Pre-exercise supplements may improve running performance: Study

By Nathan Gray

- Last updated on GMT

Consumption of a pre-exercise supplement drink containing whey protein, caffeine, and creatine may boost anaerobic running performance, according to new research.

The new study, published in Nutrition Research​, suggests that a pre-exercise supplement drink containing a combination of traditional sports drink ingredients such as carbohydrates and electrolytes and performance based supplements can effectively boost anaerobic running capacity but have little effect on aerobic systems.

“The current investigation cannot be used as an assessment of the individual contributions of specific supplements, but a combinatory effect of several ingredients may have led to improved anaerobic running capacy and supramaximal time to exhaustion,”​ wrote the researchers, led by Dr. Jeffery Stout, Associate Professor in the Department of Health and Exercise Science at the University of Oklahoma.

Maximizing performance

Consumption of nutritional supplements before, during, and after activity has been marketed as an effective strategy for maximizing performance during physical activity.

Sports drinks have traditionally been formulated to include carbohydrates and electrolytes as the primary ingredients; however, they have recently begun to provide a wide variety of performance-based supplements.

“Specific mixtures are being designed to capitalize on the benefits of supplements, such as whey protein, caffeine, and creatine, and the gains observed by following proper nutrient timing,”​ noted the authors.

The new study examined whether a pre- exercise supplement containing caffeine, creatine, and amino acids would positively impact critical velocity (a measure of aerobic performance) and anaerobic running capacity (a measure of anaerobic energy).

In previous research the same pre- exercise drink was shown to increase aerobic performance when combined with high-intensity interval training.

Significant effects

The results from exercise tests showed no significant differences between the supplement drink and placebo for critical velocity. However the authors reported that the supplement elicited a 10.8 percent higher anaerobic running capacity than the placebo supplement.

Researchers stated that each participant completed runs to exhaustion on a treadmill at levels between 90 and 110 percent peak velocity. Time to exhaustion was found to be greater for the pre-exercise supplement than the placebo at 100, 105 and 110 percent peak velocity, but there was no observable difference for 90 percent.

Effective strategy?

“These findings suggest that the acute ingestion of this pre- exercise drink containing a combination of ingredients may be an effective strategy for improving anaerobic running capacity (anaerobic energy), but appears to have no effect on critical velocity (aerobic performance),”​ wrote the authors.

The researchers explained the possible mechanisms for such effects may be due to any number of mechanisms related to specific ingredients in the pre exercise drink.

“These mechanisms may include augmenting the phosphagen system, increasing blood flow, and attenuating pain associated with high-intensity exercise,”​ they added.

The authors stated that the results of this study, along with previous findings lead to the possibility that “further increases in anaerobic performance over time with training and appropriately timed supplementation can lead to increases in critical velocity and VO2max,”

Source: Nutrition Research
Volume 30, Issue 9, Pages 607-614, doi: 10.1016/j.nutres.2010.09.004
“The possible combinatory effects of acute consumption of caffeine, creatine, and amino acids on the improvement of anaerobic running performance in humans”
Authors: D.H. Fukuda, A.E. Smith, K.L. Kendall, J.R. Stout

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