ergogenic aids

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ergogenic aids

agents that can enhance work output, particularly as it relates to athletic performance; taken as dietary supplements, with the aim of improving performance beyond that associated with the typical balanced diet; they primarily serve to increase muscle mass, muscle energy supply and the rate of energy production in the muscle, but the effects claimed for many of them are not supported by sound evidence. See Table 1.
Table 1: Ergogenic aids: supplements used by athletes
SubstanceDescriptionClaimed ergogenic effectSupporting evidence
With clear scientific evidence
CaffeineStimulant in coffee and tea
  • Benefits performance by improving alertness, concentration, reaction time.
  • Increases fat oxidation during endurance exercise.
Improves performance in most events, except very short high-intensity exercise; increases cognitive functioning during exercise.
CreatineCarrier of high-energy phosphates in muscleIncreases the energy reserve, improves strength, reduces fatigue, and increases protein synthesisIncreases intramuscular Cr and PCr; improves performance in repeated sprint bouts (and reported to do so after even a single bout); improves recovery between bouts (but response varies between individuals). Anabolic properties unclear.
  • Sodium bicarbonate
  • Sodium citrate
BuffersImproves high-intensity exercise performance by limiting decrease in pH in ECF as a whole and indirectly in muscle ICFLarge doses can improve performance
With mixed scientific evidence
Antioxidant nutrientsVitamins, especially C and EProvides protection against muscle damage by reducing oxidative stressBenefits established at cellular level; no detectable aid to performance
ArginineAmino acid in normal dietStimulates release of growth hormone, promoting gain in muscle mass and strengthSome evidence of GH promotion when combined with other amino acids (ornithine, lysine, BCAA); no conclusive evidence of effect when taken alone
Branched-chain amino acids (BCAA)Leucine, isoleucine and valine
  • Retards the development of central fatigue and so improves performance.
  • Improves efficiency of training
No good evidence of improved endurance performance. Evidence of accelerated recovery from muscle fatigue when given with other amino acids during eccentric exercise training
GlutamineAmide of amino acid glutamateMaintains a healthy immune system during training and improves muscle glycogen resynthesisDoes not affect immune function; possibly affects muscle glycogen resynthesis
GlycerolComponent of triacylglycerol moleculeInduces hyperhydration, decreases heat stress, and improves performanceDoes have the first two actions, but effects on performance are unclear
Lacking scientific support
AndrostenedioneSynthetic productIncreases testosterone and thus muscle mass and strength, and improves recoveryDoes not increase testosterone secretion; has no effect on strength
Hydroxy-methyl butyrate (HMB)Metabolite of the amino acid leucineEnhances gain in body mass and strength associated with resistance training, and improves recoveryPossible small effects only on lean body mass and strength
BoronMicronutrient present in vegetables and non-citrus fruitsIncreases testosterone levels, to improve bone density, muscle mass, and strengthImproves bone mineral density in postmenopausal women; no effect on bone density, muscle mass or strength in men
CarnitineSubstance important for fatty acid transport into mitochondriaImproves fat oxidation, helps weight lossNo supporting evidence
CholinePrecursor of acetylcholineImproves performance, decreases fatigue and enhances fat metabolismNo supporting evidence
Chromium (chromium picolinate)Micronutrient that potentiates insulin actionPromotes fat oxidation and muscle buildingNo supporting evidence
Coenzyme Q10Part of the electron transport chain in the mitochondriaImproves aerobic capacity and cardiovascular dynamicsNo supporting evidence
GinsengRoot of the Araliaceous plantImproves strength, performance, stamina, and cognitive functioning; reduces fatigueNo supporting evidence
InosineNucleoside found naturally in brewer's yeast and organ meatsIncreases ATP stores, improve strength, training quality, and performanceNo supporting evidence
Medium-chain triacylglycerols (MCT)Triglycerides containing fatty acids with a carbon chain length of 6-10Improves energy supply, reduces rate of muscle glycogen breakdown, and improves performanceNo supporting evidence
PyruvateEnd-product of aerobic glycolysisImproves endurance capacity and recovery; increases glycogen storageLimited supporting evidence
PolylactatePolymer of lactateProvides energyNo effects on performance
Wheat germ oilWheat embryo extractImproves enduranceNo supporting evidence
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