A Fitter U Q&A: April 2016
Joe Giandonato, MBA, MS, CSCS
Manager of Health Promotion
Drexel Recreation Center
Drexel University’s resident health and wellness expert, Joe Giandonato returns for another installment addressing fitness and health related questions posed by members of the Drexel community.
- “What are your thoughts on pre-workout caffeine supplementation?” – Chris J.
Caffeine is one of the world’s most widely consumed and extensively studied chemicals. It’s universal consumption is largely owed to its presence in a multitude of food stuffs and beverages. Most coffees and teas contain caffeine, whether naturally occurring or artificially infused. Soft drinks and select sport have also been found to include caffeine in their contents. Chocolates and to a lesser extent, medications also contain caffeine in trace amounts.
Let’s take a waltz down memory lane to chemistry class. For science nerds like me, my experience in college chem class was both nostalgic and somewhat enlightening, especially since my cash-strapped high school had what equated to a toolbox of broken Petri dishes and beakers and one rickety retail quality microscope. Left brained folk may not reminisce as fondly about chem class, unless of course it permitted the sleep derived developing brain intermittent bouts of much needed somnolence.
Whatever the case, let’s recognize that the crux of chemistry class was to make things happen by creating reactions with the overarching priority of not having HAZMAT crews dispatched.
Chemistry in a nutshell is reactions. Chem majors can thank me later for capturing the essence of chemistry so succinctly and poignantly and delivering to them what I’d ambitiously equate to an epiphany causing moment.
Caffeine evokes profound effects on multiple physiological systems within the body. Upon entering the body, it initially acts as a messenger of sorts as it inhibits a chemical known as phosphodiesterase that regulates the speed of muscle contraction and influences relaxation. Cyclic adenosine monophosphate, another chemical whose levels are directly associated with fatigue and tiredness are more readily broken down by consequence of the inhibition of phosphodiesterase thus optimizing a process known as signal transduction which entails the dispersement of hormones and triggering neurotransmitters throughout the cellular membrane.
Caffeine also prompts the secretion of two potent endocrine hormones: epinephrine (adrenaline) and nor-epinephrine (nor-adrenaline) thus triggering uptick in autonomic nervous system activity, respectively tapping into both branches: sympathetic and parasympathetic to concurrently elevate and regulate cardiac function to drive greater amounts of oxygenated blood through circulation.
The host of aforementioned reactions plausibly increase muscular strength, power, endurance, time to fatigue, aerobic capacity as libraries worth of literature point to.
Knowing that no consensus has been reached concerning its dosage, it would be prudent to summon of the help of one of our Proactive Health registered dietitians. The team, lead by Nyree Dardarian, Assistant Clinical Professor of Nutrition, collectively possesses countless years of experience in the realms of performance nutrition, disease prevention and management, and research.
Recently, Professor Dardarian was featured in a recent report chronicling caffeinated peanut butter. Best of both worlds, right? Well, not so fast.
“It’s a high fat, high calorie source of caffeine, so [those calories may not be necessary],” noted Dardarian.
The complete story can be found here:
- “What’s the big deal with the drug Maria Sharapova took?” – Elle H.
I guess you could say Sharapova’s discretionary “slip-up” benefitted from the fortune of being obscured by the perfect storm of a rampantly busy NFL offseason, the beginning of NCAA tournament play, and the ensuing GOP bloodbath.
But it appears as though Sharapova, one of the great talents in professional tennis, knowingly took the drug Mildronate (Meldonium) to reap its purported ergogenic benefits of augmenting aerobic capacity by way of hedging the carnitine metabolism since the drug is synthetic derivative of carnitine.
As explained by Gorges and colleagues (2015), “carnitine improves myocardial functioning through enhancement of fatty acid β-oxidation that supplies about 80% of myocardial ATP generation. However, under oxygen deficiency, cytotoxic intermediates can accumulate in the cell due to insufficient oxygen supply. A reduced intracellular concentration of free carnitine leads to suppression of fatty acid metabolism and therefore enhances glycolysis during ischemia, which has a cytoprotective effect and increases the effectiveness of ATP-generation, as carbohydrate oxidation requires less oxygen per ATP molecule than β-oxidation of free fatty acids. Moreover, glycolysis is stimulated directly via Mildronate by increasing the expression of hexokinase type 1, which catalyzes the formation of glucose-6-phosphate from glucose.”
Continued from Gorges and colleagues (2015):
“Under sport-physiological aspects, reports on positive effects on the physical working capacity of elite athletes were published and dosages of Mildronate (per os between 0.25 and 1.0 g twice a day over 2–3 weeks during the training period and 10–14 days before competition) were discussed. Further studies demonstrated an increase in endurance performance of athletes, improved rehabilitation after exercise, protection against stress, and enhanced activations of central nervous system (CNS) functions.”
Essentially ingestion of Mildronate (Meldonium) spares carnitine and cultivates a metabolic environment mirroring glycolysis without the formidable expense of converting glycogen to usable glucose. in these conditions, it would make sense that more ATP, the body’s energy currency, can be created in more bountiful amounts. And while the ceiling of physiological functional capacity is raised, so too is mental acuity as they allude to, and central nervous system functioning which assumedly and aptly begets hastened reaction time. In a sport where 100 mph serves are common place, sensory systems — visual, vestibular, and somatosensory — must work in seamless concert with one another to produce desired responses. Basically, this drug seems capable of shifting the feedback loop from a local train route to an express one.
And since the drug was added to the World Anti-Doping Agency’s Prohibited List in late 2014, it can be presumed that Sharapova and/or her team of “handlers” knowingly operated in violation of the acceptable customs and established bylaws.
Gorges, C., Guddat, S., Dib, J., Geyer, H., Schänzer, W., & Thevis, M. (2015). Mildronate (Meldonium) in professional sports – monitoring doping control urine samples using hydrophilic interaction liquid chromatography – high resolution/high accuracy mass spectrometry. Drug Testing and Analysis, 7, 973-979.
- “What’s more important: weight training or cardio?” – Ryan T.
While the importance and applicability of each modality has been long debated, so too has their mutual exclusivity.
Each modality is capable of educing distinct corpuses of adaptations. Weight training, or more broadly termed strength training is capable of evoking improved muscular hypertrophy by way of enlarging contractile proteins and saturating the sarcoplasm with fluids and glycogen. Strength training also improves muscular fitness, including strength, endurance, flexibility, and musculotendinous stiffness — the latter permitting greater collective absorptive and redirecting capacities of muscles and fibers arranged in series of which they are composed. Improvement in biomotor skills are directly attributable to strength training. Strength training has been shown to enhance power, speed, and agility — a triumvirate of characteristics requisite to high performance. Cardio, or more properly termed as cardiovascular exercise, increases both mitochondrial and capillary density, increases the capacity of ATP production, and balances the seesaw that is the autonomic nervous system. Each modality substantively increases bone mineral density, however, strength training has shown greater increases and is more capable of improving bone mass of the torso and upper extremity.
Unless one aspires to compete at a very high level, a possible interference effect, will barely be noticeable. Things become trickier when high level athletes delve into different training methodologies which skew too far in either realm — strength training or cardiovascular exercise. Both are equally important, but it is worth noting that the selection, order, and frequency of modalities and movements should be assembled with due diligence and consider the health needs, goals, and competitive, recreational, and occupational demands, if applicable, prior to designing a program. Feel free to reach out to our team if you need any help. If you are, or anyone else is, reading this who is an affiliate of Drexel, whether a staffer, student, alumnus, or member of the Rec Center, we will arrange for you to meet with one of my staff members to help provide you some direction.
Joe Giandonato can be reached directly at email@example.com.