Friday, September 21, 2012

Using Caffeine as an Ergogenic Aid

In previous posts I have talked about how to optimize your training by:  
  • making sure you take enough recovery time from your hard workouts and long runs,
  • developing good nutritional practices both pre- and post-workout, 
  • getting the proper amount of sleep for your body, and 
  • managing the other stresses in your life.
You can also use certain ergogenic aids to your advantage in training and racing.  And, no, I am not suggesting you do anything illegal.  Ergogenic aids include anything you use externally to enhance performance, and include nutritional, physical, psychological, physiological, and pharmacological aids.  Examples include:
  • Nutritional - Proper pre- and post-workout nutritional timing
  • Physical - Lighter weight running shoes and lighter more sweat-wicking clothing
  • Psychological - The use of visualization and mantras 
  • Physiological - Blood doping (NOT recommended!)
  • Pharmacological -Anabolic steroids (NOT recommended!), Human Growth Hormone (NOT recommended!), amphetamines (NOT recommended!), and caffeine
Here I am going to talk about the use of caffeine as an ergogenic aid.

Studies on caffeine used as an ergogenic aid over the past 20 years have shown positive benefits for endurance exercise in both time trials and time to exhaustion.  Though fewer studies have been done with caffeine and high intensity exercise, some recent research has shown positive effects on activities lasting one to seven minutes resulting in fatigue, i.e. cycling, treadmill sprinting, rowing.

Mechanism of Action

Caffeine is a drug, it is a stimulant, and used to be on the banned list of the IOC (International Olympic Committee).  It was removed in 2004, likely because the amount needed as an ergogenic aid is 5/6mg/kg body weight, which produces urine values of caffeine that are less than what the IOC limits were.  Caffeine stimulates the central nervous system, and the effect on the cerebral cortex enables us to think clearer, concentrate better, and perceive exercise as easier (lowering Rate of Perceived Effort - RPE), thus allowing us to feel less fatigue.

In endurance events, caffeine ingestions releases fatty acids from adipose stores to be used by the working muscles sooner than normally would happen.  This delays fatigue by sparing limited amounts of muscle glycogen.  During intense exercise, caffeine promotes release of calcium ions in the muscles to enhance muscle contractility.

Dose and Timing

Research shows that positive benefits occur when the dose is about 5-6 mg/kg body weight, but no further advantage at doses over 6 mg/kg body weight.  There is some evidence of benefit at 2-4 mg/kg body weight.  Studies also show that peak concentration is seen in the blood at 60 minutes after ingestion of caffeine, so you should take your caffeine about an hour before performance.

Form Matters

Many of us take our caffeine in the form of coffee (yes please!), but research has shown that, for some unknown reason, caffeinated coffee is not nearly as effective as pure caffeine in producing the positive ergogenic results.  BUT, the energy drink Red Bull DOES produce the same results as pure caffeine in capsule form.

Takeaway - Caffeine may be used for better performance in both endurance and high intensity exercise, taken in either capsule form or in the energy drink Red Bull, and ingested about an hour before your exercise activity.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Biking in Wisconsin

Whew!  Pretty much on vacay since the first of August--no time to blog!  L.A. the first week, back to SoFL with daughter and grandson, back to WI and BIKING AND CAMPING for two weeks!  Then back to SoFL for a Labor Day weekend up in Stuart to celebrate my mom's 80th birthday with all the kids and grandkids.  Daughter and grandson go back to L.A. on the weekend, and I will be back in WI then too. 

The weather in WI was simply gorgeous throughout the month of August--80's and sunny nearly every day.  Wisconsin has lots of rails-to-trails, as most states do.  The Oak Leaf Trail runs right past our condo, so we have been running and riding bikes on that for a long time.  But we did not know about another trail, the Ozaukee County Interurban Trail, which goes through Ozaukee County just north of Milwaukee County.
What is very cool is that the Oak Leaf Trail connects with the Interurban Trail, so that I can ride from downtown Milwaukee up to Grafton, where John's office is, mostly on bike trail.  Which means--mostly no motorized traffic, biking through trees and parks and little towns.  I have been doing this little trek nearly every day, about 24 miles one way.  THEN, after work, John and I get on the bikes and do another 20-25 miles or so on the Interurban Trail heading north of Grafton.

Oak Leaf Trail
Brown Deer Park
Ozaukee Interurban Trail - Mequon
On the trail
On the trail
We heard about a trail over by LaCrosse on the east side of the state, the Elroy-Sparta Trail, a rails-to-trail going from Elroy to Sparta and decided we needed to check that out.  So on the Friday afternoon a couple weeks ago, we loaded up the truck with our camping and biking gear (plus the dog--we bought a bike trailer to carry her along with us!) and made our way over to a campground in Wonewoc, about 20 miles south of Elroy, the start of the Elroy-Sparta Trail.  Two days and two nights of camping and biking!

Saturday was 82 degrees and sunny--perfect biking!  We started in Elroy and biked about 20 miles up, going through two of the three tunnels on the trail.  It's quite hilly in that part of the state and the railroadbuilt tunnels (in 1873!) through these hills for the trains to go through.  The first two are about a quarter mile long and the third is three quarters of a mile long. 

Some pics on the Elroy-Sparta Trail:

Getting ready for the ride

Elroy-Sparta Trail

Joy & John 1st Tunnel

Our bikes

Coming out of a tunnel

Our campfire

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