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Sports Nutrition Guide: Section 5 - Understanding Specialty Sports Supplements!

Regardless of what type of athlete you are, a scientific based sports nutrition program can help you get the edge you need. Read this series for more details.

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Refer to the Awesome Muscles Online Podcast Seminar Series with Daniel Gastelu for more information about these and related sports nutrition, training, fitness, and weight maintenance topics.

Sports Nutrition Guide Online
Section 5: Understanding Specialty Sports Supplements

Nutrition research continues to identify nutrients that can enhance athletic performance, and the findings continue to validate existing time-tested nutrients such as vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, creatine and carnitine.

Scientists and manufacturers are working closely together in an effort to incorporate new scientific discoveries into nutritional products that enable athletes to reap the benefits quicker than ever before.

This chapter will provide an overview of some of the semi-essential nutrients and substances that research has shown can help improve athletic performance, and also help reduce and recover from minor injuries.

[ Q ] Do bioflavonoids enhance athletic performance?

    A: Bioflavonoids are a group of naturally occurring plant compounds that are part of a larger group known as flavonoids. Bioflavonoids represent the flavonoids that have been shown to exhibit biological activity in humans. They are associated with vitamin C, in that they improve vitamin C absorption.

    There are thousands of flavonoids, and researchers are confirming the many benefits several of them have to offer. One of their proven benefits is the ability to strengthen capillary walls and prevent capillary damage.

    Bioflavonoids also have an anti-inflammatory effect and have been shown to have anti-cataract activity, meaning that they may play a role in the prevention of cataracts.

    The effects that some bioflavonoids have on improving circulation and their powerful antioxidant activity and healing abilities make them semi-essential phytonutrients. This is because they provide the body with many positive biological effects.

    In one of the most comprehensive studies conducted on the citrus bioflavonoids, Dr. Robert Cragin reported that using bioflavonoids can help prevent and treat athletic injuries. The materials used for this 1962 study were lemon-orange derived bioflavonoids, which included hesperidin as a major ingredient.

    Formulations were given to different groups of athletes during their athletic seasons-football, soccer, basketball, track, and judo. Dr. Cragin used a double-blind technique, in which the subjects and the people administering the supplements did not know which products were actually bioflavonoids or placebos.

    The subjects receiving the bioflavonoids took three 300 mg doses per day. Some the bioflavonoid formulas also included vitamin C to test for added benefits.

    The results were tabulated at the end of the athletic seasons. The researchers found that the occurrence of muscle injuries was reduced; the recovery rate from muscle injuries, when they did occur, was twice as rapid; muscle cramps were rarely seen; and swelling associated with injuries was minimal and disappeared more rapidly when compared with the placebo group.

    The addition of vitamin C appeared to enhance these effects. Dr. Cragin noted, however, that there was no change in the recovery time of ligament or joint injuries.

    Most likely, the ability of bioflavonoids to improve capillary function plays a major role in reducing the rate of injuries and recovery time. This also helps maintain good circulation and blood flow, which is important for all athletes and maintenance of good health.

    In addition to getting bioflavonoids from the fruits and vegetables you eat, they are also included in many dietary supplement formulas. Including a dietary supplement in to your sports nutrition program that contains bioflavonoids can help ensure consistent daily consumption of these extremely beneficial natural substances.

[ Q ] Do bioflavonoids and other botanical bioactives improve performance in endurance sports?

    A: Yes. Many of these botanical have bioactives that are referred to being vasoactive. This means that they help to improve the structure and function of the circulatory system. Better blood flow and circulation translates in to better performance.

    These botanical bioactives have other benefits as well, including reduction of damage due to free radicals, i.e., antioxidant protections, anti- inflammation, improvements of certain oxidative biochemical reactions, etc.

    This is a relatively new area of sports performance research that is going each year. Some of the experimental insights started with research conduced using animal models and people with certain blood flow and associated endurance disorders.

    I usually don't rely upon animal studies, to base performance nutrition recommendations from, but green tea has many clinically verified health benefits, and is rich in botanical antioxidants, in particular a group of bioflavonoids know as polyphenols.

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    The researchers examined the endurance enhancing effects of green tea extract on treadmill running mice. They determined that the polyphenols from green tea did increase endurance in these exercising mice, plus, a reduction of lactate was measured and an increase in the utilization of fatty acids for energy.

    Together, with all of the other research about the health benefits of drinking green tea, as well as oolong tea and black tea, all athletes should drink several cups of fresh brewed plain tea a day, with meals and between meals; also green tea containing supplements.

    Polyphenols are found in other plants, and one supplement in particular has undergone much research confirming its numerous health effects, called Pycnogenol. Paul Pavlovic reported in a study titled Improved Endurance By Use Of Antioxidants the benefits his research revealed from taking 200 mg per day of Pycnogenol for 30 days.

    This research report is found on line of you search Pavlovic and Pycnogenol. The research subjects all experienced a significant increase in exercise endurance when compared to the control subjects who were taking placebos.

    Other supplement ingredients with similar vasoactive botanical substances include:

    Keep in mind these vasoactive botanical antioxidants offer potentially multiple benefits for all athletes. This is certainly an exciting area of sports nutrition research. Most berries are also high in these beneficial bioflavonoids, so include eating more berries and drinking berry juices to boost your antioxidant consumption and ultimately improve your athletic performance and health.

[ Q ] How does L-carnitine help with athletic performance?

    A: Carnitine is a nitrogen-containing organic compound that is actually classified as an amine, but sometimes referred to as an amino acid. Carnitine is made in the body, and its primary role is the transportation of fatty acids into the mitochondria-the cells' energy factories.

    Studies have shown that taking carnitine supplements raises the body's muscle-tissue resting levels of carnitine. Other research has demonstrated certain athletic performance improvements with carnitine supplementation, benefits such as increased endurance; improved oxygen uptake; reduced lactate (lactic acid) levels during exercise; and improved anaerobic strength output. Studies support the use of carnitine supplementation for competitive athletes.

    Carnitine is also useful for increasing the rate of fat loss. Carnitine supplementation of 1 to 3 grams per day taken for several weeks prior to competition, or carnitine loading (2 to 5 g per day) one week before an event is reported to yield performance-enhancing results. Both endurance and strength athletes can benefit from carnitine supplementation.

    Studies have reported that L-carnitine is safe for short-term and long-term (over a year) use. However, D-carnitine should be avoided due to potential harmful effects.

    Another bioactive form of carnitine is called acetyl-L-Carnitine (ACL). Adding the acetyl group to the carnitine molecule makes it more bioavailable to different parts of the body, in particular the brain. Some research has shown that ACL can help improve brain function.

    The most recent studies have shown that ACL is somehow involved in boosting testosterone levels, and it is likely that regular L-carnitine does the same. Therefore some high quality sports formulas contain both forms, L-Carnitine and ACL to maximize the benefits that carnitine has to offer all athletes.

    To View Top Selling Carnitine Products Click Here.

[ Q ] What are the benefits of coenzyme Q10?

    A: Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10)-a natural substance-has a history of clinical application for people suffering from cardiovascular disorders. Its safety and effectiveness are well-established, and studies on athletes report ergogenic effects, such as improved physical performance in endurance events.

    CoQ10 is found in the mitochondria of every cell, where it participates in the manufacturing of adenosine triphosphate (ATP). In addition, CoQ10 has powerful antioxidant activity and is a stabilizer of cellular membranes.

    The spherical or elongated organelles in the cytoplasm of nearly all eukaryotic cells, containing genetic material and many enzymes important for cell metabolism, including those responsible for the conversion of food to usable energy. Also called chondriosome.

    As an endurance-enhancing supplement, CoQ10 offers potential performance benefits to long-distance athletes. Short-term ergogenic dosages of CoQ10 range from 60 to 300 mg per day.

    I want to point out that the research using CoQ10 and healthy athletes has produced mixed results, meaning some studies show a significant improvement and some show a non-significant improvement in endurance performance or neutral effects. But, you should be aware of this research, because statistical significance aside, any improvement in performance can mean the difference between winning and losing.

[ Q ] What are the benefits of taking creatine?

    A: Creatine supplements have been used successfully to increase the amount of creatine and high-energy creatine phosphate in muscle tissue. Creatine is present in food, such as meat and fish, and is manufactured by the body.

    One pound of raw steak has about 2g of creatine. But it should be noted that cooking will convert some or all of the creatine into its break-down product, creatinine, which is quickly excreted from the body by the kidneys. In the body, creatine is made from the amino acids glycine, arginine, and methionine. Creatine requirements for nonathletic individuals are estimated at 2g per day.

    As you may recall from Chapter 1, ATP and CP are stored in muscle cells and function as a pool of immediate energy. The larger the amounts there are in the muscles, the more the muscles can lift-exerting maximum strength performance. CP is used to quickly (in a fraction of a second) replenish ATP in powerful fast-twitch muscle fibers. Creatine loading can therefore result in improved physical performance in strength sports.

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    Of the dozens of studies conducted on creatine supplementation during the 1990s, improvements in strength performance were observed in sports that exhibited all out effort for under thirty seconds.

    For example, creatine supplementation improved performance in non-oxidative sports, including weightlifting; power-lifting; football; short duration track and field events, such as sprinting, jumping and throwing; vertical jump performance; and short rowing events. Increases in oxygen consumption have also been observed in some studies done on untrained and moderately active individuals.

Summary Of Beneficial Effects Of Creatine Monohydrate Supplementation
This table includes a summary of the major conclusions about how creatine monohydrate supplementation improves body composition, physiology, physical performance and athletic performance.
Body Composition & Physiology Related Improvements
  • Promotes greater gains in increasing FFM (Fat Free Mass, which includes muscle mass).
  • Increases muscle fiber size (hypertrophy).
  • Increases muscle mass.
  • Increases myosin muscle fiber content.
  • Improves strength training adaptations.
  • Improves limb blood flow.
  • Reduced ammonia levels.
  • Reduced lactate levels.
  • Raises lactate threshold.
  • Reduces cholesterol levels.
  • Reduces homocysteine levels.
Benefits have been measured in men and women; young and old (teenagers to over 70 years of age); inactive, active and athletic individuals.

Note: creatine supplementation has not been shown to increase long-term endurance physical/sport/exercise performance. Other supplements, such as carnitine, certain carbohydrates, etc. have been reported to stimulate significant improvements. You can read about these improvements in a separate report, on Ergogenic Aids for Enhancing Long-term Endurance Sports.

Athletic Performance Related Improvements
  • Improves rate of training induced gains.
  • Improves maximal strength and power about 15%.
  • Improves work performed during maximal effort muscle contractions about 15%.
  • Improves anaerobic power.
  • Improves single-effort sprint performance about 5%.
  • Improves multiple sprint performance.
  • Improves worked performed during repetitive sprint performance about 15%.
  • Improves performance during exercise of high to maximal intensity.
  • Increased number of weightlifting repetitions.
  • Increased number of weightlifting sets.
  • Greater gains in vertical jump height and power.
  • Increased 1 repetition maximum.
  • Increased peak force.
  • Increased peak power.
  • Reduction of athletic injury rates, such as: reduced muscle cramping, reduced dehydration, reduced muscle tightness, reduced muscle pulls, reduced muscle strains, reduced joint injuries, reduced contact injuries, reduced illness, reduced number of missed practices and reduction in total injuries during the season.
Athletic Performance Improvements Sports
Reported In Research Studies:
Sports In Which Improvements are Expected Due to the Bio-energetic Nature of the Sport:
Sports involving short-term sustained or periodic maximum effort strength and power, such as:
  • Basketball
  • Bobsledding
  • Bowling
  • Boxing
  • Canoeing / Kayaking
  • Curling
  • Decathlon
  • Fencing
  • Golf
  • Ice Skating
  • Lacrosse
  • Martial Arts
  • Rodeo
  • Skiing, downhill
  • Tennis
  • Track and Field events that utilize anaerobic energy systems, such as shot put, high jump, long jump, etc.
Major Research Reviews Include:

  1. Gastelu, D, "Creatine Research Update 2005", Supplementfacts International LLC, 2005. Greeenhaff, PL. The nutritional biochemistry of creatine. J Nutr Biochem 1997;8:610-618.
  2. Juhn, MS and Tarnopolsky, M. Oral creatine supplementation and athletic performance: A critical review. Clin J Sport Med 1998;8:286-297.
  3. Kreider, RB, Leutholtz, BC and Greenwood, M. Creatine. In Nutritional Ergogenic Aids, CRC Press 2004:81-104.
  4. Lemon PW. Dietary creatine supplementation and exercise performance: why inconsistent results? Can J Appl Physiol. 2002 Dec;27(6):663-81.
  5. Persky, AM and Gayle, AB. Clinical pharmacology of the dietary supplement creatine monohydrate. Pharmacological Reviews. 2001;53:161-176.
  6. Turpin, AA, et al. Systematic and critical evaluation of benefits and possible risks of nutritional ergogenic aids. In Nutritional Ergogenic Aids, CRC Press 2004:469-504
  7. Walker, JB. Creatine: biosynthesis, regulation and function. Adv Enzymol Relat Areas Mol Biol 1979;50:177-242
  8. Williams, MH and Branch, JD. Creatine supplementation and exercise performance: An update. Journal of the American College of Nutrition 1998;17(3):216-234.

This Table is copyright protected. Copyright © 2005 By SUPPLEMENTFACTS International LLC. All rights reserved. Contact for reprint permission.

[ Q ] How much creatine do I need?

    A: Refer to my Creatine Super Feature for details on what the research reports is the best way to take creatine for athletic performance and increase in strength and lean body mass.

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[ Q ] Does creatine have any side effects?

    A: Scientific studies conducted over short periods of time-up to eight weeks-have not reported any severe side effects from creatine use. However, there have been anecdotal reports of complaints that high doses of creatine cause muscle cramps and strains. This can be attributed to the increase of water content in the muscles, which causes swelling in the cells.

    The extracellular water content may also upset the body's delicate electrolyte balance. Long-term use of high doses over 15g of creatine is therefore not recommended unless for a medical reason and under doctor supervision.

[ Q ] How can athletes benefit from glucosamine supplementation?

    A: There are many biochemical reactions that take place in the body during the synthesis of connective tissue, but there is one critical step that guarantees the successful synthesis of new connective tissue: the conversion of glucose to glucosamine. Thus, glucosamine is the single most important substance in the synthesis of connective tissue.

    More than 30 years of research have gone into understanding how glucosamine acts as the precursor to connective-tissue synthesis. Scientists have known for quite some time that simply ingesting purified glucosamine allows the body to increase production of connective tissues.

    Here is a summary of some of the benefits reported in the clinical research studies from people taking high quality glucosamine supplements in the proper dosages:

    • Promotion of joint function
    • Better flexibility and ease of movement
    • Maintenance of joint health and comfort
    • Maximizing production of joint lubrication fluids
    • Reduction in most joint pain
    • Increased tissue strength
    • Improved muscle to bone connective tissues
    • Increased anabolism and tissue growth (anabolic)
    • Reduction in tissue damage (anti-catabolic)
    • Improved wound healing, rejuvenating
    • Faster recovery from injuries
    • Pain relief / reduction in pain levels
    • Reduction in pain at rest
    • Reduction in joint tenderness
    • Reduction in joint swelling
    • Improved physical performance
    • Reduction in rubbing noises of the joints
    • Inhibition of connective tissue degradation
    • Stabilization of joint space width
    • Enhanced synthesis of connective tissues
    • Help reduce exercise related injuries
    • Reduction in knee pain, even in people with osteoarthritis

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    • Slows tissue degradation
    • Increases bone and other tissue healing and repair
    • Improves skin appearance
    • Reduce skin wrinkles and fine lines
    • Stronger muscle, bones, and connective tissues
    • Improved joint lubrication
    • Better hydration of all tissues
    • Maintains good connective tissue cushioning and shock absorbing
    • Increased joint strength and stability
    • Reduction in connective tissue injuries or the severity of injuries
    • Tougher and stronger skin, hair and nails

    Glucosamine as a sports and joint health supplement clearly aids in the synthesis of connective tissue. Therefore, all athletes can benefit from this substance, as the repair and growth of connective tissue is constant. Therapeutic dosages of glucosamine have been well-tolerated by thousands of patients consuming glucosamine for up to 2 years.

    Infrequently, people taking glucosamine have complained of gastrointestinal upset. For everyday use a daily dosage of between 500 mg to 1,500 mg is in the effective range. For people taking glucosamine to help speed recovery from an injury, or who are using it to treat arthritis, the higher daily dosage range of 1,000 mg to 1,500 mg has been found to be most effective in healing connective tissues and also relieving some pain and inflammation.

      To View Top Selling Glucosamine Products Click Here.

[ Q ] Are there any herbs that are useful to athletes?

    A: You will find many herbal or botanical, ingredients contained in sports nutrition products these days. It seems fashionable for sports supplement companies to include a dash of ginseng or a pinch of white willow in their formulas. However, when it comes to the proper use of herbs, you need to pay special attention to the amounts, standardization, combinations, and duration of use.

    Many herbs are not suitable for daily use, such as Echinacea, which is taken in high dosages for boosting the immune system for several days at a time.

    There are some herbs that can be taken all the time, herbs such as grape-seed extract, garlic, Pycnogenol, green-tea extract, bilberry, milk thistle, turmeric, and soy bioflavonoids. Due to the fact that using herbs for sports is such a complex subject, I refer you to my book Dynamic Nutrition For Maximum Performance, as well as consulting a trained herbal specialist. When used properly, many herbs can provide you with many beneficial health and performance results.

[ Q ] What are the best supplements to reduce pain and inflammation from training and injuries?

    A: Whenever an injury or persistent pain occurs or muscle soreness restricts your range of motion and performance, consult a health-care practitioner immediately for proper medical treatment. This treatment may include medication and physical therapy, as well as nutritional supplements.

    The best supplements for reducing pain and inflammation and for faster healing include glucosamine, antioxidants, white willow bark, turmeric, DL-phenylalanine, MSM, bromelain, bioflavonoids, and gamma linolenic acid. The use of bioflavonoids, antioxidants, glucosamine, and gamma linolenic acid is recommended during the pre-season and competition season.

    An added benefit is that their use is associated with a reduction of injuries in the first place. Use of white willow bark, bromelain and DL-phenylalanine should be restricted to periodic use to overcome episodes of injury, pain, and inflammation along with other medical therapies.

[ Q ] I have trouble understanding how to select and use all the different sports nutrition supplements; what should I do?

    A: Refer to the Sports Specific Nutrition and Supplement plans for information about this.

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Copyright © 2005 SUPPLEMENTFACTS International LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Notice and Disclaimer: This sports nutrition guide and related articles and seminar series are not intended for use as a substitute for consultation with a qualified medical practitioner. If you have symptoms of any illness or injury, it is essential that you see your doctor immediately for proper treatment.

This information is for education and entertainment purposes only. We strongly recommend that you consult a physician before beginning any exercise program and nutrition program. You should understand that participating in any exercise program can result in physical injury and you agree to do so at your risk.