Cognitive function plays an important role in athletic performance, and it seems that brain functioning can be influenced by nutrition and dietary components. Thus, the central nervous system might be manipulated through changes in diet or supplementation with specific nutrients including branched-chain amino acids, tyrosine, carbohydrates, and caffeine. Despite some evidence that branched-chained amino acids can influence ratings of perceived exertion and mental performance, several well-controlled studies have failed to demonstrate a positive effect on exercise performance. Evidence of an ergogenic benefit of tyrosine supplementation during prolonged exercise is limited. There is evidence that mild dehydration can impair cognitive performance and mood. The beneficial effect of carbohydrate supplementation during prolonged exercise could relate to increased substrate delivery for the brain, with numerous studies indicating that hypoglycemia affects brain function and cognitive performance. Caffeine can enhance performance and reduce perception of effort during prolonged exercise and will influence specific reward centers of the brain. Plant products and herbal extracts such as polyphenols, ginseng, ginkgo biloba, etc. are marketed as supplements to enhance performance. In several animal studies, positive effects of these products were shown, however the literature on their effects on sports performance is scarce. Polyphenols have the potential to protect neurons against injury induced by neurotoxins, suppress neuroinflammation, and to promote memory, learning, and cognitive function. In general, there remains a need for controlled randomized studies with a strong design, sufficient statistical power, and well-defined outcome measures before “claims” on its beneficial effects on brain functioning can be established.
Romain Meeusen and Lieselot Decroix
Twan ten Haaf, Selma van Staveren, Erik Oudenhoven, Maria F. Piacentini, Romain Meeusen, Bart Roelands, Leo Koenderman, Hein A.M. Daanen, Carl Foster and Jos J. de Koning
To investigate whether monitoring of easily measurable stressors and symptoms can be used to distinguish early between acute fatigue (AF) and functional overreaching (FOR).
The study included 30 subjects (11 female, 19 male; age 40.8 ± 10.8 y, VO2max 51.8 ± 6.3 mL · kg–1 · min–1) who participated in an 8-d cycling event over 1300 km with 18,500 climbing meters. Performance was measured before and after the event using a maximal incremental test. Subjects with decreased performance after the event were classified as FOR, others as AF. Mental and physical well-being, internal training load, resting heart rate, temperature, and mood were measured daily during the event. Differences between AF and FOR were analyzed using mixed-model ANOVAs. Logistic regression was used to determine the best predictors of FOR after 3 and 6 d of cycling.
Fifteen subjects were classified as FOR and 14 as AF (1 excluded). Although total group changes were observed during the event, no differences between AF and FOR were found for individual monitoring parameters. The combination of questionnaire-based changes in fatigue and readiness to train after 3 d cycling correctly predicted 78% of the subjects as AF or FOR (sensitivity = 79%, specificity = 77%).
Monitoring changes in fatigue and readiness to train, using simple visual analog scales, can be used to identify subjects likely to become FOR after only 3 d of cycling. Hence, we encourage athlete support staff to monitor not only fatigue but also the subjective integrated mental and physical readiness to perform.
Michael Kellmann, Maurizio Bertollo, Laurent Bosquet, Michel Brink, Aaron J. Coutts, Rob Duffield, Daniel Erlacher, Shona L. Halson, Anne Hecksteden, Jahan Heidari, K. Wolfgang Kallus, Romain Meeusen, Iñigo Mujika, Claudio Robazza, Sabrina Skorski, Ranel Venter and Jürgen Beckmann
The relationship between recovery and fatigue and its impact on performance has attracted the interest of sport science for many years. An adequate balance between stress (training and competition load, other life demands) and recovery is essential for athletes to achieve continuous high-level performance. Research has focused on the examination of physiological and psychological recovery strategies to compensate external and internal training and competition loads. A systematic monitoring of recovery and the subsequent implementation of recovery routines aims at maximizing performance and preventing negative developments such as underrecovery, nonfunctional overreaching, the overtraining syndrome, injuries, or illnesses. Due to the inter- and intraindividual variability of responses to training, competition, and recovery strategies, a diverse set of expertise is required to address the multifaceted phenomena of recovery, performance, and their interactions to transfer knowledge from sport science to sport practice. For this purpose, a symposium on Recovery and Performance was organized at the Technical University Munich Science and Study Center Raitenhaslach (Germany) in September 2016. Various international experts from many disciplines and research areas gathered to discuss and share their knowledge of recovery for performance enhancement in a variety of settings. The results of this meeting are outlined in this consensus statement that provides central definitions, theoretical frameworks, and practical implications as a synopsis of the current knowledge of recovery and performance. While our understanding of the complex relationship between recovery and performance has significantly increased through research, some important issues for future investigations are also elaborated.
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.