Ergogenic Aids in Sports

3rd March 2019
Before talking ourselves into consuming ergogenic compounds, we must consult a specialist in the field who can advise us and indicate, in a personalized manner, what's best for a specific situation.

The term ergogenic refers to all of the physiological processes by which our bodies obtain energy. Being more or less efficient in regards to obtaining energy can be a wild card or a handicap during sports competitions. Also, there are different ergogenic aids that can give extra energy.

Although it might seem obvious, the energy that a sprinter will need isn’t the same as a marathon runner.

Natural or enhanced ergogenic aids?

We must bear in mind that we can use these aids in the framework of an athlete’s proper preparation. Nutrition certainly has to adapt to the type of sport, training, and competition. Once this triad is consolidated, the use of ergogenic aids can be planned out.

Ergogenic aids can be natural or enhanced.

When someone offers you a dietary supplement, you should always ask about the potential benefits and the associated risks.

The Australian Institute of Sport developed a classification in which ergogenic aids were categorized according to the scientific evidence that had been demonstrated in this regard. In this article, we’ll review Category A, whose effect is scientifically proven.

Level A: consolidated scientific evidence

Carbohydrates

The supplement that doesn’t seem like a supplement. Even if we don’t consider it as such, consuming carbohydrates during a competition is an ergogenic aid that prevents our glucose stores from running out. This way, we manage to delay the manifestation of fatigue and we also improve our performance.

We can find them in different presentations, like bars, gels, drinks, powders to hydrate, etc. Additionally, each form is ideal for a different type of exercise. For example, if you’re going to perform a marathon-type competition, we would advise you to use gels over bars or drinks. That’s because its absorption is quick and the movements from the exercise don’t affect it, which means less gastrointestinal discomfort.

Caffeine

For many athletes and non-athletes, caffeine is their best friend. Its effects are demonstrated and it has a multi-action mechanism. These are some of the most outstanding effects of caffeine as an ergogenic aid:

  • The central nervous system decreases the perception of pain and physical stress to which the body is being subjected.
  • It increases the mobilization of fat and its oxidation to obtain energy.
  • Promotes the resynthesizing of glycogen (glucose reserve) after exercise and thus, replenishes the reserves.
  • Improves the release of calcium for better muscle contraction. 
Caffeine improves the release of calcium.
In any case, the consumption of beverages with caffeine should be moderate.

“Things won’t go perfect. It’s all about how you adapt from those things and learn from mistakes.” Michael Phelps

It has its maximum effect when the dose is 2.7 mg per pound of weight, but we can vary the dose between 0.9-4 mg per pound of weight. Drinking over 4 mg/lb of caffeine, which would be equivalent to consuming six cups of coffee, can cause negative effects:

  • It limits the absorption of iron.
  • Increases acidity.
  • Diuresis (elimination of water) increases.
  • It produces nervousness, insomnia, irritability, anxiety, arrhythmias, and hallucinations. It also gets worse with greater doses in comparison to the one mentioned above.
  • Abstinence syndrome. If you consume it regularly and then stop, a symptomatological episode of dependence appears, which includes fatigue, irritability, headaches, and more.

We can find supplements that contain various ergogenic aids in different amounts and forms of ingestion. This way, they can be of use for different sports.

Beta-Alanine

This ergogenic aid is ideal for anaerobic or explosive type sports. It improves anaerobic capacity due to its function as an intracellular buffer. This means that it maintains an optimum pH and decreases the acidity caused by the compounds that form in the energy-obtaining reactions.

Creatine

It’s useful for the weight training that bodybuilders and weightlifters do. Consuming creatine while doing strength training generates growth in body mass at the expense of muscle building. So athletes can increase the weight load to which they subject themselves to. But it requires them to continue consuming creatin routinely to uphold the progress.

Creatine is useful for weight training.

We recommend that if you decide to use these or other ergogenic aids, ask for a professional opinion and inform yourself about the benefits and risks involved. Moreover, you must always put their effects to practice and have an adjustment period during the training phase.

If you go ahead and consume something that you don’t know how it will react in your body, it can lead to a lucky win or leave you out of play before you even start.