutrient needs:

Starting Calories:
Protein (g):
Fat (g):
Carbohydrate:

Adjust your calories and macronutrient ratios depending on your energy levels and body composition. For example, if your weight and body composition are stable, but you feel you need more fuel, you can hold your total calories steady, while bumping up your carbs and trimming your fat calories by an equivalent amount.

Here’s a simple meal plan for an endurance trainee needing 4000 calories/day (approx. 200g protein, 500g carbohydrate, 133g fat).

Meal Protein (g) Carbs (g) Fat (g) Calories
Breakfast: Veggie scramble ( 1 whole egg, ¾ c. egg whites, mixed veggies, olive oil for cooking); 1 c. cooked oatmeal; 1 c. calcium-fortified orange juice; 1 c. fresh blueberries; 1 tsp. fish oil 37 82 22 674
Mid-morning: 1 oz. almonds; large orange; 2 scoops Lean Body® Whole Foods 43 58 20.5 589
Lunch: 4 oz. grilled chicken breast, ½ sliced avocado, mayo on whole wheat bagel; 1 c. raw broccoli florets, 3 oz. baby carrots; dried apricots 51 95 30.5 859
Pre-Training: 2 scoops of Power Carb, 2 scoops GlutaLean 0 50 0 200
During Training: 1 scoop Power Carb in 16 oz. water (add a pinch of Morton Lite Salt for sodium/potassium).*) 0 25 0 100
Post-Training: 2 scoops of Power Carb, 2 scoops BCAA Power 0 50 0 200
Mid-afternoon (shake): 2 scoops Lean Body® Whole Foods; 1 large banana; 2 Tbsp. flax oil or Udo’s Choice 37 65 34.5 719
Dinner: 4 oz. grilled orange roughy, 1 c. steamed green beans, spinach salad w/olive oil vinaigrette; 1 c. brown rice pilaf (olive oil for cooking); 1c. fresh pineapple chunks, 1 tsp. fish oil 34 76 25 665
Total 202 501 132.5 4006

*Increase volume of water-Power Carb-electrolyte solution as needed, depending on duration of training and fluid losses.

Note: pre-, during and post-workout supplements/beverages have been added to the above plan. Although they’re not formal meals or snacks, they still count toward your total calories and macronutrient targets.

TIps for Success!

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  • 1.

    Keep a journal. If you're serious about your training, you already keep records of your distances and times. If you're serious about your nutrition, you'll do the same for your meals. There are a number of online programs and mobile apps you can use to make this simple, although even pencil-and-paper will do. If you need to tweak your program (and most people do, at some point), your journal will provide you with valuable insights on how to do it.

  • 2.

    Pack a cooler. There are a lot of simple to prepare-and-eat foods you can take with you to work: sliced pre-cooked meat or poultry, raw veggies/grape tomatoes, hard-boiled eggs, fresh fruit, cereal bars, low fat/sodium breads/bagels/wraps and foil tuna packets are some examples. If you have access to a microwave, you can also bring leftover chili, stew or other entrees from home.

    Don’t forget to pack some nutrient-packed snack foods too! Raw (or lightly toasted) nuts/seeds, trail mix, dried fruit, jerky and Lean Body® Bars need no refrigeration and fit easily into a pocket or backpack: perfect for munching on-the-go.

  • 3.

    Plan ahead! Meal replacement shakes and bars can be lifesavers when you don’t feel like cooking, but they’re not superior to real food! So simplify your life by prepping certain staples in advance. It's easy, for example, to put together a quick, healthy stir fry, if you have pre-chopped veggies, cooked brown rice and grilled chicken breasts already stored in the fridge or freezer.

  • 4.

    Stay well-hydrated. Fluid replacement is a number one priority for endurance athletes! Even minimal dehydration can impair your performance significantly. While there is no “one-size-fits-all” set of guidelines, the American College of Sports Medicine recommends the following11:

    • Prehydration: athletes should slowly drink beverages (5 – 7 ml/kg of bodyweight) at least 4 hours before training. Additional beverages (3 – 5 ml/kg) should be consumed about 2 hours before training, if urine output is dark/concentrated or absent. If the beverages do not contain some sodium, small amounts of salted snacks and/or sodium-containing foods should also be consumed.
    • During Exercise: given the variability in sweating rates, athletes should monitor their body weight changes during training, to create a customized fluid replacement program. In general, however, consuming between 400 – 800 ml per hour will cover most individuals participating in marathon-length events in cool/temperate weather. Fluid replacement beverages should contain ~20 – 30 meq/L sodium, 2 – 5 meq/L potassium and ~5 – 10% carbohydrate (electrolytes and carbs can also be provided by sports gels or other non-fluid components).
    • Post-exercise: after training, the goal is to replace the fluid and electrolytes lost in sweat. Power Carb is a great choice. If time permits, the consumption of normal meals and beverages will be adequate. Those needing rapid restoration from dehydration should drink 1.5 L of fluid for each kilogram of body weight lost. Sodium should also be consumed to stimulate thirst and fluid retention.
    On the flip side, it’s wise to not overdo fluid consumption. Overdrinking water, in combination with sodium losses (from sweating) can lead to exercise-associated hyponatremia – a potentially life-threatening condition.12
  • 5.

    Limit your alcohol intake. Alcohol is a diuretic and will increase fluid losses. If alcohol is consumed at all, it should be in moderation, and well after (not before) training.

  • 6.

    Keep an eye on your intake of iron, zinc and calcium. These micronutrients can be limiting in some athletes’ diets (particularly female athletes). Fortified foods/meal replacement products or supplements can be used if you’re coming up short.

Note: Iron is easily overdone and should be taken only if a true deficiency exists. Check with your doctor before taking an iron supplement.13

Supplements

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Should you take additional supplements?

While you don’t need a lot of different products, a few, carefully chosen ones can make a big difference to your health and performance.

The supplements I recommend to improve endurance performance and recovery are...

  • 1.

    Workout carbs. A supplement like Power Carb is high-octane carbohydrate fuel for your muscles. Taken before, during and/or after your workout, Power Carb provides you with the energy you need to push through a strenuous workout.

  • 2.

    Glutamine. Glutamine is the most abundant amino acid in skeletal muscle. Although research has failed to substantiate direct performance benefits, supplemental glutamine can help reduce buildup of ammonia during intense exercise14 and enhance post-exercise glycogen resynthesis.15 GlutaLean™ contains only pure pharmaceutical grade L-glutamine – the best available on the market.

  • 3.

    Beta-Alanine. If you compete, then you know that it’s sometimes necessary to dig in and find the strength/power for that final sprint across the finish line. Beta-alanine can help you find that power!

    BA-Endurance™ is 100% pure pharmaceutical grade beta-alanine. It combines with histidine (another amino acid) in the muscle tissue to increase muscle carnosine stores. Carnosine delays muscle fatigue through its buffering action on acid build-up in muscles.

    Recent research demonstrated that beta-alanine supplementation improved peak power output during a cycling sprint that followed a 110-minute simulated cycling race.16

  • 4.

    Supplemental Protein. Lastly, if you’d like to boost the protein content of a quick meal-on-the-go or snack, give my Lean Pro8™ super-premium protein a try. It’s a high-quality protein blend that was designed to meet the needs of elite athletes… and it tastes amazing, too! Or try my Lean Body® Whole Foods, for protein AND whole food energy!

Optional extras: Sorenzyme™ is the collaborative effort of Labrada’s Research & Development team and Dr. Mark J. Tallon, a Nutritional Biochemist who is also one of the industry’s leading minds in nutrient metabolism.

Combining two proven systems in immune and inflammatory control resulted in a supplement that was safe, effective, all natural, and the first of its kind in the sports nutrition market to control D.O.M.S. (Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness).17

Likewise, an anti-catabolic supplement like HICA-Max also helps prevent D.O.M.S. as well as intensive training-induced muscle breakdown18 , to speed up recovery from endurance training.

Need additional tips or support?

You can get it right here! If you hit a stumbling block, have questions or want to share your progress, contact us. We want to hear from you!

"The Endurance" Stack

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References

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Check out the Lean Body Promise, which is packed with motivational tips, recipes, workouts and detailed advice on getting lean and mean. And if you hit a stumbling block, have questions or want to share your progress, log into the forum at labrada.com! We’d love to hear from yo

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    Eberle, Suzanne Girard. “Nutritional Needs of Endurance Athletes.” Essentials of Sports Nutrition and Supplements. Ed. Jose Antonio, PhD, Douglas Kalman, PhD, RD, et al. Humana Press, 2008. 329-348. Print.

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    Norton LE, Layman DK. Leucine regulates translation initiation of protein synthesis in skeletal muscle after exercise. J Nutr. 2006 Feb;136(2):533S-537S. [PubMed] [Full Text]

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    Venderley AM and Campbell WW. Vegetarian diets: nutritional considerations for athletes. Sports Med. 2006;36(4):293-305. [PubMed] [Abstract]

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    Davis BC, Kris-Etherton PM. Achieving optimal fatty acid status in vegetarians: current knowledge and practical implications. Am J Clin Nutr. 2003 Sep;78(3 Suppl):640S-646S. [PubMed] [Full Text]

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    Harris RC, Jones G, Hill CA, et al. The carnosine content of V Lateralis in vegetarians and omnivores. FASEB. 2007;21:769.20. [Meeting Abstract]

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    Campbell B, Kreider RB, Ziegenfuss T, et al. International Society of Sports Nutrition position stand: protein and exercise. J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2007 Sep 26;4:8. [PubMed] [Full Text]

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    Heart.org. “Trans Fats.” American Heart Association, 29 Oct. 2010. 3 Nov. 2011 [Site]

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    umm.edu. “Omega-6 Fatty Acids.” University of Maryland Medical Center: Complementary Medicine, 17 Jun. 2011. 5 Nov. 2011 [Site]

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    npr.org. “Avoid the ‘Bonk’: Running a Marathon Scientifically.” National Public Radio, 24 Oct. 2010. 2 Jan. 2012. [Site]

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    Bertelsen J, Christiansen C, Thomsen C, et al. Effect of meal frequency on blood glucose, insulin, and free fatty acids in NIDDM subjects. Diabetes Care. 1993 Jan;16(1):4-7. [PubMed] [Abstract]

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    American College of Sports Medicine, Sawka MN, Burke LM, et al. American College of Sports Medicine position stand. Exercise and fluid replacement. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2007 Feb;39(2):377-90. [PubMed] [Full Text]

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    Rosner MH, Kirven J. Exercise-associated hyponatremia. Clin J Am Soc Nephrol. 2007 Jan;2(1):151-61. [PubMed] [Full Text]

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    lpi.oregonstate.edu. “Iron.” Linus Pauling Institute Micronutrient Information Center. Aug. 2009. 2 Jan. 2012.

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    Carvalho-Peixoto J, Alves RC, Cameron LC. Glutamine and carbohydrate supplements reduce ammonemia increase during endurance field exercise. Appl Physiol Nutr Metab. 2007 Dec;32(6):1186-90. [PubMed] [Abstract]

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    Bowtell JL, Gelly K, Jackman ML, et al. Effect of oral glutamine on whole body carbohydrate storage during recovery from exhaustive exercise. J Appl. Physiol. 1999 Jun;86(6):1770-7. [PubMed] [Full Text]

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    Hoffman JR, Ratamess NA, Faigenbaum AD, et al. Short-duration beta-alanine supplementation increases training volume and reduces subjective feelings of fatigue in college football players. Nutr Res. 2008 Jan;28(1):31-5. [PubMed] [Abstract]

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    Mero AA, Ojala T, Hulmi JJ, et al. Effects of alfa-hydroxy-isocaproic acid on body composition, DOMS and performance in athletes. J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2010 Jan 5;7:1. [PubMed] [Full Text]

  • 15.

    labrada.com. “Winning With the Enzymatic Edge.” Labrada Nutrition. 28 Apr. 2006. 29 Dec. 2012.


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