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Improve Running Performance With Pre-Exercise Supplements

Consumption of a pre-exercise supplement drink containing whey protein, caffeine, and creatine may boost anaerobic running performance, according to new research.

The new study, published in Nutrition Research, suggests that a pre-exercise supplement drink containing a combination of traditional sports drink ingredients such as carbohydrates and electrolytes and performance based supplements can effectively boost anaerobic running capacity but have little effect on aerobic systems.

“The current investigation cannot be used as an assessment of the individual contributions of specific supplements, but a combinatory effect of several ingredients may have led to improved anaerobic running capacy and supramaximal time to exhaustion,” wrote the researchers, led by Dr. Jeffery Stout, Associate Professor in the Department of Health and Exercise Science at the University of Oklahoma.

Maximizing performance

Consumption of nutritional supplements before, during, and after activity has been marketed as an effective strategy for maximizing performance during physical activity.

Sports drinks have traditionally been formulated to include carbohydrates and electrolytes as the primary ingredients; however, they have recently begun to provide a wide variety of performance-based supplements.

“Specific mixtures are being designed to capitalize on the benefits of supplements, such as whey protein, caffeine, and creatine, and the gains observed by following proper nutrient timing,” noted the authors.

The new study examined whether a pre- exercise supplement containing caffeine, creatine, and amino acids would positively impact critical velocity (a measure of aerobic performance) and anaerobic running capacity (a measure of anaerobic energy).

In previous research the same pre- exercise drink was shown to increase aerobic performance when combined with high-intensity interval training.

Significant effects

The results from exercise tests showed no significant differences between the supplement drink and placebo for critical velocity. However the authors reported that the supplement elicited a 10.8 percent higher anaerobic running capacity than the placebo supplement.

Researchers stated that each participant completed runs to exhaustion on a treadmill at levels between 90 and 110 percent peak velocity. Time to exhaustion was found to be greater for the pre-exercise supplement than the placebo at 100, 105 and 110 percent peak velocity, but there was no observable difference for 90 percent.

Effective strategy?

“These findings suggest that the acute ingestion of this pre- exercise drink containing a combination of ingredients may be an effective strategy for improving anaerobic running capacity (anaerobic energy), but appears to have no effect on critical velocity (aerobic performance),” wrote the authors.

The researchers explained the possible mechanisms for such effects may be due to any number of mechanisms related to specific ingredients in the pre exercise drink.

“These mechanisms may include augmenting the phosphagen system, increasing blood flow, and attenuating pain associated with high-intensity exercise,” they added.

The authors stated that the results of this study, along with previous findings lead to the possibility that “further increases in anaerobic performance over time with training and appropriately timed supplementation can lead to increases in critical velocity and VO2max,”

Effective Alternatives

Medium-Chain Triglycerides (MCT’s)
Unlike other types of fats which must be broken down in the intestines and then made into a different type of fat to be transported in the blood, medium chain triglycerides are absorbed intact and taken to the liver, where they are used directly for energy. They provide a concentrated source of energy, as an alternative to carbohydrates which are often used by athletes for “carb loading”.
Some people notice some abdominal bloating after taking MCT, which may interfere with sports performance.

Branched-Chain Amino Acids (BCAAs)
Amino acids are naturally occurring molecules that the body uses to make protein. Branched-Chain Amino Acids refer to the amino acids leucine, isoleucine, and valine, which all have a “branched-chain” molecular structure. Muscle tissue is particularly high in branched-chain amino acids.

People use branched chain amino acids to build muscle, improve sports performance, and minimize the effects of overtraining. This is because strength training and endurance activity uses up greater amounts of branched-chain amino acids than regular daily activities.

Branched chain amino acids are found in all foods containing protein. The best sources are red meat and dairy products. Whey protein powder, chicken, fish, and eggs are other good sources.

Branched chain amino acids are believed to be quite safe but can interfere with Parkinson's medications.

HMB is short for beta-hydroxy beta-methylbutyric acid. It is a substance that occurs naturally in the body. It is formed from the breakdown of the amino acid leucine, which is found in high concentrations in muscles. During weight training and prolonged exercise, there is damage to muscles that causes the breakdown of leucine and a resulting increase in HMB. HMB supplements may work by signaling the body to slow down the destruction of muscle tissue.

HMB has been used for weight training because it may help with muscle building by reducing the amount of muscle that breaks down during exercise. It is also used to help prevent muscle damage during prolonged exercise.

HMB is not essential in our diets. There are small amounts in citrus fruit and catfish. An HMB supplement is needed in order to reach the therapeutic dosage, A typical dosage of HMB is 3 g per day. HMB should not be confused with the supplement gamma hydroxybutyrate (GHB), which can have strong sedation effects. HMB appears to be safe, however, more long-term studies are needed. HMB should not be used by children, pregnant or nursing women, or people with severe liver or kidney disease.


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