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Supplements with Effects on Muscle Mass and Performance

Supplements with Effects on Muscle Mass and Performance

For muscle mass and strength there is strong evidence for the use of nitrate and caffeine for their acute beneficial effects on muscle strength, whereas the long-term consumption of creatine, protein, and polyunsaturated fatty acids (I am personally skeptical of PUFAs, but this review placed them in their most credible category) seems to consistently increase or preserve muscle mass and strength.



Caffeine increases both maximal strength and muscular endurance.


“Caffeine reduces the perceived effort during exercise and increases the capacity for sedentary individuals, as well as trained athletes, to tolerate higher intensity exercise for greater duration; and, these benefits were not further enhanced by ingesting doses of low carbohydrate regularly during exercise.”


“Synthesis of the currently available meta-analyses suggest that caffeine ingestion improves exercise performance in a broad range of exercise tasks. Ergogenic effects of caffeine on muscle endurance, muscle strength, anaerobic power and aerobic endurance were substantiated by moderate quality of evidence coming from moderate-to-high quality systematic reviews. “


“Caffeine can be used effectively as an ergogenic aid when taken in moderate doses, such as during sports when a small increase in endurance performance can lead to significant differences in placements as athletes are often separated by small margins.”


“The ergogenic response to caffeine varied from 9% to 1% among individuals, but all participants increased both cycling power in the incremental test and Wingate mean power at least three to eight times out of eight the caffeine–placebo comparisons. These data expand the suggestion of a minimal occurrence of caffeine non-responders because it shows that all individuals responded to caffeine when caffeine is compared to a placebo on multiple and repeated testing sessions.”


“Caffeine doses of 2, 4, and 6 mg·kg-1 seem to be effective for acute enhancements in lower-body ballistic exercise performance in recreationally trained male individuals. For the upper-body ballistic exercise performance, only a caffeine dose of 6 mg·kg-1 seems to be effective. The acute effects of caffeine ingestion do not seem to be impacted by habitual caffeine intake; however, this requires further exploration.”


“Ingestion of 3 mg·kg-1 body mass of caffeine enhanced endurance exercise performance in women. The magnitude of the performance enhancement observed in women was similar to that of men, despite significantly greater plasma caffeine concentrations following exercise in women. These results suggest the current recommendations for caffeine intake (i.e. 3-6 mg·kg-1 caffeine prior to exercise to enhance endurance performance), which are derived almost exclusively from studies on men, may also be applicable to women.”


“The meta-analyses showed significant ergogenic effects of caffeine ingestion on maximal muscle strength of upper body and muscle power.”



Taurine supplementation increased time to exhaustion and local sweating, while decreasing ratings of perceived exertion and core temperature in the later stages of exercise, as well as reducing post-exercise blood lactate concentration. This study provides the evidence of taurine’s role in thermoregulatory processes. These findings have implications for the short-term preparation strategies of individuals exercising in the heat. Based on these findings, a single dose of taurine 2 h prior to training or competition would provide an ergogenic and thermoregulatory effect.


Taurine is an amino acid that has been shown to increase protein synthesis, increase cell hydration, metabolism, and improve cardiac function


Taurine can lead to a reduction in blood pressure, and an improvement in exercise capacity


The results suggest that taurine supplementation represents an important factor in improving performance and decreasing muscle damage and oxidative stress but does not decrease the inflammatory response after eccentric exercise.


Taurine has been shown to improve performance in middle distance runners. Taurine has also been shown to significantly increase fat oxidation in endurance trained cyclists, and to decrease the accumulation of lactate


The acute ingestion of 1.66 g of Taurine before exercise did not enhance time trial performance but did result in a small but significant increase in fat oxidation during submaximal cycling in endurance-trained cyclists.


The use of caffeine and taurine over a 2 week period enhanced endurance performance. Moreover, taurine significantly decreased the accumulated concentration of lactate over long running distances.


These data demonstrate that extracellular taurine promotes angiogenesis by Akt- and ERK-dependent cell cycle progression and Src/FAK-mediated cell migration without inducing vascular inflammation, indicating that it is potential use for the treatment of vascular dysfunction-associated human diseases.


Two weeks taurine supplementation reverses endothelial dysfunction in young male type 1 diabetics. This is an important indicator of cardiovascular health benefits.



Nitrate ingestion during a four-week running program improved 10-km time trial performance and kept blood lactate concentration steady when compared to placebo in recreational runners.


The co-administration of a single dose of inorganic nitrate and vitamin C lowered diastolic blood pressure (BP) and improved peripheral pulse wave velocity (PWV) in older participants. Vitamin C supplementation improved PWV in both age groups but decreased systolic and mean BP in older participants only.


A total of 29 studies were identified that investigated the effects of nitrate supplementation on exercise tolerance or performance in accordance with the criteria outlined. Analysis using time to exhaustion as the outcome variable revealed a significant effect of nitrate supplementation on exercise tolerance compared with placebo. Analysis using time to complete a specific distance as the outcome variable revealed no significant effect of nitrate supplementation on exercise performance compared with placebo. Nitrate supplementation is likely to improve exercise tolerance and capacity that may improve exercise performance.


Nitrates may be more beneficial for new trainees than advanced trainees. “These data suggest that nitrate ingestion up to 6.5mmol does not enhance recovery from supra-maximal exercise in world-class athletes”

Richard, et al. “Time-trial Performance in World-Class Speed Skaters After Chronic Nitrate Ingestion.” Int J Sports Physiol Perform. 2018 May 10:1-22.


Nitrates resulted in reduced perception of effort and leg muscle pain. Our findings extend the mechanistic basis for the improved exercise tolerance by showing that dietary nitrate supplementation (i) attenuated the development of muscle fatigue by reducing the exercise-induced impairments in contractile muscle function; and (ii) lowered the perception of both effort and leg muscle pain during exercise.


Ingestion of nitrate (NO3−), found in green leafy vegetables and especially beets, increases the production of nitric oxide (NO). Acute or chronic (NO3−) intake also improves muscle contractile function in a variety of subject populations, including healthy young and middle-aged individuals, athletes, patients with heart failure, and the elderly. Precisely how dietary (NO3−) intake enhances the contractile properties of human muscle is still unclear. We hypothesize that such improvements are the result of increased NO bioavailability and hence changes in Ca2+ signaling in muscle.


The described cardio-metabolic effects of dietary nitrate from experimental and clinical studies include lowering of blood pressure, improved endothelial function, increased exercise performance, and reversal of metabolic syndrome, as well as anti-diabetic effects. The mechanisms underlying the salutary metabolic effects of nitrate are being revealed and include interaction with mitochondrial respiration, activation of key metabolic regulatory pathways, and reduction of oxidative stress.


Intake of inorganic nitrate, which is predominantly found in green leafy vegetables and beets, has a variety of favourable cardiovascular effects. As hypertension is a major risk factor of morbidity and mortality worldwide, much attention has been paid to the blood pressure reducing effect of inorganic nitrate. Here, we describe how dietary nitrate, via stimulation of the nitrate-nitrite-NO pathway, affects various organ systems and discuss underlying mechanisms that may contribute to the observed blood pressure-lowering effect.



“The current study showed that 24 weeks of BA supplementation at 6.4 g day−1 did not significantly affect muscle taurine content, clinical markers of renal, hepatic and muscle function, nor did it result in chronic sensory side-effects, in healthy individuals. Since athletes are likely to engage in chronic supplementation, these data provide important evidence to suggest that supplementation with BA at these doses for up to 24 weeks is safe for healthy individuals.”



“BA supplementation seems to improve perceived exertion and biochemical parameters related to muscle fatigue and less evidence was found for improvement in performance.”


The results of this review indicate that β-alanine supplementation within the doses used in the available research designs, does not adversely affect those consuming it.


“β-Alanine supplementation was effective at increasing power output when lifting loads equivalent to the individual’s maximal strength or when working at maximum power output. The improvement observed at 1RM was explained by a greater load lifted, or strength gain, in response to training in the participants who took this supplement.”


“In conclusion, this investigation demonstrated that 12 g/day of BA supplementation for 14 days resulted in several improvements in physical performance, cognitive function, and mood during a 24 hour simulated military exercise.”


“In line with the purported mechanisms for an ergogenic effect of β-alanine supplementation, exercise lasting 60-240 seconds was improved in BA compared to Pla, as was exercise of >240 seconds.”


Cherry Extract

Tart cherries, rich in antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, may have a protective effect to reduce muscle damage and pain during strenuous exercise. Ingesting tart cherry for 7 days prior to and during a strenuous running event can minimize post-run muscle pain.


Cherry extract intake acutely reduces systolic blood pressure (SBP) in men with early hypertension. These benefits may be mechanistically linked to the actions of circulating phenolic acids. This study provides information on a new application of MCs in health maintenance, particularly in positively modulating SBP


The data demonstrate that cherry extract supplementation may be a practical nutritional intervention to help attenuate the symptoms of muscle damage and improve recovery on subsequent days.


These results suggest that acute supplementation with cherry extract can lower blood pressure and improve some aspects of exercise performance, both aerobic and anaerobic. Particularly end‐sprint performance in trained cyclists.


This review confirms that the “consumption of sweet or tart cherries can promote health by preventing or decreasing oxidative stress and inflammation.” This can potentially lead to increased recovery. Increased oxidative stress contributes to development and progression of several human chronic inflammatory diseases. Cherries are a rich source of polyphenols and vitamin C which have anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.



“Creatine monohydrate supplementation can increase total creatine and phosphocreatine stores for re-synthesis of adenosine triphosphate. Although most existing literature has investigated creatine to improve strength and body composition, it has also been shown to promote brain energy homeostasis and improve cognitive parameters. This may be another mechanism for performance enhancement because exercise is both physically and mentally depleting.”


“Following 24-h sleep deprivation, creatine supplementation had a positive effect on mood state and tasks that place a heavy stress on the prefrontal cortex.”


Cr increased muscular strength in as little as two weeks during a resistance training program; however, this was not accompanied by decreased muscle damage. Greater muscle damage with Cr may be due to a greater training intensity enabled by Cr supplementation. This might lead to greater protein turnover and enhanced muscle adaptation.


“Creatine supplementation had a significant positive effect on both working memory (backward digit span) and intelligence (Raven’s Advanced Progressive Matrices), both tasks that require speed of processing. These findings underline a dynamic and significant role of brain energy capacity in influencing brain performance.”


“This study concluded that creatine supplementation combined with complex training improved maximal muscular strength and reduced muscle damage during training.”


“Oral creatine administration may improve short-term memory and intelligence/reasoning of healthy individuals but its effect on other cognitive domains remains unclear. Findings suggest potential benefit for aging and stressed individuals. Since creatine is safe, future studies should include larger sample sizes. It is imperative that creatine should be tested on patients with dementias or cognitive impairment.”


“These results indicate that short-term creatine supplementation attenuates the loss in muscle mass and strength during upper-arm immobilization in young men.”


“A number of studies suggest that creatine supplementation improves cognitive processing under resting and various stressed conditions. “


“Creatine supplementation may enhance post-exercise recovery, injury prevention, thermoregulation, rehabilitation, and concussion and/or spinal cord neuroprotection. Additionally, a number of clinical applications of creatine supplementation have been studied involving neurodegenerative diseases (e.g., muscular dystrophy, Parkinson’s, Huntington’s disease), diabetes, osteoarthritis, fibromyalgia, aging, brain and heart ischemia, adolescent depression, and pregnancy. These studies provide a large body of evidence that creatine can not only improve exercise performance, but can play a role in preventing and/or reducing the severity of injury, enhancing rehabilitation from injuries, and helping athletes tolerate heavy training loads. Additionally, researchers have identified a number of potentially beneficial clinical uses of creatine supplementation. These studies show that short and long-term supplementation (up to 30 g/day for 5 years) is safe and well-tolerated in healthy individuals and in a number of patient populations ranging from infants to the elderly. Moreover, significant health benefits may be provided by ensuring habitual low dietary creatine ingestion (e.g., 3 g/day) throughout the lifespan. “


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