Ergogenic Aids


Ergogenic Aids

What is an ergogenic aid?

An ergogenic aid is anything used to enhance performance. They fall into 3 categories: nutritional, pharmacological and physiological.

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Nutritional Aids

What is a nutritional aid?

  • Refers to food and drinks.

  • Timing and size of meals becomes important.

  • 59% of professional and elite athletes take food supplements in order to consume the large amount of calories needed for training and competing.

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Nutritional Aids

> Strength Training

  • Some athletes may consume 5-6 meals a day every few hours in order to improve muscle mass.

  • This may consist of complex carbohydrates for slow energy release, around 30% lean protein to build and repair muscle and a limited fat intake.

  • Pre-Training = should consist of a small meal 30-60 minutes before training and should contain both fast and slow energy releasing foods and a limited fat intake.

  • Post-Training = should be a fast digesting protein meal within 2 hours of completing training.

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Nutritional Aids

> Glycogen (carbohydrate) Loading

  • A 7 day process in order to increase glycogen stores in the muscles and liver but up to 50%. This is in order to improve endurance and aerobic capacity as well as delaying the onset of fatigue by increasing the time to exhaustion by up to 30%.

Day 1 = significantly reduce carbohydrate intake and consume a high protein diet and perform a gylcogen depleting bout of exercise in order to reduce existing glycogen stores in the body.

Day 2-3 = high protein and high fat diet

Day 4 = glycogen depleteing bout of exercise to use all existing glycogen stored in the liver and muscles.

Day 5-7 = high carbohydrate diet with taper training or rest.

Glycogen loading has a limited impact of performers competing for 30 minutes or less can cause hypoglycaemia, lethary and poor recovery in the depletion phase, gastrointestinal problems, increased risk of injury, poor weight gain due to water retention and an affected ablility to mentally prepare pre-competition.

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Nutritional Aids

> Hydration

  • Drinking plain water helps to replace lost fluid but it is not the best solution for rehydration.
  • Sports drinks are designed to offset the impact of dehydration by replacing both lost fluids and salts.
  • Plain water reduces the number of electrolytes in your body so dilutes body fluid.
  • 2% loss of body weight can decrease performance by as much as 20% due to:

○ Poor heat regulation 

○ Increased viscosity of blood

○ Increased heart rate

○ Increases fatigue

○ Decreased cognitive function

○ Loss of electrolytes which can lead to fatigue and cramping.

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Nutritional Aids

> Hydration

○ Hypotonic

  • Low concentration of carbs/glucose (4% or under).
  • More dilated than isotonic and hypertonic drinks.
  • Used for fluid replenishment.
  • Used during ptolonged physical activity.

○ Isotonic

  • Contains the same amount of glucose to water as blood (4%-8%).
  • 8g of glucose per 100ml of water.
  • Useful before and during exercise that is 1 hour +

○ Hypertonic

  • Contains over 8% carbs/glucose.
  • Best used in preparation as they are high in sugar (glucose) and should not be used during performance because they can lead to dehydration - needs to be consumed with other fluids.
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Nutritional Aids

> Nitrate

  • An inorganic compound found mainly in root vegetables.
  • Commonly taken through beetroot juice.
  • Converted into nitric oxide in low oxygen conditions - such as exercise - which helps vascular and metabolic control.
  • Stimulates vasodilation to increase blood flow.
  • Reduces resting blood pressure and VO2 consumption during sub-maximal exercise.
  • Enhances muscle recovery.
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Nutritional Aids

> Creatine

  • Produced naturally from amino acids and can also be consumed in meat.
  • Stored in muscles as PC (phosphocreatine).
  • Can increase muscle stores up to 50%.
  • Aids recovery and energy production.
  • Allows greater intensity and length during training.
  • Results in increased weight gain both through water retention and muscle mass.
  • Can result in dehydration , cramping and kidney problems.
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Nutritional Aids

> Caffeine

  • Stimulant used to heighten CNS.
  • Increases the breakdown of fat as a fuel for aerobic energy production.
  • Most widely used drug in the world.
  • Can improve aerobic capacity of athletes.
  • It is a diuretic so can cause dehydration, insomnia, anxiety and gastrointestinal problems.
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Nutritional Aids

> Bicarbonate

  • It is alkaline so acts as a buffer to neutralise the rise thr acicity in the blood stream.
  • 0.3g/kg 1 hour before competition will increase the body's tolerance to lactic acid, buffering H+ ions, drawing acid out of muscles cells and neutralising the bloodstream.
  • Can result in stomach aches and nausea. It also tastes horrible.
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Pharmacological Aids

> Anabolic Steriods

  • A group of synthetic hormones which resemble testosterone.
  • It is taken to promote protein synthesis and muscle growth.
  • It is usually associated with power athletes.
  • It is easily accessible.
  • It can be taken in tablet, cream, fluid or injection form.
  • It is illegal.

Side Effects...

  • Increased risk of cancer.
  • Increased aggression.
  • Increased risk of liver failure.
  • Increased risk of stroke and heart attack.
  • Acne and hormonal disturbances.
  • Mood swings.
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Pharmacological Aids

> Erythropoietin (EPO)

  • A naturally produced hormone responsible for the production of red blood cells.
  • Taken through injection in synthetic RhEPO.
  • Aerobic benefits due to improved 02 transport and aerobic capacity as well as delayed fatigue.
  • Used by endurance athletes.

Side Effects...

  • Increased blood viscosity.
  • Reduced cardiac output.
  • Risk of clotting and heart failure.
  • Reduced natural EPO production.
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Pharmacological Aids

> Human Growth Hormone (HGH)

  • Illegal
  • Synthetic product copying the naturally produced growth hormone.
  • Natural HGH declines naturally with age.
  • Increases protein synthesis for muscle growth and repair.
  • Increased metabolism of fats and glucose so increases the amount of lean muscle mass.
  • Improves speed of recovery, allowing an athlete to train harder and for longer.
  • Associated with power athletes and bodybuilders.

Side Effects...

  • Abnormal bone and muscle development.
  • Enlargement of vital organs.
  • Increased risk of cancers and diabetes.
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Physiological Aids

> Blood Doping

  • An illegal method to increase red blood cell count.
  • Blood is removed from the body 4-6 weeks before an event.
  • The body compensates by replenishing red blood cells (haemoglobin).
  • Prior to the event, the previously removed blood is re-infused into the body increasing thr haemoglobin available during exercise.
  • Associated with endurance athletes.
  • One study found that doping led to a 5%-13% increase in VO2 max in those who infused 0.9-1.8L of blood.
  • It is very hard to detect.

Side Effects...

  • Increased blood viscosity.
  • Increased cardiac output.
  • Risk of blood clots and heart failure.
  • Risk of infection.
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Physiological Aids

> Intermittent Hypoxic Training (IHT)

  • Athletes live at sea level but train in hypoxic conditions - areas of low partial pressure of 02.
  • It has the potential to increases the rate of training adaptations.
  • Can lead to increased RBC count, Hb volume, 02 carrying capacity and aerobic capacity.
  • Delays OBLA (oneset of blood lactate accumulation)
  • Session includes alternate intervals of several minutes breathing hypoxic air (low oxygen air) and normoxic or hyperoxic air (high oxygen air).
  • IHT methods range from 4-8 weeks of high intenisty work for 1-3 minutes - sessions are usually 15-45 minutes and rest periods are 1-40 minutes.

+ Benefits...

  • Low cost compared to altitude training, easy to access and minimises travel disruption.
  • Athlete in usual environment.

- Drawbacks...

  • Normal training is disrupted and benefits are lost quickly once IHT training stops.
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Physiological Aids

> Cooling Aids


eg. ice vests, cold towels etc

  • Before performance, cooling for 10-30 minutes can have benefits when in a hot environment.
  • It can help reduce thermal strain and CV drift.
  • Muscular strain is reduced.
  • Intensity and speed can be maintained.
  • However metabolism, CV responses and inaccurate perceived exertion can detriment performance.

+ Benefits...

  • Reduces core temperature. 

- Drawbacks...

  • Risk for hypertension patients.
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Physiological Aids

> Cooling Aids


eg. ice baths

  • Cooling after performance can aid the recovery of soft tissues.
  • It reduces swelling and blood leaking into tissues.
  • Prevent DOMS by vessels contracting and squeezing water and lactic acid away.
  • After constriction, dilation occurs when a normal temperature is reached so blood is fresh in 02 and nutrients flushes through tissues, aiding recovery.

+ Benefits...

  • Reduces pain and bruising.

- Drawbacls...

  • May mask pain and injury.
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