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Christopher J. Beedie, Damian A. Coleman and Abigail J. Foad

The article describes a study examining placebo effects associated with the administration of a hypothetical ergogenic aid in sport. Forty-two team-sport athletes were randomly assigned to 2 groups. All subjects completed 3 × 30-m baseline sprint trials after which they were administered what was described to them as an ergogenic aid but was in fact 200 mg of cornstarch in a gelatin capsule. Group 1 was provided with positive information about the likely effects on performance of the substance, whereas Group 2 was provided with negative information about the same substance. The sprint protocol was repeated 20 min later. Although for Group 1 mean speed did not differ significantly between baseline and experimental trials, a significant linear trend of greater speed with successive experimental trials suggested that positive belief exerted a positive effect on performance (P < 0.01). Group 2 ran 1.57% slower than at baseline (P < 0.01, 95% confidence intervals 0.32–2.82%), suggesting that negative belief exerted a negative effect on performance. Collectively, data suggest that subjects’ belief in the efficacy or otherwise of a placebo treatment might significantly influence findings in experimental research.

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Michael S. Bahrke, William P. Morgan and Aaron Stegner

Ginseng is one of the most popular herbal supplements in the world. Although it is used for the treatment and prevention of many ailments, it is also used to increase work efficiency and is purported to increase energy and physical stamina. Athletes use ginseng for its alleged performance-enhancing attributes. However, many studies examining the pharmacological effects of ginseng on physical performance have not employed sound scientific design and methodology. The purpose of this review is to provide an update on published empirical research focusing primarily on the efficacy of ginseng with respect to physical and athletic performance. Despite attempts in recent investigations to improve on the scientific rigor used in examining the ergogenic properties of ginseng, the authors conclude that many of the same methodological shortcomings observed in earlier studies persist. Enhanced physical performance after ginseng administration in well-designed investigations remains to be demonstrated.

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Paul L. Greenhaff

Phosphocreatine (PCr) availability is likely to limit performance in brief, high-power exercise because the depletion of PCr results in an inability to maintain adenosine triphosphate (ATP) resynthesis at the rate required. It is now known that the daily ingestion of four 5-g doses of creatine for 5 days will significantly increase intramuscular creatine and PCr concentrations prior to exercise and will facilitate PCr resynthesis during recovery from exercise, particularly in those individuals with relatively low creatine concentrations prior to feeding. As a consequence of creatine ingestion, work output during repeated bouts of high-power exercise has been increased under a variety of experimental conditions. The reduced accumulation of ammonia and hypoxanthine in plasma and the attenuation of muscle ATP degradation after creatine feeding suggest that the ergogenic effect of creatine is achieved by better maintaining ATP turnover during contraction.

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Brent C. Mangus and Cynthia A. Trowbridge

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Craig Pickering and Jozo Grgic

Caffeine is a well-established ergogenic aid, with performance-enhancing effects confirmed at the meta-analysis level ( Grgic et al., 2019 ) across a variety of exercise types, including aerobic and muscular endurance, muscle strength, anaerobic power, speed, and jumping performance ( Grgic et

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James M. Pivarnik, Christopher P. Connolly, Mallory R. Marshall and Rebecca A. Schlaff

Previous research clearly indicates that exercise training decreases during pregnancy, even among the fittest of women. Despite this, women are typically able to resume their prepregnancy exercise routines soon after delivery, and in some instances, their postpartum performances are better than previously experienced. While anecdotal reports are common, there does not appear to be significant research data to explain this phenomenon. In this review, we explore possible physiologic explanations for heightened postpartum exercise performance, such as pregnancy related changes in aerobic fitness, lactate threshold, flexibility, and musculoskeletal fitness. At this time, limited data do not appear to support an ergogenic role for these variables. Another consideration is a positive change in a woman’s psyche or perceptions toward her athletic abilities as a result of her pregnancy and delivery. While this concept is theoretically possible and may have scientific merit, data are sparse. What is clear is that an increasing number of women are maintaining their physical activity and exercise routines during pregnancy, with many able to return to competition soon after delivery. Well-designed studies are needed to further explore the relationships among physiologic and psychological variables and postpartum exercise performance. Ideally, these studies should be prospective (studying women prepregnancy through the postpartum period) and include diverse samples of women with regard to activity type and fitness level.

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Janet Walberg-Rankin

Reduction of body stores of carbohydrate and blood glucose is related to the perception of fatigue and the inability to maintain high-quality performance. This has been clearly shown with aerobic, endurance events of moderate intensity of over 90 min duration. Carbohydrate intake may also have relevance for athletes involved in short, high-intensity events, especially if body weight control is an issue. Prevention of carbohydrate depletion begins with a high-carbohydrate training diet of about 60-70% carbohydrate. If possible, carbohydrate beverages should be consumed during the event at the rate of 30-70 g/hr to reduce the chance of body carbohydrate depletion. Finally, replacement of body carbohydrate stores can be achieved most rapidly if 40-60 g of carbohydrate is consumed as soon as possible after the exercise and at repeating 1-hr intervals for at least 5 hr after the event.

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Ian P. Snider, Terry L. Bazzarre, Scott D. Murdoch and Allan Goldfarb

This study examined the effects of the Coenzyme Athletic Performance System (CAPS) on endurance performance to exhaustion. CAPS contains 100 mg coenzyme Q10,500 mg cytochrome C, 100 mg inosine, and 200 IU vitamin E. Eleven highly trained male triathletes were given three daily doses of either CAPS or placebo (dicalcium phosphate) for two 4-week periods using a double-blind crossover design. A 4-week washout period separated the two treatment periods. An exhaustive performance test, consisting of 90 minutes of running on a treadmill (70% VO2max) followed by cycling (70% VO2max) until exhaustion, was conducted after each treatment period. The mean (±SEM) time to exhaustion for the subjects using CAPS (223 ±17 min) was not significantly different (p=0.57) from the placebo trial (215 ±9 min). Blood glucose, lactate, and free fatty acid concentrations at exhaustion did not differ between treatments (p < 0.05). CAPS had no apparent benefit on exercise to exhaustion.

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Mary McClung and Dave Collins

In the perpetual quest for better performance, athletes are using an increasingly diverse range of ergogenic aids. Some are permitted; however, this “drug” use is often seen as an ethically questionable behavior. A variety of research suggests that much of the impact of such aids may be due to expectancy—the belief that the substance will aid performance. It would be useful to demonstrate this to athletes considering such usage, especially as a pillar of antidrug education. Accordingly, this investigation used sodium bicarbonate and placebo additives in a double disassociation design, with athletes completing a series of 1,000-m time trials. Results showed that believing one had taken the substance resulted in times almost as fast as those associated with consuming the drug itself. In contrast, taking the drug without knowledge yielded no significant performance increment. Results are discussed against the backdrop of applying expectancy effects in high-performance sport, including dissuading athletes from using illegal aids.

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Kathleen Woolf, Wendy K. Bidwell and Amanda G. Carlson

The study examined caffeine (5 mg/kg body weight) vs. placebo during anaerobic exercise. Eighteen male athletes (24.1 ± 5.8 yr; BMI 26.4 ± 2.2 kg/m2) completed a leg press, chest press, and Wingate test. During the caffeine trial, more total weight was lifted with the chest press, and a greater peak power was obtained during the Wingate test. No differences were observed between treatments for the leg press and average power, minimum power, and power drop (Wingate test). There was a significant treatment main effect found for postexercise glucose and insulin concentrations; higher concentrations were found in the caffeine trial. A significant interaction effect (treatment and time) was found for cortisol and glucose concentrations; both increased with caffeine and decreased with placebo. Postexercise systolic blood pressure was significantly higher during the caffeine trial. No differences were found between treatments for serum free-fatty-acid concentrations, plasma lactate concentrations, serum cortisol concentrations, heart rate, and rating of perceived exertion. Thus, a moderate dose of caffeine resulted in more total weight lifted for the chest press and a greater peak power attained during the Wingate test in competitive athletes.