Since the 1968 Mexico City Olympics, Kenyan and Ethiopian runners have dominated the middle- and longdistance events in athletics and have exhibited comparable dominance in international cross-country and roadracing competition. Several factors have been proposed to explain the extraordinary success of the Kenyan and Ethiopian distance runners, including (1) genetic predisposition, (2) development of a high maximal oxygen uptake as a result of extensive walking and running at an early age, (3) relatively high hemoglobin and hematocrit, (4) development of good metabolic “economy/efficiency” based on somatotype and lower limb characteristics, (5) favorable skeletal-muscle-fiber composition and oxidative enzyme profile, (6) traditional Kenyan/Ethiopian diet, (7) living and training at altitude, and (8) motivation to achieve economic success. Some of these factors have been examined objectively in the laboratory and field, whereas others have been evaluated from an observational perspective. The purpose of this article is to present the current data relative to factors that potentially contribute to the unprecedented success of Kenyan and Ethiopian distance runners, including recent studies that examined potential links between Kenyan and Ethiopian genotype characteristics and elite running performance. In general, it appears that Kenyan and Ethiopian distance-running success is not based on a unique genetic or physiological characteristic. Rather, it appears to be the result of favorable somatotypical characteristics lending to exceptional biomechanical and metabolic economy/efficiency; chronic exposure to altitude in combination with moderate-volume, high-intensity training (live high + train high), and a strong psychological motivation to succeed athletically for the purpose of economic and social advancement.
Randall L. Wilber and Yannis P. Pitsiladis
Chris Easton, Stephen Turner and Yannis P. Pitsiladis
The authors examined the effects of combined creatine (Cr) and glycerol (Gly) supplementation on responses to exercise in the heat. Subjects (N = 24) were matched for body mass and assigned to either a Cr or placebo (Pl) group. Twice daily during two 7-d supplementation regimens, the Cr group received 11.4 g of Cr·H2O and the Pl group received 11.4 g of glucose. Subjects in both groups also ingested 1 g of Gly/kg body mass (twice daily) in either the first or the second supplementation regimen. This design allowed 4 possible combinations of supplements to be examined (Pl/Pl, Pl/Gly, Cr/Pl, and Cr/Gly). Exercise trials were conducted pre- and post supplementation at 30 °C and 70% relative humidity. In the Pl group, total body water (TBW) increased by 0.50 ± 0.28 L after Gly and in the Cr group by 0.63 ± 0.33 L after Pl and by 0.87 ± 0.21 L after Gly. Both Cr/Pl and Cr/Gly resulted in significantly attenuated heart rate, rectal temperature, and perceived effort during exercise, although no regimen had any effect on performance. The addition of Gly to Cr significantly increased TBW more than Cr alone (P = 0.02) but did not further enhance the attenuation in HR, Tre, and RPE during exercise. These data suggest that combined Cr and Gly is an effective method of hyper hydration capable of reducing thermal and cardiovascular responses.
Lukas Beis, Yaser Mohammad, Chris Easton and Yannis P. Pitsiladis
Oral supplementation with glycine-arginine-α-ketoisocaproic acid (GAKIC) has previously been shown to improve exhaustive high-intensity exercise performance. There are no controlled studies involving GAKIC supplementation in well-trained subjects. The aim of the current study was to examine the effects of GAKIC supplementation on fatigue during high-intensity, repeated cycle sprints in trained cyclists. After at least 2 familiarization trials, 10 well-trained male cyclists completed 2 supramaximal sprint tests each involving 10 sprints of 10 s separated by 50-s rest intervals on an electrically braked cycle ergometer. Subjects ingested 11.2 g of GAKIC or placebo (Pl) during a period of 45 min before the 2 experimental trials, administered in a randomized and double-blind fashion. Peak power declined from the 1st sprint (M ± SD; Pl 1,332 ± 307 W, GAKIC 1,367 ± 342 W) to the 10th sprint (Pl 1,091 ± 229 W, GAKIC 1,061 ± 272 W) and did not differ between conditions (p = .88). Mean power declined from the 1st sprint (Pl 892 ± 151 W, GAKIC 892 ± 153 W) to the 10th sprint (Pl 766 ± 120 W, GAKIC 752 ± 138 W) and did not differ between conditions (p = .96). The fatigue index remained at ~38% throughout the series of sprints and did not differ between conditions (p = .99). Heart rate and ratings of perceived exertion increased from the 1st sprint to the 10th sprint and did not differ between conditions (p = .11 and p = .83, respectively). In contrast to previous studies in untrained individuals, these results suggest that GAKIC has no ergogenic effect on repeated bouts of high-intensity exercise in trained individuals.
Robert M. Ojiambo, Chris Easton, Jose A. Casajús, Kenn Konstabel, John J. Reilly and Yannis Pitsiladis
Urbanization affects lifestyles in the developing world but no studies have assessed the impact on objectively measured physical activity in children and adolescents from sub-Saharan Africa.
To compare objectively measured habitual physical activity, sedentary time, and indices of adiposity in adolescents from rural and urban areas of Kenya.
Physical activity and sedentary time were assessed by accelerometry for 5 consecutive days in 97 (50 female and 47 male) rural and 103 (52 female and 51 male) urban adolescents (mean age 13 ± 1 years). Body Mass Index (BMI) and BMI z-scores were used to assess adiposity.
Rural males spent more time in moderate-to-vigorous intensity physical activity (MVPA) compared with urban males (68 ± 22 vs. 50 ± 17 min, respectively; P < .001). Similarly, Rural females spent more time in MVPA compared with urban females (62 ± 20 vs. 37 ± 20 min, respectively; P < .001). Furthermore, there were significant differences in daily sedentary time between rural and urban subjects. Residence (rural vs. urban) significantly (P < .001) influenced BMI z-score (R 2 = .46).
Rural Kenyan adolescents are significantly more physically active (and less sedentary) and have lower indices of adiposity compared with urban adolescents and this is a likely refection of the impact of urbanization on lifestyle in Kenya.
Liam P. Kilduff, Yannis P. Pitsiladis, Louise Tasker, Jeff Attwood, Paul Hyslop, Andrew Dailly, Ian Dickson and Stan Grant
This study examined the effects of Cr supplementation on muscle strength in conjunction with resistance training in nonresistance-trained males utilizing strategies previously reported in the literature to help optimize muscle Cr uptake. Nineteen nonresistance-trained males underwent 4 weeks of resistance training (3 days · week−1) while assigned to Cr (20 g · d−1 Cr + 140 g · d−1 glucose) for 7 days (loading), followed by 5 g · d−1 Cr + 35 g · d−1 glucose for 21 days (maintenance; n = 9) or placebo (160 g · d−1 glucose [loading] followed by 40 g · d−1 [maintenance; n = 10]). In subjects classified as “responders” to Cr on the basis of body mass changes (n = 7), the magnitude of change in 180∞ · s−1 isokinetic (p = .029) and isometric (p = .036) force was greater compared to the placebo group. A positive correlation was found between changes in body mass and 180º · s−1 isokinetic (loading: r = 0.68, p = .04; maintenance: r = 0.70, p = .037) and isometric (loading: r = 0.82, p < .01) force. Estimated Cr uptake was also positively correlated with changes in 60º · s−1 (r = 0.90, p < .01) and 180º · s−1 (r = 0.68, p = .043) isokinetic force, and isometric force (r = 0.71, p = .033). These results indicate that Cr supplementation can increase muscle strength (allied with 4 weeks of strength training) but only in subjects whose estimated Cr uptake and body mass are significantly increased; the greater the Cr uptake and associated body mass changes, the greater the performance gains.
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.