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Open access

Louise M. Burke and Peter Peeling

Many expert sporting bodies now support a pragmatic acceptance of the use of performance supplements which have passed a risk:benefit analysis of being safe, effective, and permitted for use, while also being appropriate to the athlete’s age and maturation in their sport. However, gaining evidence of the performance benefits of these supplements is a process challenged by the scarcity of research in relation to the number of available products, and the limitations of the poor quality of some studies. While meta-analyses and systematic reviews can help to provide information about the general use of performance supplements, the controlled scientific trial provides the basis on which these reviews are undertaken, as well as an opportunity to address more specific questions about supplement applications. Guidelines for the design of studies include the choice of well-trained athletes who are familiarized with performance tasks that have been chosen on their basis of their known reliability and validity. Supplement protocols should be chosen to maximize the likely benefits, and researchers should also make efforts to control confounding variables, while keeping conditions similar to real-life practices. Performance changes should be interpreted in light of what is meaningful to the outcomes of sporting competition. Issues that have been poorly addressed to date include the use of several supplements in combination and the use of the same supplement over successive events, both within a single, and across multiple competition days. Strategies to isolate and explain the variability of benefits to individuals are also a topic for future investigation.

Open access

Lindy M. Castell, David C. Nieman, Stéphane Bermon and Peter Peeling

The main focus of this review is illness among elite athletes, how and why it occurs, and whether any measures can be taken to combat it or to prevent its onset. In particular, there is particular interest in exercise-induced immunodepression, which is a result of the immune system regarding exercise (e.g., prolonged, exhaustive exercise) as a challenge to its function. This promotes the inflammatory response. There is often a high incidence of illness in athletes after undertaking strenuous exercise, particularly among those competing in endurance events, not only mainly in terms of upper respiratory tract illness, but also involving gastrointestinal problems. It may well be that this high incidence is largely due to insufficient recovery time being allowed after, for example, a marathon, a triathlon, or other endurance events. Two examples of the incidence of upper respiratory tract illness in moderate versus endurance exercise are provided. In recent years, increasing numbers of research studies have investigated the origins, symptoms, and incidence of these bouts of illness and have attempted to alleviate the symptoms with supplements, sports foods, or immunonutrition. One aspect of the present review discusses iron deficiency, which has been primarily suggested to have an impact upon cell-mediated immunity. Immunonutrition is also discussed, as are new techniques for investigating links between metabolism and immune function.

Open access

Peter Peeling, Martyn J. Binnie, Paul S.R. Goods, Marc Sim and Louise M. Burke

A strong foundation in physical conditioning and sport-specific experience, in addition to a bespoke and periodized training and nutrition program, are essential for athlete development. Once these underpinning factors are accounted for, and the athlete reaches a training maturity and competition level where marginal gains determine success, a role may exist for the use of evidence-based performance supplements. However, it is important that any decisions surrounding performance supplements are made in consideration of robust information that suggests the use of a product is safe, legal, and effective. The following review focuses on the current evidence-base for a number of common (and emerging) performance supplements used in sport. The supplements discussed here are separated into three categories based on the level of evidence supporting their use for enhancing sports performance: (1) established (caffeine, creatine, nitrate, beta-alanine, bicarbonate); (2) equivocal (citrate, phosphate, carnitine); and (3) developing. Within each section, the relevant performance type, the potential mechanisms of action, and the most common protocols used in the supplement dosing schedule are summarized.

Open access

Peter Peeling, Linda M. Castell, Wim Derave, Olivier de Hon and Louise M. Burke

Athletes are exposed to numerous nutritional products, attractively marketed with claims of optimizing health, function, and performance. However, there is limited evidence to support many of these claims, and the efficacy and safety of many products is questionable. The variety of nutritional aids considered for use by track-and-field athletes includes sports foods, performance supplements, and therapeutic nutritional aids. Support for sports foods and five evidence-based performance supplements (caffeine, creatine, nitrate/beetroot juice, β-alanine, and bicarbonate) varies according to the event, the specific scenario of use, and the individual athlete’s goals and responsiveness. Specific challenges include developing protocols to manage repeated use of performance supplements in multievent or heat-final competitions or the interaction between several products which are used concurrently. Potential disadvantages of supplement use include expense, false expectancy, and the risk of ingesting banned substances sometimes present as contaminants. However, a pragmatic approach to the decision-making process for supplement use is recommended. The authors conclude that it is pertinent for sports foods and nutritional supplements to be considered only where a strong evidence base supports their use as safe, legal, and effective and that such supplements are trialed thoroughly by the individual before committing to use in a competition setting.

Open access

Ronald J. Maughan, Louise M. Burke, Jiri Dvorak, D. Enette Larson-Meyer, Peter Peeling, Stuart M. Phillips, Eric S. Rawson, Neil P. Walsh, Ina Garthe, Hans Geyer, Romain Meeusen, Luc van Loon, Susan M. Shirreffs, Lawrence L. Spriet, Mark Stuart, Alan Vernec, Kevin Currell, Vidya M. Ali, Richard G.M. Budgett, Arne Ljungqvist, Margo Mountjoy, Yannis Pitsiladis, Torbjørn Soligard, Uğur Erdener and Lars Engebretsen

Nutrition usually makes a small but potentially valuable contribution to successful performance in elite athletes, and dietary supplements can make a minor contribution to this nutrition program. Nonetheless, supplement use is widespread at all levels of sport. Products described as supplements target different issues, including the management of micronutrient deficiencies, supply of convenient forms of energy and macronutrients, and provision of direct benefits to performance or indirect benefits such as supporting intense training regimens. The appropriate use of some supplements can offer benefits to the athlete, but others may be harmful to the athlete’s health, performance, and/or livelihood and reputation if an anti-doping rule violation results. A complete nutritional assessment should be undertaken before decisions regarding supplement use are made. Supplements claiming to directly or indirectly enhance performance are typically the largest group of products marketed to athletes, but only a few (including caffeine, creatine, specific buffering agents and nitrate) have good evidence of benefits. However, responses are affected by the scenario of use and may vary widely between individuals because of factors that include genetics, the microbiome, and habitual diet. Supplements intended to enhance performance should be thoroughly trialed in training or simulated competition before implementation in competition. Inadvertent ingestion of substances prohibited under the anti-doping codes that govern elite sport is a known risk of taking some supplements. Protection of the athlete’s health and awareness of the potential for harm must be paramount, and expert professional opinion and assistance is strongly advised before embarking on supplement use.

Open access

James A. Betts, Javier T. Gonzalez, Louise M. Burke, Graeme L. Close, Ina Garthe, Lewis J. James, Asker E. Jeukendrup, James P. Morton, David C. Nieman, Peter Peeling, Stuart M. Phillips, Trent Stellingwerff, Luc J.C. van Loon, Clyde Williams, Kathleen Woolf, Ron Maughan and Greg Atkinson

Open access

Louise M. Burke, Linda M. Castell, Douglas J. Casa, Graeme L. Close, Ricardo J. S. Costa, Ben Desbrow, Shona L. Halson, Dana M. Lis, Anna K. Melin, Peter Peeling, Philo U. Saunders, Gary J. Slater, Jennifer Sygo, Oliver C. Witard, Stéphane Bermon and Trent Stellingwerff

The International Association of Athletics Federations recognizes the importance of nutritional practices in optimizing an Athlete’s well-being and performance. Although Athletics encompasses a diverse range of track-and-field events with different performance determinants, there are common goals around nutritional support for adaptation to training, optimal performance for key events, and reducing the risk of injury and illness. Periodized guidelines can be provided for the appropriate type, amount, and timing of intake of food and fluids to promote optimal health and performance across different scenarios of training and competition. Some Athletes are at risk of relative energy deficiency in sport arising from a mismatch between energy intake and exercise energy expenditure. Competition nutrition strategies may involve pre-event, within-event, and between-event eating to address requirements for carbohydrate and fluid replacement. Although a “food first” policy should underpin an Athlete’s nutrition plan, there may be occasions for the judicious use of medical supplements to address nutrient deficiencies or sports foods that help the athlete to meet nutritional goals when it is impractical to eat food. Evidence-based supplements include caffeine, bicarbonate, beta-alanine, nitrate, and creatine; however, their value is specific to the characteristics of the event. Special considerations are needed for travel, challenging environments (e.g., heat and altitude); special populations (e.g., females, young and masters athletes); and restricted dietary choice (e.g., vegetarian). Ideally, each Athlete should develop a personalized, periodized, and practical nutrition plan via collaboration with their coach and accredited sports nutrition experts, to optimize their performance.