Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Carbohydrate Loading and Endurance Performance

By: Rachel Hitt

      Carbohydrates are an energy source out bodies cannot produce, it is up to us to make sure we take in this nutrient every day by incorporating carbohydrate rich foods into our diets. There are two types of carbohydrates found in foods: starches and sugars.
      Starches are “complex” carbohydrates that can be found in foods like bread, beans, pasta, and vegetables like corn and potatoes. Sugars are “simple” carbohydrates that can be found in milk, yogurt, jam, and baked goods.

      Once our bodies break down these carbohydrates they are then turned into a sugar known as glucose. Glucose is the primary source of fuel that our cells run off of. While being digested, the glucose makes its way into the blood stream, the blood then carries the glucose to our cells and our cells then use it as energy. If there’s extra glucose, some of it will be stored in our muscles in a concentrated form of glucose known as muscle glycogen. Muscle glycogen is stored to act as a back source of energy when the body is exerting a lot of excessive energy.1
      Carbohydrate loading is a dietary strategy that emphasizes altering nutrition and exercise patterns to maximize muscle glycogen (carbohydrate) stores before an endurance competition such as distancing running, distance swimming or distance cycling. The purpose of carbohydrate loading is to delay an athlete’s fatigue on the day of competition and to improve an athletes’ endurance capacity.2 Athletic competition is based off of two things: endurance capacity and ability to complete a designated distance or workload in the shortest time. Endurance capacity is defined by an athlete’s time to exhaustion during activity of stagnant intensity levels.3 Carbohydrate loading is meant to give you the energy to complete a competitive endurance event without overwhelming fatigue, which then improves endurance capacity and athletic performance.
      Carbohydrate loading was a technique that was developed in the late 1960’s. It involves a ‘depletion phase’ which was three to four days of hard training and taking in a low amount of carbs.1 In the depletion phase, the athlete wants to lower their intake of carbohydrates to around 50-55% of their total calories. Because the athlete has lowered their carbohydrate intake, they must make sure to increase protein and fat intake to compensate for the decline in carbohydrate intake. Training should continue at normal frequency and intensity. The depletion phase is needed to deplete the athlete’s glycogen stores to make room for the load of carbohydrates that comes next.

      Immediately after three to four days of depleting the glycogen stores, the athlete would then participate in a ‘loading phase’ that was three to four days. During this loading phase, the athlete would cut back on exercising and training and would take in as many carbs as they could. The athlete wants to increase their carbohydrate intake to about 70% of their daily calories. Also, the athlete should cut back on foods that are high in fat. The athlete wants to decrease their amount of training to avoid burning the energy they’re trying to store up and on the day before their big competition, they should rest completely. 2
      These two phases combined together was shown to raise muscle glycogen stores way higher than their usual resting rate. The raised muscle glycogen stores allows the athlete to finish their event without overwhelming fatigue and improving their performance level. Although proven very helpful and beneficial to athletes who participate in endurance sports, carbohydrate loading does not change the performance of athletes who compete in “start and stop” sports such as baseball, football and basketball.4

      Although carbohydrate loading is a beneficial process, it doesn’t benefit everyone. Carbohydrate loading benefits long distance and endurance sport as opposed to “start and stop” sports.4 Anyone who participates in exercise continuously at a moderate to high intensity for 90 minutes or longer will benefit from carbohydrate loading. Due to the body’s usually adequately filled carbohydrate stores, carbohydrate loading cannot be achieved in team sports that play every three to four days. Because games are played so close together, it’s not possible to achieve full carbohydrate loading protocol.5

      Carbohydrate loading has been estimated to improve athletic performance over extended distances by 2-3%. Normally, muscle glycogen levels are at the range of 100-120 mmol/kg wet weight. Participating in carbohydrate loading allows muscle glycogen levels to be increased to 150 mmol/kg wet weight. This excess supply of carbohydrates allows athletes to compete at their optimal pace for a long time before facing overwhelming fatigue, or “hitting the wall”.5
      Carbohydrate loading can seem like a simple concept, however, there are some mistakes that can be made while participating in this process.
  • Carbohydrate loading requires that an athlete fluctuates their amount of exercise. Sometimes, athletes find it difficult to ease up on their training. However, doing so can destroy the carbohydrates loading up the muscle glycogen stores.5
  • Many athletes fail to eat enough carbohydrates. Athletes don’t always have awareness of the amount of food that is necessary to load up on carbohydrates. To help consume the necessary amount of carbohydrates, an athlete must reduce their intake of fiber and utilize the compact sources of carbohydrates. Athletes with too many foods that are high in fiber during their carbohydrate loading diet may end up upsetting their stomachs or find that their food is too bulky to consume. 5
  • Carbohydrate loading will likely cause an athlete’s body mass to increase. An athlete’s body mass may increase by about 2kg, due to extra muscle glycogen and water stored in the body. The fear of weight gain could be enough to scare an athlete and prevent them from loading their carbohydrates adequately. 5
  •  Athletes will commonly use carbohydrate loading as an excuse to eat everything. Consuming foods that are high in fat will make it difficult to take in sufficient carbohydrates and could possibly result in gaining body fat. It is crucial during carbohydrate loading to emphasize a high-carbohydrate, low-fat diet. 5
  •  Females could be less responsive to carbohydrate loading. Because females have a harder time consuming a the amount of carbohydrates required for a carbohydrate loading cycle, carbohydrate loading could provoke less of a response from female athlete’s performance. However, further research needs to be done on specifically females and carbohydrate loading. 5
  • Long term adaptation to low carbohydrate diets can alter energy metabolism. Low carbohydrate diets can throw off muscle and whole body energy metabolism. This off set metabolism could significantly limit the oxidation of carbohydrate stores.6


1 Risks and Benefits of Carbohydrate Loading. (2014). Retrieved October 7,    2014, from http://www.healthyalberta.com/1276.htm
2 Nutrition and healthy eating. (2014). Retrieved October 7, 2014, from http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-living/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/in-depth/carbohydrate-loading/art-20048518 
3 The Role of Carbohydrates in Exercise and Physical Performance. (n.d.).  Retrieved October 7, 2014, from http://www.fao.org/docrep/w8079e/w8079e0n.htm
4 Carbohydrate Loading Diet. (2014). Retrieved October 7, 2014, from http://www.healthline.com/natstandardcontent/alt-carbohydrate-loading-diet
5 Australian Sports Commission | AIS. (2009, June 1). Retrieved October 7, 2014, from http://www.ausport.gov.au/ais/nutrition/factsheets/competition_and_training/carbohydrate_loading
6 Evans, W., & Hughes, V. (1985, May 1). The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. Retrieved October 7, 2014.

Monday, December 8, 2014

The Benefits of Creatine in Strength Gains

The Benefits of Creatine in Strength Gains
The effects of creatine in the effort to gain strength have always been praised. But what is the truth about it? Many people just know that they should take the supplement and don’t really know much about it. Creatine can be beneficial and boost any exercise to the next level, but only if taken correctly and knowing about the product.
A study called Effects of creatine supplementation on muscle power, endurance, and spring performance by Mikel Izquierdo, Javier Ibanez, Juan J. Gonzalez-Badillo, and Esteban M. Gorostiaga did a study to see the exact effects of taking creatine after a workout. They found “Creatine supplementation consistently increased post treatment total average muscle power output performed to fatigue… and the number of repetitions to fatigue… in sets of the bench press.”1 This shows that creatine can help you gain significant amounts of power and endurance when lifting. However they also found that “In both groups, there were no differences in the individual average power produced for each repetition duriong R10 and Rmax sets of the half-squat action, before and after supplementation.”1 So creatine can be beneficial to some lifts, but has no real effect in some others. This should be kept in mind when taking creatine for supplementation. It is beneficial to an extent, but like all things, it has its limitations.
Creatine is also a benefit to protein synthesis. This adds to the effect that creatine already helps to repair muscle quicker.

Effect of protein source on resistive-training-induced changes in body composition and muscle size in older men by Mark Haub, Amanda Wells, Mark Tarnopolosky, and Wayne Campbell add to this by saying, “One study found that exogenous creatine may enhance protein synthesis. These increases in creatine and phosphocreatine availability may allow the individual to perform more exercise over time, thereby increasing muscle hypertrophy.”2 This increase to protein synthesis is what helps muscle to repair faster and to gain the most possible strength possible. The rapid repair of muscle leads people to have many gains in areas of repetition as well as explosive power. Noticeable differences can be seen in those who take creatine in muscle strength training simply by the benefits from protein synthesis. The added benefits of that creatine provides to muscle repair is what really sets creatine atop a pillar for achieving a next level product in strength training.
          Creatine also helps to improve a person’s lean body mass. Lean mass is wanted by many different types of athletes and is crucial in many sports.  When taken correctly, a person has a lot to gain and can improve their body composition. This was proven in Paul Cribb, Andrew Williams, and Alan Hayes’ article A Creatine-Protein-Carbohydrate Supplement enhances Responses to Resistance Training when they found that “Whereas al groups demonstrated an increase in body mass after the training program, a group x time interaction was detected; the PRO-CHO and Cr-PRO-CHO groups demonstrated a greater gain in body mass compared with the PRO group. All groups demonstrated an increase in lean mass after the training program.”3
 This study helps to show that creatine, along with the benefits from strength training, also helps a person gain lean mass, which is ideally what most people want. These benefits of supplementation further enhance the statement that creatine can be used to move athletes to the next level of performance when guidelines are followed.
          Supplementation, as found in Paul Cribb, Andrew Williams, Chris Stathis, Michael Carey, and Alan Hayes study Effects of whey isolate, creatine, and resistance training on muscle hypertrophy does not change fiber-type proportions. They did however find that, “All groups demonstrated an increase in CSA of type IIa and IIx fibers after the program.”4 These two types of fibers are related to strength fibers. They also found that “The CrCHO and CrWP groups also demonstrated a greater increase in CSA in the type I fibers when compared with the WP group.”4 These strength benefits are remarkable and should be kept in mind when contemplating what supplements to take for gaining strength.
          Creatine is not a cure-all supplement however. As it may work well for someone looking to improve their strength, it still has its limitations on what it can do. If there is damage done to a muscle, the effects of creatine do not significantly help a person regain the power they once had. Timothy Tyler, Stephen Nicholas, Elliott Hershman, Beth Glace, Michael Mullaney, and Malachy McHugh studied this idea in their article The effects of creatine supplementation on strength recovery after anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) reconstruction. A randomized, placebo-controlled, double-blind trial. In their research they found, “By 6 weeks after surgery, there was a significant loss of strength on the involved side for knee extension… and knee flexion… with no changes in hip flexion… hip abduction… or hip adduction… Creatine supplementation did not affect strength losses in knee extension… or knee flexion…”5
This study helps to provide information that people would like to know after having an important surgery. Some may have the ideas that creatine is a wonder drug that would be able to get them back to peak physical condition even after having very large amounts of damage to an important area of the body. This is not the case and, like all things, can only do so much.
          Creatine doesn’t work for all people either. As found in Joel Cramer, Jeffrey Stout, Julie Cubertson, and Alison Egan’s article Effects of creatine supplementation and three days of resistance training on muscle strength, power output, and neuromuscular function, creatine doesn’t have benefits in every person that supplements. “The findings of the present study indicated that 3 sessions of resistance training can improve muscle strength (PT) and acceleration (ACC) with or without creatine monohydrate supplementation, which may help to increase patient compliance, reduce the risk of reinjury, or in the case of preventative medicine, may act as a viable alternative for more expensive, invasive procedures such as surgery.”6 Granted, the study only was over a 3 day period, this shows that supplementation isn’t a for sure guarantee in increase in strength.
          Creatine is a supplement that can definitely boost an athlete’s workout. However, like any supplement, it only can do so much. It also doesn’t have the major effects on each person that takes it, and may work better for some than it does for others. Creatine supplementation is something that you should discuss with a doctor before taking and to learn all of the specifics to the drug on dosage and if it is alright if you take it. Guidelines set by your doctor should be followed precisely and side effects should be noted if you notice any difference that is unwanted. Even the benefits you can receive from creatine are not worth it if you are having health hazards as side effects. Creatine isn’t a miracle worker, and no one should expect to have instant results. There is never a quick fix to any problem, and creatine falls in that category.

E.J. Waggy

Works Cited
1Izquierdo, M., Ibanez, J., Gonzalez-Badillo, J., & Gorostiaga, E. Effects of Creatine Supplementation on Muscle Power, Endurance, and Sprint Performance. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise
2Haub, M., Wells, A., Tarnopolsky, M., & Campbell, W. Effect of Protein Source on Resistive-Training-Induced Changes in Body Composition and Muscle Size in Older Men. American Society for Clinical Nutrition
3Cribb, P., Williams, A., & Hayes, A. Creatine-Protein-Carbohydrate Supplement Enhances Responses to Resistance Training. Basic Sciences.
4Cribb, P., Williams, A., Stathis, C., Carey, M., & Hayes, A. Effects of Whey Isolate, Creatine, and Resistance Training on Mscle Hypertrophy.
5Tyler, T., Nicholas, S., Hershman, E., Glace, B., Mullaney, M., & McHugh, M. The Effect of Creatine Supplementation on Strength Recovery after Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL) Reconstruction. The American Journal of Sports Medicine.
6Cramer, J., Stout, J., Culbertson, J., & Egan, A. (2007). Effects of Creatine Supplement and Three Days of Resistance Training on Muscle Strength, Power Output, and Neuromuscular Function. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 21(3), 676-676.

New Year Resolution

It’s almost the new year, you know that time of year where people start making resolutions to start working out and to become healthier. “About 40 to 45 percent of American adults set at least one resolution come New Year’s.”1 People think of the new year as an opportunity to start over. Most people don't even go through with them, or give up in the middle of the year. Setting goals helps motivate ourselves to become better.

People are not educated on how to properly set the goals for their New Years Resolution. This is why resolutions are so easily broken. One key to keeping those new years resolution is to set realistic goals, you don't want to set a goal so high that you know you won't be able to keep. You also don't want to set a goal like not eating one of your favorite foods, that is a sure way to break your resolution. Another key is to find a friend that you can go through it with, you can talk about it and keep each other accountable. By having a partner you will also have someone who will support and motivate you. A third key is track your progress, this shows you how much you have improved and how much you still have to go. When you don't track your progress you tend to forget about your goals. There are going to be ups and downs while you try to achieve your goals, don't get down on yourself when you have a little slip. Take it day by day and set a little goal for each day. Write down what you want to work out that day and what you want to eat, this will keep you from forgetting to workout and what healthy.

There are millions of resolutions that can be made, find the one that is best for you and will get you to your goal.


1Tartakovsky, M. (n.d.). Why We Make New Year’s Resolutions. Retrieved December 4, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/blog/archives/2010/12/28/why-we-make-new-years-resolutions/

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Ginseng’s Effect on Athletic Performance

By Sara Bolinger

Ginseng is an well-know supplement and contains adaptogens to improve the mental and physical performance of an athlete.  This plant is grown in China, Korea, Japan, and Russia5.  It is a supplement that is used world wide and serves as a dietary and medical custom.  Ginseng is found in many different forms such as whole root, root powder, steamed root powder, heat process root power, and a few more.
Using actoprotectors will increase an athletes mental performance and also stabilize your body against physical work without increasing your oxygen uptake.  Actoprotectors is a subclass that hold an important role to increase physical performance.  While increasing your physical capacity after an acute workout; distance from your increased recover speed, when you complete a heavy load also increases.  This helps in practice of a certain sport to be prepared.  The main difference between actoprotectors and psychostimulats; actoprotectors are agents  of non-exhaustive actions. Some examples of psychotimulats are caffeine, sydnocarb, and modafinial5.

Another component that help improve the athletic performance is called Ginsenosides, which are active in Panax and American Ginseng.  However active components in Siberian Ginseng are compounds called Eleutherosides.6  Studies show that Ginseng’s role in the body is to balance the secretion of the Adrenal Corticotropic Hormone.  According to Shawn Talbot, scientific support shows that ACTH has the ability to bind directly to brain cells and can affect a variety of stress-related processes in the body.  Some of the behaviors that an athlete might have is motivation, vitality, performance, and arousal.6
                Studies have proven that Ginsenosides are the main component of Ginseng efficacy.  This increases protein synthesis and activity of neurotransmitters in the brain.5
                Though Ginseng helps the advancement of an athlete’s performance it also affects the insulin and the glucose levels.  In today’s society there is such an increase of using technology in our lives that we are becoming dependent on it in our lifestyles.  It’s causing a growth in diabetes and obesity, where 5% of the US population and about 3% of the entire world is affected by important health problems.3 When studying the effects on blood glucose and insulin levels we see that when athletic people are exercising and use Ginseng it’s a positive outcome of metabolism as well as the levels of glucose and insulin.
                Adam Civan conducted a study of 28 students from Selcuk University.  14 of them were a part of the Physical Education and Sports and the other 14 are in other parts of the university. The range of ages were 20-25 and having body weights between 65-81 kgs.  They were divided into 4 sub- groups of 7 people.  These results in the tables show the before and after glucose levels and it showed that there was a substantial difference in the Sedentary. Then after the treatment of Sedentary+ Ginseng, Exercise, and Exercise+ Ginseng group showed expressive decline.3
Before Application
After Application
Sedentary Group (S)
88.75 _+ 5.53
88.02 _+ 4.39
Sedentary + Ginseng Group (SG)
85.61 _+ 4.0
75.64 _+ 5.07
Exercise Group (E)
86.13 _+ 4.7
78.10 _+ 3.69
Exercise + Ginseng Group (EG)
88.40 _+ 4.71
68.55 _+ 2.60
Table 1: Plasma Glucose values of the groups after and before applications (during 6 weeks; it was be application orally ginseng 500 mg twice a day to GS and GE groups, and exhaustive exercise to E and GE groups) (Civan, 2013)

 The table below shows results of blood samples taken before and after and show a significant increase in the insulin levels in the SG and EG groups.  Looking at the study there was a huge difference between the groups3. It shows that it has a positive effect on the body
Before Application (mg/ml)
After Application (mg/ml)
Sedentary (S)
11.35 _+ 1.50
11.91 _+ 1.50
Sedentary + Ginseng Group (SG)
11.62 _+ 1.70
16.64 _+ 1.50
Exercise Group (E)
12.21 _+ 1.57
12.92 _+ 1.05
Exercise + Ginseng Group (EG)
11.52 _+ 1.41
15.74 _+ 2.07
Table 2: Plasma Insulin values of the groups after and before application (during 6 weeks; it was be application orally ginseng 500 mg twice a day to GS and GE groups, and exhaustive exercise to E and Ge groups) (Civan, 2013)
                 On top of Ginseng having an effect on glucose and insulin, it also effects your mood and energy.  This has an effect on your performance with using ephedrine and caffeine on your cognitive performance.  Harris Lieberman stated that Ginseng is also an “energy stimulant” that increases stamina.Ephedrine is a good source of energy for a person to stay up late and study for that test that is coming up, or even making that long drive.
                The plant Panax Ginseng has effects on health even in ancient times.  It’s a nutritional supplement that helps boost your energy. It has the ability to cure digestive disorders, cardiovascular illness, nervous illness, and pulmonary maladies.4
                Ephedrine is different from Ginseng because it is a potent pharmacologic agent that used to treat asthma and the common cold.  Using ephedrine enhances the release of norepinephrine from sympathetic neurons.  The effects of it are stimulation of heart rate and cardiac output, which will increase a person’s blood pressure.  Among that, it also stimulates the bladder’s smooth muscle which will increase the resistance of outflow of urine.  You will find ephedrine in plants called Ephedra.4
                Caffeine has effects on the cognitive function, mood and physical performance. This is a food and a drug.

Caffeine is digestive and will distribute to all tissue. It will help a person improve both auditory and visual vigilance.4 It can benefit someone that is sleep deprived in their mood and performance.  Though caffeine improves the cognitive performance and your mood it also connects to your mental energy.  It also appears to have a positive effect on your own physical performance.  Compared to caffeine, Ephedrine doesn’t improve both your physical and cognitive performance.  Ephedrine increases your blood pressure and heart rate, whereas caffeine affects your mood and performance.4
                Though Ginseng is a popular supplement that helps global health, there was a study to see how the effects of the supplement would affect a person’s mood.  In this study the only requirement was that you had to be healthy.  This test was given to 96 people. 
                The Ginseng and Placebo Capsules were identical.  Each person was on one of the supplements for 60 days.  They tested the positive and negative effects and the total mood disturbance. Only 83 of the 96 participating completed the study.2
                After looking at the result Bradley Cardinal stated that the Ginseng supplement was clinically recommended level compared to the placebo.2
                Instead of using Ginseng it was stated that if you take vitamin and mineral supplementation’s it will affect the trained athlete.  The use of vitamythology is used by athletes and that 84 % of Olympian use vitamin supplements.7  The average person should take at least 7 tablets with their breakfast.
                The training included distance running, the walking pulse rate, mass, and hours of sleep that will be recorded daily.  There were 4 separate 15-km time trials after the four lab treadmill test7.
                The end result in the study was that using vitamin and mineral supplements has no effect on physiological variables, including maximal oxygen consumption, blood lactate turn point and the peak treadmill running speed7.
Ginseng is a natural ergogenic aid and is used by about 5 to 6 million Americans. John Allen, Jeff McLung, Arnold Nelson and Michael Welsch conducted a study to see the short term effect of Ginseng supplements vs. placebo on a person’s peak aerobic performance.  They had selected 28 men and women to take these supplements for 21 days.  At the end of the test the results showed no significant treatment. They concluded that this didn’t affect the peak aerobic performance1.


1Allen, J. D., McLung, J., Nelson, A. G., & Welsch, M. (1998). Ginseng Supplementation Does Not Enhance Healthy Young Adults' Peak Aerobic Exercise Performance. Journal of the American College of Nutrition.
2Bradly J Cardinal, P., & Hermann J Engels, P. (2001). Ginseng does not Enhance Psychological Well-Being in Healthy, Young Adults Results of a Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled, Randomized Clinical Trial. Jouf the American Dietetic Association.
3Civan, A. (2013). On Athletes And Sedentary People Ginseng Application And Exercise, The Effect Of Insulin And Glucose Levels Objective. International Journal of academic Research, 168-171.
4Lieberman, H. R., & D., P. (2001). The Effect of Ginseng, Ephedrine, and Caffeine on Cognitive Performance, Mood and Energy. Lead Review Article, 91-102.
5Oliynyk, S., & Oh, S. (2012). Actoprotective effect of ginseng: improving mental and physical performance. Journal of Ginseng Research.
6Talbot, S. (2014, October 4). Ginseng: The Root Of Improving Athletic Performance. Retrieved from competitor.com: http://running.competitor.com/2013/08/nutrition/ginseng-the-rot-of-improving-athletic-performance
7Weight, L. M., Myburgh, K. H., & Noakes, T. D. (1988). Vitamin and mineral supplementation: effect on the running performance of trained athletes. American Society for Clinical Nutrition, 192-195.