Friday, December 2, 2011

Food Facts Friday: Supplements and Ergonomic Aids

At the track this past week, coach said, "I gotta get you to break that 1hour40minute PR."

Aaagh, I am so frustrated! 

When I started training, my goal was to run a 7min/mile 5k and avoid injury training and running the half marathons. I said to my coach, "I love running. I have been running since I was a teenager. It's like an old friend. I don't want to get hurt 'cause I never want to stop....but how do I get faster?"

Over 1 year of training and these times are still eluding me - so close, and yet so far. Have I reached my cardiac output capacity? force potential? I'm always training - maybe I don't have enough "pure" off-days.  Am I overtraining and suffering from neuromuscular fatigue? Does my Crohn's make me nutritionally fatigued? Can I take something that will make me feel rested, make me stronger, help improve my performance ...hmmm...

Recently, I participated in a Sports Nutrition Seminar on Supplements/Ergogenic Aids. Throughout the seminar, there was an overriding theme: No supplement does it "all".

There is nothing out there that increases an athlete's aerobic and anaerobic capacity while helping them avoid injury. Nothing does it all. In fact, many supplements present negative health effects.

I like to think that all I have to do is eat right and train smart and I will improve - naturally. Still, I wonder, "Is there something out there that will help me?" Yeah, yeah, I know - I'm hopeless! Hahaha! Really, though if there's something out there that can help me avoid injury, gain speed or make a workout seem easier - I want to know about it.

I'm not talking anabolic, I can already be a little aggressive! 
Niantic, Connecticut Half Marathon
I live in NJ, yo', like in da Jersey Shore, so I know all about aggression AND I have heard of addictions to somatotropin or shooting up some kinda anabolic steroid - so when they reported that only 1 million Americans take steroids, I was surprised! I was also shocked and sadenned to find out that more than half of them are teens! There's some really sad health risks teens can suffer from by taking steroids: stunted growth was one I didn't realize. It makes sense, now - no wonder all those muscle guys in high school were so short! 

There's also androstenedione - the "natural" alternative to steroids. This stuff is a waste of time and money - apparently it has not been proven to do anything positive!

What about chromium picolinate?
The claim behind chromium picolinate is that it helps our cells 
use glucose more efficiently.
LOL! Its manufactured in New Jersey!
I'm sure you have seen those ads to lose weight based on chromium picolinate's ability to have your cells use carbs (or glucose) efficiently. Those ads just avoid telling us that 99.9% of chromium in supplements is not absorbable! 
Looks like I will be "passing" on the chromium picolate!

Blood doping is another alternative.
Ssssh, I got Lance on the phone ....

Okay Lance, I really don't believe the size of your heart is the real reason for all those Tour de France wins! If I promise not to say a word - secretly, tell me, was it blood doping? Jeeze, he hung up...
Yo' blood doping is some serious SH*T! But ya' know, the whole blood clot potential, IDK, for me, that kinda risk far outweighs the fact that this actually really works great to improves VO2max.

Caffeine - yes - it's a winner! 
I admit, I am a user! 
Why not? Only 2 cups of coffee & you can mobilize free fatty acids & use these fatty acids for fuel, sparing or lowering your reliance on glycogen. Benefits to this include improved time to exhaustion (22% or more in studies used in comparison to a placebo) and decreased perceived exhaustion. OMG who doesn't want to feel energized throughout an endurance run? Caffeine has also been proven to enhance high intensity short duration work outs. Hurray! My morning Joe helps me maximize those Wednesday morning track work outs! 

Creatine seems like another winner. Did you know that 80%of athletes in 1996 Olympics used creatine? It used to be associated with cramps and injury, but after years of widespread use, we have enough data to show this is not true. Creatine, has actually been shown to increase strength & power. It has been been proven to increase strength and sprint performance. Targeting your fast twitch, Type II muscles, phosphocreatine can help you train harder on the track. Then, maybe results will follow? 
Aww, but wait, there is one side effect ...weight gain. 
This is due to increase in water retention - it's simple osmosis: the more creatine in muscle, the more likely water will want to move out of the arteries and into muscles, to party with the creatine. This is not that terrible of a side affect especially when you consider that you would have to eat 2.5lbs of uncooked steak to get 5grams of creatine.

A little sad, but interesting fact is that a lot of the ergogenic aid research findings have come from testing supplements, like creatine & myostatin inhibitors, on cancer patients or the elderly to minimize the potential for muscle wasting. Creatine, specifically, is being used to help elderly maintain muscle mass.

Nitric oxide: what is this stuff? I thought NO was a gas? It seems like everyone is pushing this these days. I ordered some vitamins, on line a year-or-so ago, & when the package arrived, I opened it to find two free samples of nitric oxide supplements. I thought, "Wow, what's this? Will it help improve my performance?"
To NO or not to NO
NO rises naturally in blood vessels when we exercise. It is responsible for opening  blood vessels (vasodialation) so we can bring more blood & oxygen to our muscles. Theoretically, NO should help performance. What they don't tell us is that to get NO to work in the cells lining our blood vessels, we need NO enzymes and other substrates, which are in a limited supply. So, keep your money, and say, "NO" to the NO supplements - research has shown NO supplements do not provide any ergonomic benefits. 

What about protein supplements? After studying proteins, I was really curious to find out how amino acid supplements were going to be reviewed. Unfortunately, there was nothing conclusive discussed. Apparently, the jury is still out on many amino acid supplements - arginine, aspartate, carnisine and conjugated linoleum acid (CLA) - We just don't have enough research, yet.

Although more research is needed, some studies have shown ergogenic benefits involving the branched chain amino acids (BCAA), like leucine, isoleucine & valine & HMB, a leucine derivative. Apparently, these amino acids have been especially beneficial in preventing muscle wasting in clinical medical studies.  I think we will hear some more on BCAA in the future....

Until then, I'll stick with my coffee and mull over the tens of thousands of other ergogenic aids that I didn't mention, but, are out there flooding the market!
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