Aerobic Performance Enhanced through Supplementation

By: Larry Gardner, NISOA National Clinician,

Many athletes have been looking for the magic formula that will enhance their performance.

What will increase your energy level, be reasonably inexpensive and totally legal?

One of these substances is caffeine, a central nervous stimulant that is readily available. It can be found in coffee, tea, energy drinks chocolate, sports gels and No-Do. These products contain specific amounts of caffeine; red bull 8 oz 80 mg, AMP energy 16 oz 143 mg, Spike Shotgun 16 oz, 350mg, Fixx 20 oz 500 mg, Power Bar sport gel 25mg, and No-Doz 1 tablet 200 mg.

Caffeine was removed from the WADA list of prohibited substances in January 2004. The NCAA states that over 9 mg-kg-1 is illegal. Caffeine ingested is effective up to 6 hours. It stimulates the central nervous system, increases dopamine output, eases pain, and releases calcium for muscle contraction.

There are mixed studies regarding carbohydrate sparing in humans when using caffeine.

Well, how much caffeine does it require to benefit from the effects?

Moderate doses (2-3 mg/kg-1) 1 hour prior to exercise, benefits your endurance performance. Some benefits have been found as low as 75-150mg. There may be a plateau when you have supplemented over 3mg-kg-1. (>9mg-kg-1 may exceed NCAA limits for urinary caffeine concentration (15 ug-ml-1)

Caffeine-Recent Findings

Caffeine intake before or in a series of doses during endurance exercise will benefit performance.

No difference in response between users and non-users

Little diuretic effect if caffeine habituated

Caffeine in tablet may be more effective vs. coffee. Caffeine in coffee varies: 8oz Maxwell House = 110 mg vs. 8 oz Starbucks = 250mg


Taurine is an ingredient that is used in many energy drinks. It is a non-essential sulfur containing amino acid that is naturally found in meat and fish. Dosages up to 3000mg-d-1 deemed safe.

The cytoprotective effects are that it stabilizes cell membranes in the heart and brain. It is also found in the skeletal muscles. It aids in movement of Ca+2, Mg+2, NA+, AND K+ in and out of cells. Increases insulin sensitivity and glycogen storage in rats, detoxifying and antioxidant activity, reduces oxidative damage to cells.

There has been research showing significant increases in VO2 max, exercise time to fatigue, maximal work, significant correlations between VO2max and its’ time to exhaustion. (Zhang et al. (2004) Amino Acids 26:203-07)

The benefits of Taurine state increased performance due to enhanced skeletal and cardiac muscle contraction via Ca2+ activation. Taurine decreased DNA damage to WBC following exhaustive exercise via direct scavenging of free radicals.

Energy Drinks

Red Bull (RB), Taurine (2g), CAF (160mg), glucuronolatone (GLC) (1.2 g), and CHO (sucrose and glucose, 53 g) Geiss et al. (1994) Amino Acids 7:45-58 You have been given the reference information for the research, you may look it up if you desire but this is the summary.

Red Bull energy drink with Taurine decreased heart rate and suggests more economic heart function. Taurine stimulated Ca2+ activation – enhanced muscle contraction. RB enhanced endurance performance.

Other studies using RB (Alford et al. (2001) amino acids 21:139-50) RB improved aerobic performance and anaerobic performance vs. carbonated water or no drink. There are significant improvements in reaction time, memory recall and alertness by using RB.

(Seidl et al. (2000) amino acids 19:6.35-42) RB improved mental performance and mood in CAF and non-CAF users


  • CAF alone or in combination with taurine and GCL improves aerobic exercise performance.
  • Taurine may reduce oxidative damage, stimulate Ca2+ activation and improve cardiac and skeletal muscle function . Taurine may augment effects of CAF.
  • Guarana and related substances are banned by NCAA.