Thursday, February 25, 2010

Ergogenic Aids: Tim Hortons, Antioxidants, Chewing Tobacco & Miley Cyrus

For the past few blogs I have talked about some basic sports nutrition supplements (i.e. protein, creatine), but this time I thought I would mix it up a bit. Instead of talking about a specific sports nutrition supplements, I thought I should take a different route and expose something that a lot of people don't think about. What is this "mysterious" topic? Well if you read the title of this blog I'm sure you could answer this question very quickly... Ergogenic aids.

Er-go-genic aids, say it with me now! Some of you might know what these are, some you might not. Some of you might find this blog interesting, some of you might not. But regardless I thought I should mix this weeks blog up a bit, and give you the reader a new flavor to wrap your tongue around (or is it eyes?).

So what are ergogenic aids you ask? Well by definition ergogenic aids are any substances or strategy that works to improve athletic performance by improving the production of energy. So yes most sports nutrition supplements can fall into this classification, or can be closely tied to it. Creatine for example is an ergogenic aid, nitric oxide supplements, weight loss pills are too. But I don't want to go into detail about these products quite yet, that will follow in weeks to come. What I want to highlight is the "ambiguous" ergogenic aids, the ones most people never think about, or might not even know about.


So it looks like Tim Hortons, Starbucks, Coke and Pepsi are all in the ergogenic aids business. Why you ask? Because of the caffeine in their products. Most people don't think about coffee or pop being a performance enhancing aid, but guess what, they are. Caffeine can be used as a ergogenic aid to improve endurance performance as well as to delay fatigue and enhance fat loss. Many different studies have illustrated that caffeine does in fact improve performance. Many of the sports nutrition supplements offered to the public are fortified with caffeine. Creatine products use it to help enhance endurance (providing extra energy/reps) and weight loss products use it to help stimulate metabolic rate. While studies have made a case for these two benefits, the major physiological change is still the one that everyone is so familiar with. Caffeine works to increase the central nervous system, its a stimulant. Increasing this nervous system can lead to improved cognitive function but in relation to training, increased heart rate/blood flow leading to increased muscular contractions. Caffeine has also been seen to increase muscle fibre activation through enhancing nerve conduction velocity (more force generated in a muscle contraction).

Multivitamins and Mineral Supplements:

Oh multivitamins. So when Hulk Hogan told me as a kid to eat my vitamins and say my prayers, was he really promoting ergogenic aids? Multivitamin and mineral supplements are one of the most popular dietary supplements consumed by athletes. Why? Well because they are an easy and efficient way of providing essential nutrients that are often lacking in people's diets. Multivitamins can almost be considered as an "insurance policy" against micronutrient deficiencies. So why classify them as ergogenic aids? Well multivitamin supplements can be very helpful when it comes to performance. Not only can they ensure that a person is obtaining all of the required nutrients for specific biochemical reactions, but they can also help the body heal and repair after the stress of exercise/sport. Vitamin C and E have been identified as powerful antioxidants that can help to gaurd against the damaging oxidative stress associated with exercise. These vitamins help to fight off the damaging effects of endurance (aerobic) training and strength (anerobic) training. Studies have also shown that vitamin C and E can help to lower the risk of upper respiratory tract infections and colds that are often experienced with regular training.


Yes, that is right! The gross disgusting mound of chew often seen in a baseball players mouth serves a purpose. Nicotine can lead to an increased cardiovascular system response by increasing heart rate and blood pressure. Nicotine has also been associated with a calming and or stimulating effect in different individuals. But yes, even though nicotine can be beneficial for performance in some individuals, it is still not desirable. We all know the major health complictions associated with smoking ciggarettes or chewing tobacco. The long-term respiratory damages, dental caries and various cancers associated with this habit is enough to advise against it. So no, I dont want to see a bunch of people chain smoking before exercising!


Thats right! Get those iPods out, music has infact been identified as an ergogenic aid. Mind you this claim is very indivdualized, me listening to Miley Cyrus while working out probably wont enhance my performance, but it may for someone else. According to some sports psychologists if an athlete listens to the right music at the right time, it can actually benefit his/her performance. Music can work to enhance a persons emotions and some studies have also indicated that it may even enhance the production of epinephrine, in turn increasing heart rate and muscular force output.

So next time you are getting reading to exercise and you want an extra boost think about some of these ergogenic aids. Maybe go and grab a Timmys coffee, or pump your Miley Cyrus tunes!! Whatever it is, find something that works for you!

Until next time, happy reading!



Dunford, M. (Ed.) & Sports, Cardiovascular and Wellness Nutritionists Dietetics Practice Group (2006). Sports Nutrition: A Practice Manual for Professionals. 4th Ed., Chicago, IL: American Dietetic Association.

Powers, S. K. & Howley, E. T. (2009). Exercise Physiology: Theory and Application to Fitness and Performance. 7th Ed., New York, NY: McGraw-Hill.


  1. Thanks for your post!

    I wonder if chewing Nicorette is legal for our current Olympic athletes?

  2. Catchy title, good read!

    Music has definitely been a huge energy boost for me during weight training and before sports comps, although my selections would be toward hard rock and metal not Miley Cyrus, but to each is own.

    Food Ninja... many stimulants are banned from the Olympics, but I don't believe nicotine is one of them. The lower controlled doses of either the strong (4mg) or low (2mg) pieces of Nicorette gum I'm sure wouldn't be enough to disqualify someone competing.