Ergogenic Aids- Performance Enhancing Supplements

Beetroot Juice: This is a source of dietary nitrate. It occurs naturally in vegetables. The high nitrate content of vegetables recommended in the DASH diet may be responsible for the diet’s ability to lower blood pressure. Nitrate supplementation reduces the oxygen cost of exercise resulting in greater oxygen delivery to work muscles which increases the capacity for high-intensity exercise. The only noted negative side effect is red-hued urine– and researchers do not know yet if high intake of nitrates over a long period of time will have negative health consequences.

Beta-Alanine: Has the potential to increase carnosine which reduces acidosis. When you take doses ranging from 3 grams-6.5 grams per day for 2-12 days, beta-alanine has been shown to increase the buffering capacity of lactic acid. Some studies have shown improvement in sprint performance while others demonstrate no benefit. More research is needed to determine precise performance benefits in athletes.

Branched-Chain Amino Acids (leucine, isoleucine, and valine): These are used by endurance athletes as an energy source late in exercise when muscle carbohydrate stores are low. Research suggests that BCAA also may delay mental fatigue by altering brain neurotransmitters that contribute to fatigue. Leucine is identified as an anabolic trigger to stimulate muscle protein synthesis. It is a key amino acid in whey (a protein in milk). Whey is a “fast” protein rapidly digested and absorbed which leads to a rapid rise in amino acids in the blood while casein is a “slow” protein which results in a slow release of amino acids. This combination of fast and slow release of amino acids leads to a more sustained availability of amino acids to muscles.

Creatine: Found in meat and fish– a typical meat eater ingests about 1 gram of creatine daily. In muscle, creatine combines with phosphate to create a high-energy compound that resynthesizes ATP to perform muscular work which increases muscle mass. According to a recent study published in 2012 in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, supplementing with 20-25 grams of creatine monohydrate for 5-7 days followed by 5-10 grams daily for up to 2 months increases muscle creatine content by about 20%. This can increase an athlete’s ability to train, leading to improvements in strength and power. Creatine is safe when used in the recommended doses.

For more information: Food & Nutrition. The Sports Issue. May/June 2014. Volume 3, Issue 3. Christine Rosenbloom.

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