Proven Techniques From Sports Medicine Research

Do you want to take 2% off your run time?  The data below was discovered during a sports medicine study where athletes drank either an enhanced sports drink or placebo.  The sports drink consisted of:  carbohydrate, branched chain amino acids and caffeine.  The following ratios were utilized:  carbohydrate 68.6 grams/L (approx 7%), amino acids 4 grams/L, and caffeine 75 mg/L.

Blood samples were reviewed from both groups during an all out exercise test and also during a 2 hour sub-maximal effort.

Why It Works

We know that prolonged running can cause low blood sugar, central and or peripheral fatigue, muscle damage joint pain, inflammation and cardiovascular dysfunction.  Sports medicine physicians know that providing supplementation during exercise will help avoid these dips in blood sugar and prevent the resultant decline in physical abilities caused by low blood sugar.  Previous data shows that carbohydrate ingestion during exercise periods that last lung 45 minutes improved overall performance compared to ingestion of water alone.

Basic Facts

Carbohydrate ingestion helps maintain plasma glucose concentrations, helps oxadate ingested sources of carbohydrate (turn food into fuel) and generates glycogen (energy storage form in muscle and liver).  Glycogen is what your body draws upon during exercise as a fuel source.  

Data from a variety of research studies has evaluated whether combining different sources of carbohydrate improves energy production (glycogen production).  Different sugars such as sucrose, fructose, glucose, lactose and maltodextrin's can improve the conversion of carbohydrate into glycogen stores (energy) for later use.

The recruitment of multiple sugar transporters in the stomach and intestines allow these different sugars to cross the gut into the blood stream.   This is felt to increase both the quantity and speed in which these sugars are absorbed. We know that specifically fructose and lactose enhance post exercise formation of glycogen.  Sports scientists also know that combining glucose and fructose has a very positive effect on absorption of both of these sugars (carbohydrate).

 A Word On Caffeine

Caffeine is long been known to have positive effects on exercise.  Previous studies show that a moderate amount caffeine (2.1 and 4.5 mg per kilogram when combined with a 7% carbohydrate solution improved performance.  Most of the data came from cycling performance studies, but has been demonstrated in other endurance sports as well.  The combination of caffeine and glucose enhances the formation of glycogen over  that of just glucose consumption alone.  The combination also enhances the absorption of these 2 substances from the intestine.  Caffeine is long been known to decrease central fatigue does this by blocking adenosine receptors.  The end result is creating an excitability in the central nervous system.  This is beneficial up to a point.  Excessive doses of caffeine cause a variety of negative side effects including irritability, nausea and diarrhea.

 Branched chain amino (BCAA) acids

Branched chain amino (BCAA) acids - leucine, isoleucine and valine supplementation iss felt by many to have positive effects on exercise.  One study suggests that branched chain amino acids spare the depletion of muscle glycogen stores.  It is also felt that BCAA’s may prevent the formation of serotonin and thereby prevent free tryptophan (you know the stuff that in Turkey that everyone thinks makes us tired) and prevent fatigue.  Additional data suggests that branch chain amino acids, when supplemented during prolonged exercise, has a positive effect on metabolism and helps prevent fatigue, glycogen depletion and improves performance.

 Study Results

The study was broken down into 2 portions.  There was a performance test which included of a warm-up followed by 2 hour all out exercise trial.  Athletes drank 250 mL every 15 minutes for a total of 2 liters over the 2 hour exercise period. The second portion of testing consisted of exercising at 95% of the average heart rate that was achieved in the first performance test portion of the trial.  Again athletes drank 250 mL of beverage every 15 minutes of either placebo or the enhanced sports drink containing caffeine, branched chain amino acids (BCAA) and carbohydrate.

Branched chain amino acids can be somewhat bitter tasting and the maximum amount recommended is 4 g/L per dietary guidelines.  The design of the study followed those guidelines.

Results the study showed that in the performance test the group that had the supplemental sports drink went farther - 1.85 km versus 1.69 km in the same time frame.

In the standard submaximal exercise portion the placebo group was noted to have lower plasma glucose levels at the end of the exercise period vs the group drinking the enhanced sports drink containing carbohydrate, BCAA and caffeine.

 Summing It All Up

The overall conclusion is that the supplemental sports drink containing branched chain amino acids, carbohydrates and caffeine when consumed immediately before and during exercise can improve running performance, maintains glycemia (energy/sugar in the blood stream) and had positive effects on fatigue.  The total distance in the supplemental group was significant only higher 22.3 km versus 21.9 km.  Other studies showed the supplemental sports drinks have more impact on the activities that last longer than 2 hours compared to shorer training or racing events.

 The take away point is that carbohydrate solution with branched chain amino acids and caffeine proves performance by roughly 2% in athletes who are already physically trained (in shape).  Plasma levels of energy sources are maintained, a decrease in rate a preserved perceived exertion is reported and also a decreased in fatigue compared to the placebo group.  Consider exploring this nutritional technique to improve training and performance in longer events.