5k running tips
June 28, 2010 | In: Sport Facts
When it comes to nutritional supplements, there’s always something new purported to do such-and-such. This supplement improves your 5-K time. That one improves your sex life. Another one improves your 5-K time and your sex life.
Should you believe these claims? Oftentimes, no. Let’s set the record straight on four of the most popular supplements on the shelves: ginseng, sodium bicarbonate, creatine and branched-chain amino acids.
Ginseng is everywhere: in New Age beverages, herb supplements, sportsdrinks and energy gels. Used for thousands of years by the Chinese, ginseng is an herb traditionally taken for chronic fatigue, forgetfulness, nervous disorders, low sex drive and forgetfulness (did I mention that already?). More recently, in terms of exercise, ginseng has been said to boost energy levels and performance and to speed workout recovery. But aside from anecdotes and testimonials, there is no research supporting ginseng’s performance-boosting effects.
There may be something here–if you’re a sprinter. Taking a few spoonfuls of sodium bicarbonate (commonly known as baking soda) several hours before intense bouts of exercise may improve staying power. That’s because sodium bicarbonate acts as a buffer in the body, so it decreases lactic acid levels. What happens is that during high-intensity exercise–like sprinting–only carbohydrate is used as a fuel source. A by-product of carbohydrate-only anaerobic exercise is lactic acid, which is normally cleared away and subsequently used as an energy source itself. However, a problem results if lactic acid is produced faster than it is cleared. As it accumulates, it begins to hamper muscle contractions, and you soon get that heavy feeling in your legs. Several recent studies have shown that a dose of sodium bicarbonate can delay that feeling, thus improving performance during short exercise bouts.
Creatine is found in the muscles and is crucial for high-intensity muscle contractions. During short, intense activities, such as sprinting or weight lifting, creatine (as creatine phosphate) regenerates the energy necessary to maintain muscle contractions. Like sodium bicarbonate, creatine also helps buffer the lactic acid that accumulates during high-intensity exercise. Further, research shows that loading up on creatine boosts creatine levels in the muscles, which should mean higher energy levels, faster running and delayed fatigue.
Branched-Chain Amino Acids
Branched-chain amino acids, or BCAAs, have been a hot topic for years now. One reason for this is that they do show promise for endurance athletes. Several well-designed studies suggest that supplemental branched-chain amino acids may improve performance and help prevent the muscle degradation that occurs during endurance training. BCAAs, along with 17 other amino acids, are the “building blocks” that form all of the protein in our bodies. The three BCAAs are found primarily in muscle, and during long sessions of exercise (2 hours or more), these amino acids are broken down and burned for energy. If this happens often enough, muscle protein begins to dwindle. That’s when BCAA supplementation may come into play