OCR requires the use of all the bodies energy systems, to keep this simple the body gets energy for different activates via different pathways, these can range from sub 10-15 seconds (ATP-PC):, 15 seconds – 90 seconds, 90 seconds to 4 minutes (anerbobic /glycotic) and 4 minutes plus (aerobic). Due to the wide range of physical demands within the sport, different supplements will provide different benefits depending on a individuals personal requirements, strength and weaknesses, selecting the right product for the right purpose can have a positive outcome when it comes to overall performance and recovery
Due to the volume of training and the distances that can be covered in both training and races it is vital that enough energy is taken on board, pre-during and post training or event, this allows for intensity to be sustained. The uses of carbohydrates for endurance activities is tried and tested, and despite new evidence emerging about lower carb, higher fat diets for endurance, higher carb intakes are still well established as the gold standard to performance enhancement to prolonged exercise at moderate activities, especially when intermittent bouts of activity are included (sprints / obstacles etc). The carbohydrate sources found in fuel allow for a sustained release of energy, preventing any drop in blood sugar, making it ideal pre and during training, while it aids in the re-synthesis of glycogen stores post training, aiding the recovery process and ensuring the body is prepared for the next training session (1)
Traditionally, nutrition for endurance based events has primarily focused on carbohydrates and fats, more recently research has looked at the effects of protein on endurance events. The recent ISSN position standpoint in protein summarised the following points regarding protein supplements for endurance sports (2)
- Supplementing with protein pre or during training or competition is unlikely to directly improve performance, and if the inclusion of protein is at the expense of carbohydrates may impair performance
- Including protein pre and post training, while ensuring sufficient carbohydrate intake prevents the excessive breakdown of muscle tissue, reduces muscle damage and soreness
- This allows for a faster recovery times between training sessions and ensures the overall quality of training for a complete training cycle is of higher quality, leading to improvements in performance.
The distance of OCR event can vary widely from short sprints to ultra-marathons. Although the average intensity of the events maybe lower relatively speaking, there are frequent bursts of higher intensity activity that need to be maintained for extended periods of time, hill sprints, loaded carries, running through thick mud and the muscular endurance required to complete the obstacles can cause the accumulation of lactate. This not only effects that specific section of the event, but also requires the following stages of the event to be carried out at a lower intensity to allow for the removal of lactate to occur before the athlete can start to push the tempo again, Xendurance would allow the athlete to buffer lactate for longer, allowing the athlete to push for longer and limit the accumulation of lactate that may previously have occurred at a set intensity or stage of the event. The evidence behind this product can be found here.
Traditionally used in strength based activities because of proven track record of improving top end strength, power and power endurance (3). Creatine could be beneficial for OCR by improving strength endurance for monkey bars, hangs, climbs, loaded carries, the increases in strength and power associated with creatine use would aid moving heavier loads, improve grip strength while the improvements noted in higher intensity intermittent activities would help with sprints, hill work, jumping over fences / hay bales and obstacles that require and explosive burst of speed and power lasting up to 30 seconds. This aids not only the event it's self but improves the quality of training leading up to the event.
There's strong evidence that dehydration of just 2% can impair exercise capacity by an significant margin (4). Due to the nature of OCR and the inclusion of water and other obstacles that cause a cooling effect on the body, an athlete may experience 'voluntary dehydration', where they underestimate fluid loss because of factors like environmental temperatures, hence don't fully replace lost fluids even when they are available, leading to cellular dehydration. Hydro would ensure that the fluids that are taken on board are efficiently getting inside of the body's cells, preventing the risk of dehydration and its detrimental effects on performance.
Putting it together
Supplement choice is down to an individual goals, strengths, weaknesses and general diet as a whole, selecting the appropriate products based on the athletes needs can help improve endurance, strength, power and recovery, all of which accumulate to maximise performance regardless of the distance or obstacles placed in the athletes' way.
- Jeukendrup A (2010) Carbohydrate and exercise performance: the role of multiple transportable carbohydrates. Curr Opin Clin Nutr Metab Care. 2010 Jul;13(4):452-7
- Jäger R et al (2017) International Society of Sports Nutrition Position Stand: protein and exercise. J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2017 Jun 20;14:20. doi: 10.1186/s12970-017-0177-8
- Kreider et al (2017) International Society of Sports Nutrition position stand: safety and efficacy of creatine supplementation in exercise, sport, and medicine; Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition201714:18
- Goulet ED (2012) Dehydration and endurance performance in competitive athletes. Nutr Rev. 2012 Nov;70 Suppl 2:S132-6. doi: 10.1111/j.1753-4887
About the author
Paul Johnson, MSc, BSc, SENr
Paul has provided nutritional coaching and support to athlete in a wide variety of sports including competitive Crossfit athletes, international weightlifters in the masters age group, MMA fighters and recreational crossfitters and fitness enthusiasts just looking in improve health and body composition.
In addition to Paul's experience in sports nutrition, he has a strong background in personal training, while his day job sees him delivering exercise referral sessions with particular focus on cardiac rehab, heart failure and adult weight management.