Reaching a plateau:
Working out more often will increase your strength, endurance and fitness, but there is a flip side. Injuries, fatigue and hitting a ‘plateau’ in your performance, where you can’t seem to better that PB, or run that extra mile, can take the shine off your exercise high. Hitting the dreaded plateau is common in athletes – and yes, you CAN call yourself an athlete if you’re running for a couple of 30-minute sessions a week, it all counts!
What’s the problem?
Age, hormonal shifts and wear and tear on the joints are all contributory factors in not being able to hit your fitness goal. It could also be that you’re pushing yourself too hard, so it’s worth evaluating whether you’re allowing sufficient recovery time.
Take a look at your diet, and ensure you’re eating the right foods to refuel your body. Eating a proper breakfast is essential when exercising first thing in the morning. Dr Ranjan Chatterjee, whose easy to follow nutritional advice we love, has written an excellent blog with recommendations on the right eats to set yourself up for the day.
If those steps don’t help you make the most of your summer workouts, here are some supplements that might help to repair and support your body.
First up is iron. Iron deficiency is very common among runners and according to research impacts up to 17% of men and 50% of women. Women draw the short straw because pre-menopause, losing blood each month can run our iron levels down. Men don’t get away with it though! Many guys who take part in endurance sports and train hard can also see their iron levels drop.
Iron is essential for both transporting oxygen to your muscles to power them and helping you metabolise carbohydrates, your fuel during work-outs. If you’re exercising more frequently, the amount of haemoglobin (iron rich red blood cells) in your body will increase. As these blood cells rise, the demand on your iron level climbs and they can become depleted. Signs of not getting enough iron include feeling very tired, pale skin, palpitations and breathlessness.
Don’t forget Ferritin!
Even if your haemoglobin levels are OK and you aren’t anaemic, your ferritin could still be on the low side. Ferritin is the name for your stored iron and represents about 25% of total iron in the body. It’s very important in maintaining your overall health and will definitely impact on your performance when you exercise.
What is normal?
According to the NHS, the ‘normal’ ferritin level range is HUGE! Anything from 41 – 400 ug/L. However, according to functional medicine expert Dr Carri Drzyzga, to feel well, your ferritin levels should fall between 40 and 70 ug/L. The optimum level for runners is believed to be above 50 ug/L.
If your levels are towards the lower end, it’s definitely worth supplementing. There’s a dizzying array of iron supplements out there, but the oral ones are renowned for causing stomach upsets and constipation. We have an Iron Plus patch that will enable you to avoid these unpleasant side effects and top up those crucial iron levels. It’s also worth adding iron rich foods to your diet: red meat, in particular organ meats like liver and kidney, is ideal. Unless, of course, you are veggie, in which case leafy green vegetables such as kale and spinach, lentils and kidney beans will all supply an iron boost.
Step right up for extra energy:
Iron can be a game changer when it comes to breaking through your plateau, but there are many other vitamins and minerals you can take to ensure all systems are at go. Lots of athletes swear by taking the B complex of vitamins, because they are essential in the function of metabolic pathways in the body. There are 8 B vitamins, including Riboflavin, which helps your body convert the nutrients you eat into energy, and Niacin, essential for synthesising cholesterol. These vitamins are most commonly found in dairy and meat, so if you’re vegan, supplementation should definitely be on your radar.
PQQ and CoQ10:
Another great performance enhancer to look out for is PQQ, short for the not so catchy ‘Pyrroloquinoline Quinone’. Found naturally in soil and fruit like kiwi fruit, PQQ protects the body’s cells from antioxidants and supports the metabolism of energy. Another goodie is Coenzyme Q10, which plays a crucial role in generating energy in your cells. Our natural stores of CoQ10 can fall as we age, so it’s definitely a go-to once you hit mid-life.
Want to try them out? Our Endurance Max patch contains all these naturally occurring energy enhancers. It’s worth taking for a month to see whether you notice a difference in your energy levels and post-workout recovery time.
Target joint pain and inflammation:
A sustained period of clocking in longer runs, or work-outs, often results in sore joints and aching muscles. Making sure you take regular rest days, decent warm-ups and stretching after exercise, should all help to minimise your aches and pains. You could also try supplementing with Glucosamine and Chrondroitin. This double act are both structural components of cartilage, the tissue that cushions your joints. Produced naturally in the body, they work by slowing and preventing the degeneration of joint cartilage – especially important if you’re a road runner, because continually pounding the pavements can put stress on your knees and ankles.
Studies have shown that when taken together, Glucosamine and Chrondroitin can significantly reduce inflammation, help to maintain the cartilage in your joints and aid your body’s production of synovial fluid – which help the joints pass smoothly over one another.
Our Glucosamine Chrondroitin patch contains both these wonder ingredients at optimal levels. It’s a must for runners, cyclists, or anyone who might have been overdoing it a bit on the training this summer. You could also take it preventatively, to protect your joints from stress and overuse going forwards.
(Don’t) feel the burn:
Finally, when working out in the summer months, don’t forget about protecting your skin. If you are exercising al fresco, applying sun-cream in at least factor 30 to all your sun-exposed skin is a must. Wear a hat and consider covering up in a long-sleeved top – you could opt for something made from wicking, a lightweight breathable fabric that pulls moisture away from the skin.
One of our Sunaway Plus patches could also help. While definitely not a substitute for sunscreen, it contains all-natural ingredients, designed to help strengthen the skin’s resistance to sunburn and neutralise the free radicals that lead to premature skin ageing. Slapping on one in the summer months could work wonders for warding off wrinkles. You can thank us later!