A Cup of Mojo
Dr. Dwayne Jackson
Many athletes regularly use caffeine to increase mental focus, combat fatigue, and increase strength. We all know that as little as one cup of coffee can help increase exercise intensity, especially when we have had suboptimal periods of sleep. Science supports caffeine as an ergogenic aid; thus, it stands to reason why most pre-workout powders are chock-full of this stimulant.
In a 2012 study published in the International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism researchers have shown that pre-workout caffeine can overcome poor workout performance due to sleep deprivation. In this double-blind crossover study, 16 professional rugby players received either caffeine (approximately 400mg) or a placebo 1 hour prior to exercise. Based on the subjects reported sleeping habits, they were considered either sleep deprived (6 hours or less per night) or non-deprived (8 hours or more per night). The subjects performed 4 sets each of bench press, squats, and rows at 85% of their predetermined 1 RM and were instructed to carry out as may reps as they could for each set. Testosterone and cortisol were measured from saliva that was sampled before supplementation, pre-workout, and post-workout. As expected, sleep deprivation led to significant decreases in total workout load; however, sleep deprived subjects who took caffeine performed as well as those who were well rested. Notably, non-deprived individuals who received caffeine performed better than all groups. Most remarkably, caffeine ingestion boosted testosterone levels pre- and post-workout in non-deprived subjects; however, there was an increase in cortisol levels associated with caffeine ingestion, which was greatest in sleep-deprived subjects.
This was a well-executed study on a relevant population. It should be noted that only 50% of the group responded to caffeine supplementation, the others were deemed caffeine insensitive. Most intriguing were the hormonal data illustrating that caffeine boosts testosterone levels! Although the finding that catabolic cortisol also went up with caffeine is disheartening (but not surprising), there is light at the end of the tunnel. By digging a little deeper into the data (and doing a little math) it is apparent that their findings are in favor of a net anabolic effect of caffeine supplementation. Just remember that this heightened anabolic effect is only notable if you get a good nights sleep!
ACTION POINT: To reap the anabolic and energizing benefits of pre-workout caffeine, get 8-hours sleep per night and take 200-400 mg caffeine 30minutes before training.
Cook C1, Beaven CM, Kilduff LP, Drawer S. Acute caffeine ingestion’s increase of voluntarily chosen resistance-training load after limited sleep. Int J Sport Nutr Exerc Metab. 2012 Jun;22(3):157-64.
Whey better blood work!
Let’s face it; carrying extra body fat is not only unpleasing to the eye but also very unhealthy. Elevated body fat levels and associated oxidative stress not only lead to poor physical performance and aesthetics, but can also lead to cardiovascular problems that will shorten your life.
If you are reading this, then you likely know the benefits of resistance training on cardiovascular health. Part of the protective effects of training is through adaptive increases in the body’s antioxidant levels and healthy alterations in blood cholesterol. Interestingly, a recent study, published in Appetite, has illustrated that taking 30g of whey protein immediately after training and with lunch and dinner boosts the body’s total antioxidant capacity by 4% over training alone. As well, the researchers reported an almost 7% decrease in blood cholesterol in those who exercised and used whey protein. Notably, they found no significant difference in cholesterol in those who trained but received a placebo. It was concluded that whey protein supplementation augments the favorable effects of exercise on antioxidant capacity and blood lipid profiles.
ACTION POINT: Over the years research has proven that whey protein powder helps build muscle, lower body fat, and increases strength—now we know that it also serves to keep our blood work healthly. We suggest regular use of whey protein or protein blends to augment your training results and healthy lifestyle. To get the most from protein supplementation take 25-50g, 3 times daily. Drink your first shake upon waking and drink the other 2 pre- and post-workout.
Sheikholeslami Vatani D1, Ahmadi Kani Golzar F. Changes in antioxidant status and cardiovascular risk factors of overweight young men after six weeks supplementation of whey protein isolate and resistance training. Appetite. 2012 Dec;59(3):673-8. doi: 10.1016/j.appet.2012.08.005.
Nothing fishy here
Beyond many great health benefits, recent research suggests that taking fish oil supplements can boost exercise performance. In a recent study published in Bioscience, Biotechnology, and Biochemistry, Japanese researchers hypothesized that since eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) (found in fish oil) act as “blood thinners” (i.e., decrease blood viscosity), then it may improve blood flow/oxygen supply to tissues and increase exercise performance. In this double-blinded and placebo-controlled study, twenty fit college aged male volunteers were to instructed to take either 3.6 g of fish oil or a placebo split into 3 daily doses, for 56 days. Prior to and after 8 weeks supplementation, subjects completed a series of VO2max (maximum aerobic fitness) tests and submaximal exercise tests.
As predicted, the researchers found that fish oil supplementation increased red blood cell EPA and DHA content and decreased oxygen consumption during steady-state submaximal exercise. They also reported that subjects who took fish oil had reduced measures of perceived exertion—meaning that the exercise “felt” easier when they took fish oil. Overall, the authors concluded that fish oil supplementation improves exercise efficiency, which may also promote greater exercise endurance capacity.
ACTION POINT: To get all the health and performance benefits of fish oil supplementation, we suggest taking 1-2g of fish oil 3 to 4 times daily with meals.
Kawabata F1, Neya M, Hamazaki K, Watanabe Y, Kobayashi S, Tsuji T. Supplementation with eicosapentaenoic acid-rich fish oil improves exercise economy and reduces perceived exertion during submaximal steady-state exercise in normal healthy untrained men. Biosci Biotechnol Biochem. 2014 Dec;78(12):2081-8.