Supplement Savvy: More Questions, MOHR Answers - 08-30-04!

This article covers a study about low and high glycemic levels and how they impact a cyclist on a 64 km event. This article also talks about creatine as a healthy supplement, especially for vegetarians.

Carbohydrates are a known ergogenic aid; this aid can come from any type of carbohydrate, whether it is pre-workout, during a workout, post-workout, or even in hours or days between training. This macronutrient should be the base of any sound training program.

Athletes who are training for extended periods of time will particularly benefit from carbohydrates, as carbohydrates are the preferred energy source. During these extended activities, some athletes use carbohydrate based drinks, gels, or even foods that are concentrated carbohydrate sources, such as dried fruit or honey.

It is typically recommended that during and immediately after exercise, the carbohydrates used should be high glycemic carbohydrates, which means they are absorbed more rapidly and therefore more readily available.

Therefore, this particular study was designed to compare low vs. high glycemic carbohydrates during a 64 km cycling event. Just to provide a comparison, the Tour de France is 61 km, so the trial utilized in this protocol was a little longer than that.

Considering the first place finishers in these types of events are separated by seconds, any type of legal edge athletes can get over their counterparts should be considered.

Low vs. High Glycemic Index
Carbohdyrate Gel Ingestion During Simulated 64-km Cycling Time Trial Performance Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 2004, 18(3), 466-472.

Nine endurance-trained amateur male subjects participated in this randomized, double blind, counterbalanced, crossover trial. Riders ingested either 15 g of a low glycemic index carbohydrate (honey), a high glycemic index carbohydrate (dextrose), or placebo.

Honey was used as this has shown promise as an effective energy source during races; moreover, it's inexpensive and very convenient. Each subject in this study participated in three simulated time trials. Each trial was separated by 7 days and the subjects received a different supplement each trial.

This study design was utilized to ensure each subject ultimately received the three supplements, which allows for better control and decreases confounding factors that may be playing a role during the cycling trials.

This study demonstrated that there was a positive effect from both carbohydrate sources when compared to the placebo. Moreover, there was a trend for a significant change with the honey compared to the dextrose. Although this value did not receive statistical significance, the authors suggest that there may have been a difference with more subjects (9 subjects is a rather small study). Therefore, the moral of the story is that any carbohydrate is useful during this type of activity.

Furthermore, honey may actually be slightly better than dextrose when used during a race. As I mentioned before, the true benefit of using honey is that it is inexpensive, convenient, tastes good, and can be purchased at any grocery store. In fact, it can also be purchased in individual packets (like ketchup is sold at fast food restaurants), which would be perfect to carry on longer runs or during cycling.

Don't forget to wash the carbohydrate you choose down with a little water; otherwise, your performance may be affected by the dry mouth that will follow.

Click Here to view information on the Glycemic Index.
Click Here to view FAQs on the Glycemic Index.

Acute Creatine Monohydrate Supplementation:
A Descriptive Physiological Profile of Responders vs. Nonresponders Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 2004, 18(3), 610-617.

Creatine is popular among athletes for its known ergogenic benefits. It is the most widely research dietary supplement to date, with the majority of studies showing there is some benefit to most who use creatine. However, as with anything, there are of course those who do not respond to creatine supplement.

I think it's safe to make the assumption that some of you may be non responders, so this study is the first to my knowledge to try to explain why that is. How is it possible that your teammate uses creatine and adds several pounds of lean mass plus 40 lbs to his bench, while you take the same dose and have no benefit at all?

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The researchers who conducted this acute study sought out to determine the physiological differences between creatine responders and non-responders. Eighteen recreationally weight-trained men participated in this study. All subjects consumed a 5-day creatine loading phase in the manner typically recommended by most. The authors hypothesized that factors such as muscle fiber type, cross-sectional area of muscle fibers, body mass, dietary intake and a number of other factors would play a role in why some respond and others do not.

For example, a vegetarian who consumes little dietary creatine (remember it comes primarily from animal sources, such as fish and red meat) would respond better than those who regularly consume high levels of dietary creatine.

Similarly, individuals who are more inclined to train aerobically typically have a different muscle fiber makeup than those who are more apt to train anaerobically. This too could affect creatine storage in the muscles since the makeup of each fiber type is different.

So after the research was complete, it appeared that the researchers were correct in their hypothesis; the responders and the non-responders primarily differed in that the muscle fiber type composition and the initial cross-sectional area of muscle fibers.

So what does this mean? Unfortunately, there is little one can do if their muscle fiber type is not ideal to be a creatine responder.

Furthermore, there is not really one isolated factor that determines responders and non responders. I can tell you that if you are a vegetarian, you would probably benefit from creatine supplementation; similarly, this research showed that those who had higher levels of fat free mass responded better. Therefore, train harder and eat a well-balanced diet. If it's high in fish and meat, you probably won't respond as well as others who eat less muscle meats.