Ever since my ESPN radio show talk on Ergogenic Aids last fall, I’ve consulted many athletes and written numerous articles on this sensitive subject matter.
Basically there are four (4) types of supplements in this category (excluding IHT… Intermittent Hypoxic Training, which I’ll save for another day).
Here is a short list of legal supplements you can take on race day to improve your performance (links to previous articles are underlined):
- Stimulants: coffee & caffeine
- Nootropics: Redbull, 5 Hour shots and Vitalyze
- Lactic Acid buffers: Beta Alanine and baking soda
- Nitric Oxide: L-Arginine, Viagra and vasodilators
You can take these ingredients separately, but now there is a single product that has all four, and that is SNAC’s latest supplement called PED. Yes, you read that right, but it stands for Performance Enhancement Drink.
I reached out to Victor Conte of SNAC and asked about the science behind all these ergogenic aids, and below is the end result.
The first thing you’ll notice on the label is there is no mystery “proprietary blend” formulation behind the secret sauce. Every ingredient is labeled.
Another important factor to consider when buying supplements is check if that company sells prohormones or any product that is on the list of banned substances. This was the case with some supplement contamination in the past. SNAC’s factory does not make prohormones so there is no chance of contamination
The Research Behind PED and the Ingredients
THE KEY PED (Performance Energy Drink) FORMULATION INGREDIENTS with REFERENCES
UPDATED Feb 29, 20111 @1:00pm PST
R-LIPOIC ACID JUMPSTARTS ENERGY FOR WORKOUTS
PED contains a potent ingredient called R-Lipoic Acid or R-LA, which is not included in the lion’s share of the pre-workout/energy products available. Some researchers believe R-LA may eventually be acknowledged as one of the most important nutraceutical compounds on the market for cellular energy production. R-Lipoic acid has properties that make it especially valuable for athletes. It improves the body’s utilization of glucose and may increase the body’s production of adenosine triphosphate (ATP) within the muscle cells.
Mitochondria produces most of the cellular energy used by the body and R-LA is the only form of lipoic acid that functions as a cofactor for mitochondrial enzymes. Although R-LA is a more expensive form, it has been shown to be many times more effective than the more commonly used racemic alpha lipoic acid or ALA. It’s equally important to note that R-LA improves insulin sensitivity and accelerates the metabolic rate, which may help reduce the gain in body fat with aging (1, 2).
R-LA is more commonly known for its powerful and universal antioxidant functions since it is both water and fat soluble. R-LA also increases or maintains the levels of other potent antioxidants including coenzyme Q10, vitamin C, vitamin E and glutathione (3-5). Anyone who does intense exercise needs to take powerful antioxidants to combat the free radical damage from the oxidative stress and to facilitate muscle recovery.
Additionally, biotin is included in the PED formula because it enhances the absorption of R-LA. Biotin is a natural co-factor that compliments R-LA in promoting cellular energy for muscular endurance and improved workout performance. Likewise, this scientific formula contains both taurine and L-carnitine, which further supports the optimal blood sugar levels needed during high-intensity exercise. As a bonus, these ingredients support fat loss by increasing glucose uptake by muscle tissue, which helps to prevent fat cell deposition.
TYROSINE ENHANCES COGNITIVE FUNCTION
PED contains the amino acid tyrosine, which is a precursor of the brain neurotransmitters epinephrine (adrenalin), norepinephrine and dopamine, which transmit nerve impulses. Dopamine is vital to mental function. U.S. soldiers undergoing various psychological and physiological stress tests were given tyrosine to measure its effects on performance. The researchers found that the soldiers who took tyrosine performed significantly better on a variety of tests compared to those who took a placebo. They were more efficient, alert and had faster reaction times (6). Studies have also shown that tyrosine can considerably reduce fatigue, muscular discomfort and sleepiness (7, 8).
L-CARNITINE L-TARTRATE IMPROVES VO2MAX AND EXERCISE RECOVERY
There is lots of research examining the potential of carnitine supplementation to spare muscle glycogen and improve exercise performance (9, 10). The L-carnitine L-tartrate form contained in PED has been found to effectively assist in muscle recovery from high-repetition squat exercise. Researchers found the beneficial effects of carnitine on exercise recovery responses to include improved blood flow and reduced free radical formation, tissue damage and muscle soreness (11).
The positive effects of carnitine on aerobic work capacity or VO2 max has also been demonstrated in studies involving various types of athletes (12, 13). One of the consequences of high-intensity training is hypoxia (low blood oxygen), which increases the concentration of the metabolic waste byproduct ammonia (14). Ammonia accumulation is associated with muscle fatigue and L-carnitine L-tartrate has been found to decrease athletes’ ammonia levels in a well controlled study (15).
CITRULLINE MALATE PROMOTES AEROBIC ENERGY PRODUCTION
Citrulline malate has been shown to promote aerobic energy production by buffering lactic acid buildup and reducing fatigue. European studies have shown that it significantly reduces mental and physical fatigue and exhaustion (16).
Research indicates that citrulline malate may boost athletic performance and recovery by accelerating the elimination of the toxic byproducts of protein metabolism and improving the capacity of the liver to remove ammonia and lactate from the blood (17, 18). Also, citrulline is converted to arginine, which is the precursor for nitric oxide (NO2), a key cellular signaling molecule (19). Increasing NO2 levels induces the relaxation of smooth muscle cells in the walls of blood vessels resulting in vasodilation and increased blood flow.
BETA-ALANINE ATTENUATES FATIGUE FOR MORE TRAINING VOLUME
Beta-alanine is a precursor of carnosine, which is a di-petide that is concentrated in muscle and brain tissue. Carnosine regulates important aspects of cell metabolism and may provide stamina and energy-enhancement benefits. Athletes use beta-alanine to support optimal carnosine production, which plays a role as an acid buffer within muscle cells and attenuates fatigue (20). A study conducted in 2008 found that beta-alanine supplementation increased training volume and reduced subjective feelings of fatigue in college football players (21).
Researchers have also shown that carnosine has a number of beneficial anti-oxidant properties including hydroxyl-radical-scavenging and lipid-peroxidase activities (22, 23).
CAFFEINE IMPROVES ATHLETIC PERFORMANCE
Caffeine is a central nervous system and cardiac stimulant that has been widely demonstrated to enhance athletic performance. The central nervous system controls many cognitive functions and caffeine has been shown to improve concentration and alertness in military personnel (24). In a study of caffeine consumption involving 22 resistance-trained men ranging from 18 to 29 years old, muscle endurance improved in the bench press and leg press by 11 and 12 %, respectively (25). Another group of study participants using a graded treadmill after the ingestion of caffeine were found to have significantly increased VO2max readings (26). Athletes participating in events that depend upon aerobic endurance, muscular endurance, and sustained mental concentration may be able to enhance their performances by taking caffeine prior to their activities.
1. Oxidative stress in the aging rat heart is reversed by dietary supplementation with (R)-(alpha)-lipoic acid. Suh JH, Shigeno ET, et al. FASEB J 2001 Mar; 15(3): 700-6.
2. (R)-alpha-Lipoic acid-supplemented Old Rats Have Improved Mitochondrial Function, Decreased Oxidative Damage, and Increased Metabolic Rate. Hagen TM, Ingersoll RT, et al. FASEB J 1999 13:411-418.
3. Cytokine-induced glucose uptake in skeletal muscle: redox regulation and the role of alpha-lipoic acid. Khanna S, Packer L, et al. Am J Physiol. 1999 May;276(5 Pt 2):R1327-33.
4. Age-associated decline in ascorbic acid concentration, recycling, and biosynthesis in rat hepatocytes–reversal with (R)-alpha-lipoic acid supplementation. Lykkesfeldt J, Ames BN et al. FASEB J 1998 Sep; 12(12): 1183-9.
5. Pre-treatment with R-lipoic acid alleviates the effects of GSH depletion in PC12 cells: implications for Parkinson’s disease therapy. Bharat S, Cochran BC, et al. Neurotoxicology. 2002 Oct;23(4-5):479-86.
6. Treatment with tyrosine, a neurotransmitter precursor, reduces environmental stress in humans. L. E. Bandert and H.R Lieberman. Brain Research Bulletin, 1989 Vol 22, pp 759-762.
7. Effect of tyrosine on cognitive function and blood pressure under stress. J.B. Diejen and J.F. Orlebeke. Brain Research Bulletin, 1994 Vol 33, pp 319-323.
8. The effects of tyrosine on cognitive performance during extended wakefulness. D.F. Neri, er tal. Aviation, space and environmental medicine, April 1995, pp. 313-319
9. The role of carnitine and carnitine supplementation during exercise in man and in individuals with special needs. Brass EP, et al. J Am Coll Nutr (1998) 17:207-215.
10. Carnitine and physical exercise. Heinonen OJ. Sports Med (1996) 22:109-132.
11. L-Carnitine L-Tartrate supplementation favorably affects markers of recovery from exercise stress. Volek JS, et al. Am J Physiol Endrocrinol Metab (2002) E474-E482.
12. Studies concerning chronic and acute effects of L-carnitine on some biological parameters in elite athletes. Dragan GI, et al. Physiologie. 1987;24(1):23-28.
13. The effect of L-carnitine supplementation on plasma carnitine levels and various performance parameters of male marathon athletes. Swart I, et al. Nutr Res 1997;17:405-414
14. Supplementation of L-carnitine in athletes: Does it make sense? Karlic H, et al Nutrition (2004) 20:709-15.
15. Effect of 2 weeks supplementation with L-carnitine L-tartrate on plasma ammonia response to exercise. Galloway SDR et al. FASEB J (2004) 18(4-5):502.5.
16. Citrulline malate promotes aerobic energy production in human exercising muscle. D. Bendahan, et al. Br J Sports Med, 2002 36 (4): 282-9.
17. Activity of citrulline malate on acid-base balance and blood ammonia and amino acid levels. Study in animal and man. A Callis, et al. 199, 41 (6): 660-3.
18. Pharmacological/clinical approach of citrulline malate activity: study of blood lactate levels during standardized muscular exercise. E. Fornaris, et al. Gazette Medicale 1984, 91(11):125-128.
19. Oral citrulline as arginine precursor may be beneficial in sickle cell disease: early phase, two results. W.H. Waugh, et al. J Nathl Med Assoc; 2001, 93(10):363-71.
20. beta-Alanine supplementation augments muscle carnosine content and attenuates fatigue during repeated isokinetic contraction bouts in trained sprinters. J Appl Physiol. 2007 Nov; (5):1736-46. Epub 2007 Aug 9.
21. Short-duration beta-alanine supplementation increases training volume and reduces subjective feelings of fatigue in college football players. Hoffman JR, Ratamess NA, et al. Nutr Res. 2008 Jan;28(1):31-5.
22. Effect of carnosine and its components on free-radical reactions. Klebanov GI, Teselkin YuO, et al. (1998). Membrane & Cell Biology 12 (1): 89–99.
23. L-carnosine (beta-alanyl-L-histidine) and carcinine (beta-alanylanylhistamine) act as natural antioxidants with hydroxyl-radical-scavenging and lipid-peroxidase activities. Babizhayev MA, Seguin MC, Gueyne J, Evstigneeva RP, Ageyeva EA, Zheltukhina GA (December 1994). The Biochemical Journal. 304 (2):509-16.
24. Caffeine effects on physical and cognitive performance during sustained operations. McLellan, T. M., et al. (2007). Aviation, Space, and Environmental Medicine, 78(9), 871-877.
25. Effects of caffeine ingestion on one-repetition maximum muscular strength. Astorino, T. A., Rohmann, R. L., & Firth, K. (2007). Effect European Journal of Applied Physiology, 102, 127-132.
26. Effects of ingesting JavaFit energy extreme functional coffee on aerobic and anaerobic fitness markers in recreationally-active coffee consumers. Roberts, M. D., et al. (2007). Journal of the Internation Society of Sports Nutrition, 4(25)