There are those who, in fact, place an excess of trust in sports food supplements, those who confuse them with doping products and those who worry excessively about side effects.
To avoid doubt, it is good to clarify, first, that there are no sports food supplements that can determine rapid falls in weight or promote showy increases in athletic performance.
There are few substances that can keep these promises, they belong to the category of drugs and they have deleterious side effects on the health of those who use them.
Only the use of an adequate training program, combined with a correct diet, possibly assisted by a responsible use of diet supplements for sports, allows us to get appreciable and stable results over time.
Here a list of most-used fitness and sports supplements.
What is Caffeine and its Effect
Caffeine is a stimulant belonging to the purine alkaloid family. Present in many foods including coffee, tea and cocoa, it is used as an additional ingredient in preparing some energy drinks and various cosmetic products.
Caffeine stands out for its speed of absorption in the intestine and its rapid metabolism; after its intake, therefore, the human body absorbs it and metabolises it extremely quickly.
This molecule can easily cross the blood-brain barrier and, in pregnant women, the placenta; also, in pregnant women, it mixes with breast milk.
Note: It is for the reasons mentioned above that, during pregnancy and during breastfeeding, the woman must limit the intake of coffee and other foods containing it.
Caffeine positively influences athletic performance, as it stimulates the release of catecholamines, promoting the following effects:
- Increased frequency of breaths and therefore blood oxygenation;
- Increased blood flow, cardiac output and blood supply to muscles;
- Stimulus on lipolysis, which favours the use of fats as an energy fuel.
- On the central nervous system, caffeine exerts analgesic effects, improves reflexes and the ability to concentrate, delaying the perception of fatigue.
Caffeine stimulates the metabolism and, thanks to its lipolytic properties, it is often used, as an additional ingredient, in the manufacture of slimming or anti-cellulite products.
Disadvantages of Caffeine
We should note it that the regular intake of this substance causes addiction, with a consequent decrease in the effects sought. Excessive doses of caffeine have negative effects on the whole organism and are associated with the appearance of symptoms such as hyper-excitation, headache, tremors, insomnia, nervousness and tachycardia. Although significant individual differences exist the first important side effects appear at doses of 500-1000 mg / day.
How much caffeine in:
a cup of coffee – 50-100 mg;
a can of Coca Cola – 40 mg;
a cup of tea – 50 mg;
a pound of cocoa – 100 mg;
Since caffeine is a doping substance if present in urine in concentrations above 12 mcg / ml (threshold achievable by consuming over 350-400 mg of caffeine in the 60 minutes preceding the competition), its intake by athletes is NOT it’s free.
What it is and Effects
Carnitine is an amino acid derivative whose synthesis, in the human body, takes place in the liver and kidney, starting from the amino acids methionine and lysine. A significant proportion of carnitine is also present in foods of animal origin such as meat and dairy products.
The metabolic role of carnitine is to promote the beta-oxidation of fatty acids for energy, transporting them inside the mitochondria. Because of this function, carnitine is used as a fat-burning food supplement.
Use of Sports Carnitine
In particular, in the world of sport, the use of carnitine occurs with the purpose of:
- Burn fat for energy and save glycogen;
- Limit lactate accumulation as it promotes the conversion of lactic acid to acetyl-CoA.
Both effects would lead to an improvement in performance, as they would delay. The onset of fatigue; however, the efficacy of carnitine is doubtful, as the various studies performed to assess its energy potential have yielded conflicting results.
Branched-Chain Amino Acids (BCAA)
What they are and Biological Role during Physical Activity
The expression “branched-chain amino acids” (or BCAA) refers to a group of 3 essential amino acids, called leucine, isoleucine and valine.
During the endurance exercise, the branched amino acids play a prominent role: the human organism, in fact, demolishes a part of the muscle proteins rich in these amino acids for energy.
Integration of Branched Amino Acids
Besides supporting exercise by sparing structural proteins, integrating branched amino acids can also stimulate the growth of muscle mass.
Often, however, users of these BCAA-based supplements, deceived by misleading messages, forget that, unless the sport activity is intense and prolonged, the use of such protein supplements is unnecessary.
It should also be noted that the increase in muscle mass induced by the consumption of proteins or amino acids has a limit and that an excessive intake of these substances leads to liver and kidney overload.
The branched amino acids are useful in endurance sports, as they reduce the perception of the sense of weakness.
This happens because, using the same carriers of the amino acid tryptophan to pass the metencephalic barrier, they prevent the tryptophan itself from reaching the brain, and turning into serotonin, the neurotransmitter involved in the appearance in the sense of fatigue.
Note: Therefore, the integration with branched amino acids reduces the synthesis of serotonin and with it the perception of fatigue during the exercise of resistance.
What it is and Biological Role
Creatine is an amino acid derivative naturally present in the human body, whose endogenous synthesis takes place in the liver and kidney, starting from the amino acids arginine, methionine and glycine.
Present above all in the muscles, endogenous creatine is mainly responsible for supplying energy to the muscles in the form of ATP; here is how:
In the muscles, creatine is linked to a phosphate group, through a separable high-energy bond; the resulting molecule is called phosphocreatine (PCr).
In the case of intense efforts of short duration (involving ATP consumption), phosphocreatine transfers its own phosphate group to ADP (product of physical effort), generating new ATP according to a reversible reaction catalysed by the enzyme creatine kinase.
The reaction catalysed by creatine-kinase is as follows:
PCr + ADP < Cr + ATP
Creatine catabolism leads to the formation of creatinine, whose excretion occurs via urine.
The human being recovers the lost portion of creatine through the endogenous synthesis process and the food ready, in particular with the intake of meat. The endogenous synthesis process and dietary intake provide the body with about 1 gram of creatine a day.
It should be noted that excessive food intake influences the endogenous synthesis, reducing it, a bit like anabolic steroids do with testosterone.
Creatine as a Sports Supplements: Pros and Cons
Creatine as a sports supplement raises some concerns, as its effectiveness does not find unanimous support in the scientific studies conducted on this subject.
However, according to pro-creatine studies (ie those that support the effectiveness of creatine as an effective sports supplement), this amino acid derivative would increase the muscles, because:
- It would improve the hydration (therefore also the state of health) of the muscle cells, swelling. This consequence is an aim fact, confirmed by all the scientific studies conducted on creatine;
- however, it is a cause for concern because the best cellular hydration does not mean an increase in muscle mass;
- It would favour the expression of a gene, called MRF4, which is associated with the growth and strengthening of muscles;
- It would inhibit the expression of a gene, called myostatin, which is known to be a limiter of muscle growth in living beings;
- It would improve the contractile capacity of the muscles and reduce the sense of fatigue, guaranteeing more effective workouts.
- Oral creatine supplementation has some undesirable effects, including:
- Weight gain;
- Gastrointestinal disorders;
- Impaired renal function after taking high doses for long periods of time.
Did you know that …
Although there is a lot of confusion it does not include creatine in the list of doping substances.