What Research Says about Some Supplements Usage

Without going into all the details here is a summary of some of the most common supplements. The key angle is that you want to look at these as “ergogenic” aids… those that enhance performance… in our case – running.

Caffeine – for events 800-3000 it may improve performance; 200 mg 1 hour before the race. Coffee itself has ingredients that block the absorption of some of caffeine in the drink. NoDoz is a substitute. It does not help races longer than 300 meters. Significantly higher dosages impede performance. 1200 mg is prohibited level for USATF/NCAA, etc. If you are a regular coffee drinker (or other caffeinated beverage) the affect on you is reduced. On the other hand, if you are unaccustomed to any caffeine you may suffer unpleasant side effects from nervousness, jitteryness, upset stomach to diarrhea.

Creatine is legal and has been shown to help with high intensity workouts. It is beneficial to power oriented activities. Therefore, it does not help distance runners. Creatine phosphate is an energy store for immediate use (i.e. jumping from in front of moving bus). It is also a buffer for higher Ph in muscles. It does however lead to water storage and weight gain. 6k runners gained 1% in weight and lost 1% in time. It is expensive. The target amount is 3 Gms/day. There are no side effects to speak of.

Protein whey and protein powders do not improve performance, muscle building or repair. Carbs are much better. Accelerade commercials are inaccurate. The protein + carbohydrate mixture does not improve performance by 29% as advertised when compared with identical caloric straight carbohydrate drinks. Their comparison is against a lower calorie drink, therefore, by definition it would have more energy… it has more calories. But, be clear, it is not the protein that is doing it, just the calories. Since carbs are used for energy more readily than protein, stick with the carb sports drinks.

Antioxidants (C & E) have some affect on immune system and recovery. But, these are not truly ergogenic. The same can be said for St. John’s Wort for relaxation effect, and echinacea on your immune system.

Sodium bicarbonate has been shown to buffer the acidity in muscles and therefore has some impact on performance. However, the side effects are frequent with GI problems (gas and diarrhea).


About Dean Hebert

I’m a mental game coach, author and speaker. I work with individual athletes, parents, coaches, and teams on sports performance enhancement. Beyond my academic post-graduate work in sports psychology - the psychology behind athlete performance – I am a certified Mental Games Coaching Professional (MGCP) and certified hypnotherapist. I’ve authored several books and hundreds of articles. “Coach, I didn’t run because…” (2008) is a seriously light-hearted look at making excuses not to workout and how to overcome them. “Focus for Fitness” (2009) and “Screw the Goals Give me the Donut” (2010) are two of my eBooks on mental game approaches for the everyday athlete. I wrote these because I believe that everyone can benefit from the powerful mental techniques that the world’s best athletes use. I have been cited in Runners World, Best Health magazine (CN), SWEAT Magazine, and the Washington Examiner amongst many other publications. I have been a featured mental games coach in Runner’s World and for the internationally acclaimed trail running resource - trailrunningclub.com. I also regularly appear on sports and fitness talk shows such as LTKFitness, Runnersroundtable and for more than three years I have co-hosted a weekly video series with Coach Joe English for Running-Advice.com. I specialize in mental toughness training. My clients include tennis, synchronized swimming, golf, race-kart, soccer, motocross, volleyball, MMA, cycling (road, off-road, time-trialist), running, duathlon and triathlon, basketball, football and baseball athletes. I have coached world-class athletes and athletes internationally. I have a passion for working with youth athletes and helping them apply mental game skills and techniques to all areas of life. Most importantly, my aim is to have people enjoy sports and life to their fullest through peak performances.
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